There is no shame in...
There is no shame in...
Surviving A Post Traumatic Minefield
It’s nearly four years since trauma claimed the “old me”. It was the summer that changed my life forever, and not for the better. It started with lightening striking and igniting a fire in my home and it ended with the death of my six year old son. It still baffles me how
anyone could survive it, let alone me. Each day life continues on. Some days I am barely surviving and other days I am truly living. Just like I am walking through a minefield of #Grief, I am also walking through a minefield of trauma triggers.
Prior to experiencing trauma I was a fairly laid back mom. Raising three boys taught me that
a lot of climbing, jumping, running and risk taking activities could be completed without injury. My philosophy as a mother has always been stand back and let them take risks. Sometimes that meant having to physically hold myself back. Either way I was more on the lax side.
“Post traumatic me” tends to be like this too, most of the time. I am fairly relaxed and allow my boys to take risks. Then, out of nowhere, I will get triggered and remember all the dangers in life. My brain and heart will seize up. The internal dialogue begins and manic chatter rules the dialogue. It’s like watching and listening to a horror film. The door to the movie theater is locked and there is no escaping. Even if you close your eyes and ears, the terrifying energy is present. Sometimes these feelings subside slower than others. I breathe through them, exercise through them, distract myself to get through them. Oftentimes I can talk myself through these feelings. I label them as triggered emotions and remind myself that “No feeling lasts forever”. Reciting that always helps.
At the core of it all I am extremely aware of the fact that I cannot control anything. As a result, I must find coping mechanisms to live as the “post traumatic me”. Self care is my answer to this. I must stay in my routine of taking my antidepressant, exercising and regular therapy. These are the things I have in my tool box. They are not the keys to escape that movie theater but they are the tools I need to shift the terrifying energy.
The Number Two Is Yellow: Synesthesia In Children
Sometime around the age of four my middle son began telling me that each number was a different color in his brain. I recorded the colors that corresponded with each number. Periodically I would ask him what color each number was. I was curious to see if his answers were consistent. They were. One day at a therapy session he mentioned that six was black. His therapist picked up on this right away. She then went on to tell me that this is an actual condition. The name for it is synesthesia.
Psychology today defines it as,
“www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/synesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/cognition pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision).”
There are cases in which trauma has induced this mingling of senses. There is no way to tell if the loss of his brother resulted in the onset of synesthesia in my son or if it was already the way his brain worked. Either way, it is quite intriguing.
Check out this link, synesthesia.com/blog/children if you would like some tips on how to approach children with synesthesia.
Words Carry Weight When Grieving
One of my fellow members of the most undesirable club to be in, posted something quite interesting today. She made the distinction between carrying on and moving on as grieving mothers. This really resonated with me. Her point was that we never move on from grieving our children. We carry on. We carry on raising our living children. We carry on as wives. We carry on as daughters, sisters, friends. Most of all we carry on, while carrying our children in our hearts. We carry on because our deceased children live on through us. Their legacies, messages and light live on through us. That can only happen if we carry on with our life.
I have said before that I still actively mother three children. It is not in the way I once expected it would be. My responsibilities to my living children include making lunches, showering them, driving them to camp and preparing them to start a new school year. These mothering tasks are responsibilities that all mothers can relate to. Mothering an angel is different. It’s not as demanding as mothering a living child and yet it is more demanding. If we don’t keep our child’s spirit and memory alive, he is really gone. Mothering an angel requires less responsibility, yet more. No longer do I need to worry about what time he will be home from school, but I need to make the time to honor him. No longer do I need to worry about if he is making the right choices, but I need to make sure my choices in honoring his life make him proud. Just like a mother never stops loving her child, she never stops mothering her child.
Grieving mothers carry on. We are warriors. Oxford Dictionaries defines warrior as “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.” That’s us. There are so many other ways we would have liked to earn our warrior status. We will never move on. We will never move past our child, his life, our experiences together. It will never be an event that merely occurred in the past. Instead we become experienced at carrying on. We become experienced at being a fighter. Every day that is lived without my child is a fight. It will never be easy. This is not to say that happiness and joy does not exist. Both coincide in my world. Sometimes the intensity of #Grief, and the feeling of fighting is stronger. Sometimes the intensity of happiness and joy is stronger. One never wins out, one never trumps the other. They exist together. That is how I carry on.
Connections Helps Grieving Parents
After losing my son four years ago many people have contacted me asking how they can help a friend or family member who has experienced a similar loss. The answer I always give is to just be there. Being a friend to a grieving person is hard in any situation. It becomes even more complicated when your friend or family member has lost their child.
There is no right answer on how to best support a bereaved parent, as everyone is different. There are a few things, however, that are essential to do if you find yourself in this position. The first is to keep in contact with the bereaved parent/s. You may not always get an answer back. You may rarely get an answer back but just hearing from those who love and care about them let the parents know they are not alone. If you notice that your grieving friend rarely gets back to you or feels more stress about answering people, let them know you are just checking in and there is no need to answer. If you haven’t heard from them in a while, let them know you are getting worried and just want to make sure they are okay. Losing a child can feel like the loneliest path you will ever walk. Even though you may not understand exactly what the bereaved parent is going through, just let them know you are there to listen or talk. This applies to the time of the loss and any other difficult times of the year; birthdays, angelversaries, etc.
