Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Guest Post: Natural Remedies for a Summer Cold

Summer colds are strange things. It feels like getting a “cold” shouldn’t even be able to happen when it’s so hot outside, yet colds in the summer months exist nonetheless.

Often times, summer colds are mistaken for allergies, as symptoms like running nose, congestion and even a sore throat can often cross paths with both conditions. It’s entirely possible that a summer cold could also be a combination of the two problems.

The difference between the two might be distinguishable in your energy level. Typically, allergies will cause annoying symptoms, but you won’t feel “sick” or tired to the point where you have to rest throughout the day.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay
With the common cold, your strength and energy level should take a pretty significant hit-- at least enough to make you want to rest instead of go about your day.

The main reason for this is that a cold is going to make your immune system work harder.
If that’s the case, treating a summer cold means keeping hydrated and helping out your immune system. Here are a few ways to do it:

1. Vitamin C -- A steady dose of vitamin C won’t stop a cold from happening, but it can help you significantly once you get one by reducing the symptoms and speeding up your rate of recovery. You also get the benefit of healthy antioxidants that destroy free-radicals in your body.

You can get plenty of vitamin C by eating fruit and drinking orange juice throughout the day; however, if you still don’t think that’s enough, an over-the-counter vitamin C supplement will work just the same.

2. No caffeine -- Caffeine in large doses will actually dehydrate your body and make it more difficult for you to retain enough fluid in your system. If your throat hurts and you want to have a cup of tea, that’s fine, since most teas are contain a small dose of caffeine, but try and stay away from highly-caffeinated beverages, like coffee and soda.

3. Ginger Root -- You can get ginger in the form of a supplement or a tea that you can drink. You can even just buy plain ginger root and add it to hot water.

Ginger is a natural antiviral that will help to control your symptoms while also fighting the base cause. Sip on some hot water with ginger to reduce inflammation and reduce nasal congestion throughout the day.

4. Using a Vaporizer -- If you’re lucky enough to have a vaporizer in your home, you’d do well to have it running during the times when you have a summer cold. Vaporizers will clean the air, cool it down and make it more breathable, while also reducing airborne allergens, like pollen and ragweed.

If you’re staying inside and trying to recover, just keep a vaporizer running in the room where you’re spending most of your time. If nothing else, it will take the allergy component totally out of the equation.

5. Echinacea Complex -- Echinacea is readily available in a supplement form as it has become one of the best-selling health food products in the country.

Its benefit is simple in that it boosts your immune response, but in a situation where you’re trying to shake a pesky cold, that’s all you really need. Try taking it in conjunction with vitamin C or ginger root.

Sticking with Natural Remedies

If you employ some (or all) of these tactics in conjunction with drinking plenty of water and resting up, you should be able to get over your cold without the need for any heavy medication. Take Tylenol if you have to, but beyond that, consider trying these remedies before you go and beg your doctor for antibiotics.

It’s all about making it easy for our bodies to do what they do best, so try that before seeking more aggressive treatment.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles whose writing covers a wide range of topics, including health and fitness, technology and marketing. She is also the founder of Gryffin Media. She maintains her health during the summer months by making sure to take the essential vitamins her body needs to avoid sickness. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

PPD Part IV, The Aftermath

It's been a few weeks since all of this started, and I'm so grateful to all of my friends and family who have supported me during this tough time.  I love and adore all of you.  To know that there are so many people out there who love and care about me, who are lifting me up in prayer, and who have taken the time to make sure I am doing okay--well, I can hardly put into words how thankful I am for all of you.

Postpartum Depression sucks.  But so do a lot of things in life, and as I write this, I want to share a few things.

After I wrote these posts, I had so many people--friends, acquaintances, even people who I didn't know and who read my blog--reach out to me.  I was astounded at how many of my friends had been suffering, often in silence, feeling shame, doubt, and like they were alone.

Oh, my friends.  You are not alone.

More than one person has told me I'm brave for writing about this.  I don't feel brave.  To tell you the truth, this was mostly for me, because writing has always been my way to express myself, to get out the feelings that I can't always talk about.  So writing about this has given me clarity about my experiences, and I'm glad I did it.  I am also glad that I have touched so many people, and have helped some of them to feel like they aren't alone in their struggles.

I also imagine there are some people out there who have read about this and judged me, and that's fine. But the thing is, PPD can happen to anybody, at any point.  It might happen after a first pregnancy--or in my case, after a third.  And while I can say I did have the baby blues a bit after my first two were born, those experiences did not in any way, shape, or form prepare me for what I went through this time.  I love and adore Peanut--I am so, so, SO blessed to be his mommy, and I wouldn't trade him for anything.  But this has been hard, and it will probably continue to be hard.

