Guiding children

raising children with love and respect

Beyond post-partum depression: part 2, Stepladder

I’ve suffered post partum depression. This is how I came out on the other end of the tunnel, or at least to a place where I can see the light. This will be a play in 3 acts:

1) Falling down the pit (warning, a bit depressing)

2) Getting on a stepladder (the salvation part, more pragmatic)

3) Get up and stay up (sorry, probably nauseatingly cheerful)

Well, if you read the previous post, you know I basically fell down the pit of misery after childbirth, including severe injury. It’s about how depression feels, and how it can grow on you, even if you think you should be happy. If you didn’t read that one, maybe this won’t make much sense.

It got really bad after a year and a half. Or maybe it just didn’t get any better and real life knocked on the door, with new work responsibilities and the stress related to that. I never slept a full night. Baby boy didn’t eat at nights anymore, but still needed a lot of comforting. Starting life at day care came with a variety of sniffles and the occasional nightmare. When he fell back asleep I was still wide awake for hours, filled with dark thoughts of horror and despair. Me, in my safe life, with my kind and caring family healthy and all. It was ridiculous, but knowing that didn’t help. I spent a lot of 4 o’clock-in-the-morning-time convincing myself the horrors could be true.

I was so anxious about things that I got sick. Dizzy, fainting, trembling like a leaf at every raised voice anywhere, I wasn’t able to concentrate or remember things I should. Unorganized and sad, sad to the point that I didn’t want to live anymore, I finally went to a doctor.

Finding a stepladder out of the pit

There are a number of things with healing powers. Things that help us feel a little better. Maybe there isn’t one simple cure, or maybe one single medicine isn’t enough. Maybe you need something to start up with, and something else to stay on course. Here are some real life experience on:

The healing power…

…of sleep

My doctor, a kindhearted person, pointed out to me that sleep deprivation alone causes depression, at some point. You can use medication, try exercising, try being the superhuman that we all think a mother should be – but we have needs of our own, and they need to be attended to. Sleep, for example.

…of medication

I got anti-depressive medicines. More than anything they made me tired, and helped me sleep. I really needed that. I also got something to keep a possible anxiety attack down.

I’m not going to say that everything changed, but it did help. Not at once, but a few weeks in. It was a bit like being gently tucked into a soft cloud where nothing seemed to upset you much anymore. It was all okay. With that, I actually could sleep. I still woke up when Baby Boy did, but I was gently tucked back into the soft cloud of nothingness and fell asleep fast again.

– but also the side effects

So I used meds, I did for a year. I was much better from it. I was all okay. Not happy, mind you, but okay. Nothing upset me anymore, I was constantly tired and mildly content, steady as a rock. Hard to get going, hard to engage into anything, but there, constantly chewing on something.

The medicines made me hungry. Really hungry. All the time. As they also made me so tired, I didn’t exercise. The usual walks turned shorter and slower. Everything slowed down.

So I turned fat as a cow, gaining a lot of weight during that time. It didn’t help my self confidence much.

I think I needed that time to pick up on all the sleep I had missed out on, heal that brain of mine that had been working overtime for so long. But it wasn’t much of a life I had. I don’t even remember most of it. I can look at pictures of myself from that time – fat and dizzy looking – and wonder where I really was? In the last post I mentioned the lack of sex drive while breastfeeding. Now there was none. All I wanted was to eat and sleep. Very sexy.

I know the constant crying stopped, and so did most of the mood swings. But it was still there somehow, behind the soft fog of ignorance. I was aware of the troublesome feeling of not caring much about anything, my slow reflexes and constant tiredness. I didn’t dare to drive a car. I was afraid something would happen to my child because I was too slow to catch him when needed. But it was sort of drowned out by the tiredness.

So, sleeping it all out was probably necessary. But the tiredness and slowness of it all flipped the coin to the other side of depression, the passivity. It’s a symptom, yes, but it is also what keeps you down. Shake it off and a big part of your problems will be gone (see below, on anxiety vs passivity).

