Changed

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This was the prayer that changed Lisa’s life.

Before she prayed it one night in her room,

she was a selfish person.  She went about

her busy life, not having time for anyone.

She went to church, yes, but she never

expressed any interest in being involved

in any of the ministries.  She didn’t attend

the afternoon programs or prayer meetings.

She never joined the youth group who

visited the senior homes.  She left church

soon after the service ended.

 

She didn’t visit her family often and

when she did, she found them all very tiresome.

She preferred to be on her own.  She spent

most of her time reading a book, watching TV

or browsing shops in the mall.  Her relationships

didn’t last.  All of her exes got tired of giving and

not getting much back.

 

She managed to convince herself that she was

satisfied with how her life was.  No obligations, no

commitments and no constraints.  She was free to

come and go as she pleased.  In her estimation, she

was doing just fine.

 

But God had other plans for her.  One evening she

watched a story of an older woman named Edith

who was always kind to everyone.  She had to go to

hospital for tests.  It turned out that she was terminally

ill.  Instead of sinking into depression and being angry

at God, she accepted her fate.  She spent the time she

had in the hospital telling everyone who would listen

about Jesus.  She helped a young girl who was pregnant

and unwed.  She didn’t judge her but spoke kindly to her.

She gave her the name and address of a women’s shelter

where she could go and stay until she was able to find a job

and raise her baby.  Edith didn’t think about herself.  She

was always reaching out to those around her, talking to

them, encouraging them and sharing her faith with them.

 

By the time Edith died, many of the people whose lives

she touched accepted Jesus.  Before the movie ended,

Lisa was sobbing uncontrollably.  This woman’s unselfish

character and love for others made her feel ashamed.  She

knew that if she had been in Edith’s shoes, she would have

been lashing out and asking God why.  Not once did this

gentle woman do that.  She was always saying, “That she

was looking forward to going to sleep and then waking up

when the trumpet sounded and her Jesus came to take her

home.

 

Lisa got down on her knees and poured her heart out to

God, begging Him to forgive her and the words of the

Psalm came to her.  God answered her prayer.   Now,

she was a driver for a senior centre.   She took clients for

their appointments, treatment programs, shopping, banking

and other daily chores.  The hours were flexible.  She

loved what she was doing.

 

Like Edith, she shared her faith every opportunity she had.

She attended prayer meetings and participated in church

programs and events.  Her time was better spent now and she

felt a joy and peace she had never experienced before.  Her family

noticed the changes in her and were impressed.

 

And on a more personal note, she was in a new relationship.

He was a volunteer at the senior centre.  So far, so good.  Only

time would tell.  For now, she was happy serving the Lord who

had opened her eyes to her true spiritual condition and had

brought her to the place He had prepared for her.   He had given

her a completely different outlook and a new purpose for her life.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

 

assisted-living-care3-720

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway;  Lumacare

 

Women and Mental Health

May 1-7 has been Mental Health awareness week.

One in three Americans struggles with mental illness but the rate is much higher in women.  Research shows that women are 40% more likely to develop depression than men.  It is not clear why mental illness is more common among women but doctors have come up with a number of possibilities.

Discrimination, Trauma and stressful life experiences

Trauma is common among women with half of them experiencing some form of trauma in their lifetime.  One in four women have faced an attempted or a completed sexual assault.  Reportedly, one in three are abused by a domestic partner.  Gender discrimination, violence and mistreatment undermine a woman’s mental health.  Stress is a predictor of mental illness.  Women juggle housework, kids even while working fulltime.  They report that they have to work harder to get the same credit as men and worry about the gender wage gap.  They have to deal with sexual harassment and discrimination in workplaces where these are commonplace.  These challenges can significantly affect a woman’s ability to cope and her self-esteem.

Hormonal Issues

Women produce lower quantities of serotonin than men due to differences in hormone levels and this deficiency can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

41% or women suffer from some form of postpartum depression.  Some of them are overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, especially in the early days.  I remember that there were times when I felt that I was drowning–in over my head.  Once I even cried out while I was holding my toddler.  Thankfully I had God and a very supportive partner.  It helped when he came home and I had an adult to talk to. Not all women are as blessed.  Research shows that women who don’t have supportive partners, experience traumatic births, live in poverty or a highly stressed will most likely develop postpartum depression.  

Gender bias is another problem women face.  Some research suggests that doctors tend to label women’s symptoms as emotional while taking the men’s symptoms more seriously.  So, a woman who reports that she is experiencing chronic pain to her doctor might be labeled as depressed.  This happens because we live in a world where gender discrimination exists and women are seen as more emotional and less rational.  

