We work through our own pain so our kids don't suffer.
Last year, I was able to test out my healing from PTSD through an unexpected challenge. My son was scheduled for surgery to deal with some kidney issues. When it was time to take him to the operating room, I was offered the opportunity to put on a gown and carry him back, then stay with him until he fell asleep. I thought it was a great idea.
Except - the last time I was in an operating room was when Redmond was born via emergency C-section because he was in distress. It was traumatic. I've written the full birth story in my book, but the short version is that the number of people in the room shocked me. I was strapped down and felt helpless and out of control. It was a big part of what led to my PTSD diagnosis.
As I naively walked into the OR that morning, with my two-year old son trusting me to take care of him, I looked around and suddenly realized that I was right back in the place where he was born. A surprisingly large number of medical providers busied themselves around the brightly-lit room in scrubs and masks and gloves. Machines buzzed. And there in the middle I saw the table where he would soon be strapped down and cut open in about the same place I had been cut for the c-section.
For a moment, I stopped walking and blinked as I looked around the room, trying to regain my composure. It was only a second, but it felt like everything slowed down in that instant. Very quickly, I recognized that this was a flashback. I reminded myself that I was NOT in the operating room for a c-section, and I was holding my baby who needed me to keep it together. Once again, I walked toward the hospital bed.
What I thought had been an indiscernible pause attracted the attention of several people. I was aware of their concerned glances and posture as I continued on.
Rather than allow the panic that skirted around the edges of my emotions, I reminded myself that the operating room where Redmond was born was a safe place. His life had been saved there. I had been protected. All my hard work during trauma therapy came back to me as I reminded myself that the operating room had been a good thing for us.
I commanded my heart to stop pounding and held Redmond close for those last few steps. Then I forced my body to cooperate as I put him down on the table and smiled. I kissed his face as the nurse put an oxygen sensor on his big toe. I laughed a little as he swatted away her attempts to attach lead lines to his chest. He wasn’t having it. I put one hand under his back and one over his heart, pressing gently as I sang, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noon time…”
He didn’t like the mask they put over his face, but he relaxed very quickly and went to sleep. Then I was hustled out of the room by the child life specialist who brought me in. The whole thing lasted less than a minute.
As I walked away, I realized that I’d just confronted one of my biggest PTSD triggers and I’d gotten through it very well. Anxiety had not taken over. I didn’t crumble or freak out. Redmond was my first priority and he was safe and comforted. I hadn’t needed medication or intervention of any kind. If I hadn't done the hard work of EMDR months earlier, Redmond would have suffered terribly that morning. The surgeon and staff would have had to expend precious energy dealing with a traumatized mother, rather than a healed mother.
I’m so thankful for the healing God led me to during a time when I was weak and vulnerable. A friend told me about EMDR, trauma therapy that helps PTSD sufferers receive significant relief quickly. Within two months of starting therapy, I was much better. Within a few more months I dealt with some traumatic events from earlier in my life and was free. I’d learned how to re-process those difficult times and understand them for what they were. I am no longer a hostage to disordered thinking about traumatic events in my life.
It was difficult to start the process and trust my therapist. I found it hard to believe the promises she made. But I bossed myself around and did the work – and it happened just like she said. My little Charlie had had a breakdown during preschool when the class got to tour an ambulance and his little mind was suddenly flooded with images of his baby brother dying and being brought back to life on a different ambulance the year before. He knew that because I freaked out every time an ambulance passed our car - until I received trauma therapy for it. My healing has affected so many different areas of my children's lives.
Maybe your trauma is different. Maybe your children are triggered by things that trigger you, things that they have no business getting upset by. Maybe your children are left to fend for themselves while you have that second or third glass of wine to deal with the trauma, or while you sit them in front of the TV so you can calm your racing heart. Maybe your trauma keeps you at odds with their daddy, or gives you insomnia so badly that you can barely function as a mother. There's no judgement here. Only compassion. You don't need to live like that. You can get better too.
I’d highly recommend EMDR to anyone suffering with post traumatic stress disorder. You don’t have to go through something as hard as I did to have PTSD. If it was traumatic to you, then it’s worth getting help. This healed mind is something to celebrate! Find a therapist you feel comfortable with and go about the business of healing. You will not only feel better, but you will provide a better future for your children because you are not confronting demons every day. You will move more securely through life and have better relationships with your spouse, friends, colleagues, and employers.
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You do not have to battle fear for the rest of your life. You can be free.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to discuss it more. If one person can be helped because I chose to share my journey, it is worth it to me.
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