Dr. Shahana Alibhai on Giving Mothers Permission to Focus on Their Mental Health

In this week’s episode of The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD, we’re breaking down the walls around taboo mental health topics with the insightful Dr. Shahana Alibhai. As a TEDx speaker, family physician, and mental health expert, Dr. Shahana has dedicated her career to improving mental health, and her innovative programs and powerful insights have made her a sought-after voice in the field.

Dr. Shahana and I explore the critical importance of prioritizing mental health, especially for moms with IBD. We dive into the challenges of postpartum anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder– is more common than many of us realize), how societal expectations impact our mental well-being, and practical strategies for managing these issues alongside chronic illness. Dr. Shahana also shares her personal journey with mental health, providing a unique and candid perspective. Whether you’re a new mom, have adolescents at home, or simply want to improve your mental state, this episode is packed with valuable insights.

Four Things You’ll Learn in This Episode

✅ [00:06:25] Understanding postpartum anxiety and why it’s not often talked about.

✅ [00:13:42] Dr. Shahana’s personal journey with mental health and how it impacted her career.

✅ [00:24:37] Managing expectations and the stress equation in motherhood.

✅ [00:44:27] Practical tips for finding the right mental health support.

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Mentioned in the Episode:

>> The Ultimate IBD Diet Decoder Quiz

>> Join The Gut Love Community for Moms with IBD

>> Book Your FREE IBD Consultation with Karyn Today

Connect With Karyn:

Karyn on YouTube

Karyn on Instagram

Karyn on Facebook

Connect With Dr. Shahana:

Dr. Shahana’s Website

Dr. Shahana on Instagram

Episode Transcript:

Karyn [00:00:08]:

Hey there, mama. Welcome to season two of the Cheeky podcast for moms with IBD. I’m Karen Haley, functional IBD nutrition and wellness coach and Crohn’s warrior. This podcast is all about us moms because our IBD plays by different rules. Season two is juicy, full of unconventional wisdom, real talk, new ways to tackle our illness, and a whole lot of community empowerment, and all of us advocating the hell out of our illness. We’re in this together, and I’m here to help you find healing on your terms. Let’s do this. Well, hey there.

Karyn [00:00:50]:

Welcome to this week’s episode. This season of interviews is all about breaking down walls and talking about taboo subjects that are often off the radar of most of our conversations that we have with our providers. And I gotta tell you, this week, it’s no exception. We’re exploring all the ways we can create the necessary space to own and talk about mental health challenges. But this ain’t your mama’s mental health conversation. Join me for a next generation mental health convo with the incredible Doctor Shahana Alibi, a TEDx speaker, family physician, and mental health expert, Doctor Shahana has dedicated her career to improving mental health, particularly among youth, and has been featured in major media outlets like CTV and Global. Her innovative program think like a doc and her powerful TEDx talk emotional literacy for better mental health have made her insights highly sought after. If you didn’t feel that motherhood glow you’re supposed to feel the second your kid was born, if you struggled with sadness or anxiety about motherhood in postpartum, if you kept your feelings buried because every other mom seemed to have it all together while you were living the life of a swan, you know, no sweat, perfect on the top, but paddling for your life underneath.

Karyn [00:02:20]:

And you did it all while battling IBD, you are going to love this episode of the Tiki podcast. Doctor Sherhana and I delve into the importance of mental health across the lifespan, from adolescence to postpartum and beyond. We talk about how prioritizing and finding the language to talk about mental health without shame or guilt is so crucial to both our physical and our mental health. And we discuss navigating rarely talked about mental health struggles like postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD while managing difficult illnesses like IBD, Crohn’s, and colitis. And doctor Shahana helps us find ways to break down the barriers to mental health by addressing societal expectations and normalizing the real and often hidden experiences so many of us have with motherhood. We dive into the link between gut health and anxiety and how it can manifest in each of our lives. And then finally, we, we explore the practical side of things with practical tips for change. And doctor Shahana emphasizes the big role that small shifts can make to improve your diet as well as your mental state.

Karyn [00:03:41]:

Doctor Shahana gets really candid in this interview, sharing her own personal experience with mental health struggles in her youth and also as a new mom. And she brings this really unique perspective to this topic, knowing that doctors struggle with their own challenges as well. I love how she just humanizes doctors for us in that way, because they have their own struggles, too. They’re human, so they struggle as well. Whether you’re a new mom or have adolescents at home, or are just looking for ways to better manage your mental state, this episode is packed with valuable insights. Please help me welcome Doctor Shahana Alabai. Welcome, Doctor Shahana. I’m just so excited.

Karyn [00:04:27]:

I’ve really been looking forward to having this conversation with you because working with moms who have Crohn’s, who have colitis, they’re so busy taking care of themselves, taking care of their kids, that mental health, it just gets put on the back burner. It’s not something that’s really in the forefront of their mind. So having this conversation with you today, I think is really important. It’s giving us permission to say, yes, we need to talk about this topic. So I’m really excited to dive in.

Dr. Shahana [00:04:57]:

Oh, it’s my pleasure. And you couldn’t have started it better than using the word permission, because I remember looking at my husband after, in my postpartum journey and just asking him for exactly that. I need permission to pause. Give me permission to take a break, give me permission to take a step back. And ironically enough, I thought maternity leave would be a pause. And anybody who’s listening, it’s anything but that. So what a wonderful way to start. Start.

Karyn [00:05:24]:

Yeah, you’re exactly right. It is anything but. And I know that something that is really near and dear to your heart is talking about postpartum anxiety. And this is something that many of my clients, my community, I know that they have experience with, whether they’re able to put a name to it or not, it’s something that is really so much a part of their life. And so I find it interesting because I think nowadays we’re talking a lot about postpartum issues. It’s not something that was ever talked about in my generation. This before, during, after thinking about your mental health in any way, and so, especially because of celebrities, they’re talking about postpartum depression a lot. But the one thing that I think about this is that when it comes to postpartum anxiety, I’m not hearing that.

Karyn [00:06:11]:

I’m not hearing those words, right. Postpartum depression, yes. Postpartum anxiety, no. So I thought we would just start there. Can you tell us, what is postpartum anxiety, and why is it just not in mainstream conversation?

Dr. Shahana [00:06:25]:

Yeah, that’s such a good question, too. And I think even if I think back to conversations with my mom during the postpartum period, it was often really misunderstood because it was, well, you know, you don’t feel sad. So what’s the problem? Right? We define this idea if we go back to the nomenclature of postpartum depression. Must be that you’re sad, you’re crying all the time, you’re not getting out of bed, you’re wearing, you know, just your sweatpants, which is very common in motherhood, let’s be honest. Like, you know, all the time. Right? So then what does that flip side look like? And you can think of postpartum anxiety and depression under mood disorders. So I always like to tell my patients, because I’ll always say, doc, give me the anti anxiety, not the antidepressant. Give me the anti anxiety.

Dr. Shahana [00:07:12]:

And I’m like, surprise, surprise. It’s the same pill. They’re the same thing. It’s just different dosages, too. So if we think of them as two sides of the same coin under the umbrella of mood disorders, I think postpartum depression has gotten more of a voice, potentially, because postpartum baby blues, which is very different and secondary to hormonal changes right after the delivery, affects about 80% of women. So that kind of. That’s very common. And then roll into postpartum depression, which, you know, can be, you know, one in ten, two in ten.

Dr. Shahana [00:07:45]:

And that’s just at the low end. At the low end. Postpartum anxiety, however, is less recognizable. And I think that’s why it doesn’t get as much attention. It’s less visible. It’s the hyper vigilant mom. It’s the mom. And this can come in all sorts of flavors.

Dr. Shahana [00:08:00]:

It’s the mom who can’t go to sleep at night even though the baby is asleep, because they’re so worried about sudden, intimate death syndrome. It’s a mom who can’t walk down the stairs with their child because they think they might trip and fall and some harm would come to the child, too. It’s the mom who. And we can go on and on but vigilance is a good word. Vigilance or hyper vigilance.

