Both equine interactive mental heath professionals and equine interactive education professionals need to be able demonstrate competent level of training, education and experience in providing equine interactive services. The Certification Board for Equine Interactive Professions Certification is the flagship certification safeguarding the public of the practitioners qualifications to offer equine interactive therapy and services.
Professional Distinction - Certification provides documented evidence of examination by an independent certifying organization and demonstrates high level of knowledge about the specialized field of equine assisted interaction.
Certification is identified by the public as signifying professionalism, specialized training and knowledge in the field of equine assisted interaction.
As work with equines in mental health and education becomes more readily identifiable by the public, credentials such as the CEIP will assist professionals to establish their credibility.
Commercial General Liability Insurance - Coverage with Markel Insurance Company is available to Certified Equine Interaction Professionals whether they own, lease, use their own facility, or are independent contractors traveling to other locations to practice equine assisted therapy or education.
Cristina Rennie MA RCCI - This Certification shows clients that professionals are wanting to hold high standards in the work and therefore gives people more information about the field and the qualifications a person has… related to informed consent, scope of practice and ethics. - Cristina Rennie MA RCC , BC Canada, www.shamrockcounselling.com
Ann Alden, MA, CEIP-ED – I took this exam when it was first offered and have renewed it once already. I highly recommend it because it is independent of any model or organization. Instead it is independently tested in a way that allows the applicant to demonstrate their knowledge, experience and competence in providing equine-human interactions. I missed a few questions primarily because I have been out of graduate school so long I think. I would personally much prefer to send someone to a practitioner who has this type of certification than one that is limited to one model or type of approach to working with horses to help people. I took the test at a small aviation center near the Tucson airport and was given 2 hours to finish it, more than I needed. - Ann Alden, MA, CEIP-ED, PATH International Certified Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental, Health and Learning., Sonoita, AZ, Www.borderlandscenter.com
By Barbara Rector
In answer to questions on what to study for the domains of competency covered in the CBEIP exam. Here are some ideas that will help as you prepare to take the exam. The administrative and horses questions specific to experiential education and/or mental health is best done from my perspective through review of your common sense practices offering your services with the help of horses.
There undoubtedly are cultural influences imbedded in the questions just as there are different ways of keeping horses humanely depending on your area of the country or world.
Best to review the Adult D level Pony Cub curriculum or your favorite book that offers basic skills of horsemanship information. http://tinyurl.com/a4tkpto
Watch the videos on line of the horse behaviors put out by Penn State at The New Bolton Center.
Review the Standards and Safety Guidelines, just read as if a novel of: PATH Intl, ACRIP or the Pony Club.
Review your particular basic text used when studying experiential education and/or mental health. There are several good suggestions from the CBEIP Handbook in the References list located at the back.
I urge everyone who meets the qualifications for sitting the exam to have a go at it. Don’t worry about passing. You may miss a number of the questions and still pass, (80% is required to pass), and you can take the test over until a passing grade is achieved.
If you don’t understand a question or believe there is no good answer, make note of it. Write your rational for your answer and send it to the CBEIP Board to pass along to the Question Developers. It may be that the question requires re-wording or clarification with better references, in which case you may not lose points for an incorrect answer.
Barbara Rector MA, CEIP-ED,
Adventures In Awareness™
To find out more about CBEIP Certification please go to their web site http://www.cbeip.com
By Rise VanFleet Guest Blogger. Rise VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC Child/Family Psychologist Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor Certified Dog Behavior Consultant In practice for nearly 40 years, with specialties in traumatic events, chronic medical illness, strenghening parent-child relationships (esp. Filial Therapy), and Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Author of dozens of books, manuals, chapters, and articles on play therapy, Filial Therapy, AAPT, and canine behavior.
Too often our world is shaken by traumatic events such as natural disasters (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods), war, school and community violence, acts of terrorism, accidents, housefires, life-threatening illness, separations, loss of a pet, kidnappings, and so on. Such events can leave all of us feeling helpless, and children may be particularly reactive to events that make them feel unsafe. Children who are directly exposed to such events can become traumatized, and the emotional impact of trauma can last a very long time if it goes unnoticed. Some children are exposed to trauma indirectly through sensationalized or repetitive newscasts or by hearing and seeing others‘ emotional reactions, and there’s evidence that children can be traumatized by this indirect contact with trauma as well. It’s important that parents have information about trauma, its impact on children, and how to help their children understand and cope with these events.
When something traumatic occurs, it’s important to give children an honest but simple explanation of what happened. They are bound to hear about it through television, schoolmates, or overheard adult conversations, so it’s best if their parents or primary caregivers play an active role in helping them understand the event. It’s also important to reassure children that you, their parents, will do everything you can to keep them safe. Some children blame themselves when bad things happen, so parents need to tell them firmly that it’s not their fault.
Caregivers should limit children’s exposure to newscasts about traumatic events. Broadcasts are geared toward adults, and children may not have the reasoning abilities or coping mechanisms to deal with repeated views of people crying, buildings on fire, and so on. Although children’s programs often portray violence, the emotional tone of the news conveys its “reality” and children and adolescents can become extremely frightened, whether or not they show it. You need not restrict their exposure entirely, but screen carefully what they do see!
Children who are roughly 3 to 12 years of age, given the opportunity, will often play out scenes from a traumatic event. Sometimes older children will, too. For example, following a car accident, parents might see their children playing out car crashes and rescues with their toys. When parents see this, they might worry that it’s damaging somehow for the child to play out the traumatic situation. Actually, it’s often just the opposite: it can help the child cope better. Just as we adults need to talk with others after experiencing something frightening, sad, or devastating, children need to play through their feelings and reactions to the trauma. It can be very beneficial if parents allow their children to play this way while showing acceptance of the child’s feelings. To stop such play can cut off the child’s primary means of coping. Of course, children should be distracted to some other activity if they are playing in ways that are actually dangerous to themselves or others, or if the child is becoming obviously upset by the play. If a child constantly plays out the traumatic event and seems unable to think about anything else, then limits should be set on the amount of time spent playing out the traumatic events. (If children’s play appears to be upsetting the child further or if they seem “obsessed” with their trauma play, parents should consider a consult with a mental health professional, as these behaviors might signal that the child is already traumatized. If children’s play appears robotic and the child seems “not there” while playing, a consult is warranted as well.)
