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I Wish I Was Able to Protect My Daughter From Her PTSD Triggers


Editor’s note: Daughter has given permission for this piece to be published. If you have experienced domestic or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

My daughter is diagnosed with PTSD. Did you know, statistically PTSD is more common in foster children than soldiers? My sweet girl was abused, neglected and witnessed who knows what during her first four years of life. Then she bounced around foster care for five years after that. She had 12 foster “homes” before joining our family forever at age 9. We’ll never know all she endured before us.

She doesn’t understand why she’s triggered sometimes.

Stop and think about that for a second.

Imagine yourself going about your life and then suddenly becoming so overwhelmed with fear and panic that you scream out or burst into tears, causing a huge scene. Or totally freeze. Or strike out because you think your life is in danger.

And having no idea why.

One of the triggers we know about is bees. Or any flying insect. This is one of the triggers she understands. She’s shared the story with me several times. She was having a meltdown when she was about 7, as traumatized children with high anxiety are prone to do. Her foster mom shoved her outside on the balcony and locked the door. There were bees out there and my daughter was attacked. Several bees stung her in the head and face. She was screaming for help and the foster mom ignored her.

My heart cracks a little more every time I think about my poor baby with such heavy abandonment issues being tossed out when she clearly needed help calming down in the first place. Then I think of how scared she must have been with those bees swarming and stinging… ugh.

She freaks out if she sees a bee to this day. And she’s 16 now.

She was working out in the garage by herself one night. My husband and I were standing in the kitchen when she came in. She was visibly upset. Wide-eyed, stiff, short of breath, shaking.

“Get it off me please,” she said quietly and without moving.

A wasp was on her shirt. I flicked it off and it flew to the top of a cabinet.

She started to hyperventilate.

“Did it sting you?” I asked. She nodded, but said she didn’t know where. It hurt, though. She was in too much of a panic to pinpoint where.

I told her I was going to look her over to see if there was still a stinger in her. Meanwhile, her dad had climbed on the counter to get the wasp and assured our daughter it was dead. He’s the one who found the spot on her neck. She started whimpering and he told her he wasn’t going to touch it. I pulled her hair back and saw there was no stinger.

We both assured her we knew it was scary and that it hurt, but she was safe. She nodded her head. I suggested she take a cold shower to let the water run over the sting. She asked me to stay with her. I said of course.

I walked her through what a different experience this was than the one that started the fear. She came to us when she needed help. We took care of her right away. She wasn’t alone. She was loved and safe.

She was calm again by the time she got out of the shower, but being triggered always takes a lot out of her. She wore her dad’s favorite shirt to sleep in. I made her some popcorn and set her up with mindless TV on the couch.

PTSD makes the world really scary. I’m honored she told me about the bee situation and other scary things she remembers happening to her. We got to show her getting stung sucks, but isn’t life threatening like she thought when she was scared and all alone on that balcony.

But, oh how I wish with every fiber of my being that I was able to be there to hold and protect her from the start of her life so she didn’t have all these big triggers from the bad stuff that happened to her.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Thinkstock photo via Kikovic.