Karyn [00:08:20]:


Dr. Shahana [00:08:21]:

Hypervigilance being extremely. That your arousal system has gone on to above. And the next level, one of the, what we call the DSM five criteria, or this idea of what does psychiatry look like? What does that manual look like? Part of anxiety is this idea that you’re keyed up, you’re on edge, you’re restless, the inability to relax, the inability to sit still. So it might just look like you’re mumming it. You’re constantly. And that. Can you just look like a mum? Because which mom isn’t sitting still? Like you’re always doing something? But I think the distinction we have to make is a, when you have any sort of mood disorder, it interferes with the quality of your life. This is not just like, you know, you’re getting some extra cleaning done or you’re feeling really hyper vigilant.

Dr. Shahana [00:09:07]:

It’s the idea that you can’t go out in public, you can’t complete your duties that you want to do. You’re not completing self care, you know, or it’s affecting your physicality. You’re not eating well, you’re not sleeping well, you’re not engaging socially, all of those types of things. So is it affecting your quality in your day to day level of functioning? The one caveat to put into all of that, that is even we were just talking about this, you know, off the air, this idea that IBD in general, we’re talking about a stigmatized topic. But let’s add to another stigmatized topic, not postpartum anxiety, but postpartum OCD. It used to fall under the umbrella of anxiety. It doesn’t quite anymore. But the idea is that postpartum OCD can often misrepresent as anxiety.

Dr. Shahana [00:09:55]:

You see the woman that they’re super anxious and scared and not sleeping at night, and you think it’s just because they just want to protect the baby. But we don’t ask that second question. And the second question is that that woman is afraid of causing harm to their child, and they actually think that they could cause harm. They don’t want to by any means, but they’re so deathly afraid of that. That is what we’re saying.

Karyn [00:10:20]:

That’s where it crosses over into OCD versus anxiety.

Dr. Shahana [00:10:25]:


Karyn [00:10:25]:


Dr. Shahana [00:10:26]:

The trick and the hard part, once again, not recognizable, is that when we think of OCD and pop culture, we think of the actors or actresses that are checking the doorknobs or wiping or washing their hands 100 times.

Karyn [00:10:40]:

What is that movie with Jack Nicholson? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Dr. Shahana [00:10:44]:


Karyn [00:10:44]:

He had OC. That’s a long time ago. That’s showing my age. No, that’s what we think about. We think about the compulsions when it may not be compulsions. Right? It could just be the thoughts.

Dr. Shahana [00:10:56]:

It’s just the intrusive thoughts. The intrusive thoughts dominate the story and dominate the picture when it comes to post. Part of. That’s why these poor women, including myself, you don’t, your partners, your family, don’t recognize any compulsions. The compulsions can be the waiting by the baby’s bedroom because you’re so worried that something’s going to happen to them, hiding all the knives in the house, refusing to bathe the child, all these things that could get swept under the rug, too. And we have to put words to this because I, you know, when my eldest was is now eight. This is now eight years ago, I found out about this through a tiny subset on a blog. And here I am, a physician.

Dr. Shahana [00:11:37]:

This is what I deal with. I knew in my heart what it was, but I really didn’t want to open my eyes to it. I looked at my husband, I’m like, why can’t it be my thyroid? Why can’t it be my thyroid? Like, you know, give me something like that. Like, something simpler, like the shame and.

Karyn [00:11:53]:

Without the stigma completely.

Dr. Shahana [00:11:55]:

Like, I would pick up the phone and tell my doctor, yes, I’m having intrusive thoughts about hurting my child. Like, are you kidding me? No way. But this is why it’s so important. Because we’re losing women. We’re literally. The rates of suicide can be so high because of the stigma and because of the misdiagnosis of postpartum psychosis, which is a completely different kettle of fish. And that’s much more rare. It’s still there.

Dr. Shahana [00:12:20]:

Much more rare. But you can imagine what a misdiagnosis and an error in treating them in terms of medication could do. So that’s why I like to just spell it out, because if someone listening can hear, recognize, help anybody else, then we’ve saved that one person.

Karyn [00:12:37]:

Yeah, absolutely. And I know that this is something that you have had to deal with in your own life. Like, you alluded to a little bit after, I don’t know, was it the birth of your first child or your. It was the birth of your first child. It was postpartum OCD.

Dr. Shahana [00:12:50]:

OCD, yeah. Yeah.

Karyn [00:12:52]:

And can you share with us a little bit about your story? About what that journey was like for you.

Dr. Shahana [00:12:57]:

Yeah, for sure. You know, I think it’s ironic now that I think back. It’s almost like, how could it not happen? Because one of the things you have to realize that if you go into the postpartum or perinatal time period, the time period surrounding conception to postpartum with a mood disorder of any sort, that’s a risk factor for having postpartum anxiety, depression. So if I already have that history after the postpartum period is a beautiful, fertile time for these things to rear their ugly head. You know, unbeknownst to me, at the age of four or five, I started having symptoms of what’s called pure obsessional OCD. Just the intrusive thoughts, not so much the compulsions. And that’s much more rare in the whole grand scheme of things. Remember, in the.

Karyn [00:13:42]:

That’s something you’re looking back on and saying in hindsight.

Dr. Shahana [00:13:45]:


Karyn [00:13:45]:

Because you’re at four and five years old. Are you remembering back that? Are you thinking, oh, in hindsight, I think I was like this pretty much most of my life.

Dr. Shahana [00:13:53]:

Good question. No, there was. It was vivid, troubling memory of that. Extremely troubling memory. So much so, I I would pull my mom aside, try in my, you know, elementary school way of conveying what was happening, but, you know, it was taking the word distress and bolding and underlying it and feeling so much distress at what was going on, but not having the language or the maturity to explain what was going on. And I think when there’s.

Karyn [00:14:22]:

This is the pure. Oh, go ahead. I was just. Well, let me just say this is the pure definition of what you were talking about earlier, where it will affect the quality of your life. And so it’s so memorable for you because it. It affected the quality of your life so much, even at that very young age.

Dr. Shahana [00:14:36]:

Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I think I have a lot of people right now, you know, talking about ADHD, and they’ll say, oh, yeah, I remember that time where I got a bit distracted. This was kind of the counter to that. This was a constant memory for me that kind of ebbed and flowed, but it was always smoldering under the surface. And surprise, surprise, during stressful times, it got worse. What made it better? School. School made it a lot better because I had something to focus my brain on.

Dr. Shahana [00:15:04]:

Right. Summertime was the worst for me because there was nothing like that hamster wheel to keep chasing, too. So, ironically enough, well, medical school entered the picture, and that turned out to be a beautiful cure didn’t it? Because it kept that part of my brain so completely occupied, all with the feeling that I felt that something was wrong, something was flawed, but I didn’t know exactly what. So you’re lurking in the shadows, right?

Karyn [00:15:30]:


Dr. Shahana [00:15:31]:

And I remember there was. We all have to do all the rotations, you know, whether it be obstetrics or internal medicine. And of course, psychiatry is one of the rotations. And there was two charts, one with a lady with. With bipolar and another with a lady with. Who was a professional. I still remember she was a lawyer, and she had OCD, but more pure obsessional OCD. And I gave the chart of that to my friend.

Dr. Shahana [00:15:54]:

I said, you take her, I’ll take the bipolar patient. Because I couldn’t be anywhere near that diagnosis. I was skirting around. It was too close.

Karyn [00:16:02]:


Dr. Shahana [00:16:03]:

I’m not going to be you. I’m going to separate myself from you. And all that separation did was create a springboard for me to land face first into that diagnosis. Now, not called pure obsessional OCD, but postpartum OCD. So it’s the same flavor. It’s just the fact that it got much, much worse. You add sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, and a predisposition, too, so. And that’s.

Dr. Shahana [00:16:33]:

And even after all that, too, it took me a year to reach out for help. A full year. A full year.

Karyn [00:16:39]:

So you were experiencing this postpartum for about a year before you said, you know what? Something’s really not right here. I need to do something about it.

