Mental Health Awareness Month: A Postpartum Journey

img_2536In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to introduce you to my former college roommate Cole Gilbert and allow her to share her story. Cole is a homeschool mom to 4 kids –  Ava (10), Grayson (8), Brogan (5), and Livy (3). Her husband is Associate Pastor of Community and Missions at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She is a reminder that there is NO one size fits all to mental health. Everyone has a different story to tell, and we MUST be our own health advocates and trust our instincts. I hope her story touches you as it did me.


 

Chad and I recently went on a date to celebrate . . . Prozac.

Yep, you read that right. I’ve been on Prozac/Zoloft for 5 years and our date night celebrated one week since I had taken my last pill. I’m officially medicine-free and that’s worth celebrating!

But we were also celebrating and thanking God for how much this medicine has helped me these last few years. I’m glad to be off of it, but I have NO SHAME from needing to be on medicine!

If you are dealing with postpartum issues, depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, please hear my encouragement to talk honestly with your doctor and/or counselor and get the help you need. This may be medicine, but it could also be counseling to help process issues (trauma or fear), or someone helping you see changes in your life that need to be made (diet, boundaries, relationships, activities). Whatever it is, you will not regret getting help!

I’ll share my story below for anyone who could benefit from my experience with postpartum anxiety, but if you can only read a little bit, then I want you to know this:

  1. You are not alone when life is hard. There is help available. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but getting help is worth it. You know yourself best so trust your instincts.  If you feel like you are not yourself, please talk to your doctor.  You will have to push through the embarrassment or urge to explain your symptoms away, but it will be worth it.  Fight the shame and fear.  Call your doctor, call a friend, call someone!

  2. You may not deal with these issues, but chances are good that someone around you does. Be gracious. Be a good friend. Check on new mamas.  Beg them to be honest with you about how they are doing. Offer prayers and practical support even when you don’t understand what they are going through. Resist the urge to minimize their issues, judge, and shame. Please don’t suggest that something that is chemical/hormonal is really just a spiritual problem or a lack of faith. Walk through the hard WITH them. The Church can do better at this!

My Story

When Brogan (my 3rd child) was 10 days old, something changed. I was of course exhausted and a little overwhelmed with bringing a 3rd baby in the mix, but this was more than just being overwhelmed. I woke up a few hours after going to bed and was having the first panic attack of my life. I spent the rest of the night having panic attacks, throwing up, crying, and praying. By the time Chad woke up, I was a mess. He took one look at me and knew something was very wrong. In wisdom, he asked me to immediately call my OB. I was so confused because I wasn’t having the symptoms of postpartum depression and at that point I didn’t even know postpartum anxiety was a thing. All I knew was that I was not myself and I needed help asap. Continue reading “Mental Health Awareness Month: A Postpartum Journey”

The Stockholm Syndrome of Dieting

It’s a high in the beginning, isn’t it?

Making lists, planning it out. Calculating the numbers. Feeling in control.

But then…the hunger hits. The panic sets in. Do I eat when it will put me over my limit for the day? Do I choose celery when I really want guacamole? Do I sit there at the restaurant and smile while everyone else is digging in? Saying, “No, that’s okay…I’m not really hungry” when meanwhile, you’re about to eat your own finger???

It’s confusing and it’s awkward.

Some people love it, these highs and lows of dieting. I think some even thrive on them. Because the second that scale goes down 16 ounces, all is right with the world…and it makes it worth pressing on through the pain.

It’s like being kidnapped and falling in love with your kidnapper. Nobody loves being on a diet. But we like the feel of perceived control, the success of the numbers decreasing, the rumbling tummies and the willpower of steel that says, “Nope, I’m not listening to you.”

Is that REALLY how life is supposed to be lived?

What if there was a better way? What if you could become in tune with your hunger cues and find food that makes your body SING? What if you learned to address the emotions behind the urge to hop on the next diet trend. What if you learned how to find freedom in the body you have?

I want to challenge the entire concept of dieting as a means to finding contentment in your body.

I believe that for most people, the weight you need to lose is in your mind. Dieting is being held captive by something you hate to love and love to hate. It is enslaving. It is anxiety-inducing. Though we love it, it does more damage than good.

How do you know you are enslaved by the dieting mindset? Continue reading “The Stockholm Syndrome of Dieting”

Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?

Now that I shared what leaky gut is and how it starts, I’m excited to share my top tips for nourishing your gut! If you’re already feeling nervous or annoyed that I’m going to share a long to-do list that will overwhelm you, scroll down to Tip #4, then come back up to the top and be encouraged! Learning to take care of your gut is such a rewarding process.

First things first – because I love all things food, my inclination is to start there. But that may be backwards.

See, if you don’t take care of external triggers, it doesn’t matter what food you eat.

img_2229

Tip #1: Manage Stress

We can’t avoid traffic, work deadlines, soccer practices, family conflicts, etc. But we CAN handle how we manage the stress they create.

The best thing I’ve done for my stress levels is learning to breathe. Guided breathwork has been so beneficial. There are various studies into why and how they assist the parasympathetic nervous system, but let’s focus on this – deep nostril breathing will decrease the stress center in your brain. It will instantly calm and soothe you. Just a few minutes of calm, steady breathing can be a game-changer for your stress levels.

One other thing that helps lighten my stress load when my mind is racing is taking a bath with Epsom salts. I am NOT a bath person, and I’ve never been a fan of just laying there, but an extra hot bath that leaves me alone with my mind and deep breathing practices is something I’ve come to depend on during stressful times.

