A Family Problem: How My PTSD+Depression Affect My Kids

Learn how my PTSD+Depression affect my kids in a tellall confessional on bettysbattleground.com

Although living with PTSD, Minor Depression, and an Addiction Disorder often feels like the loneliest existence on the planet, these are issues which affect my entire family. Especially when I am in the depths of an episode, I like to believe that my words and actions don’t impact others. When I’m in that state, I feel like my family doesn’t need me or care about me. I feel as though they would be better without me; like I hurt them simply by being. Of course, it’s that line of thinking which truly hurts my family.

Mental illness or injury affects everyone it touches. Expressing that reality was the reason I began my “Tales From The Other Side” guest blogger series. I wanted to show that when one person in a family is hurting, the whole family hurts. Yet despite publishing these touching stories by real people affected by PTSD and other disorders, it has been difficult for me to truly realize that when I hurt, my family hurts.

Learn how PTSD affects my kids too on bettysbattleground.com

Summer has been hard for me so far. We began it by flying out to Florida for my youngest daughter’s second birthday. There, we were pampered with time and sunshine. My in-laws played our girls into sleepy oblivion every day while my husband and I dipped into the pool, or ocean, or the bed…whatever form of relaxation and pleasure we wanted, we did-for five days. Then we returned home.

Returning after a vacation is always a mixture of relief to be home, and nostalgia for the fun that has just passed, but this time these feelings were amplified by the fact that my husband and I really do not have a support system here. My mother takes care of my son. My son and I both have vastly improved lives because of that arrangement. I can’t expect more out of my mom, because that’s a lot already. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t wish we had some kind of family available on this side of the country to watch our girls every once in a while-My in-laws occasionally invite us to move back to Florida, but of course, that is a rude offer which completely negates my relationship with my son.

In the ocean, I am free-on bettysbattleground.com

I once loved Summer, and now it’s passing me by while a vale of depression deepens over me. I don’t get a chance to enjoy the summertime activities I once loved. Even kid friendly activities are a hassle, because we don’t have a car, and my husband works a lot, so it’s often just me hauling the girls through the heat and length of the day, alone. I am really feeling the lack of support.

It is especially hard for me to sympathize with my kids when they are the ones triggering me. I know that sounds selfish and maybe even crazy. Don’t think I blame them for it. I know they are just kids being kids. But being a mom is really a depressing existence when you never get enough of a break, and when you don’t have the tools, supports, and resources needed to be healthy enough to engage with your kids.

I can feel myself beginning to resent them for the time they take from building the life I want for all of us. It begins as snapping easily, which converts to guilt. Which mutates into depression. Which deepens further and further until I lose sight of any light or purpose at all. And all the while my girls are watching their mama detach more and more because my biological coping mechanisms-depersonalization and derealization-are kicking in.

But those aren’t the only ways my conditions affect my kids. These are the other ways PTSD, Depression, and an addiction history affect them:

When I attempted suicide

I attempted suicide on my 28th birthday, in response to a major trigger related to the abuse that caused my PTSD. After being revived by paramedics, and hauled off to an Emergency Room where I would be mocked and abused by the nurses, I was put on a 72 hour psych hold. I spent the next three days in the psych ward, waiting for my fate to be determined by men in coats who knew nothing about me besides what was written in my chart.

Meanwhile, my daughters were home with my husband, and my family was left to process what had happened. If I had been in a clearer state of mind…well, if I had been in a clearer state of mind, I probably wouldn’t have attempted suicide at all, but I certainly wouldn’t have chosen a spot where, should I be discovered and revived, my kids would be witness to it.

But I wasn’t in a clearer state of mind. I was triggered. I was intoxicated. The world was a blur of self-hatred, and a deep, vacuous depression that swallowed any love given to me and left me feeling permanently starved. So I arranged a drug cocktail that I thought would cause an irreversible overdose, slipped into the bathroom while my husband and daughters were watching cartoons, and did my best to end my life.

While I was in the psych ward, my older daughter, who had been more cognizant of everything, began experiencing nightmares. Over the phone, my husband described Learn how my mental health conditions affect my kids on bettysbattleground.comhow she had started throwing fits worse than any he’d ever seen. She was out of control, he said. He had taken her to the doctor and she’d agreed to temporarily prescribe our daughter some heavy duty hypnotic. To calm her down, and help her process the grief and confusion over what she’d seen. My husband told me the pharmacist hadn’t wanted to fill the script for a two year old, until he explained what that two year old had witnessed. In the end, I was able to convince my husband not to give it to her, but she’d had enough symptoms to merit a prescription.