…of therapy or counselling

Talking about it may help untangle the real problem from the fake ones, and help you find better thinking patterns or even solutions.

Now, to me, it didn’t. I got a counselor with no specific orientation, who went straight to asking me about my mother, and I just got turned off. I felt my mother had nothing to do with it. Maybe I could spend years in therapy and find out exactly how and when my mother may have hurt me, but still that wouldn’t help against the depression. (Also, I love my mother and don’t want to try and mend something that isn’t broken.) I wanted to think differently, to get better.

New thoughts, new habits and little by little lifestyle changes is mostly gained through cognitive behavioral therapy.

…of a healthy diet and / or supplements

So, what happened next? I was a big fat cow on meds that kept me nice and calm, but without any energy or real hope. I stood without counselor. Well, I think meds helped as far as they could. I could start thinking again. I went to a masseur who told me I had to change diet and eat less acidic food. I took one look at his paper with dietary suggestions and gave up immediately. No way I would go without coffee, or fresh fruit, or chocolate?!? Oh my, what did he really think of me?

But I did think about it, and read about it, and made some references to dietary recommendations during pregnancy and came to the conclusion that maybe I was in desperate need of more calcium? Now calcium is really important for all our body’s functions, it takes part in neurological activities and muscle tension, and it’s needed for our skeletons to grow. Even the baby’s skeleton. We need quite a lot of it daily, and when pregnant or breastfeeding, we need more (around 1000 mg). There is a lot of it in the milk we produce, and if there’s not enough in our diet, it’s taken from our bones. This may be why so many women suffer from osteoporosis, and I expect a variety of other conditions could be related to this deficiency.

Considering my diet through pregnancy (being constantly sick and actually hardly eating at all) and how much I had been breastfeeding (every other hour or so), and for how long (almost a year), also remembering the cravings I had for cheese and ice cream, it all made sense to me. So I started having calcium supplements, including vitamin-D, that helps the body absorb the calcium and also is needed during cold winters with a lack of sun.

I felt a lot better, rather quickly too. The dry skin I had was suddenly better. The cramps in the legs and the acidic stomach I used to have was gone. Within a few weeks I quit the meds! (Yes, I did the fading out, but a bit quicker than recommended) I haven’t used any for 5 years.

– but also the side effects

The difference is, I felt more, again. Yes, sadness, at times. Yes, anxiety too, at times. But also happiness, anger, excitement and all those other feelings that we have, that I believe needs to be there. I can get all worked up and intense and sometimes slightly neurotic, or a bit maniac. I can play pirate and sword fight with my son (yes, using soft swords of course). I can climb trees, and swim, and laugh, feel more lust again. I also got the sex drive back. And soon I was pregnant again and had another son.

Climbing on

This time, I asked for help. I was promised a c-section (after a whole lot of crying and administrative trouble with localizing the old journal from my first delivery). Before it was clear, I was pretty stressed, admittedly.

lost weight, about 40 pounds actually, during pregnancy and breastfeeding. So I was back in shape and very content about that, even if it was not the preferred time to diet, and neither a method of choice (to throw up by the smell of food alone – morning sickness hit me hard both pregnancies). I was a tired and boring mum, very much a passive one, those couple of months, but I was better again.

I was remitted to physical therapy and got helpful advice on exercise for those damn lazy pelvic floor muscles that didn’t want to cooperate with common techniques. I also got hope back, concerning my body. Little tips and advice that helped. Like peeing before I went for a long walk, or using tampons while jogging. I got exercises for my belly that was not going to push anything down anywhere it shouldn’t.

Sunlight also helps. I spent a lot of time outside. Exercising was not for this pregnant mom, but there was moving around a bit and feeling lighter (possibly because of weight loss).

