Okay, so I realize that this post is probably significantly controversial to a good many people who may read it. People seem polarized on the issue. But, it's my blog, so I will offer up the topic and anyone feel free to debate my points.
While I was up in Washington helping my mom (the second Mom, not the first one) after foot surgery, there were a few rough days in there. Hootie is in a very long 3-year-old phase of testing all the boundaries and I admittedly am not as consistent as I probably should be. I've got my head focusing on other areas for improvement right now, such as managing my irritation and frustration levels, and responding to those things appropriately. We were in a cold place, making it hard for Hootie to play outside for any length of time. I haven't really restocked the toys up there to suit her age, so most of them are still baby/toddler toys. On top of that, I was much less available to help direct her play and get her set up with arts and crafts and so forth, because of the time spent taking care of Mom and the house. Two days in a row, I tried getting Hootie out of the house for a few hours - over to my sister's house to play with her cousin Zakky, and once we took the kids together to the mall to play on their little indoor playscape. Both times, Mom ended up wanting or needing my help while I was gone, and became irritated that I wasn't there as I should be. The second time, I called and found her friend Susan there visiting, but Mom would not let Susan prepare her lunch. She waited for me to come back home to do that, bring it to her bedside, and then basically dismissed me and Hootie so she could visit with her friend. She wouldn't let Susan read Hootie stories or visit with me, she just wanted me to do my work and be gone. All of that set my mood to one where I felt I was between a rock and a hard place. Unable to please anyone in the situation. I was frustrated and stressed by it. This general frustration and stress lasted about two days and then Mom and I had a big discussion about it, and "cleared the air" so to speak. We discussed how Hootie is learning the "art of manipulation" and how I am not responding to it in a firm, authoritative way. I know we disagree on a few areas of child rearing, one of which is the use of corporal punishment - spanking and the like. It isn't that I do not believe in the use of a physical deterrent from some behaviors. In particular, I have used a "flick" of the lip when Hootie is grossly disrespectful to me, especially after repeated verbal warnings. But spanking her, which I have tried a few times, has had very little positive effect. I think it's good for things like teaching a toddler not to go in the street or not to touch a hot stove, etc. Or when they are throwing fits and disobeying direct requests or commands intentionally, after escalating warnings and consequences. But I believe in using consequences which somehow relate or tie to the misbehavior. Flicking her mouth tells her that she's being hurtful with her mouth, so her mouth will get "stung" by my flick. If she cannot share a toy, I will take it away so that nobody plays with it. If she cannot exhibit proper dining etiquette, she will sit in a time out in her room. And so on. This is just how I see it, and each parent makes up their own mind on these issues. It is each parent's perrogative to choose what they see as appropriate discipline to deter poor behaviors and guide their child. But it clearly bothers my mother that Hootie hasn't quit exhibiting these behaviors yet. And she doesn't agree with how I handle her. But for me, that is okay. I don't need permission or approval on that front. It'd be nice if my mom thought I did a good job with my child, but it's not critical that she approve. But, things went much smoother after that conversation. However, yesterday she told me that she thought she had mentioned (which she didn't), that maybe I should consider getting on some anti-depressant medications. That perhaps I need some help in managing my stress.
Anti-depressant medications have made a huge difference for many people that I know, and I am all in favor of them for these folks. My Mother in Nevada has been on them for years, and constantly struggles with getting the "balance" just right. However, without any medications, she'd be in a mental hospital or dead, I am sure. She's got a chemical imbalance which causes her to irrationally experience a lot of depression. My mom and sister both use anti-depressants, for different reasons. My mom's got a progressively debilitating disease which causes a lot of pain and stress and fear, and these drugs help her immeasurably. My sister has not explained a whole lot of what she experiences when she does not take medications which manage her depression, but I can definitely see what benefit they have for her, how they help her feel so much better. My friend Kathleen has taken two different medications for as long as I have known her, and she's also told me she needs them to even herself out - she's also been diagnosed with depression. So clearly, I am not against them at ALL.
But, I think there's a time and a place for them, and I don't believe that I fall into the category of needing them. I see it as either a temporary problem (a very close loved one dies - a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling - which causes deep sadness and despair), or a chronic problem (like a chemical imbalance, making one prone to depressive thoughts). I don't feel I have either of these issues. Generally speaking, I am happy and content with my life. Of course I have adversity. Of course I have things which I work on to improve in myself. But I don't believe I fit any of the classic signs of depression. According to a website on signs of depression from the Mayo Clinic, the two hallmark signs to look out for are:
1. Loss of interest in normal daily activities; you lose interest in activities that you once used to enjoy
2. Depressed mood; You feel sad, helpless or hopeless, and may have crying spells.
Further, it goes on to note that for a doctor or clinician to diagnose depression, most of the following symptoms should be present for at least two weeks:
Sleep disturbances. Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping can be a sign you're depressed. Waking in the middle of the night or early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep are typical.
Impaired thinking or concentration. You may have trouble concentrating or making decisions and have problems with memory.
Changes in weight. An increased or reduced appetite and unexplained weight gain or loss may indicate depression.
Agitation. You may seem restless, agitated, irritable and easily annoyed.
Fatigue or slowing of body movements. You feel weariness and lack of energy nearly every day. You may feel as tired in the morning as you did when you went to bed the night before. You may feel like you're doing everything in slow motion, or you may speak in a slow, monotonous tone.
Low self-esteem. You feel worthless and have excessive guilt.
Less interest in sex. If you were sexually active before developing depression, you may notice a dramatic decrease in your level of interest in having sexual relations.
Thoughts of death. You have a persistent negative view of yourself, your situation and the future. You may have thoughts of death, dying or suicide.
The only symptoms in all of these which pertain to me are "agitation" (my frustration and ability to be easily irritated), and some level of fatigue. As was clearly proven to me at my mom's house, I am able to sleep all night if not interruped multiple times by a child or a dog, which is the case at home. I'm tired because I don't get uninterrupted sleep most nights. I'm easily irritated because I am tired. But none of the other things describe me at all. I get a lot of pleasure out of many things I do routinely - yoga, taking walks with my husband and daughter, cooking meals, cleaning my house and seeing it all tidy and cute, shopping, reading, visiting with friends. My self esteem is just fine, my interest in sex remains strong and unchanged, and the thought of death... well, I just don't ever think about that, unless I'm on an airplane and it's really turbulent, and I'm afraid. But I don't think that's what the Mayo Clinic is referring to.
Medication is appropriate when a person needs medication to solve a problem. When there aren't other ways to really solve them. I take ibuprofen multiple times a day to deal with the pain in my shoulder. I take allergy pills to combat my severe allergies to everything in this town. I do yoga and meditate and garden and spend some time alone to help calm and reenergize myself. And I think those things are appropriate ways for me to deal with stress and frustration. I'm a at a bit of a loss on how to deal with my dog waking me up at night, and we've been progressively working on the child so that she will sleep through the night in her own bed. But what I deal with is just life. Normal things in life.