After my recent Weight Watchers meeting room topic on “Let it go” and the fact that Tuesday June 27, 2017 was PTSD Awareness Day, I have decided to finally publish this post. It’s a tough read, but one that for my own healing needed to write.
Some of you know me personally and know a good deal about me. This post has a little bit for everyone, for my friends – I hope this shines a light on what flies around in my head most days and for people stumbling upon this post – I hope it helps you either personally or with someone you know. That it helps you understand why we act the way we do sometimes, because it can become exhausting pretending that we are ok. The post is long, but something I needed to write for my own healing.
Lately I’ve been struggling and not just with my weight. I ‘ve been pulling away from social situations and staying close to what’s familiar and comfortable. I’ve been keeping my support people as close as possible. Anxiety is something that I have struggled with for many years. I’m usually very good at managing it. I’ve worked with a therapist in the past to develop a tool kit to help my navigate most situations. Recently this has changed for me. Anxiety can be a fickle bitch especially when paired with post traumatic stress.
Back in November when James had his accident it rocked me to my core. During those two months of hospital stays, surgeries and doctors visits I was able to hold it together fairly well. I was fortunate to have medication to help me through the worst of it while James was in the hospital, it helped me to stop crying and focus on what was in front of me. The neurosurgeons and nurses in the hospital told me this day would come, where I stop putting one foot in front of the other and I have a chance to breathe. It’s been happening more and more lately. In my case I am beyond fortunate that my child is ok, he’s more than ok, he’s perfect. I swear he didn’t miss a beat and he’s just like he was before except with a serious battle wound.
I started researching PTSD shortly after James’ accident. At first I didn’t think it would apply to me. I though that it would apply to James as his was the injured party. Turns out it does apply. James was blessed with no recollection of the accident. I’m not sure how much of his hospital stay he remembers. I like to believe his memories started back up after they removed his breathing tube. We ensured that Nathan’s memories of James’ accident picked back up at that point. He saw his brother as we brought him to the emergency room and a photo a few days later, then in person after he was awake again. We don’t talk much about the day of James’ accident and how Nathan feels about it. Honestly I don’t ask because I’m terrified of the answer. What I do know is hopefully the visuals we left Nathan with were far less jarring than the ones that his father and I are left with, along with any friends and family that visited him throughout his PICU stay, because it was devastating.
What so many people don’t know is the emotional thin ice this has left me on and how I sometimes own the perceived parental inadequacies that are projected by comments or looks given. So many people, including family and close friends don’t fully understand with some of the hang-ups I was left with. I have yet to be able to walk up the stairs in my garage or go into that portion of my garage without crying uncontrollably. For the first month, I couldn’t even park my car in the garage at all (and I park on the complete opposite side). Every time I go into the garage I look at the spot where James fell through and feel sick to my stomach, even though that area is completely repaired now. I’ve tried walking into that area of the garage and I’m either left with the memory of finding him or with trying to piece together what exactly happened during the fall. Fortunately my husband parks our large van in the parking spot next to mine and obscures the view most of the time. I spend minimal time in the garage and rely on my husband to get things I need, especially the things in the loft.
I’m reminded of James’ accident while I’m washing his hair and his little head just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Then of course there’s his scar. The scar on his head doesn’t so remind me of the accident but how fortunate we are that he survived and we are able to watch him grow. However I spend a lot of time worrying about what others my think or feel by seeing the scar. When James was wearing his helmet it was fairly easy, you couldn’t see the injury and most people assumed he was having seizures (hence the helmet for protection). When he had his reconstruction surgery he no longer required the helmet, so that left a large, very visible indication that something had happened. A visual reminder of how terrify the prior months were for all of James’ family and friends. Fortunately it was winter and I tried to have him wear a knit cap to “hide” his wound/scar from the world, but he’s also three and has his own plans! Over the past few months James’ hair has grown in around his scar and he has some baby hairs (finally) coming in through the scar. I’ve been holding back on giving James’ his “summer cut” after having so many people comment on how his hair is growing in and covering his scar. But I know the little guy will be far more comfortable with a super short cut. I’m just not looking forward to the feedback that comes with the haircut. My mind knows that it’s not anyone else’s comfort that is important when it comes to this, but my heart is affected – every time.
There are also other little things that have triggered emotions and memories for me. For instance there is a newer commercial on right now about nurses where a patient is rushed into the ER and has his clothing cut off. I forgot about that moment in the ER until seeing this commercial and it brought back a flood of emotions and memories for me. They cut his sweatshirt and t-shirt off that day, but were able to save his pants. I threw out the pants, shoes, socks he wore that day as soon as we got home. I also threw out the entire outfit, down to the bra & sneakers, that I wore that afternoon. The shirt they gave me in the ER went in the trash right along with it. The blood would have washed away but the memories would not. I was wearing a brand new sweatshirt that day, that I loved. I thought ordering a new one would be ok, I was wrong, I opened to package, saw the sweatshirt and it brought that moment rushing back. I sent that shirt back as fast as I could.
As I circle around to the end of this post, it brings me back to what I said in the beginning about staying close to home and keeping my circle small. I don’t expect people to have known all of this. From the outside it is so easy to see all the positive. The fact that this little amazing human beat the odds, had his guardians watching over him and came out the other side no worse for wear. Everyone loves a happy ending, I know I love this happy ending. My husband tells me all the time that I shouldn’t expect people to treat me differently but in reality it is already happening. Some of it I’m sure is perceived, but some of it is real. I’ve explained to him that how I’m treated differently isn’t always with a little extra care from someone, but more of a judgement.
Now I know that most people are coming from the right place. I know that they truly care for this child that just experienced a major trauma. I can promise you that if I could erase the day of James’ accident I would. I can also promise that the last place I want that little boy is in danger. I do my very best as his mother to keep him safe. I struggle to find a balance between locking him in a padded room or bubble and being a typical three year old without a brain injury. I wish he didn’t run so fast that he falls, I wish he would put his helmet on each time he stepped on his scooter, and if I were to be honest – I wish that helmet was on his head all of the time – no matter how impractical that would be. These are the times I feel those judgements the most (perceived or not). I own every deep breath another person makes watching him run. I feel the tensioned and worried looks while I allow James to play with other children. The impression that I’m calm and collected during these times is just that, an impression. I feel every fall he makes and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve lost my breath watching him just be a typical three year old boy. In general I live in a state of fear every time I watch him run and play.
So in the end what I can say is I know that I will someday find some closure on this and all of this won’t seem so much like an open wound. I will learn to not take things so personally and to know that most people come from the right place of heart. Having something like this happen in your life can do many things, for me it has humbled me. I had to learn to ask for help and accept the help I didn’t ask for. I had to re-learn patience, because there are some things that are completely out of your control. I now have a firm belief in miracles, he says good morning to me every day and gives the very best hugs. I am also learning that you have to savor every moment, because if you don’t you’ll miss it. I now take a step back when I find myself being annoyed at my kids saying mom for what feels like the millionth time in an hour and remember there was a time that I didn’t think either one of them would ever say it or say it again.
My life has been changed both good and bad, like many others. I am taking this change to also recognize other peoples struggles – both past and present, because you never know when the memories of those life changing moments are going to hit you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this super long post and I have to say I feel a weight lifted off me after finishing. One of my closest friends encouraged me to write this and I am so happy I did. This is the third version and it got easier each time I wrote it. I know that it may have been hard to read and as always I am open to any questions that someone might have. Holding back about James’ accident is not something I plan to do.
Thank you for letting me ramble. ❤