The next baby

The c-section, in my humble opinion, is indeed a civilized method to deliver a child. Giving the going-to-be-mother time to sleep before delivery time, get full anesthesia and recover on drugs. I’m for it. Yes, it hurts a bit, mainly the first 24 hours. But it hurts on your belly, on the front part of it. I’m fine with that. Compared to my first delivery this was a piece of cake.

I was again a little crazy defensive with my baby, Tiger Mom rising again and saving my baby from stupid syringes, fighting off good nurses, but then again, head nurse embraced me for it.

I finally got to talk to a specialist on post-partum depression after delivery. She could kindly tell me I was fine now actually, and completely normal, and I didn’t need her. Hug and smile. Thank you. What a relief! A professional opinion! I chose to listen to her more than my own doubts.

But there is constant work to be done. Finding balance in life, between personal needs and those of others. Balancing the need to rest and the need for action.

Anxiety vs passivity

I think it’s basically 2 sides of the same depressive coin: the anxiety and the passivity – locked together by unreleased stress. Strictly physiologically, stress lies behind it all, causing tension. When tension is not released anywhere by some kind of action, we turn kind of stiff, paralyzed in mind and body.

Anxiety is related to depression, as a common symptom. Anxiety makes us nervous, worry about things, sometimes getting fixated on fearsome thoughts. This makes us more stressed, naturally, causing nightmares and trouble sleeping, but also affects our ability to concentrate, and our memory. One time, I couldn’t remember my own phone number. It was bad, people!

Sometimes the stress causes heart arytmia, dizziness, hairloss, gastritis and other physical problems too. It makes us sensitive to stimuli, easily overwhealmed. Anxious people will avoid crowds and social gatherings, new experiences and places if possible – as it stresses us out. We need a quiet place to rest and be able to focus.

When we are better, meaning not depressed anymore, we can get our curiosity and formerly known selves back. But we may be a bit more sensitive, with a need for peace and quiet time between events. Collecting ourselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives us time to reflect upon things, analyse things, learn from them and grow a bit.

Passivity is the major sign of depression. It’s really a kind of defense mechanism: you want to protect yourself and enter a bubble of inner peace. Or faint (I’ve done that too, from fright alone). Problem is, it gets cramped inside.

Passivity is a constant feeling of exhaustion. Of not having energy to refill yourself from the smallest of efforts. Stepping out of bed could be enough, at one point.

It’s a feeling of being strangled by your own anxiety or tied down by the depression, patronizing you with dire statements, in a rumbling, thunderous voice of doom. Depression tells you – falsely – that you are basically worthless, you can’t do anything right and you will never get better because you don’t have the strength. Just look at you, how miserable are you? And the more you try and hide from it, the worse it gets.

The hardest thing you need to do is realize this: you are worth more. You are ill, that’s all. There is a way out. But you need help, and determination.

Out in the sunlight, you can call that voice of depression out. Put the spotlight on it and it diminishes. You’ll realize it’s pathetic, scared and weak. More importantly, it knows nothing of the real you. It knows only what you thought about yourself, there, for a while. Perhaps it’s really the memory of the voice of a stupid bully from the playground of your childhood. Listen to other voices, real ones. Voices from the people that matter to you now, people who know you and like you, or at least someone you think of as wise, a therapist maybe.

One way of putting the spotlight on the problem is in therapy. Psychotherapy helps in many cases. Modern therapy is all about goal orientation and that is surprisingly effective, going straight to the case: Where do we want to go? How do we get there? Where do we start? How do we know we succeeded with our first step?
I’ll admit it’s like a fast-food ordeal in therapy. It’s for a limited time and oriented to solve specific problems. It won’t solve profound traumas, but it will find ways to deal with things, and, sometimes, that’s good enough.

Another is to challenge it by action: by simply going against it. If the voice tells you you are too tired to go out, you go out anyway. If it tells you something is too hard, you take a small step every day to make it happen. Prove it wrong – little by little, and you will see yourself differently one day. Because you will be different. You will not be held down anymore.

