I am so very excited about this article, published in Nylon Magazine, profiling what it’s like to work with me and the magic of Bach flower remedies! If you’ve ever wanted to read a first hand account that clearly explains what Bach flowers are, how they work and what actually goes down during a Seed to Blossom session, this is your chance!
I Drank Flower Essences For Two Weeks And This Is What Happened
It helped Zen me out…
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Or is it?
As fun as this season can be, we all know it can also be filled with stress, anxiety, sadness and a host of other negative associations that keep us from feeling anything but peaceful and joyous.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with the amazing GuruMeher Khalsa, to bring you a FREE interactive teleclass that will help you connect with your heart and discover simpler, gentler ways to honor the holidays.
So, if you’ve got some holiday stress, or simply want to discover new ways to honor this season, consider this your invitation to join us for an afternoon that will include guided mediations, group sharing and one-on-one coaching. I promise it won’t add one new thing to your to do list, and will be a whole lot of fun.
And please don’t let the word Christmas scare you! This tele-class is for EVERYONE! No matter what your faith (or not), Christmas effects everyone in some way or another. In this class we’re going to get clear on how it effects YOU and what you can do to celebrate it (or not) it in a way that feels natural and nurturing.
I look forward to speaking with you on December 17th!
Last month I was thrilled to be invited to write an article for one of my favorite websites, The Numinous, about the free distance Reiki group that I facilitate and how that daily act of service has changed my life. Hop on over to the article to get the scoop.
To sign up for the free daily Reiki group and Daily Insights email, head here:
To sign up for just the Daily Reiki Insights email, head here:
The life of the party.
The class clown.
The perpetually blissed out spiritual seeker.
The emotional eater.
The nightly wine drinker.
The TV/internet/video game/social media addict.
The descriptions above all represent people who could benefit from a dose of the Bach flower essence for May – Agrimony.
Often referred to as wearing a “mask of cheerfulness”, those in need of Agrimony will go to great lengths to avoid acknowledging the dark sides of life. These people appear happy and put together on the outside, yet harbor deep fears and anxieties on the inside. They deny emotional pain and often fall prey to addictive behavior in an attempt to drown out negative, dark feelings. They might also stay very busy with work, hobbies or volunteering in order to keep moving and avoid having to be alone with their thoughts.
Additionally, those in need of Agrimony will do almost anything to maintain peace and harmony in their relationships. They will avoid conflict and disputes at all costs, going so far as to minimize or completely ignore problems, even when they are brought up by others.
“Don’t worry, be happy,” is the perpetual rallying cry of the Agrimony.
Now, of course, being positive is a wonderful thing. But not at the expense of denying or ignoring our darker feelings in the process. When we repress our emotions in favor of appearing positive or happy all the time, we do ourselves a great disservice. Those unprocessed emotions find a way out one way or another. If not through conscious processing, than often through physical or mental illness.
Treatment with Agrimony helps to restore the ability to safely look at emotional pain and work through it; using it as a tool for transformation. It helps one to regain the ability to be emotionally open and honest and courageously deal with confrontation. Over time a feeling of inner peace and harmony is restored. It can also be helpful in overcoming addictive behaviors.
As with all flower essences, you need not be in the extreme categories above to benefit from Agrimony. Flowers, as with life, work on a spectrum. So even if you only see yourself in some of the above, if anything rang a bell, this flower could be right for you.
Even if you don’t need this flower right now, the message of Agrimony is still a worthy one to pay attention to this month. Life is made up of both light and dark. Up and down. Positive and negative. To be fully emotionally healthy, it is important to embrace all sides of our nature and be willing to take a candid look at our faults and shortcomings from time to time. It is important to be honest with ourselves about what’s working in our lives, what’s not and how we can improve.
Over the next few weeks, consider the following:
- Where in your life might you be turning a blind eye to a niggling inner truth?
- Is there a conflict you’re avoiding?
- Is there a habit it’s time to release?
- Do you keep yourself busy in order to distract yourself from unpleasant feelings?
- How comfortable are you with the darker sides of your nature? Of life in general?
In a day and age when we all seem to be presenting only our best sides for the camera – posting snippets of only the most positive aspects of our lives – it seems more important than ever to honestly assess all parts of ourselves, so we can improve upon what needs tweaking while also celebrating all that makes us great. Taking some time to examine the “dark” side of Agrimony this month may lead to some hidden gems of self discovery, without even having to take the essence!
