Everyone recognizes PPD (post-partum depression) as a very real phenomenon often caused by significant shifts in hormonal balances. I've written before about how important it is for mothers suffering from PPD to get help. Another key factor for those moms is breastfeeding which increases a woman's production of prolactin and oxytocin. In an earlier blog I listed several antidepressents that are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Since I tend to blog about breastfeeding and baby issues, I know that's what my readers have come to expect.
This blog, however, is about a different season of parenting and the very real effect it can have on a mother's emotional well-being. Parenting teenagers can be a real challenge; it can also be an absolute delight. But even strong attachment parenting techniques in infancy and early childhood don't guarantee a smooth ride during the teen years. Although I do believe the secure foundation we give our children through attachment parenting certainly makes the ride a little less bumpy than it might be otherwise. Neither does extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting guarantee that a child will never have any kind of illness. Genetics play a key role in some illnesses, and while breastfeeding absolutely does help our kids be healthier, it is not a magic elixir.
One such illness which we have faced in our family is adolescent bi-polar disorder. We do have a family history of mental illness, and unfortunately one of our children has developed the chemical imbalances which create bi-polar disorder. Fortunately this child is very bright and actually did research herself when she began having symptoms. We have a wonderful Christian psychiatrist as well as a terrific Christian counselor to whom she relates very well. But it is still a struggle. You have to find the right combination of medications, make sure they are in balance, then make sure that nothing else she takes for an unrelated condition (say a brown recluse bite, for instance) interacts with her bi-polar meds.
Add into this mix the fact that Mom is 49 and definitely peri-menopausal, and you have a recipe for PTD. Now I've never seen anything in the literature about PTD, but I think it should be there. Many women who are parenting teens and experiencing menopause are also caring for an aging parent. That will up the stress several notches! These same women are also often at critical points in their careers – they may be in leadership and management positions with all the accompanying headaches. I'm telling you, this is a recipe for disaster! Actually in the literature, there is information on PTD, but it has nothing to do with parents of teens. I really wish some PhD student who needs a good thesis topic would tackle PTD as it relates to parents of teens!
The good news is that help is available. A family doctor or Ob/Gyn will often prescribe something to help a woman cope with the stresses of PTD. Even women who've never had to take an anti-depressant may find that they cry a little less and get a little better perspective once the chemicals in the brain get stabilized. New moms have all kinds of support groups; maybe mothers of teens need their own version of La Leche League. Finding one or two close friends in whom you can confide is crucial for the mom who is overwhelmed by her life. Another option is a professional counselor. If you can find one you click with, it is worth every cent. The goal, of course, is to get you to the point where you don't need help….but in the meantime, don't be afraid or embarrassed to get a little help.
Whether you are in the early days of parenting, still enjoying your baby's precious cuddles, or you are on the roller-coaster ride of parenting teens, one thing is certain: your child will grow up way too fast, and you need to be mentally and emotionally healthy so you can enjoy every moment of every day.