It’s important to permit children to talk about their reactions to a traumatic event when they want to. Although such conversations can be difficult, especially if we’re experiencing our own reactions to the trauma, they do help all of us in the long run. One of the worst things we can do is say to our children, “Don’t play that way.” or “Don’t talk about it–it’s over–let’s get on with things.” Denial of the child’s reactions can lead to larger problems later. While it’s important to let children express themselves, including their feelings of anger, sadness, or helplessness, it’s also important to help them focus on the positive aspects of trauma situations. In the wake of many disasters, there are many amazing, touching stories of selfless acts, heroic deeds, and the very best of human caring coming from the most horrible of conditions. Although we see some of the worst of humanity after traumatic events, we also see vastly more of the very best. It’s important for our children to hear about them because it adds to children‘s sense of security, connections to other people, and hope for the future.
The natural tendency of children to play out the things that are happening around them is their way of trying to understand. Because they are PLAYING, it feels safer to them, and this is very important. Too much TALKING about scary events can actually scare children more. Some talking is important to give children some basic information and to answer their questions, but it is through their play that children, especially those under 12, have a real opportunity to understand what is going on. Throughout the world, children in war zones are seen “playing war.” Children play doctor or medical scenes when they or someone in their family has been ill or hospitalized. Aid workers noticed that children directly affected by the Oklahoma City Bombing were playing with small plastic dogs sniffing around in piles of blocks, much as real dogs were used to find survivors in the actual rubble. After September 11, children throughout the world were reported to be playing scenes of planes hitting buildings, firefighters and rescue, buildings crashing down, and even funeral themes. A boy in the U.K. played scenes of police officers arresting “bad guys” after the terrorist bombing of the London Underground. A girl from New Orleans who had been moved to a shelter after Hurricane Katrina involved several other children in play where she was the “Mama Alligator” who was trying to save her babies (the other children) from the “Cane” (hurricane).
Long after a traumatic event has occurred, parents should remain alert to any signs of trauma in their children. When children are traumatized, the effects may occur much later than expected. Sometimes traumatized children look quite “normal” on the surface after the event, and then experience post-traumatic symptoms weeks, months, or even years later. It’s fine for parents to ask their children what they’re thinking and feeling about the event from time to time, and then really listen to what they say. On the other hand, it’s best not to “bombard” children with questions about how they’re feeling or to hold lengthy discussions with them, as this might actually raise the children’s anxiety levels. It’s good for parents to share their own feelings of fear, sadness, anger about an event because it helps children see that these reactions are normal and can provide good coping models. (A caution, though: be sure that you share your feelings simply and don’t elaborate to a point that could frighten the child further. Always reassure them that you’ll keep them safe.)
One of the most beneficial things for children after a traumatic event is for their day-to-day environment to return to “normal” as quickly as possible. Getting back to some sort of daily “routine” can help kids feel safer and keep the traumatic event from becoming the only focus of their lives. This can be challenging following some disasters, but working toward as normal an environment as possible under the circumstances can help. Parents can help children find a balance between playing/talking about the event and doing daily tasks and other types of activities.
When trauma has been caused by humans, as in terrorism, it is important for children and adults alike to remember that we gain strength from our human connections and that most people are good. Broad, angry statements about other ethnic groups can add to children’s sense of insecurity and promote prejudice and uninformed backlash effects. People throughout the world have struggled for a long time with our “differences,” and that struggle continues. Acts of terror are intended to divide us, and we can resist this and help our children feel much safer by teaching them that these bad deeds are the work of individuals (or small groups of individuals) and not of any broad ethnic, racial, religious, or other group.
Many children are quite resilient when dealing with traumatic events, but it’s good for parents to know what to look for when their child might be struggling. Here are some signs that your child might be experiencing post-traumatic problems:
- anxious, “edgy”, nervous, agitated
- difficulty concentrating
- refuses to go to school; difficulty with schoolwork
- becomes angry quickly
- aggressive, either verbally or physically
- nightmares, or repetitive nightmares
- won’t sleep in his/her own bed; sleeps on floor or wants to sleep with parents
- easily startled by noises or situations similar to the traumatic event
- reverts to “younger-age” behaviors like bedwetting, nail biting, thumbsucking
- won’t talk about what happened
- talks excessively about what happened
- becomes very dependent–clings to parents or other caretakers; fears separations
- problems with friendships and siblings–seems aloof or argues
- seems “different” than he/she did before; personality seems a bit different
Although these signs might be related to other things, if the signs persist, are intense, are different following the trauma, or if several occur for your child, it could be a sign of a traumatic reaction. If you or your children experience continuing distress that interferes with your day-to-day work, school, and family life, you might consider consulting with a therapist. The sooner a post-traumatic reaction is determined and treated, the better the outcome is likely to be for the child (or adults, too). A qualified mental health professional can help the child and the parents.
Play therapy can be very effective with traumatized children. The play gives them some “distance” from which to explore and deal with their feelings. Even teens and adults can benefit from treatments which involve play and art or other expressive interventions. Words can fail us when we experience intensely frightening events, and other means of expressing ourselves become necessary. Sometimes family play interventions can be very helpful. If you have questions or concerns about your child, contact a local mental health professional. Make sure that he or she has experience with trauma, and having a background in play therapy can be a big plus.
For information on finding play therapists who specialize in children please visit The Association for Play Therapy director at http://www.a4pt.org/directory.cfm.
