Doing Life Together

mental-health-3337026_1280Mary suffers from depression and so did her mom. She now sees signs of depression in her young adult daughter. When it comes to depression, we know that it tends to run in families. If your parents are depressed, your risk of depression is higher than someone without the family history. What we don’t quite understand is why. Is it because there is a genetic predisposition or  because depressed parents impact their children in such ways that depression is a learned response to coping? Perhaps both of these statements are true.

For years, scientists have been looking for specific genes as markers of depression. This question of nature or nurture has been difficult to answer. A new scientific discovery by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium published in the April 2018 of Nature Genetics provides new understanding when it comes to the role of biology in producing depression.

The study found 44 genes out of the 20,000 genes that comprise the human genome, which they believe are responsible for the transmission risk of depression. They did not find a single gene that causes depression. Rather they have pinpointed 44 genes that put a person at biological risk. Since we all carry some number of genetic risk factors for depression, targeting the ones involved is helpful.

These identified genes also play a role in how the nervous system and immune system functions. For instance, when the immune system detects a threat, inflammation is its defensive response. We also know that social stress (a threat) makes depression worse and activates an inflammation of the body. The production of inflammation under both real and perceived threats is important. We now think this inflammation can cause brain changes and turn on the mental symptoms of depression. If this is true, new treatments may be able to pinpoint inflammatory proteins coded by those depression risk genes. And stress would also need to be targeted for intervention.

What this new discovery tells us is that both nurture and nature  (genetics and environment) are at work when it comes to treating depression. This means we will be able to develop better and more targeted treatments to help those who suffer. Helping both a person’s biology and response to the environment remain key at treating depression.

flowers-2205706_1280Mother’s Day has been with us since 1914! But I had no idea the holiday was so controversial in its history. It actually had roots as a  Christian festival  known as Mothering Sunday. It fell on the 4th Sunday in lent and was a special service in which the church faithful would return to their “mother church.”

Eventually the day became secularized and  its American founder, Ann Jarvis, denounced it later because of how commercialized it became. She spent part of her life trying to get it removed from the calendar. Here is why.

Ann was from West Virginia and was dedicated to helping women know how to properly care for their children. She began Mother’s Day Work Clubs as a way to unify women after the Civil War. Later, her efforts went to creating Mother’s Day Friendship Day– a day to help reconcile Union and Confederate soldiers.

When Ann Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter (also Ann Jarvis) wanted to honor her mom and all the sacrifices she made for her children so organized the first Mother’s Day in a church in West Virginia. In addition, she helped organize an event that thousands of people attended at a retail store in Philadelphia.

But you may be surprised to learn that the daughter, Ann Jarvis, remained single and childless her entire life. Still, she fought to get Mother’s Day as a national holiday to honor women. She started the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote the day each year. Success came when President Woodrow Wilson signed a document to declare Mother’s Day the second Sunday of May in 1914.

Ann’s original idea was to wear a white carnation as a badge to signify the honor of mom while visiting her and going to church. When the day became official, florists liked the idea and added flowers to the celebration. But Ann eventually became disgusted with how commercialized the holiday became and tried to get people to stop buying flowers and cards.

Her outrage translated into a campaign against the day, trying to get the name, “Mother’s Day” removed from the American calendar, spending most of her money on law suits.  At the time of her death, she denounced the holiday.  Yet, here we are–all these years later! Moms will get phone calls, cards, candles and yes, flowers. And even when I was growing up, churches still handed out white and red carnations depending on whether your mom was alive or deceased.

Obviously,  Ann lost her battle to denounce the day. Sorry, Ann, I like the tradition and am grateful for a day to honor moms. I will spend the day at church and enjoy whatever flowers come my way!

sad-2182545_1280There are times in our lives when we are more prone to anxiety and depression. For women, one of those times can be after the birth of a child and the early years of parenting. Life changes is such substantial ways.

Even when the changes are positive, change is change and the adjustments can bring on stress. The family has to reorganize with every addition of a child. Mom is tired, the physical demands are intense and toddlers can leave you feeling exhausted! You have little time to yourself and sometimes, you just want to talk to a grown-up!

Most women manage the transition with a new child well, but some get stuck in depression. In fact, one out of eight women will develop depression at some time in their lives. One of those risk times s is during the childbearing years. And when mom is depressed, it impacts the kids. In fact, when a child has a depressed mother, he or she is three times more likely to develop depression too.

But if a mom gets treatment for depression, her children get better too. The earlier the better. So pay attention to your emotional state when you begin the childrearing stage. Look for these signs of depression:

Depressed mood, sadness beyond what is normal

Low energy level

Loss of interest in things that use to keep your interest

Thoughts of suicide or homicide

Too much or too little sleep–not related to the disruption in the cycle from the baby, but because of racing thoughts and inability to rest

Feelings of worthlessness and guilt

Changes in appetite

Problems with concentration

Psychomotor agitation or retardation

If these symptoms persist and do not go away over time, you could be depressed. Yes, some of them come with all the changes, but it is the intensity of these symptoms to pay attention to–if they are causing you great distress or impairing you from taking care of your family.

If you are struggling to make this a Happy Mother’s Day, get help. Depression is very treatable.

megaphone-3272935_1280Full disclosure–not a Kanye West music fan. His music just isn’t for me. Not judging, just personal taste. But I  give him big points for his recent stance on not giving in to identity politics. It’s refreshing to see a celebrity who has benefited from the  capitalist system, not throw that system under the bus. But because he doesn’t subscribe to the Bernie Sanders version of socialism, the press and Hollywood, with all their “tolerance”, is pushing back. We just can’t have free thinkers not follow the policies of the progressive agenda.

It’s ludicrous that his position to support Trump is even an issue and I hope Americans see the hypocrisy of identity politics that has squelched free speech. This ongoing discrimination against anyone conservative or Christian needs to stop. It’s not American and smells like totalitarianism. But the fact that this story about Kanye supporting Trump is so big is an indication of how mean-spirited identity politics has been over the past few years. Disagree with us and we come after you! For all their so-called tolerance, the intolerance is astounding.

I, like many Americans, just want to get on with trying to improve things. We elected a President-one you may or may not like. Yet, every time I turn on CNN these days, it is all about Russian collusion–I used to listen to this Sirius XM channel but the one note message has caused me to turn the dial. And the rants against our President on MSBMC have also been off-putting. So while I used to enjoy channeling surfing and listening to various viewpoints on the news, I can’t do it any longer. So many news reporters are now opinion reporters with one message–say and do everything you can to put down this president. It is unprecedented.

Now, I am not supporting Trump with this blog, rather supporting everyone’s right to have a position that goes against the narrative of the few elite that dominate our media. Disagree with them and you are blasted. That is not free speech. And the loss of civility around disagreement is disturbing. When someone supports a conservative, it’s a major story with massive controversy –well, I say, this should be a wake-up call to all Americans. Thinking on our own, not always agreeing with the few people in power, and being free to civil disagree is foundational to our survival.

So thanks Kanye for having the courage to not be ashamed to say what you really believe. I may not always like what you say, but I am thankful you have the right to say it. And you should be able to say what you believe without having threats against you. The thought police don’t like it anyone who opposes them.  It’s time for more people to stop being afraid to disagree with those pushing progressive policies. We are tired of those who have the microphone constantly telling us how to think. Free thinkers make our country what it is. When we lose our ability to think and speak freely, we’ve lost more than popularity. We’ve lost our way!