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MidAge Mom is for women who are parenting in midlife rather than celebrating the empty nest on a beach in Bali . . .

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It Could Happen to You

The big lesson from my recent experience with anxiety and depression is that they can strike anyone.

I was perfectly fine before I started to have some physical problems and then severe anxiety and depression almost four years ago. I had had two hip replacements in 2013 – big surgeries – but was recovering nicely and was proud of the progress I was making walking around the golf course.

That summer I travelled to North Carolina twice to drop off and pick up my two girls from camp and went on family trips to Colorado and California. That fall, however, my hands startied to be painful, and I had to get a dictation program called Dragon Dictate for the computer because I couldn’t type.

Then the pain spread and got worse, anxiety and depression hit, and I didn’t travel much again until last summer when, after a round of electroshock or ECT treatments, I went to Colorado with my family. Before that, I spent a lot of time in bed and was hospitalized three times.

Mental Illness Can Be Unpredictable

All of this was the last thing I was expecting. My life was and remains great; I have no reason to be anxious or depressed. I’m happily married, have two wonderful kids who are stable and doing well in school, live in a beautiful old Spanish house and am financially secure with a husband who has tenure.

I have a great nanny/housekeeper who is like family. I even have a good dog. And while my childhood included some challenges, overall I was happy.

When my problems started I was pretty together – the kind of person who is active and has lots of interests. I was in decent shape and went to the gym every day. I had published an award-winning book called  Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life. I liked working as a a writer. I was sending money every month to help support the driver who had worked for me in Nicaragua.

Who would have imagined that I would end up with pain so severe that I could barely walk, sit or drive and a mental condition so bad that I would end up in the hospital?

Recovery

I’ve been feeling like a new person, or rather my old self, since a neurologist put me Lamotrigine a month ago. A  walking EEG test had found seizure activity in my brain. Lamotrigine is for seizures but is also a mood stabilizer. I still don’t know for sure if the drug is the reason I feel better. And I have no idea why the pain suddenly disappeared last summer.

Mental illness can be mysterious.

The Stigmas

It’s easy to stigmatize people facing emotional challenges like depression and anxiety, to believe that they’ve done something wrong. But while I wasn’t perfect when my problems began,, for the most part I was doing things right.

In addition, a lot of people who deal with depression have been doing so for years making it easy to think that if you’ve got a good emotional track record you’re immune. For instance, Scott Stossel, author of the excellent book, My Age of Anxiety, has had psychological problems since he was a child.

Other people go through tough times, suffering the loss of a spouse or a close relative or a divorce, making their emotional problems seem predictable. If you’re not facing such challenges you feel pretty safe. I certainly did.

But the lesson of my experience is that life can take you by surprise and throw you a curve ball.

We need to treat mental illness like any other disease and recognize that, like cancer, it can strike anyone at any time.

I find it all hard to talk about. I have the same preconceptions and prejudices about mental illness that others have. At times I feel like my experience marks me as a weak person.

But I know better and keep putting it out there so other people can realize the truth too.

The bottom line is that every day you feel stable and every moment you are sane is a gift. Because you never know what is going to happen next.

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Do you have preconceptions about mental illness? Share by commenting below! Or contact me at: jenniferbhull@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

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                                                                                      Photo © Giordano Aita

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Why Older Mothers Rock

We all know the disadvantages of having kids late.

It’s harder to get pregnant and pregnancy can be tougher than if you were younger. You’re more likely to develop diabetes or high blood pressure. Your risk of chromosome abnormalities resulting in Down syndrome is also higher.

I had to do fertility treatments and had C-sections with both of my daughters, born when I was 40 and 42.

But actually being an older mom rocks. The benefits of having children over 35 or 40 are significant. The more research they do, the more they seem to find.

Consider five advantages of having kids late:

-Your children are smarter and better educated. Swedish research shows that babies born to older mothers stay in the educational system longer, are more likely to attend college and do better on standardized tests than children born to younger mothers.

-Your children are better behaved. A study done in Denmark found that children of older mothers did better emotionally, socially and behaviorally. This was because their mothers were more psychologically mature than their younger counterparts and, for one, didn’t scold their children as much. Frequent scolding has a negative effect on behavior.