Or contact your local and state psychological, social work, mental health counseling, crisis, medical, or school counseling associations or professionals can make referrals to adult therapists.
Please visit Rise VanFleet visit her web site “Family Enrichment & Play Therapy Center” for more great parenting articles and great resources. http://www.risevanfleet.com
Do you diminish or categorize your stress as “normal” or “it’s no big deal, everyone has stress?”
It is not uncommon for people to downplay the stress in their daily lives, not really knowing the true amount of stress they are under, or what is considered a stressful situations. It is important for you to know what causes your stress and stress needs to be understood, especially how stress can impact your health. This STRESS QUIZ is designed to help you discover the amount of stress you may be under and do not even realize it.
Rate yourself as to how you typically react in each of the situations listed below. There are no right or wrong answers. Circle the statements in each column that apply to you. If a particular area of your life doesn’t generally cause you stress, skip it.
|Cause of Stress
||Mild – 1 point||Moderate – 2 points||Serious – 3 points|
|Work||I work part-time||I work full-time||I work more than 40 hrs wk|
|Number of kids||One||Two||Three or more|
|Parents||My parents occasionally need my help||My parents have chronic problems and need my help more and more||My parents live with me because of chronic problems|
|In-laws||My in-laws occasionally need my help||My in-laws have chronic problems and need my help more and more||My in-laws live with me because of chronic problems|
|Health||I have typical complaints for my age||I have mild heath problems||I have moderate to severe heath problems|
|Money||I manage to save a little but not much||I am often worried that I don’t have enough money||I have serious money problems|
|Weather||I experience seasonal problems, such as depression on gray days||I experience severe weather problems, like hurricanes and tornadoes||My home has been affected by a weather related disaster.|
|Space||We are crowded at home||We have just barely enough space at home||We have fights over space every week|
|Commuting||I commute less than half hour a day||I commute from a half hour to an hour a day||I commute more than one hour a day|
|Support System||I have some friends and family near by but not enough||I have family and friends, but most are not nearby.||I have almost no one I can talk to or get support from.|
|Family Problems||My family has normal problems with friends, and neighbors||My family has moderate problems that affect our happiness||My family members have serious learning, physical, or mental problems|
|Neighborhood||It could be better||Its marginal||Its not safe|
|Other Problems||I have occasional other problems at home, work or school||I have frequent other problems at home, work or school||I have multiple other problems at home, work or school, that never seem to get better|
If you score in the 0-13 range, you have a MILD amount of stress.
If your score is 14-26, you have a moderate amount of stress. You are approaching the DANGER ZONE
If your score is 27-39, you need to understand that stress is a SERIOUS THREAT TO YOUR HEALTH. You need some extra support from a counselor, or close friend. I urge you to make your health a priority for you and your family.
How Stress Impacts Your Health - short-term stress can keep you awake at night and make you feel irritable and edgy. High stress levels over a long period of time can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure. And high stress can weaken your immune system and make it difficult for your body to fight disease. Stress is linked to health conditions such as depression, heart disease, and asthma.
Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page http://www.facebook.com/DrKaySudekumTrotter.
One of my favorite de-stressor or coping skills that I teach to all my clients young and old that can be done anywhere at any time is “Belly Breathing”.
Belly Breathing is a very powerful and very simple technique. It’s amazing how just taking just three deep breaths changes your brain chemistry proving you with instant relief to stress and tension. This type of breathing teaches you to breathe slowly from your “diaphragm” or belly. Belly Breathing relaxes you and directly reduces many of the symptoms of anxiety and panic.
Just 3 deep breaths changes your body chemistry
Here’s a good way to learn Belly Breathing
- First sit comfortable with your legs uncrossed and place one hand on your belly about 2 inches below belly button. Let your eyes close.
- Focusing your attention on your belly as it rises and falls as you slowly breathe in and out. Now let your breathing get even slower, and count one…two…three as you breath in and one…two…three as you breath out. Expand your belly as much as you can – like a balloon. You know you’re doing “belly breathing” right when you can feel your belly expand. Then, exhale to the slow count of 3, just letting all the air out of the balloon. As you exhale, just feel yourself letting go of tension.
- Keep repeating the belly breathing to the slow count of 3. As you breath, try to keep a continuous flow of air without thinking about the beginning or end of each breath.
- Pay attention only to the feeling of the breath.
- If other thoughts wander in, just let them wander out again.
- If you have trouble getting the hang of Belly Breathing, try lying down and putting something on you’re belly. Then put all your attention into making it go up and down with each breath.
- Once you have mastered your Belly Breathing, you can use it when you have symptoms of anxiety or panic. Many of the “scary sensations” of panic are related to “hyperventilation”, which simply means rapid breathing. Also, during panic, people tend to breathe from the chest instead of from the belly. Breathing rapidly from the chest increases anxiety. Breathing slowly from the belly lowers anxiety and reduces many of the “scary sensations” of panic.
Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page http://www.facebook.com/DrKaySudekumTrotter.
Whenever we experience emotional distress arising from the four core wounding experiences – loss, rejection, betrayal and humiliation – we have a choice of “hiding” from or ignoring these upsetting experiences.
Our ability to effectively cope with challenges and upsets requires learning and practicing skills so they become everyday coping tools. Just learning about these principles is not enough. Remember about 75% of what you do is out of HABIT.
Training our brain to use health coping methods means we can heal our own emotional wounds so we also feel better about ourselves.
We need all three coping brain functions, thinking, feeling and self-protection, to get over experiences that make us stressed, worried, angry or upset.
C O P I N G: principles
- Recognize that no thought or feeling is wrong in itself, it is what we do with it that really counts.
- Become aware of the way your body feels as tension begins to build up— remind yourself to breath.
- Recognize that you don’t have to go through this alone — help is available from a wide range of sources.