I’m also a big fan of a gratitude journal, either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Reflect on what went well the previous day. Try to list 3-5 things. It’s hard to be stressed or fearful when you’re acknowledging the positive in your life. Being grateful changes your brain, the expression of your genes, and improves your gut health!

Tip #2: Eat Real Food!

…And eat it slowly. It’s no secret that processed food is damaging for us. But we all know that, and we just keep on keeping on with our gut issues. So while ideally, one would focus on cutting out the triggers, for some it is a much more realistic approach to crowd in the most fueling foods. Eating slowly and mindfully gives your digestive system time to digest and process the food. Taking breathers between bites and chewing slowly gives your enzymes a chance to do what they need to do and break down your food.

Vegetables contain prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our gut. They detoxify our bodies and provide much needed vitamins for our brain health. They also help produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which is so important for mental health and has even been studied to be helpful in reducing symptoms of mania. Side note – butyrate is found in grass fed butter and ghee, so by cooking vegetables in either of those you’re increasing your fat-soluble vitamin content AND getting a double dose of brain goodness!

Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?”

Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?

Aside from epigenetics, one discovery that has completely changed the way I view my body’s healing ability is gut health. Learning how to take care of my gut transformed my mental health.

5 years ago, the term was a mystery to me. I thought probiotics were only necessary when taking an antibiotic. And it’s true – considering the fact that most of the food we eat contains antibiotics, probiotics are a necessity.

The reality is, the state of our gut bacteria determines much of our health and well-being, from our immune system to mental health to most chronic diseases plaguing people in the 21st century.

From a young age, I was on antibiotics, steroids, and various medications that disrupt gut bacteria. I suffered from intense sugar cravings and yeast infections, major signs that my gut needed balancing. The state of my gut health, those genetic predispositions I mentioned earlier, and witnessing a traumatic event at the age of 9 are what I believe led to my mental illness crisis in my teens and 20s. It’s alllll connected. Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?”

Freedom Friday

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit to a yolk of slavery” – Galatians 5:1

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus took His last breath on the cross. The day He gathered the weight of the world and restored balance in the most unexpected way possible. Talk about a plot twist. God on earth, submitting to a degrading death. For the sake of FREEDOM. Our freedom.

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of freedom. My lastborn’s middle name is Freeman, as tribute to my grandpa (as that was his middle name as well). It’s a fitting name, since the last 2 and a half years that Rhett Freeman has graced this earth I have been on a “freedom journey” of sorts. God is breaking major chains in my life.

The thing about freedom… is that it’s free.

I didn’t pay for my freedom in Christ. There is nothing I can do to earn it or work for it. It is a gift.

I can think of a thousand ways this has brought peace and healing to my life. But lately, this freedom has come in the form of healing my relationship with body image and food. Continue reading “Freedom Friday”

When Before and Afters Hurt

I’ve been having a difficult time with before and after pictures lately. I’m not sure if I feel comfortable with them. I’m not sure if they inspire or hurt. There have been many flooding my social media newsfeed lately and for lack of a better term, I’ve felt triggered.

Many of the women in the “before” pictures look beautiful. They have my “ideal” shape and size, so to see that they want to change that raises so many questions (some subconscious) in my mind. Why did they want to make a change? Was it just for the physical result? Did they have health issues to address? Are they happier in their bodies in the after picture? Would I be happier if I looked like them? So. Many. Questions.

I’ve posted many before and after pictures. That was how I started my health and wellness business, and that was what inspired so many of my friends to join me. What I never before considered is that in focusing on a picture only, I water down the true message of health and wellness. And there isn’t a one size approach to health. If there was, I wouldn’t be writing this.

I’m processing a lot right now, regarding body image, weight, and health at every size. I’m doing a lot of soul searching that, as a nutrition coach, is necessary for me in order to properly help others and reach people where they are.

So let’s talk about my holistic health journey for a second…

img_0317

See the girl on the left? She was pretty amazing. She just had her second baby, had just finished running a 5K, and was really loving life and her job as a teacher. There is nothing wrong with that!

Continue reading “When Before and Afters Hurt”

On Guard (Unraveling Grief)

Grief is like an out of season mosquito. You think you’re fine, but out of nowhere it gets you.

I like to think of myself as a very open and warm person. If you met me, you’d probably think I’m nice.

But let me warn you…I have a guard up. We’re all walking wounded – that’s part of life – and we all have ways of handling the twists and turns life has thrown at us.

I was 9 years old when I watched my grandpa die in my front yard. My life was squeaky clean before that, all rainbows and unicorns (literally – hello, My Little Pony). The most traumatic thing I had experienced was allergy testing.

But trauma is relative.

In one instant, I watched the people who were supposed to be in control… lose their control. I watched my grandpa, who was just sitting at my dining room table holding my hand while we prayed the night before, struggle to breathe and fall to the ground. I watched my mom and grandma using an epi pen and performing CPR, to no avail.

I watched his eyes roll back.

When my parents came home from the hospital that night, smiling because Pop-Pop was in heaven… that’s when the walls went up. That’s when I learned an important lesson.

Life as you know it can change in an instant. So don’t get too close. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t love too deeply. Hold everyone at arms’ length. Disconnect.

img_0064

I lived like that for a long time. I struggle to be present in emergency situations to this day. The little girl who witnessed her precious grandpa dying likes to pretend she’s in a movie, watching everything from behind a screen.

However, I am learning to flip the script. As a mother, I am learning that there is another way to respond to grief. Continue reading “On Guard (Unraveling Grief)”