Dr. Shahana [00:16:48]:

Oh, absolutely. It was coming face to face with all of the things that I talked to my patients about. Isn’t it funny how we expect our patients to sit there, be vulnerable, tell us the truth, tell us how they feel? But when we’re asked to do that, we lie, we numb it, we suppress it. We do all of these things to sugarcoat it. And that’s exactly what I did until I couldn’t anymore, until the thought of me not being there was actually a comforting thought. And that was the line. And even though that’s the subject matter that I deal with so often in my practice, especially dealing with youth, it was that rude awakening that how can I not recognize this in myself? But it certainly took its sweet time. It took a year or two.

Dr. Shahana [00:17:34]:

And even after that, I didn’t have the courage to call my own family doctor. We were friends. We were colleagues. It was too close. So, speaking to an anonymous physician helpline, I remember the phone call. I told my story, and I said, he said, you know, you’re going to have to speak to a psychiatrist. You know, you’re going to have to go on medication. Right.

Dr. Shahana [00:17:51]:

And I said, you know what? This has been so therapeutic. I feel so much better after this phone call. So it speaks to the vulnerability of what does being a patient look like? And just because the doctor tells you that this medication to take doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Right. Like you and mine didn’t work the first time, you know, the second or third time. And I think I’m trying to pull it back to, you know, women with IBD as well. I, we shared, I have a sister who had, who had IBD and now has a total colectomy. But at the same time, I look at my patients sometimes say, I hate that you have to be a guinea pig.

Dr. Shahana [00:18:29]:

I wish I had a crystal ball and knew that this was the exact right medication, medication for you. This was the exact right dose. But it’s the hardest when you’re the most vulnerable and you have to go through that as well. And I think we have to kind of call it out sometimes. And that’s okay.

Karyn [00:18:43]:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don’t know that a lot of doctors do that. So I’m glad that you. I’m glad that you make a practice of doing that in your practice because I feel like a guinea pig so often. Well, we don’t really know if this works. We’re not really sure, but. But let’s try it.

Karyn [00:18:58]:


Dr. Shahana [00:18:59]:

Right, exactly. And. Yeah, and I think until you’re put in that shoes of, oh, like, who wants to actually take a foreign pill and put it in their body? Like, you have to be at a certain level to say things are not good. Things are. And I remember taking the medication and looking at my kids, and I’m doing this for you guys. I’m doing this to be here, to be present. But it taught me a lot about, about the flip side of things. I always say it’s easy for me to sign the bottom of a prescription, but when my name was on the top, things got real.

Karyn [00:19:32]:

Yeah. It’s probably, I would imagine the hardest for an MD, a doctor to then go to their own doctor and admit, you know, something that’s going on with them, especially when it comes to mental health. So what courage that you had to, you know, to take that step and say, you know what, I need help.

Dr. Shahana [00:19:50]:

Yeah, no, exactly. And I think it’s so interesting because I think there’s a reason why certain support groups who advocate a sense of community that’s why they work, because I think anything bred in the shadows is where all of this stigma festers. The minute I started to use the words, I remember the first time a podcast host asked me, I said, oh, is it postpartum depression? Anxiety? I couldn’t. I couldn’t say the words OCD. It took me years. Just recently, actually, just over the last couple of years, I still am not at a place where I could go to a family gathering and say that none of my close family really knows. None of my know.

Karyn [00:20:30]:


Dr. Shahana [00:20:30]:

It’s much easier to speak to strangers in some ways. But I’m doing this because, once again, if somebody listens to this, the rates now are not thought to be so low. In fact, up to 50% of postpartum women in one study for the first six months were shown to have intrusive thoughts. So it’s. It’s wild, right? It’s. It’s much more.

Karyn [00:20:50]:

So much more common than we realize.

Dr. Shahana [00:20:52]:


Karyn [00:20:53]:

Exactly. Yeah. And when we keep it in the shadows and we don’t talk about it, the problem gets worse and worse. And like you said, suicide rates, thinking about suicide, that kind of thing. It’s high.

Dr. Shahana [00:21:05]:

It’s high. Yeah, right. Exactly.

Karyn [00:21:10]:

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Karyn [00:21:59]:

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Karyn [00:22:50]:

Go to karenhaley.com quiz. That’s karynhaley.com quiz. Answer a few simple questions and get your personalized quiz results immediately. Now let’s get back to the show. I want to stay on the topic of postpartum issues for a minute. So as a new mom at our society, you’re told, well, as soon as that baby’s born, you are just going to love it. You’re going to bond with it. Immediately after birth, you’re going to have this connection.

Karyn [00:23:23]:

So what do you do if really you’re dealing with postpartum mental health issues, whether they are depression, anxiety, especially for somebody with IBD, because not only might that be an issue, but having a flare up right after birth, post birth right is very common. So even if it’s just that I’m dealing with so much of my own flare up and my own gut struggles that I just cannot find the bandwidth to bond with this baby, what are some steps that you can take when, when this is just all encompassing for you?

Dr. Shahana [00:23:59]:

And you said it best, too, because it really comes down to expectation management. I use this analogy of the stress equation really is stress wanting or expecting things to be different than they are, when there’s a discrepancy between let’s take my wedding day. My wedding day has to be, everything has to be absolutely perfect, and the sun has to be shining and everyone has to be smiling. And whatever the case might be, and a couple drops of rainfall, suddenly there’s that gap. And it’s about managing the gap. And you manage the gap by managing your expectations. It’s nothing to do with your effort. You still put all the effort into planning that perfect wedding day.

Dr. Shahana [00:24:37]:

But if something that goes wrong, out of your control, like a flare up, for example, like mental health notice, I use the word out of your control because we have this. If I right now had an IBD flare up and I had a mental health issue, which 01:00 a.m. i going to get more support from? Which 01:00 a.m. i going to say, okay, here, I’ve got your back. I’ve got. I’m hoping it’s both. But it’s not usually. Yeah, it’s not usually.

Karyn [00:25:02]:

And even if there are people that are willing to, if I reached out and said, I need your help. As the IBD patient. You’re going to put your time and effort into the IBD because you feel like I have to take care of my physical health first.

Dr. Shahana [00:25:16]:


Karyn [00:25:16]:

My mental health is going to take the backseat.

Dr. Shahana [00:25:18]:


Karyn [00:25:19]:

And we do this time and time again.

Dr. Shahana [00:25:21]:

Absolutely. And I think it’s very quantitative. Like, look, even with IBD, from my sister’s experience, you might measure it as the number of bowel movements, how much abdominal pain you’re having, the quantity of bleeding. You have something to hang your hat on. For mental health, it can be really difficult. It can be really nebulous. What does concrete look like for mental health? What the other misnomer is that we think that mental health is either really anxious, keeda, or it’s sad. And sometimes it’s none of those.

Dr. Shahana [00:25:53]:

Sometimes it’s nothing. You feel absolutely nothing. It’s that lack of feeling. It’s that numbness. It’s that cognitive blunting. And especially when you have that, that’s even harder to quantify because you go around feeling like a zombie. And unfortunately, some of the medications titrated to the, you know, too high of a dose or the incorrect dose can also cause cognitive blunting. So you have this double edged sword.

Dr. Shahana [00:26:19]:

But going back to your initial question, I think it really comes down to putting a pin in this idea that we have a certain amount of time, a finite amount of time to bond with our child. I have to be honest, I didn’t feel a sense of bonding with my first child for months. For months. It’s gonna make me emotional now, but I remember going down to his level and crying and crying and looking at him and apologizing. And I. He was six months, seven months old, just kind of sitting there and just bawling, going, mommy’s so sorry, mommy’s so sorry, mommy’s so sorry. We. I have to put this in there, though.

Dr. Shahana [00:27:02]:

Do our spouses and partners feel the same way? I think there is a society’s expectation that we. We go through this pregnancy, which can be beautiful and burdensome and all of that at the same time, and the delivery, which can be also difficult. And suddenly we’re meant to just milk, come in, breastfeed over the sunset, and bond at the same time. Let’s manage our expectations. And I think what we have to realize is that, you know, this baby is going to be in your life for the long term. You guys, you’re always going to be its mother. You’re always going to be whatever role you happen to play in its life, too. So.

Dr. Shahana [00:27:40]:

So let’s take that pressure out a little bit and be kind to yourself, because I think the minute you say it’s almost like, don’t think of a pink elephant. You’re gonna think of a pink elephant. It’s going to happen. Right. So I think there’s a society and gender expectation that we have to start tweaking a little bit more.

