Sharing Toothbrushes

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I have suspected for about a week now that my husband and I are using the same toothbrush. We share a bed, a car, children, and at times we share the same food and drink. But, while I am only slightly bothered by it, I have a feeling my husband would be horrified. I think I’ll keep it to myself and try to quietly find a way to differentiate the toothbrushes. I think I’ll also keep to myself that my son likes to flip the toothbrushes upside down, because no matter how well and how often I clean the cup, the water at the bottom always seems to reek. That’s worse than sharing toothbrushes any day.

Speaking of children, my 4 year old is finally adjusting to being a big brother… finally. He had his sister laughing so hard last night that when it was time for bed, she started tantruming. Usually, she settles right into my arms. My son is also reading very well and enjoys doing math everyday. Right now, he’s putting together a 300 piece puzzle by pulling the pieces out of the box one at a time. He’s only put it together once before, and he’s memorized each piece so he knows what to look for as he’s digging through the box. He is so much like his daddy, with his humor, his intelligence, and his quick wit.

My dear 14 month old prefers to eat paper over food, and is more stubborn than my firstborn… by far. She can thrown a tantrum to bring down the house and will refuse to eat for days before she’ll go into a full day of eating like a grown man. She knows many signs but refuses to use them. However, she is the best snuggler in the whole world, and her laugh fills my heart with joy.

Right now, my life consists of taking care of these two characters at home most of the day, while answering phone calls for my husband’s business. I am over halfway through my pregnancy, and have started waking up for snacks in the middle of the night. We have a very small apartment and have been busy rearranging furniture to make room for the new baby, and I think we’ve finally started to get used to the idea of having three children.

I am also busy going through a discipleship book with someone I reached out to for something trivial, and she sensed I needed more. Through the unconditional love of the Lord, my husband, my son, my daughter, and my trusted friend, I feel I am moving forward. I will probably have PTSD for my entire life, and will probably fight with many of its symptoms for life, but I have a new outlook most days. My attacks do not last as long, and although it seems they are just as debilitating, I only completely freeze or lose time every couple of weeks. I’m able to endure the overwhelming feelings without dissociating most times, very much because I am able to cry when I need to. My feelings have been manifesting themselves through anger, and I am working as hard as I can to control it.

I have been on a major blogging hiatus, but I am beginning to feel creative and well again. I pray each and every one of you are doing well and I look forward to starting to read your blogs again regularly.

Half-Marathon: Complete.

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I am officially halfway through my marathon training. I did a half marathon last week, and this week I was able to take my long run down a notch and do 10 miles. I never thought I’d be a long distance runner, but it has been so beneficial. It improves my mood, gives my husband and me something to talk about, and makes me feel more confident about my body. It is strange to exercise so much that you have to eat mid-workout, though! I’ve logged 145 miles on my feet since I started training, and I’ve logged 29.1 hours of running!! I wore out my old shoes and got to buy my first nice pair of running shoes! My husband asked me what my goal time was for the marathon and my response was, “I just want to finish before they pack up and go home.” That’s the six-hour mark. My average pace for long runs is a 12 minute mile (which is really slow, but it’s a pace I’m comfortable with right now), so if I can keep it up, that gives me a finishing time of a little less than 5.5 hours… that means I cannot spare any walking time during the marathon!

It appears that I have turned a corner in my healing. I still freeze and curl into a ball, but it does not last hours. I still have uncontrollable screaming and crying fits, but it does not last as long and is less intense. I still have nightmares and flashbacks, but I am managing them more effectively. I am smiling. My husband’s and my fighting has leveled out. My son’s anxiety has begun to level out, and he’s becoming more talkative (as he sees I’m stable, he has come out his anxiety shell a little bit).

I still have days where I’m so frustrated when I leave for a run, that I stop midway and collapse in tears. But that is healthy. I am allowing myself to feel. I am allowing myself to cry, to express emotion. I know that when I am done crying, I will pick myself up and finish my run.

I have hope.

Week 9 Complete

 

 

My 8 Month Old’s Choking Scare

This afternoon, I was finally able to sit down and have a moment to relax. I sat at the table while my 4 year old son played with his toys next to me and my 8 month old daughter crawled on the floor.

I heard my daughter cough a few times and I looked down to see her playing with the computer chord. When I stood up to pull it away, she stopped breathing and her face turned red. I immediately scooped her up and swiped her mouth, but didn’t feel anything. I pried her mouth open and still there was nothing. I tipped her and began pounding her back like I’ve practiced on so many CPR dolls before, and she started coughing again (thank God). I lifted her up to swipe her mouth again and there was nothing in there. She was still coughing so I tried to nurse her, hoping I could wash down the obstruction. She latched and immediately started gagging.

