SOMETIMES LIFE COMES AT YOU FAST.
Imagine your son is seven years old and your daughter is a newborn. You haven’t yet dealt with the many emotions from your divorce and you feel like you’re sinking into a pit. You recognize your symptoms from when you had postpartum depression after your son was born, so you know you are in a downward spiral. You wish you had someone to talk to and tools to the fight the spiral. You know counseling is the answer, but how could you even get to sessions now that you have two kids? It just wouldn’t work.
This is how Tania felt before she found Catholic Social Services (CSS). In addition to feeling the symptoms of postpartum depression she had experienced with her first child, she was now a single mom and had lost a close friend to cancer. As she put it, “Sometimes life comes at you fast.”
Tania knew she needed help. She had been to counseling when her son was young, but she had struggled to make it to appointments with him in tow. She couldn’t imagine how it could possibly work now that she had two kids and ran a day care out of her home. As she said, “It’s not just postpartum, but just in life, we experience challenges. All of those life challenges can send you into a downward spiral—without help, people can find themselves drowning.”
Fortunately, Tania found out about CSS from another mom on Facebook. What interested her most about CSS’ Counseling was the option to have a counselor come to her home for appointments. It was through this referral that Tania met Andrea, a CSS counselor who began visiting her home on a weekly basis.
Tania shared that, “It was an awesome fit. [Andrea] could identify with me, because she was a mom too.” She was nonjudgmental and allowed Tania to be herself. Andrea helped Tania identify the things that sent her into a downward spiral, then find ways she could either avoid them or work to get out of the spiral.
They worked together to develop tools for combatting the depression—many of which used strengths Tania already possessed, and just needed to re-discover. Drawing on her artistic side, she began using journaling and creative writing as emotional outlet. Andrea taught her to combine written to-do lists with positive affirmations. Of all the methods Andrea encouraged Tania to use, her biggest contribution was the accountability of the weekly appointments. Tania said, “Knowing she was coming was a positive peer pressure.”
Andrea, who has been a counselor at CSS for over five years, says Tania’s story is not uncommon for her maternal counseling clients. They may be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or major depressive disorder, but those are often just a few of the complex issues going on in her clients’ lives. Andrea regularly works through various traumas such as, lack of affordable housing, financial insecurity, and other family stressors with her clients. Visiting her clients’ homes gives Andrea an inside look into the home lives and myriad of concerns weighing on her clients in addition to their specific mental health needs.
Andrea recognizes she fills a great need because, without CSS’ services, most of her clients would have to choose between counseling and self-medicating. Even when they choose counseling, there are barriers to being able to afford and access care. Transportation is one of the biggest issues many people with children face, especially those with multiple children. Medicaid provides transportation to medical appointments, but often mental health services don’t qualify and public transportation services are difficult to access with children, especially as many frown on bringing strollers on board.
Andrea says she knows it’s worth it when she manages to reach a mom she would not have been able to reach in the office. It’s the times when a mom has a light bulb moment that keep her going.
Tania has been one of those moms.
In the year Andrea has been counseling her, Tania has progressed from being very emotional and crying every session to becoming more stable. She has moved from having weekly appointments with Andrea to having them every three to four weeks. Tania says that CSS’ service, through Andrea, has been “tremendously consistent,” and that the consistency was a key to her success. Because of the consistency of service, Tania didn’t have to rehash her hurts every visit.
After her experience with CSS, Tania says, “People feel this taboo for counseling. Especially being African American, there are some taboos—myths, lies.” She encourages people to “step outside that box” because, “Sometimes it’s just someone to talk to who is on the outside. [It’s] okay saying, ‘I need an additional ear’. Going against the grain isn’t bad, especially when it’s for your mental and emotional health. Like they say, ‘don’t knock it till you try it’.”
You can help parents like Tania go against the grain for their health and that of their families. By supporting CSS’s Counseling program, you allow providers like Andrea to bring mental health treatment—as well as dignity and hope—directly into the homes of struggling parents.