Why Aren't Trauma Survivors Warned that Parenthood May Be a PTSD Trigger (www.triggerpointsanthology.com)

 

 

For many survivors of childhood abuse, symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may re-occur, or never arise, until they become a parent. A significant number of parenting survivors do not recognize the increased depression, anxiety, or onset of flashbacks as symptoms of PTSD, weaving in and out their journey to raise a family. Instead, many will internalize debilitating shame and question  their ability, and even their right to parent.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crimes, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys will be a victim of sexual abuse. The abused children all have one thing in common – they eventually become adults. Naturally, most of these adults become parents, many whom have never spoke about what happened to them, leaving trauma symptoms to lie dormant, festering, until acts of Parenting 101 expose them to triggers which send them spiraling. Most suffer silently, alone, and confused. It doesn’t have to be that way. And in fact, it shouldn’t be.

One night, as a new mom, I walked into my daughter’s bedroom to kiss her goodnight before heading to bed myself. As I went to my daughter’s bed, I was halted by a physical reaction to what I was doing. I had this sudden, unexplainable sickness in my stomach and felt panicked. I had this thought that I was violating her personal space by being in her room while she slept. I felt repulsed by the idea of kissing her on her cheek. In that moment, I was able to recognize my thoughts and physical symptoms as irrational and was able to kiss my baby girl goodnight; however, I had yet to understand where this was all coming from.

Following that episode, I started to recognize that same mental and physical pattern while performing basic acts of care with my children. The sickness and panic was there when I changed diapers, bathed them, gave affection, when affection was requested, when I breastfed, when I disciplined either of them – it became the norm for me to feel “off” anytime I was in the role of Mom. But who do you turn to with this kind of revelation? How does one asak for help because her children are making her physically and mentally sick? I often asked myself, “What the hell is wrong with me that I feel like this?”

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Note, essays such as this one are part of the reason we have a Parenting with ACEs group. Caring about Parenting with ACEs is the only requirement for joining this group. All are welcome. To create trauma-informed programs and communities, for children and their parents, the experience of parents must be considered, welcomed, invited and considered crucial. 

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I often wonder if this is part of why some mothers are using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. I know that FASD caused by drinking during pregnancy is a big issues especially in Western Canada (where there is a large Aboriginal population with multigenerational historical boarding school trauma). Losing control of one's body and having pain and trauma to one's private parts (birth, episiotomy), as well as dealing with people during childbirth who have more power than themselves (doctors, nurses), are certainly triggers for survivors. Physical Therapist and Midwife Penny Simkin has a book actually on this topic called "When Survivors Give Birth". It's a good read and worth the time.

 



 

Lisa Frederiksen posted:

Such an important topic, Cissy. I'd never realized, until learning of the ACEs study and doing a great deal of therapy work around the impacts on me of coping with secondhand drinking (SHD), how my SHD experiences were influencing my parenting. It was my healing from that that in turn healed my relationships with my daughters and helped them appreciate their need to do their own healing around ACEs in order to improve their own lives and be better parents when/if that time comes for them.

Lisa;

I love that the healing has not only been for you but also for / with your own daughters. And BEFORE they are parents or parenting. I really believe this is where the hope is because even if my own child, for example, chooses not to be a mother, how she mothers herself and the world and other relationships is important. For her and others and the world. I think this work has the power to make a huge difference and thank you for sharing about your own healing experiences. Cissy

Such an important topic, Cissy. I'd never realized, until learning of the ACEs study and doing a great deal of therapy work around the impacts on me of coping with secondhand drinking (SHD), how my SHD experiences were influencing my parenting. It was my healing from that that in turn healed my relationships with my daughters and helped them appreciate their need to do their own healing around ACEs in order to improve their own lives and be better parents when/if that time comes for them.

Christine Cissy White posted:
Jondi Whitis posted:

Great article.  I have seen this in my clients, and until they taught me, I had not yet connected with the impact that certain situations would trigger for them in their own children.  Excellent conversation; thank you.

Jondi:

Thanks for your comment. How do you think people could get this information out earlier to parents and therapists? There's so much silence and shame still and often there's so much suffering and anguish people struggle with alone. So many of us lack good lived experiences we don't know what "good enough" is and when and how to relax with parenting. Those symptoms of trauma that show up in our adult lives and relationships can be so unsettling. I wish this could be addressed more often and openly. That's part of what we're trying to do with the Parenting with ACEs group.

Thanks for your comment. Cissy 

Thank you for the comment, Jondi. I am the author of the article and really appreciate the feedback. Your response about your clients helping bring attention to the this particular aspect of trauma is not an uncommon response I receive from clinicians. I'm glad Cissy asked the question that she did. I am putting extra effort into not only bringing awareness to the issue of parenting with ACEs but also to talking with providers on how they can best help prepare parents for this. Any insight, or methods that have been successful, particularly with parenting with PTSD are greatly appreciated.

Good Morning Christine

 I know for i fooled myself that i was "Untreated victim".Or even what not remaining a untreated incest victim and a victim of phyisical violence aslo. Or i rationalized it. I had not idea that i had a medical conditon that was untreated.

Christine Cissy White posted:
Jondi Whitis posted:

Great article.  I have seen this in my clients, and until they taught me, I had not yet connected with the impact that certain situations would trigger for them in their own children.  Excellent conversation; thank you.

Jondi:

Thanks for your comment. How do you think people could get this information out earlier to parents and therapists? There's so much silence and shame still and often there's so much suffering and anguish people struggle with alone. So many of us lack good lived experiences we don't know what "good enough" is and when and how to relax with parenting. Those symptoms of trauma that show up in our adult lives and relationships can be so unsettling. I wish this could be addressed more often and openly. That's part of what we're trying to do with the Parenting with ACEs group.

Thanks for your comment. Cissy 

I think you're right, and perhaps it's just a sign of our growth in not just knowledge around abuse and trauma, but also our learning to handle things more sensitively, proactively, skillfully.  

Thankfully, the whole ACEs and various forms of traumatology (for lack of an even more encompassing word) is exploding - from epigenetics to psycho-immunology, somatic and emotional release methods, and more.  I see it only gets better and better. So perhaps this kind of awareness on a larger level is not far behind.

I do my best to teach these concepts in my Training for Mastery courses, focused upon practical application excellence, using Tapping and Energy Psychology variations as appropriate, targeted to these  areas. My  goal is to teach others seamless, effective integration, for better, safer, less painful  results and better outcomes.

Jondi Whitis posted:

Great article.  I have seen this in my clients, and until they taught me, I had not yet connected with the impact that certain situations would trigger for them in their own children.  Excellent conversation; thank you.

Jondi:

Thanks for your comment. How do you think people could get this information out earlier to parents and therapists? There's so much silence and shame still and often there's so much suffering and anguish people struggle with alone. So many of us lack good lived experiences we don't know what "good enough" is and when and how to relax with parenting. Those symptoms of trauma that show up in our adult lives and relationships can be so unsettling. I wish this could be addressed more often and openly. That's part of what we're trying to do with the Parenting with ACEs group.

Thanks for your comment. Cissy 

Great article.  I have seen this in my clients, and until they taught me, I had not yet connected with the impact that certain situations would trigger for them in their own children.  Excellent conversation; thank you.

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