Unanswered Questions

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Dear Mom,

As I cradled my baby in my arms at 5am, these questions ran through my mind…

What’s my birth story? What was it like to push me through your body? What was it like the first time you heard me cry, saw my face, touched my fingers?

What was it like to be my mommy? On the nights I didn’t sleep, did you take joy in snuggling me into your chest? Did you look into my eyes? Did you kiss my toes, fingers, and belly? Did you take joy in making me grin? Did you memorize how my skin felt on your fingers and along your face as I reached out to touch you? How did you respond when I tried to chew on your fingers, nose, arm, or chin? When I followed you around begging to be picked up, did you take me into your arms with a kiss and a smile? Did you touch my face and hair while you fed me my bottles?

What was it like to raise me? Did you enjoy the evenings when I snuggled into you? Did you love the silly conversations I found myself having with you? What was it like to teach me to read? Did you enjoy watching me dance? Cheer? Compete? Tumble? Stunt? Did you enjoy watching me make friends and play with them?

What was it like to say goodbye to me? How did you feel when you dropped me off at grad school on the opposite end of the country? What was it like the first time I flew my future husband across the country to meet you? How did you feel when you shook his hand for the first time? What was it like to see me in my wedding gown? What did you feel when you watched me walk down the aisle?

What is it like for you now? How do you feel when I tell you I am pregnant? What was it like the first time you saw me holding my firstborn? What was it like for you the first time you held my firstborn? What are your thoughts on my parenting? How do you feel about my son? About my daughter? About the child we said goodbye to, too early? How did you feel when I shared my miscarriage? What do you think about my career? How do you feel about my mental health? What goes through your mind when I tell you about therapy? What do you think about my husband? How do you feel when you step into my home and see the family I’ve created? How do you feel when I tell you stories about my children?

I was just wondering.

Love,

Your daughter.

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my Mrs. to my husband’s Mr.

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Today, I have been reflecting on my husband and how we have grown together since we’ve been married. In two months, it will be five years!! Someone gave us a Bible with couples devotionals for our wedding, and I remember reading it with him for the first couple of weeks (it only lasted until my morning sickness kicked in- I got pregnant like the week after our honeymoon). One of the devotionals was about perseverance during conflict. The author was writing about how it appears that some couples have a very easy time in their marriage, but that her marriage was a constant uphill filled with conflict and really hard work. My husband pointed at it and said with conviction, “This is us! It will always be us! Look, we’re not alone!” He was right, it is us, but we have come so far in five years.

We own a business together and every Saturday we work together to do our job. We laugh and organize and stress together… we even dance and sing together! I used to spiral on the weekends, but now I look forward to Saturdays because I get to spend the mornings with him. My husband is a hard worker. He has three jobs, and did have four for the duration of my pregnancy last year. He also knows that my job is important to me so he plans his work hours around mine. This means he is at home with the kids while I am at work. My husband is a wonderful father… it might be one of his best assets. Usually while I am getting my daughter squared away, he is occupying my son or getting him ready for bed. He has also taken it upon himself to train my son to run a 1K so he makes the running team next year when he is 5. Right now, he can run .5K without any trouble, but on the walk back he wants to be carried. It’s fun to watch my husband teach my son about sports, and my husband puts effort into determining which sports he is going to focus on with my son. He has determined that my son has best opportunity to obtain a scholarship in cross country and golf. My son even has a really nice set of golf clubs and has a nice swing already!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. My husband has set up my day tomorrow so that after church, I am picking up my mother-in-law and taking her to see Mom’s Night Out. Spending time with her is a treat, and I love her so much! I’m looking forward to it. Plus, we both love the rolls at Texas Roadhouse so there’s a good chance we’ll end up there for dinner.