Karyn [00:27:57]:

Yes. Amen to that. And I hope that. I hope that this is happening slowly. I do hear more people talking about it. It’s wonderful that you make this so central to your message, because we just need to have, again, I have to go back to that word permission, as, just as women, we have to give ourselves permission, and that comes from normalizing, from knowing other people that have gone through it. Exactly. When I had my third child, you mentioned that numb feeling, and I had that feeling for a really long time.

Karyn [00:28:32]:

And I would also add a fog. Like, I was just in a fog and I didn’t realize it. So this is another piece of this. So sometimes you’ll realize it, and you. You just don’t know what to do about it or you don’t want to do something about it because you. There’s. Because of the stigma. I didn’t realize until my child was a year old.

Karyn [00:28:51]:

As I started, the fog started to lift. The numbness started to lift that. I said to myself, oh, my gosh, Karen, you actually had postpartum depression, and you didn’t. You didn’t know it the whole time. I didn’t even know. Like, I was so numb.

Dr. Shahana [00:29:05]:


Karyn [00:29:06]:

I didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until I started to experience joy again that I said, huh? I was not. I was not in my right mind for a year, and I didn’t even know it.

Dr. Shahana [00:29:18]:

Absolutely. And at that time, you would have had probably a seven and eight year old. Like, you know, we’d have had.

Karyn [00:29:23]:


Dr. Shahana [00:29:24]:

You know, you’re having two other kids dealing with a child. Like, it’s. I think it just, I think. I think motherhood shows us the impact of sleep. If anything, it is hard. It is really, really hard. And I think the same thing. You know, our marriages are not supposed to be all bliss, and otherwise it wouldn’t be real.

Dr. Shahana [00:29:44]:

Right. And our relationship and our bonding experience with our children. Let the good things come. There’s lots of good things to come. And any of us moms, now my kids are. We talked about four, six and eight. I look at them now and go, oh, my word. I feel so much more connected with you than just feeling like a milk machine all the time.

Dr. Shahana [00:30:02]:

But of course. But who’s gonna go up to a mom and baby group and see all these doting parents and say, I don’t feel connected. You feel like the black sheep. Right? So just hearing it from someone like us, you know that this is normal and you’re not alone.

Karyn [00:30:17]:

It just takes one person to say, yes, me too.

Dr. Shahana [00:30:21]:

Me too. Right, exactly.

Karyn [00:30:23]:

Yes. Yes, exactly. And I know in your practice, we haven’t actually talked much about your practice. I did. I’ve already said your bio, so people have heard about it. But I know your practice is in British Columbia. I know you work with teenagers. Is it 14 to 24? Do I have that age?

Dr. Shahana [00:30:39]:


Karyn [00:30:39]:

Twelve to 25, something in there. And so you probably see a lot of kids with anxiety. So obviously anxiety and gut health, they go hand in hand. Is that something that you see in your practice when people come into you and there’s anxiety issues? Do you also notice a gut component?

Dr. Shahana [00:30:56]:

Oh, I can’t even. So, so glad you brought that up. I think just in general, I’m noticing more gut issues. Like, so many more gut issues. You really ask these kids about their digestion. Not that they want to be asked, but I will ask them. And I’m appalled at what they think normal is. I’m appalled at what they think normal is.

Dr. Shahana [00:31:18]:

And you go back and you look at, just like when you think about burnout, for example, you can’t just blame the individual. You have to look at the systems behind the individual. The same thing here when it comes to the care of our youth. You have to look at the systems behind your youth. And so many of these youth. I had a conversation. She’s like, you know, my mom can either afford. You know, things are really tough here right now, especially in British Columbia.

Dr. Shahana [00:31:42]:

With inflation and whatnot and the cost of food prices and groceries and fresh fruits and vegetables going up, it’s like, we can either afford rent or fresh fruits and vegetables. Like, that’s where.

Karyn [00:31:52]:

What are you going to pick? Right?

Dr. Shahana [00:31:54]:

She comes to me and she’s like, you know, it was so. It was so endearing. She’s like, my favorite food. I said, what’s your favorite? I was thinking pizza, pop. Cauliflower. She’s like, I really love cauliflower, but my mom, all I opened the fridge, and all there is is processed food.

Karyn [00:32:08]:

Processed food. So it’s cheaper. Well, at least in the States, probably in Canada, too, I would guess.

Dr. Shahana [00:32:14]:

Oh, absolutely. It lasts for longer. You don’t have to go grocery shopping as often it’s frozen. It’s right there and then, you know, and it’s easier to prepare. It doesn’t involve it, you know, so. So many different reasons. And then you can’t put. And then it’s so easy to say, oh, I blame the parents.

Dr. Shahana [00:32:29]:

It doesn’t take long to look and to look at their history and their background. So this intergenerational trauma, if I dare say that too, I think affects the systems around things. Affects what we’re. Our nutrition and that directly affects our mental health. There is a connection between the two. Like it 2023. We have to say that. That is a well, well known fact.

Dr. Shahana [00:32:51]:

So, you know, for me, I love to talk about fish oil with the youth that I work with, but so much of it comes down to cost and accessibility. Right. We can’t even afford medications, let alone, you know, supplements. So we try to just focus on the basics here, you know, can we. Can we cut out a really easy one that I do? Is that. What are you drinking that contains sugar in it? Like, let’s just change to water.

Karyn [00:33:17]:

Start small, right?

Dr. Shahana [00:33:18]:

Super small. Right. Can you not eat something out of a package at breakfast time? Like, can we do something like that? Luckily, I work at a school that’s kind of an at risk school with kids who have been kicked out of the regular school system. And they provide a hot lunch. So in some ways, they have one meal every day that is freshly prepared, which is lovely. Right. So those kids have access to that.

Karyn [00:33:44]:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just like you’re doing with starting small. This is what I do as well with. With people who have IBD, and we’re starting to make dietary changes. It’s baby steps.

Dr. Shahana [00:33:54]:


Karyn [00:33:54]:

It’s. You don’t need to make a massive diet change and you don’t have to do it all at once. Let’s just start by, like, removing some of the sugar. Right. It’s that simple. So no matter what you’re dealing with. Right. And then when you do these things, and let’s say, I know it’s probably difficult with compliance, but when you do these things and somebody is compliant that you’re working with, do you notice that at a.

Karyn [00:34:15]:

Impacts their anxiety levels?

Dr. Shahana [00:34:17]:

No, it certainly can. I think I keep telling them and teaching them that, you know, food is medicine, right. You have, you know, energy drinks are just abundant amongst our youth these days. It’s so interesting. I’ll ask about coffee. They’ll be like, not as much, but how many red bulls or whatever they monster drugs or whatever they call it these days. Oh, yeah, tons of those. Like, they don’t equate it just like I say, are you smoking cigarettes? Oh, not cigarettes, but are you vaping? Oh, yeah.

Dr. Shahana [00:34:41]:

Like, you know. Right, the.

Karyn [00:34:43]:

No, you have to ask the right question.

Dr. Shahana [00:34:45]:

And that nomenclature is different. But yeah, absolutely, they can see small. Maybe it’s a little bit of an improved sleep. Maybe it’s that they’re not as fidgety anymore. Maybe it’s that they’re not craving certain things, you know, those. And once again, small. It’s small. And you might notice small things, but those small things build up.

Karyn [00:35:03]:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I’m thinking about this idea of anxiety, and of course, that goes along with perfectionism, right. That kind of thing. So especially in new motherhood, it’s almost normal, right? You know, you’ve prepared for this for nine months. You’ve read all of the what to expecting in all these books, and you want to do it right. I’m doing this in air quotes. If you can’t see me, you want to do it right.

Karyn [00:35:28]:

So can you talk to us about what would be help? What’s a healthy way to approach this in terms of this perfectionism, anxiety, stress. Like, when does it cross the line into this is now pathological? What signs should we be looking for besides the. I know you mentioned, you know, when it’s impacting the quality of your life, is there anything else, like, just, like, tangible that we can say, all right, this is. This is. I’ve gone beyond, right? I know I’m a new mom. And, like, for me, for example, when I had my first son, we were pretty rigid, and so he had to eat at the same time every day. If it was noon and I did not have the food on the table for this baby, I was like, we need, like, doctor Shahana. This is what we would do.