- Work to improve communication with your family and friends
- If you are experiencing fatigue or feeling overwhelmed, reduce your responsibilities for a period of time.
- Recognize that family and friends have to deal with their feelings too.
- Share honestly and lovingly how you are feeling
- Do things each day that are nurturing to you. Include fun activities, relaxation, time alone, and exercise.
- You can work to solve some of the problems that are causing you stress.
- Accept that guilt and worry about things you CAN’T change are useless and energy-draining.
- Give yourself credit for whatever level of coping you are achieving.
- Remember, there is no “instant fix” for stress.
- Develop a love and respect for yourself — because each of us is, with our strengths, a special and worthwhile person.
L I F E S T Y L E: body – mind – spirit
You can’t always avoid stress but being able to identify what causes it is the first step toward helping yourself cope better. If you have difficulty pinpointing the causes or “triggers” of your stress, try keeping a record to help you identify patterns of stress.
To effetely use this chart, make a note of all your activates during the day and how you felt at the time. Fill in the chart whenever a stress symptom occurs, noting what happened just before. At the end of the week evaluate when you felt stressed and when you felt relaxed.
R E L A X A T I O N: restores balance
For long-term stress relief you need periods of mental and physical relaxation throughout the day. Relaxation is a set of skills that teach you how to combat the effects of stress and restore the balance between body and mind to enable healthy, happy living.
WHY: long-term stress changes the balance of hormones in the body and leads to exhaustion. A suppressed immune system, slower metabolism and slower cell repair, result in rapid aging, weight gain, and greater risk of degenerative disease.
S I M P I L E: coping skills
- Learn to become aware of when you are experiencing stress — listen to your body
- Practice deep breathing – just 3 deep breaths will change your body chemistry
- Muscle relaxation
- Mindfulness practices – the state of being attentive to and aware of the present moment only
- Guided Imagery or Visualizations
- Journal about your feelings, thoughts and worries
- Use Positive Affirmations to change negative self-talk
- Exercise daily
- Get a Massage
- Pick a hobby
- Cut down on activities
- Unplug from technology – turn down the noise
- Get outside – your brain is created to respond positively to nature — soothing your soul
- Get enough sleep
- Seek social support – talk to someone
“In my next blog I will provide you with some of my favorite stress relief techniques”
How to Handle Stress (crossroadscounselingcenter.wordpress.com)
Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page http://www.facebook.com/DrKaySudekumTrotter.
These days, as I excitedly await the arrival of my first grandchildren (twins), a precious little boy and a sweet baby girl, my world is surrounded with everything, wonderfully baby. But sometimes motherhood brings the bittersweet dance of joy and sorrow. The following true story has a happy ending, but not without soul-searching, self-doubt and God’s blessings that my friend found help and is now a survivor of Postpartum Depression – Kay
SURVIVING POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
I can’t wish it away, pray it away, talk it away, or distract myself enough
In the midst of my shame and crying I heard the therapist say, “It’s OK, we all get depressed sometimes. I know that you are thinking that you shouldn’t be depressed, but it’s OK. This too shall pass. This happens to a lot of women after pregnancy; your hormones are out of balance.” This feedback came after I had spent a full hour in a therapy session trying to explain to the therapist why I didn’t have post-partum depression. Never mind the fact that I couldn’t stop crying, I had trouble staying awake during the day, was completely overwhelmed, agitated, and in a fog, and had hit rock bottom. That’s the real reason I made the appointment in the first place. At the time I didn’t realize to what extent I had minimized my symptoms of post-partum depression (PPD). It was after months of denying it and talking to friends and professionals that I accepted that I really did experience PPD. I say “experience” rather than “had” PPD because it is something I couldn’t wish away or get rid of with a magic pill. I couldn’t wait it out like a cold, the severity came and went and felt different each day. Therefore, I say “experience.”
I would like to walk you through my experience of PPD and describe some things I learned along the way to help me get through it. My hope is that if one woman reads this and is able to get help or feel some relief, then sharing my story will be all worth it.
So let’s get straight to the point: What does post partum depression (PPD) feel like? How do you know if it’s just “the new normal” of mommy hood or really clinical where you need help? When I say “clinical” what I really mean to say is I couldn’t wish it away, pray it away, talk it away, or distract myself enough. It was always there hanging over my head like a cloud. I tried everything I could think of to make myself feel better. Some strategies helped distract me long enough to think I was feeling better, but they usually ended up exhausting me even further in the long run. For the textbook definition of PPD, you can go to any pregnancy book or website to read the clinical description. I had read the symptoms before, but living inside of a body and mind experiencing PPD is much different than reading about it. I can remember identifying with a few symptoms after reading about PPD in a book a couple of months after delivery and thinking to myself, “I must just be sleep deprived. I bet when I start sleeping I’ll feel better.” I also remember thinking that something must be wrong with me and I wondered how on earth other women made it through the first few months with baby.
I had lots of other symptoms as well. I worried about everything, which I thought was somewhat normal for first-time mothers, but I was obsessive about every little thing. I obsessed about baby’s sleeping and naps and charted everything to the minute. I read numerous books on everything about pregnancy and babies (being educated and informed is great, but being obsessive and thinking that I needed a degree in child development, nutrition, and sleep is not healthy). I felt guilty for everything—letting him sleep in the swing and in the stroller, letting her cry for five seconds, and not being happy all the time. I felt guilty in the mornings for thinking “I have to do this all over again.” I remember almost falling asleep one morning while changing her diaper and thinking, “I don’t know if I can change one more diaper. I want to run away and be by myself.” In the mornings, I stood in my closet overwhelmed and not able to decide what to put on for the day. I was too overwhelmed to take baby out of the house because I thought it would be too exhausting to go anywhere and what was the point anyway. Everything seemed so overwhelming and pointless. I was irritable and agitated and felt helpless and frustrated when I would hear other people’s children cry in public. Actually, it would send me off the deep end and I would feel panic stricken. (You might be thinking that is normal, but typically I would have responded in a very nurturing way – so this was atypical of me.) I was very fearful and mistrusting of anyone taking care of baby or even holding him. I was afraid to leave him with anyone; I missed my husband and missed spending time with him. When my husband came home for lunch, I didn’t want him to leave.
