Part of living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)–at least for me–is kind of thinking everything is completely my fault, even when I insist outwardly that it’s not. Some of that comes from stigma. I may know I’m in the right, but when people who know I have PTSD treat me like I’m wrong just because I have PTSD, it’s hard not to internalize that.
But this time, it’s actually, undeniably not my fault.
Let me just start by saying: Other moms terrify me. Even the cool ones. Even the ones I kinda want to be friends with. Maybe those ones even more, because I actually sort of care what they think. It’s as though, upon delivering their first child, all the other mothers in the world were provided a set of cute one-liners and social rules to get happily through a conversation with a stranger. And I was not. I don’t know, maybe the doctors were so freaked out by my delivery that they forgot to shove the information chip up there. Whatever the reason, I don’t know how to talk to other moms. When a mom talks to me, I basically curl into myself and begin spitting vapid responses through my grimacing parody of a smile. It must be a disturbing sight.
Despite all this, I have learned my lesson when it comes to wishing I don’t have to deal with other moms. When I was a twenty-year-old, newly single mama, just out of an extremely abusive relationship, and my son was just a babbling chubbins, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Fuck I hope he has no friends.’ I didn’t mean it. It was just a thought, a selfish, half-formed wish in jest. And of course I know that it really is paranoid magical thinking to believe that this small thought in any way contributed to my son’s profound autism which leaves him essentially with no friends. Nonetheless, I have learned my lesson. I am not going to make a similar wish, however lighthearted, about my daughters. I will, for now, only be grateful that they are both still young enough to get away with having birthday parties that only include family.
This year, on my daughter’s third birthday, family included my in-laws.