#MomCrushMonday 7/29/2019

#MomCrushMonday 7/29/2019

Kelley Woods is a single working mother of 2 sons, Gabriel and Raphael. She is the founder of Traveling with Cute Luggage which is geared toward helping single working parents travel with their kids inexpensively. In order to do that, she creates blog posts, travel digital products, travel strategy sessions, and shares her travel journey. She uses creativity and travel to overcome adversity and make travel dreams a reality.

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

The two times I’ve became pregnant was after a very traumatic event in my life. I was just happy to bring life into the world, because each time brought the relief that everything was going to be just fine. I’ve struggled, I’ve dealt with depression with both pregnancies. The dynamic was being able to overcome so much.

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?

My kids are like night and day. The oldest, Gabriel is a very chill kid. My youngest, Raphael keeps me on my toes. We make sure we show love to each other every day from a hug to a kiss on their foreheads. I have them to express themselves, but my childhood was strict beyond measures, toxic at times. I also don’t sugarcoat anything with my kids. My kids and I are so close to each other.

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you cope with it?

Absolutely, especially after I dropped both of my baby fathers. (I’m not the judgmental type, can’t talk about no one else’s issue, but my own). When I dropped them, I definitely had to take several steps back and see what the patterns were for me. How did I get to this point, what was really going on with me? I’ve found out a few things about myself that I had definitely no idea about. It made me shift some things around not only for myself but for my kids. I deal with depression and anxiety and found travel as a way to suppress or to cope with what I’ve went through and what I’m going through.

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

Music has and will always be a love of mine. I go to concerts, live shows, HBCU football games, and chill with kids. I meet with friends every now and again. But, on a daily music is my getaway.

What advice would you give mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

Don’t lose touch with yourself. I lost myself for years. My kids, every now and again, remind me who I am. Be sure you know who you are, so you can give the best you to your child.

#MomCrushMonday 7/22/2019

#MomCrushMonday 7/22/2019

Renia Butler is a 35-year-old Houston based Events Professional and Freelance Food Writer/Blogger. If you follow her on social media, you probably know her better as @gristleandgossip. She is a devoted wife and a new mother of one beautiful baby girl. In her spare time, she loves to travel, eat great food and watch her daughter blossom into “one of the funniest kids on earth.”

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

In 2014 my doctor noticed the formation of several abnormal masses growing on my uterus. Following a multitude of extensive tests, I was informed that the masses were benign uterine fibroids (tumors). At the time of identification, the largest was the size of a grapefruit. As these masses were submucosal (attached to my uterus) I was informed that this could cause fertility issues, as the fibroids would progressively get larger, leaving little to no room for a baby to grow. After numerous conversations with specialists, my husband, family members and I decided to have a myomectomy in Spring 2015. This risky surgery had the potential to damage my uterus and cervix leaving me physically unable to carry a child. Within in a year to the date of the surgery, my husband and I became pregnant in the Summer of 2016. Sadly, the pregnancy was terminated at 8 weeks. We were devastated but decided to try once more. During a routine doctor’s visit three weeks after Hurricane Harvey, I was surprised to find out that I was 6 weeks pregnant!! We welcomed the birth of our beautiful baby girl, Ms. Emory Myles Butler (via c-section) Spring 2018.

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?

The most romantic experience of my life. I’ve never loved someone so much.

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you cope with it?

Not at all. I attribute it to family support AND placenta encapsulation. I took my placenta home from the hospital, steamed, encapsulated and ingested it for 6 months postpartum (in addition to my prenatal gummies). I shared this story on my blog!

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

I take life as a new mom one day at a time. I make it my mission to enjoy the little moments in each day. The smile on my little girl’s face when it’s time to nurse at 3 am, the love she has for her dad (and chicken) and how in love with myself I have become. I never thought I would be able to breastfeed nor function on only 4 hours of sleep. I’m blessed to report that Emory is now 14 months old and still breastfeeding, and I am doing just fine without sleep!

What advice would you give mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time and space to become one with yourself and your new journey. There will be tough moments, but the beauty in your child’s eyes will wash them away.

Triggered!

Triggered!

A word. A song. A thought. A smell. 

Goodtherapy.org defines triggers as “a reminder of a past trauma.” 

If you have ever taken a course in Psychology, you’ll remember how Pavlov taught us about triggers in a roundabout way. 

Remember the dog, the steak, and the bell, right? Well if you don’t here’s a quick rundown of the experiment in a nutshell: Pavlov trained a dog to associate the sound of a bell with eating a piece of meat. So, every time the dog heard the bell, he knew he was getting food. Pavlov trained this dog so that the sound of the bell caused the dog to salivate because it already knew that food was coming. Here’s where the real experiment kicked in. Pavlov stopped giving the steak to the dog when the bell rang but the dog would still salivate when he heard the bell even though he wouldn’t receive any food. He conditioned the dog to continue the response even when the reward or secondary stimuli was no longer present.

Basically, when we are triggered by an event, an object or a sound, it is because we have classical conditioned or trained ourselves, knowingly or unknowingly, to associate that particular stimuli with a person, place, or event that brings about some type of emotional response, usually a negative one. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a such thing as positive triggers. However, how often do you hear someone say that they are triggered, and it be a good thing? Right, almost never. 