But I have sought help.

In case you were wondering, yes, I did take the medication, and I'm glad I did.  My goal is to do what I need to do to get myself in order so I can go off of it in six months, which is my and my doctor's goal for me.  This includes getting some counseling, but right now, to help me through this, I am relying on a low dose of an SSRI.  And even though it's not supposed to kick in fully for a few more weeks, I already am starting to feel calmer and happier.  Life's stresses haven't gone away, but I'm making my way through it.

I realize I may not reach this goal.  I realize that I may need to take meds for longer, and that's okay too, but right now, I'm taking this one day at a time.

You know what's funny, is when I started writing my sequel to Anabel Unraveled, I knew I wanted Anabel to have undergone postpartum depression.  I wonder now if somehow I knew on a subconscious level what I was descending into, and when I wrote some of the scenes about her struggling with PPD, it was painful and gut-wrenching, but it helped me.

But now I have a request:  If you have read about my experience, and it has hit home, do something about it.  If you are suffering from PPD, find a way to make your situation better.  Go see your doctor.  Talk to friends.  Find a way to take some time for yourself so that you can take care of you, because you cannot take care of your children unless you take care of yourself.  If you know someone who you think may be suffering, please reach out to them.  Many of the women who seem to have it all together often suffer from this.

If nothing else, if you need to talk to someone, shoot me an email.  I promise to respond.  Nobody should be alone going through this.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

PPD, Part III: The Doctor's Appointment

So, I actually had to wait a whole week to see my doctor, because Jon had called on a Wednesday and my favorite OB only works at the office I go to on Wednesdays.  Jon had requested her specifically, I think because he figured I would respond best to her advice. My appointment was for the following Wednesday, so I spent the days leading up to it thinking about what I wanted to say, and what I wanted to do.

Did I want to take medication?  Not really.  I've always been leery of drugs (see Refusal of epidural, Refusal of headache medication, Refusal of birth control pills), but this seemed bigger than any other problem I had had before.  Plus, Jon was right:  I owed it to our kids to be healthy.  I just hated admitting I needed help--and again, the "mental illness" stigma was bothersome to me.

But then I thought about it more.  Okay, so I could think about PPD as a mental illness, but really it seemed more like a mental virus.  Yes, it was attacking me, but it needed to be fought off, or it was going to get worse.  And unlike an illness, which to me seemed like something that went on in perpetuity, a virus would end if I fought it with the appropriate tools.  Besides, how was I supposed to take care of three crazy boys if I wasn't on my A game?  So I had to get well.  And maybe...well, maybe I couldn't do it on my own.

If I got treatment, it wouldn't be forever. I was not doomed.  I would fight this.

I started doing more to help myself in the meantime.  I began going for walks in the evenings (after all, exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy).  I talked to a fellow mom who I knew had had PPD and I got the name of a counselor from her.  I made a real effort to have more fun with my kids.  And I started telling more of my friends what was going on.

I think a couple of them were a little hurt I hadn't said anything before, but the thing was, I just couldn't. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, and the other thing was, I couldn't convince myself totally that I had it. It's also sort of hard to tell people about your problems when in a lot of ways, you probably seem like a spoiled little girl.  I have so many blessings in my life, it's probably unfathomable to think that I could be depressed.  What was I supposed to say?  "Oh yes, I have three beautiful, healthy children, a wonderful husband, and I'm about to move into my dream house, but I'm depressed."

Of course, as I have mentioned, it's not so simple as that, as there is a lot of trauma drama going on...which I can't go into (not yet, anyway).

Anyway, the point of all of this is...I went to the doctor.

Now normally when I have gone to see my OB, they have shown me into an examination room, but that day I was sent to her office, where the nurse gave me a hug and told me my doc would be in to see me.

Forty-five minutes later I was starting to think that this was some sort of test, that they had put me in her office and were observing my behavior with hidden cameras to see how crazy was I really.  Plus I had Peanut with me (although thankfully I got him to pass out), so I was starting to get a bit agitated.

My doctor sailed in apologizing profusely, and then she asked me what was going on.

So, I told her about all of the issues I had going on, and then I mentioned the crying, and how some days I felt like I wasn't myself.  I told her about how I had thought I was doing better, and then I wasn't doing better, and how I just didn't know, to be perfectly honest.