-You live longer. A New England Centenarian study found that women who gave birth in their forties were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who gave birth at a younger age. Perhaps the women who had children late were just in better shape to begin with. But I can also say from experience that having children late keeps you young.

-You’re more emotionally and financially secure. By 40 you and your mate have probably established your careers and are a lot more stable than you were in your twenties.

My husband, Bill, got tenure as a law professor a few months after our first daughter was born, allowing him to share parenting in a way he would not have been able to do otherwise. By the time we had kids, I’d lived in Los Angeles, New York and Nicaragua. I’d gotten a lot out of my system and was ready to settle down in Miami, where we still live 20 years later.

-You’re less likely to experience cognitive decline. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that women have “better brainpower after menopause” if they had their last baby after age 35. Their research cited strong evidence of a “positive association between later age at last pregnancy and late-life cognition.”

That’s not to say it is easy to be an older mom. I have less energy than I would have had at a younger age. But the advantages are significant, and this is only a partial list.

I’m definitely a better parent than I would have been earlier. What about you? Share by commenting below! Or email me at: jenniferbhull@gmail.com

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Rediscovering My Life

I’m rediscovering my life and it feels so good.

For the past four years, I’ve been suffering from depression and severe anxiety. My life has been on hold; it’s often been difficult just to get through the day. My interests during this time have been nonexistent. I’ve barely touched the computer. It has been hard, at times, just to make a decent meal or take a shower. On three occasions I’ve been hospitalized.

The self I’d known had virtually disappeared.

None of the 13 medications from the psychiatrist have helped much. This summer I started getting a bit better, but only after receiving regular electroshock therapy.

Now, however, after a neurological test, they may have found out what is wrong with me. A walking EEG exam revealed seizure activity in my brain that could explain the anxiety I’ve been experiencing. The neurologist put me on a medication called Lamotrigine two weeks ago.

Since then I’ve felt like a new person, or rather, like a person I used to know. After four years away from my life, it feels like I’m discovering it for the first time.

The biggest revelation has been the computer. Though I was doing the basics, like checking email, and taught myself how to blog again this fall, I’d forgotten how to work every other program on my computer. In the last two weeks I’ve used Youtube and Google to relearn programs I haven’t used in years, including Omnifocus, Evernote, Lightroom, Feedly, Twitter, Bitly, Itunes and Devonthink Pro Office. In many cases it’s been like learning them for the first time. I’ve had to reset almost all of my passwords. But it’s felt like Christmas.

I’m also rediscovering our house, where piles of stuff have accumulated during my illness. I cleaned out and threw away scores of old vitamins the other day as well as 11 vials of old medications. Today I purged a pile in the living room with my husband. It was interesting just to see what was in it. And I have only just begun to fight as far as the house goes. Bags of stuff await Goodwill with more to come once I finish the cleanout and my husband catches up with me. (Good luck, Bill.)

I’m also reconnecting with my writing life. I rejoined two writers organizations and have found an entire book on the computer that I’d been writing when I got sick, I don’t know if I’ll finish the book, but at the least it will be interesting to read it and see what’s there. (It’s a first person account of late motherhood but I’m not sure how the last four years fit in.)

I’ve found clothes, shoes and jewelry I’d forgotten I had and have taken a few pieces of the later to be repaired. They’ve been sitting in the closet, broken, for years. I”ve also started listening to podcasts and music again.

I got a new camera, the Nikon D750, and spent last weekend reading the manual. Photography was a big part of my life before I got sick, but I haven’t had any interest in it since. I found a photo processing program in my computer called Lightroom. I don’t have the faintest idea anymore how to work it so I’ve reread a Lightroom book I found on my shelf that I hadn’t opened in years. Yesterday I discovered that I have another book on Lightroom, which was news to me, and which I may reread too.

It’s like starting over or coming out of a time tunnel. Things that are actually quite old, like the versions of my computer programs, feel brand new. And I’m so happy to rediscover them that I don’t care that I’m four years behind the rest of the world or where I would have been had I never gotten sick.

It all makes me believe that we’re only as good as our interests. By rediscovering my life I’m finding myself again. It’s like reuniting with a very good friend but even better because it’s me.

I’d forgotten how much I was involved in and how much I loved my life. Yet God knows, I’ve  missed it.

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Is there part of your life that you’d like to rediscover? Share by commenting below!

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                                                                                      Photo © Flynt

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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