Of course it takes time. Of course it takes a lot of hard work: calling on those negative thoughts, demanding new interpretations out of your brain. Forcing yourself to create new – by your conscious mind approved – chains of thought, making new associations, trying out new habits and routines.

To feel exhausted from hard work is way more satisfying. Admittedly, as depressed or after suffering depression, you might get exhausted much, much earlier than before. A sensitivity to stress, noise and crowds may be there, that wasn’t there before. But we mustn’t be afraid of pushing ourselves to tiredness sometimes. As long as we also allow ourselves the rest we will need afterwards.

What we need to do is balance things: the need to rest, and the need for activity. Because activity will make you tired, but it refills you somehow with more energy after. You feel better and can do more things, making you tired again. We do need to respect our needs and manage stress by saying no, restraining ourselves from overdoing things and making realistic schedules including time to breathe, plan ahead and evaluate things. It’s important not to stretch yourself too far again. But there is a need for some action too, just to break the bonds of passivity, with all the negative thoughts coming along with it.

The problem is, of course, that we don’t shake them off that easily. The power of thought is strong. Your own beliefs can hold you back OR carry you anywhere you want to go. Here is where we might need step-by-step programs, not to be overwhelmed and give it up before we even started.

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Beyond post-partum depression: Part 1, Falling down

I’ve suffered post partum depression. This is how I came out on the other end of the tunnel, or at least to a place where I can see the light. This will be a play in 3 acts:

1) Falling down the pit (warning, a bit depressing)

2) Getting on a stepladder (the salvation part, more pragmatic)

3) Get up and stay up (sorry, probably nauseatingly cheerful)

Falling down

I think it started because of an injury from childbirth. Giving birth is no picknick, people, and don’t you ever judge a woman who went through it if she’s not all happy smiles about it.

It is not for the faint hearted either. I am, a bit. I was scared of pushing a live baby through my vagina, scared to be torn apart basically, and wanted a c-section, but wasn’t allowed one. So I went through breathing exercises and I did really well, until it was time to actually get this baby out.

My son obviously had enough already and decided to try and crawl his way out. Going hand first, then arm, shoulder and head pretty much at the same time next, is a bit crowded you see. Not the appropriate way to do it, really. So I pushed and screamed, the kind of scream that haunted my own nightmares for years. Then I felt the baby outside, he moved and wriggled a bit, what with the nurses fiddling about. In that moment I didn’t want it. Didn’t want to see it. Wanted to fall asleep and hope it was all a nightmare, preferably die when I was at it. That feeling of absolute despair and turning my back on my whole life, also haunted me later.

To me, fortunately, that changed seconds later, when I actually did see the baby. When he was held up to me and looked into my eyes. That look. When life is on the very edge of everything, maybe that is what it feels like. Darkness, light, love and comfort. You see someone looking straight into your soul, from far far beyond and you just know everything is right.  Souls connecting at the deepest of levels, far beyond us and reality. This was my son, had always been, and he came straight from heaven. At least that’s what it felt like.

So I completely submitted to motherhood, grabbed hold of the most beautiful baby ever born (in my own humble opinion) and held tight. No one could touch him, not even the nurses. Yes, that was a bit of crazy pouring out, I realize this now. I was fighting off syringes like they were swords, no one was to touch, and the infamous Tiger Mom had risen. I had my baby by my chest, trying to grasp the whole thing while breastfeeding and caring little about what went on in the rest of the world.

Then I was put out.

I was down for surgery, thank God, so I was sound asleep while they did what they had to do with pieces of muscles and flesh being sewn back together, things being reconstructed.

Afterwards I was in pretty bad shape downstairs. The doctor wanted me to see what a nice job they had done, using a mirror and a big smile. I cried out loud. No, giving birth has little to do with dignity, nor does it leave much room for any sense of self preservation. Realizing this, afterwards, made me cry. And I didn’t stop for a long while.

At the bottom of the pit, looking down

One hard part was simply answering the question: “So, how did the delivery go?