Fortunately, I could get out of bed in the morning—another reason why I didn’t think I really had PPD. I always woke to my son crying, so of course I could get out of bed, but staying awake was difficult. I felt groggy and indecisive all day and in a fog. Things I had previously enjoyed annoyed me, but I didn’t realize that it was part of depression because I was stuck in it. I thought I had changed from having a baby. Looking back, it is so obvious but, when I was in it, I felt completely different and believed that how I felt was real. I felt guilty for working outside the home. I would cry in my office and cry on the way home. I felt like I was being panicky when I was away from my son. Even in the hospital I felt panicky when other people would hold him. I felt disconnected and separated when I wasn’t holding him. This is another reason I didn’t know I had PPD—most books say you feel no connection to your baby. My PPD presented more like an over-connection. I rationalized this by saying that it was from the oxytocin from nursing. To an extent the oxytocin does create a bonding feeling and a desire to be together, but it was like mine was on overdrive.
The scariest part of my experience was when I felt disconnected from the world. It was like I was behind a hazy screen or like I was watching people on a movie screen. It wasn’t like a hallucination, but just a fuzzy kind of distant feeling. I couldn’t stop my crying in public and I was very fearful. Another scary part of experiencing PPD is that I felt so ashamed to tell my husband or anyone what negative feelings and thoughts I was having. The only reason I finally told my husband was because I began to have fleeting thoughts of how I could end my life. I knew I just wanted to feel better but having fleeting thoughts of death was not typical for me. I knew I could not fight this alone. I knew at that point that I needed to reach out. Up to this point I made excuses for my thoughts and feelings but I couldn’t dismiss this.
As soon as I told him about my feelings, he quickly intervened and was very supportive. We went to my ob-gyn who discussed different options for treating PPD and she also gave me a referral for a therapist who specializes in women’s and family issues.
What I learned from this experience is that so many women have experienced PPD and the severity of symptoms varies with each woman. When I was trying to decipher if what I was experiencing was the reality of being a new mom or if it was PPD, I reached out to a lot of people. Some of them were responsive/supportive and others were not. I am so grateful for my friends who shared their experiences with me and who encouraged me to seek help. The other valuable lesson I learned was to do what works for me. There are lots of different opinions out there and lots of conflicting ideas, but I had to do what was best for me and my family.
A friend of a friend reached out to me recently because she had heard about me experiencing PPD. She shared her experiences with me, and I think it is because of her that I have the courage to write this. After hearing her experiences I felt validated in mine, like thank goodness I am not crazy! I am very hopeful because in meeting her I saw living proof that people do live through PPD and parenthood and THIS TOO SHALL PASS. I am thankful to her for being so real with me and also for letting me share my experience.
Looking back I also learned not to expect everyone around me to understand what I was going through. Not everyone can relate because they do not fully understand it or they may not be able to handle seeing their loved ones in pain. While some people may not believe that PPD even exists, I am grateful to have supportive family members and friends who I rely on each and every day.
So what are some things that helped me get out of PPD, or manage it? Now that I think about it, I guess I am still managing it—although I feel much better and feel like myself again. I think now I am mostly managing the challenges that new parents face. These things are in no way intended to be advice; however, they do outline things that work for me, today. It may change tomorrow, but for today this is what works for me.
I allow myself to experience this. For one, it’s OK to be going through this. I have a habit of minimizing and telling myself that there are people in the world with bigger problems and, yes, that is true. Regardless of what suffering other people may experience and regardless of the level, what we all experience is our part of our journey. I remind myself that it is okay to struggle and get through this.
I am learning not to try to appear all put together. No one is and no one expects me to be perfect. No one has the perfect life, perfect marriage, or perfect kids.
I forgive myself. This is harder than it sounds, but when I start feeling guilty for missing one of my son’s naps (which rarely happens), or whatever else my ego comes up with to evoke guilt, I forgive myself. I remind myself that I am human. I stop beating myself up for the past. I omit the words: “I should have, I could have done this better, I wish I would have.” Forget about it. I tell myself: it’s over, done, move on.
I stay in the moment. I remind myself to stop trying to predict the future. Stay in today. I still plan for the important things, but I work really hard not to worry about the future. I have a sign on my fridge that says “Cross that bridge when or IF you get there.”
I let myself get angry. I just remember all of those social rules and don’t take it out on my family. I run, do spin class or find some way to let that frustration go. Running and yoga help me a great deal. Saying what I feel in the moment helps too. My husband and I believe in being very transparent and not letting feelings build. We share frequently.
I rely on friends. I meet with a group of friends on a consistent basis to support and motivate each other in regards to goals and to have me time. These groups remind me that I am not alone and that I can count on others for help.
I do what works for me. I seek feedback from other moms, dads, pediatricians, and research (although I am no longer allowed to read 800 books on each baby topic), and then I see how that fits with my family’s needs. I adjust the plan when it needs to be changed.
I ask for help. This is a work in progress. I remember that it is IMPOSSIBLE to do everything on my own in spite of what previous generations reportedly did, and I benefit my family and myself when I ask people for what I need.
I take breaks. I tell my husband what I need from him and when I need to get out of the house. Since there are no more weekends off, I plan time so that both my husband and I can have some time for us.