In many countries, the way health workers spoke to the women made it difficult for them to disclose their psychological and emotional distress.  And when they worked up the courage to disclose their problems, they were either over-treated or under treated by many of the health workers.

I read in an article in The Globe And Mail that women are getting the prescription that is available more often than the treatment they need.  They are getting medication to solve their problems even when science finds that treatments such as psychotherapy is equally or in some cases more effective without the side effects.  Bias in mental health care is a hindrance to women, preventing them from getting the proper help they need.  Not much effort goes into researching how drugs affect female patients.  While drug companies like to bombard women with their pills, most of their clinical trials have been dominated by men.  And the ironic thing is that the disorders most commonly diagnosed in women such as depression, anxiety and insomnia are the ones most likely to respond to therapy.  Most women are likely to prefer therapy over drugs.  

According to Dr. Marina Morrow, a Simon Fraser University psychologist who studies gender and mental health, “Women aren’t getting access to the range of care they need.”  She believes that an effective approach to this would be to include medication when necessary but in also offer therapy, peer support and pinpoint what social circumstances lead to the illness.

It has been argued that therapy is the safer, more effective and cheaper choice.  The authors of a 2015 study by Canadian and U.S. researchers concluded that, “There remains no sound justification to prescribe drugs without first trying therapy.  Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health, believes that “the way we fund therapies in Canada does not make sense right now.”  She wrote a letter to Quebec’s health minister to make the point that even if 20 per cent of seniors with insomnia received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with is used to treat insomnia, the cost-savings to the system could be in the hundreds of millions, based on the potential falls that would be avoided.  Therapy saves on costly and debilitating falls and hip fractures.  

We live in a country where medication is favored over psychotherapy and women are more likely than men to be prescribed antidepressants and sedatives as seniors and as a result they are at a higher risk of suffering from adverse effects.  Hopefully more women and those in the medical profession will speak out against the bias that is prevalent in the mental health care.  Doctors and those in the health care system need to give women more choices when it comes to treatment.  It’s their health so they should have the right to determine how they want to proceed once they have been diagnosed.

depressed woman

Women and Shingles

I found out last week that my mother who suffers from Parkinson’s has Shingles.  From what I have seen of Shingles it looks very painful.  I wanted to find out more about it so I decided to surf the Internet and get as much information as I could.

What is Shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster or just zoster, occurs when a virus in nerve cells becomes active again later in life and causes a skin rash.

The virus that causes shingles, the varicella-zoster virus, is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is a member of the herpes virus family. Once you have had chickenpox, varicella-zoster virus remains in your body’s nerve tissues and never really goes away. It is inactive, but it can be reactivated later in life. This causes shingles.

Doctors aren’t sure how or why the varicella-zoster virus reactivates, but they believe your immune system’s response to the virus weakens over the years after childhood chickenpox. When the virus reactivates, it travels through nerves, often causing a burning or tingling sensation in the affected areas. Two or three days later, when the virus reaches the skin, blisters appear grouped along the affected nerve. The skin may be very sensitive, and you may feel a lot of pain.

If you have had chickenpox, you are at risk of developing shingles. However, the virus doesn’t reactivate in everyone who has had chickenpox. Shingles most often appears in people older than 50 and in people with weakened immune systems. If you are having treatment for cancer, for example, you are more likely to get shingles. People with HIV commonly get shingles, which is often one of the first signs that the immune system is in trouble.  Your chances of getting shingles increase as you get older, although the disease can occur at any age. When shingles appears in children, which is uncommon, it usually is very mild. Up to 20% of people in the United States develop the disease at some point (Women’s Health).

None of my sisters nor I ever have Chicken Pox as a child but later when we as adults, my sister and I got it from our mother.  I still have the marks.  I am hoping that I am one of the people in whom the virus does not reactivate.

 

493x335_psoriasis_ra_and_shingles

Recently I have seen a commercial where a person has Shingles and it looks painful.  The rash on one side of  the man’s body looked red and very painful.  When I browsed the Internet, I saw pictures that made me cringe.  How those people must have suffered.  I think of my mother and I hope and pray that she isn’t in much pain.

What are the symptoms?

Pain

Symptoms of shingles are similar in men and women. The first and most common symptom of shingles is usually pain. This pain typically occurs before any rash is present and is sometimes called the warning stage of shingles. Women often describe a tingling, burning pain or an area of intense sensitivity on their skin. This often happens in a small area that is on one side of the body only. The pain may be mild or intense enough to require treatment with painkillers. The pain may last for a few days, may come and go or may be constant. It may continue once the rash and blisters form and usually lessens when the rash disappears.

