Aug 1, 2017

Mental Health Check In - August

So... I was all excited about the first appointment and this time I'm feeling more meh.  But I'll report in anyway.

At my end-of-July counseling appointment I was expecting to rehash the changes I made and then listen to suggestions for a couple more.  Instead we talked about none of them and my counselor started voicing concerns about postpartum.

She did give me a couple of actionable items, but I'm not going to follow up this time.  I tried to assess it objectively to see if maybe she had a point that I was missing.  Because I can see how you might suffer from depression or other mental health issues without realizing.  But I really just don't agree.

The counselor's primary concern was a few comments I had made about the days that were incredibly long and I was just counting down until the baby's next nap, or Ryan got home, or I could go to bed.  The weeks that I counted down until the week was finally over.

But here's the thing - while I don't want to live life as a constant countdown, I don't see the countdown as an indicator that I'm depressed or think things are hopeless.  Because a countdown indicates that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm counting down to something.

Waiting for the day to end so I can sleep doesn't mean I'm depressed and don't want to deal with life.  It means I'm severely sleep deprived and I genuinely need this.  Similarly the countdown means we had taken actionable steps to improve the situation (interviewing a nanny, etc), and I was hanging in there until those plans came to fruition.

I also talked to Sister2 about this and, while I can imagine my counselor's eye roll when I say, "My sister said..." it's also true that my sister is actually a doctor and has done rotations in mental health wards, along with experiencing what we call "the great sadness" in her own part.  And Sister2 thinks the doctor's advice - to go get tested for various vitamin deficiencies - is a good way to find things that are "wrong" that aren't actually affecting me.

Everyone has imbalances and, for the most part, those deficiencies, imbalances, nodules, whatever, don't affect us.  When we get sick - sure, then we need to investigate it and treat whatever might be causing it.  But when it's not, then it's just a waste of time, resources, and possibly contrary to the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm."

Sister2 also agreed with me that all of my stressors and sadnesses seemed to have legitimate sources, and that she wouldn't be concerned about them in a patient of hers.

So I'm not going to get tested by my doctor, and I'm not even going to track my moods, even though that might have some benefit.  Instead I'm going to continue my gratitude list, enjoy having a nanny, and get more sleep!

How I Did on My July Health Goals

Since these are physical AND mental health goals I want to talk about not just how I did, but whether taking these actions had any noticeable impact on my life.  After all the ultimate "goal" here is to feel happier and improve life satisfaction, not just cross some goals off a list.

1. Walk Once a Day - Mostly

Every day is hard to do, especially since my life has minimal routine to it (see below) BUT I did get out there more often and I made peace with the stroller.  I tried to walk with just the baby, but I couldn't do it - the guilt at leaving the dogs behind was too strong.  So instead I experimented until I found good combinations of baby equipment.  Example: the stroller is by far the easiest thing for stopping to pick up dog poop BUT if I want to go somewhere that's not stroller friendly, the baby carrier is next best.  The body slings aren't secure enough to be truly hands-free.

Impact Assessment: Walking is always good.  It always accomplishes something, whether that's making me feel good, or letting the dogs get some energy out, or having a good talk with Ryan (our family discussion is always during a walk on Fridays and we've solved many a tough discussion during a long walk).

2. Go to Sleep When the Baby Does and Work in the Morning Before He Wakes Up - Middlin'

I tried this the first week after my therapy appointment and it took 3 full days before I was rested enough to force myself out of bed, even after 9+ hours of sleep.  Guys, it was bad!  Then I managed maybe one day of morning work and went back to my old ways.  Part of the problem is that, while Orion sometimes sleeps through the night, other nights he wakes up 3 times.  So I never know if I'm going to get enough sleep or be exhausted despite spending hours in bed because my sleep was interrupted so much.

The other problem was that there was just too much work to complete and still get 8 hours of sleep.  So rearranging my sleep schedule was more of a patch than a fix.  But that's ok because WE HIRED A NANNY and I can work during the day now!!!  I was so scared to do this but after one of me and Ryan's long talks where we covered all the contingencies (What if my business goes away?  What if I can't pay for my half of childcare?  Etc, etc.) I'm ready to see this for what it is - an investment into my business, and start pouring more energy into continuing to build instead of scrambling to survive.

Anyway, back on topic - with a nanny AND a graphic design freelancer, I think I can keep up without staying up at night, and I've actually been going to bed when Orion does.  Right now I'm feeling healthier and more mentally stable than I have in a while.