My littlest one was too young to understand what had happened, but she could understand that mama-and especially mama’s breasts-were missing. For months after I came home, she cried and beat the bathroom door anytime I showered or used the toilet. She clung to me, and breastfed obsessively. I couldn’t be out of her sight.

Now, a year and a half later, both girls’ symptoms have abated. Sometimes, when the sound of sirens pass us, one of the girls will ask if “they” are coming to take away mommy. When that happens, my heart sinks. But the look of worry of their faces is growing increasingly goofy. The question is morphing into a joke. Thank Whomever for neuroplasticity.

When Mommy and Daddy fight

It doesn’t matter who started the fight, or who’s at fault. In my abusive relationship, my abuser’s anger was always dangerous. No matter how small or one-sided the argument, I always feared, and often received, a beating. Now, any fight or argument is a trigger.

My therapist has been helping me with this, slowly but surely. She has suggested better ways to communicate my feelings. She’s helped me understand some of the possible motivations behind my husband’s crappy behavior. Without her, I would still be at a place where every single fight triggered me into an instantaneous blind rage followed by a catatonic depression. There’s still a hole in the closet door to prove things were once really, really bad.

That doesn’t happen as often as it once did, but my kids have been exposed to it. We’ve spent days huddled together on the couch, watching cartoons perform their neon dance across the television screen for hours as I tried to process the tumult of dark emotions within me. Now, my girls seem more apt to abandoning me to my corner and running off When I have depressive episodes, my daughters have learned to self-soothe-on bettysbattleground.comto play together with their blocks or castles or costumes. Though my episodes are less dramatic these days, my daughters are better able to notice when it’s time to play by themselves for a bit. They’re better at coping, but it hurts that they have to. I wish there was another option for them when I become triggered.

When I feel neglected

This is the one that is most common these days. Peers and professionals alike continuously iterate the mantra of asking for help. Everywhere I go, the same advice gets thrown my way: When I feel down or triggered or suicidal, I need to reach out for help. It’s not an easy thing to do. Not for most people, I imagine, but especially not for someone with a history of abuse and emotional neglect. I am afraid to ask for help, because rejection is triggering for me. But all the experts keep telling me to ask for help, ask for help, ask for help…

When my requests for help are ignored, I get triggered. Learn more on bettysbattleground.com

So I do. And more often than not, I’m ignored. Maybe it’s that I’m asking for help in ways that don’t make sense to other people. Or it could just be that I’m not asking the right people. Problem is, I’ve asked almost everyone I know, in some way or another. Some people have come through. Many more have ignored me. Most of the people who have come through in the past I’m now alienated from by physical or emotional distance.

Emotional neglect triggers me more often than anything else. Being ignored taps into a deep-seated, and not fully understood, wound within me. When I feel ignored or neglected, I fall very quickly into a blinding depression. I can physically see my children’s smiles; I can register the biological sensation of my husband’s embrace, but I am emotionally blind to everything. All I can see is the hole inside of me-that space where I asked for help and was ignored. I become nothing but a wound.

When that happens I can’t engage with my kids. My body feels like a sack filled with rocks. An irresistible craving for sleep overtakes me. I have had to cancel dates with my son when it’s happened around the times I’m supposed to see him. More often, I have to crawl into bed and beg my husband to watch the girls, even if he is exhausted from work. It’s not meanness or a lack of caring for my family. I just lose the ability to stay awake. My depression gets so overwhelming that if I don’t sleep, I become suicidal and self-harming. When I get this way, sleeping is the safest activity I can do.

I need to take care of myself so I can take care of my children

My family has never understood that self-care is part of being a good mom-on bettysbattleground.comMy family has never understood that self-care is an essential part of being a good mama. My mother and father and aunts always believed that, once I became a mom, all of my emotional resources belonged to my child. They never realized that if I don’t restore myself, I will not have anything to give to my family.

I feel guilty for the effects my mental health conditions have had on my children. I feel bad that my PTSD has caused me to be totally unable to parent my son, which is yet another way my trauma has affected my family. Guilt, however, is basically useless. It can help me-sort of-in preventing another episode like my suicide attempt, but beyond that, it just makes me feel bad. Which is ultimately bad for my sobriety, and bad for my health.

I need support. I need breaks. “Me-time” is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. I need days off. That’s not just something I really, really want. It’s something my entire family needs me to have. But it’s not something I have access to. Ever. I have no access to a night off from waking for night feedings. No mornings when I don’t have to wake up earlier than I want to and deal with complaints and diapers. No days totally free of tending the needs of others. It’s not that I hate the duties of motherhood-I just need a break every once in a while.