So, this post almost didn’t find its way onto the blog this week. A nasty case of writer’s block and perfectionism descended on my office on Monday and hung around like a dark cloud all week.
Try as I may, and boy did I try, I just couldn’t shake it (note to self: reorder Rock Water as all existing supplies may have been drunk directly from the bottle…).
By yesterday afternoon I was pushing, forcing and trying to strong arm some kind of post into existence, when I came across this:
I don’t know who to credit for the image, but – wow – it totally spoke to me. So, I reluctantly decided to take the advice the Universe was sending me and cancel this week’s post and newsletter.
But, just as I was getting ready to throw my computer out the window in frustration shut down my computer, something wonderful happened: My six year old bounded into my office and, seeing the look of disappointment on my face, asked, “What’s wrong, Mama?” I answered, “I’m trying to write a blog post but it’s just not working out.” Then, out of sheer desperation I asked, “What do you think I should write about on my blog this week? What do my readers need to know about?” (No pressure, kid!)
“Peace and harmony.”
…Why is my six year old wiser than I am?
I prodded her a bit more.
“What should I say about peace and harmony?”
I pushed a little further.
“What do you do when you want to find peace?” I asked her.
“Um, I like to find peace by going outside for Savor the Day Time.” (This is something she recently made up. It’s the time around 4pm when the sun hits our front porch just so and she likes to sit outside and, indeed, savor it. I highly recommend this six-year-old-invented practice.)
“I also like to listen to that White Sun song. People should listen to it. Put that on your blog.” (see below)
And just like that, my frustration ceased. My stress about the blog post dissolved. I suddenly had something to write about.
Peace and harmony.
I could think of no two better words to capture the essence of what using Bach flower remedies is really all about. You can put a thousand different names on it – stress relief, emotional balancing, self help, inner child healing etc…- but at the end of the day, the goal of using Bach flower remedies is to bring about peace and harmony in our hearts, souls and lives. It’s that simple and that profound.
All 38 of Dr. Bach’s flower remedies can bring peace and harmony, but the ones that will work for you in any given moment depends on why you’re not feeling peaceful in the first place. Jealous of your neighbor? Take HOLLY. Bitter about the promotion you got passed over for? Take WILLOW. Got a case of writer’s block because you can’t find the PERFECT theme to write about? 😉 Take ROCK WATER! Also keep in mind, in this day and age of instant access and quick-fix solutions, it’s easy to forget that flower remedies don’t always work by effecting immediate, earth-shattering change. Often they work by subtly shifting things so that you can breathe, take stock and be open to solutions that present themselves (including the wisdom of a six year old).
There are literally thousands of combinations of these remedies that will bring a sense of peace, harmony and well-being into even the most difficult of situations. The key is taking a good, long look at your emotions and choosing the flower/s that best fit. If you’re having trouble making enough sense of what you’re feeling to choose the appropriate remedy, call on a Bach Foundation Registered Practitioner. That’s what we’re here for! I’ll be sharing more about what to look for in a practitioner and what to expect from a session in a future post.
And, because I promised my wise old soul daughter that I’d include it, here’s the beautiful song she mentioned that brings her peace. It’s called Guru Ram Das by White Sun. The album White Sun is on the first round ballot for the Grammy Awards and can be heard in it’s entirety for free here. I highly recommend a listen. But, if you’ve only got a few minutes, I urge you to listen to the song below and tell me you don’t immediately feel peace and harmony.
The six year old is onto something….
This just in from the “never say never” files.
This week my little family adopted a dog.
For those who know me well, this is beyond shocking.
Because, although I am an animal lover, I’ve always preferred to love animals from afar, rather than as pets in my own home. I don’t have anything against owing cats, dogs, birds, fish and the like. I’ve just never been comfortable sharing space with them.
This is particularly true for dogs, because, well I’m terrified of dogs. Yes, even the little ones. Yes, even that cute little teacup Yorkie that hides in your purse.
You see, I’ve had some pretty scary experiences with dogs over the years that have left me paralyzed by a fear of being bitten or attacked, by even the smallest of dogs. Using the Bach flower remedy Mimulus (for known fears) has helped, but this is a pretty deep seated fear, so it’s not been totally eradicated.
Anyway, by what I can only call divine intervention, a little pup made his way into my home as a foster pet recently, and he never left. He stole our hearts and has actually helped to begin healing the old wounds surrounding my dog fears. Three cheers for Healing Pup!
