On those days when parenting is a struggle, it helps to have some soothing strategies on hand. Whether for you, or for your kids, or for all of you!
I recently interviewed Andrea Papin, RTC for the Parenting with PTSD interview series. We had a great conversation about the role of anger, grief and forgiveness in the healing process. Check out the video below!
"Anger and grief are feelings that arise when we experience a loss, a transgression, an injustice, a boundary violation, or a transition. They are embodied energy that alert us to what we value and what we need. They can be a way to honour what we have lost." -Andrea Papin
"Forgiveness is a word that we hear thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean and how important is it in the context of trauma?
Typically, the word “forgiveness” is used to describe the arrival at a state of peace, that involves a letting go of anger and resentment towards someone who has harmed us. In the context of trauma, we tend to think of an abuser, perpetrator, or even an event. We also tend to talk about forgiving ourselves.
All of these ways of talking about trauma seem to elude to a particular trajectory with an endpoint where we are healed, calm and wise. Now I don’t doubt that this is possible, but I don’t think that forgiveness is an endpoint, a necessity or a feeling state that is static." -Andrea Papin
Janet is overwhelmed with a wave of revulsion and nausea every time she breastfeeds her child. Mateo feels guilty every time he changes his son’s diaper, as if he is doing something wrong. Han is filled with paralyzing anxiety every time her boys play-fight. What do these parents have in common? They are all parenting with ACEs.
Many research studies have now established how ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, negatively impact mental and physical health over a lifetime. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with four ACEs— including living with an alcoholic parent, racism, bullying, witnessing violence outside the home, physical abuse, and losing a parent to divorce — have a huge risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism. An ACE score of six or more can shorten your lifespan by up to 20 years.
The question that is not being asked is, what happens when these survivors of childhood trauma grow up and have children of their own? Many survivors of childhood trauma are living with un-diagnosed PTSD that becomes un-manageable when they have kids of their own. These parents are blindsided by the sudden onset of flashbacks and triggers related to parenting. In the absence of information about this common occurrence, they are left feeling broken and alone….
To read the full article on Out of the Storm, click below:
I loved this conversation with Julia of The Self Advocate. She was not afraid to dive into the juicy stuff.
In this podcast episode we talk about:
-understanding common triggers that survivor parents face
-why I’m not a fan of the word “forgiveness”
-changing our understanding of abuse recovery
Click the button below to listen to the full episode:
Public service announcement to moms everywhere: If you haven’t started watching CBC’s new show “Workin’ Moms”, you need to stop whatever you are doing now and go watch it. Go, now! I’ll wait.
Ok, now that you have done that, can we talk about how amazing it is to see a show that realistically portrays a mom with postpartum depression? I love Frankie. From the first episode, where she announces to her mom and baby group that she “may have a touch of postpartum…” to the point when she falls out of a tree while wearing a princess dress, she speaks honestly about what is in her head, no filter. For instance, her thoughts about letting the car just drift off the road, or how peaceful it would be to drown to death. She says all the things out loud that I only thought in my head.
I wish I could have been more like Frankie. When my second son was born I fell into a deep depression for a really long time. In fact, the depression started even before he was born. I remember a visit to the midwife’s office where they had me fill in a form about my mental health, and then gave me a referral to a psychologist. But on the day the clinic called two weeks later to book an appointment, I was having a good day, and I told them I didn’t need it. My midwife scolded me for not making the appointment, and left it at that. So I kept coasting through, pretending like everything was fine.
Why couldn’t I have been honest like Frankie? The truth is, I have spent most of my life pretending I’m ok when I am not. I have lived with undiagnosed complex PTSD from childhood abuse which showed up as panic attacks, depression, and anxiety my whole life. But people don’t talk about these things, I learned that quickly enough. So I put on a mask of the person who has it all together, and I just kept going until one day I couldn’t.
I dragged myself out of postpartum depression with a grim determination that after all I had already survived, this would not be the thing that took me out. But I did it alone, without community. Only years later, in hushed conversations with other moms would I learn that they too had experienced the same unwanted thoughts tormenting the early years of motherhood. If I’d been able to see Frankie 4 years ago, maybe I would have called the psychologist’s office back. Maybe I would have found a place where I could talk to other moms going through the same thing. That would have been really nice.
After I beat postpartum depression, I started a community online for other parents like me, who are survivors of childhood abuse living with PTSD. Having a place to honestly talk about the mental health struggles I face has been such a gift. I don’t feel alone any more, and I don’t feel like a freak. There is so much shame in our culture about exposing our darkness. Whether it is PPD or PTSD, or another mental health issue we face, when we can talk openly and honestly about it, we get better.
Brene Brown writes “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it…Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” So that begs the question, how can we make it safer for people, and especially for new parents, to talk about the darkness without fear of judgment? The only way I have found so far is to share my story, whenever and wherever I can. Every time I share it, I give another person permission to own her story as well.
I know that there are so many women watching Workin’ Moms who identify with Frankie as much as I do. And even though she is a fictional character, her story has the same power to give others permission to be honest about their struggles. I like to think that there is some new mom out there in the same place I was 4 years ago, who will pick up the phone and get the help she needs, because she saw her story reflected in that TV screen. If I ever get to meet that mom, I’m going to give her the biggest hug. And then we will have a long talk over a cup of coffee and share our real stories.