Karyn [00:36:14]:

We would actually stop the car. We were driving in the car. We would stop and say, okay, it’s noon. We have to stop because he has to eat. And I’m not talking about breastfeeding. I’m talking about when he was even eating table food. He has to eat. Like, that’s pretty rigid, right? But that was probably my own.

Karyn [00:36:27]:

That was probably the only thing. So when does it, like, cross over into. Okay, like, this is too much.

Dr. Shahana [00:36:34]:

Exactly. There’s a beautiful analogy given where you can imagine a river, and on one side of the riverbank is chaos, and on the other side is rigidity. And part of motherhood, I think, is flowing between both right and it’s not that you’re ever going to be beautifully downstream right smack dab in the middle. It’s being able to ebb and flow and change directions and change the tide when you need to. And that’s the complete opposite of rigidity. But I think the way to distill that down is to ask yourself the question, what does that say about you? Why do you need to feed him directly at noon? So you would maybe say, well, it’s really important for his growth. Well, tell me, why is it really important for his growth? Well, I’m afraid that he’s going to lose weight. Well, why are you afraid that he’s going to lose weight? Well, you know, my mother in law has been telling me that he’s not really looking as chunky as he used to, and I really want to make sure that he’s looking that way.

Dr. Shahana [00:37:28]:

You keep asking yourself that same question. Whatever I answered was completely theoretical. But seven times. And you do that seven times to get to that root. And the root I give the funnel. Any new mom with young kids would know that we love pouring sand through funnels, right? You funnel things through pouring water or whatnot. So imagine you have all that milieu of stuff in your brain of, you know, why you are, and it might be the behavior that you’re funneling through. You might not know what that you were adapt to saying, okay, it’s the rigidity.

Dr. Shahana [00:38:00]:

But you might just know that this is my behavior that I’m doing. I was the same way with my first. I think many of us are because we don’t know what we’re doing. So you clamp down and try to do everything, too. I remember with my first, I had a birth plan that I always joke is not, you know, photocopied, but laminated like it was. This is the way it was gonna go. And within 72 hours, everything went out the window, right? But at the end of that funnel, you want, if you can, come down to fear, like, what is that fear? Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of rejection? Is it fear of the unknown? Is it fear of being hurt? There is about nine or ten cardinal fears that we all have to some degree. And I’ll just cut to the punchline.

Dr. Shahana [00:38:46]:

For me, so much of my rigid behavior was because of feeling like I was going to fail as a mom. And for me, there was nothing worse. And it goes back to that expectation management, because I had set motherhood on the highest pedestal. Throughout medical school, everybody would say, I want to be an ophthalmologist. I want to be a dermatologist. I would say I want to be a mom. Like, that’s going to be my, it was mom, mom, mom. And secretly I think it’s because I wanted a break.

Dr. Shahana [00:39:13]:

Like, I just thought maternity leave was going to be this beautiful. Strap on your apron, bake some cookies, everything’s going to be okay. I was tired.

Karyn [00:39:21]:

You’re in the rat race and you just needed a break.

Dr. Shahana [00:39:23]:

Well, exactly.

Karyn [00:39:24]:

And you thought motherhood was gonna give you that break.

Dr. Shahana [00:39:27]:

Well, and society made it look that way. You kind of baby bump you like, and I’m not being facetious at all, but my own mom, she’ll laugh at this, but, like, our home videos had music playing in the background. It looked lovely. So I always joked to her, I said, you did not portray this correctly. To me, it’s false advertising. But at the end of the day, too, you know, that’s so the higher you set that expectation that it is going to look and feel and act a certain way. Your baby hasn’t read what to expect when you’re expecting. And any of us with more than one child, very rarely will we say, oh, he or she is exactly like your brother.

Dr. Shahana [00:40:08]:

Oftentimes it’s like, wow, I thought I knew what I was doing, and then.

Karyn [00:40:12]:

I’m completely curveball with the next one.

Dr. Shahana [00:40:15]:


Karyn [00:40:15]:

They’re all so different.

Dr. Shahana [00:40:17]:

They’re all so different. Right. So you can. But for most of us, it’s, I think, I think it’s the fear of failing at this thing that society tells us that we. Right from delivery, listen to your body. Be intuitive. You know, our grandmothers and great grandmothers. And I remember thinking, I don’t know what my intuition is telling me right now, because we’re so afraid and confused and it’s okay to be.

Dr. Shahana [00:40:44]:

It’s okay to be. So I think this higher expectation of having it all go a certain way doesn’t allow us that feeling of letting some of that chaos in. And by the time you ever have your second or third or whatnot, you know that you have no control out of it anyway. So it’s interesting, when you talk to a mom of one or a mom of multiples, just where they flow along the riverbank, you can watch it go in those different directions.

Karyn [00:41:11]:

Well, you just gave me a big aha. About what was behind that rigidity for me. And of course it was. Yes. Like somebody’s going to say I’m a bad mother, of course. Self imposed, right? If I don’t do this, if I don’t feed my child at this right time. Then someone’s going to see that I’m a bad mother. Because deep inside, I don’t feel confident.

Karyn [00:41:32]:

I don’t feel like a good mother, and I don’t want people to see it. But I have to tell you, Doctor Shahana, by the time number three came along, it would be like two, three in the afternoon. And I’m saying to my husband, has he eaten today? I grew, you know?

Dr. Shahana [00:41:46]:

Oh, exactly. Let’s be honest. That’s what social media is about. It’s taking this and going, look, I’m good, right? Look, my kids are well dressed, right? My kids are in soccer, right? I do it too. Like, give me the marks. Because so much of our emotions comes from this vacuum of needing significance. We. There’s nothing wrong.

Dr. Shahana [00:42:07]:

We all need significance. That’s an important part of our internal driver. But I think one of the reasons we crave that so much is we lack acknowledgement. Like, acknowledgement is those are the small band aid. Significance is the hemorrhage. Does that kind of drive? Yeah. Yeah. So how.

Dr. Shahana [00:42:25]:

And there’s nothing wrong with self acknowledgement. That’s not just patting yourself on the back. It’s kind of what you just did. Looking between my first and my third and goes, oh, I’ve come a long way. I’ve come a long way. And that’s what I do for my youth. Obviously, they’re not parents, but they have come so far in their life, but they get significance, potentially through risky behaviors and harmful ways. So if I can prevent the hemorrhage of significance with the band aid of acknowledgement and say, wow, you made that decision.

Dr. Shahana [00:42:56]:

Good on you. You broke up with that relationship. Good on you. Right? That’s. I consider myself not a doctor, but a coach to them as well.

Karyn [00:43:05]:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yes. I love that you say that because recognizing that in yourself and kind of saying, yeah, you know, yeah, I came a long way, or, I’m doing great at that now. It’s so huge for your self worth, for your self esteem, because so much of this is self imposed. It’s. I’m not worthy. You know, it’s all of the self talk, the negative self talk that we give ourselves.

Dr. Shahana [00:43:27]:

I call it, are you rubber or are you glass? If you’re first in, eat on time, are you gonna just like my glass here? Is it gonna shatter? Like, that’s it. And I see this with my youth all the time. Or are you that rubber ball? Like, can you bounce back? And that bouncing back really comes from self compassion, right? Self compassion as being three things. But one is important is that kindness, speaking to yourself in that kind voice. It’s often that we jump to that. But let’s be honest. I know for my youth, I asked one youth, one time, I said, you know, what? Like, what are we doing? Said, do you even like yourself? And he’s like, no, I. Many expletives hate myself.

Dr. Shahana [00:44:06]:

I said, then what are we doing here? Like, so I think the basis of self compassion for me is self acknowledgement, right? You need to get there before you get to self compassion and then to turn yourself into rubber versus shattering, right?

