Our New Normal

Flashback to 8 1/2 years ago:

 I was settling in for work, after another difficult morning of trying to get my then 16-year-old daughter out of bed for school when I received a call from the police department saying that my daughter was hit by a car while walking across the street to school and they were going to patch me through to the ambulance to talk to her. As soon as I hung up the phone, I stood up heard myself make a strange sound, heard the sound of glass breaking in my mind and then I experienced a very vivid and intense flashback (although I didn’t know what it was at the time) of a girl sitting in an airport, alone broken and bruised. And then just like that, the flashback went away, I was whisked away to the hospital by a co-worker to get to my daughter and I spent the next year tending to her health needs. 

The year following Aria’s accident I was busy with tending to her health, taking her to appointments, trying to work full time, and keep our household running as normal as possible. And at the same time, I kept having these experiences that were making me feel crazy. I had worked so hard to keep my life, my family and their world so protected that the instant that Aria got hit, my controlled snow globe world came crashing down…In fact, when my son and I were talking the day of the accident, he looked at me and innocently said, “things will never be the same again.”  Extremely prophetic words, that at the time neither myself nor my family had any idea what they meant.

During the course of the year, I began to become more anxious, I started losing time, I was having these weird memories that kept exploding from my mind that I would immediately smash back down; I was becoming unglued  I knew something was seriously wrong with me…or that I was going crazy so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

That’s how the slow unraveling of my psyche began, or really now I look at it now, that’s how the slow knitting together of my psyche began. When I began working with my first therapist, I was anxious to get everything out that was coming up.  I was telling her things that I thought would never and could never be revealed. I had no distress tolerance or coping skills at the time so I found myself in a constant state of crisis. I was becoming more and more unstable, and would lock myself in my room for hours for fear that I was going to hurt myself  and I didn’t want to be around my family.My first therapist diagnosed me correctly with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but didn’t teach me the safety skills I needed before I could begin to process any memories. After nine months, I left that therapist and found the person I have been working with for the past seven years. His immediate direction was Safety First…Then Processing.  (but that’s for another post)

My Families Reaction:

My poor family! I had gone from the rock of the household to this crazy, upset, out of control person. We had never heard of anything like this and my first therapist had never suggested a family meeting. My family was confused and upset, no one knew or understood what was happening and everyone was handling it in their own way and on their own.  Our once, the four of us against the world family unit had deteriorated into everyone for themselves in a ship that was sinking faster every day

My husband was stunned. He didn’t know what to think. I have always been an emotional person, but I was completely unglued. I was upset, angry, hurt…nothing he said or did was okay and I took everything personally. I reacted to everything way out of proportion. At first, he thought this was fall- out from my daughter’s accident, which was even more confusing because we were pretty good at communicating about her needs and our feelings about what was going on with her during her time of convalescence. 

My daughter was confused. She was a 17-year-old, with a mom who couldn’t deal with anything anymore. Because of the constant flashbacks, floods of emotion, and a dark past trying to find the light of day immediately, I was unable to discern what was real fear and danger from the danger of the past. I was transferring a lot of my fears onto Aria, texting her at school, (completely out of character for me) and then getting angry at her when she would text me back because she was using her phone at school. She was confused that I was texting her and then feeling angry that I was mad when she responded. 

My son intentionally removed himself from the family. He couldn’t deal with a mom who was so upset and in crisis. He told me at one point that he hated coming home because he didn’t know what he would find. He needed me to be the mom I had always been. So he stayed away for about 4 years.

At the beginning of my PTSD symptoms, my family was just as confused and upset as I was. It was a shift in our family dynamic that none of us ever expected and we didn’t know enough at the time to get help for the family unit.  That changed nine months later when I left my first therapist and started working with Kevin.