Enough of the psych lesson, let’s get into it! How do we develop these triggers and how can we become “untriggered?” 

Remember the first time you were riding in the car with THAT person and THAT song came on? You both looked at each other all hazily and you felt butterflies. THAT feeling you felt at THAT moment with THAT song and THAT person in THAT car was so intense that every time you hear THAT song you immediately get butterflies even if THAT person isn’t present. *takes deep breath* Get it?

So now time has passed and y’all broke up and you hear the song, what happens? You probably cry, get sad or even mad. Why? Because your brain along with that emotional response trained you to associate that song with that particular person. However, now that person is no longer a positive association. You still get that intense feeling, only now that feeling is sadness, hurt or even anger depending on the breakup. When the song comes on it changes from a positive emotional response to a negative one, which is what we call a trigger. Now when you hear it you automatically skip it or just turn it off all together. A lot of times this negative association takes time to lose its intensity because we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to process through what has become an unintentional trigger. 

Let me give you a working example. A close friend of mine was killed in a car accident when I was in college. I went to his funeral and heard a song that made me cry uncontrollably because it prompted me to think about how great of a friend that I had lost. Every time I heard that song after the funeral, it immediately brought me to tears to the point where I would slam the radio off and just ruminate in my grief. I finally realized how ridiculous it was that this one song essentially caused me so much anger because of how sad I was that I had lost my friend. (Yes, unresolved sadness can lead to anger). 

So, here’s what I did…I let the song play out. Who would have known?! I cried uncontrollably and processed through my feelings mentally to understand why this song triggered me to this extent. Understanding how immensely his death affected me was part of the processing. After a few plays of the song at various times over a period of time, I finally got to the point that I wouldn’t boo hoo cry anymore but I might tear up. Eventually I was able to hear the song and not feel the urge to cry at all, but even to this day I do still think about him when the song comes on. I would agree that time does heal all wounds but putting a band-aid on a wound without giving it the proper attention leaves an unsightly scar.

So, what are you saying? Well, when we are triggered by various stimuli, it is because we have not allowed ourselves to fully experience the negative emotions that we have associated with that stimuli. Nor have we taken the time to dissociate the feeling from the stimuli. It’s almost as if we have to place blame on something and we use the stimuli as that “thing” because it’s easier to get rid of the stimuli than it is to address the feeling. We turn the song off. We change the channel. We walk the opposite direction. We do anything to ignore/avoid that feeling. So, what if instead of ignoring the trigger in hopes of it just going away on its own, we talked to it? We ask ourselves some hard questions and challenge ourselves to actually answer thoughtfully.

DISCLAIMER: If you have experienced severe trauma, I DO NOT recommend that you attempt to do this on your own. This could bring up highly negative emotions that would be important to process with a trained mental health profession. Please seek professional help.

Here are a few questions that you might ask yourself to get started:

1. What about this *insert stimuli* is causing me to feel this *insert emotion*? 

– Why are you associating these two variables in the first place? Reflect on the event that occurred that led to this pairing.

2. What is causing me to feel this particular emotion?

– What was the actual action that triggered this emotional response? Think about your initial reaction to this action and determine if it is the same response or a similar one. If so, this usually means that you are still carrying the weight of the initial incident and have not worked through what happened.

3. Is there an underlying emotion that I could be feeling that I am not addressing?

– For example, you are angry that your ex cheated on you but what you might actually feeling is hurt or even insecure. Usually there are underlying components to anger that take a bit more digging to be able to find the root.

3. What happened in the situation that truly hurt me? 

– Address the actual emotion and sit with it for a moment. When we sit with our feelings it allows us to become more comfortable with them and also be more aware when those feelings come up again later on. This way we are better able to address them at the onset the next time.

4. How can I resolve that feeling?

– This is where some handy dandy coping skills comes in to play. Write about it. I have a slew of journals laying around ready to be used at any given moment. Think of it as a weapon, but a peaceful one.

-Also talk about it. Whether it be with your friends, family or a bonafide mental health professional, verbally processing with someone can help to ease the emotions a lot quicker and more effectively than holding it in.

-Grounding! Remind yourself that you are no longer in the place and time that is bringing up that emotional response. Take deep breaths. Touch things around you. Here is a great link to some other grounding techniques. (Don’t mistake grounding for escape. It is more commonly used to bring you into the present moment until you are more emotionally able to address that feeling.)

5. What is a positive emotion, if any, that I can put in place of the negative one?

– For example, replace hurt with strength. This particular time for you was difficult to overcome but you did! So now if something similar or of lesser magnitude were to occur, then you would be able to overcome it with slightly more ease.

– Try reconditioning your brain to think about a happy time in your life when you hear that triggering song come on. Or maybe when you get a whiff of a smell that reminds you of a traumatic event, start to associate the smell with something more enjoyable like your favorite hobby. Do this for awhile until you no longer associate that song or smell with the negative emotion.  

As with everything in life, you have to find what works for you. Take the time to really become aware of what you need emotionally and figure out what your triggers are. Ask yourself these questions and genuinely and intuitively take the time to answer them. How do you deal with your triggers?

Like, comment, subscribe, share!