A Brief Look At PTSD, Covid And Motherhood
“Honey, did you hear the zoo is open?” My spouse calls from the kitchen.
I look around our two-bedroom condo cluttered with toys and think, Oh, to leave this house! But there’s panic, always panic, even before the onset of this pandemic. Can I manage?
I’m groggy. In fact, I’m dizzy. Maybe it’s the strong coffee I gulped upon waking or the common symptom of my autoimmune disorder. I can feel the Synthroid lodge in my throat (a magical pill that kicks my thyroid into gear) and worry that I might have accidentally taken one extra. Pills make me nervous. Overdose is a continuous fear. My short-term memory loss is no joke. I forget what I've done the second I did it. I'm going to pass out! Am I dying? Do I have Covid?
The room spins and the corners of my vision turns black, just like when a loved one strangled me, long ago.
This is diagnosed Complex PTSD. Trauma. Life.
I’m going to puke. Maybe I just need food in my stomach. I grab breakfast and rush out to a sun patch on my balcony, allowing its warmth to somewhat loosen my tense shoulders. I take a bite, throw it on the chair, and start running. I know this sounds ridiculous, but my body is in fight-or-flight mode. I might as well be a frightened gazelle in the Sahara. I can’t think. I need to escape. I complete a circle and when I come back, my 16-year-old Rottweiler mix is wolfing down a full plate of eggs. With onions. Is the dog going to be okay? Now I’m worried about Yoda dying.
Joel’s worried, too. He’s upset that the meal he lovingly cooked for me is wasted. He’s worried about vet bills. We already spent 800 dollars on that adorable bunny who stole our hearts but likes to hump thorn bushes. Okay, it’s kind of funny. Funny chaos. But his frustration encourages a silent scream inside my core.
“We’ll monitor him.” he sighs.
“Babe, please massage my shoulders. They’re hurting.”
He complies. Joel has arthritis in his wrists, so it’s painful for him too. “The massage place might be open again....” he suggests.
Man, times are crazy!
Still, I’m loved. I calm down. “Thank you.”
“Now, the zoo? If not the zoo, the water park for sure. We need to get out, for sanity’s sake.”
Our toddler agrees.
|Zoo Visit 2019|
Isolation and Mental Health
Isolation is a huge trigger for someone raised in a cult, but the fear of dying is a massive wall I face as well. Maybe it’s not realistic, maybe it is. I’ve almost died several times. If it wasn’t someone trying to murder me, it was what I did to my body.
And loving myself is so, so hard. I can say in the heat of all this when we were in lockdown and I was staying inside much more than I am now, that my thoughts reverted to their old ways. You’re stuck. It won’t get better. This is the end. There’s no hope. Oh my God, what if it really was the End of the World? What if your parents were right? What if you’ll fry in Hell after all? Look at all those conspiracy theories. Is there something to them? Remember when your brothers held you indoors and guarded the doorways with baseball bats? It almost feels like that again, stuffed inside this three-story box. Oh, my God, you’ve aged. You look 5 hundred years old. You’ve gained weight. Your hair and nails look like crap.
Then suicide ideation creeps in and I imagine the easiest way to leave, to get away from this Hell of the Mind that I’m already in. I worry it will just be an impulse, and suddenly, I’ll fling myself off the balcony, not able to bear another second of torment. But those are just thoughts, dang stupid thoughts. I could never do it because I know things are better now and my child needs me. He’s the reason I’m alive. And partly because family members haven’t followed through with their threats. I’m hoping they don’t like jail, and that's why…
Intrusive thoughts. Self-doubt. Daytime flashbacks. Resonating nightmares. I deal with these every day all while giggling and playing with my son. The fear of death. The fear of him dying. Heck, he already broke his skull once climbing out of his stroller. That was the worst day of motherhood. Sometimes it’s just too much, and I'll either call up my therapist or ask his sweet grandmother to come grab him. PTSD is a constant state of fear, reliving the danger. I don’t have any other mental illness. We’ve been to a psychiatrist twice already about that.
Speaking of flashbacks, at my spouse’s mention of the zoo today, I remembered an image of my childhood. Dad’s voice is unnaturally calm, his eyes smirking, his scowl mistaken for the lack of sunglasses and glare of light cascading from an ominous but somewhat sunny sky. “Becky, get in the photo. Man, I hate taking photos of you kids.” The clouds in the photo are dark, just like my life. There’s barbed wire behind me and some specimen of bird I’m sure. An ostrich? I’m wearing a stained white sweater with mint green trim. My hair is stuck in that silly thin ponytail on the side of my head instead of in the middle. I almost remember the photo better than the memory itself, because I’d stared at it time and time again. My mouth opened in a tantrum, a scream lost somewhere in the 90s, shot in a picture album I’d never touch again.
We were at the zoo, a rarity for us poor folk, and I didn’t want my photo taken because Dad said I was ugly. My sister and I both. He didn’t want us conceited, putting on airs and acting like we were somebody. Later, when I grew up and put on makeup, I was Dog Meat and soon enough I was Slut. And Scum. Shit Stain on Society.
That’s a memory, just a stinkin’ memory. But you can see how it digs up emotions and takes me all across the stages of my life. It’s that grim sense of self that landed me in abusive relationships, in drug use, and all the rest. I pray every day that I can lift my son up with such love that he will never need to feel the way I did. That he can go to the zoo with his family, take a photo and always feel loved. For years to come, I will always be positively reliving my life through him. His eyes are the best lense when viewing the world. He’s my angel. And he keeps me going. There’s nothing like hugging a child that’s yours!
I go outside when I can. The lockdown is over, temporarily. The fresh air feeds my lungs, the sunlight cures my depression. Exercise snaps my brain back into the positive side of things. I look at myself differently. My son enjoys distant interaction with other children. Sometimes a girl will snatch his hand and fear comes up in my throat. I know we need to stay apart but then I see myself as a child and I worry he will also feel isolated. Too many triggers.
What can you do? I guess I’m just trying the best I can....it’s about balance.
Feel free to comment or engage privately if you too are suffering. Sometimes just getting it out of your system, releasing it to someone who cares and understands will pull you out of your rut.
Thank you for reading. Till next time!