Category Archives: Depression

What To Do When Your Partner Is Suffering From Depression

We get it. This article gets your attention because your partner is suffering from depression or anxiety, or other mental illness. And you don’t know what to do about it.  Mental illness drives a wedge into your relationship and family life. It’s not hopeless, here are a few things you can do now.

1) Don’t jump into “fix it” mode and offer “solutions”. We understand, your spouse is feeling depressed and you want to fix it quickly and move on. Maybe you feel helpless for not knowing what’s going on. Maybe you feel nervous that your spouse might harm him/herself. Going into “fix it” mode is more about easing your own anxiety and it’s not about your spouse. Your spouse isn’t stupid, he/she can feel it and he/she would instinctively put up a defensive wall which disconnects you two further. ”Fix it” mode only isolates your partner further.

2) Listen. Like take a deep breath and truly listen…even when it’s hard. A big part of mental illness is isolation. We humans are social animals, we are not meant to be isolated. By truly listening to your spouse can help connect you two, and help him/her feel less isolated. When you get the person out of isolation, you beat 50% of the mental illness’ game.

3) Identify MVP. In tech world, there’s something called MVP – Minimally Viable Product. In everyday household, there’s MVP too – Minimally Viable Process – core chores/processes that make the household function minimally. Identist the core tasks that make the household function and only focus on those. You two are going through some rough time now, and now is not the time to stress about the small stuff.

4) Identify which MVP each of you can handle. We understand, the dishes are piling up. Things can get overwhelming when one spouse is going through rough times. Identify what MVP each of you can handle, have a game plan, write it down, and break down tasks into small chunks.  It’s much easier to handle it little by little.

5) ASK, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” This is a hard question, I know. Many people wonder if asking this question would “encourage” the depressed person to kill him/herself. The answer is NO. If a person has a will to live, he/she wouldn’t comit suicide even if you ask that question. If a person is suicidal, that question can save a life. How you ask the question is key. When you feel nervous asking that question, your spouse would lie just to keep you calm. You need to keep calm and provide a safe space for the person to be forthcoming. Go to the mirror now, take a deep breath, and practice 100 times the question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” until you feel less nervous about it.

Get your partner to the hospital, and stay with him/her. Tell him/her that you really care that he/she is ok and that you will stay with him/her through this.

If you feel uneasy asking the question, see #6 below.

6) Call a mental health professional, please.  A proper diagnosis and treatment would make a world of differences for your spouse and you (and the whole family). A qualified mental health professional will do suicide assessment, help with mapping out the unhealthy thoughts/feeling/behavior pattern, and strategize an action plan to disrupt that unhealthy pattern. Therapists at Women’s Therapy Institute are qualified mental health professionals that can help both of you get back on your feet.

You don’t need to do this alone when your spouse is suffering from mental illness. Give us a call. We work with men too.

 

Disclaimer: The articles in my blog are a matter of my opinion and perspective. They are meant to be educational only. Because they are general in nature, they should NOT be used as a substitute for getting qualified professional psychological, medical, or legal help should serious need arise. Please seek mental health or medical treatment from a qualified healthcare professionals.

Why Aren’t We Talking About Miscarriage?

Mark ZMark Zuckerberg announced on Friday that he and his wife Priscilla Chan are having a baby girl. In the midst of the happy announcement, he spoke of the emotional pain of suffering three previous miscarriages.

Zuckerberg candidly talked about the loneliness that he and his wife endured during the pregnancy.

“Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this, so you struggle on your own.” wrote Zuckerberg on his Facebook post.

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg for bringing attention to the issue of grief and loss accompanied by miscarriage. His high-profile post creates safety for others to share their stories and in turn reduced the stigma of pregnancy loss.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 10-25% of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage. 50-75% of all miscarriages are chemical miscarriages (early stage of pregnancy before it can be detected by ultrasound).

