Monday, 31 October 2011

On phobias.

Its Halloween, so here's confession number 5: I am shit scared of frogs.

And I mean SHIT scared!! I have a frog phobia. If I see one, I break into a sweat. Feel panicky. I feel like it's looking at me and about to pounce on me.
I have a hard time even seeing one on tv or in a magazine and even the cartoon ones make my skin crawl (you will note that there is no photo of one here).

In fact, just talking about it now is making me hyperventilate and feel slightly manic. I'm typing with one hand and holding a paper bag to my mouth with the other. (ok slight exaggeration, but you get the picture).

I have got no idea where my phobia comes from. It feels like it's always been there. I'm trying my hardest to not pass it on to my kids. If we are playing outside and I see one, I bring them in as calmly as I can (usually that involves dropping everything and rapidly making our way to the safety of our house whilst trying to convince the kids that playing soccer really isn't that much fun and telling them that we'll go outside again when daddy comes home in a slightly high pitched voice).

And it doesn't matter how big or small the frog is, they are all as equally terrifying to me! And heaven forbid one gets in my shoe!!

I have got no intention of seeing a shrink to sort this one out. I know exactly what they'd do: they would gradually expose me to the source of my fear. First by talking about it, then showing me photos of it, getting me to touch a photo of it and eventually HOLD ONE!!!!!!!!!!


I'll happily live with my phobia of frogs thank you very much!

What irrational fears do you have?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

On the names we give our kids.

Driving back from breakfast with a good friend of mine this morning, and the radio presenter was discussing this new survey, from the website YourBabyDomain, which reveals that 8% of parents regret the name they have given to their child. 8%? That's a lot!

It got me thinking about the role our name plays in shaping our identity. 

There are numerous myths out there that certain names will predetermine your child's personality. Some of the more common ones are boys with names beginning with "J", "Zac", double barrelled names for girls (Kelly-Ann, Jamie-Lee), as well as names with different spellings (for example: Kellee, or Mellonie). These names are all meant to give you little brats.

Now before I start receiving hate mail from all the mummies of Joshs, Zacs and Kelly-Anns, please note that this is NOT my point of view. Merely reporting on what is out there.

There is of course, no evidence to suggest that this is true. Although some teachers will swear they can pick the trouble kids from the list of names they get at the beginning of the semester!

Having said that, I personally think that although the name per se will not determine the child's personality, I believe that often the background history or the meaning of the name can have a profound impact on the person.

For example, it is common in Africa to give names to children that have a meaning, such as "Precious" or "Gift". You've got to feel special when your parent gives you a name like that. On the other hand, some children are given names with meanings such as "Unwanted" or "Another Girl". Anyone care to suggest that would not influence the child's personality?

Another interesting example is Salvador Dali, a surrealist painter, who was also known for his excentricities. His real name was Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech. Quite the name right? But that is not the most striking aspect of his name. His older brother who had died 9 months before Salvador Dali's birth, was also named Salvador. His whole life, Salvador Dali grew up seeing his own name on a grave and told by his parents that he was the reincarnation of his brother. It is postulated that Dali was so excentric as a way of proving to himself and perhaps the world, that he was indeed his own person, separate from his brother, and well and truely alive. 

It can also be argued that showbiz children have got somewhat narcissistic parents whose children's names become a reflection of themselves. A way of standing out and being unique. 
We have all heard of Apple, Bronx and Brooklyn, Prince and Blanket. And did you know that one of Michael Jackson's nephews is called Jermajesty??

Could a child named Jermajesty really grow up to be humble? I have my doubts.

All that to say that naming your child Jordan will not mean that you have created a little terror. But to a certain extent, the name you pick can influence your child's personality. So choose wisely!

What do you think? Any teachers out there care to comment? What names did you choose? Do you have any regrets?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

On Crying

I have a confession: I like to cry. No wait. I luuuuuuve to cry.

Crying makes me feel so good! Having said that. I don't cry all that much. I used to cry more but these days I'm just too tired to cry!

I watch soppy movies just to cry.
I cry when I want something from my husband (and it works everytime ;) - he melts with my first tear).
Sometimes I imagine something happening to one of my kids and I cry (I know, crazy right? but I did say I'd 'bare it all').
Oh, and I cry when I'm happy too.

I actually think that I'm healthier BECAUSE I cry.
Crying is good for you. It lets some of those emotions out. They say "People who don't cry are full of tears" and I think there is some truth to that. People who don't cry are not happier. They are just not showing how sad or unhappy they are.

People who don't express their emotions through crying or writing or singing at the top of their voices (whatever works for you - if I sang it'd only make others cry!) are left to carry those emotions for as long as they will not express them. So isn't it better to get rid of it now?

(Perhaps I should remember that next time my kids are having a "crying day"!)

