Guest blogger Sheri Dacon is today’s contributor to Different Dream’s series about PTSD and special needs parenting. She tells the story of seeking the cure for what ails her and how to help other parents who live with the combination of PTSD and special needs parenting.
PTSD and Special Needs Parents: Calling it Like It Is
Psychotherapy. Anti-anxiety meds. Massage therapy.
Meditation. Guided Imagery. Scripture memorization.
Vitamins and supplements. Chiropractic adjustment. Acupuncture.
Essential Oils. Hypnotherapy. Books & websites.
Journaling. Ignoring. Napping.
Hydrating. Boot camp. Yoga.
Seeing a laryngologist. Seeing a psychiatrist. Seeing a neurologist.
Deep breathing. Bible study. Gardening.
Reading. Denial. Lots and lots of prayer.
These are the avenues I’ve been down in my search for a cure from what ails me.
I’m like the woman in the Bible who bled for 12 years. I’ve spent all I have and seen every doctor/specialist/guru I can afford. I’m spent and exhausted and overwhelmed.
Most days I carry on and try to be brave in this world that has left my voice — and a huge chunk of my identity — behind. But on days when I’m tired and my blood sugar is completely off kilter and my hormones won’t behave, well I don’t function quite as well.
On those days I retreat to my closet for a little Jesus and cat therapy, because I can’t keep my eyes from welling with tears. Big, fat tears of regret and disappointment — but mostly fear.
Fear is a big issue, the one that haunts me, the one that lies just below the outer crust of my fragile but mostly happy life. I don’t feel depressed. I am mostly in a good place. But the surface is so thin. I live in a constant state of hypervigilance. The tiniest quake could shatter the whole thing into oblivion.
Special Needs Parenting and PTSD
I’ve been doing some research on PTSD and parents of special needs kids and how autism moms experience stress similar to that of combat soldiers.
Every time I consider whether or not I might suffer from PTSD, I feel guilty.
I’ve never been in real danger. I haven’t experienced the trauma and the stress of military action, or even that of a military wife. My husband works in IT. The biggest danger there is outsourcing.
I don’t live in a war-torn country, or even in a high-crime neighborhood.
I have a cushy life.
So when I say I think I might suffer from PTSD, I feel more than a little guilty, yes.
But it’s like no one’s bothered to inform my body.
My nervous system is a wreck. My muscles are tight. My hormones are so out of sync that I often don’t know which end is up. In certain situations, and in specific physical locations, I find it almost impossible to breathe. My voice doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to anymore.
Adrenaline and cortisol and whatever other stress hormones are in overdrive and my body screams “Danger!” way more than it should.
I wonder if I will ever be able to convince my subconscious that there is not really any danger.
PTSD: Calling It Like It Is
Some family friends are experiencing sudden trauma within their family. My husband and I talked about it the other night and we agreed that there was no easy way around what is happening to them. There will be casualties. There will be irreparable damage. It is indeed trauma. It’s easy to call it that in their situation.
But right in the middle of the conversation, for the first time ever, I admitted something out loud.
“That’s what happened to me, you know. At our last church. It was trauma.”
I’ve always been strong-willed and determined. Mind set on not letting others know that I might not be okay. Trying like crazy to keep a stiff upper lip and never let anybody see me cry. Acting like it’s no big deal, this thing that happened. Pretending to be strong when I am oh, so very weak.
So to admit it to you — here in writing on the big wide internet — is difficult to say the least.
I have been traumatized.
No, it wasn’t military combat. But it felt like it.
It was trauma. It involved my special needs son. It crushed me to the core. It made me question everything about myself.
But I’m slowly learning to let go of the guilt and to call it what it is.
It is PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s taken up residence in my very bones and it is okay for me to be weak and to admit the truth: it was trauma. I was beaten down and it may take a while to get back up. And it is okay.
Of all the strategies I’ve tried, this one seems to work best. A simple recognition of trauma — of PTSD– for what it is.
- Letting go of the guilt.
- Accepting what is.
- Praying for the future.
- Trusting in the one who heals in time.
Are you experiencing similar stress as the parent of a special needs child? Stress that forces you to live in constant fear or a perpetual state of alert? Perhaps what you are dealing with is PTSD.
Perhaps it is time to call it like it is. And then move on to getting help.
You won’t be alone. I’ll be in the boat right alongside you. There is safety and strength in numbers.
PTSD parents of special needs children, let’s support each other, shall we?
Leave a Comment!
If Sheri’s words resonates with you, feel free to leave a comment about your PTSD and special needs parenting story below. You can also check out the other posts in the series using the links below.
Part 2: Special Needs Parents and PTSD–What About You Mom?
Part 5: PTSD in Parents–Moving from Negative to Positive
Part 7: PTSD in Parents of Kids with Special Needs: Visualization as a Coping Tool
Part 8: Newborns Feel Pain: The Headline that Almost Triggered My PTSD
Part 10: Why Kids with PTSD Need Mentally Healthy Parents
Part 11: PTSD and Special Needs Parents: Calling it Like It Is