My husband and I have our battles (many times it is daily), but I see how far we have come from where we were when we were first married. I see how we have grown as a couple over the past year especially, and this is our best year so far. I love to hold his hand; I love how our feet often touch during the night because cuddling triggers me; and I love when we have family snuggles and playtime on the bed. I love how when I am isolating myself, he often comes and holds me (and much to my dismay, makes me laugh when I want to cry or pout).

Today, I am especially thankful to be the Mrs. to my husband’s Mr.

Dear Family: I Am Listening…

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My goal has been to really, really listen to my family’s words and actions. That is what I posted about this morning. Here is what I have been hearing.

My family is jealous of my phone

My family needs a clean home

My family needs me to smile and dance

My family needs me to provide healthy meals and snacks

My family needs my undivided attention

Yesterday, I officially decided to homeschool my children. Yes, I know I am already teaching my son to read and am currently researching preschool science curricula for the fall. However, I have been on the fence due to my low opinions of my abilities (despite my early childhood education training) and my exhaustion level. But, I am quickly reaching my limit with worried parents bringing their children into therapy because they are falling behind in school. Sometimes it is bullying, and usually they have ADHD. These children are starved for healthy attention, to the point where they start destroying my office when I am conversing with a parent! They need me to get on the floor with them and play. They need undivided attention.

They do not need therapy. They need healthy attention. They need their teachers to sit with them and individualize their work so they can learn the material on their level. They need their parents to read to them and play with them (even if it means falling asleep on floor while the children drive cars over the parents’ backs), no matter the parents’ level of exhaustion. They need their parents to shut the television off and take away the iPads and video games. I am not judging their parenting, because the Lord knows I fall short. I yell at my son, I spank (yes, I do spank, and may write a blog at some point regarding using this method of discipline correctly and not harmfully) at times when a discussion and a hug is more appropriate, I fight with my husband in front of my kids, and I sit my son in front of the TV when I am exhausted (though he is the one who asks me to shut it off before the movie is over, because he’s bored and wants to play).

I have decided to delete my email off of my phone for now, except for when I am nursing. When I did this today, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders because I did not feel chained to my phone. I listened to my husband’s frustrations with me for replying to a text instead of focusing on whatever sports clip he was trying to show me, and I apologized for hurting his feelings. I let my son help me vacuum. I cleaned my kitchen- I mean really cleaned it, because my daughter’s new-found mobility seems to have her finding everything she cannot have and shoving it into her mouth before I can reach her. I opened my windows and breathed the fresh air. I danced with my husband and children. I engaged in silly banter with my husband. I noticed my husband’s change in mood when I began laughing with him. I decided to run regularly, both with friends and on my own.

I do not have it all together by any means. I have just decided that I need to stop complaining about how much I am struggling and I need to just do things differently. That means making a better choice in the moment. Do I fall apart in despair? Or do I realize that my husband’s comment was not trying to hurt me? Do I hide from my family? Or do I embrace them?

Though I am standing bold today, that does not mean I’ll be standing bold tomorrow. But it means that I recognize my ability to make choices. It means I am finally listening to my family.

Photo credit: http://www.iphixni.com/apple.html

Relinquishing Control

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My world is about order and control. Perhaps you wouldn’t realize this if you saw the dishes piled on my sink or the dirty bathroom, but it’s true. That’s why this PTSD is affecting me so severely. I am unable to control my feelings or contain my mind, and the lack of control is driving me crazy! However, if I want to heal I must learn to relinquish control in favor of finding new ways to cope… creative ways I never learned in grad school.

Today, I was looking for a coping skill. I have several essential oil samples that I’ve been smelling today because I am still wary of putting them on my skin. They have helped, but I’m thinking this is more due to me deep breathing than the healing power of a scent. I decided to color, and found a nice and orderly page that even had a color code box. I had colored for about 30 seconds when I heard my son in the next room. I recognized that I should be playing with him, and so with slight panic of relinquishing control to a four year old, I asked if he wanted to help me color. Of course he was delighted to spend time with me, and he quickly had other plans that did not include anything close to the color code.

