"Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head."
William Shakespeare - As You Like It
As regular readers will know I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2009 shortly following the birth of Joseph. I was a mess, I had nightmares, flashbacks, was constantly on high alert. In my head I had my childhood and Joseph's confused and was constantly frightened that either he would be emotionally scarred by being abandoned in hospital, or that someone would hurt him now or in the future. It wasn't as "simple" as almost dying myself before he was delivered and nearly losing him.
I do think we are so quick to label condtions. I wonder now if the label "you have a disorder" and the reaction "let's medicate" was the most appropriate one. What I really needed was to be wrapped up in love, and cared for. I needed to heal, and to be reassured that a lot of what I felt was actually entirely rational and I think if I'd had CAT (cognitive analytical therapy) or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) earlier, a lot of the protracted pain and symptoms I have had endured, and my family and friends have endured, could have been mitigated. Was my reaction a "disorder"? A difficult childhood, a life threatening condition, my only child in danger? Was it that "disordered" that I be frightened of something else going wrong in my life?
There is no doubt that out of the trauma of premature birth and pre eclampsia so much good has happened to me, that it was heartening to read this article during the week. In it Bob Clark refers to these 5 positive changes found by Richard Tedeschi at the University of North Carolina
• A renewed appreciation for life
• New possibilities for themselves
• More personal strength
• Improved relationships
• More spiritual satisfaction
I'm not quite 5 years on yet. The trauma for me was the separation from Joseph more than the birth or the other events in his stay, this I now know and understand, for to be with your baby is the natural thing, any separation no matter how logical, is deeply damaging for the mother. I believe the baby adapts, especially if attachment is as strong as possible during the stay with good family centred care and most importantly after return home. This is where we need to work hard, to give parents that confidence, and to help them heal when they come home.
I can certainly report that I whilst I have suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in far more measure have I experienced Post Traumatic Growth. My life now is vastly different than the one before I had Joseph, as anyone who has had a child would report. But my "self", that thing that makes me me is vastly different too. I am more confident, I have skills I didn't have before, and I have all sorts of people in my life I didn't have before.
I am happy, fulfilled and my life has purpose. And I have an amazing family.
Do I still have periods of crushing tiredness? Nightmares that wake me up in fear? Periods of panic attacks? Yes and possibly always will, but I can manage those and I have techniques and support.
And that's the reality of trauma, whilst it can crush you, and bring you to your knees, the most remarkable growth is possible. Embrace your experiences if you can, get support, and most of all know that so many of us experience trauma and whilst it is hard, and it hurts, growth can happen.
On my other blog I have a fun post about gardening which you might enjoy