This is part of our PTSD series by Melissa.
By: Melissa Thurber
I am a mother of 2 amazing children. My daughter is 12 and my son is 6. I absolutely love them with all of my heart and would do anything to make sure they have a loving and caring mother to be by their side.
As I have stated in a previous post, I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from my deployment to Iraq in 2003 until 2005. PTSD makes you feel like you want to disassociate yourself from the world. It causes frustration, depression, isolation, insomnia, anger outbursts, anxiety, and a multitude of other symptoms. It can make you feel like something bad is always going to happen. PTSD also brings about a symptom that I wish did not exist. It is almost impossible to feel emotions like someone without PTSD would.
It is VERY hard to be a parent with PTSD. Before I left for Iraq, I used to always let my daughter be a kid who needs to learn to fall and get back up. I used to let her run free on playgrounds while I watched, and guided her in areas that may not be age appropriate, but we all (as parents) want to let our kids push the limits to see how well they do! Now, I don’t even take my children to the park, my husband does. My son is a very hyper child who loves to be a boy and play swords, climb things, get dirty, run around like crazy, and just be a boy! I can’t watch him do these things because I am ALWAYS fearful with everything he does that he is going to get hurt. I was never like this in the past like I said, but now it is something that affects me greatly.
I am pretty sure that everyone experiences a form or anxiety at some point in their lives. Some of you multiple times and some live with anxiety disorders. With PTSD, your anxiety never goes away. Loud noises WILL trigger anxiety. Fluctuation in a person’s voice with an uncertain tone, crowds, stores, and the list goes on and on. For me even a question from my children while I am in the middle of doing something will cause anxiety. It is a hard thing to deal with. I have to put myself in “Time Outs” like we do to our children because the anxiety will get that bad and what happens with high anxiety levels? Anger.
If I don’t step away during an anxiety attack and just breathe for a few minutes, my anxiety can turn into an unwanted anger. I hate to admit it but my children have been on the receiving end of this anger. Up until a few years ago I had a hard time distinguishing when the anxiety would turn to anger. I would yell at my kids at the top of my lungs for just being kids. My husband would step in and scold me for getting mad at the kids which in turn would cause more anger. I believe he would do it so that my anger would be redirected at him. Now, I can recognize (after a lot of VERY HARD WORK) when this anxiety could turn into anger. I step away now BEFORE I get angry. And in turn, my children don’t get scolded or feel unloved by my actions. This does not mean I don’t struggle with snapping at them from time to time and not being as attentive as I should be. I still struggle every day to NOT snap at my kids when chaos ensues.
Then there is depression. Depression MAJORLY affects your ability to parent. When I get in my depressed modes (I still have yet to figure out how to get out of the funks) all I want to do is hide in my room and do nothing. I just want to curl up into a ball in my bed and put on the television and zone out on Netflix. I don’t want to be bothered. I don’t want those sweet hugs from my children and husband. (Fortunately I have a loving and caring husband who when he is home allows me to have my alone time.) What I do though, is put on a good front. If Blake comes in and says, “Mommy can I give you a hug?” I always say, “Of course” and give him a hug. Is it wanted? I always want hugs from my children, but sometime not at that very moment. Do I hate my child because I do not want to show affection? Absolutely NOT. I love them with all of my heart.
I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking to yourselves, WOW this mother is heartless. Trust me, I think that too. But here is what I do to make sure my CHILDREN don’t think that. I fake it until I make it. That is right. Fake it. I play with my kids and keep all the anxiety balled up inside until I have time to decompress at night. I give hugs when Im depressed because THEY don’t deserve a crappy mother. I walk away when my anxiety gets too much because Delanie and Blake do not need to be yelled at for being kids. And, I tuck them in at night to make sure they both know how much I love them, even if it seems at times that it is a flawed love.
I still try to live a normal life even with PTSD. I do activities with my children. I take them to events and movies even though I hate crowds. I play with them in the backyard as long as my anxiety doesn’t get in the way. I snuggle with them on the couch while watching movies even when I feel I want to be alone. We sit down for family dinners. We do EVERYTHING normal families do. I just live with struggles that I have to deal with every day. I work hard to make sure my children don’t struggle because I do. PTSD is a very tough thing to live with but it IS possible. We are a happy family 90% of the time and we are working towards that 95% mark, because let’s face it, we can’t all be perfect 100% of the time!
You can check out my work at: www.melissajthurber.com
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