Flash forward to today:

My symptoms have definitely affected my family and they still do today. I went from the grounded beacon of the family to becoming almost totally dependent on them. After I learned some coping and distress tolerance tools I was again able to maintain a “mom role” and thank goodness my children are now in their twenties. Even though they have taken on different roles in helping me manage my illness, they still expect me to be “mom” when they need me in that role. There is no hesitation or thought, they can walk that line brilliantly and I’m thrilled to be able to function in that role when needed. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to know that my daughter is not only my daughter but one of my caregivers. She is the one who can tell immediately if I am having a “bad day.” Among many other things, she knows how to help with a menu in a restaurant so I don’t get overwhelmed by choices. She can tell if I am in over my head and overwhelmed and can tell if I’m triggered. 

My son, who had the biggest problem adjusting because mom wasn’t the mom he expected anymore, has grown into taking the responsibility of managing anything that is concrete and sequential. He’s a teacher by profession and he feels best when he can problem solve a problem for me. He helps me with the things that can be extremely overwhelming, like making a power point for a presentation, or having to make calls that require going through multiple layers of people before getting the right one on the phone. 

My husband has been wonderful and supportive and picked up the slack when I couldn’t. He works hard, comes home from long physical days at work and still is attentive to his wife who has a chronic illness. He appreciates the help the kids provide as he has a lot on his plate. But our dynamic has changed too. He sleeps in another room because my screaming nightmares, wake him up. He has to get up at 4:30 am for work every morning, so it’s imperative that he gets his sleep. We have been married for 33 years, so we adjusted and maintain the attitude that this is a temporary arrangement in response to my illness. I just started meds, that are supposed to help with nightmares in people with PTSD. Fingers crossed!

It’s all okay, and it’s all not okay. My family dynamic has changed, and that happens. When you are the reason for the change it’s a slippery slope from feeling like a burden to feeling like this is what happens in life and we adjust. Like any disease, PTSD doesn’t just affect one person, it affects all those in your life who care about you and love you. 

My son calls our life the New Normal. he said, at first, it was awful, terrible and scary. Now we know what to expect and we adjust. We all know how to work around and with your symptoms. It’s okay, it’s our life and we are lucky. As I continue to heal, and our family grows and changes our “normal” will become different all the time. I continue to stay hopeful and I’m extremely grateful that we found a way to stay together as a family ever knowing that things will never be the same. The lesson of the impermanence of life.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook

 

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Our New Normal

  1. vshakvamantz April 9, 2016 / 6:50 pm

    Lol, Yeah, and I’m taking steps to get there as of yesterday. I laugh because I’m scared of what my parents will say, but I shouldn’t care at ALL. That’s the hell emotional manipulation plays, and what pisses me off the most about being their target. As long as I play along, I’m great to them, but they don’t want to talk about the pain they have have caused me or the sister they tossed in jail because she wouldn’t just shut up about it. I am going to fix this crap in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. atribeuntangled April 9, 2016 / 5:12 am

    Ugh! I can totally relate! Im so glad and sad that we can validate each others symptoms. Someday we will both say….remember when….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. vshakvamantz April 9, 2016 / 4:58 am

    I have no doubt. My PTSD is abuse related so when I have flashbacks I have body memories attached that drive me to the brink of insanity. I talk to myself and lose time, hygiene is a struggle, lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. atribeuntangled April 9, 2016 / 4:49 am

    Yes, I definitely write and talk about whats it’s like to live with PTSD. I really want to shed light on this invisable illness. My PTSD symptoms still have a pretty good choke hold on me. Frustrating for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. vshakvamantz April 9, 2016 / 4:46 am

    It’s wonderful that you have communication between all of you. There is so much discord when there’s none; the harmony gets jammed, people don’t get to understand or express, and apathy turns hostile. I don’t know anything about PTSD, I always associated it with war veterans, not abuse survivors. But I saw the word yesterday and realized it was the name for called “paralysis”, where I’m shell-shocked into immobility by negative emotions unexpectedly. I hope your page has something on PTSD!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. atribeuntangled April 4, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    Thank You. Your comment is very much appreciated!!