Karyn [00:44:20]:

And we think that that’s a lesson that so many people learn in adolescence, but actually, like, you know, we’re into our thirties, forties, fifties, and we’re still coming to terms learning it. You know, it’s like a cycle that continues. And sometimes I’m good and sometimes not so good, right?

Dr. Shahana [00:44:38]:

Well, exactly. And think about that rubber versus glass analogy in terms of who’s on your team to help you bounce back. You know, like, I see this with my youth and the relationships that they’re at. Those people are fracturing them, not allowing them to reach their limits or reach their sky, you know? So that’s the other piece you need to think of the connectivity that you have. And for all the moms and the new moms out there, all I can hope is that you have some support system. Like research has shown. If you have three people, three people that you can call at midnight, then you’re way better than any of the followers or likes or anything that you have on your social media. So that’s what I endeavor, and that’s what I hope for you.

Karyn [00:45:18]:

Real people, not people where I can validate myself on social media. Right? I’m gonna post this fake picture of my family having some sort of time where it doesn’t, nobody sees it. But we were actually arguing 2 seconds before that picture was taken. And now I’m gonna get the likes and validate it. No, it’s real people who you can call, who. Who can listen to you, who are there for you.

Dr. Shahana [00:45:39]:


Karyn [00:45:40]:

So much of that is missing. And so it’s about trying to, you know, find that in your life and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. No, it can happen slowly. Right? Find that one person. I talk a lot in my community about this thing called the wheel of wellness, which is surrounding yourself with all these different aspects of wellness, because it’s never about one thing that is going to help your IBD, it’s about a multitude of things, and your support system is a huge part of that wheel of wellness, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Shahana [00:46:09]:

It’s your hammock. It’s that, you know, when I was growing up, my dad would always kind of take their naps in the hammock. And I remember I kind of think about that sometimes because it’s that feeling of being bolstered, of being caught, of being supported. Right? We all need that, but we need to tighten those holes in the hammock so we don’t fall through. Right.

Karyn [00:46:26]:

So that’s what I. Oh, I love that analogy. So good. Thanks so much for tuning into the cheeky podcast for moms with IBD today. The great information we’re dishing out on this pod is exactly the same type of conversations I get to have with my clients every day. If you’re ready to take your IBD healing journey to the next level and move into being the mom you always dreamed you’d be, hop on over to karenhaley.com consult and book your free IBD consultation with me. Remember, my mom had to be a little bit different and spell my name with a y. So it’s karynhaley.com consult.

Karyn [00:47:08]:

On our call, we’ll dive into what you’re struggling with most right now and make a plan for how we can work together to help you achieve your big, bold, beautiful, life transforming goals. No more sitting on the sidelines waiting for that miracle cure to magically happen. You’ve got what it takes to do this right now, mama. You just need a little nudge in that right direction, and I’ve got your back. Karenhaley.com consult and now back to the show. We were talking a little bit about the adolescents that you work with, which made me think of a question that I have about. About adolescents in general. So in my generation, we never talked about mental health.

Karyn [00:47:49]:

If anybody had a mental health issue that was taboo even more than it is today, it was, you know, no, no, no. I don’t have that. That’s not me. Even if in the shadows, right, in your own life, you’re seeing a therapist, you’ve actually been given a diagnosis. No. But here’s what I think is really fascinating. So I have two college age kids, and for as long as I can remember, through their teenage years, they would come home and say, so and so is having panic attacks. So and so has depression, so and so is borderline.

Karyn [00:48:18]:

Like. It’s just everybody has a therapist. It just rolls off the tongue, they just talk about it so much more openly than we did in my generation. So my question for you is this this new way of looking at mental health, this 180 degree turn, is this, is this great? Is that people are, you know, talking so openly about this or is this a case of TMI?

Dr. Shahana [00:48:43]:

Yeah, that’s a really, really good question. I think it’s a yes, but answer. So, yes, I’m really. I think, once again, we’ve learned through this conversation whether it be postpartum, OCD, IBD or many other things fall under that category that shame and stigma breed in silence. Right. Nothing good happens when people are suffering alone. We all need a sense of community, sense the social interaction and the importance of that. Okay, wonderful.

Dr. Shahana [00:49:10]:

We know through obviously, Brene Brown’s work and this idea of the difference between vulnerability and shame. Right? So when people can be more vulnerable and enhance their connections. Excellent. So all of that are kind of those tick marks for why we should be talking about mental health. And the way that I like to talk about mental health. It’s not, not a you disease. It’s not a me disease. It’s meant to for all.

Dr. Shahana [00:49:30]:

Meant for all. Mental health is meant for all. Just like I’m taught. I work a lot in breast cancer as well. You know, if somebody was diagnosed with breast cancer and the other person was diagnosed with schizophrenia studies have shown the person with cancer would get a lot more support because we still take a big step back. So there’s still work to come. And there’s two things to say about that. Number one is that we have tended to use the words anxiety and depression not as diagnoses, but as adjectives.

Dr. Shahana [00:50:00]:

It is okay to feel anxious. It’s actually, in fact, it’s perfectly normal. We have 3400 different emotions and anxiety is one of them. Okay? So I think what’s happened with our youth is that if I feel really anxious, I must have anxiety. And that’s the rub. Is it an adjective or is it a noun? Right. So I feel sad, therefore I must have depression. So the great example is I had a youth coming to me the other day.

Dr. Shahana [00:50:28]:

My youth worker says I need to go on anti anxiety medications. Very typical appointment for me, I said. And I showed up in front of the class and had to give a little public speech of some sort and I felt anxious, so I medicated.

Karyn [00:50:44]:

So, no.

Dr. Shahana [00:50:45]:

Like, no, no, that’s normal. Like, let our anxiety. And there’s beautiful books written about this, right? The idea that actually there’s nothing wrong with acute stress. Acute stress is why all of us are alive right now. If we didn’t have those periods of acute stress, that is illness, we wouldn’t be able to get over it, right? It’s the chronic stress. It’s the day in, the day out, the month in, the month, the month out. It’s the idea, once again, of the not being able to complete your day to day activities, taking a toll on your sleep, taking a toll on your relationships, losing or gaining weight. It’s all of that.

Dr. Shahana [00:51:22]:

So I think we have to be the. But part comes into saying there’s nothing wrong with emotion comes from the word motus, which means comes and goes. Emotions are energy. They come and they go. Anxiety can do that, too. But if it’s here and here to stay, and it’s always there 24/7 then we need to talk about it as well, too. So we do. I think we’ve crossed that line quite a bit.

Dr. Shahana [00:51:49]:

I call it the pendulum is swung a little bit in the other direction, and it just is. The onus is not on the patient. They’re doing their sharing. It’s on the physician to be the gatekeeper and say, wait a second. I always say, just because you mention it doesn’t mean I need to medicate it.

Karyn [00:52:09]:

Oh, yes. Very good. I like that.

Dr. Shahana [00:52:11]:

I don’t need to medicate everything. You say, I’ll listen, I’ll empathize. I’ll be there. But there’s not a pill for every illness, so let’s just kind of reframe that.

Karyn [00:52:20]:

Yeah, yeah. And so by talking to you, then they can kind of say, okay, is this normal? Is this a problem? It’s like they’re kind of coming to you and saying, this is what happened to me. Is this really a problem? And then you can say, well, let me. You can probe a little deeper and then say, this is. Or no, really, it’s normal.

Dr. Shahana [00:52:37]:


Karyn [00:52:38]:

You know, getting anxious when you have a speech is. Is a normal reaction. It’s okay.

Dr. Shahana [00:52:42]:

And that probably served you well in that time period, too. And the other piece, I think, is realizing that the craving or needing a diagnosis to validate who they are, you know?

Karyn [00:52:54]:

Oh, oh, you just said something so important. Please just say that one more time.

Dr. Shahana [00:52:58]:

Yeah. Like craving and needing a diagnosis to validate who they are. You are not the Alphabet soup after your name. I’ll get these teens Gad and PTSD and bad and BPD. Like, wow. Like, that’s a lot. That’s a lot.

Karyn [00:53:15]:

They’re wearing it like a badge of honor, almost.