I had a patient say to me once that if she leaves my office without having cried, she feels like she hasn't got her money's worth. So if I have a patient who is clearly trying to hold back tears, I will push them to cry, because I know that when they cry, they leave a little of the hurt behind.

So CRY I say! You may not feel very good while you are crying, but trust me, in the long run, you'll thank me. Sit down, have a good cry, but don't wallow in it. After you've had a good cry, pick yourself up and get going again.

I love crying. I only wish I could have a beautiful Demi-Moore-in-Ghost kinda cry. Mine is more of a blotchy face, sobbing kind of cry.

It might sound like I'm a blubbering mess half the time, but I actually can't remember the last time I cried, so it can't be happening all that often.

So help me out! Recommend a sad movie! And lets all cry and make the world a healthier place!

Monday, 24 October 2011

On a tragedy.

Be warned.
This is not a feel good post.
This is just purely me spilling my guts.
Don't read on if you are sensitive. It "contains material which you may find disturbing".

I've just seen this video of a little girl, probably 2 or 3 years old, getting hit by a mini van who then drives off. It's a busy enough street and people walk past her again and again. 18 people in total. Most walk around her. Some stop and look and then carry on. Another car comes by and drives over her legs again. The whole time, she is alive and moving. Someone finally drags her to the side of the road.

She died in hospital the following day.
This is the video link if you don't believe me.

I feel sick.
What kind of a world do we live in that we can walk past a little girl bleeding in the middle of the road as if she was a bit of road kill?

What kind of people are we? How can this be happening?

I'm lost for words to explain how I feel right now. I want to scream. I want to disappear. I want to explain to someone that these people and I are not from the same race. But we are. And I am ashamed of that.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

On Motherhood: The Myths

So you've just brought your newborn baby home.Your motherly instincts have kicked in and you know exactly what she needs. You recognise her cries. You spend hours looking into her eyes, feel fulfilled. In short, this is the best time of your life... right?


If you are like 80% of women, you are suffering (or have suffered) from the baby blues and if you are really unlucky, you have Postnatal depression (10% of women). In other words, you are feeling overwhelmed, sleep deprived, anxious, perhaps depressed, and you may even be regretting ever having a baby. Your time is no longer yours but dictated by your baby's needs, you have become an expert at taking 2.5 minute long showers and you can't even go to the toilet on your own (Admit it!)
And lets not even mention the guilt when you do have those thoughts of sending your little bundle of joy back!

So how come no one ever told you about this? How come you got bombarded with images of happy mummies, gazing into the eyes of their baby for hours on end (when all you want to do is go back to bed), and how come all the 'experienced' mothers told you about how much they would "love to have another baby"! and "how lucky you are"?

Long answer.

But in short: when your family and friends (and sometimes strangers) are telling you how wonderful this time of your life is meant to be, what else can you say but... "oh it is... hubby and I can't wait to have another one!"

Don't get me wrong. Having a baby IS an amazing experience! But society has supported a number of myths about motherhood, which frankly are not at all useful. But you will no doubt hear them mentioned by well meaning relatives and friends. And what do you say when aunty Joy suggests you may want to eat more fatty foods to increase your milk production?
Here are a number of common myths about motherhood, as well as some more realistic beliefs you may find useful:

Myth: "Motherhood is a woman's ultimate fulfillment" or "Being a mother is the best experience you will EVER have"

The truth: Motherhood is a difficult, but rewarding job, that involves working long hours with little respite.

Myth: A mother instantly feels love for her baby.

In reality: A mother may feel love for her baby as soon as it is born but this “falling in love” is more likely to occur over time as she gets to know her baby. It may take you days, weeks or even months before you bond with your baby. It is all right.

Myth: Expressing your own needs makes you a selfish mother.

Actually: A mother must express her own needs. You need to nurture yourself to be able to nurture your family.

Myth: Breastfeeding comes naturally.

Any mum who has breastfed (or tried to), knows that: Whilste breastfeeding is natural, it does not come naturally. It is something both your baby and you are going to have to learn to do together.

Myth: A mother can automatically interpret her baby's cries.

Sure! (note sarcasm!). With time, you will learn to interpret most of your baby's cries. You are allowed to make mistakes while you learn.

Myth: Your instincts will ensure you know how to mother.
Let's be clear: Instincts can be very useful. However, a woman has to learn to be a mother and this takes time and practice.

In short, Motherhood is indeed fulfilling but it may also be the hardest time of your life. You will survive it. After all, you are neither the first nor the last. However, approaching it with a more balanced and realistic perspective will hopefully soften the blow.

Funny thing is... one day, you too will look back at this time in your life with fondness and will tell the next generation how it was... "the best time of your life...

Friday, 21 October 2011

On Sex

I read a story not long ago about this man who is trying to understand what sex means to his wife.

So he asks: would you rather go away on holidays overseas or have sex?
To which she replies "go away on holidays" with no hesitation whatsoever.