Rash and Blisters

Another symptom of shingles is a rash that turns into fluid-filled blisters. This usually appears a few days or a week after skin pain starts. The blisters form a crusty scab in about 7 to 10 days and typically clear up in 2 to 4 weeks. The difference between the rash of chickenpox and that of shingles is that shingles usually appears on one side of the body only. Shingles commonly appears in a belt-like band around the midsection, corresponding to skin along the path of one nerve. Sometimes the rash appears on one side of the face and follows the major facial nerve, or it can involve more than just a single area of skin. Some cases of shingles have only a few or even no blisters. A shingle diagnosis can be missed in this case. Shingles without any rash or blisters is called zoster sine herpete.

Other Symptoms

Once the rash appears, women sometimes report flu-like symptoms, such as headache, upset stomach, fever and chills. About half of the people who have rash along the facial nerve experience eye complications. These complications are generally seen as inflammation of different parts of the eye and may involve a mucus or pus-like discharge and sensitivity to light. Eye problems from shingles are very serious and should be evaluated by a doctor immediately. Some women experience a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. This condition is pain that continues even after the shingles rash is gone. The pain has been described as a constant burning that hurts to the touch or pressure from clothing. It usually resolves on its own, but resolution can take 6 months to a year or even longer (Live Strong).

 

Shingles and pregnancy

Pregnant women can get shingles, but it is rare. While chickenpox can pose a very serious risk to a fetus, there is almost no risk to the fetus if the mother gets shingles. The symptoms of shingles are the same in pregnant and non-pregnant women. Any area of skin that has pain, tingling, itching or burning — even without a rash or blister — should be brought to the attention of a doctor, as this could be the early stages of shingles (Live Strong).  Thankfully, I got chickenpox years before I got pregnant.

 

Does Shingles affect women differently from men? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Most, but not all, studies found that more women than men develop herpes zoster [1,2]; the reason for a possible difference between women and men is not known.
  • Some studies conducted in the United States and elsewhere found that herpes zoster is less common in blacks (by at least 50%) than in whites.[3]

 

How is Shingles Treated?

Self-care

If you develop the shingles rash, there are a number of things you can do to help relieve your symptoms, such as:

  • keeping the rash as clean and dry as possible – this will reduce the risk of the rash becoming infected with bacteria
  • wearing loose-fitting clothing – this may help you feel more comfortable
  • not using topical (rub-on) antibiotics or adhesive dressings such as plasters – this can slow down the healing process
  • using a non-adherent dressing (a dressing that will not stick to the rash) if you need to cover the blisters – this avoids passing the virus to anyone else

Calamine lotion has a soothing, cooling effect on the skin and can be used to relieve the itching.

If you have any weeping blisters, you can use a cool compress (a cloth or a flannel cooled with tap water) several times a day to help soothe the skin and keep blisters clean.

It’s important to only use the compress for around 20 minutes at a time and stop using them once the blisters stop oozing. Don’t share any cloths, towels or flannels if you have the shingles rash.

Antiviral medication

As well as painkilling medication, some people with shingles may also be prescribed a course of antiviral tablets lasting 7 to 10 days. Commonly prescribed antiviral medicines include aciclovir, valaciclovir and famciclovir.

These medications cannot kill the shingles virus, but can help stop it multiplying. This may:

Antiviral medicines are most effective when taken within 72 hours of your rash appearing, although they may be started up to a week after your rash appears if you are at risk of severe shingles or developing complications.

Side effects of antiviral medication are very uncommon, but can include:

 

Can Shingles Be Prevented?

Currently, there is no way to predict an outbreak of shingles.  Researchers have shown that giving older people a stronger form of the chicken pox vaccine used for children can boost the type of immunity believed necessary to hold the virus in check. Zostavax, a shingles vaccine developed by Merck, has been approved by the FDA. An initial study in people with HIV showed that Zostavax was safe and effective (The Body).

 

Is Shingles Contagious?

