PTSD in Parents: 6 Ways to Deal with Adrenal Fatigue

by Apr 17, 2015In Parents, PTSD33 comments

Welcome to the third post in Different Dream series about PTSD in parents of kids with special needs. Today, guest blogger and mom Rachel Olstad is here to tell her story of coming to terms with her PTSD that developed after the birth of 2 of her children.

PTSD in Parents: 6 Ways to Deal with Adrenal Fatigue

I was 25 years old when my first child was conceived.
Trips to the teaching hospital, prenatal ultrasounds galore, packs of white coats.
Bad news.
Gloomy news.
Dire news. Not viable. Terminate. Abort.
Smart thing to do.
If he lives, it will be in a vegetative state.
We got to squeeze his little hand before they rushed a very blue baby off to a 12-hour surgery.

3 weeks and 3 surgeries later, we took home a medically fragile baby boy.
In the hospital more than home his first several years.
Around 30 some surgeries.
Oxygen. Heart monitor. IVs. 911 on speed dial.
First name basis with first responders.
Turning blue.
Vomiting. Aspirations. Pneumonia.
Ambulances and a medic flight.
6 hours of sleep a day in 15-minute snippets.
He’s coding.

Adrenaline rush, adrenaline rush, adrenaline rush.

I was young. I was strong. I was a Christian. I handled it all with aplomb. After years of living in crises, our son stabilized–mostly–and we learned to navigate our new normal of being parents of a child with disabilities. We had another son, then a daughter.

Baby Girl is in NICU.

Hibiclens. Nail scrubs. Gowning up. Pumping breast milk.
The smells.
The sounds.
What was happening to me?
My mental state was so concerning to the nurses that they asked if I wanted psychiatric help.

Fast forward a few years. Our son’s kidney shuts down. He goes septic and almost dies. Twice. What’s happening to me? I can’t even walk into the hospital anymore without throwing up. I can’t quit crying. I’m obsessing over healthcare routines. Irrational thoughts won’t stop going through my head, and my gastrointestinal system responds in immediate ways.

Insomnia. Anxiety.

I cry out to God for help constantly.
I dig into my Bible.
Why won’t God send relief?

Mornings I can function well enough to tend to my kids’ needs. I set dinner ingredients on the counter, knowing I won’t be able to think clearly enough by evening to put a meal together. My sainted husband regularly covers for me. I sit on the couch solving endless crosswords to keep my mind occupied on something else than those horrendous, irrational thoughts.

I know I need help.

I visit a practitioner specializing in stress and hormones.
With advice stemming from a naturopathic philosophy, I make progress back to the land of the living.
Am I cured?
No.

My daughter has a case of unrepairable supraventricular tachycardia that has resulted in ambulance trips and unsuccessful ablations. My oldest son still is disabled. I live on the edge with an undercurrent of constant anxiety.

Adrenaline rushes occur every time someone sneezes.

But I’m much better – sometimes thriving, sometimes struggling. How do I keep going day after day? Here are my top tips for moms dealing with PTSD or adrenal fatigue:

  1. Psalms for the Anxious: In the middle of one anxious night, I googled and found this list. I have one Bible that’s yellow-highlighted for those anxiety-filled moments, believing in God’s sovereignty and that ultimately, I am not responsible for how many days my kids will spend on earth.
  2. Quit the Caffeine Fix: My pot of coffee each day was too much. I’ve learned to be kinder to my body, cleaning up my diet, coffee being my particular poison. An occasional massage works wonders instead.
  3. Seek Professional Help: For me, it was seeking naturopathic and nutritional guidance. For others, it may be necessary to see a psychiatrist. If you have thoughts about harming yourself or your children, tell someone right now. Get immediate help.
  4. Find a Support Group: I belong to a special needs moms group. They get me. When I’m particularly struggling, I shoot a message, knowing they will lift me up to our heavenly Father. The peace I feel afterwards is amazing.
  5. Share the Responsibility: During emergencies my hubby does the ambulance rides if he’s available. I still love and care about my kids; I’m just relinquishing control-freak tendencies and accepting help for my own well-being.
  6. Turn Away from Negativity: If a TV show triggers anxiety, turn it off. Don’t finish that book if it’s making your stomach knot. Instead, watch Tim Hawkins on YouTube or tell your kids a joke. Force yourself to leave them and go see a play. I am always surprised at how much I enjoy myself once I’m removed from the immediacy of my situation.