I need some of the burden of mothering and keeping up my house and finding ways to supplement my husband’s income to be lifted. I need to be granted some time to enjoy Summer myself-not just as a mom, but as  a person-before the long, depressing PNW Winter arrives. Unequivocal, unconditional, unending support would make all the difference.

When I have an episodic relapse,  I am affecting my kids. But when my son goes to bed without his mother whispering “I love you,” my abuser is affecting him too, because the abuse he perpetrated against me caused the PTSD that makes me an ineffective mother for a child with severe autism. When my girls are self-soothing while I dissociate, or drawing in the corner silently while I cry, my mom and dad and willfully estranged siblings and in-laws are affecting them too, because they have chosen not to be available to support us. When I am ignored to the point that I turn in on myself and ignore the world, my husband, and all the other people who have chosen to ignore me are affecting my kids too.

I am at fault, but I am not the only one at fault. Raising a family is a community effort. When a community fails to support a member to the point that she develops trauma symptoms and deeply unhealthy coping mechanisms, the fallout is everyone’s fault. Everyone says “it takes a village,” but my family’s village has abandoned us.

28 thoughts on “A Family Problem: How My PTSD+Depression Affect My Kids

  1. Mental illness never just affects the person with the disease. We really need to destigmatize mental illness so that more people feel able to get help, which would also help the other people in their lives such as their children.

  2. I guess emotions are contagious. If you are stressed, your entourage will be too. How mental illness affect people who suffer from the condition but also their entourage is often overlooked. it’s great that you can open up about it here. It will help a lot of people I am sure! xx corinne

  3. You’re right in saying that when one member in the family is hurting, everyone gets affected. The atmosphere of the house changes. However, I love your spirit of being so open and upfront about it. The way you have been tackling it, shows you are quite strong as a person.

  4. Raising children takes a village! It’s definitely a hard job, and especially when you’re feeling that you don’t have the outside support you need to make parenting a fun and high-quality experience for everyone. I admire your courage in bringing this topic to the forefront. I send good energy your way in the hopes that you can find firm footing and find yourself in a better, more positive state of being. Hang in there!

  5. I appreciate your courage on bringing up this topic. A lot of people go through it but they can’t express or share it with people. I agree that raising kids is difficult job and with young kids you need to have 100% energy to engage them. I want to send you positive energy so that you can handle things better way.

    • Thank you. I think the real key is support though. I mean, I appreciate the encouragement from you and everyone, that helps too. But what I really need are family and friends willing to be here and be available to take care of the girls when my husband or I get seriously triggered, or people willing to help us get out of this poverty trap, people willing to give us time to go out and maybe go on a date or take care of ourselves every once in a while. Right now our lives are just a spincycle of stress and it’s hurting us and hurting our kids and without a hand to help us out, no matter how much therapy I do, nothing will change. It sucks because I wish I could do everything for my family, but right now I really do feel like the ball is in my family or my husband’s family’s court and they are just flat dropping it for no good reason.

  6. You are so brave for sharing this, this will definitely help a lot of mothers out there who might be going through the same struggles but are too afraid to open up. Thanks for sharing, this will definitely change someone’s life.

    • Yes, Nicole. I agree that is another thing I struggle with-just getting out and being around other people. I feel you 100% <3

  7. Self care is so important because we all need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Thank you for sharing your story and I am sending you positive thoughts in your time of healing.

  8. It is sooo important to first take care of yourself. If you can’t care for yourself, how are you going to care for someone else. Being a mom can be extremely overwhelming esp. if you don’t get breaks and time for yourself. I felt your pain as I read this and hopefully writing it all down is somewhat therapeutic for you. Praying for you to stay strong!