Since the arrival of our new animal friend, I’ve been using Bach flower remedies on him quite a bit with amazing results. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about using Bach flowers with animals and have recommended quite a few flowers to friends and clients with pets. But this is the first time I’ve seen them in action with an animal and boy am I impressed.
There’s always a tendency to attribute the success of Bach flowers to the placebo effect. But with animals (as with babies and small children) there’s no possibility of that occurring. So, to watch a dog go from nervous to calm in a matter of seconds, just from having a little Rescue Remedy rubbed on its ears, is a potent reminder of how well and deeply these remedies work on the energetic and emotional bodies – be they animal, human or plant!
So, without further ado – for all you pet owners out there – here’s a quick run down of how to use Bach flower remedies with your animal companions, plus some of the most common flowers that can help bring stress relief and emotional balance to your furry friends.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FLOWERS
As with humans, Bach flower remedies work on an animal’s emotional state, not a physical one. Bach flower remedies do not effect the physical body and should not be used in place of a trip to the vet, when necessary. When choosing remedies for your pet, look to the animal’s emotional state, not their physical one, for guidance.
Obviously, our animal friends don’t have the ability to express their emotions verbally. So, in order to choose the best flower for your pet, it’s important to observe their behaviors in order to identify their emotions. Sometimes it’s obvious if an animal is jealous, frightened or intolerant. But many times, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly which emotion an animal may be experiencing. That’s why I recommend starting with Rescue Remedy before trying any other flowers.
Yes, this is the opposite advice I give for humans. Here’s why.
With humans I’ve found that Rescue Remedy only works in very specific, acute situations and most often a custom remedy is needed to be truly helpful. With animals, however, the action and effectiveness of the five flowers in Rescue Remedy seem to be further reaching. Not only is Rescue helpful for animals when they’re stressed out and need a little calming, it can assist in overcoming a variety of behavioral issues as well. Anything from difficult trips to the vet, separation anxiety, general fears and trauma can be helped with the use of Rescue Remedy.
Rescue Remedy includes the following five flowers:
ROCK ROSE: for terror, panic or intense fright
IMPATIENS: just what it sounds like – for impatience!
CLEMATIS: for lack of interest or inattentiveness
STAR OF BETHLEHEM: or trauma or shock (past or present)
CHERRY PLUM: for lack of self control
OTHER HELPFUL FLOWERS
If you’ve tried Rescue Remedy with your pet and its not having the desired effect, any one of the 38 remedies in the Bach system can be used on animals. Here are some of my favorites.
ASPEN: fear or agitation with no clear source
BEECH: intolerance towards other animals, people and situations
CHICORY: for a very territorial, needy animal
CRAB APPLE: for animals who have excessive grooming habits that might be causing them distress
HOLLY: for jealously of other animals or new baby in the home, animals that aggressively act out
OLIVE: for an exhausted animal – particularly useful when an animal is recovering from or working through an illness on the physical level
MIMULUS: for known fears (loud noises, children, the mail delivery person etc…) or a generally shy pet
VERVAIN: for very excitable, high strung animals
VINE: very strong willed and domineering animals
WALNUT: for periods of change – moving to a new house, staying in a kennel, changing owners
WILD ROSE: for an animal that seems apathetic, listless or disinterested
DOSAGE AND ADMINISTERING
For Rescue Remedy: Add 4 drops to a water bowl, food, treat or rub behind ears or on belly. It’s safe to use regular Rescue Remedy, or Rescue Pet can be used, which does not contain alcohol. Regardless of which formula you choose, do not put the drops directly in the animal’s mouth. If using Rescue Remedy that comes with a spray top, it can be sprayed on the animal’s bedding, favorite sleeping spot or in the air around the pet.
For individual flowers: Add 2 drops of each flower chosen to a water bowl, food, or rub behind ears or on belly. If choosing more than 2 or 3 flowers, make a blend as you would for yourself, and add 4 drops of that blend to water, food etc…
If you’re interested in learning more about using Bach flower remedies with your pets, I recommend the following books. They are easy to read and understand for even a beginner.
