Category Archives: post-traumatic stress

A Shining Light

“Your love heart is not cracked anymore….I love you mummy”

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 9.29.43 AMWow! What a thing to hear on a sunny winter morning. My four year old said this to me as I was washing the dishes. What seems to be a regular morning of random conversation carries a much deeper meaning.

It is a morning I am not impatient, I am not rushed, I am not angry, I am not sad. This shining light on the path of healing affirms the effort and reflection practiced daily so that I can step away from effects of childhood trauma.

After my second child I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and went on anti-depressants. Two key things stand out as I reflect on this period of time;  intrusive thoughts and anger. Both of these were very distressing and led to one and a half years of anti-depressants. This morning is a sign post showing me how far I have come along the journey of healing. As I I think about these precious words, it brings a smile to my face, a warm feeling that I am on the right path. As I listen to my daughters playing, laughing and expressing joy, I am grateful to give them a better life than what I had growing up.

My love heart is not cracked anymore. Honesty and wisdom out of the mouth of a babe.

How did I get here?

One of the first things I have committed to is being able to REPAIR. This means saying “sorry” when I have done something wrong. In no way, is this a free pass to do whatever I want and then say sorry. It is quite the opposite, it is the awareness that I have done something wrong, saying sorry and reflecting on how NOT to make the same mistake again. That being said, when I do make mistakes I remind myself of the 80/20 rule, it is impossible to be perfect all the time, in fact it is unrealistic to teach our children that anyone can be perfect all the time, we all make mistakes. The lesson is HOW do I handle myself when that does happen. This been to repair, reflect, forgive myself and keep trying.

Another thing, and perhaps the most important from a child’s perspective is PLAY. Making the time to play. This is how children CONNECT with us. Their invitation “come play with me” is a child reaching out. In order to make this achievable I aim to dedicate anywhere between 10-20 minutes for a play at the end of the day.  The beauty of this is that as a parent, I don’t even need to do anything. I follow my child’s lead, watch what they are doing and join in. And on the weekends, we DANCE, I put some music on and we jump around the room, spin each other around and be SILLY!

BREATHE. During those moments I am triggered and past traumatic feelings present themselves I walk away and I breathe. I remind myself that the feelings are a product of my own trauma and are more an indication of my experience rather than anything my children are doing. Once back to a calmer place, then I can re-engage and deal with whatever the situation is. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that children are at different developmental stages, they can and will do things that are irrational, they will not know how to handle their BIG emotions. I am the adult, and I have the cognitive capacity to react appropriately. And this has been my mission for years now, heal from  my trauma so that the cycle of abuse stops with me.

And a lovely resource I’ve been following for some time is Aha! Parenting. You can find their website HERE. I’ve found it useful to sign up as many different parenting newsletters as possible so that I receive daily reminders and reflections to keep me on a steady path.

Last and not least, is my husband. I have been fortunate to marry a man who is intelligent and philosophical about life. He knows my deepest, darkest secrets and loves me anyway. He knows my stories of abuse and has allowed me space to heal. He is my confidant and biggest supporter in life. Whilst marriages are not always perfect, with each person bringing their own trauma, issues or what ever you would like to call it, one thing we do have is a commitment to make it work. Both of us have had very poor role models when it comes to love and marriage. The ironic part is that my dad, the one who was physically abusive has helped us through some of our biggest conflicts. My dad may have brought heartache into my life as a child but there’s an element of peace that has been found. For that I am also grateful.

photocredit: Jodie Dee

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Car Accident

 

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The other day I was in a car accident with my children. The other driver slammed into us from behind, the car was a mess, I was a mess, but thankfully no one was hurt.

At the moment of the accident I was trying to find my way to an address which wouldn’t show up on my GPS for some reason. Traffic was heavy, the girls were shouting in the back, I was anxious, stressed and distracted. Then, suddenly a loud crash and the car lifted from behind.

As I pulled the car to the side of the road I felt as though I was going over the edge, as though I was hanging on by a thread. My daughters looked to me in this moment, in all the commotion and confusion they looked to me to make sense of this situation, to make sense of what we were all going through. My emotions were raw.