Then he asks: what about a week-end trip?
Again, she picks the week-end trip.

A nice dinner? "Yes rather that than sex thank you!"
A walk on the beach?
A chocolate?

And so he works his way down the list until she agrees that she might prefer to have sex than clean the oven.

I laughed and laughed... and laughed some more.

The reason I thought this was so funny of course, is because I FEEL EXACTLY LIKE THAT! (And I bet many of you do too!)

Indeed, sex has become just another chore I do at the end of the day (thankfully not every day!), after the dishes are done and the kids are tucked in.

It wasn't always like that. Once upon a time it was fun. We couldn't wait to get back to bed. We'd wake up at two in the morning and have more sex. We could have sex on the kitchen benchtop without risking the kids walking in on us! 

But, gone are the days...

These days, given the choice between sleep and sex, sleep wins hands down ANY night!  

Any men reading this (and perhaps some ladies too) must be thinking: my poor husband! So deprived!

Not so.

So what is my secret you ask? I just do it! Now before all you feminist ladies start screaming, hear me out. I am not at all suggesting anyone do anything they don't want to do. All I am saying is, if you just 'go with the motion' (no pun intended!), more often than not, you (or at least I) end up enjoying it. And then I think to myself "It wasn't that bad. We should do that more often".

And how I wish I could tell my patients that. When couples come in (I haven't yet seen a couple in therapy who do not complain in some shape or form about their sex life), I wish I could say to the wife "Just do it! Just give it to him. It'll shut him up and you might find it isn't that bad after all." But that would not go down very well. So I sit there like the good psychologist that I am, and we talk about her emotional needs and his need for the maternal breast (ok I'm exaggerating a bit here, but you get the idea).

So next time your partner starts complaining about not getting enough sex, think about 'just doing it'.
This psychologist recommends it!

Anna M.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

On Being Psycho Mum

Being a mum and a psychologist may seem like a good deal. I have all the tools to deliver the best upbringing to my child whilst knowing just what to do to remain sane myself right? Well... not quite!

Sure I know all the theories (some of them contradictory mind you) and I counsel other mums on the best techniques to manage their bundles of joy when they are not being so... joyous.

BUT... I also live in the real world and when my child is throwing a tantrum, no matter how hard I try, I do not always manage to "label his feelings, try to distract him and finally walk away to give him some space to express his emotions - and all of that while staying calm and collected myself". No, I lose it sometimes. I want to scream and sometimes I want to run away. Mostly I hide it, sometimes I raise my voice. Thankfully, I never totally lose it and hurt my child.

The hardest part about who I am though, is knowing exactly what the "damage" is when I am not being the perfect mum I dream about. I think about how he will feel 'abandonned' when I choose to take some time out for myself. I worry about being over-protective and turning him into a man who cannot fend for himself. I lose sleep over having another child because of the distress he will go through when he is no longer the centre of my world.

All of it I do realise is absolute bullshit! He is not the first one, nor the last one to go through the normal upsets of life and he will be just fine. But sometimes knowing too much is just that: too much. Sometimes I wish I was blissfully ignorant.

And then I think to myself, I do a good enough job. I spend quality time with him. I take good care of his physical needs. We  play, we laugh. And above all, I love him and he knows it. And if I do nothing else right, I will do this: make sure that he always knows his mummy loves him.

So next time the shrink is telling you about the latest approach to managing your child and you wonder how come they seem so much better at this than you, just remember, they have probably also spent time locked up in the toilet for a few minutes of time out from the kids. If they say they haven't, they are either lying or they don't have kids!

Anna M. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

On spilling my guts.

If you've ever been to a psychologist (and if that psychologist was any good), you would've experienced this very unique relationship where you are expected to spill your guts out, whilst the shrink sits there, giving you encouraging nods and the occasional "unh unh".

You may get the odd bit of information out of them, but mostly (again if they are any good) it's pretty much a one way verbal vomit from you (or not if you are being difficult :)).

I know, because I'm a psychologist. There are a whole heap of very good reasons why we do that, and some day I might go into it. But that's not why we're here.

We are here because I've decided to turn the tables around. Here, I spill my guts. All of it. About what us psychologists REALLY think about you, about what we don't want you to know, about what we want you to think, about what works and what doesn't, and about what we are really thinking when we say "you're doing so well!".

I should put a disclaimer here about the fact that I cannot talk for all the psychologists out there and no doubt some of them will have something to say about my thoughts but i can pretty much guarantee that some (read most) of my colleagues will be quietly nodding and even giving me the occasional "unh unh".

Why am i doing this you ask? Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to sit across from you, listening to your stories and not be able to say "I know!! My husband drives me nuts too!!" or "you did what????". Instead, we sit there, nodding and unh unhing.

Well no more!! And if no one wants to read what I have to say, that's quite alright. I'll feel so much better anyway for having spilt my guts.