I told my son to put his shoes on and stand by the car while I put her in her carseat, simultaneously rechecking her breathing. She was breathing but coughing and would gag every several coughs. I called my husband and as I was walking down the steps he came flying down the driveway.

We arrived at Patient First or Urgent Care (or whatever that place is called) in record time and everyone looked up when we burst in. I barely heard myself say, “This baby is breathing but she’s choking on something.” An immediate swarm of doctors and medical staff surrounded us and I handed her over. She started coughing and then SCREAMED! They gave her back to me after checking vitals and her throat (they couldn’t see anything either), but after the screaming she had stopped coughing.

They said it sounded like whatever it was probably started to go into her lungs but either came back up (maybe when I was doing CPR?) or the acid disintegrated the object. Her throat probably opened up and she had most likely finished swallowing the remains when she started screaming. I tried to nurse her again and she latched okay but was too distracted to eat.

They told us to watch for fever, fussiness, lethargy, or more coughing and if so, to take her to the ER. She came home and took a nap and seems to be doing okay, thank God. She has her 9 month check-up tomorrow and her lungs will be re-checked then for any sign of fluid build-up (they said something about if the object is still in there, the lungs will start to fill with fluid).

In all the commotion, I never registered that my son might have been afraid too. Tonight, he started throwing his toys and yelling that he couldn’t let his sister eat them and he was scared.

My heart broke and I immediately sat down (several hours after I should have, to talk to him) and talked to him. He said it was really scary when all the doctors ran in and were looking at his sister. We talked about that being my scariest moment that day too, and we talked about the purpose of doctors, the purpose of making sure there is nothing small on the floor, and then we thanked God for her safety. After that, he was okay!

What a day.

A Brief Homeostasis

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I surprised myself today when I opened the file containing my novel (so surprised that I promptly minimized the document and started a blog post!). I have not worked on my novel in at least a year… partially due to lack of time and exhaustion, but mostly because I feel I need to make a conscious effort to only write when I am doing well emotionally. I do not want my elaborate fictional world to become a sanctuary for me, because I have seen fictional sanctuaries become prisons to the hurting person. I want to be able to make the choice to walk into my fictional world and write, and I want the choice to step out of it when I need to.

The fact that I even opened the file means I am reaching a sort of homeostasis. Thank God. It has been a while since I have felt stable for several days in a row! My house is cleaner than it has been since I was nesting and eagerly awaiting the arrival of my daughter. My son is well-groomed with a fresh haircut done by yours truly (with help of clippers and four different number settings), no wax in his ears, and clipped nails. His 4T winter clothes have been replaced by his size 5 (this boy is tall and skinny) summer wardrobe. I have done schoolwork with my son every day this week. I was even considering dusting because I’m caught up on the clutter!! Strange… I have also been doing regular devotions, and am doing this: http://31dayswithgod.wordpress.com/

I don’t know why I have had the energy or sound mind to complete these tasks, but it almost feels as if my family is normal. I feel slightly uneasy because I don’t know how long it will last, and I know that a single trigger could send me into deep despair. But I am enjoying feeling normal. I am thinking about how I want to enhance my already completed novel, and pondering whether I will have the courage to attempt publication this time. I am brainstorming my afternoon with my kids and writing a grocery list. I have also topically applied the essential oil “Balance”… we’ll see how it goes.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, of power, and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7

Photo credit: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/21/1057124/-We-re-going-to-write-a-novel-Part-4

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.

Eight Hundred And Fifty Nine

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Adina at 7 weeks

859 days ago, on October 5, 2011, I said goodbye to my precious second-born son, Adina. In Hebrew, Adina is a male name meaning “delicate,” and what better way to describe a 10 week baby? I know in my heart of hearts he was a boy. I’ve known all of my children’s sexes. I do not have many eloquent words today, but I desperately miss him today. I keep a journal for each of my children. I’ll share a few of the entries I’ve written for him. Here is his first entry:

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Today, Daddy and I found out I was growing you inside my tummy! We are so very excited! Let me introduce you to your family. You have the best daddy you could ever want. He is strong, funny, loving, and he will adore you more than you can imagine. You also have a big brother. I found out 2 years ago yesterday that I was growing him in my tummy! That means he is going to be about 2 years older than you. He is silly, smart, and he loves giving hugs and kisses. Then, there is Mommy. I already love you so much I could cry. Daddy and I decided we are going to wait to find out until you are born, whether you are baby girl or a baby boy 🙂

And here is the entry when we first got home after we found that we had lost him. This was a few hours before I held him in my hand.

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We found out today that we lost you 😦 Daddy and I are so sad, and we miss you so much already. You looked so healthy on the first ultrasound. Seeing the ultrasound today broke my heart into a million pieces, when I saw that you weren’t going to be in our lives anymore. I love you, sweet baby.

