August is Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness month
My single greatest challenge was not killing my kids over spilt milk. I had to seriously ramp up my 12-step game and volunteer more in recovery groups, at church, PTA or league sports. I met lots of other parents but I they couldn’t relate. I didn’t want to vomit all over them so the pressure cooker inside was building.
The only reason I’m alive today is because my therapist insisted on seeing me three times a week. My unadulterated rage needed some place to go. My body needed deep peace. I needed ONE safe person and place.
Recovery speed bump
Unfortunately, my sponsor fired me. I never saw it coming. It killed me. My sponsor was one of my few lifelines. The others were therapy and journaling. Losing my sponsor was like losing my right arm. I was disabled. I wrote pages upon pages of journal entries on my computer. Yes, there’s something about pen to paper when journaling but I had an avalanche of feelings and thoughts I had to eject from my body. They were coming fast and letting them fester inside was not a good option.
The good news was I had a 12-step program for 12 years prior to Edd’s death. This meant I had a 12-second delay before I did or said something stupid that would permanently scar my kids. I used to put my kids in time out but now I was reversing the parent strategy.
Whenever I felt I was about to explode, I put myself in timeout, i.e., in my bed in the fetal position. I called my therapist and left several messages. Although I had a new sponsor, it was becoming obvious no one was equipped to handle a bag full of problems that included PTSD and major depression.
I did everything I suggested my kids do whenever they were angry. I screamed and cried into my pillow. I went for a walk even if it was simply around the block for 10 minutes. I’ll admit it: I smoked cannabis every night before I went to bed. I didn’t drink alcohol much and cannabis always relieved stress especially whenever I was suicidal, which was daily.
Obviously I was onto something when many years later Dr. Sanjay Gupta affirmed that studies of cannabis patients concluded pot helped with PTSD.
It wasn’t easy for the first few years but I made it one day at a time, sometimes one hour or five minutes at a time. Periodically, I would bring kids into therapy with me for a family meeting. I also made sure to start new family traditions such as hanging out at Union Square on Black Friday, continue traditional summer camping vacations, extracurricular activities. I also volunteered like crazy to offset costs for expensive sports like swim team.
Light seemed so far away
Everything seemed so dark. Fortunately, I could see a light the size of a pinhole way far away. My therapist kept me focused. I made sure the kids had their own therapist so they could navigate a new life without their father and all the inherent, unknown, icky feelings.
I redoubled my efforts to be a good-enough parent. It took everything in me not to slam grandparents in front of my kids. When I did, I remembered good-enough parenting is good enough, and my kids are more resilient than I know. After all, they had their own relationship with Jesus, which was a real game changer. It was an advantage I noticed other kids clearly didn’t have.
Meanwhile, I lost my in-laws
I don’t think I ever had as much hate in my heart as I did after my husband died. The coolness with which my in-laws presented was unbearable. The cruel, venomous statement my mother in law made at the funeral bounced in my head for years. My husband took great comfort in knowing if I didn’t have my family to lean on, I’d have his. Mom destroyed my reputation and relationships with her lies so all I received from my in-laws was unfriendliness, loathing, opposition and gut-wrenching isolation.
Is this how a family recovers from the death of a loved one? I didn’t understand why I was treated like trash after getting along with them for more than 16 years. Sixteen years were wiped out with one person’s lies. Animosity coming from both sides of the family, tension, bitterness, all of it was over the top. It felt like the Hatfields and McCoys blood feud except both sides agreed I was trash. The discord my mother sowed created estrangement with the one thing my husband was confident I would retain. You bet I held a grudge.
It was official. I was flying blind and solo and I was made as hell.
Posts in 2017 series
Breaking the cycle of loneliness takes work
Go outside and play on PWPTSD Awareness Day
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!