My firstborn son gave me PTSD. While my level of self-diagnosed PTSD is light years from what others suffer with, it’s still something I struggle with almost daily.
He began daycare when he was seven weeks old. At first, everything went smoothly. The first incident didn’t happen until he was about six months old. Ear infection. But it was no ordinary ear infection. It turns out that when he gets one, the symptoms are severe – nonstop vomiting, high fever, inability to get good sleep yet occasionally lethargic, and refusal to eat. As a first time mom, my anxiety shot up. I had not really had much experience with anxiety in the past, but little humans can make you do crazy things. I became a germaphobe. I constantly worried about “the next time.” I wondered if my breast milk supply that I worked so hard to keep up would plummet when he refused to eat. I wondered if we’d end up in the ER again. And then there was the real downward spiral of wondering if there were other major underlying issues that would cause worse symptoms or lifelong struggles.
Now, for the most part, my little dude was healthy and happy! He was fun and full of life and made me such a happy momma. But the sick times were painful. The only relief for him (and me) came when he had tubes put in, and I put a lot of energy into boosting his immune system in natural ways.
When my second son was born, much of the anxiety came creeping back. I would try to avoid going out or to gatherings of any kind because I wanted to keep him in a germ-free bubble. Every time he would tug on his ear, have even a hint of an elevated temperature, or have a bad night’s sleep, I wondered if he had an ear infection. My husband, loved ones, and his pediatrician would calm my fears and remind me that every child is different, and history probably wouldn’t repeat itself. When his first ear infection came with the same symptoms as big brother, I panicked. My anxiety peaked, and I was sent right back to those awful memories of 2 years prior.
I knew something had to change. I couldn’t live in fear. I couldn’t continue to single-handedly keep Lysol in business. I began to implement some things that would ease my PTSD symptoms and anxieties.
- Confide in loved ones
My husband became uber familiar with my stressors and symptoms. He is usually cool, calm, and collected and was able to talk me off the ledge multiple times. Many times I’d just talk and share, and he’d listen and tell me he understands but not to worry myself to death. Other loved ones knew my struggles and would check in/chat/reassure me. It helped to have ears to vent to and shoulders to cry on.
I need my faith above all else. Many times, my prayers are just asking for help, and I’ll sit in silence, take deep breaths, and let some inkling of peace wash over me. It subsides all panic and can bring me back to being certain that I’m not in control, but everything will be alright. This post-traumatic stress does not have to rule my mind and heart. I have to let go and let God.
- Learn from others
Podcasts, mom groups, the enneagram, and books have become useful tools for me. Not only do I learn about PTSD and mom anxieties but also about children’s health and holistic medicine, which has become a passion of mine through these trials. One podcast that spoke deeply to me since it specifically refers to mommas with PTSD like mine is the Whole Mamas Podcast, episode 144. Knowing I’m not alone and that there are things I can do to improve my “condition” has been a lifesaver.
- Live in the moment
I still have to remind myself of this daily. I have to make a conscious effort not to jump to worst-case scenarios when my boys run a fever or we’re out at the Children’s Museum, and I hear a child coughing. I have to remember that my boys are only little once, and while there will most certainly be struggles these moments are fleeting. There are other moms who are in far worse situations than I am, and we all have to hold on to hope. I want to give my family my best through the highs and the lows.