She nodded and said, "Amanda, you've had three kids in three years.  It's a lot.  And all of the things that you have described--well, those are a lot too.  And the thing is...your husband called because he knew things weren't right with you.  And when husbands call...we definitely listen."

I nodded.

"I want you to get counseling, and I know you don't like medication, but I'd like to start you on a low dose of an SSRI to help you.  It's not forever, but your body is going through so many hormonal changes right now that it sometimes makes it hard to cope.  And with everything you've got going on, you could probably use the extra support."

I nodded again, and then said, "I can't promise I'll take it."

She nodded.  "I know.  We'll re-evaluate in a couple months.  But I do suggest you do.  And if things are going well and you feel like yourself again, we'll wean you off of it."

I drove home, unsure of what to think.  Was this really what I wanted to do?  I am serious when I say that I balk at taking an Advil for a headache.  Did I actually need the medication?  Perhaps counseling would be enough.  Maybe if I just talked to someone...

...but then I was honest with myself again. I had been doing a lot of talking, to people who were going through the same thing, who had experienced it before, and who were all urging me to take care of myself.  Many, if not all of them, had gone the meds route.  All of them said how it had helped.  Some of them were still on the meds.  Others weren't.

I filled my prescription.

And then I stared at the bottle.

Friday, June 7, 2013

PPD, Part II: Is It Better?

After I had Bug I was fortunate enough to join a Meetup Group full of fantastic women, and over the past three years I have collected a handful of women who I consider to be my closest friends up here.  Three of them and I were in the middle of an email discussion (when your hours are erratic, email discussions often prove to be the most fruitful).  I had been addressed directly, so I knew I needed to say something...

...and then I thought, maybe I should tell them.

I shot for innocuous.  I wrote and rewrote my statement several times, and then I finally broke down and was honest:

"So...I'm not doing well with my stress levels at all.  I can't decide if it's just because there's too much crap going on or if it's something more serious.  I mean, I do have way too much crap going on and I literally run all day long from the moment one of my three wakes up until the last one's in bed (and even after that I usually have stuff to do).  I'm not really the medication type but I'm considering maybe seeing if I could see a counselor because I really don't like the stuff that I'm thinking/feeling."

There, I thought.  I had told someone.  I had sort of left out all the really bad bits, but they knew.

Immediately, I got responses back. 

"Please talk to your doctor about options.  This stuff can get pretty bad fast.  We'll come over and see you asap."

"Amanda, you should talk to someone.  In the meantime, what can I do to help?"

"I'm so sorry, let's get you out of the house."

And then I wrote on a message board for Project Purse Club (which, by the way, if you are a lady blogger like myself, you should join) and shared how I was feeling, and the person who responded to me told a story that described what I was going through exactly.

And then I told someone who I knew would hold me accountable for my actions.

And immediately, I felt an upward shift.  Sharing my problem made me feel better, happier, and then I began to wonder why I had been hiding my feelings for so long.  My friends cared about me.  They didn't judge me and just offered the support that I really needed...and I began to feel better.

The other thing was, I knew other women who had PPD, and I did not feel any disdain for them.  Rather, I had thought to myself, "Oh dear Lord, that sounds horrible.  I'm so grateful that hasn't happened to me."  And I had seen how they had come through it all and I admired their strength.

But what, was my body turning on me?  Again?  I had already felt like that with the gestational diabetes...was my mind going to turn on me too?  And because I was feeling better, I started to think that maybe I had been blowing it out of proportion.  Then I started to wonder if I had PPD after all.  I mean, I was so much happier, and calmer, and even though life was very calamity-filled, I had a good support system--and I even grudgingly admitted how badly I had been feeling to Jon, but then I reassured him I was better, much better.  Things were looking up and so when the nagging, nasty, ugly feelings came back, I tried to brush them off.  A fluke, I told myself.  Today was really freaking stressful, of course I don't feel like I have it together.  

Besides, just a couple weeks ago you were at your six week checkup, and you were fine, you told the doctor you were fine.  And you were!  You were so happy, so grateful that Peanut was such a wonderful baby.  So what, suddenly everything fell apart?  It's in your head, Amanda.  Suck it up.

Other troubling thoughts occurred to me.  Was PPD a mental illness?  Was I mentally ill?  The stigma attached to that term was something I couldn't even countenance.  I refused to accept that there was something wrong with me, and so I buried it again, for a couple weeks.  I reassured myself constantly that things were just ducky, and once all of the current stresses were over, I would be my old self.  I was not sick.  I was not depressed.   This was not happening to me, and that was that.  Nope.  You're fine, princess.  Keep on keeping on.