While I hate the way PTSD makes me feel, believe it or not, I am grateful for it. Once a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of girl, I now know what it is to fully rely on God in my weakness, and I can now comfort those who journey behind me.

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20 (NIV)

What About You?

Do you see elements of your story in Rachel’s? Do you wonder if you, too, could have PTSD? Leave your thoughts or questions in the comment box.

 

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By Rachel Olstad

Rachel Olstad began her journey into the world of disabilities in 1990 when her oldest child was born with spina bifida and subsequently diagnosed with autism. She volunteers with Joni and Friends Southern Oregon, helping to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals and families affected by disability and encouraging churches to include all people. She was a contributing writer for both Special Needs Smart Pages and Nursery Smart Pages (Gospel Light), has been published in the Journal for Religion, Disabilities & Health, and was an assistant editor on Beyond Suffering: A Christian View on Disability Ministry. (Christian Institute on Disability)

33 Comments

  1. Jolene

    That is so cool! They are amazing aren’t they? FYI for those reading this comment exchange–Craig was our children’s pastor in Iowa during my (Jolene’s) kids’ growing up years. He and his wife are dear friends, and we don’t see them nearly enough. So it’s great to have an old friend sighting right here at Different Dream.

  2. Craig Johnson

    Rachel and Brent at our church today doing a great disability seminar for people in ministry!

  3. Rachel Olstad

    Thank you all for the kind words everyone. My heart goes out to those of you who also struggle with anxiety and PTSD. My prayer for you is that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Nina, especially, I pray that you not give up hope, but will keep seeking for the help you need with your children. I would encourage you to check out the Joni and Friends Family Retreats and see if one near you would work into your schedule – a totally life-changing event for families affected by disability.

  4. Jolene

    Thank you, Rachel, for giving Juanita that reminder!

    Jolene

  5. Jolene

    Thank you, Rachel, for giving Juanita that reminder!

    Jolene

  6. Jolene

    Megan, you have an awesome aunt!

    Jolene

  7. Jolene

    Megan, you have an awesome aunt!

    Jolene

  8. Jolene

    Good for you, Kimberly. My dad had MS so I know how draining that kind of caregiving can be, too. Keep being proactive and ask for help!

    Jolene

  9. Jolene

    Good for you, Kimberly. My dad had MS so I know how draining that kind of caregiving can be, too. Keep being proactive and ask for help!

    Jolene

  10. Jolene

    Life can be so hard as the caregiver, Nina, but don’t give up. Taking a vacation is a wonderful idea. I hope it restores you so you can come back and pursue the help you and your family needs. Please leave another message when you need help so we can talk more and brainstorm resources.

    Jolene

  11. Jolene

    Life can be so hard as the caregiver, Nina, but don’t give up. Taking a vacation is a wonderful idea. I hope it restores you so you can come back and pursue the help you and your family needs. Please leave another message when you need help so we can talk more and brainstorm resources.

    Jolene

  12. Jolene

    How wonderful to hear you are managing your PTSD. Your perseverance was worth it!

  13. Jolene

    How wonderful to hear you are managing your PTSD. Your perseverance was worth it!

  14. Jolene

    Holly,

    I’m so glad Rachel’s post offered you some perspective and hope.
    Jolene

  15. Jolene

    Holly,

    I’m so glad Rachel’s post offered you some perspective and hope.
    Jolene

  16. Christine

    I have adrenal fatigue. I developed it after caring for a terminally ill parent on top of five.kids who at the time were infant to age twelve, three of whom were born with Feingold Syndrome.

  17. Christine

    I have adrenal fatigue. I developed it after caring for a terminally ill parent on top of five.kids who at the time were infant to age twelve, three of whom were born with Feingold Syndrome.

  18. Holly Herick

    Beautiful Rachel, what a wonderful loving talented family you have. This story touched my heart as I have been through adrenal fatigue with much less stress.

    Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20 (NIV)

    God has restored me and I thank him.

  19. Holly Herick

    Beautiful Rachel, what a wonderful loving talented family you have. This story touched my heart as I have been through adrenal fatigue with much less stress.

    Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20 (NIV)

    God has restored me and I thank him.

  20. muchalone

    I’m so sorry for the agonizing anxiety of the fragile health needs in your family.
    Thank you for sharing in such an understanding and sensitive way.