– Bach Flower Remedies for Animals by Stefan Ball and Judy Ramsell Howard
– Emotional Healing for Cats by Stefan Ball and Judy Ramsell Howard
– Emotional Healing for Horses and Ponies by Stefan Ball, Heather Simpson and Judy Ramsell Howard
If you don’t want to go it alone, and think you could benefit from some assistance choosing flowers for your pet, there are Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioners who are trained to work with animals. A list can be found here: http://www.bachcentre.com/found/an_list.php
Someone once told me that if I walked on my left foot while everyone else was walking on their right, I was going to trip and fall. This was said as an argument for not being different; as a way to persuade me to see that I’d better fall in line, do what was expected of me and behave as everyone else does or risk being ostracized.
This conversation occurred right as I was on the brink of embracing my now totally off the beaten path, decidedly “different” life. At that time I was vegan, just had a homebirth, was raising my then newborn in a media free, attached way and I was ruffling quite a few feathers. Little did I know how many more feathers I’d ruffle going forward.
Anyway, I’ve thought a lot about that comment over the years, particularly when I struggle with what it means to be different in a world that does not support it. Wouldn’t it just be easier to do things the way everyone else does? To just walk on the right foot and not stand out?
Well, sure it would!
And there would be nothing wrong with that, if that’s what I felt called to do.
But I don’t.
I never have been “normal”. 🙂
I have always been told that I march to the beat of my own drummer. But, growing up, the message from many places was that marching to my own beat was a bad thing. Something to fix or hide. As a result, until recently, I’ve been extremely ashamed of my differences, which is really another way of saying I’ve been ashamed of my light – of ME!
Now I find myself raising a child who is also marching to the beat of her own drummer. Is it genetic? Who knows? What I do know, is that I will not raise her in an environment that creates shame around her differences. Her differences are also her gifts! They are what make her special and they should be celebrated and nurtured.
The same holds true for all of us. Truth be told, no one is actually “normal”. We all have quirks and weird traits, no matter what lengths we may go to in order to hide them and blend in.
So, instead of hiding my light under a bushel basket, so to speak, and forcing my child to do the same, I’m now choosing to embrace my light. Shine my light. Parade my uniqueness around for all the world to see. And hopefully help some people along the way in doing so.
By living my life as me – exactly the way I was made – I’m encouraging my child to do the same. I’m telling her that it’s not only ok, but it’s BEAUTIFUL to be who you are. It’s ok to make choices that aren’t mainstream or, to think a bit differently, if that’s true to who you are. People who love and appreciate you will understand and support you, even if they don’t agree.
And, if you happen to get tripped up by some of those so called “right stepping” people from time to time, so be it. There will always be a safe place to land among the tribe you create for yourself.
Obviously, this isn’t always easy. But is it my experience that it’s always worth it.
So whether you’re gay in a straight family, a vegan among carnivores or a republican living a liberal city, stand up and embrace who you are! Shine your light! There is only one you. And only you have gifts that our world so desperately needs. Share them and be proud.
Here are six Bach flower remedies to help you on your way.
- Fear is probably the number one reason people hide in the shadows and never step into their potential. If a fear of failure, embarrassment, success or abandonment are present for you (or any other tangible fear you can name) give MIMULUS a go to uncover the courage in your heart. If your fear is more generalized anxiety or you just can’t put on a name on why you are afriad, try ASPEN instead.
- If there are things about yourself that you hate (be it looks, personality traits or the like) that hold you back from embracing who you are, choose CRAB APPLE to bring forth your own inherent self love.
- Choose WALNUT if you want to shine your light, but are easily persuaded by the opinions and energies of others, so end up following the crowd instead of standing out. It’ll reinforce energetic boundaries and provide a shell of protection so you can stay true to who you are.
- If a lack of belief in yourself and your gifts is the reason why you hide, try LARCH to reinforce your self confidence.
- And lastly, grab a few doses of CERATO if a general lack of faith in your decisions, and an inability to trust yourself, are issues for you. This flower remedy will strengthen your belief in yourself and the decisions you make and help you to hear the still, small voice of your intuition more clearly.
I can say from experience, that using the above flowers in various combinations has helped me to more easily embrace myself and my decisions and to stand strong when faced with opposition from others.
They’ve also helped me become more comfortable with the knowledge that I don’t have to agree with everyone and everyone doesn’t always have to agree with me. That doesn’t make one of us right, or one of us wrong. It just makes us different. And, to me, that’s a beautiful thing.
Two posts in one week?? What’s come over me?
Mental Illness Awareness Week, that’s what!
I really want to embrace this opportunity to share my experience and resources during a time when awareness is high. As a result you’re getting a few extra doses of Seed to Blossom this week.
