Almost … but not quite

November 5, 2013

For the most part I am glad we don’t have total recall of our teen years. But it sure would come in handy when trying to help your own child through these angsty tumultuous years. I want to be able to know why I just don’t have the memories of letting people bug me so much that I’d want to harm myself or others–or of being overly concerned about not having a boyfriend.

Actually, I do know why some things just seemed a little trivial and made me okay in my own skin. But it is interesting that my sister had all the angst and self-esteem issues and boy drama. Sometimes I wonder did we even grow up in the same house? The answer is yes but being older she could escape and she didn’t see or experience the same things. Her world was the popularity drama and the feeling of worth being wrapped up in whether she had a boyfriend or not.

When you have PTSD bringing children into this world can be a scary prospect. How much is nurture vs. nature? When the Chief and I were talking about whether are family was complete or not after having T2 and the postpartum depression I did some research about my options. It is a personal decision but I knew I would not be able to make it through another pregnancy or infancy without needing an antidepressant and there wasn’t enough data on what the long-term prenatal exposure damage would be. But there definitely was evidence about what the effects of the hormonal imbalance of being depressed during pregnancy could lead to. We made the decision to not have any more and I don’t regret it.

But I look at my two girls. As they are both hitting puberty and teen years, I wonder is this going to be the day or the crisis that sets them off? T1 is wired the most like me. Anxious. Perfectionist. Volatile temper. Even as an infant it was clear she was wired like me as she reacted with such a temper if you tried to help her while she screamed in frustration at being able to master a task. But I don’t remember being that way as a child–my temper didn’t change until the PTSD.

T2 is more the ticking time bomb though. Because her little forming body was flooded with depression hormones from the first day of her pregnancy and for the following 39 weeks, she is the one the studies say could present with depression and other mental illnesses in her teen years. Talk about guilt. I just don’t want either of my children to have the same self-esteem issues my sister had either.

This is where I hope and pray the nurture part will override and step in. T1 got into a fight with a friend and suddenly everything was so black-and-white and the situation dire. With the PTSD I lived in that state for years, never seeing, never believing there could be gray. I was able to get T1 to calm down and see that those shades of gray existed and the world was not crashing down. Having lived that way for over 10 years while my brain matured and formed the faulty pathways of PTSD how I wish someone had known to point out that behavior to me and talk me down.

We’ve been talking a great deal and one of the topics is depression or how people can feel so hurt or bad about themselves they seek to harm themselves. Let me state that my children do not know about my PTSD or postpartum depression–only that I got sick after having T2. The cause of my PTSD is not something I wish to tell them any time soon. But they do know about the brutal attack a family member made against me almost three years ago. They have seen what it has done to me.

This recent history, this recent part of the PTSD actually gave me something to talk with T1 about. As I was explaining that people hurting may find different ways of coping–be it drugs or alcohol, or eating disorders, or reckless behavior, or this “cutting” that seems to be all the rage–either as additional punishment or ways to numb the pain. I told her that for a while I thought of E.o.t.T. as punishment–punishment for not following the diet, punishment because maybe there was truth to the accusations. I didn’t necessarily feel I deserved the punishment–after all I still ate the donut–but I thought of it as punishment nonetheless. Then I was struck withe psoriatic arthritis (PsA). When every step taken becomes so precious, you have to stop thinking of exercise as punishment.

I think T1 reacted like “Really? You’ve felt that bad and wanted punishment? And you made it through?” Yeah, T1. “The thing is, we need to remember that we are loved and valued and we need to be easier on ourselves. Life is easier then.”

Where does “Almost … but not quite” come in to play? For the first time in almost three years something personally positive about that brutal attack came through. As I said, my initial PTSD is not something I wish to share with T1 or T2 just yet or ever if possible. But I had a real, current example to be able to share with T1 about emotions, self-worth, reactions, beliefs, struggles, and triumph–and because she lived through those years with me it was all the more real.

So I had a moment where I found myself thinking, “I should send a note thanking that heartless person for giving me an example to tell my children without bringing up a painful past.” I almost believed I should. And then I laughed and said, “Yeah, right.”


One comment

  1. I didn’t know this about you. What a sensitive way you shared the painful subject and how wonderful you are as a mom to help guide your girls. I really admire you.

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