Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Perinatal depression - It's a Thing!!

Perinatal depression (PND) - it's a thing you know!?

The term Postnatal Depression implies 'after' and this can confuse people, it can trick them into thinking that PND 'happens' only after a baby is born.

But this is deceiving!

Perinatal depression can begin during the trying-to-conceive stage, the pregnancy stage, soon after the baby is born, much later after the baby is born, it can come to Mums, to Dads, to carers, it's biology can be environmental, social, hormonal, neurological, transitional, short term, long term, subtle, extreme, managed by self care, managed by diet, managed by medicine, managed very well, not managed very well, diagnosed, not-diagnosed...

                                                            Perinatal depression has layers. Many layers.

Mine arrived basically over night when I was about a month pregnant. It came to me at a time when I was involved in the running of a PND research project through the University of Tasmania and whilst I was supervising a masters project in Postnatal Depression. I knew SO much about the topic and I felt SO much empathy for the women I was involved with who were living with this condition. I was grateful that even though I was feeling sick, tired, grumpy, flat, tired, uber-sensitive, claustrophobic, tired, hard-done-by, anxious (did I mention tired? Make that EXHAUSTED), even though I was feeling all of these things I was so lucky that I didn't have PND!

Mine was all just part of being pregnant, right?

After my babe was born I completed all those forms with the confident air of the health care professional that I am. I was a Mum who knew all her options, knew what to expect and what PND would look like. Also I wasn't a first time Mum, so I had this in the bag. I completed those Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scales like a boss!

But the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), that can also be deceiving!

Q) Have you blamed yourself unnecessarily when things go wrong?
A) No way, I just blame everyone else. Totally fine. Excellent. Low score

Q) Have you been anxious for no good reason?
A) Well working out how to manage two children is a good reason to be anxious, isn't it? Cool, that's a no then. Excellent. Low score.

Q) Have things been getting on top of you?
A) Well, um... I have kids. Ridiculous question. I'm answering no. Good-oh. Another Low score.

GREAT! Another low scoring EPDS assessment. I mean, I'm exhausted and feeling like crap, and sure, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning... But look, here we are at the child health clinic, on time for our appointment, all dressed, coffee in hand. Low score on the EPDS, things obviously aren't that bad!

I may be struggling but this is all just part of being a Mum, right?

But, of course, I did have PND. It occurred to me out of the blue one day (I'm quite certain a cartoon light bulb would have appeared above me!) and in that moment of realisation it felt like a tonne of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. When I put all the pieces together and realised, without a doubt, that what I was experiencing was a (pretty severe) case of perinatal depression I felt relieved, happy almost, VALIDATED!

"It's OK" I told myself, "I'm 'just' one of the 1 in 7 (or more) - this is common, treatable and real. This is not my new forever, this is a mental health issue, this is something that can be treated."

And still after 2 years I continue to manage it very carefully.

Usually I'm happy, sometimes I'm sad, sometimes I score 3 on the EPDS and sometimes I score 10. I smile and I cry. I'm aware of my self care, my diet, my medical treatment options, I have a psych and I have the Lifeline Telephone Counselling number (13 11 14) saved in my phone (just in case). Sometimes I crash in a heap for a couple of days but generally life is pretty steady and wonderfully enjoyable. PND continues to be the hardest hand I have ever been dealt but when I put it in context, I'm just one of 1 in 7 (or more).

I'm certainly not alone.

If you're confused about what perinatal depression is, if it could be affecting you or someone you love or if you need to reach out for support please do not hesitate to contact PANDA who have a wonderful site full of educational tools and support options and avenues.

November 15th - 21st (2015) is Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week so this is the time to educate yourselves and each other about PND :)

Friday, February 27, 2015

"She lost her battle to cancer"

Upon the tragic passing of Jess Ainscough yesterday I feel compelled to briefly discuss the importance of death literacy.