Dr. Shahana [00:53:17]:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it’s. It’s that we’re walking that tightrope between saying that you are legitimate in who you are. This stuff is maybe part of who you are. It’s not all of who you are, but also trying to say is that you are not that, if that makes any sense. Right.

Karyn [00:53:36]:

So, like, you’re experiencing that, but you are not that.

Dr. Shahana [00:53:39]:

Exactly. Exactly. There is a big life for you out there of that, and you don’t need, you know, I sometimes I’ll see these youth who are on eight, nine different medication.

Karyn [00:53:48]:

I’m going, wow.

Dr. Shahana [00:53:49]:

Oh, my word. Like, where do we even. And we don’t know how anyone’s reacting because they’re all. It’s all a soup of medication. So, yeah, that’s the other thing as well, too. So let’s not hang our hat that I’m just waiting for that, for example, ADHD diagnosis. Then I can get on with my life. I think we have to be a little bit cautious about that.

Karyn [00:54:09]:

Yeah, that’s really wonderful. Thank you so much. I love that you clarified that for me because that makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Shahana [00:54:14]:


Karyn [00:54:15]:

I think the big takeaway here from our conversation is that when you’re really thinking about your mental health and whatever type of challenge you’re having, whether it’s dealing with trauma, anxiety, depression, whatever it is, thinking to yourself, really going in and thinking to yourself, how much is this really affecting me? Did this just happen to me once, or is this becoming a pattern? And if it’s becoming a pattern, then it’s time to reach out and seek some help. And so where would that be? Where’s the best place to go if that’s an issue?

Dr. Shahana [00:54:48]:

And I think I know for so long, I would just say, oh, just get some counseling. Like, as if it’s just like, go pick up some bread from the store. It’s. I think you have to go. It’s once again, our job as a physician or whoever the gatekeeper happens to be, whoever you happen to be seeing to pre, what I call preload the patient a little bit, that the first counselor you see might not be the right counselor, just like the first medication you take might not be the right medication. Don’t write off all counseling or all medication or all supplements, because the first one didn’t work. And I wish someone had told that to me, too. Every.

Dr. Shahana [00:55:20]:

You might need to go. Just like trying to wear the perfect pair of jeans. It might take a couple of goes, too. Right? There is different types of counselling. Not all of it is, you know, you sit there. I sit there. I talk, you listen, I leave. There’s other things that you can do as well.

Dr. Shahana [00:55:36]:

CBT, DBT, EMDR, trauma centered counseling. Lots of. Lots of different things as well. I wish. I’m not sure how it works there. Here. There is a cost, which is. Most of my youth, obviously, are not covered for that.

Dr. Shahana [00:55:49]:

Our clinic does provide some counseling, but that’s another thing to try to finagle and keep in mind is how to manage the finances, because that can be a serious and legitimate concern for a lot of people as well. And some studies show that not talking to someone who’s extremely close to you, whether it be, like your best friend or. But just talking to somebody that you trust but is a little bit at an arm’s length. I know. For me, the first time I ever shared my true story was with a colleague, and we happened to be working and charting, and we got to talking, and she talked about her postpartum. I, for the first time, use postpartum, postpartum OCD. And ironically enough, she turned to me and said, me, too. Not that she had OCD, but that she had a very similar tumultuous journey.

Dr. Shahana [00:56:33]:

And it was that moment of leaning in instead of going, oh, I don’t know what you have. That’s weird. You know, if there’s any message I want to take away is that if anybody ever makes you feel that way, do not go to that person. You much more than that. Because even if we don’t have a quote unquote label for what you’re feeling, and you don’t always have to, there might not be, and that’s okay, too. But all I want is to you to feel that sense of empathy, that sense that someone is listening to you, that you feel validated, that you feel heard. So that’s what I want, and that’s what I think everybody deserves, at minimum.

Karyn [00:57:10]:

Yeah. So finding somebody who does that for you, keeping in mind that if you decide that therapy is the option for you in the United States, you can interview. I tell people this all the time. You can do the same thing with your doctors. Interview them first call, can I have a 15 minutes consult, pick maybe three, and then have a phone conversation with them. Do I resonate with this person? Does it fit for me at all? You know, and you can do the same thing with your friends. You can, you know, have a quick conversation. Is this, you know, you can kind of share a little bit of the story, and if you feel that they are open to it, if you feel supported by them, then you can share more.

Karyn [00:57:50]:

So it doesn’t all have to come at once. But I think the bottom line here is whoever you go to first, if it’s not the right person, go to somebody else.

Dr. Shahana [00:57:59]:

That’s right.

Karyn [00:58:00]:

That’s what I hear you say.

Dr. Shahana [00:58:01]:

Exactly. And usually, and this is, I always talk about emotional intelligence, emotional learning as not learning, but unlearning. It’s unlearning how you’ve learned to think about yourself, to self narrate to yourself all of the different biases that have come along the way. So that takes time. Right. It’s not a one and done. It’s not. I’ve seen a counselor for two to three months, and I’m feeling great already.

Dr. Shahana [00:58:27]:

So allow yourself that this is going to be, it might be three steps forward, one step back, but as long as you’re making some sort of linear progression, I would just try to stick with it. And it’s just like exercise. Right. We never think, you know, I’ve seen a personal trainer three times. Why aren’t I like, completely built and ripped? Like, what’s happening? Like, never judge a personal trainer for that, too. So allow the same respect to the, to the, your counseling professional as well.

Karyn [00:58:52]:

Yeah, exactly. It all, it just takes time. Right. And so.

Dr. Shahana [00:58:56]:


Karyn [00:58:56]:

And so your message is that, it sounds like to me is that give it time. Right. Know that. Know when it’s time to get help, but then when it is time to get help, give it time.

Dr. Shahana [00:59:07]:

No, exactly. Certainly know that you’re, you’re not alone in all of this. In fact, the one piece, what you were saying with your, with your college aged boys, which is really important, is to normalize the counseling piece. I know growing up, if you ever mentioned the word counselor, you’d be like, what? Like, that’s crazy.

Karyn [00:59:23]:

What’s wrong with you? Yeah.

Dr. Shahana [00:59:25]:

Now it should be, I go to the dentist, I see the optometrist, I go for personal training, and I go to the counselor. Like, it should be considered just as normalized as all of those specialties, too. So I think if we see progress, it’s in the piece that psychotherapy, counseling, whatever you want to call it, is getting much more accepted and normalized.

Karyn [00:59:44]:

Yeah. And especially for moms with inflammatory bowel disease, it is a lot. You’re a mom and you’re dealing with this disease that has. So it’s like, we were talking about this earlier before we hit record. It is a rollercoaster. There are so many other ups and downs. And so to have somebody and there are specifically trained therapists that can help. There are health psychologists, right.

Karyn [01:00:06]:

That are knowledgeable about Crohn’s colitis, about medical conditions and they’re available and can help. So it’s huge.

Dr. Shahana [01:00:15]:

That’s huge. And that’s all you want is. And, yeah, you want someone in your corner that actually knows the language that you’re speaking, right?

Karyn [01:00:21]:

That’s right, yes. You want to feel seen, heard, all of those things. Exactly.

Dr. Shahana [01:00:25]:

You got it.

Karyn [01:00:26]:

Doctor Shohanna, I want to finish up today with just a little fun lightning round. Is that okay?

Dr. Shahana [01:00:31]:

Yes, yes.

Karyn [01:00:32]:

Okay. So yeah, all of the questions promised, super fun, super easy. Some of them are about mental health, about health in general, but it’s just going to be fun.

Dr. Shahana [01:00:41]:

Perfect. Yes.

Karyn [01:00:42]:

Okay, let’s go for it. Okay. Number one, you. I love this question for you, especially because you are an MD. So when then you go to the doctor’s office, how do you advocate for yourself during visiting?

Dr. Shahana [01:00:55]:

Oh, good. Oh, good question. It’s a little bit different because my MD happens to be a colleague of mine too. The way that I advocate for myself is actually for me, I tend to be a little bit overzealous, a little bit rigid, because I think I know what I need. I tend to take a step back. I’m really working on listening to somebody else for advice and that’s actually worked really well because being a doctor to your own child or children, I have three boys, is not a good idea at all. So for me, the advocating that what I need to work on is to say, what do you think I need to do right now? Instead of always be an overbearing mom doctor patient, which I intended to be in the past.