    Like

  7. viciousbutterflies April 2, 2016 / 2:21 pm

    Yes, we all have the power deep inside to not let the darkness take over. Enjoy your weekend too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. atribeuntangled April 1, 2016 / 8:38 pm

    Thank you so much for your very supportive and honest comment. It has always amazed me how our minds can protect us from the reality of the trauma suffered. Going to those difficult places can seem unbearable at times, but then I remember the power Im giving myself and it helps allievate the pain of the truth. Have a wonderful weekend! Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  9. viciousbutterflies April 1, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    Wow, what a powerful story. I do believe that mental illness often remains undiagnosed until a traumatic event takes place. I know that’s how it began with me. I was always an anxious person, but the panic attacks and extreme anxiety didn’t begin until I experience a very traumatic event.

    I love how you say, “That’s how the slow unraveling of my psyche began, or really now I look at it now, that’s how the slow knitting together of my psyche began.” That’s exactly how I look at it as well. You’re losing the calm, rational part of yourself and building up the frightened, irrational part.

    I wish you much peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. atribeuntangled April 1, 2016 / 1:54 pm

    Oh my gosh how scary for you! Im so glad to hear you found so
    Eone you trust and knows the best treatment for you. Im grateful that I found the therapist on the second try, so many people have to have the added stress of going through many therapists before they find the proper help. I really appreciate both you reading, commenting and sharing. Alexis

    Like

  11. atribeuntangled April 1, 2016 / 1:49 pm

    Thank You so much for reading and your supportive comment. Keeps me motivated to write. Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  12. anotherclosethippie April 1, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    A moving, candid flashback. Your strength through it all is inspiring. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  13. carolineturriff April 1, 2016 / 12:28 pm

    I am glad you have found a good therapist and are able to work through the Complex PTSD. I am so with you on the need to find a PTSD therapist who establishes safety. The symptoms of my PTSD, which first emerged when I thought I was going to be murdered in my mother’s house because of her threats towards me, were very severe OCD checking 10 hours a day till 5am in the morning. My first EMDR therapist was very critical and didn’t establish safety so when I went to see her after I’d had a nervous breakdown and was checking all the time it actually made me worse, trapped in the trauma and worsened the OCD. Later I found a fabulous EMDR woman who was non-critical and non-judgemental and established safety. After sessions with her the OCD has almost totally gone!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. atribeuntangled April 1, 2016 / 11:55 am

    Thank you so very much for your supportive comment. Yes, I think Im one of the lucky ones to find a good therapist fairly quickly. Have a wonderful weekend. Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  15. n3v3rm0r3 April 1, 2016 / 10:41 am

    Thank you for being so vulnerable and open to share this. I am so glad you found a therapist who helped you first to find safety so you can work through this illness. God bless and keep you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. K E Garland March 30, 2016 / 10:56 pm

    You’re very welcome and thanks for answering. That sounds tough for everyone. I’ll let you know if/when I read it. It’ll have to be this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. atribeuntangled March 30, 2016 / 10:54 pm

    Thank You for comment. I really appreciate it, and I love that you asked me questions about the kids AND of course of the book. 🙂 I do talk about these things in my book. At the time my son detached I was hurt and really sad, but understood (at a mom level) that he really needed me to be “mom” and didn’t know how to handle the upset in the family system. I’m just so grateful we were able to figure out a way back to each other and we operate as a family unit again. My book came out in August and in just these 7 months there has been an even greater understanding. My kids and my husband read the book only a couple of weeks before it was published. My son, especially said he didn’t want to hear the whole thing until he could read it in a book. I guess I gave you a long-winded answer. 🙂 If you do decide to read the book, I would love your feedback. Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  18. K E Garland March 30, 2016 / 10:13 pm

    This sounds frightening. I’m so glad that you seem to be better now and I also enjoyed reading the two different responses from your children. I did wonder how you dealt with your son’s initial detachment. Is that in the book?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. atribeuntangled March 30, 2016 / 3:46 pm

    Thank you very much for your feedback. It was a vulnerable post to include the family but I want to be honest when writing about living with PTSD.

    Like

  20. richp45198 March 30, 2016 / 3:23 pm

    Thanks for this powerful testimony, illuminating the reality that PTSD is a family matter.

    Like

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