What resulted was a beautiful picture that I am proud of because we worked on it together. It is an unusual combination of colors and coloring talent (him being far more talented at coloring than me!), and the picture is filled with conversation about colors, taking turns, sharing, and thankfulness.

My box of healing includes the therapies and coping techniques I learned in grad school, but after 3 years of this kind of therapy it is just not helping. It is time to step out of the box. I am working to bring order into my day, even if it includes a very small (but always reachable) to-do list. I am using grounding techniques using all of my senses, and instead of shutting down I am trying to step into my children’s worlds. That means focusing on my son’s words and play instead of mentally calculating when I will have time to cut his hair next, and trying not to steer him into the bathroom to clip his nails or gently swab that never-ending glub of wax that seems to always be at the base of his ear canal. It means taking a deep breath and allowing him to push his matchbox cars through the dried-out playdough instead of immediately throwing it into the trash. It means smiling at my daughter and smelling her and touching her skin while she nurses, instead of checking my email. It means listening to my husband when he is speaking, and joining him in conversation. It means enjoying my family, enjoying my life. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment a time. One breath at a time.

What I’m hoping will result is a beautiful picture that could not have been predicted by my mental coloring codes, with scribbles where I wanted straight lines, and sudden color changes where I was expecting consistency. But I’m hoping it will be a picture full of color and full of life. And full of healing. Mostly, full of peace.

Making a Choice

schedule2I am actively making a choice to turn my potentially bad day into a good day. I am saying to myself, “I can put a movie on for my son and be perfectly okay with it because I’ve written bad days into my routine. However, since I have a choice, I am going to push through and do what needs to be done.” I’m taking a breather to come up with an action plan and coping skills to help me manage today. Today I have to say goodbye to my therapist. Plus, work has been quite stressful the past few weeks and I’m finally starting to process it today. Anyway, today my family needs me. Instead of shutting down and choosing self-loathing, I colored my completed tasks to red in order to have a visual of what all I need to complete (and to see how much I’ve completed even through my spiral). I wrote my to-do list at the bottom, but really the only thing that *needs* to get done are the race bibs. I have to write 200 names, ages, and sexes on 200 bibs for tomorrow’s race.

Regarding my chosen coping skills for the day, I have found that if I ground myself with all my senses, it tends to work wonders. Therefore, I bought a pack of Jolly Ranchers to use. Silly putty really grounds me too.

Disclaimer: I am actually quite unorganized, despite posting my schedule for the past two days!! It is very unlike me to follow through with a routine like this. We’ll see how long it lasts, but it seems to be working right now.

Gifts

When my daughter was first born, when I put her in her crib alone in her room, I would pray for God to keep her safe. Then I would proceed to check on her every few minutes until she woke up for a feeding. I have done this for months, continued to pray for her safety. I pray for my son’s safety too. Last week, something very sobering hit me… my children might not be safe their whole lives. Something could happen to them tonight, tomorrow, or anytime before they are grown. I must have discernment and use wisdom in being their mother, but I cannot protect them from everything. There is a 1 in 3 chance my daughter will be sexually abused before she is 18, and there is a 1 in 7 (maybe even higher at this point) chance my son will be sexually abused before he is 18. Those statistics are very frightening. In a way, this realization brought me a sense of peace. After I prayed for God to protect my children as I tucked them each into bed (for God does answer prayers), I also thanked God for the time I spent with them today. They are true gifts from God. This day (however difficult it was for me) was a gift from God. It is a gift to breastfeed my daughter and watch her discover the taste of new food. It is a gift to watch her blow raspberries when she is excited, and it brings me great joy to watch her as she is army crawling and scooting on her hiney to get where she wants to go. It is a gift to teach my son how to read, and a joy to listen to him read most letter combinations- he is not even 4! It is a gift to hear someone call my son “polite” and to hear his giggles as his daddy tickles him. It is a gift to watch a video on the computer with my husband today, and it is a gift to watch my grandma bond with each of my children. Through my trials of dissociation and flashbacks (which were quite strong today if you read my last post), I must also recognize the gifts God has given me today.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes from the Father of Lights – James 1:17