If you missed yesterday, I recapped my story of struggling with postpartum depression and how I recovered using Bach flower essences.
Today, I’d like to share with you the other resources that helped me find my way to balance after PPD, that I use daily to manage symptoms of PTSD. A lot of time, research, trial and error has gone into finding the right support system for myself. And if I’ve learned one thing along the way, it’s that nothing works for everyone and, usually, managing a mental illness takes more than one modality to really be effective. Especially if you’re going the all natural route.
Speaking of the natural route…
I want to be clear that, although I have never taken prescription medication for my mental illnesses, there is nothing wrong with doing so! The resources I’m listing here are the ones that have worked for me, but they don’t work for everyone. I know in the natural healing community there is a great deal of shame and stigma attached to the use of prescription medication. It’s often looked at as weak, or as failure, to “succumb” to needing traditional medical intervention. Although it does seem that our country is way too reliant on prescription meds to relieve everything from the common cold to indigestion, there are times when prescription medicine is a necessary, life saving intervention. Sometimes the best thing a person can do for themselves is get traditional medical help – and often that means using antidepressants and the like. As an old massage therapist of mine used to say, “No shamin’. No blamin’. You do what you have to do.” Agreed.
There’s also a belief I tend to hear in holistic circles that says embracing a mental illness diagnosis and “labeling” yourself, so to speak, is harmful and can only make matters worse; that it’ll put you into a victim mentality that you’ll never escape from. This was thrown at me a lot during my search for healing practitioners and methods and it did way more harm than good. It often triggered a PTSD episode – the very thing I was trying to get relief from!
Look, I understand the thinking behind this, and to a degree I believe that labeling isn’t always a good thing. It’s easy to get attached to a label and let it become your identity. I’ve seen it happen to clients and it’s happened to me regarding other labels I’ve taken for myself. That said, for me, having and accepting a diagnosis of PDD, and then PTSD, was very different than attaching to a “label” and becoming a victim. Saying out loud “I have PPD (and PTSD) and I need help” were truly life changing moments and to this day stand as my first real steps toward making changes and achieving lasting healing.
My belief is this – PTSD is not my identity. But, PTSD is PART of me. My history is what lead me to the diagnosis, and living with it every day is part of who I am. When I was in denial about having, things were the at their worst for me. Once I accepted the diagnosis and got the help I needed, I truly started living. I believe that we can only become whole when we accept ALL of the parts of ourselves – good and bad. For me, mental illness is part of the whole and accepting that reality has brought about true peace.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s move on to my eight favorite resources for managing PPD and PTSD (in no particular order). Experience has shown me that these are also effective in managing generalized anxiety, SAD and depression. However, I do not have any experience using these modalities to treat other mental illnesses listed in the DSM.
Belleruth Naparstek: Considered a guided imagery pioneer, Belleruth Naparstek’s guided imagery meditations found at www.HealthJourneys.com have been a true game changer for me. Belleruth offers meditations for everything from weight loss and allergies, to Multiple Sclerosis and trauma. If you can think of it, there’s a meditation for it! I’ve used and benefitted from almost all of her recordings, but Healing from Trauma brought a level of PTSD healing that therapy, yoga and Bach flowers had not been able to accomplish.
She also has a book called Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal, which is all about PTSD. Reading that book changed my views on trauma, PTSD and healing and in turn, changed the way I viewed myself and others suffering with mental illness. I highly recommend it if you or someone you know suffers from trauma related mental illness.
Kundalini yoga and meditation: For over seven years now, I’ve been a dedicated practitioner of Kundalini yoga and highly recommend it for all people, but particularly those dealing with a mental health issue. Don’t be put off by the turbans! (Although I dare you to try Kundalini and not eventually give the ‘ole head covering a try. I swear it’s magic!) Kundalini yoga has helped calm my nervous system, given me tools to stop a PTSD flare in it’s tracks and has shown me how to truly love myself. My early morning Sadhana has provided me with a daily discipline that helps me set my mood and gain focus and perspective for the day. Combined with prayer, this practice has added a solid foundation to my life and healing work which has been a key element in managing PTSD triggers and flares. These days I like practicing with Guru Jagat’s classes at RAMA TV. I have also used Kia Miller’s videos at YogaGlo.com.