Impact Assessment: Maybe I'm not as much of a morning person as I thought I was.  However, getting enough sleep at night makes a huuuuge difference and it enables me to be more productive during naptime instead of napping with the baby or trying to work through my fog of sleep-deprived confusion.

3. Get Into a Routine - Just Starting!

My life has had minimal to no routine in it for as long as I can remember.  Some days I go into an office, some days I work from home, I schedule anywhere from 2-5 social/work/appointment type things a week and those are at various times.  My sleep schedule changes depending on what each day's obligations are.  It's messy, but I also enjoy the variety so I needed to work around that.

I've been experimenting this past month and I think I've found a few things that work well.  Going for a walk to end work for the day and starting the day with some kind of self care.  I'd like to say I'll always go to bed when baby does, but sometimes Ryan and I need some baby-free time with each other, so instead I'll just try for 7 hours of sleep the office job days and 9+ the other days (knowing that some nights will be interrupted by a crying baby).

The office job days I'll get up, do some yoga/stretching, make a smoothie, and go to work.  Then come home, go for a walk, do whatever, and pack lunch for the next day at dinner while food is already out.

The freelance days I'll get up with the baby, make breakfast, pass him off to our awesome nanny, go for a run, and then get to work.  When it's time for her to leave, I'll go for a walk, put him down for a nap (and maybe squeeze out another hour of work), and then spend the evening doing family things.

The one weekday where I have no office job and no nanny I'd like to keep doing mom group/social things.  And the weekends I'd like to spend more time with Ryan, since we've been basically putting our relationship on the backburner while we handle shit.  I told a friend that as couples you need time together to resolve problems AND time together to enjoy being together.  Right now it's a little shaky, so making time for both is a priority.

Impact Assessment: I'd be lying if I said anything other than "I hope it will be good" since I haven't managed to build solid routines yet, but I know the chaos is bothering me and I feel stressed out and/or crazy when I don't make time for my health.

Health Goals for August

  1. Gratitude List
  2. Sleep Goals
  3. Make Time to Relax with Ryan

How do you enforce self care?  Do you do mental health check ins?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually


  1. You always recap things in such an interesting way. I'm a mental health professional and personally have struggled to find therapy/counseling that has ever been helpful/worked for me-- it can be so hard to find someone that's a good fit. It almost sounds like she was digging for something to be "wrong" or diagnosed instead of focusing on what was working for you or normalizing any of your feelings as being pretty typical for a new mom. Yay for hiring a nanny-- it sounds like that's definitely going to help you achieve your sleep goals!

  2. I agree with the feeling of counting down to something, and sleep deprived is a real thing and a real problem. I often countdown to a weekend without any plans, just so I can sleep and not deal with people. And I don't even have a baby on top of that! And I'm not depressed.

  3. I totally agree with you that a countdown alone isn't an indicator. I've had things I love become things I just don't want to be dealing with at this exact minute because something else I also love/need/am required to do is weighing on me mentally, and those moments don't look the same as depression. I'm sorry that something you were excited about turned negative for you, but I'm glad you thought critically and carefully and came up with Jenn's best answer. That's important.

    I'm trying to make midday walks more of a habit. Since I work at home, obviously this is crucial to getting a change of scenery at some point in the day. It helps. I've actually recently invested in a Fitbit too, which helps me see how much I *DON'T MOVE OMG* until I work out for the day. Scary.

    Building routine is actually really hard. I'm still working on it, but often find myself reacting more than being proactive day to day. I have some habits that are repeated daily, but I'd still like there to be more. Glad to hear you've started falling into one. Yay for hired help making the world go 'round! Good luck!

  4. I countdown to things sometimes. I've had bouts of depression and I waver sometimes, but counting down to an event or occurrence isn't a trigger or even a sign of depression for me. I try to not wish my days away, but sometimes you've just gotta work toward something. It's definitely a light at the end of the tunnel kind of goal.
    It sounds like you're doing pretty good! Good luck with your August goals!

  5. I like Sister2's assessment much better than the counselor's- how would she know anything without actually talking to you?! That doesn't make any sense. Yay for a nanny! I'm sure that will positively affect your ability to sleep, spend QT with Ryan, and overall general health/happiness too! Creating a routine is difficult, especially since you crave the variety of work, but it sounds like you're on a positive track. Good luck!


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