Something happened in that moment. Something that affirmed my own perception of who I am in my heart and in my soul.

Knowing in that moment that my daughters were fine, that I was fine, that we were still here together and with each other was enough for me. I was relieved and thankful everyone involved was ok.

It was only later that the real shock and wave of negative emotion started creeping over me like a dark shadow in the form of a memory from my past.

You see, when I was a young girl a similar incident happened to me with the mother driving the family car.  Only that time, there was no crash, no commotion, just what should have been the relief of a near miss. However, instead of relief at narrowly avoiding tragedy the mother used this moment to guilt and shame me into years of believing that I had distracted her while driving, claiming over and over that I had tried to kill us all. That I had somehow intended to have her, my younger brother and myself all fall victim to a horrible accident – simply by  carrying on the way children sometimes do in cars.

It was my younger brother who screamed out as the mother went to drive into an intersection. He became the angel of our salvation and for the years following I became the devil who tried to kill us all. She literally said “you tried to kill us” more times than I can remember.

Thinking back to that traumatic experience with the mother, and looking at how I myself handled my own car accident and my own children in that circumstance AFFIRMS for me that I am nothing like the mother. This experience, this baptism of fire, proved to me that I am different. That I am cut from a different cloth.

I once read ‘that which we fear we attract’

I no longer fear being like the mother.

Already, I feel more at peace with being a mum. These last few days since the car accident, I have sat with my daughters, admired them, drawn pictures and have felt so grateful to be able to give them the love I didn’t have growing up.

 

 

Photo Credit: Hurt Meatz

 

 

A Narcissistic Lullaby

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“Hush little girl, don’t you dare say a word,

You must forget all that, you’ve seen and heard.

But if my baby bird, decides it’s going to sing.

Mama will tell the world, that you’ve come unhinged.

Poor little child, your minds lying to you,

what you think, you recall is not completely true.

It’s not my fault that, you exaggerate and lie.

It seems Mama, can’t make you happy,

No matter how hard I try.

There’s food in the cupboards, and toys on the floor.

There’s clothes on your back, so what you complaining for?

So now hush little baby, and stop acting out.

Or Mama’s gonna give, you something to cry about”

Written by Kira Cooper 2018

Photo credit: a girl, dreaming her life away 

 

 

 

Fragmented Memory

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So far, my blogging journey has allowed me a space to move memories from my mind into something more tangible, a place where they are organised rather than floating around. It’s like I can remember, then write and they leave me for a while. I am able to live more in the present as a result.

As memories seep into my mind I have enjoyed searching flickr for a visual representation of how I feel. And as I was reflecting on my memories and how fragmented they are using various search terms, this beautiful photo appeared; it captures the state of my memory, where one thing is in focus, only some small detail and the rest fades to nothing.

One of these memories popped into my mind in the early hours of the morning as I lay in a bed, not my own and not able to sleep. In this memory I am yet again a fly on the wall. Outside of my body looking in. I can see myself lying in this bed screaming, crying and in pain. I am sunburned on my back. We are at the Mother’s cousins house. The room is dark and I am alone, left alone and crying. This is the strongest feeling of the memory, being alone, feeling alone, not being cared for. I don’t remember how long I was left there, in the memory it feels like forever. I can hear the Mother talking, laughing with her cousins. She does not check on me. Instead, as I remember this I can see how much my sunburn was an inconvenience for her. Clearly she had plans for a good night and nothing was going to stop her. Much like this photograph, this is the only part of the memory I remember. I don’t remember where or how I got so severely sunburned. I don’t remember leaving and going home.

I’ve often wondered why my memory is fragmented, with only small snippets, like flashes that fade to nothing. In therapy I learned that emotional or psychological trauma can and does affect memory. That this memory loss is a survival mechanism in the brain to protect from further psychological harm. There is a very real possibility that I will never remember everything because the emotional torture and physical abuse was so constant and so pervasive that bringing them into consciousness may in fact be more damaging than not remembering.

 

 

‘fragments of my memory’  Sonny NG