Senses of the Soul: Recently I have been working with GuruMeher Khalsa, learning his Senses of the Soul Emotional Liberation method. To me, Senses of the Soul is a groundbreaking work that introduces a profoundly new way of looking at and handling emotions than I’ve ever encountered. Instead of viewing heavy emotions as negative intruders in our lives, SOS encourages us to see emotions as the senses of our soul; messengers that bring lessons and healing. Seeing emotions in the new light, and using the SOS method, has empowered me to connect more deeply with how I feel and why, and has given me tools to take action when emotions overwhelm me. I highly recommend checking out GuruMeher’s website, newsletter and book.
Exercise: This seems like a no brainer, but after I resisted daily exercise for a long time. Before my daughter was born I worked as a personal trainer and was a total gym rat. But once I became a mother, and started doing 2 hours of yoga and meditation a day, I thought that exercise was unnecessary. What I realized though, is that the chemicals released during a nice, sweaty tabata class are integral to keeping my mood balanced and my mind sharp. FitnessGlo is my go to resource for my daily workouts.
Gemmotherapy: It’s not what you think! Gemmotherapy has nothing to do with crystals and gemstones. Instead, gemmotherapy is a cutting edge plant based medicine that works on the organs of the physical body to drain, clean and replenish them. Although the remedies work mostly on physical issues (anything from PMS to heart disease), I have found them very helpful in regulating mood, managing PTSD induced insomnia and keeping panic attacks at bay. They have also helped resolve digestive distress and skin disorders that were also a result of my mood imbalances. I found this method so healing that I’ve spent the last two years studying to become a practitioner and will soon begin offering this service in my practice.
Sleep: Another seeming no brainer, but for a long time I didn’t connect the dots between my lack of sleep and PTSD symptoms. But friends, it’s true. The more tired you are, the more vulnerable you are to stress and triggers. And when you have PTSD keeping your stress cup as empty as possible is extremely important. I imagine it’s the same for other mental health issues as well. Make sleep a priority!
Talk therapy: Although I’m no longer seeing a therapist, I saw two different people for a combined total of almost ten years. The insight, support and healing I gained from these experiences cannot be adequately explained in words. I am forever grateful to my cognitive behavioral therapist and to my more eclectic, Jungian analyst for the hours of listening, witnessing and support they provided.
A support team: A strong support team cannot be underestimated! This will look a bit different for everyone. It can include family, friends, therapists, religious groups, online forums etc… The list goes on. What’s important is that when dealing with mental illness, you get SUPPORT! You’re not alone. Reach out for help. It truly does make all the difference.
Sometimes it feels like it takes a village to keep my PTSD under control. And some days it really does. But the more I can manage my stress, the more likely I am to be able to handle potential triggers, and the happier I am overall.
Certain things like Bach flowers, meditation, yoga and exercise are non-negotiable daily “medicine” for my brain and soul. Other things I use more actuely, as needed. Together though, these therapies provide me with a powerful mental health and well being toolbox that I consider myself grateful and blessed to have.
live under a rock don’t use social media at all, I tend not to be up to date on the latest and greatest happenings in the world. I have no idea what the cool kids are watching on TV these days (Friends isn’t still on the air, right?) and I’m only vaguely aware of what’s going on in sports, pop culture and music (beyond mantra and show tunes).
Thankfully, I do read a blog or two, and while browsing Belleruth Naperstek’s latest posts at Health Journeys earlier today, I learned that this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, as promoted by The National Alliance on Mental Illness.
From the NAMI website:
Each year Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs during the first full week of October. This year it takes place between October 4–10. This year, the theme revolves around building a movement through the new StigmaFree initiative.
Being Stigma Free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues and taking the StigmaFree pledge. The hashtag for the theme is #IAmStigmaFree. – See more at: https://www.nami.org/miaw#sthash.caz4f7Ll.dpuf
I cannot tell you how happy I am that I found this information out before it was too late. I’ve taken the pledge and I hope you will, too!
It’s probably obvious that I have an interest in mental heath issues – and the stigma surrounding them – because I’m in the business of emotion and stress management. Often times that means working with clients who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
But, what you might not know, is that I’m also someone who has personal experience with mental illness. After the birth of my daughter, I suffered from severe postpartum depression and anxiety, and I now live with CPTSD. From the point of view of both practitioner and patient I know first hand the stigma, shame, blame and confusion that come along with a mental illness diagnosis.
