August is Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Month
When your primary illness is not on full display outside of your body, people assume all is well. Simply put on a happy face, laugh when jokes are good, complain about similar problems and touch on possible solutions.
As you walk down the hall, reply, “Fine, thanks!” whenever someone asks how you are doing. Neither of you intended to be heard, much less really cared how someone is actually doing. However, no one really wants to hear the truth, “My daughter had a psychotic break,” “My mom is trying to wrench custody from me for only one of my children,” “Therapy this week was brutal,” or “My son is full of rage, needs a therapist but the CPS visit at school shut him down.”
Modeled for me
My mother was a hard-core introvert who loved cave dwelling in her bedroom while my father was an obvious extrovert, a very successful, high-tech sales and marketing whiz. After Dad moved out, I observed how happy I could be simply being at home the whole weekend watching reruns and old movies. It wasn’t so bad and it kept me out of trouble.
My mother suffered from clinical depression after the separation. I didn’t understand that because my father abandoned us nearly two years for the sake of a startup, she was the burden bearer. She needed extra wide, super strong shoulders to carry the load left behind by my father.
Her brothers weren’t much help so she felt profoundly alone. She didn’t get along well with her mother but she was another support because Grandma also was a divorcée and understood how to be a single mother. After all, Grandma also was raised by a single mother who divorced her father.
Mom had very few close friends and confidantes. She had maybe one or two neighbors that she got along with but after the separation, she became a third wheel, aka, akward.
She was full of rage and deep sadness. Her coping mechanisms were work and cheap wine one gallon or box at a time. We heard her loud and clear after she went to her room, locked the door and cried without ceasing, or raged on the phone with New York relatives. Her life was hell. She was all over the place emotionally but I watched mom like a hawk.
I adopted her more introverted qualities because it felt safer within myself. However, I also saw her emerge much stronger and more independent. Her theme song was, “I will survive,” by Gloria Gaynor. She had a rug next to her bed that read, “Damn, I’m good.”
She went from, “I could breathe for him” to grabbing the hose and spraying Dad’s girlfriend with water while sitting in his car in front of our house.
Sabotaging relationships: Combatting too much solitude from others
For a while I put on my game face, “the show,” but after my pastor talked about being real, I became more real than anyone wanted even though I simply replied, “I’m struggling.” Even then, their attention span was less than a gnat’s eyelash. They had someplace else to go or someone else to see so they really only had a few minutes to listen. If I was blessed, they’d either add my name to a prayer list or pray right there over me for about one minute.
Being truthful and honest presented a very big problem. Nobody wanted to hear it so no one invited me or my problems to social gatherings. I had no idea how much of a social pariah I was until I finally joined Facebook. The life people were portraying was wholly unfamiliar. People I served alongside at church and thought I got along with well had very busy social calendars that didn’t include me but included those I served alongside.
My life seemed so bad compared to what others were sharing. I saw those long, deep, faraway stares when I would talk about difficulties juggling deep grief from my husband’s death, super intense psychotherapy for chronic PTSD and relentless family court hearings.
I was an usher and a choir member. Ushers and choir members regularly were getting together yet I rarely was invited. My son wore a t-shirt that read, “May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on facebook.” It’s amazing how much profundity you can get from a single t-shirt.
Next —>Loneliness, solitude, isolation
Posts in 2017 series
Breaking the cycle of loneliness takes work
Women, Blacks, Latinos have higher rates of abuse
Managing compound-complex parenting
Drinkin’ and druggin’ make parenting even harder
Risky behavior, self neglect aren’t life sentences
When food becomes a weapon
Managing rage, ground rules around kids
Managing hostile relatives, false accusations, head games
Parenting: If it’s not hard, you’re not doing it right
Third Annual Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Day is here!