Today social media has been inundated with posts, reports and media coverages about her death and I am pleasantly amazed that not once have I come across the phrase "lost her battle to cancer". 

Why do we insist on using this phrase? It is personally degrading, represents failure, encourages negative death literacy and most of all describes nothing of the strength, bravery, self respect, love and freedom that is experienced within one's final moments of life.

It is time to really think about the words we use when describing someone else's death. Death comes to us all and as such we must find a way to talk about it fearlessly and gracefully.

Would you want your own death to be described as 'losing a battle"??

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You don't know you want to do this yet, but trust me, you SO do!

Self Care.

Something we hear a lot about, we know we should be doing, we put it off, not sure where to start, too busy...

Well here is the simple and blissful answer. THIS VIDEO! This girl is a self care genius. Here she has created herself an outlet for verbal and non-verbal self expression, emotional connection and release, confidence and increased sense of self, physical exercise, enhanced energy levels and most of all FUN!

This girl should be nominated for some kind of award - an Oscar maybe??? One day I hope! But for now I'll put up my hand and nominate her for OMMG Self Care Weapon of the Week!

So the takeaway message to this post is DO THIS! WHAT SHE DOES! (You know you want to!)

As your Registered Music Therapist I prescribe to you: 1 song of your choice, once a week (minimum). Trust me, you will feel GREAT!

(you don't have to record yourself btw!)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why all Music Therapists (and perhaps all of humanity) should give a big ol' THANKYOU to Woody Guthrie...

Obviously you know who Woody Guthrie is, right? (Legendary American singer-songwriter, folk musician of the 1900's who's guitar read "This Machine Kills Fascists"). Well as if his guitar wasn't revolutionary enough here are four examples of just why we should all thank Woody for his contribution to life as we know it...

1) Firstly, his contribution to children's music.
Yep, The Wiggles are great, love Justine Clark, Twinkle Twinkle and similar nursery rhyme classics will always have a place, but THANKYOU Woody Guthrie for producing children's music for children AND grownups!!

Written and recorded in the 1940's Woody was one of the first popluar male singers to provide music for our babies, composing and recording Songs to Grown On For Mother and Child and Work Songs To Grow On, both considered children's classics and adding to his status of 'Effing Legend'.

Woody's 'music therapist-esque' approach was to write repetitive style songs that dealt with themes significant to children, and written in language used and understoon by children. These themes include friendship (Don't you Push Me Down), family (Ship in the Sky), community (Howdja Do?), chores (Pick it UP), responsibility (Cleano) and fun (Riding in My Car). 

As such these songs could and should be sourced and used by parents, educators, therapists and, well, basically anyone who sings with, or plays music to, children! The added bonus is that not only are they relevant, lacking the almost condescending nature of many children's songs, but they are great to listen to and can roll on repeat for hours without Mum and Dad loosing the plot.

Little Saka Sugar - 1947
One Days Old - 1947
I'll Eat You, I'll Drink You - 1947 (my all time fave)

2) His ongoing drive for 'What is Right'
Woody had a passion for justice. Having lived though majorly crazy historical events, (I'm talking the Great Depression, the Great Dust Storm, World War II, The aftermath of Unionism, the Communist Party and the Cold War to name a few) - he was determined to use his powers for good. Thus he became the driving force behind a musical collaboration called The Almanac Singers. Together these guys focused on social causes such as unions, anti-fascism, free speech, equal rights, peace, racial and environmental issues, and anything else they believed in, in the best way they could; Through songs of political protest and activism.