Here is the entry from his due date.

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Tomorrow would have been your due date. I cannot stop thinking about the day I said goodbye to you. I held your tiny body in my hand. You were the perfect size, maybe about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Your arms and legs were only about a quarter of an inch long, but I could still see your beautiful fingers and toes. I hated so much saying goodbye to you, and I think about you every single day.

One of my first art journal drawings. I consciously chose not to take a photo of his tiny body because I knew I would never forget it. Almost a year later, I drew him to the best of my ability. Then I traced my hand, and then my husband let me trace his hand. Beautiful. My favorite art journal entry in the whole world.

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And here is today’s entry.

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My precious Adina. I miss you so much today. My heart has been aching for you as I watch your baby sister grow. I am missing out on holding you and nursing you. The other night, your sister was wide awake at 2am trying to play. I was doing my best to not respond to her as I fed her, and then I tried to burp her. She sat straight up and grabbed my face with both of her hands, and waited… and waited… If I made eye contact with her, I knew she would start cracking up. Instead, I closed my eyes and enjoyed her little hands on my cheeks. And I missed you. I miss you so much, my beautiful baby.

The Incapable Parent

I would exchange my right arm for my son. My left leg! My heart! My brain! My lungs. My life. In reality, I happily exchange my sanity and grown-up conversation for a little boy who will be four in a few weeks.

I have complex trauma that started from the very beginning, but I was about four when my life came crashing down. As a result, I have some major triggers. Four year olds. Injury. Pain. Fear. Crying. Tantrums. Children bed-sharing in any capacity.

It is a simple task that comes with being a parent. Nightmare, inability to breathe, bloody nose… Whatever the reasons, sometimes four year olds just need to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. Most moms (dads too but this is a mommy’s blog) pull their kids into bed and fall asleep with their mommy arms safely wrapped around the child’s body… The child they grew for nine months and then spent the next year(s) catering to them at any (or all) hours of the night.

So why am I incapable of bed-sharing with my sweet boy? That is a loaded question, yet it is the most simple of needs that I cannot provide for him. It leaves me curled up in a ball in tears.

Someone once told me that I cannot let “this” overtake my life, I have to overcome “it.” I have PTSD, and will probably have it to a varying degree for the rest of my life. It is not my choice to be so triggered. I am doing my very best to not let it affect my parenting. But, it has and it does. I have very little control over this monster in my brain. I do not know how to calm my inner child who is screaming for my son’s safety in the big bed… Even though there are four safe arms wrapped around him.

This inner child is raging to be heard. Until I listen, she will continue to strive to destroy. Even a sweet little boy’s heart who just needs Mommy’s arms wrapped around him.

The Therapy Room

I hate therapy. I love being a therapist. But I hate therapy. Therapy is a strange concept, isn’t it? You are in a one-sided relationship where you are expected to pour out your soul. The therapist encourages you to think for yourself, take care of yourself, and allow yourself to feel overwhelming feelings instead of run from them. The therapy room becomes a haven where you greatly look forward to feeling relaxed, safe, and comfortable; but the therapy room also becomes a dreaded place where you learn to talk openly about nightmares, trauma, and the dark aspects of your life that you would never talk about otherwise. After you experience these conflicting feelings for 45 minutes to an hour and a half (that’s how long mine are; an hour and a half), you are expected to zip up your emotions and walk out of the therapy room as collected as you were when you first walked in. It’s bizarre. It teaches “containment skills.” In non-therapeutic terms, it teaches you to wear a facade. In some respects, a facade is necessary or you would never get anything done but wallow in the overwhelming feelings. However, you feel desperately alone in the facade. You go through the motions and wait both anxiously and excitedly until the next session, where you will pour out your heart in this bizarre, one-sided relationship.

I hate therapy. It sends me into a spiral for a few days following because I hate shoving my mask back on. If I could, I would shout my trauma from the roof tops, I would announce it to the world; I am sick of wearing this mask and pretending that I am functioning on a normal level. Anyone who is hiding something knows what I’m talking about. Statistics say at least 1 in 3 of you are hiding something. I’m so sorry. That is why I write this; you are not alone. You are not the only person wearing a mask. I wish we could come up with some sort of subtle sign to wear to alert others that you are falling apart beneath the facade. That way, those not struggling would not notice, but those who needed to know they are not alone would see.

My husband will be gone all day tomorrow. Where I usually have a break with the kids, I now have them ALL. DAY. LONG. So, here’s my to-do list. We’ll see how much gets done. This is me, zipping up my mask to function and parent, and do my best to manage myself and my household. I hate this mask. I hate learning to wear this mask, and I hate learning to manage the emotions under the mask. I hate therapy. I wish I could both never go to therapy and never leave therapy, all at the same time.

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