But then life started to get worse.  More stress.  Things just kept going wrong.  

Then one day Jon came home.  By way of greeting, he said the following to me:  "Hey, so I made you an appointment to see the doctor about your postpartum depression."

I was stunned.  "Oh," I managed.

"I got tired of you dragging your feet on this, and telling me you were going to call the doctor, so I did it for you."

"Gotcha," I said, having been reduced to one-word responses.

"Look, you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to our kids to be healthy.  And you can't take care of them if you can't take care of yourself."  He came and sat down next to me, and I felt tears in my eyes again.  "Are you upset I did that?"

"No," I said.  "No, that...means a lot."  And it did.  It meant a lot of things.  It meant that he had been perceptive enough to know that I was still falling apart, and that he loved me enough to want me to be better.  It meant that he knew what I was going through wasn't good for me or the kids.  But the biggest thing it meant was something I had been afraid to acknowledge, which was it was bad enough for Jon to call my doctor and say, We need to get her help.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

PPD, Part I: The Very Ugly Beginning

I didn't notice until I was in the middle of it, but now that I'm looking back on everything, I can trace it to a moment.  It was probably that first bottle that did me in.

When Peanut (oh yes, baby #3 has a name now) was about seven weeks old, he started getting fussy with breastfeeding.  He was insatiable...and then he stopped pooping, so we went to the pediatrician and found that he wasn't gaining weight anymore.

Supplement him, they told me.  So I came home that evening and gave him an ounce of formula.  One ounce.  One tiny, little ounce.

And that was when Peanut decided he was done with breastfeeding.

I tried, oh, how I tried to get him to do it again.  I would sit there for an hour, refusing to give him anything unless he nursed, while he screamed at me, and then would finally acquiesce.  But then I had to give him a bottle after each nursing session, and then the whole vicious cycle began again.

And then he really wouldn't nurse anymore, and I gave up.  I have two other kids; I couldn't spend my entire day begging and pleading with my infant to nurse.

And that was when things started to go downhill.

Ceasing nursing early makes your body think that your baby died, and to me, it wasn't worth it to pump and get an ounce after half an hour, so I went cold turkey and my milk supply dried up rather quickly.  But I didn't feel right.  Peanut would cry and I wouldn't care.  I was losing my temper at Bug every other hour.  Sweet little Cat wouldn't do anything and I'd be frustrated at him.  I'd sit in the shower and stare at the wall and lose track of time, feeling nothing but numbness even when I turned the temperature to scalding.  Sometimes Jon would come home and find me curled up on the couch with tears streaming down my face because that afternoon had been too much for me.

On top of it all, we then started to have a cacophony of disasters--friends divorcing, ailing family members, you name it, it's been going on.  In addition to getting ready for the move and having to keep the house really super clean because we're showing it, and...

...I started to really derail.

It's not something that I thought would ever happen to me.  I love being a mom, I love my children, I love the fact that I get to stay home with them.  Right now, I'd say about seventy percent of the time, that's my reality and I love my life.

But suddenly there was that other thirty percent.  The time that I spent crying.  The time that I spent trying to hide the crying from Jon.  The time that I spent desperately trying to keep a hold on my temper because I was afraid I was going to lose it with my kids, and I honestly wasn't quite sure what I would do.

And then there was the time that I spent thinking about hurting myself.  Because that happened, too.  

Postpartum depression was not supposed to happen to me.  I had it all together, right?  Everybody told me so, how I always seemed so calm and in control.  So I clung to that image, and pushed the dysfunction I was feeling beneath the surface.  And I did a pretty good job hiding it for awhile.  Outside of a few friends, nobody has had any idea what was really going on with me, because I disguised my inner turmoil so very, very well.  I evaded.  I deflected.  I struggled to be witty and charming and poised and to talk about everything else except for the clawing feeling in the pit of my stomach which kept reminding me that I wasn't alright.  I complained, sure; but I complained about things that didn't matter, like the massive pile of diapers, or my oldest child's refusal to eat anything that doesn't come with french fries.  Because if I focused on those things I didn't have to focus on the ugliness that was growing inside of me.

And then one night I found myself sitting at my computer with tears streaming down my face, and I wasn't really quite sure why.  All I knew was that I felt desperate, and I didn't know what to do.  Should I wake up Jon?  Should I go in the bathroom and play with razors?  Did it even matter?  Honestly, I didn't know, and I felt so raw and volatile, that I was scaring myself.

So I sent an e-mail.