  9. It’s a very powerful staement here. As your posts almost always are. Sometimes I don’t even know what to say. I have experienced life on the other side of this, living with the person who is suffering from mental illness. I feel like I did everything I could and she wouldn’t accept my love or affection. And what’s harder is knowing that marriage is difficult enough as it is, and then having the mental illness makes it even a more daunting task. I would love to say how you should talk to your husband to get the kind of support you need. I think my ex felt like she was straight forward with me. I just think far too often we were talking at cross purposes and I had to make all the compromises. I was willing to make a ton of them. I just realize now that I couldn’t make all of them or there would be not enough of me left to be able to support her the way she would have needed. And eventually there wasn’t. And she wasn’t happy with the me that was left. And I wasn’t happy with that new soulless me either. The only thing I can think of to suggest is being proactive with your suggestions. I know that breastfeeding is a big bonding thing with your child. But maybe you can wean off that so that your husband can participate in feedings to give you some time away. And from your husbands perspective, he probably needs that recharge time too. And despite what one may think, work time does not recharge you. You are truly a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul. It’s a tough thing to navigate. Even though I am thousands of miles away I am always here to listen. And I will be thinking good thoughts for you.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment David 🙂 The big difference I think between your relationship and mine is that we BOTH have PTSD. So we both have needs and triggers, and sometimes they are totally at odds-which adds a totally new dimension that I didn’t talk about too much. But it’s definitely a bad day when I need to dissociate because of his PTSD and he needs extra affection. I think the really big thing that we desperately need (but don’t have) is outside support. Without it our kids hurt and our marriage hurts. Two people in recovery can’t go it alone, take care of themselves,take care of each other, and take care of a gaggle of children. Something’s got to give, you know? I think part of what has really gotten to me right now-which I also didn’t write in the post-is that my husband’s mom was going to come here to help us out for a while, and then suddenly and abruptly, without apparent cause (at least not that was explained to me) decided not to. It was a pretty big blow to us, since we had gotten used to the idea that we were finally going to be getting a break. I guess you really can’t count all your eggs in one basket. Anyway, whether it’s my mother in law or someone else, we really need some kind of outside support. Did you guys have outside support? Do you think that would have helped your marriage or was that just a lost cause no matter what?

  10. I applaud you for continuing not only on your journey but also with sharing it with the world. It is so important to take car of one self and love yourself because they you can give love unconditionally and be the best mom you can be. Very proud of you !!

  11. Honestly, this post left me speechless, and then feeling bruised. Her pain and struggle are palpable… How do you cope when at your core you feel abandoned by the community you feel should lift you up? I don’t know.

    • Thank you Elizabeth. It is very, very hard to recovery and move forward and care for others when I feel abandoned by those who were or are supposed to care for me.

  12. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. We need to have more PTSD awareness. I know someone who has then and I have seen how hard it is on them.

  13. I deal with many emotions similar to these and many other mothers do not understand it. instead of being supportive, they are demeaning. It does affect my children but I fight myself (no therapy, no meds) to try to balance them as much as I can. I compensate my children financially or with things to occupy them while I am occupied. Ideally, most mother’s frown when I say I have a hard time connecting with my children emotionally. All of their needs are met but it’s hard to even hug them sometimes. I am suffering with Bi-Polar. So I can confuse my children. My 6 year old has asd. I have an active toddler who requires alot of attention and is very emotional at times. My family actually depends on my for everything. it super overwhelming and many times I have to disappoint family, friends, and co-workers when I am out of mania state and enter into my depressive state. I have realized, I cannot tackle this alone. I began to seek help.

    • Hi Mykea,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m sorry you’re struggling…but congratulations on realizing you need help and seeking it. This post was written a year ago, which was a little over a year since my suicide attempt and near-fatal relapse that happened after my rapist re-entered my life. It was a huge wakeup call in realizing that despite all the work I’d done, I still needed to do more. And in that time, I have. This post was written at a midway point between then and now, when I was feeling unappreciated by my husband and abandoned by our family. Exhausted. Since then, I’ve learned some things. First, realizing how my episodes affected my kids gave me motivation to find better ways to deal with them. I’d already quelled my anger and suicidal impulses by the time I wrote this–since then, I developed regular yoga and fitness practices that help create healthy neurochemicals to better regulate my mood. I searched online to find new activities to do with my kids so we didn’t get stuck in a rut with the same old play routine. I began socializing more and reaching out to friends so I felt like I had a life outside of motherhood. And, perhaps most importantly, I pursued a freelance writing career. Writing has been a major dream of mine for pretty much my entire life. Finding success in something I was truly proud of has helped me feel more fulfilled and centered in life. Plus, it’s given me a way to contribute financially and reduce the anxiety that comes with having too many overwhelming bills. Finally, recently, I’ve begun to identify the people in my life who were dragging me down and making me feel less than. Some of those were the same people from whom I was expecting support. Kicking the negative and abusing people from my life is incredibly empowering. It allows me to recognize that actually I am a good mom, a good friend, and a good person. If there’s anyone in your life who makes you feel less than, it’s time to reconsider having them in your life. I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that it can help you too. Therapeutic support is essential; so is surrounding yourself with people who make you feel valued, finding proactive hobbies and passions, and recognizing both your strengths as a mother and the places where you still need to work.

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