Managing abreactions, exhaustion and letting kids be kids

Managing abreactions, exhaustion and letting kids be kids

August is Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Month

The number one challenge among those with PTSD is managing energy and depression, according to my own therapist. Obviously, I concur and I’m 99.99 percent certain it’s a struggle for anyone who has PTSD.  Today, I deal with exhaustion.

I wake up every single day exhausted. According to my “Sleep Cycle” app, I slept for nine hours with 80 percent quality sleep. Sadly, it doesn’t explain why my eyeballs are burning as if I just got in bed after partying all night on new year’s eve.

The culprit: Abreactions
My very first abreaction happened involuntarily as I was attempting to answer my therapist’s question, “How did that make you feel?” when he asked me about my first rape. Just as I opened my mouth I took a big, involuntary, deep breath and I thrust myself back into the sofa. I was so confused.

My body did things I didn’t want it to do. I had no control. My body continued back and forth. The abreaction was relentless. I felt as if I was being forced to look down at my feet then thrusting my head and torso back to look at the ceiling. I don’t remember how long my torso was going back and forth but I do remember begging my therapist to make it stop.

Of course, he interpreted my request to make it stop as me subconsciously begging someone to stop hurting me so he would ask, “Who is with you? How old do you feel? Where are you?” I remember thinking, “Is this guy an idiot? Does he not get I want my body to stop?” Oh, but this gets better.

While abreacting, he grabs a pad and pen and begins to explain what’s happening. Paraphrasing: “You see, there was this event like a pebble dropped into a pond. You may not remember but your body remembers. You’re just now experiencing outer bands of ripples from that event. Your body stored painful memories for a long time and it has now decided it’s safe enough for you to remember what happened.”

All I could remember thinking was, “What the hell is he doing? Can’t you make it stop you moron? Don’t you understand what I’m begging for? OMG! What the hell is wrong with you? I hate you!”

When the abreaction finally stopped, I slumped back on the sofa, eyes closed. Suddenly I was exhausted beyond belief. He continued to explain what was happening but I really wasn’t paying attention.

I had no idea having abreactions during therapy would suck my energy levels so profoundly. It was as if I walked into his office with a full tank but left empty.

He made 90-minute appointments with me going forward. Every single time we met, I’d have an abreaction then found it impossible to stay awake afterward.

Exhaustion was not an option
Managing energy was mission critical. I was the family breadwinner. My husband was struggling with chemotherapy so he was on disability. My salary made mortgage payments and medical insurance possible. We could ill afford me to go on disability also.

He said he could help me manage day to day. He said he’d always take my calls because I was a priority client. What I didn’t know was we had a therapeutic relationship. I’d get triggered when he called back. I was triggered every time I saw a car like his. Sometimes I’d hear his voice on a local Christian radio show and I’d lose it.

He became my obsession. Healing became an obsession. I was ruined. I had chronic, severe PTSD. To this day, though not every session, I still have abreactions.

What does this have to do with kids?
I was determined not to allow my illness to interfere with their childhood. They were kids and I refused to cave into the demands of this illness.

I took them three times a week to swim class. My son played sports so I made sure he made it to practice. I set up play dates so I could nap for half a second. Since my therapist also was our family therapist, the three of us would sit together and talk. This way he could be more strategic with what he recommended so all three of us would thrive as well as possible.

I partnered with teachers at the beginning of the year and let them know a little about what home life was like, i.e., I’m a new widow on disability for PTSD with two kids one of which is a special-needs child. When I was dragged into family court, I kept teachers in the loop so they understood home stress levels were very high.

Answers: The buck doesn’t stop here
I don’t have all the answers but I can say it took everything I had just to survive. I was nowhere near thrive mode for almost 10 years. I felt as if I had zero grace or mercy but I had plenty. Good friends were praying for me. Ushers and choir members were praying and pulling for me.

Yes, I felt alone but I was comforted by the thought others who couldn’t help as much as I needed them to help were standing in the gap asking God to protect and shelter us. It was very encouraging.

This entire topic of parenting while under the influence of PTSD could go on and on as the generations continue through the ages. Since we don’t have that kind of time, I’ll end with this: PTSD doesn’t get to define us and certainly doesn’t have the final word in how we live. We are rewriting the PTSD parenting book on a daily basis. Hint: No such book exists.

If you have timely techniques that work well for you, please share them here. I need more not less information and feedback. Is this blog helping you? Do you want more? What do you want to hear more about?

Do you have a blog also? If so, would you like to write an article or be featured here? Say so here or drop me an e-mail.

Hopefully, we can enlighten others about our struggle so compassion and understanding can increase, and pain and suffering decrease. Are you with me?

Until next year …
Look for a few more topics on the Awakenings! podcast next month as I wrap up this year’s parenting series. There were so many things left to write about but talking them out perhaps is better for now.

Until August 2018, be safe and stay strong. God be with you always.

Posts in 2017 series
Managing abreactions, exhaustion and letting kids be kids
Modeling healthy friendships despite profound loneliness
Breaking the cycle of loneliness takes work
Go outside and play today!
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!

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