Being an honesty freak, I usually said: “Not very well. I was badly torn, I got surgery, I eat painkillers and now I can’t carry anything heavy anymore. I’ll save you the details.” The absolutely most common, and also worst, reaction I got from people I considered friends was: “Oh, but everything is fine now, isn’t it? You got yourself a baby. And many women get a few stitches…” And I didn’t say anything, for sparing them another waterfall.

I know, we rarely know what to say to people in pain. It’s hard to say the right thing. But we could try to allow them to feel whatever, could we not? Instead of desperately trying to wipe it all away with some random everything-seems-fine-words. I specifically didn’t like it when men said things like that. Men that never need to push anything the size of a coconut out of anywhere. Men that seemed completely oblivious to how those “few stitches” may have felt for the mother in question. Also, I found it harsh to compare a delivery ending with a happy mum getting a couple of stitches, to my major rupture.

It seems to be forbidden to be anything but happy about your baby and delivery. But I was happy about my baby! I know we have a lot to be thankful for, and I was and I am, truly. But not about the delivery specifically.

After 3 months I was formally healed, but still living with regulations.

My doctors advice was to be careful with lifting, nothing heavier than the baby. Careful with exercise, except for the pelvic floor exercises, that I was now allowed to try. Before that I hadn’t been allowed to do them. Any heavy feeling downstairs and I should lie flat on my back. I got heavy from walking a mile at low speed, that’s how bad it was. I needed to lie flat every day and reduce walks to every other day to be able to stand straight. I shouldn’t jump or run. I should definitely have a c-section in case I wanted more children. And really, I probably shouldn’t, at least not more than one.

I was basically a mess. A shadow of me.

I never was a fitness person exactly. I always did exercise as life came along, rarely going to a gym, but it used to work out fine. I did horseback riding and swimming when the possibility arose, bicycling in lack of a car, working physically a lot as an outdoor experience guide. I like adventurous experiences, but rather low impact ones, having tried skiing, windsurfing, diving, rock climbing and bungee jumping – but not being good at any of it and not being any extremist at all.

Now all I could see was a crippled future. I saw myself as an old lady, having done my part. Not even able to carry my son when he grew up. Not able to experience all those fun adventures, or even play catch-me games with him. The whole happy family concept I had wanted, crumbled and fell. 

I could not even go back to my old job. How could I carry any logs or chop wood now? How could I even look fun or interesting, me, an old lady?

Sleep deprivation

After childbirth we are tired. It’s like a marathon in exhaustion level, I’ve heard. To me, it was a matter of waking up after 2 hours sleep, by the water breaking, followed by 24 hours of walking around waiting (it’s not always going by the book), then 12 hours of hard work, followed by the very first day of the new baby’s life.  When I finally went to sleep, of course, I couldn’t sleep, because the baby needed feeding. And cuddling. And changing. And feeding again.

I was breastfeeding day and night, every other hour the first months. I was doing little less. The baby boy was hungry, or anxious, or had a tummy ache, and all I could think of was to hold him close and breastfeed him for comfort. He didn’t mind. I was so dead tired I couldn’t tell day from night sometimes. I couldn’t tell awake from asleep even, sometimes thinking I was already up and about when in fact I was still asleep, dreaming I was up. I stood in the kitchen and fell asleep while cooking one time. That was no good.

Of course my husband did step in from time to time, but he couldn’t breastfeed. He just couldn’t. I could sleep 1-2 hours at most. So it would go on, for 2 months. Then Baby boy was suddenly full for a few hours in a row, and I started to… yes, work. I had an exam to finish and in this amazingly sharp minded period of life, I used the nights for studies. Figuring I didn’t sleep anyway, I guess.

It didn’t end well. Okay, I did get an exam, and I didn’t leave my baby for long hours, so far so good. But tired beyond belief I was borderline psychotic, half asleep, half zombie. I went back to be a stay at home mother for another while.