Shingles is not contagious (able to spread) in the sense that people who are exposed to a patient with shingles will not “catch shingles.” Anyone who has already had chickenpox or has received the chickenpox vaccine, and is otherwise healthy, should be protected and at no risk when around a patient with shingles. However, people who have never had chickenpox and have not received the chickenpox vaccine are susceptible to infection by a patient with shingles. These susceptible people, if exposed to the shingles virus, will not develop shingles, but they could develop chicken pox. However, people who have never had chickenpox and have not received the chickenpox vaccine are susceptible to infection by a patient with shingles. These susceptible people, if exposed to the shingles virus, will not develop shingles, but they could develop chicken pox. Such susceptible individuals include babies, young children, and unvaccinated individuals, so people with shingles are actually contagious for VZV infections in the form of chickenpox. Consequently, these individuals may get shingles at a later time in life, as can anyone who has had chickenpox. Covering the rash that occurs with shingles with a dressing or clothing helps decrease the risk of spreading the infection to others. Pregnant women are not unusually susceptible to shingles but if shingles develops near the end of pregnancy, the fetus may be harmed (eMedicineHealth).

 

Vaccines for Shingles

The shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is recommended for adults age 60 and older, whether they’ve already had shingles or not. Although the vaccine is approved for people age 50 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn’t recommending it until you reach age 60.

The shingles vaccine is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm. The most common side effects of the shingles vaccine are redness, pain, tenderness, swelling and itching at the injection site, and headaches.

Some people report a chickenpox-like rash after getting the shingles vaccine.

Although some people will develop shingles despite vaccination, the vaccine may reduce the severity and duration of it.

The shingles vaccine isn’t recommended if you:

  • Have ever had an allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine
  • Have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
  • Are receiving immune system-suppressing drugs or treatments, such as steroids, adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), radiation or chemotherapy
  • Have cancer that affects the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

The cost of the shingles vaccine may not be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or insurance.  Check your plan (Mayo Clinic).  One of my co-workers got the vaccine this year and recommends that I get one too.

 

shingles-s16-photo-of-woman-receiving-vaccine

 

Is there a Cure?

There is no cure for shingles, but treatment can help ease your symptoms until the condition improves. In many cases, shingles gets better within around two to four weeks.  However, it’s still important to see your GP as soon as possible if you recognize the symptoms of shingles, as early treatment may help reduce the severity of the condition and the risk of potential complications (NHS Choices).

 

Caring for Shingles

How to care for a Patient with Shingles

If you are helping to care for someone with shingles and particularly if they are elderly, then here are some ideas to make life more comfortable for them:

  • As soon as the rash appears and has been diagnosed as shingles, start treatment. If treatment can be commenced within two or three days of the outbreak, the shingles will be less severe and there is less chance of the patient going on to suffer from postherpetic neuralgia.
  • You cannot catch shingles by touching the sore skin or the bed or chair where the person has been lying or sitting so if wearing less clothing will make the patient more comfortable then encourage this. Some people with shingles are very sensitive to touch so try to touch only the side of the body that does not have the rash.
  • You can catch chicken pox from a person with shingles blisters so keep anyone who has never had chicken pox away from the patient.  (This particularly applies to pregnant women where there is a danger to the unborn fetus).
  • Relieve any discomfort with cool compresses unless your patient finds it makes the pain worse.
  • Look for ways to relieve the stress of the pain for your patient such as meditation or listening to soothing music.
  • Make sure your patient has a pain reliever if necessary and you may need a prescription for something to help insomnia if this is a problem. In some cases, the pain can be very severe and with such pain, it is hard to find a comfortable position whether sitting, lying down or walking around.  Your patient needs as much sleep as possible.
  • Constant pain can affect your patient’s appetite – try to encourage your patient to eat well (you may need to provide extra tasty treats).
  • Constant pain can also make your patient cross, sad or depressed – this will need extra patience and kindness on your part (Healing Natural Oils).

My mother is doing well.  She is on an anti-viral drug and not in any pain.  I was relieved to find out that her blisters are on her arm and not on her face.  She is frustrated because she is quarantined but the nursing home has to do what is best for all the residents.  I hope she gets better soon.  In the meantime, my family and I will do as she requested and stay away.

If you have a loved one who has Shingles, call them often.   Hearing from you may bring them some comfort.

 

Sources:  Live Strong; Women’s Health; Mayo Clinic; The Body; CDC; eMedicine Health; Healing Natural Oils

Kalavati’s Story

There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children – Kailash Satyarthi, founder of GoodWeave

She Just Wanted to be Like Other Children

Imagine what it would be like if your son or daughter was forced into child labor.  On the Voices of America (VOA) site I saw a photo of five year old Pakisthani girl named Naginah Sadiq.  She worked in a brick factory.  In the photo she was resting on a bed next to her 8 month old sister Shahzadi on World Day Against Child Labor on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on June 12, 2012.  She was wearing dirty clothes and was barefeet.  Her hands and feet were dirty.  She looked so tiny.  How could she work in a brick factory?  This photo was taken three years ago.  Is she still working there?  Will her baby sister be forced to work once she turns five?  Millions of children are forced into child labor in order to support their families.