I guess basically what I am saying is that I try to cut myself some slack. Having a baby is such a big adjustment, and it really has been the biggest opportunity in life to learn the lesson to stop and be in the moment—to stop worrying about the laundry or cleaning or cooking an organic meal from scratch, and train for a half marathon, and work outside the home, and try to have dates nights. During the week instead of telling myself I have to do it all, my new expectations are to enjoy baby and husband and to work. If I get anything else done it is a bonus! If what everyone says is true, this time will go by so fast and soon he will be running off to school or driving off in a car. When I experience really great moments or days, I try to capture these in my being and in my memory. Of course I wish these moments would last longer, but then I remember that because those moments pass so quickly it means the less desirable moments won’t last too long either. I finally understand the saying, THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
So when I sat down to write my story my hope was to help at least one person out there, to provide some relief or help someone feel normal and not crazy. I wanted to instill some hope in one of the readers out there. What I realized after finishing this is that it really helped me to share my story, to honor what I experienced and to remember all the nuances of this humbling, amazing, yet sometimes painful process of being a mom. I know this is only the beginning of a wonderful journey.
Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page http://www.facebook.com/DrKaySudekumTrotter.
Guest Author – Jonna Rae Bartges is a creative catalyst, published author, college lecturer, business consultant and Emmy and Addy award-winning producer. When she is not writing as an ordained minister Jonna Rae strives to unite science and spirituality.
I’m not a dog person – I’ve always been more of the feline persuasion. So it was with more than a bit of trepidation back in February 2006 that I volunteered to foster a beat-up rescued old black lab “for a few nights, until we find him a home.”
Bear, as the elderly gent wanted to be known, immediately wrapped me around his paw, and patiently waited for me to figure out that he WAS home. The vet estimated his age as around 8 or 9, and said the dog had endured a tough life. From the moment he entered my world, Bear was my teacher, protector, guide and rock.
On a trip to Petsmart one time, a young woman confined to a wheelchair saw us come walking in, and her face lit up. Although she couldn’t speak, it was obvious she wanted to connect with Bear. My gentle giant walked up to her and rested his head on her knee. The woman shrieked in glee, and tried to pat his ebony forehead. Complete lack of muscular control turned her pats into rather hard strikes, but Bear didn’t budge – he just shut his eyes and let her hit him. Her joy brought tears to everyone watching the moving scene.
Bear usually rushed up to other dogs to lick their faces and socialize, until a particular time he stopped in his tracks when we encountered a woman with a Golden Retriever. Bear didn’t move a muscle, and the Golden walked over to him, sniffed him nose to tail, then licked his face. That was Bear’s signal to enthusiastically greet the other dog. Her owner was amazed, and said, “That’s the first time Goldie has let another dog near her since she went blind!” Bear KNEW. Gandhi Dog for sure.
Despite his huge appetite for life…and anything vaguely smelling edible…Bear was starting to slow down. A lab’s average lifespan is 12 years, and my guy was approaching 15. It was as if Bear knew I was going to need him with me through the soul-searing challenges of 2011 – a disastrous relationship, my father’s death, my mother’s terminal illness.
Bear’s hips periodically gave out on walks, and severe arthritis crippled his front legs. On occasion I’d have to lift him up stairs, or even into a standing position – no small feat with an 85-pound puppy.
In September he stopped eating for several days. When I lifted him up and took him outside to relieve himself, Bear would furiously dig “nests” under shrubs and painfully ease himself down into them. My vet said Bear was letting me know he was ready to go. Miraculously, he held in there for three more months, but by mid-December, there was no denying it was his time.
At the vet’s office, a dear friend held me while I held Bear. My beautiful boy gave a contented sigh, then gently entered into his final sleep. I sobbed all the way home, and went into the living room to pray. Suddenly I stopped crying to listen – I distinctly heard the jingle of his collar coming down the hallway towards me. I jumped up and ran to look. Of course, there was “nothing” there – but I was thrilled at this contact. Bear wasn’t done connecting just yet.
I turned to walk into the kitchen, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed something different on the refrigerator door. My fridge is my “art gallery,” with strands of magnetized beads holding up an ever changing array of cards and pictures. A beautiful sympathy card a friend sent when my little brother died a few years ago had a strand of beads circling the Native American proverb on the front: “They are not gone who live in our hearts.” Those beads had NOT been like that earlier that morning!
May your New Year be filled with the joy of knowing that love is forever, there are no barriers between realms, and nothing is too wonderful to be true.
This is from a talk I did for the Lewisville ISD on September, 15, 2011 at their CHOICES “Ask the Doctor” a community wide event.
SUICIDE is a Threat
Suicidal acts are frantic attempts at improving one’s life, not ending it.
D.J. Mayo, Psychologist
In most cases, suicide is a solitary event and yet it has often far-reaching repercussions for many others. It is rather like throwing a stone into a pond; the ripples spread and spread.
People choose suicidal acts when they see them as the best way of ending an unbearable situation or getting the changes they desire.
World Health Organisation
What do we worry for?
We worry for the one making the threat
The example I use for this talk was a male, so these points are written as ‘he’, but the person at risk could also be a ‘she’. The choice of how to kill one-self is also an example and could easily be a gun or pills.
Life, Death and Safety
- We’re worried – that he’ll follow through on the threat.
- We’re worried – that he’ll feel he has backed himself into a corner and has to follow through for people to take him seriously.
- We’re worried – that he might not understand that hanging puts quick, severe pressure on your neck, spine, air and blood flow in a way that will almost definitely damage the body a brain.
- We’re worried – that he doesn’t understand how quick it is, and that hanging doesn’t leave time for people to respond or rescue, nor does it leave time for him to change his mind.
Skills, Knowledge and Thought Processes
- We’re worried – that the person’s not thinking straight about how final death really is. Deep down they’re probably acting this way because they really want some kind of change, but they’ve lost hope
- We’re worried – that he can’t think straight, because anger, jealousy, alcohol or some other drug has broken down the things that normally keep him safe from dangerous impulses
- We’re worried – that he’s not thinking of ways to soothe himself or calm himself down.
- We’re worried – that he doesn’t have the skills to look inside himself, to recognize his needs or analyze his thought processes so that he could make changes to the way he’s doing things.