Sex was out of the question, for a long time

I didn’t want to think about anything below my navel. Visiting the toilet was horrible. Taking a shower painful. Sitting up very uncomfortable. Wearing trousers impossible. I did get medicines and painkillers to get through the first months, and survived them. But every single thought or simple tickle passing by the downstairs regions made me cramp up. Possibly cry.

Now sex, that shouldn’t bother a mother to a healthy baby, should it? Well, it did.

If I so much as mentioned my worries about an end to my sex life, I got responses like – “That doesn’t matter now, does it? You got your baby, and what did you expect from childbirth anyway?” At the same time, all media indulges in sex advice and how to keep your relationship sparkling with passion. There were articles on how to get going again after a child is born. I read them, and cried.

Honestly, I like sex. I did so very much before childbirth. I missed it after. But not being able to think about that Frankenstein-monster of my former lady parts without acute stomach pain was a bump in the road.

There is also the question of love and keeping the marriage alive. I love my husband. He loves me. No question about it, he could wait. But to keep the loving feeling in the relationship when your days are filled with breastfeeding, wiping, changing, laundry and everything, is a challenge. And without any sex it can feel a bit too much like a working relationship.

Now, I like a good teamwork in marriage. It helps. But you need something more. Intimacy, some fun. Well we had that too. A lot of hugging and talking and proudly watching our baby sleep. A lot of giggling in front of TV shows we like, some wine at times, a few dates on restaurants with the baby coming along. We were a cute little family, even if I felt like an old lady, hopeless and black inside. Appearances count a bit, as long as they help you feel better. And they did, for a while.

We did try some veeery gentle cuddling a couple of times, but I cramped up, it hurt and I just couldn’t go through with it. After six months we could, but still veeery carefully. Of course that’s not where fireworks come from, but it’s a start. Admittedly my sex drive was low by hormones, tiredness and sleep deprivation too. Breastfeeding also changes things, making you less lubricated, so we used a lot of lube. Still, doing it at all felt good and important, even if we didn’t do it much.

Problem was, I still felt like an old lady. Not sexy at all. It’s hard to create fireworks when you’re not feeling good about yourself. In my head, my lady parts looked and felt so bad. I didn’t want him to see, I didn’t want him to touch. I didn’t want to do it myself even. That my friends, is not a great way to embrace your own sexuality.

About a year after birth we could be a bit more relaxed about it. Yes, it actually took that long. My dear husband helped, when he went all therapeutic on me. He put me in a bath, softening up with some bubbles and chocolates, telling me I was beautiful. Very nice of him. I started to cry, again, of course. Still, he hung on. Making me shave (yes, that was hard when not wanting to touch) and have another look in that mirror of horror. I’m not going to say it looked good. But it actually didn’t look like a Frankenstein’s monster anymore. We could start off in a better mood. Well, after the crying.

The crying

Every time I looked into my baby’s eyes my own went waterfalls. Every time. For months. Even years after, still when he looks me deep in my eyes it just pushes the button. I love him so, and he knows it. He giggles at my crying: “Do you get all soft again, mum?” he says, petting me kindly.

It’s beautiful to look into your baby’s eyes when you feed them isn’t it? But I never did for long. I cried every time, it all got blurry and I found myself looking at other things and felt bad about it. Looked at him again, cried.

I didn’t realize this could be a sign of depression. I was sure it was hormones, sleep deprivation, big life changes, and responsibility – oh, the responsibility.

The anxiety

I was worrying too. What a horrible world had I sent this angel of a boy into? How could I save him? It didn’t help much that the neighborhood we lived in then, however considered a quite good place to live, still had some trouble, including a horrifying robbery quite close by (later I did hear there were probably connections to the robbers, and drugs involved, making a bit more sense to the story, but it did scare me). How could my family ever be really safe? Where could we go to? An isolated island felt like a reasonable alternative.

The power of thought

Most of us feel disappointed at times. We fail to achieve some of our goals, maybe even all of them. Maybe we’ve set up  too high a standard, or believe we can force change too quickly. Maybe the hard work required feels a bit too hard.

