Although I was born in 1983 and fall on the cusp of Generation Y (ick!), I don’t really identify with the sharing culture. As I’ve grown older, I’ve gravitated towards sharing less, trying to keep parts of myself, just for myself. But on the other hand, so many times I’ve shared a story, and many people have commented that the story helped. So, today, I want to talk about PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder…
No, I did not live through a war, fight in a war or survive a major car accident. But trauma is a lot less discerning than that, and a lot less well understood. The Australian Psychological Society defines trauma as “derived from the Greek term for ‘wound’. Very frightening or distressing events may result in a psychological wound or injury – a difficulty in coping or functioning normally following a particular event or experience.” I have often found that people do not understand how wide-ranging trauma is and that the risk is how it affects someone, not necessarily the severity of the trauma. People do respond differently to different traumas, and that is the key to developing PTSD.
PTSD develops after the trauma when you experience intrusive thoughts of flashbacks and have difficulty processing emotions, may feel numb or avoid emotions, and struggle with anxiety or hyper arousal (APS). What is traumatic for me, may not be traumatic for you and vice versa.
When Ripley was born he was very sick, within twenty minutes of birth, he had turned blue and needed to be resuscitated and worked on. He was put into a cot in the corner of a special care nursery, grunting and panting for breath while the paediatrician decided what to do with him. It was only mere hours later that he was transferred to another hospital. We were separated from almost birth, he was induced and forced to be born in the first place. We then proceeded to have 4-5 days of terror where we really didn’t know if he was going to be OK or not. It was a life threatening situation. Then he turned the corner and we could breathe a little. But we still had to go into hospital every day to see him for four weeks until he could come home. When I’ve shared our story before, I’ve had horrible comments about his gestation and length of time in the hospital not being that bad and I’ve had so many people tell me they don’t know how I go on. I don’t know either! All I know is that my life has never been the same. I can’t forget what it was like, I can’t forget him being carted off to four hospitals in one week, from being in an ICU on a ventilator, his tiny, red body being kept alive by tubes everywhere.
I can’t forget then, that when we finally got him home, he was so noisy and uncomfortable, he barely slept. And we didn’t know any better, we thought that’s just what babies were like. We then started the rollercoaster ride of severe gastro-oesophagal reflux disease (GORD) and multiple food allergies, sleep apnea, tongue and lip ties, feeding refusal, sensory processing issues, possible autism, and the list goes on. We don’t know how this whole journey has affected Ripley, except that at times he is incredibly sensitive and jumpy, he wakes screaming like he is having a panic attack, and he cannot be carted around all manner of places happily. He doesn’t sit still, he wants to move and jump and crash all the time.
This post isn’t exactly clear in its intention beyond sharing more, and more openly. I wish I could go back in time and change our journey, some how. I wish I could have a healthy baby who was not separated from me, who maybe felt isolated or abandoned (sob). I wish Ripley’s speech was better and I could know more of how he was feeling when he was distressed. I wish those who judge us from a distance as being removed or unavailable could be a little more sensitive to how this experience may have made us feel. I wish those who don’t understand, would seek to understand. I wouldn’t wish trauma on the worst person alive. I wouldn’t wish PTSD on anyone.
(Unsurprisingly, minimalism really helps with PTSD and anxiety!)