Lately I have been struggling with something deep inside of my soul. It has been a challenging few months as I work through a lot of deep feelings of regret and pain. Pain and anxiety has a way of manifesting in to my dreams. Many days I have the same dreams over and over. It is consistently the same things of feeling helpless, sad, or disappointed. As I dug in to the meaning of these dreams, I realized the resounding theme in all of them was anxiety. Often my anxiety is rooted in my own inability to move on from past pain. I simply get stuck, and I’m sure many of us do get stuck in pain. Instead of using negative outlets of avoiding pain, I am spending a lot of time inwardly reflecting and working through this pain. There are days I’m sitting knee deep in the regret and frustration, and I know that I have to feel it in order to truly move on. Suddenly this morning it came to me after another dream from my past. I need to forgive myself. I have forgiven those that have hurt me, but I have not forgiven myself for hurting others or my own actions.
Many people have assumed that my actions were related to postpartum depression, but it wasn’t about postpartum depression. My pain and sadness was from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Right after I had Von, there was a lot of anxiety in keeping him safe and healthy after his hospitalizations. Being in the hospital and seeing children die, watching him struggle to breathe, and watch him almost die shocked my system to the core. I was not suffering from postpartum because the waves of anger and sadness turned up more than a year after having him. I realized it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder immediately because of the outbursts of anger and intense rage. It was as if it would come over me, and I would lose all sense of who I was and what I believed in. My behavior turned sour, and instead of being someone full of love and light, I turned in to a person clothed in anger, jealousy, and rage. In that completely messy time of my life, I sought out only other people that were behaving like me. It was easier to be surrounded in misery than in happiness. This unleashed a monster in me that I have never known. The things I did, the feelings I felt were like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and it took a LONG time to rip off that pain and find happiness.
Nurses and doctors in the hospital told me this could happen especially after being witness to Von’s near death in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. They talked to Todd and I a lot about the trauma we were witnessing and experiencing. We were even in a meeting with a social worker early on about how this entire experience could end up destroying our family if we weren’t careful. At the time I understood but didn’t really get the magnitude of what they were saying. It wasn’t until the monster took over me at the very core, and I had people in my life pointing out that my behavior was truly outside my character that I started to take notice. When I found myself saying things, writing things, and behaving in a way that was outside of who I knew I was, it was clear to me I had to make a change. I realized that I had two choices. I could spend my life as a mother bitter and angry, or I could find a way to be positive.
The hardest part of change is truly admitting that the path you are on is destructive. I wasn’t altering my mind with chemicals or binging on food. I was destroying my soul with gossip and envy. I was lashing out at people that were well meaning and well intentioned. I wrote blogs that were angry and raw. I slowly worked through the anger by finding a way to get myself spiritually happy. It was in finding spirituality and faith that I realized how stuck I had become. Over time it became clear to me that I wasn’t just mentally unwell, I was spiritually empty and void. Every ounce of hope I had ever had was gone. It was clear to me that I needed to spend my time and energy filling up my cup of Spiritual health. Spiritual Health can look different for every single person. I know people that meditate, practice yoga, Thai-chi, pray, read scripture, attend temples, synagogs and churches. Each person has their own path to spirituality, and my path was through Christ. I realize that my way isn’t the only way, and I want to be clear this isn’t a push to make you convert. More this is a plea to anyone that is struggling to check your spiritual meter in your soul and figure out where you are at. My soul and heart felt most connected to Christ, but that doesn’t mean it will look the same for you.
I spent months diving in to the Bible. I used the words in the scripture as a way to inwardly reflect on how my own behavior matched the teachings by Jesus and his apostles. It was clear that my behavior was not only out of line within the teachings in scripture but it was out of line within my own moral compass. It was then I knew it was time to truly change. This meant I had to do some really difficult things. I had to cut out behavior that was toxic. I left online communities that fueled my hate and anger. I walked away from friendships that tore me down instead of building me up. No part of my life was immune to the change. It gave me the courage to walk away from a career that was deeply conflicted with who I was as a person. In many senses, I stripped everything away. I got real with myself, I got raw about what I was experiencing, and I sat in that rawness.
It has been just recently that I’ve recognized the next step in this process is letting myself off the hook. The behavior I exhibited was a woman that was desperately trying to hold it together during a very difficult time. Adversity and pain can truly rock our worlds, and we can do things very much outside of who we are. I now need to forgive myself for what I did, the things I said and for the people I hurt in the process. I would take it all back if I could, but I know now that having gone through it I can use this as an opportunity to help others. Today I forgive myself for everything I did and felt during that dark time. I know that I have not been that person for many, many months. Through self-discovery, study and spiritual growth I know I will never be that person again. I’m grateful I found a way out of the pain, and I would encourage anyone struggling to find a way to manage the the stress. PTSD is a real disorder and can swallow you whole. Care givers of sick children are one of the most at risk communities for PTSD. Please make sure you find someone to talk to if you feel you are struggling with PTSD. I am so grateful I did!