As a society we’ve come such a long way in extending compassion, awareness and understanding to people from all different walks of life, with all different kinds of afflictions and challenges. But, for some reason, mental illness is still something people speak of in hushed tones and are hard pressed to admit to themselves, or others, that they have. I think the primary fear is being labeled as “crazy” or not being taken seriously or trusted (I know that’s been my fear). We’ve got a long way to go in changing this viewpoint, but thanks to the work of organizations like NAMI, we’re well on our way.
As part of the pledge to be #StigmaFree, I’ve agreed to share my experience with mental illness. Below is my story of recovering from postpartum depression and anxiety using Bach flower essences.
This post originally appeared on the blog on February 21, 2014.
I remember my first month of motherhood fairly well. There was lots of nursing, cuddling, diaper changing and oohing and ahhing. Certainly being a new mama was anything but easy, but my husband and I were managing. It struck me as somewhat odd that I had suddenly developed a fear of nighttime that would render me panic stricken for a few moments each day after sunset. But I waved that off as just an odd thing and left it at that.
Then a case of mastitis turned into an abscess that required emergency surgery to drain. Waking up in the recovery room after the operation I felt vastly different then I did when I went in. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I knew something was off.
I was not the same.
Upon returning home everything changed. Suddenly I found myself in a state of constant panic and vigilance. I was convinced I was dying. I was convinced my baby was going to die. I was sure that something horrible was happening almost every minute of the day.
Things that I’d previously never given a second thought to, were now cause for countless hours spent searching mothering.com and more time spent crying alone in a closet that I’d like to admit.
Was she gaining enough weight?
Was she hitting all her milestones?
Was she sleeping enough?
On and on it went.
At 4 months old my daughter started grunting a lot and passing blood in her stool. It took no time for worry to escalate to hysteria and before I knew it I was convinced she had some rare intestinal disease that would kill her.
After a trip to the pediatrician provided no satisfactory answers, I started my own intrepid quest to find some. I ran with the idea that she might have a food intolerance and went on every elimination diet the internet could offer, meticulously noting each morsel I ate and how my daughter reacted in the hours and days that followed.
This quickly lead to me frantically taking pictures of poop and cataloging them in an Excel spreadsheet that also included the foods I’d eaten. Match a bad poop up with the food I’d ingested beforehand and I’d find the culprit!
Yep. Let that sink in for a moment.
This went on for months.
At the time I didn’t really think there was anything strange about my behavior. I was capable, functioning, and not exhibiting classic “I want to harm myself or my baby” PPD symptoms, so it didn’t dawn on me that what I was doing was out of the ordinary. Just normal Type A mama worries, right?
Looking back I don’t know how I missed it.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t miss it. I denied it.
When I allowed myself to consider the fact that perhaps the manic updating of Excel poop charts was not run of the mill new mother behavior, and that maybe it was something deeper, like PPD, a voice in my head would immediately pipe up saying things like, “PPD means you’re crazy”, and “people will think you’re a bad mother”.
These thoughts terrified me, so I buried the idea and pressed on.
Finally, one day, as I was once again dealing with poop photography, my loving husband, extremely worried by now, said a few words that changed everything.
“She’s only going to be this age today. Tomorrow she will be one day older. Do you really want to spend these days staring at pictures of poop?”
In that moment something clicked inside of me. I realized it was time to own up to what was happening and get help. My behavior was not healthy and something had to change.
In the months that followed I saw a variety of practitioners and tried a bevy of treatments to assist me in regaining some balance. Some worked for a little while, most didn’t work at all. By the time my daughter’s first birthday rolled around I was awash in anxiety, depression and despair.
Then one day my husband happened upon Bach flower essences at Whole Foods. I don’t remember which flowers he brought me, but what I do remember is the miraculous seeming shift that I felt almost instantly.
Suddenly, for the first time in over a year, I saw a light – albeit small – peeking out from the end of a long dark tunnel. Something deep inside of me knew that I had found a way out.
I’d be lying if I said that once I started taking flowers life instantly became sunshine and roses. It took almost a year to feel a true, consistent shift from dark to light. But in that time I felt measurable progress almost daily. Little by little the dark days became shorter and the light days stuck around longer. There were still ups and down to be sure, but over time I began to feel more capable, more calm and more present.
Today I still battle days of depression and anxiety that mostly stem from PTSD I was recently diagnosed with, that exists as a result of traumas from earlier in my life. But thanks to Bach flowers, nourishing foods, yoga, meditation, prayer and an amazing support system (which includes a phenomenal therapist), more times than not I am able to make it though the day in one piece and go to sleep with love and gratitude in my heart.