    PTSD haunts me on many fronts…my past, my husband…sometimes my kids…
    I tried to ignore it…and it chased me through nightmares…
    I tried to explain it…and it cost me friends…
    I tried to cover it up…and it forced its way into my brain through flashbacks…
    I found a godly counselor…and it receded into the shadows…
    Life is possible–although still precarious…

  21. muchalone

    I’m so sorry for the agonizing anxiety of the fragile health needs in your family.
    Thank you for sharing in such an understanding and sensitive way.

    PTSD haunts me on many fronts…my past, my husband…sometimes my kids…
    I tried to ignore it…and it chased me through nightmares…
    I tried to explain it…and it cost me friends…
    I tried to cover it up…and it forced its way into my brain through flashbacks…
    I found a godly counselor…and it receded into the shadows…
    Life is possible–although still precarious…

  22. Nina

    carrying the load with our special needs kids has totally drained me. I use online support groups, forums to talk… #3- summer before I was in the therapists office so emotional- growling ‘just send them back to child services’ – she went “oh this is good” and took notes. As this was ‘my sons’ therapist? nothing–came from my confession, no help, no hope. I ended up worse off and anxious before going to appointments-I quit the no help therapist soon after that. just days ago while sitting with a case worker in the child services; I once again yelled ‘take them back”, or its over a cliff with us all” case worker, calmly said’ I know its hard”. I yelled how dare you tell me you understand the intensity of what I live with daily. I left feeling minimized, trivialized, not heard. [paperwork was filled out for help] I have several time sensitive appointments to finish up with–then I’m going on a vacation. their needs and demands steal; funds; marriage time and my small opportunities for doing what I enjoy to get my senses back. As I ponder this morning- I can see my resentment that I ‘had to’ take on all this is really a big source of my draining. I wonder why I end up with the no-help workers?

  23. Nina

    carrying the load with our special needs kids has totally drained me. I use online support groups, forums to talk… #3- summer before I was in the therapists office so emotional- growling ‘just send them back to child services’ – she went “oh this is good” and took notes. As this was ‘my sons’ therapist? nothing–came from my confession, no help, no hope. I ended up worse off and anxious before going to appointments-I quit the no help therapist soon after that. just days ago while sitting with a case worker in the child services; I once again yelled ‘take them back”, or its over a cliff with us all” case worker, calmly said’ I know its hard”. I yelled how dare you tell me you understand the intensity of what I live with daily. I left feeling minimized, trivialized, not heard. [paperwork was filled out for help] I have several time sensitive appointments to finish up with–then I’m going on a vacation. their needs and demands steal; funds; marriage time and my small opportunities for doing what I enjoy to get my senses back. As I ponder this morning- I can see my resentment that I ‘had to’ take on all this is really a big source of my draining. I wonder why I end up with the no-help workers?

  24. Kimberly Quinn

    This is for me, but not with my kids. My kids have special needs but they are not medical needs. Hubby however is a different story. He has MS, has had two minor strokes and a host of other smaller medical issues. So I’m going to print this list and start to use it.

  25. Kimberly Quinn

    This is for me, but not with my kids. My kids have special needs but they are not medical needs. Hubby however is a different story. He has MS, has had two minor strokes and a host of other smaller medical issues. So I’m going to print this list and start to use it.

  26. Megan Shinn

    i love you Aunt Rachel. You are beautiful and strong and I love my wonderful cousins.

  27. Megan Shinn

    i love you Aunt Rachel. You are beautiful and strong and I love my wonderful cousins.

  28. Juanita Alarcon

    I felt angry, I cried, I laughed, I was challenged, I was hopeful, most of all, I was reminded that My God is faithful, and He is my Joy and my strength.

  29. Juanita Alarcon

    I felt angry, I cried, I laughed, I was challenged, I was hopeful, most of all, I was reminded that My God is faithful, and He is my Joy and my strength.

  30. Yvette Safholm

    Rachel…..

    What a wonderful idea and such a great topic to address. It mentions that this is the 3rd part. I wonder how it is that I can get my hands “eyes” on the first 2? Maybe I overlooked it?

  31. Yvette Safholm

    Rachel…..

    What a wonderful idea and such a great topic to address. It mentions that this is the 3rd part. I wonder how it is that I can get my hands “eyes” on the first 2? Maybe I overlooked it?

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Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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