When I Learned I Had PTSD as a Result of My Son's Multiple Hospitalizations

It has been three days since my son was released from the hospital from his last overnight admission. This time, it was an observational stay for stomach pain. We were discharged without any real answers, which was no surprise. It was almost predictable because most doctors who are unfamiliar with our son’s rare condition seem to shrug their shoulders at us. At least we could rule out appendicitis and will need to follow up with Giovanni’s specialists.

Besides ruling out a potentially serious condition, we were thrilled to be home in time for Giovanni’s brother’s birthday. We rushed home once we were released to bake a cake and get into celebration mode. So many people have hailed me a hero because I was seemingly able to bounce back like the hospital stay never happened.

But I am here to tell you it is all a façade. It is all fake. It is a face I put on to hide the truth.

The truth is I am still riding a roller coaster ride of emotions behind the face I have painted on. When the doctor explained to my husband and myself that Giovanni would need to spend the night in case he needed to be rushed into surgery, I felt my heart rate elevate. You would think this would be a cake walk for me after Giovanni’s 10 surgical procedures and numerous hospital stays, but it doesn’t get easier. I honestly believe it gets harder because you know how quickly things can change in an instant. I know the feeling when the doctors come rushing in to the room in the middle of the night. I know the sheer terror of running behind the nurses pushing my son’s hospital bed into the nearest X-ray room fearing an infection in his bone after a surgical procedure. These helpless moments stick with you. They haunt my dreams.

I am ashamed to say I took my emotions out on my husband after we were admitted to the hospital for the night, and it is not the first time I have done that. All marriages need work, but I’ll admit there is a lot of strain on ours after everything we have been through with Giovanni’s medical needs. Marriage counseling was our saving grace, and during those sessions, I was diagnosed with PTSD. This diagnosis was a hard for me to come to terms with, and I am still learning how to better manage my anxiety in these moments when I am triggered.

I have, however, become a professional at hiding it. Not one doctor or nurse knew what I was going through. After my husband left the hospital and after Giovanni finally went to sleep, I spent time in our bathroom just sobbing. I was careful not to be loud and wake up Giovanni. I was also aware of when the nurses would be making their rounds for vital signs. I made sure I had it together before they returned to our room.

I am not a super hero. I am just a flawed human trying to be the best mom I can be for the most amazing little boy in an unfair situation.

There are so many better ways I could have handled this situation. I should have recognized my anxiety was triggered. I needed help but I didn’t realize how quickly I had spiraled out of control until I was home. As a mother, I feel an overwhelming need to be the strongest person in the room, not only for Giovanni, but for my husband as well. When these feelings of anxiety rise up in these situations, I become angry at myself for feeling that way, and before you know it I am taking my anxiety and anger out on my biggest supporter: my spouse.

None of this is heroic behavior and it is time to stop trying to be the savior of the day. It is time for us parents to get real about how we feel and seek help when we need it. We are humans with feelings, and we are put in the most stressful situations with our most precious children.

It is time for me to stop trying to be a super mom with a cape and get real with my own needs for my child. We need to step forward and admit we feel the stress and anxiety. We are not emotionally numb beings. We feel fear and anxiety as often as we laugh and smile. Acknowledging our emotions and admitting to them is the most heroic thing us parents of kids with disabilities can do.

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