- He might have a need he can’t express. He might have pain he can’t communicate. And if he can’t tell us about it, we can’t help him. And while we’re dealing with the suicide threat, energy gets diverted from dealing with the ‘deeper’ needs.
Feelings and Pain
- Underneath all this, there might be poor self-esteem. The threats might be a reaction to feeling rejected or unloved. It might be coming out of anger about confusing or unjust circumstances. It might be an attempt to reach out in the midst of loneliness.
- Maybe he’s doing this because it’s hard to find actions that seem to have any noticeable effect on the world, and this is one of the few ways he’s found to make his presence felt, and because these actions meet this need, it becomes a bit like an addiction.
- Maybe this ‘flaring up’ is indicative of really low emotional resources, feeling deeply stressed, tired or drained.
- It’s hard for us to meet these deep needs when he’s doing things that create so much distress and isolation.
- It might come from the limited thought processes of young minds and experiences: they don’t know that ‘this will pass’.
- Maybe it’s part of youth trying to cope when they have been experiencing big or fast changes on a deep level. Like those that have taken place since 9/11.
- Or changes in the way the family is run and structured.
- It might be that these people do not know how to cope if they don’t get what they want.
- Maybe it’s a sort of crazed anxiety of losing love, especially if important connections are missing or broken, and it feels like you might be in danger of losing the ones that are left.
- Perhaps the threats are violence turned inwards, then radiating out to those who are closest.
Warning Signs of Suicide
- Talking About Dying — any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self-harm.
- Recent Loss — through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of religious faith, loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
- Change in Personality — sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in Behavior — can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
- Change in Sleep Patterns — insomnia, often with early waking or over sleeping, nightmares
- Change in Eating Habits — loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
- Fear of losing control — going crazy, harming self or others
- Low self-esteem — feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”
- No hope for the future — believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change
Other things to watch for—suicidal impulses, statements, plans; giving away favorite things; previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, making out wills, arranging for the care of pets, extravagant spending, agitation, hyperactivity, restlessness or lethargy.
Every person can help prevent suicide
Show You Care!
Often, suicidal thinking comes from a wish to end deep psychological pain. Death seems like the only way out. But it isn’t. Acknowledge the feelings they might be having, and that it’s okay to feel those things, or perhaps acknowledge your relationship to them, and that you care about them. Let the person know you really care. Talk about your feelings and ask about his or hers. Listen carefully to what they have to say.
- “It sounds like you’re angry (or jealous or something else), and it’s okay to be angry.”
- “I’m worried about you, about how you feel.”
- ”You mean a lot to me. I want to help.”
- ”I’m here, if you need someone to talk to.”
Ask The Question
Don’t hesitate to raise the subject. Talking with young people about suicide won’t put the idea in their heads. Chances are, if you’ve observed any of the warning signs, they’re already thinking about it. Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way. Get the conversation started.
- “Are you thinking about suicide?”
- ”Do you really want to die?”
- “Do you want your problems to go away?”
Challenge their Thinking
Challenge thinking is about letting them know that even though it’s okay to be feeling this way and you still care about them, it’s not okay to use the violence of threats or death that cause people so much pain. It’s also about helping them see that death won’t solve their problem
- ‘It’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to kill yourself.’
- ‘I care about you, but I can’t give in to you when you act this way, so now I have to call someone here to keep you safe.’
- ‘How are you going to feel the respect and attention you’re looking for if you are dead? You’ll be gone forever.’
- ‘Do you really want to go away forever? You’ll leave a big hole of pain in your family and friends, who love you very much.’
The goal is to keep the person safe long enough to get to a time and place where there can be some good talking.
- Go for a drive. Take them to a place where they might calm down.
- ‘Go for a walk or drive him ‘round the community. Only drop him back home when he’s really tired. But still watch over him.’
- ‘Take him away from the thing that was making him angry.’
- ‘Go to a coffee shop.’ (laughter)
- ‘Or the beach.’ (more laughter)
- ‘Go to a place that’s safe for them but doesn’t facilitate their suicide fantasy, or give in to what they’re asking for.’
- ‘Sometimes the safest place might be the emergency room.’
After they calm down and get some slept, you can make connections, like with family or support workers. Then you can talk about it more.
- ‘Do something that makes him happy. Just ask them gently. You can listen to them. Get their story.’
- ‘Remind them about their family. People they care about. You can ask them, “What are the troubles in your life?”’
- ‘Ask them simple questions. Get them to think about what they are doing. Like, “How are you feeling when you say you want to kill yourself?” or “What are the things that make you feel this way?’
- Help them break it down, so they can see the process of when they do this, identifying emotional states and suicidal triggers.’
- ‘You can help them think about other things they can do when they feel this way again.’
After the crisis has calmed down never talk of suicide as a secret, even if they ask you to. It’s better to risk a friendship than a life.
Ideas of what to say:
- “I know where we can get some help.”
- ”Let’s talk to someone who can help.”
- “I can go with you to get some help.”
- “Let’s call the crisis line, now.”
Sometimes you can be the most help by referring your friend to someone with professional skills such as:
- Someone the person already has connections with.
- Trustworthy family member. Someone the young person has respect for Support working together with the family member. “Family is important to provide support. It’s a partnership: support working with family and vice versa.”
- Someone who can help build coping mechanisms and help them talk about their strengths.
- Connect with a mental health professional or someone who can follow-up separately with the person making the threat.
- Someone who can talk to the whole community about suicide.
- Anyone SAFE - “Sometimes, to keep them safe, there might be no one left to call but the police.”
What NOT to say
Here are some things about what would be unhelpful to say to someone thinking about killing themselves
- ‘Go for it.’
- ‘Make my day.’
- ‘Go ahead.’
- ‘I dare you.’
- ‘Here’s the rope.’
