Thursday, February 18, 2010

Presence in Parenting

I have always considered myself as sane as sane can be. Sure I have issues and random elements of quirkiness that come up occasionally. I have been known to exhibit a little bit of OCD here and there- but overall I am just like everyone else right? Right, except what I am learning is, that we are all teetering on the edge of mental illness!!!

After I had my second child, all of my issues came to a big fat head. After running on a pretty consistent level of anxiety for my entire pregnancy over whether or not I would have a c-section, I was hit right smack in between the eyes with a postpartum anxiety disorder. Of course I didn't know that at the time. At the time my body was just overcome with fear and dread, stuck in a constant fight or flight response with nowhere to unload it. It took me a few days of being in the hospital diagnosed with preeclampsia to realize that my illness was not consistent with my diagnosis, I was just mentally sick, which to me was much, much worse.

I have continued to experience "episodes" of extreme anxiety. They are unpleasant to say the least, and bring with them a host of awful thoughts and moods. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. It has been a long 2 years of soul searching, pain, and suffering. Would I trade it? It's hard to say, I wish it hadn't been necessary in order to get me where I am today, but in truth, it has been the biggest blessing and teacher of my life.

Throughout this time, while I had a prescription in my posession, I resisted taking an antidepressant . I used an occasional medication to help me fall asleep. It seemed apparent though, even when the only thing I wanted was to be put out of my misery for a couple of days, that it was not the answer for me. It would MAYBE help control the symptoms, but it would not alleviate the cause. Plus, to me the potential side effects were scarier than my experiences. (I feel the need to say that this is MY experience, I do not condemn any woman for her choice to take medication).

My sons birth coincided with Oprah and Echkart Tolle doing weekly lessons on Tolle's book "A New Earth". What I learned from this helped save me from plunging into the deapths of despair or ending up in a mental hospital for a cool down session. I started to believe that I had the power to alter the patterns in my brain that caused me to spiral into these anxiety attacks. What I have learned is that your thoughts are more physiological than anything. You have NO control over your thinking 99% of the time and your thinking is what determines your moods. The whole key is to be present and be aware of everything happening at any given moment, including the thoughts swirling around in your mind. While it is not too terribly complex of an idea it is VERY hard to put into action.

2 years later as I sit here, I feel like my life is pretty much perfect. I still have my times when the negativity creeps in, but they are shorter and less pervasive. Now that my eyes are open to this notion of presence, I see it being taught everywhere and I believe that this is the secret to living a joyful and peaceful life. Presence is making me a better mother, a better wife, and a better nurse. I still have so far to go though, and the challenges of being a full-time mother give me lots of field training. No one really sits down and gives you a parenting manual because there isn't one right way to parent, but I believe you can be assured that if you are truly present you will be the best parent you can be.

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