I’m sure that Naginah would rather be like other children who get to play, have no responsibilities and go to school–things that our own children take for granted.  Growing up, I didn’t have to worry about anything.  There was always food on the table, clothes for me to wear and I went to school.  I didn’t do any housework.  I played with my friends or spent most of my time reading and writing.  Life was good for me.  I had a decent childhood.  This is the kind of childhood that children like Kalavati could only dream of.

Can you imagine how eleven year old Kalavati felt when she saw other children playing without a care in the world while she worked alongside her mother?  She had been working since she was eight years old.  At eight I was probably still playing with dolls.  Kalavati had to work in order to support her family.  She had no choice.  Her father lost his job because someone had performed witchcraft on him, causing him to be mentally disturbed.  He stopped showing up for work and then he disappeared.  Days, weeks, months and a year passed but there was still no sign of him.

Then one day, while walking through the village, Kalavati’s mother, Bhama saw a crazed looking man, sitting under a tree.  He was naked and alone.  He had a long beard and at first she didn’t recognize him.  Then she realized that it was Deval, her husband.  She took him home where he was welcomed by the family who were relieved and overjoyed to see him.  The joy didn’t last, though.  Deval was not in his right mind.  They took him to the hospital to be treated but that didn’t work.  He was violent and no one could control him.  His story reminded me of the one about the man who was living among the tombs in the country of the Gadarenes because he had many demons.  He was violent and no one went near him.   Deval began to throw stones at the villagers.  He was not the same because of the curse someone put on him.

She Just Wanted to be Like Other Children

Tired of dealing with Deval’s violent behavior, the villagers drove the family out of their home.  Life went from bad to worst for Kalavati.  Now she had no home or support from the neighbors.  The family went to the big city where Bhama hoped to find work.  For days they lived and begged on the streets until Bhama finally found work as a maid in a farmhouse.  Unfortunately, this job was not enough.  It didn’t provide the family with the relief they needed.  Bhama worked day and night but it was not enough to provide two meals a day.   Kalavati helped her mother with the laundry and cleaning of the utensils in the house but all the while she wished she could be like the owner’s children.  She saw them studying and wished she could do the same.  At that moment education seemed far out of her reach.  It was merely a dream that would never come true.

What touched me as I read this story was when Bhama became so discouraged because her husband was not getting well in spite of the treatment he was getting with the money she had borrowed from her employer that she was convinced that the only way to save her family from the ever-growing burdens was to poison them and herself.  It was at that moment when God intervened.

It was around this time that the Bridge of Hope staff members visited the family.  They listened as Bhama told them that she didn’t believe in God and revealed her plans to commit suicide.  They told her about Jesus and prayed with the family.

Bhama had a change of heart about God after her encounter with the believers and when she saw some improvement in Deval.  She knew that this miracle could only have been the result of the believers’ prayers.  This prompted her to visit the Bridge of Hope center the next day and ask if they would enroll Kalavati.  The dream that had seemed impossible for Kalavati became a reality!  She attended the center the following week.  The staff members continued to ask God to heal Deval and for Bhama to find stable work so that she could provide for her family.  God answered their prayers.  Bhama found a stable gardening job at the local hospital.  Kalavati helps her sometimes but not because she has to.

Kalavati can be like other children.  She plays and draw pictures.  And she is getting an education.  She has something far better than what the children of her mother’s ex-employer had–she has Jesus in her life.  Thanks to the Gospel for Asia workers, Kalavati and her family learned about Jesus.  She is thriving at the Bridge of Hope center.  She has reason now to dance and play with her classmates.  The love of Jesus has transformed her world.  There is hope now when there was so much despair.  Her father is improving a little at a time.  He is no longer aggressive and violent toward others.  He eats meals with his wife and daughter and attends church with them.  Together they worship the One who saved their lives.

Just think, there was a time when Bhama thought there was no hope.  She saw no way out of her despair.  She saw no end to the family’s struggles.  But God does not give us more than we can handle.  He sees what we are going through and He intervenes.  Thanks to the Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope ministry, Bhama came to know the God she had not believed in.  He had revealed Himself through the changes He had brought into her life.  God revealed Himself in a very profound way and helped Bhama to do what she could not do in her own strength.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

Pray that God will intervene in the lives of other children who are trapped in child labor or families who are forced to beg in order to survive.  You can make a difference.  You can sponsor Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope ministry so that they are able to reach out to families like Kalavati’s and share with them the hope that they can find only in Jesus.  Or you can sponsor a child like Kalavati and change a family.