Problem is: We loose self confidence by feelings of failure, just like we do by thoughts about limitations or possible criticism. We tend to bind ourselves down by negative thought patterns. When we get used to them, we think we are them. Initially false statements may influence our thoughts, behaviors and reactions, in what is called the self-fulfilling prophecy, until they are fulfilled – unless we defy them, and prove them as wrong as they initially were.

How to change bad habits and behavior? Well, in this article we have a good example of how not to, followed by some good advice.

Children need good advice, support and (mainly positive) feedback to get on track and move forward through life safely and happily. As parents we would need the same but in lack of it, need to be our own supporters. A good partner can help you out. Still, if you need some fast-food advice on change, this post will be about how to help ourselves, and our kids, by the right mindset, by positive feedback and realistic goals.

We need a clear mental goal where we see ourselves succeed in something important to us. We need to focus on what we need to do – as opposed to focusing on the obstacles. Think it through: what to do, what the first steps would be, how to do it, when to start.

What we really want

When focusing on goals and achievements, when making up plans, we need to look at the stars and the horizon. The goal from far above, what we strive for. What goals get you closer to what you REALLY want?

What you REALLY want is probably connected to feelings rather than objects: comfort, love, admiration perhaps. Being proud of yourself is a good feeling. You can be proud of being of help to people, of being a supportive member of a community, a good parent, life partner or friend – but you wouldn’t feel as proud about an achievement you’ve gotten out of manipulation. Thinking of priorities, will we be content when we die?

Don’t get stuck with disappointment because of a presentation or a specific career move: you haven’t lost in life because you loose a game. There are other chances, and Life is about other things more important than money or winning.

The key is to imprint positive messages to ourselves – and our kids!

Pointing out what we are good at. What we’ve learned, experienced. How we’ve made it through rough patches before. That’s something to be proud of. When we are acting right, or at least not wrong. Sometimes that is good enough as a goal.

Reminding ourselves of situations we’ve felt good about ourselves. Maybe we’ve received appreciation, maybe we felt in control of a situation, or we knew we were making the right choice. How did we do it, then? Imagine the feeling of making it, again.

Focusing on what we know, what we can do, what we have. As opposed to everything we don’t, because that is the difference between feeling good about yourself and bad. Of course we may want more. But we won’t achieve it with envy or doubt.

Along the road, where we do meet obstacles, we need to rethink them. “How do I get cross that one?“, or “What have others done to get past?”. When we don’t succeed we need to rethink that situation too: “Next time, I’ll prepare for that.” I’m not saying we should deny mistakes, accidents or general crisis, but we can handle them well and view that as a good outcome too: “Now I’ve handled a crisis, and everything turned out ok.” Then we can learn from them. Accept that learning demands some crashes too. It’s part of the process. It’s natural, it’s okay, and you’ll recover.

It’s about how we interpret a situation. When there is trouble, it’s usually not about You, it’s about something: A specific problem you’re facing, or someone else’s problem that’s thrown your way. Maybe you need to practice a specific skill, or adapt your language or behavior to a new environment.

Use a curious mindset. Rethink your ways: “What seems to work better?” “What could be done differently?” Ask questions to clear things up with people around you: “How do you usually do this?” “What do you think?”

To change

Changing thoughts and mindset is hard. Changing behavior, habits and life-style too. That is what therapy is for, on important issues. But small steps can take you far, in time. Every time you decide to make a choice you know is right and good for you and your family, you take one. That’s the way to make miracles happen, a small one, every day.

Our mood and mind affect us profoundly. Feeling bad about yourself rarely gets you anywhere. This is why management by criticizing never works. You need to be clear in what you want, be goal oriented, support people through the rough patches.

The key is to be realistic. Thinking things through. What is the very first step, something that proves you’re on the right track? Success is the very last step, so we need to keep our eyes on the road ahead, the stepping stones.

For a pragmatic approach to change, read these posts on how to overcome and prevent depression.