Another way to support bereaved parents is by reminiscing about their child. This assures them that you are still thinking about and loving their child. In addition to that, let them know when their angel has paid you a visit. It always warms my heart to hear my family and friend’s experiences when my son, Christian shows he is by their side. It’s also amazing to hear when his friends have an encounter. They are 10 years old now and some of them have had fascinating encounters with him. Relaying these stories helps bereaved parents to feel their children’s love even stronger.
If the bereaved parents have other children, offer to take them for a few hours. This is obvious to many people after the death. It is also extremely helpful around angelversaries. Some parents may wish to hold their living children even closer. For myself, when I am experiencing heavy grieving times, I feel guilt when I am with my children. It feels as though I am not being the best mom I can be. I don’t need a break from the every day, but more frequent breaks than usual help me to recharge so I can be present with them. Offering to entertain their children for a few hours allows grieving parents to reconnect and recharge.
These are fairly basic guidelines. They vary with different people and also as time goes on. They also vary depending on men and women. The best advice I can offer to anyone is to connect with your friend on a regular basis. Just checking in with him or her keeps the lines of communication open.
The Fog Of Depression
The fog of #Depression rolls in. First it’s just a few clouds, then they become thicker and lower until I can barely see in front of my face. It blocks the truth. It starts with a perceived failure – something I should have done but didn’t. Then the negative voice permeates my thoughts. My self care routine falls by the wayside. The truth is invisible and hopelessness descends.
The negative self talk that swirls in my head lies to me. It tells me I will never reach my goals. It tells me I will never be good enough. It tells me I am a horrible mother and wife. It hits me where it really hurts. It’s merciless.
This has been a cycle in my life. It has only gotten worse since I lost my oldest son. The irony of #ChildLoss for me, however, was that it forced me to develop coping mechanisms for my depression and sadness. Before child loss and PTSD I was able to handle the level of depression I experienced. I was able to deal with it and compensate. After experiencing the trauma of child loss, I was no longer able to just get by.
My self care routine now includes therapy, exercise, medication and other therapeutic rituals. It’s those days when nothing helps that are the longest. The days when taking a shower seems more than I can handle. The days when working out seems as foreign as walking the moon. These feelings make it easy for me to believe the negative self talk. Feelings are not the same as truth. My brain knows that. It’s my heart that struggles.
I follow all the suggestions given by health professionals
such as; surround yourself with your tribe, follow a routine and connect with others. These pieces of advice help, they do. They can only do so much though.
I will emerge from this fog because I always do, but waiting it out is torturous. When the temperature balances out, the fog lifts. When balance returns to my life, the fog of depression will lift. In the meantime I will use the resources available to me.
Low Self Esteem Kicks Up With High Anxiety
Today I succumb to my #Anxiety. The weather is stunning. It’s one of those days when the baby blue sky can be seen for miles. There is hardly a cloud to be seen. The sun radiates and warms all it touches.
I am lying in bed. My inner dialogue argues with my emotions, rambling on about how beautiful the weather is. The day shouldn’t be wasted because tomorrow it will rain all day. I don’t want to leave my bed. I want to read and write from where I am.
Uncomfortable in every inch of my skin, physically and emotionally, I don’t want to face the world. The sun taunts me, shimmering as if to say, “Come soak me up and you will feel better”. It’s lying. I already tried that this morning.
My bed is where my heart is. I feel unworthy to enjoy this beautiful day. My physical appearance repulses my own self. It feels as if only beautiful people should be allowed to enjoy beautiful weather. When nature shines in all its glory only those who take care of themselves should be able to reap the rewards.
There is logically no truth to be found in the theory that only beautiful people deserve the sun. Yet, my inner dialogue tells me something different. These are the inner musings of someone with poor self esteem. All my life I have battled this.
This past week my anxiety has been particularly high. I can trace it back to stimulus outside of myself and things I cannot control. Today feels like the end of my rope. All week I have been attempting to manage my anxiety but at this point I am emotionally drained.
We all have negative emotional tendencies. For me, it is self degradation. This has been my pattern for many years. I attempt to replace my negative self talk with positive statements but I am still working on believing them. Some days are better than others. I’m going to stay in my bed today but I will rebound. Until then, I love how understanding my pillows and blankets are!
What others see vs. what I really feel
I think that others see me as strong, independent, confident (maybe a little arrogant?), smart, funny, enthusiastic, energetic, hardworking and extremely altruistic whereas all I feel is self-hate.
In my opinion, I am ugly and fat, weak, lazy, anxious, tired, in pain and sad most of the time, selfish and self-centered (possibly narcissistic, even), I can't do anything right and everything that comes out of my mouth is either stupid, irrelevant, disgusting or all three. And I feel so lonely...