Miscarriage is traumatic. I know this on a personal level because I too have had a miscarriage. Most women undergo the feelings of grief and loss after a miscarriage. It’s well-documented that women who have experienced pregnancy loss can also get “postpartum depression”. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 11 percent of women who had a miscarriage suffered from major depression following the event. There is no doubt that women who have experienced pregnancy loss need additional support from family, friends and medical community.

Since miscarriage is common and the emotional consequence is serious, why aren’t we talking more about it openly? Stigma – miscarriage is a taboo topic for many people. Many people are not comfortable hearing about it. Most do not know how to respond when someone tells them about miscarriage, and therefore we don’t want to burden our loved ones with the sad news when we experience the loss.

Another reason we don’t talk about miscarriage is that traditionally it is thought of as a “woman issue.” Society holds women responsible for everything related to child birth. When a woman experiences a miscarriage, our society doles out implicit blame that it’s somehow the mother’s fault. Women internalize this message, and may subconsciously blame themselves for the loss. Why would women speak up when we are the blame for the misfortune? Why would men listen when it’s thought of as a “woman issue”? It may sound sexist, but it’s also a reality.

Mark Zuckerberg’s post brings awareness to four things; 1) miscarriages happen often, 2) miscarriage is emotionally painful, 3) this emotional pain affects both men and women and 4) we need to talk about it. Throughout times women talk among themselves about the pain of miscarriage, but there can’t be meaningful discussions and true compassion for this frequent pain until more men join in the conversation. And I am glad we are heading to the right direction.

(Image source: Facebook)

 

Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls’ and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at mabel@womenstherapyinstitute.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.

4 Ways For Girls and Women To Manage Anxiety

Women AnxietyJessica is having trouble concentrating in her math class because she is getting very little sleep at night. She lies awake for hours worrying about why her best friend doesn’t talk to her anymore, whether everyone is looking at her funny, whether she will bomb the math test tomorrow, whether her parents are really going to divorce, and other catastrophic what-ifs.

Tara seems to have the “perfect” life with a home, career and children that she adores yet she feels overwhelmed. Now her things are not getting done and she doesn’t laugh as often anymore. She doesn’t sleep much and when she does, she often wakes up heart pounding and palms sweaty, thinking she is going crazy and fearing “her perfect life won’t last”.

From the time a girl reaches puberty until late adulthood, she is twice as likely to have anxiety as a man. While men are not immune to anxiety, men and women’s differences in brain chemistry and hormonal levels in different life stages may be pieces of the puzzle as to why women are more vulnerable to anxiety during stressful events.

If you or your daughter experiences anxiety, there are things to do about it.

  • Allowing Anxiety: Forcing yourself or your child not to worry or minimize the anxious feelings can create even more anxiety. It can be defeating when those worries just won’t go away. We need a healthy dose of worrying to keep us safe or get things done; it has a purpose so we don’t want to eliminate it completely. Since it serves a function, it’s important to take anxiety seriously and allow it’s existence so we can shift it to our benefits.
  • Relaxation Skills: Breathing and visualization helps you calm down when you are agitated. Relaxation techniques need to be age-appropriate and don’t have to be boring. Some can even be done while you are in the middle of a task. For teens, there are apps such as Breathe that can help.
  • Movement: It’s understandable that when you are anxious, the last you want to do is to get out of bed. It may seem cumbersome but setting a goal to do something as simple as walking around the block can work wonders. Sometimes staying indoor with the blinds closed may affect your circadian rhythm (aka. body clock), which can disrupted your sleeping pattern. Going outside and getting some sun and air can help “reset” your body clock so you can sleep better at night, feel more refreshed the next day, and have better mood.
  • Talk to a licensed therapist who is in tuned with teen and women’s issues, and values whole-health approach. A good therapist is able to listen, teach relaxation techniques, and tailor a therapeutic plan that best fits you. The first session is usually paperwork and getting to know each other, so give it a few sessions before deciding whether the therapist is right for you.

While nobody’s life is completely worry-free, but anxiety can be manageable and it doesn’t have to control your whole life. You don’t need to do this alone.

Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at mabel@womenstherapyinstitute.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.

Header image credit: Huffington Post