Karyn [01:01:41]:

That makes sense. That makes sense. What is your favorite form of exercise?

Dr. Shahana [01:01:45]:

Oh, yeah, for sure. I love weight training. Anything with lifting is my, is one of my favorite things to do. Yeah. And my husband’s really big into it, I think just lifting heavy things. I’m not talking about extremely heavy, but it seems to just release a certain level of confidence in myself. So.

Karyn [01:02:03]:

Yeah, yeah, I love that too. I started strength training maybe six months ago. I’m so with you on that.

Dr. Shahana [01:02:08]:

Oh, perfect.

Karyn [01:02:09]:

What’s one thing that you do on a regular basis to help you connect with your mind? Like a mind body technique, a self care hack. What helps you connect with yourself?

Dr. Shahana [01:02:19]:

Yeah. Warm bath, reading Epsom salts. Usually every day. Every other day?

Karyn [01:02:24]:

Yeah, every day.

Dr. Shahana [01:02:25]:

Oh, yeah. When the kids go to bed. I don’t think it’s great for my relationship. I’m joking. But, like, I’m very much, like, can’t talk too, honey right now. I just need a little bit of that quiet time, a couple drops of eucalyptus, and it doesn’t have to be very long, but it’s lovely. And for me, reading is my ultimate, ultimate escape. I just.

Dr. Shahana [01:02:44]:

Absolutely. And we’re talking, like, chiclet books, you know, nothing heavy here, but that’s what.

Karyn [01:02:49]:

I. Escapism kind of book.

Dr. Shahana [01:02:50]:


Karyn [01:02:52]:

What is one thing that we are all getting wrong about mental health, in your opinion?

Dr. Shahana [01:02:57]:

That it’s like a light switch, that you either have it or you don’t. And that’s mental health is not the absence of distress. It’s not when it’s an ongoing thing that we all just like that personal trainer example, you know, I think when our life is going well, we think our mental health should be going well. But I think it’s. Mental health is about balancing your expectations, times your perception of what’s happening. That’s the key to mental health.

Karyn [01:03:24]:

Gotcha. Interesting. Okay. Speaking of books, when someone says to you, do you have a good book recommendation? What is always that one book? That one book you recommend most?

Dr. Shahana [01:03:36]:

Yeah, it’s a great question. I really. I never thought of. Yeah. Compassionomics. I forget who the author is, actually.

Karyn [01:03:42]:

I have to write that down.

Dr. Shahana [01:03:43]:

It’s really, really good. It’s given to me by a close friend, and it just. It actually delivers the science of compassion in our healthcare system. And one of. And it’s actually really focused on the us healthcare system. But in any case, they really talk about this idea that in medicine especially, we think of the diagnosis and the treatment as the. The main dish and compassion as dessert. But we need to start thinking of compassion as the main dish, because it’s not just that it’s a nice to have.

Dr. Shahana [01:04:11]:

It’s a need to have people get better, live longer, feel better, even for us, for burnout reasons. So it was what I always knew in my heart. It gave the literature to support it.

Karyn [01:04:23]:

Yeah. Oh, I have to read that. That sounds like a good one. Yeah. What are you currently binge watching?

Dr. Shahana [01:04:29]:

Oh, that’s a really good question too. This is a very boring answer, but I. There’s this daytime talk show just called the social CTV, so I will watch that sometimes, actually, the amazing race Canada for them nostalgic show, because I started watching it in the postpartum period, and it was one of those shows that I’m like, that was my little break or my little getaway when I was postpartum, and now I get to watch it with my son, so.

Karyn [01:04:58]:

Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Favorite travel destination?

Dr. Shahana [01:05:03]:

Oh, my goodness. Yeah, Australia. I got a lot of family in Australia. I would love to take my kids and go back. I’ve been just twice too, and Hawaii.

Karyn [01:05:12]:

As well, so, yeah, I have not been to Australia. Hawaii, I’ve been a few times. Love Hawaii, but Australia’s on my bucket list for sure. Coffee or tea? And how do you take it?

Dr. Shahana [01:05:23]:

Oh, coffee. Sorry, sorry. I was gonna say love coffee, but indian, we have every morning, indian chai tea, so that’s what’s boiling in the house. My husband has to prepare it and has cardamom and cinnamon and fennel and green tea and with a little bit of milk, so.

Karyn [01:05:40]:

Oh, that sounds delicious. Yeah. Okay, just two more. What is your favorite way to. Oh, I know your answer for this. What’s your favorite way to unwind after a long day? It’s got to be that bad, right?

Dr. Shahana [01:05:51]:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So sometimes I will go for a small walk with my husband just because we. That is important, that we communicate, but that too. It’s nice to have a walk without the kids.

Karyn [01:06:02]:

Yes, yes, for sure. Okay, last question. The name of this podcast is the Cheeky podcast. And so, to me, cheeky means being a little sassy, a little bit quirky, and a lot badass. So how are you cheeky in your life?

Dr. Shahana [01:06:15]:

Oh, I don’t know if this counts as an answer, but do you know what? It’s kind of going against the. The grain of what a physician should do. You know, as a family doctor, I could be seeing, you know, nine to five x amount of patients every day. And I remember going to that room, going, I spent ten years, and I feel suffocated and stifled by these walls and doing this, being a physician, going on podcasts and speaking and not knowing what I’m doing, but doing it anyways.

Karyn [01:06:48]:

Yes. So good. So good. Doctor Shahana, it’s been such a pleasure to talk with you, to hear all of your insights on mental health. If people want to find out more about you, if they want to follow the wonderful work that you’re doing, where can they find you?

Dr. Shahana [01:07:02]:

No, absolutely. So my website, drshahana.com, super active on LinkedIn. So drshahana Alibi, come find me there. Hopefully have a book coming out in spring, February, March. So, you know, you can always check that out, but lots of free resources on my website as well.

Karyn [01:07:18]:

What’s the title of the book?

Dr. Shahana [01:07:20]:

Feel better.

Karyn [01:07:20]:

Do you have a title? Yeah, feel better.

Dr. Shahana [01:07:22]:

Feel better.

Karyn [01:07:23]:

Yeah, I love it. Oh, awesome. Thank you so much.

Dr. Shahana [01:07:27]:

Such a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Karyn [01:07:29]:

Take care. Bye. If this podcast is meaningful for you, if it’s been helpful in your IBD bomb life, I’d love it if you would do a couple things. First, follow the pod. You’ll never miss an episode. And those moms who are searching for podcasts about Crohn’s and colitis, they’ll find us easier. There’s probably a plus sign or a follow sign where you’re listening in right now. It’s at the top of your screen.

Karyn [01:08:02]:

Go ahead and give that a tap. And then also give the cheeky podcast a five star rating and review and share it with your friends who are also struggling with IBD. The more we are open about talking about our illness and bringing awareness around it, the more we’re able to connect and build a safe community around each other. I love being in community with you and I appreciate you, my friend. One last thing before we wrap up today. You know, I think you’re a rock star for taking time out of your busy life to listen in and invest in your healing. It is capital h huge. And the reason I know how huge this is for you is because I am right there with you in all of this, working my wheel of wellness, keeping my crohn’s at bay.

Karyn [01:08:49]:

It’s something that I invest in every day, and I’d love it if we could continue our gut healing journey together. If you’re like me and you’re ready to soak up even more amazing gut healing and information, it’s time to join the gut love community@karenheathy.com. community the GLC is my free and fabulous space, dedicated to dishing out even more IBD resources, recipes, healing, hacks, lots of BTS secrets on how I manage my life with IBD, all wrapped up in a weekly newsletter to help you keep your momentum going strong, this IBD dish is gut healing insights that I only share within our tight knit community. Basically, it’s your one stop shop for a more diversified approach to true and lasting gut healing. Amen to that, my friend. Let’s walk this gut healing journey together. Join me in the glc@karenhaley.com community. That’s karynhaley.com.com community.

Karyn [01:09:57]:

I can’t wait to meet you.

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