A far cry from where I was five years ago.
So mamas, please take heart and hear my words – if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or are just feeling challenged by motherhood – please know that you are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not incompetent. You are not ruining your child/ren. You did nothing wrong. You are human. And you are beautiful.
There is a way out of the darkness. I’m living proof. If flowers don’t resonate for you, there are so many other resources in both the traditional and alternative medicine worlds.
Please reach out.
There is help and there is hope.
So, you’re probably wondering which flowers did the trick, right?
It’s important to note that the right combination of flowers will vary from person to person, but I use the ones below often in my practice and achieve positive outcomes similar to mine. These are the core group of flowers I used, in varying combinations, (usually no more than 3 or 4 at a time) to help relieve acute symptoms of PPD, as well as help to heal more deeply rooted issues.
Mustard for when the depressive gloom would overcome me for no reason.
Aspen for when I was anxious for no reason.
Rock Rose for when I was feeling generally terrified.
Red Chestnut for when I was terrified that something horrible would happen to my husband or daughter.
Sweet Chestnut for times I felt utter despair at having to deal with having PPD at all.
Gorse for when I felt truly hopeless.
Olive for the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion I was experiencing.
Scleranthus to help keep my moods from swinging so wildly.
Star of Bethlehem to help heal trauma from my younger years and from the mastitis experience that, together, I believe trigged my PPD in the first place.
It’s no secret that I have a very love-hate relationship with social media, and technology as a whole. I was an early adopter of all things internet (I had a personal website and blog in 2004!), and truly loved it. The internet and our worldwide connectivity have brought many people and experiences into my life that I would not have had otherwise. And for that I am very grateful.
That same technology has, in recent years, been the source of much anxiety, depression and frustration in my life. I can easily get caught up in the compare and despair trap when browsing Facebook and I’ve been lost to FOMO*, more than I care to admit, when scrolling through Instagram photos of the “cool kids” meditating in Bali while I sit at home in my pajamas eating ice cream at 7pm on a Friday night.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
More and more I’m hearing from my clients that they feel depressed or sad when they log on to their social media feeds each day. Much like me, my clients feel as if their lives don’t measure up to the picture perfect ones being displayed by friends and acquaintances online. Plus, the fear of missing out on fun events is real and can be debilitating.
I think deep down we all pretty much know that what people put on social media and what goes on in real life are often two VERY different things. Right? Is there anyone left who can actually say, that at some point, they haven’t manipulated their online presence to make life look a wee bit better than it is? (Guilty as charged right here!)
Somehow though, that awareness and knowledge don’t seem to make falling into the trap of FOMO and friends any easier to avoid.
So what are we to do?
Of course you know what I’m going to say! Our good friend Dr. Bach has us covered.
Here’s a quick run-down of some top Bach flowers to help when you’ve got a case of FOMO (or its bestie, Compare And Despair) and need relief:
- For the vague anxiety and fear that FOMO produces, use ASPEN.
- If reading your Facebook feed leaves you feeling discouraged, try GENTIAN.
- If your confidence takes a hit every time you read a tweet from one of your business competitors, try LARCH.
- If hearing about the lives of others brings up jealousy, try HOLLY.
- If you log off Pinterest feeling like you’re too fat, old, not creative enough etc… (i.e. you spiral into self hatred) try CRAB APPLE.
- If each trip to Instagram-land finds you feeling bitter and resentful about your life and you end up begrudging others their successes, grab some WILLOW the next time you log on.
- And finally, to protect yourself from opinions and input from others, which can come from any and all media outlets, take a dose of WALNUT before you hop on to any electronic device.
If none of these flowers resonate for you, don’t despair. Each one of the 38 flowers in Bach’s system can be useful here. It all depends on what emotions get kicked up for you when you’re surfing the web. Check out the complete flower list here to find the right match. Or leave a comment below and I’ll help you figure it out.
Truly, the gift of life online is one that, when used properly, has the potential to enhance our lives and inspire us to great things. I’ve seen in my personal life, and in my practice, that the use of flower essences, combined with time spent offline in connection with nature, oneself and others, can go a long way toward making that a reality.
Try some today and let me know how it goes!
*for those of you as old as I am, who didn’t really know what FOMO meant until 5 minutes ago, it stands for Fear Of Missing Out
(image via socialexperiment.net)