Often times when we are so busy focusing on others, we neglect ourselves. Our own problems fall to the wayside as we put all of our thought and energy into helping someone else. After all, it is Mandy Hale who said, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” But what about putting the plane’s oxygen mask on yourself before helping put it on the person(s) beside you? I don’t know about you, but I definitely struggle with taking care of myself. I prefer to be the care taker and help those around me, especially those whom I love. And that is exactly what I did.
Now, this will be a two-part post. I will briefly touch on what the second half will be about, but it is a sensitive topic and I am still working through how I will be handling the subject in a way that will not hurt others who are still unaware of my experience. However, I feel that both of these topics are vital in not only my own mental health, but hopefully in one of your’s as well.
With that being said, I have a childhood trauma that I never dealt with. I pushed it to the back of my mind and never thought of it again. I did my best to never think about it and I had done pretty well at succeeding in doing so. The few times it would present itself, I would focus on other people or events in my life. It didn’t start coming back to me until I had Killian. But then I had my HBC trauma and a newborn to put all of my focus on. So, yet again, I continued to ignore my childhood trauma.
When it started to come back again, I had just had Oliver and that happened to be the same time when Killian’s Autism began presenting in full force. Fighting with Dr. D-Bag and learning how to advocate for my son took lead. And that fight lasted a year and a half. I put my entire self, everything I had, into getting the answers I knew were there and pioneered to get the therapies, doctors, and tests needed to get to where we are today.
It wasn’t until March or April of this year (2019) when something happened to me that caused all of it to come flooding back. I couldn’t even pick up Killian from the bus stop without having a massive anxiety attack every time. One of the other bus stop moms was great at staying by my side after I had opened up to her about what had caused my trauma to come flooding back. It had gotten so bad that I could not sleep at night (more-so than normal), and I would often cry every night as images flashed through my mind as I lay in bed reliving my nightmare over and over again.
I wasn’t able to push it away anymore. Our medical life had begun to calm down. Results had come back, therapies were in place, medications were being figured out, and support surrounding Killian’s Autism diagnosis were established. Things were finally, “calm.” I didn’t have anything else to pull my attention away from myself. I was essentially being forced to put on my own oxygen mask. I was suffocating and I needed to do something about it.
I decided it was time to open up to one of my cousins and ask her if she had experienced the same thing I had. Thankfully, her answer was no. She encouraged me to seek help when I had mentioned that I was going to look for a therapist. I had talked to Killian’s behavioral therapist about it during one of my parent sessions and she recommended her office-neighbor, Pamela.
I was going to meet Pamela once every 2 weeks but after doing a wellness check with my primary doctor and, for the first time, opening up to her about what had happened to me, she told me she wanted me to see my therapist once a week instead. Pamela agreed and thought that once a week sessions would be more beneficial.
In each of our meetings we talked about how I had opened up to my mom after having Killian and told her about what had happened to me but that my dad did not know. I was too afraid of my dad finding out and hurting him. I didn’t want him to feel guilty that he was unable to protect me when I was little or cause him any anger over what had happened. But as my sessions continued, I felt that it was imperative for my healing process to open up and trust my dad with my pain.
I had only seen Pamela 6 times before I sat down with him and had a very emotional conversation about my experience. As you can imagine, it was very hard. I cried, but ultimately it brought us closer and allowed him to see why I behave the way I do in certain situations.
A friend of mine recently had her son tested and he came back positive for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was not news to any of us as we knew he would be, but what did come as a surprise was the severity of his Autism. A couple weeks after receiving his diagnosis, the shock had worn off and she reached out to me asking if I had been hit with the grief of the “what could have been’s” and I answered her with my story. Because Killian has high functioning Autism like I had suspected, I didn’t have the grief but more of the “haha I told you so” feelings directed at Dr. D-Bag. But I did have the memories of my past rearing its ugly head at me that I could no longer ignore. She shared with me that she had a similar experience in the fact that her mother had been an alcoholic and even though she thought she had put those feelings of pain and hurt to rest, experiencing those same memories as a mother ripped open old wounds. She realized that she too was at a point in her life where she was needing to put on her oxygen mask and put herself first.
Caring for others is great, as long as we are caring for ourselves in turn. Finding the balance between the two can be difficult. I firmly believe in the fact that every person, young and old, should be in talk therapy. We all have issues that we need a neutral person to help us work through. Whether it be from our past or something that we are currently going through, intense trauma, or disputes among colleagues, family, or friends, we all need someone who can help us put things into perspective and help us heal.
So, when all is said and done, be cautious of the dust that settles. Once you no longer have someone or something else taking up your undivided attention, it may be the time that your mind decides to perk up and remind you that it is needing some attention. Call around and find a trained therapist who can help you work through it. (I personally like to reach out to my local moms groups on Facebook to get recommendations for doctors and therapists) And if you don’t have any past or present traumas? Good for you! Still call and find a therapist. If anything else, it will be a mandatory self care hour. Something that we are all in desperate need of.
-The Lazy Mama