When Trauma and Parenting Collide
How do you parent with PTSD? The answer for me is that sometimes I didn't. Sometimes even now, my husband is a single parent. And when I was first injured? I would say that for the first year and a half, he was not only a single parent to our two teenagers, but also had a third dependent in me. As a society, we talk about "in sickness and in health" but what about when your spouse is physically capable, but their brain breaks? In our situation thankfully my husband stuck by me and did his best in dealing with his own fears as a husband and father and did his best by our kids. No one knew what they were doing, there's not exactly a contingency plan for things like this, and no one got what they needed.
That first year and a half, I was in a deep depression and suicidal, I had pretty severe agoraphobia where leaving my room was often accompanied by a panic attack if I could even leave the room. I cried and slept a lot that first year, and both my memory and focus were gone. I had to re-learn how to read, couldn't speak a sentence without getting distracted, and would ask the same questions over and over because I couldn't retain the answer. And didn't realize I had already asked the question. Our kids did their best to be understanding and we had a lot of family dinners in our queen size bed because I couldn't leave our room.
I have never been the kind of parent I wanted to be, probably like most parents. I can't even imagine how much harder this would have been had I been a single parent, and if I was alone during that time I don't think I would have made it.
So how to move along the path of recovery from PTSD and still parent. Well, the thing I have in common with other parents is that we all screw up. And as I grow and learn about who I am now, I do own my mistakes and eventually I forgive myself for them. I don't brush them off, and because my kids are older, I tell them where I messed up and why that was wrong and I apologize with full sincerity. I try not to tell them why I did that because I don't want them to feel like I am making excuses. If they ask, I do tell them where my wrong thinking came from but as their Mom that is aside from the point. The point is that I made some pretty bad decisions with the best of intentions.....and despite my intentions I was so very wrong. But I can't dwell there. To dwell in that space means that I become the victim and I have the right to OWN my mistakes, learn from them and move on.
So, this has been part of my process. I know that "I did the best I could at the time with the tools I had available to me." And I can either flog myself for those regrets or I can move forward and model who I am now. I am not perfect and never will be. That I am continuing to "do my best with the tools I have" and am gaining more tools as I grow. And when that day comes when my kids need to voice their hurt, I will receive what they are saying and give them what they need on that day because this is also part of their story.