This is part of our PTSD series by Melissa.
By: Melissa Thurber
As mothers we like to be able to take our children out and do things with them. Things like bowling, going to the park, arcades, parades, events, etc. We want our children to experience all the joys life has to offer.
As a mother with PTSD I have a very hard time doing these things. PTSD causes an immense amount of social anxiety. It is hard to even go to the grocery store at times.
This past weekend, I was invited to go out bowling with one of my son’s friend and his family. I hummed and hawed over the idea and was really nervous because I had not met his mother in person. We only conversed on Facebook (Facebook is a safe haven for communication for me and others I know with PTSD).
I finally decided that I was NOT going to punish my children just because I had a hard time with social settings. I was not going to make them miss out one more time because I have a fear of crowded areas and restaurants. I was going to take them come hell or high water!!
We started out by meeting the other family at a local restaurant for dinner. When we got there it was just us. My anxiety was so very high that I could barely sit still in my seat. I was a nervous wreck. BUT, my kids were very excited and I didn’t want to show them how anxious I was. So I put on that hypothetical mask that I use when I try to hide my feelings to my kids. It worked too. They had no clue what was going on. They didn’t know that all I wanted to do was go into the bathroom and cry it out so I could come back and TRY to have a normal fun night.
When the other family arrived my palms started to sweat. I was super anxious and wanted to just tell the kids to get in the car so we could just go home. But I didn’t. I stayed and kept a smile on my face. It was so hard though.
I started talking with the other mom and started to feel a little at ease as she was an EXTREMELY nice person. She made me feel comfortable and I was able to talk to her without any issues other than my normal babbling self. THEN the boys started to get a little crazy! They were smashing peanuts all over the table, laughing uncontrollably, and playing with cars on the table while we waited for our meal.
Im sure most of you are thinking, “That’s just boys. They should be allowed to play like that without anyone getting upset”. Yes, I 100% agree. PTSD doesn’t though. It makes you want to crawl out of your own skin when there is uncontrolled chaos and makes you want to curl up in a ball and hide from everything that is loud, obnoxious, or out of your normal comfort zone.
After dinner we rode over to the bowling alley. When we walked in it was pretty crowded and my anxiety started to go through the roof. But I stood there for a second while the other family was giving the girl at the counter their shoe sizes and took a deep breath. I had to remind myself that this was about the kids and not about me. I was able to get past that initial anxiety!! It worked!!
We started bowling and my son and his friend had their own lane. Everyone was having a blast and it seemed as though my PTSD was at bay for the time being UNTIL……my son started to get upset because he thought he wasn’t doing good. This is where I started to get that major anxiety again. I wanted to just say “Lets go home” . Instead, I whispered nicely in his ear. I said, “It’s ok if you don’t win. Mommy is losing too, but I am having fun”. Although I was having a good time, I don’t really think I can say it was real fun due to being way out of my comfort zone. It definitely made him relax and continue to have fun.
We continued to bowl and it was actually a great time. Once we were all done, we said our good byes for the night and went our separate ways. When we got in the car my son was still on his little high from having a good time. He said to me, “Mom, you are the best mom ever. Thank you for taking us tonight. It was so much fun”. That right there is when I knew I did the right thing.
I realized then that I need to try to continue to fight through this crappy thing called PTSD for my children. I needed to keep pushing through this and let my kids be kids more often than not. I needed to put my personal struggles aside for them as much as I possibly could.
This stuff may seem to you like it is just normal to allow kids to be themselves. And yes, it is normal. But for a mother with PTSD it can be a VERY hard thing to do. I am trying and that is the best I can do for now!
You can check out my work at: www.melissajthurber.com
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