With God’s help, you can help Asian boys and girls to be like other children who are free to play and draw and do the things that children do.  You can help to protect them from those who would rob them of their childhood and innocence, deny them a bright future and crush their hopes and dreams.

Deliver the poor and needy;  Free them from the hand of the wicked – Psalm 82:4

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; AZ Quotes; VOA

Women and Postpartum Depression

For 1 in 8 women, new motherhood is anything but joyous – Health.com

Mother In Nursery Suffering From Post Natal Depression

Postpartum depression is a very real and very serious problem for many mothers. It can happen to a first time mom or a veteran mother. It can occur a few days… or a few months after childbirth – Richard J. Codey

Recently on the news I saw that Drew Barrymore admitted that she suffered from postpartum depression after she had her second daughter.  It was a short-lived experience.  It lasted about six months. She was grateful for the experience because it was a constant reminder to stay present in the moment.  Her motto was, “one thing at a time.”

I have heard quite a bit about postpartum depression but this time I wanted to educate myself about it and my heart was touched by the experiences women go through.  First of all, I want to point out that it’s a real and serious condition.   I was appalled at how women with postpartum depression were treated.  Stigma, disbelief and lack of support from others prevent them from getting the treatment they desperately need.  So, they suffer in silence.  How terrible it is for a woman who has images of her child drowning in the bathtub or being smothered on his burp cloth, fearing for her sanity but is afraid to say anything so she keeps it from her husband for as long as she could. And how sad it is that a woman should feel judged for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression because of the mistaken belief that depressed mothers are self-centered and weak.

Women who have postpartum depression feel a triple whammy of the stigma reserved for people with mental illnesses.  Not only are they brought down by what many expect to be the happiest even in a woman’s life–the birth of a child–but also total honesty about their emotional state could invite scorn or even a visit from social services (Health.com).  

“We’re suffering from an illness that cannot be seen.  We don’t have a fever, swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea.  No open wounds that will not heal–at least not the kind you can see with the naked eyes.  So, many wonder if we’re really sick at all – Katherine Stone

Psychologist Shoshana Bennett, founder and director of Postpartum Assistance for Mothers endured two life-threatening postpartum depressions in the mid-1980s, at the time when help for women in her condition was hard to find.  “I was quite suicidal.  My doctor told me to go and get my nails done,” Bennett recalls.  Can you imagine going to your doctor because you are feeling suicidal and being told to go and get your nails done?  It didn’t help that she had an unsympathetic mother-in-law who, believe it or not, had been a postpartum nurse for years.  The mother-in-law had given birth to five children and had not suffered from baby blues with any of them.  When Bennett’s husband asked his mother what was wrong with his wife, her response was, “She’s spoiled.  It’s not just about her anymore.”

Bennett’s husband was angry, confused and upset with her.  Bennett hated herself and things got worse after her first child was born.   She was 40 pounds overweight and very depressed.  She went to her ob-gyn for help.  When she told him, “If life’s gonna be like this, I don’t wanna be here.”  His response?  He laughed and said that all women go through this.  So, there was Bennett, suffering from postpartum depression, with no support or help.  It was her own experience that motivated her to become a licensed therapist, specializing in postpartum depression so that she could counsel women who are going through what she did.

Sometimes women are given medications with terrible side effects.  Katherine Stone experienced this when the first psychiatrist she went to treated her with four or five medications.  She had to find a practitioner who specialized in the treatment of postpartum mental disorders.  She discovered the hard way that no all psychiatrists are experts in treating postpartum depression. “So many psychiatrists don’t understand the condition, don’t have the tools to treat this, and aren’t trained in varying ways in which women with this disorder need to be cared for,” she says.

It is recommended that you ask your ob-gyn, nurses and social workers if the hospital in which you delivered offers postpartum depression services or sponsors support groups for new moms. Ruta Nonacs, MD, Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Health at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, recommends, “Call Postpartum Support International (800-944-4773) to find a support group near you.  I also recommend seeing your family doctor.  They’re treating people with depression all the time and can also help with referral to a therapist.”

How can you tell that you have postpartum depression?  There are three postpartum conditions – baby blues, depression and psychosis.  Here are the symptoms outlined by Mayo Clinic:

Postpartum baby blues symptoms

Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying
  • Reduced concentration
  • Appetite problems
  • Trouble sleeping

Postpartum depression symptoms

Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin later — up to six months after birth.

Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum psychosis

With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.

For more information such as when to see a doctor, what your options are or how you can help a friend or a loved one, click on this link.

