mental health

Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is PTSD? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health issue that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. Examples of these are combat, war, sexual assault, death of a loved one, car accidents, or natural disasters. There are many symptoms of PTSD that are categorized into 3 main groups. Re-experiencing symptoms include things like flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. Avoidance symptoms include feeling emotionally numb, staying away from places or events that are reminders of the event, or losing interest in activities that were enjoyable before the incident. Lastly, Hyper-arousal symptoms include being easily startled, feeling on edge or tense, having difficulty sleeping, and angry outbursts. Other signs of having PTSD is depression and anxiety, and can cause a multitude of problems. Marriage problems, increased risk of suicide, and sleeping problems are some of the biggest.

Why is this an important subject to me you ask? On November 14th, 2005 around 6 AM I woke up to my now ex-husband screaming to come quick, our 4 month old daughter Aryssa wasn’t breathing. Immediately I called 911 and the ambulance was there within minutes. I couldn’t think straight, I lost all knowledge of the CPR I had been trained in for most of my life…my baby girl was laying there lifeless. Within 2 minutes we were in the back of the ambulance and they were giving her so much epinephrine, and doing all they could could to get her to breath and find a pulse. We made it to Children’s hospital, where the nurses and doctors who took over were fantastic. They kept giving her epinephrine and chest compressions  to no avail. Finally, the nurse and the social worker came over and asked me the hardest question no parent should ever have to answer. “Would you like us to keep trying, or would you like us to stop the life saving efforts?” There had been no pule and no breathing for about 20 minutes, so I asked, if she goes on monitors, will she ever wake up? And they did not know the answer to that question and they didn’t know if she woke up if she would have brain functions. So I asked them to stop…The hardest decision I have ever made in my entire life.

After that all I remember is that they let me hold my baby for hours in a private grieving room. I couldn’t bring myself to let her go. I sat there in the rocking chair just crying and crying, willing her to wake up so we could all just go home and pretend this never happened. But that never happened, and eventually the nurse came and took my baby girl away.

So what happened in the night to make her stop breathing?? My ex husband fell asleep with her in his lap in a reclining chair and she suffocated between his leg and the arm of the chair. But if you read the official report, it says SIDS. But that issue is a post for another time. That day  was just the beginning of a very long and hard road I am still battling with now 12 years later.

For the first few years after, I just went through my life like a zombie. I survived because I have 2 boys who needed me. When Aryssa died, I had just turned 22. Still a baby myself in so many ways. Needless to say, I divorced my husband. So I was on my own with 2 boys, and all of my emotional baggage. I had to push my feelings back for the longest time because we were poor, and I was working my butt off just to get by. To make sure my boys had what they needed and a roof over their head. I put myself through school and became a pharmacy technician.

So about 5 years ago, after I graduated and and found a steady job is when all my feelings and emotions and all that pent up anger and hate started to really surface. I have always had the nightmares and issues sleeping since then. I am afraid of what could happen to my boys in the middle of the night. I am “that mom” that is super over protective and always had to know where my kids were, who they are with, and so on. I worry too much, and I am usually visibly tense. Most days, I don’t want to do anything. All I want to do is sleep, and not get out of bed. I don’t have friends really. I have acquaintances and  the parents of my kids friends, but I really don’t have any super close friends with that I go out and do things with. I honestly don’t feel the need or want to connect with other people. I am afraid of the hurt and sometimes it feels like too much effort… how sad is that? I get angry, very quickly.. ask my kids, they will tell you. Sometimes I scream at the most asinine things, and lose my temper for no reason at all sometimes.

For the longest time, I thought most of this was normal, or half the time I didn’t realize what I was feeling. So when my life got to an almost comfortable point, it all came rushing out. And it was taking a serious toll on my health. I was smoking more than a pack a day, I was seriously drinking for a while, and I just didn’t care about much. So I found a doctor once I had insurance and could afford it. Right off the bat, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, severe depression, anxiety, was overweight, and diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). But I found a great doctor who has helped me quit smoking, so I am off the blood pressure meds, and I am slowly getting my weight and cholesterol under control. I am on 2 different anti depressants, and most days they help. It helps take the edge off the anger and  feelings of hopelessness.

I have also started seeing a therapist recently. I had tried in the past, but all they wanted to do was give me drugs, and not listen to all I had to say. So for the longest time, I was hesitant to try again. But I have found a good balance between my doctor and therapist. But it is not a cure all. According to my therapist, I have almost all the signs of PTSD and I am just not sure I want to bring that up to my doctor. I don’t want it to be another label on my medical chart. But at the same time, it may open some doors to help me get some things that may be beneficial for me.

Most days, it is a struggle to get out of bed and go to work. To make sure Tyler gets to band, and Jordan gets to football, or basketball, or to where he needs to be. I have a really hard time focusing on my work sometimes and if you were to talk to me sometimes, you would think I am clueless. I have such a hard time thinking of simple words, or putting thoughts and sentences together. So when that happens, I take a break, step away from my desk, and pull myself together. At the end of the day, I do a good job and the kids are happy (as happy as teenage boys can be anyways). But unfortunately, living with PTSD is something I will have to suffer with the rest of my life. There are 2 quotes I have though, that I think sum up my feelings.

“When a parent dies, you lose your past; when a child dies, you lose your future.”–Anonymous

“A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But.. there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that’s how awful the loss is!–Neugeboren 1976