It was a perfect day at the amusement park today. The weather was stunning and we had comp passes to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, that we received due to being rained out on our son’s birthday back in July. We loaded up my SUV and headed to the park. My son made me PROMISE that I would ride the Thunderbird roller coaster with him (I could not do that back in June when we went to the park due to having just had my surgery and I was trying to not overdo it).
My husband and son rode the coaster together already that morning (and 7 times in the row on our visit to the park in June). Each time they went on, I worried and tried to find thing to stay busy such as browsing the gift shop or checking my social media. Anything that would distract my brain from its racing thoughts.
God I used to LOVE roller coasters. I could ride them all day long and care less about any other ride in the park. I loved the rush of adrenaline they gave me and the faster and twistier the better! But not anymore. Not today. As has happened many times before, the thoughts of what could go wrong took over.
What if the ride attendant did not check his harness? What if he fell out? What if the ride derailed? What if…
As we rode the roller coaster together I closed my eyes and the insane thoughts of death just raced through my head the whole time the ride was taking place and even though the ride is quite short is felt like an eternity until it came to an end. It felt like the longest 1 minute and 18 seconds ever.
I put on a fake smile for my son (who was grinning from ear to ear that mommy rode the coaster with him) when we got off the ride. My husband joked about the horrible face I was making in the coaster photo – which regardless of my panic I’m sorry but those photos never look good – I don’t care who you are!
This my friends is part of my struggle with PTSD and Hypervigilance. A struggle that so many, even my husband, cannot possibly understand.
I am a wife, mom, blogger, hunting lodge chef and a successful entrepreneur …. and I also struggle with mental illness. I am real. This is real. I know that I have a fabulous life, a life to be very proud of and grateful for but for someone like me who suffers from PTSD, well we have a mental illness brought on by life stress that our bodies are not meant to handle (and usually by a life event that we wish we never had to experience – for me that was the loss of our other son, Austin).
PTSD steals your joy at unexpected moments, it impairs your ability to function, and often takes over your life. I am the face of someone who has PTSD, Hypervigilance, Depression and Anxiety attacks. But, I am also someone who is not willing to go down without a fight. Mental illness like this will lie to you and tell you that no one knows what you are feeling.
Why Do I share this with you?! Am I looking for a pity party?! Absolutely NOT! I share this because if I can help one person out there see hope, and see a fighter, they too will know they are not alone and that someone really does understand their journey. I am looking for the “me too’s” out there.
There are many reasons someone lives a “new normal”. This is mine. Never judge someone or make assumptions about them (even one who is close to you) because you can never truly know the struggles they feel if they have gone through a major life event.
Do you have something that happened in your life that caused you to adjust to a new normal?
So, today I want to continue on with my personal story from the week of April 5, 2005, when I lost my son, Austin (which I posted about yesterday – you can click here to read it if you missed my post).
That next day I was still in the hospital. My lungs were needing to be checked for fluids because of the magnesium that had caused them to fill. My chest just ached but I was not sure it was my lungs or my heart breaking into a million pieces.
The day itself is somewhat blurry for me. Part of the day are missing from my memory and no matter how hard I try I cannot seem to get all of the moments back of those few days. That is part of the PTSD I would end up being diagnosed with.
I remember a few people in the room trying to discuss funeral arrangements – but I really didn’t care. Our families were trying to say and do the right things but I am not sure anything they said or did would have mattered much. At one point, I do know I told them they should have just let me die with Austin instead of taking me off the medication that could have saved his life and kept me from delivering him.
Yes. I actually blamed my family for saving my life because I was in such a bad place I was wishing I was dead too.
Despite my massive loss of time and memory gaps I remember one very specific conversation with my nurse, Vicky. She came in and was checking me and said “now I know that the one thing you really want I can’t give you but if you need anything I can do for you please just tell me so I can help”.
That sentence is one that I will never forget. Why? Because she wasn’t trying to brush off my pain or make me feel better like everyone else. She knew I was crushed, hurting, feeling an intolerable level of heartbreak and no one could just or do anything to take it away.
I wanted that pain. It was all I had left.
See, when you are in a place of such a huge loss, nothing much can help. I firmly believe the only thing that was helping me was that inner strength I would discover much later – and the help of God’s comfort. And that one seemingly small sentence from Nurse Vicky.
That sort of hopelessness exists in so many lives. And through my recovery process and finding this voice I now have I want to make sure that others realize they CAN get through their darkest hours. Is it easy? NO WAY! I would be a liar if I said it was. But those people – and myself – that is why I became a coach
! To rescue others the way I have rescued myself.
You always hear about in veterans. But did you know there are LOTS of others that suffer from PTSD???
One of my most prominent symptoms is hypervigilance. Do you know what hypervigilance is? If not the medical definition is “Preoccupation with possible unknown threats, constantly watching and scanning surroundings. A persistent sense of insecurity”
What could be more extreme for parents than the death of their child? This is the greatest nightmare of any parent.
I have lived that nightmare.
And yes I was actually diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 after my son’s death when I was seeing a psychologist for my panic attacks, grief and these issues. You do NOT have to be a war vet for this to happen to you (go ahead Google it – you know your going to anyway).
For me, as a mother who lost a child, my hypervigilance is an intense stressor.
This means even though my other son is 8 years old sometimes I still get up and just make sure he is breathing at night. It means the thoughts of being away from him for longer than a school day are horrifying – heck even him being at school I worry if he is safe or not. This means even though my daughter is 23 and in college I worry when I do not hear from her at least once a day that she is okay.
It means I don’t let anyone babysit because all I do when I am away is worry. It means I will literally out of no where have thoughts of bad things that could happen – like a car accident while we are driving down the road.
For me it’s a very real and scary feeling to possibly lose another of my children. It’s not something you can just “get over” by any means and it’s not something you can control to have these intense feelings. It’s something I hope that none of my friends ever have to experience. I would rather they NEVER know this feeling than to be able to relate to what I go through. And yes I recently had a ‘friend” tell me to get over it and go to therapy. Does this woman really thing if it were that easy I would not have already been ‘cured” – this is not something you just get rid of, medicate away or get over. This is ingrained in you after a traumatic event.
For those of you who know me (or someone like me) get used to it. We cannot change this way of thinking. You can help by understanding and supporting our decisions that you don’t agree with – it makes us feel safe. You wont understand it so don’t try, don’t ask us to do things differently. Just let us feel safe even if to you its “irrational” to feel and act this way and be over protective.
THIS is how we function and cope with our new found way of living. Yes there are lots of counselors and things (been there done that) but these feelings are the ones that pop up out of no where for no specific reason. The are further between now than they once were but they still exist.
It’s simply part of my “new normal”.