Why do some women suffer from postpartum depression while others don’t?  According to Marcie Ramirez, Middle Tennessee coordinator for Postpartum Support International, “People with a history of mental illness have a high risk, as do people on either end of the age spectrum–young mothers or older mothers.  If you have a history of minor depression, panic attacks, or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), you are at a higher risk for postpartum depression.  A mother who experiences a traumatic birth is more likely to develop postpartum depression, as are new mothers who have a history of sexual abuse.  Bipolar disorder is a big indicator for postpartum psychosis, a very serious form of postpartum depression that affects about 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 new moms.”

Other predictors of postpartum depression are:

  • marital difficulties
  • stressful life events such as financial problems or loss of a job
  • childcare stress
  • inadequate social support
  • having to are for a child with a difficult temperament
  • low self-esteem
  • unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • being single
  • lower socioeconomic status
  • postpartum blues (Babycenter.com)

An article in the Daily Mail says that a woman’s risk of post-natal depression increases if she has a Caesarean section.  According to researchers, women were 48 per cent more likely to experience depression if they had a planned procedure rather than an emergency one.  Some women choose to have a Caesarean because they are afraid to give birth naturally, have had a previous childbirth trauma or want the convenience of a scheduled delivery.

Postpartum depression should be taken seriously.  Women are so overcome with fear and anxiety that they are afraid to be in the same room with their babies.  This affects them being able to bond with their babies which is vital to their development.  Women need to talk about their feelings, no matter how painful they are.  They need the support of their husbands and families.  “A functioning, healthy mom is vital to the family unit, and getting mothers with postpartum depression professional help can ensure that they avoid years of needless depression,” says Ramirez.

Advice for mothers who are experiencing depression is, “do what’s best for yourself so you can do what’s best for your baby” (Health.com).    Ann Dunnwold, PHD, a Dallas-based psychologist who specializes in postpartum depression, says, “The key is to have it on your own terms.  Sometimes the mother-in-law will come over to be with the baby, but what the new mom needs is for her to do the laundry.  To help, everyone needs to ask themselves what the mom really wants.”

There is hope for women suffering from postpartum depression.  The key is finding a health professional who specializes in treating it and who won’t brush you off or make light of it.  There are medications and treatments that can relieve or even reverse postpartum mood disorders. Don’t wait to get help.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Speak up.

If you know a woman who is going through postpartum depression or are married to one, please help out as much as you can.  Make sure that she gets enough sleep and encourage her to speak with her healthcare provider.  Encourage her to get some kind of support.

If you are suffering from postpartum depression, here is a list of postpartum depression support groups.  Perhaps reading stories of mothers going through what you are going may help. You’re not alone.   Help and hope are available for you.

Mature woman gives solace to crying adult daughter

Mature woman gives solace to crying adult daughter

Sources:   http://celebritybabies.people.com/2015/10/21/drew-barrymore-postpartum-depression-people-cover/?xid=rss-topheadlinesMayo Clinic; Baby Center; Postpartum Depression Progress; Health.com; Daily Mail; Brainy Quotes; Healthscope

The Cruel Cut

Photo:  The Guardian

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

When I read the article in The Daily Mail on Female genital mutilation, I was incensed.  I couldn’t believe the reasons behind this barbaric practice.

  • In some cultures, it is seen as a right of passage into womanhood and a condition of marriage.
  • Some believe that the genitals will be unclean if the female does not have the procedure.
  • There is also a common belief that women need to have FGM to have babies.
  • Religous reasons

Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and even thought the practice was criminalized in 2008, it still remains widespread.  Up to 92 percent of married women have undergone FGM and most females have the procedure between the ages of nine and 12.  Some have it done earlier than nine years old.  Can you imagine a five year old girl having part or all of her external genitalia removed?  There are no anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments used and FGM is performed with knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.  This can lead to severe bleeding and infections which can last a woman her entire lifetime.  And it is estimated that 3 million girls are subjected to this barbarism every year in the UK, parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia.  And believe it or not, the procedure is usually done by a woman with no medical background.

Girls are going to grow up believing that their genitals are unclean and only a cruel cut can make them clean and fit for marriage.   What about the infections that they get or what about those who die from the procedure like the 13 year old Sohair el-Batea?  The doctor responsible for her death was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to more than two years in jail.  This was a victory for women but more needs to be done.  FGM is still being practiced.

According to Egyptian Streets, statistics showed that 30% of married women believe that FGM should be banned but more than half were in favor of the procedure for religious reasons.  It’s hard to accept that women would be in favor of such a practice.  It is even harder to accept that they would force their daughters, granddaughters, nieces to go through what they themselves had gone through.  As a mother, I could never subject my daughter to this.  As a woman, I could never bring myself to do this horrible thing to another female.