If there was a way of ever knowing how many positive and political changes have come about through the power of people and song I'm sure we would all be gobsmacked! Even the smallest of changes has the power to snowball in to huge shifts in collective thinking. And no one can deny the sense of inspiration and motivation gained from listening to the 'right song' - so THANKYOU Woody Guthrie for giving us the right songs!
This Land is Your Land - 1940
Better World A Comin'
Jolly Banker 

3) The lessons we learnt from his tragic experience of Huntington's Disease
During the late 1940's, which was his early 40's, Woody began presenting with erratic, moody and violent behaviours. He was wrongly accused of persistent drunkedness. Was picked on by police for wandering, his mumbled protestations of being famous believed to be hallucinations. Actually, he was displaying the initial signs of the degenerative, neurolgocal disease Huntington's Chorea. During this time he was admitted to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital and remained institutionalised while the diesase slowly robbed him of his health, his talents (despite this he continued to create) and, at the age of 55, his life itself.

During the 1950's Huntington's Disease was still a mystery to most and, though there is still no cure, this meant his condition went untreated and he was given no proper care by the institution. (Fascists!) His journey with this horrendous disease brought much awareness and new understanding to not only the medical profession but to the population at large.   So THANKYOU Woody - for opening up eyes and avenues for improved health care.
I Ain't Got no Home in This World Anymore - 1944
So Long It's Been Good to Know You

4) Helping shape Bob Dylan into Bob Dylan
During his time at Greystone Park a teenage Bob Dylan routinely came to visit and care for Woody. With each visit he brought his guitar and sang to him - not Dylan songs - but Woody songs. In total 'music therapy-esque' style, in allowing him to hear his own work, Dylan potentially offered Woody experiences of validation, reminiscence, increased sense of self, quality of life, relaxation, cognitive stimulation, chronic pain management and acceptance.  Would Dylan have been the same Dylan he is now without such a significant experience of care and resilience at such an impressionable age? Who knows! 
So, just in case Woody... THANKYOU! 
Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie - Bob Dylan, 1963

Unfortunately there is still no specific treatment or cure for Huntington's Disease, a disease which takes the lives of far, far too many. For more information on Huntington's Disease or to find out how you can donate to research you can access your relevant association via the following links..

New South Wales
South Australia and Northern Territory
Western Australia
United Kingdom

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Baptism? Nah. Naming Day? Nope. Here is the PERFECT substitute...

Welcoming your baby to the world is a big deal. A really, REALLY big deal. And it deserves to be celebrated, right?

 But what do you do if you're not religious, yet find sincere importance in ceremony, celebration and symbolic recognition? And how do you put together a ceremony that perfectly reflects you and your family's sacred ideals? The options appear to be limited.

Too often in our modern culture we bi-pass the ceremony that our ancestors so treasured. Developmental milestones go by in secret, we hide our birthdays, we don't 'officially' get married, we don't allow for periods of mourning after a death. And the special days we DO celebrate tend to be steeped in Religious tradition.

So, just how do we create ceremony for the birth of our baby that feels 'right'? Well, let me introduce you to the idea of the reflection promises.

When our daughter Maple was born we knew we wanted a special moment of recognition in which we could honour her in the presence of our loved ones. The thought of a Christening just didn't seem right, and the Naming Day option - well, hadn't she already been named?

So we did nothing. Well, that's not quite true. We reflected. And nearing Maple's first birthday we were able to put together a set of reflection promises based on us, on her, on our relationship and who we were, and wanted to be, as parents to her.

This set of promises meant a lot more to us than a set of vows that we wouldn't even have been able to offer ourselves, but simply respond to with an authoritative 'I will'.

Our reflection promises offered Maple a verbal contract of unconditional love. They were read to her on her first birthday in the presence of our family and friends, based on our reflection of her first year. And here they are:

Maple, now that we've had one year together as Mother, Father and Daughter we're starting to learn about the kind of parents we wish to be. We will try our best and turn to this letter when we need reminding.

We promise to love you unconditionally and without judgement. 

We promise not to treat you as a possession, to always remember that you have come through us and not from us. You chose us to guide you, not keep you. 

People talk of being a parent first and a friend second but that is not our style and we hope you will let us be your friends.

We want to learn as much as we can from you, to embrace our differences and understand that you have your unique style. 

We will try only to pass to you our pearls of wisdom and never our fears. 

