This goes out to my silent warriors
When my daughter was born, she had health issues. And this came with a lot of sleepless nights for me. Literally, I got 1 to 2 hours of sleep per night for 18 months. She did not sleep at night and did not take naps during the day. The only time I could get her to sleep was if I was carrying her and moving. I was exhausted. My husband worked so much he was not around to help. When he was home, he was not present with the family.
At the time, my eldest son was reacting to everything. He was hitting me, biting, pulling my hair, and throwing fits like I have never seen. He was nonverbal and relied more on sign language than the little words he did have. When he tried to communicate, and I couldn’t seem to figure out what he was saying, he would explode. My adrenals took a huge hit and I started to have anxiety. I couldn’t leave him and my baby in the same room because I was worried that he would hurt her. I researched how to help him with language and found that if I put his hands on my mouth when I spoke, it would give him more input. In 3 months, he went from maybe 20 words to full vocabulary. He spoke like an adult with large complex words and did fractions at 3 1/2. He was diagnosed with autism along with anxiety and a sensory disorder. Years later, he would also be diagnosed with OCD and ADHD.
With all the stress, I felt so alone. I started seeing images and visions during the day that were memories of traumatic events I had experienced when I was young. When I did get to finally sleep, I would be awakened with nightmares. I didn’t know what to do with these memories. I called them ghost memories, or shadow memories, memories that had missing pieces. These nightmares felt so real as if what had happened when I was young was happening all over again. My body would react as well. All the feelings and emotions I felt when I was a kid were happening again, and I had no idea how to stop it. I wanted to push it back down and simply not deal with it. I wanted it to go away so I could just be a mom… awake, alive, and happy. It was painful. I got worried I would lose my mind. I tried talking with my husband about it, but he said he didn’t understand my feelings and he certainly didn’t understand why I was upset about my childhood. I reached out to friends and to my parents and asked them to come for a visit. I told them that I was going through a really hard time and needed support. I was worried if I didn’t get rest and help, I would end up in the hospital. No one could come. I talked to a doctor and asked to be put on medication. The doctor said it was “just stress” and I didn’t need medication. She didn’t want to put me on something to then have to wean me off later…and that the meds could have side effects both to me and my milk as I was nursing.
It got to the point that it felt like my skin was crawling. It felt like I needed to run, but I was so tired that if I did run, I was wiped out the rest of the day…and I still needed to care for my young children. The flashbacks and ghost memories were relentless. They were like watching movies while awake. One day, I packed the kids up in the car a drove. I just drove and cried. Eventually they feel asleep. I had quiet. I called my best friend and told her about my visions. She listened patiently and told me she cared and that she heard me. That meant a lot to me to just feel heard and not viewed as crazy. I got off the phone with her and realized something had to change. I was completely lost way out in the middle of nowhere with two babies. I stopped for gas and found a restaurant. Sitting at the table with the kids who were rested from sleeping in the back of the car, I realized that I needed to stay in the moment. With all the flashbacks, I had been jumping from present to past repeatedly all day every day. I sat at the table and laughed with the kids and made faces and told stories.
On the drive home, I decided I couldn’t go on like this. I needed to change some things. I couldn’t look for outside sources to help me. When I got home, I wrote down everything in my power that brought me joy. Music, cooking, running, parks, pool, art projects, and going to my church. I reached out to my insurance and found a therapist. I started going to her and found out I was experiencing PTSD. Before then, I thought of PTSD as something that just affected people in the military. It was such an uncomfortable time for me. Truth be told, at least at the time, I thought it was the worst time I had in my life. However, looking back, I realize now that it was giving me the emotional strength that I would need for the years to come.
In those moments, I began to grow as a person. I grew a grit that I didn’t have before. It made me realize that I could find all that I needed inside of me rather than looking for a friend, husband, food, drink, or drug. We as humans are capable of so much, if we dig a little deeper.
Now, am I say don’t ask for help if you need it? Of course not. We all need help. If you are experiencing these types of flashbacks or ghost memories, find a therapist (consider things such as Life Span Integration and Biofeedback Therapy). However, if you have had therapy or are currently in therapy and want to take things to the next level, if you want to get past all the things holding you back, then let’s talk about working together. Click here to sign up a free coaching session and we can see if we are a good fit for coaching partnership.