And which religion would condone this?  God created the human body and He put everything in its place for a reason.  No one has the right to tamper with nature.  How could anyone use religion as an excuse to mutilate young girls and in some cases, babies?  And as far as FGM being necessary in order to have babies, that is ludicrious.  The reality is that FGM can cause infertility and increase the risk of complications in childbirth.

FGM, known as the “cruel cut” needs to be banned the regions of Africa and countries where it is still common.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than three million girls in Africa are at risk.  Something needs to be done to stop girls and babies from is done in ignorance and in the name of tradition.  Girls should not see the parts of their bodies that is unique to their gender as unclean.  No where in the Bible is female circumcision practiced.  God never intended for girls and women to be circumcised.  It is a man-made procedure and it needs to be outlawed.

I encourage you to watch the video of Leyla Hussein, the founder of Daughters of Eve as she talks to her mother about FGM.    You can visit Leyla’s website to find out more information about FGM and see what you can do to stop this cruel and inhumane practice.

 

 

 

Source:  WHO; The Daily Mail

Kishori’s Story

leprosy-wld-banner“Today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy and most endemic countries are striving to fully integrate leprosy services into existing general health services. This is especially important for those under-served and marginalised communities most at risk from leprosy, often the poorest of the poor” (WHO:  Leprosy Today).

I learned about leprosy from reading the Bible and watching the movie “Ben Hur” but always believed that it was a disease of those times.  After watching Leprosy Mission, I realize that it is very much a reality.  I never saw how disfiguring it was until I watched the faces of men, women and children who were living with it.

I was touched when I read the story of Kishori, a woman who was diagnosed with leprosy during her second pregnancy.  Unable to take medications that would restrict the sickness from spreading she watched as the disease disfigured her arms and legs.

For years the leprosy racked her body with pain.  The medication she took hardly reduced her symptoms and the one hour walk to the hospital where she hoped to find relief took four hours because of the excruciating pain in her feet.  The treatment she received brought some relief but the pain returned when the sores did and Kishori found herself sinking into emotional despair.

Kishori was not abandoned by her husband, Manit but their neighbors were cruel and unfeeling and demanded to know why he kept her with him and didn’t send her home to her parents.  Manit insisted that he would not abandon Kishori and reaffirmed his love for her even though she sided with the neighbors and told him that she would go and live with her parents.  She wondered why he was still married to her.  The words of her neighbors cut her deeply and she shied away from being with others.  She lived in emotional and physical agony, feeling neglected and unwanted.

After decades of living the emotional and physical pain of leprosy, Kishori found relief in an most unexpected way.  Visitors came to her door and offered to clean her sores.  She gladly received Pastor Jiva and another missionary into her home and she saw them everyday as they returned to minister to her.  Her feet and arms soon began to heal.

Kishori and her family listened as the missionaries shared how Jesus could completely heal her.  No doubt they shared the story of the leper who went to Jesus and imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42).

After years, decades of pain and despair, hope became alive in Kishori.  She learned about Jesus who could heal her.  She was encouraged to pray for healing.  She received kindness from Pastor Jiva and the missionaries who continued to visit her and clean her sores. They assured her of Jesus’ love.  As a result of this outpouring of love and compassion, Kishori placed her hope in God.  She and her family are now attending a local church.

This story ends on a very positive note.  Kishori is completely healed of leprosy because of the God in who she had placed her hope and the Jesus whom she had trusted to heal her.  God continues to care for her through the Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy Ministry.  Thanks to this ministry Kishori has received a pair of shoes specially designed for her and other gifts such as mosquito nets, blankets and daily meals.  Life is better for Kishori now.  She is able to care for her family instead of begging on the streets for help.  Her home which was once a place where she hid from society and life, is now filled with laughter and love.

God healed Kishori in body and mind.  He brought hope, love and healing into the life of a recluse.  He showed Kishori that there is a God who cares for her.  Just as her husband could not abandon her because he loved her, God did not abandon her because He loved her.  He sent Pastor Jiva and the missionaries to care for her.

Kishori’s story inspires me.  It reminds me that God cares.  He cares for the neglected and unwanted.  And no matter how long it takes, He will always come through for us.

Help Gospel For Asia to bring hope and God’s healing to another person living with leprosy by visiting their Leprosy Ministry webpage at:  http://www.gfa.org/leprosy.

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Sources:  http://www.who.int/lep/en/; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/healing-for-the-sores-on-her-soul/