We promise not to try and change you and will do our best to let you make your own mistakes. We promise not to decide for you which path you will take, but only help you to discover your own path for yourself.

Maple, named after the strong and beautiful tree, we promise to help you learn the simple and sustainable life, to walk softly on your path with respect for the environment.

It's very easy to promise that our relationship with each other will only ever teach you of true love in the hope this will help you learn of, and yearn for, soul mates.

We hope we always have the courage to parent from the heart and not from the textbook or the advice of others.

We promise to nurture our spiritual selves as best we can, and continue reflecting on these promises we've made to you today, so that we maintain a strong intention in our minds to follow through with them. 

Love, Mum and Dad xx

Friday, October 10, 2014

33 reasons why Making Mouth Noises is NOT just for kids...

Making mouth noises is NOT just for kids - easier and less embarrassing, yes - but just as therapeutic for grownups! Mouth noise games are absolute crackers! I played them on the weekend with kids at Camp Quality, I played them last year with carers at a palliatve care conference and I've played them with adults in clinical health settings. Here are a few reasons why...

Making mouth noises:
* Is an EXCELLENT self care technique
* Is something almost anyone can do - even those who don't speak.
* Is an outlet for verbal self expression
* Is a physical workout for the entire body
* Helps create confidence and break down self-consciousness
* Excellent for developing team-building dynamics
* Can be done in groups OR individually
* Puts participants out of their comfort zones
* Is an engaging and novel activity
* Almost certainly creates genuine laughter
* Can create genuine tears
* Provides clients with a tool they can use in the future
* Has the power to either stimulate or relax
* Validates emotions
* Requires no equipment, set-up or particular setting
* Communicating in 'no-language' has less expressive limitations than language.
* Can assist in clarifying emotions
* Has the potential to develop fine and gross motor coordination
* In a group setting creates a sense of equality and acceptance
* Is a great vocal warm up
* Brings out your inner child
* Can help develop the spiritual sense of community
* Is excellent for communicating to babies with
* Mimicking other's sounds makes them feel listened to.
* Helps clients learn more about their verbal abilities
* Is an activity everyone can succeed in
* Can be done in private (the shower, car, home alone etc.) 
* Requires no facilitation
* Allows you to let go
* Engages clients congitively and creatively 
* Helps express individuality
* Is appropriate for any age, culture, language, background, developmental ability...
* Is so much fun!

Not convinced? Have a go at a mouth noise game and see how you feel...

* One person choose an animal noise for the whole group to make together. The next person choose a different animal noise for the group to make together. Then the next person another etc. (actions more than welcome)
* Copy the above exercise but substitute animals with laughs (ie. The evil laugh, the santa clause, the witch, the giggling girt, the snort, the knee slapper, the gasp for breath, the hyena etc...
* Copy the above exercise but substitute laughs with human noises (ie. The burp, the sneeze, the whistle, the cough, the cry, the sigh, the tongue click, the teeth chatter, the squeal, the raspberry, the snore etc...)
* Copy the above exercise but substitute laughs with cries (ie. The sob, the weep, the hysterical, the sniffle, the wail etc...)

* Looking at the ground make the softest noise you can - any noise - it doesn't have to be the same as the rest of the group. Collectively make your noises louder and louder and bring your heads up until you're shouting your loudest possible noises at the sky.
* Look at the sky and shout your loudest, best feeling. (ie. I FEEL AMAZING!! I FEEL ALIVE!!! I FEEL BEAUTIFUL!!! I FEEL HAPPY!!!)
* Have a conversation completely in whispers.

* Have a conversation completely in silly noises (with eyebrows).
* Make funny mouth noises and create funny faces to match them.
* Making eye contact play the ultimate 'sibling game' of copying. (Oh the memories; "Stop copying me!" "Stop copying me!")

* Scream.
* Sigh.
* Moan.
* Sob.
* Keen.
* Pant.
Do these whenever you need and however you like.