- Giving them a challenge so they feel they have to prove it, like, ‘You don’t really mean it’ or ‘I don’t believe you.’
- Saying something dismissive, like, ‘It can’t be that bad’ or ‘You always say that.’
- Saying something that might make them feel more angry or alone, like, ‘Who’s it going to hurt?’ or ‘No one cares.’
Do something now: Don’t assume that they will get better without help or that they will seek help on their own.
Acknowledge your reaction: It’s natural to feel panic and shock, but take time to listen and think before you act.
Be there for them: Spend time with the person and express your care and concern.
Ask if they are thinking of suicide: Asking can sometimes be very hard but it shows that you have noticed things, been listening, that you care and that they’re not alone.
Check out their safety: If a person is considering suicide it is important to know how much they have thought about it. Do they have a plan?
Decide what to do: What you decide to do needs to take into account the safety concerns that you have. Don’t agree to keep it a secret.
Take action: The person can get help from a range of professional and supportive people
Ask for a promise: if thoughts of suicide return, it is important for the person to again reach out and tell someone.
Look after yourself: It is difficult and emotionally draining to support someone who is suicidal, especially over an extended period.
FOR IMMEDIATE HELP CALL
2-1-1 – Local Suicide Intervention
800-435-7609 – National Teen Suicide Hotline
Book for Parents
“Chasing Happiness: One Boy’s Guide to Helping Other Kids Cope with Divorce, Parental Addictions and Death” by Chase Block; Foreword by Kay Sudekum Trotter, PhD – pages 75 – 81 have great suicide advice
“Helping Your Child Cope with Depression and Suicidal Thoughts” by Tonia K. Shampoo and Philip G. Patros
Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page http://www.facebook.com/DrKaySudekumTrotter.
I am honored to have this moving blog post by Laura Hickman. Be sure to have some kleenex close by as she opens a door and invites you in to her childhood. A childhood filled with some very painful memories, and how an abandoned horse galloped through Laura’s life, giving her confidence, courage, and passion – Laura Hickman lives in Linden, VA and is a home school mom of 4 children, aged 6-12. She is an aspiring Equine Specialist and hopes to have her own farm in the near future.
I loved my Dad. We did a lot together while my mom studied to become a nurse. He would pick me up from childcare, make my special bread so I wouldn’t be embarrassed at school (I had severe allergies), and take me fishing. We’d watch TV together while I put lotion on his forearms where the Marine Corp tattoos had been removed. We even had a stash of Pringles secreted away under the front seat of his VW Bug. We were inseparable!
Unfortunately, by the time I was 7, my parents were battling their way through a not-so-nice divorce when my father, instead of taking me to school as planned, kidnapped me. His hope was that my mother would become so distraught that she would commit suicide. The only details I remember of the days I was in hiding are the fact that I had a stuffed Snoopy toy, and that my mother swooped in to rescue me as I was making mud pies in the backyard. It was then that fear entered my heart. Fear of being left, and fear of being kidnapped again.
Six years later, in 1983, my mom remarried. We moved to a new house and I, to a new school. Moving and attending a new school were positive experiences for me, having a step-father was not.
My step-father was a very bright man who had escaped from Hungary, a country behind the Iron Curtain, with nothing but a sandwich in his pocket and the clothes on his back. Within 10 months of arriving in the United States, he had learned enough English at Georgetown University to be accepted into an Engineering program at the University of Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it became apparent that he was dealing with severe psychological issues which he was no longer able to suppress successfully. In 1986, he was diagnosed with depression, and Paranoid Schizophrenia, shortly before taking his own life. His bursts of anger and the yelling that ensued were frightening. I didn’t want to be at home, yet I felt that I needed to be home to protect my mom. His anger was not limited to yelling – on separate occasions he pinned my mom on the floor, threw a drink at her, and disconnected the garage door openers so we couldn’t get in the house. Another time, he accused me of slamming a door in his face. In my minds’ eye I can still see him entering his room when I slammed the door, but that didn’t prevent him from breaking down the door and striking me across the face. He refused to repair the shattered door frame for several months, wanting me to remember my offense, and the subsequent punishment.
It was during this time that Poppins came into my life. She was a 26-year-old mare that had been abandoned by an owner that could no longer afford to keep her. She had been fed, but not much else. Each night was spent in a tiny standing stall with so much manure that she was forced to stand facing downhill. Despite her discomfort from severe thrush and an unseasonably long coat, she was a gentle teacher who never lost her patience with my ignorance. She gave me so much more than riding lessons. Her gifts to me were confidence, courage, and passion. And she had the best ear of any counselor. I could pour out my heart to her without fear of what she thought, or that she would report back to my mom. She wouldn’t leave me and she loved me despite all she knew about me.
Helen Thompson once said, “In riding a horse, we borrow freedom.” There could not be a truer statement for me. Riding was my avenue of escape and healing. It gave me confidence, and made me feel strong, both mentally and physically.
Without Poppins, and the horses that galloped through my life after her, I would not be the person I am today. There is not a doubt in my mind that horses kept me from the drugs, crime and promiscuity that snare so many others with similar experiences.
Poppins is the very definition of a hero! She selflessly carried me and shared her friendship, happy only in my companionship and attention, and all despite her pain. I didn’t know it then, but as my horse knowledge has increased, I see now that she probably suffered from Cushing’s and Chronic Laminitis.
I’ve always known that I loved Poppins, but I never realized until writing this blog just how deep her impact really was. It has taken me several months to finish these few paragraphs…I had to stop and grieve my loss of her. I found out this year that the owner of the barn had offered to sell her to my mom and step dad for $100, but they turned her down. Instead, she went to a girl who thought it was a good idea to call me and brag that Poppins was no longer my friend, but hers. I have never forgotten that call.
That call was the last I ever heard about Poppins. I don’t know how much longer she lived, or where they might have buried her. I wish I could kiss her sweet muzzle just one more time…