The Truths I’ve Learned about Parenting with PTSD

Anyone who knows me is aware I have mental illnesses; I’ve never been a huge fan of over exposing exactly what they are. I also have never been willing to stay quiet and allow those around me to not recognize mental illnesses can happen to anyone, from any walk of life. One in four adults will at some point in their life be diagnosed with a mental health issue. I’m okay with being in that 25%.

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I was diagnosed with PTSD a few years back. No, it’s not just a disease for soldiers, though it affects millions of our war veterans. By definition, PTSD is

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” (source)

Parenting with PTSD is an adventure on it’s own.

I’m pretty much always hyper-vigilant.  This can be a positive and a negative. For example, I can keep my eye on five kids at once, yelling “Hit that ball” while swiftly pulling one child off the playground and wearing a baby on my back. That’s a great positive. On the flip side, I am ALWAYS hyper-vigilant. If a child coughs in the middle night, I’m awake and checking to make sure they aren’t choking.

I should have married a man who gave massages…or get a massage therapist. My husband can’t give massages for his life. He is a wonderful, awesome man(more on that later) but he is terrible at giving massages. When I’m tense after a high anxiety day, I kind of wish I had married that guy who could get rid of every knot in my back.

But I also married a perfect partner for me on my bad days.

And I have an amazing support system around me. They happen far less often than before, but I still have anxiety attacks. I sometimes still have nights I cannot sleep. I am so blessed to have married a man who picks up the little slacks I leave when I desperately need him to. Very thankful for that; if you have to someday parent with PTSD, I seriously suggest you get a support system that really works with and for you.

I’m a lot more accepting of my kids emotional outbursts. After years of crying for no reason other than a bad word, I have become aware of the over inflated emotions that sometimes take one over. Because of this, I am so much more accepting than other parents I’ve witnessed in public to my kids outbursts. If they scream and cry, I don’t automatically want them to stop; my hope is our kids learn to live their feelings.

I let my kids see my moments of weakness. 

I think it’s so important for your kids to know you can be hurt too, that you sometimes worry. Healthy relationships with emotions are so important for kids. Someday they will grow up and have to show those healthy emotions in healthy ways. I don’t blubber every time my heart hurts a little. (That’s a lie! I am a movie crier and they’ve all walked downstairs to me sobbing a movie.) I allow them to know we feel just like they do and showing those feelings is a good thing.

If I’m staring off and it seems like I’m worlds away….I probably am. I sometimes disconnect from the conversation an focus on the movements of my kids around me or to focus on anything around us. Other times making conversation is just not on my radar of what I feel like doing. Please feel free to bring me back to the conversation, because I don’t like that part. Sometimes I just need a little reassurance to focus on the talking.

Sometimes, on the worst of the worst days, I have panic attacks. 

For the most part, these were obsolete from my life until I became pregnant about two years ago. The shift in hormones caused my anxiety to heighten. After birth, a brush of PPD caused the anxiety to stay around. Most days it’s a background noise in each day but every few weeks, it turns into a full blown panic attack.

“A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.” (source)

When panic attacks happen, they’re scary. Between my therapy, DBT I’ve done over the years, and all the tools I have in my box, they are not common for me any longer. But they still happen. It’s hard when I’m in the middle of a great day and things go wrong. And after a panic attack, I’m left completely drained. I’m blessed to have family members who help me after one, whether it’s babysitting or coming over.

All in all, my healing is amazing because of the people around me who have helped me come this far.

Living with PTSD, and parenting with PTSD has been a very hard experience. It has also been eye opening and given me a much more open and honest way to parent. 

What are you dealing with that changes your parenting perspectives?

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7 thoughts on “The Truths I’ve Learned about Parenting with PTSD

  1. Aww LJ! I know it’s hard, but I admire the hell out of you for being so open about it. You’re an incredibly strong person, and a wonderful mother.

  2. Having a solid support system is such a crucial aspect and it’s great that you have that. Thanks so much for sharing this and being open to talk about it.

  3. I have PTSD, too. Mine is largely medical, from some really bad experiences in college. I have a really hard time with medical tests and procedures, especially those being done on my husband or kids. Or dog, actually. I get flashbacks a lot, but the ones when someone I love is separated from me for a test or procedure are unbearable. Medical personnel don’t care… I’ve asked before to be allowed to accompany my husband for surgery prep, instead of being brought back for that 2 minutes before he’s wheeled away, and explained that it was because of PTSD and anxiety… they’ve said it’s okay, then not come to get me for over half an hour, for that two minutes. They don’t care… my husband can’t understand, even though he tries… I always feel so alone on those days. We’ve only had one of those days since the kids have been born, but they saw me shaking and sobbing in a waiting room. My precious boy kept reaching for my face with the most concerned expression… it breaks my heart that they’ve had to see that already. Like I’m burdening them so young…

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