Photo credit: http://blog.pgi.com/2013/12/on-the-seventh-day-of-telework-my-coworkers-gave-to-me-gifts-and-a-sense-of-camaraderie/

The damage is done

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It took a lot of courage to start a blog about my struggle (and as a result, my family’s struggle) with PTSD, and I’m not sure what I was thinking when I promptly told my real world that the blog existed… and as a bi-product, I told my world about my diagnosis. Not long after I posted the link, I began to deeply regret sharing; it’s that feeling of shame eating away at me. I’ve quickly become a part of this beautiful community of bloggers with a PTSD diagnosis; they all write under pseudonyms and if their family knows the blog exists, they have never read it. After nearly three weeks of my blogging, I can see why. I set out to make mental illness easier to talk about, but my posts on this blog have been careful; I cannot share so much of myself or I will just make myself more vulnerable than I already am.

But, the damage has been done so I may as well share. I am sharing because it has wreaked havoc on my family. I keep telling myself that we will come out stronger on the other side… but what if there is no other side? My therapist keeps telling me I need to learn to live with it, and learn to accept that I will always have these, at times, debilitating symptoms. Once I accept, then I can move forward with learning to manage.

It is embarrassing to admit to people I see every day that when my son runs and jumps on me from behind, instead of playing with him, I curl into a ball, cover my ears, close my eyes and cry. Or when my husband uses a certain tone, I hide- again, in a ball with my ears covered and eyes closed. I close my eyes so I don’t see the flashbacks, but they’re in my mind so I see it more readily. I cover my ears so I don’t hear my flashbacks, but they’re in my mind so I hear them more readily. I curl up so I don’t feel my flashbacks, but it makes no difference. My husband is afraid to listen to music in the car because he never knows when he’ll look over to see me dissociated because of a certain song. I never know when I will be triggered, and I may end up in my car in the parking lot at Target in tears because something as simple as the way someone was walking triggered me.

I am so busy surviving that it is a struggle to socialize or clean the house. It takes everything I have to meet my children’s needs.

I guess I am officially a homeschool mom

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After much deliberation and slight marital conflict, I have agreed to homeschool my son for preschool. Apparently, my husband has more confidence in my teaching ability than I do. I began by reading the pertinent portions of THE WELL TRAINED MIND. They suggest the single most important part of preschool is getting your children to “read and read very well.” This is my goal for right now and in the fall, I will have a curriculum for him that includes science experiments.

I have had set learning time for him since he was nine months old (included such things as rolling a ball and learning to climb steps), and by the time he was 18 months old, he had memorized the Greek alphabet. I cannot brag here because although I taught it to him, he knew it better than I ever did! These children just learn what we pour into them. I also knew he was ready to start writing over the summer because one morning I got out of the shower and he had written his name on the white board. We had never practiced writing letters before that!

Right now, learning time in our home looks like this. I don’t do all of these every day, I gauge his attention span and accommodate appropriately. He can usually do about 30 minutes of learning time everyday.

-Either one page of phonics, a BOB Book, or a pre-reader with the pictures in place of the words

-One time over previously memorized site words, and introduction of a new site word

-Math with Lego’s. I write an equation and he uses the Lego’s to figure it out. He understands the +, -, and = signs

-Practicing writing simple letters correctly and holding the pencil correctly

-Reading a Bible passage or memorizing a scripture

I also do “learning time” with my four month old. This includes full body massages while we have deep mommy/daughter conversation, tummy time with toys to her left and right so she must move to get there, and back time with toys to her left so she must roll onto her side to reach them. By far, her favorite portion of learning time is being rewarded with milk and snuggles upon getting fussy.