Some time ago, I blogged about how brushing my hair triggered my PTSD from the birth of my second daughter. Not too long after her birth, I chopped all my hair off. It’s long again and I am finally okay with brushing my hair but still mindful of how long I brush. I make every effort to brush only as long as necessary, forcing myself to put the brush down and walk away.
Today, for the first time in over five years, I am listening to Linkin Park’s Reanimation.
Why is this significant?
This is the album I listened to the day my five year old daughter had surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. I took the MP3 player into the sleep room at the Children’s Hospital right outside the NICU, curled up, cranked it up as loud as it would go, sinking blissfully down into the rhythm of the pulsating beats and the angst of their screaming voices. Thing is, I sank so far down I did not want to come back. I yearned to stay there, hidden, safe, with their angst. Lost in the darkness. Because there, there I did not have an imperfect newborn. There, I was just a soul moving to the rhythm. Nothing was wrong. I was not angry. I was not sad. I was NUMB. I wanted to be lost forever in the solitude of peace which existed amidst the digital beats, the persistent piano tones and haunting echoes behind the remixed rhythms. My womb, my saviour, my peace. I clung to the MP3 player until my knuckles were stiff, refusing to let go, closing my eyes to sink deep beneath the surface of reality.
But today, I sit here, each song echoing into my ears, my soul, my heart, and I am shaking as I type. Breathing deep through pursed lips and wiping away tears. This is music. This is just beats. Just rhythm. Just voices. This is NOT my daughter’s surgery. This is NOT the pain I felt five years ago. It’s not. Today I am letting all of this wash over me and turning it into the music it’s meant to be, not the hell it used to be for me. Today I am not numb. Today I am feeling. Today I am listening. Today, I’m singing with the words. I’m dancing to the beats. I’m reclaiming the music for joy instead of pain.
Today, I win.
Today, I refuse to let this music trigger me any longer.
It’s taken me five years but I’m finally strong enough to refuse to let this beast control me anymore.
Not easy, but necessary. A step toward the new me. Toward the healed me.
Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that yes, healing takes time. It’s a process with each step presenting itself as you are ready. If you falter, don’t despair. The step will come. You’ll overpower the step with strength from an unknown place when the time is right. It won’t be easy. But it will be powerful. And once you’ve done it, you’ll look back and see just how far your journey has brought you… and how much strength it has added to your life.
Own it instead of letting it own you.
The following was submitted some time ago by a reader who asked to have this published anonymously. Although this is a quick read, it covers so much – the fear and denial of a new pregnancy, the shock and self blame surrounding a delivery gone horribly wrong, and the anxiety enveloping all of these things. Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a very real disorder on the Postpartum Mood Disorder Spectrum. If you think you may struggle with this disorder, there is hope, there is help, and you are not alone. I strongly suggest you check out Solace for Mothers for support or reach out to the #PPDChat community on Twitter. Don’t walk the dark path alone.
This post contains some imagery toward the end which may be triggering for you if you’ve suffered/or are suffering with PPTSD.
If you are still easily triggered, you may want to skip this piece.
The big day had finally arrived. The day I was to meet this little boy I still don’t want. Let’s go back a year and a half….
I was sent for a biopsy because of an abnormal pap. I was put on progesterone because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). My body was not making enough of this hormone to have a monthly “friend”. I started taking progesterone and within seven days I had a “friend” come to visit, only it was really bad.
I was hemorrhaging. After fifteen days, my wonderful OB decided to perform a D & C. Everything went well; the bleeding and cramping was finally manageable. I was supposed to take the progesterone the first seven days of each month until my body did what it was supposed to do. I lost 65 lbs!
I went to my four month post D & C check up and all was well. I received a clean bill of health and was good to go. My OB said if I wasn’t pregnant by Spring, we would discuss our options (little did either one of us know, at the time of my check-up, I was already pregnant.)
I was under instructions not to take progesterone in November. My OB wanted to see if my body would do what it was supposed to without it. She did say if December 1st came around with no “friend”, I was to take a pregnancy test. If it was negative, start the hormones all over again.
Black Friday came. I am one of those crazy people that is at the stores shopping at an ungodly hour so I bought a test. While at work, I peed on the little stick and before I could blink, two lines appeared. I took six more tests throughout the week at different times, just to verify what the first one said.
I was in complete and utter shock and even denial. It wasn’t Spring and I wasn’t ready to be pregnant. I had just lost a ton of weight, I was a full time student, I worked full time, and I already had a child who was in school full time. I wasn’t ready to have another baby.
The pregnancy was what every pregnant woman wanted, perfect and smooth. As I entered the second trimester, I was still in denial that I was even having a baby. I tried to ignore the movements and the baby’s hiccups. I tried to deny I was carrying in my belly this perfect round shape beneath my clothes.
I wasn’t happy. My days are grew darker and darker. Family and friends said I was aglow and looked wonderful. They couldn’t get enough of my belly. I resented their excitement over this new life I was bringing into the world.
Finally, the end was near. One month before I delivered, I was in a car accident. I was rushed to the hospital because of the cramps, but I wasn’t concerned for the life growing inside me. I just wanted him out. I hadn’t fallen in love with him. I didn’t even want him. I was still not ready. The cramping and contractions stopped. My OB said I would be induced in three weeks.
The day of induction came and family and friends hovered all day long. Labor wasn’t bad. Everything went smoothly. The pain was there, but tolerable. At 9cm, I said fuck this, I am pushing. No more waiting. Maybe that was shame on me, but I was done.
I went from 9cm to crowning in about a minute! My OB arrived and changed when the pain suddenly hit. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. Why the hell didn’t anyone take this kid out of me?
After five minutes of pushing, he was stuck on my pelvic bone and they were losing him and I wasn’t cooperating. I declined the pain medications earlier on. The next thing I could remember was the look between my OB and nurse. The nurse pressed the “Code Red” button and I still couldn’t breathe. All these nurses came running in and pushing everyone out of their way to get to me. They jump up and on the count of three I am to give one good push, while they push on my stomach, 1…2…3…he is out.
I didn’t want him on me. I didn’t want to see or touch him. He wasn’t breathing and was rushed to the incubator. Everyone was crying with joy around me, but I was disgusted that I sucked so badly at this delivery. I hated and blamed myself.
Because of all the commotion surrounding my son’s birth, the time he was born is a bit foggy; no one was paying attention to the clock. He was born not breathing, the cord around his neck and moderate shoulder dystocia. As his mother I felt as though I had already failed!
Most of this is a blur. I wish I could say that I am over this experience and that after a couple of hours all was well and I was smitten with this new baby. However, my hell was really just beginning, but that story is for another time….
There are words in my head. Lots of words. Thousands.
They dance about on tables crafted from the finest membranes in the world, flashing through the dark lit only by firing neurons. Clothed in slinky new dresses they sway the night away as they swallow copious amounts of tequila, wine, and vodka.
Then they stumble home, dark circles beneath their eyes, smeared mascara, broken heels, and the facade of happiness floats away as they climb wearily to their lofts in lower Manhattan, desperate to collapse onto feather laden beds. Covered with silky comforters, they sleep until the following evening when they arise, slip into even slinkier dresses and creep out to even swankier clubs in order to dance the night away.
I try to catch them, these words.
They disguise themselves each night in a different mask. Scatter to the wind and hide inside clubs with bouncers larger than the Titanic itself.
So I wait.
As my words dance the night away, laughing, joking, drinking, as I huddle outside in the hot humid air, parched to the core, unable to reach in and grab an expletive to express my frustration. It’s as if they’re inside some giant claw game and I am forced to spend quarter after quarter yet still come up empty.
I want my words back dammit.