Trauma is damaging and life changing. I do not remember a lot from my childhood, most of those memories have been unconsciously blocked, hidden and buried deep.
My mother left her very religious family when she became involved with my biological father and pregnant with me. He was an abusive drug dealer and addict so luckily that relationship ended. When I was 3 years old she married the man who would raise me and be my Dad. He was a truck driver and gone on the road a lot but when he was home, life was very different! He was controlling, strict, and physically abusive. My mother has struggled with her own trauma and mental health alone, and did the best she could.
Around age 12 is where my memories begin to form, this is the age I also remember first contemplating suicide. I had been sexually, physically and mentally abused. I always felt like I wasn’t good enough and never did anything right. We moved to a very small rural town the summer right before my 7th grade year. One thing I did become good at was wearing a mask, I learned that I could hide a lot of pain with a smile and that nobody asked questions when you were happy. I avoided reality and tried to push my feelings aside, however this created a dark and lonely void.
I made some friends and life seemed to be looking up until my freshman year of high school. I began sneaking out with boys and experimenting with alcohol. My Dad was caught having an affair, my mom was unstable and her family came and packed our entire house in a weekend. I was pulled from school, my friends, and moved across state lines in a matter of days. My mom and I were fighting constantly and I was furious to find out she was planning to move back with my dad, so I ran away.
After a couple weeks of finding somewhere to sleep, and refusing to move back with my mom I was given the option to move 700 miles away to live with my bio father and his family (whom I didn’t know).
At first it was amazing… I was 16, had no rules, no curfew and access to many different drugs and alcohol, Life was a party! My bio father is mentally ill and has psychotic episodes, he self-medicates with drugs, gets wild, and gets violent. He loved having me there to party with him and bring my teenage friends over. At this point my life was out of control, my step-mother was tired of it all and made an escape plan. I came home one afternoon to find my mother there waiting with my bags packed, back to Colorado we went. The next few weeks was therapy and withdrawing from the substances I had become addicted to and dependent on. I returned back to school and teenage life, I also returned to drinking. I went to school to keep my parents off my back, worked and partied, however I did graduate on time.
I met and married the love of my life and his little girl whom I adored and would later adopt. When she was six, we took full custody of her. She too had been abused, struggled with abandonment and was diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD. At that same time, my husband and I also had her baby sister.
When the girls were 8 and 2 we found out we were expecting twins, the pregnancy was complicated and high risk. We were advised to abort 1 baby to give the other greater odds, we declined. I was put on complete bed rest at 18 weeks and was in and out of the hospital. At 32 weeks my Dr. decided it was time to deliver due to complications and no growth since 30 weeks. I had an emergency c-section, the girls weighed 3 pounds each and were quickly taken away to the NICU where we would spend the next 6 weeks. During this time we discovered that one of the babies had heart problems and would need surgery but first she needed to gain some weight. We went home with a heart monitor, a feeding tube and 6 medications.
After months on an emotional roller-coaster we thought life would calm down.
We had been home adjusting for a few days and decided to take a trip to the park for some fresh air. At the park the heart monitor alarm sounded so I peeked at my baby, she was blue and not breathing. I began CPR on her tiny body while 911 was called, minutes seemed like hours. At the hospital, the doctors thought she had aspirated on her previous feeding and sent us home. The next morning it all happened again – alarm, lifeless baby and again I had to do CPR! This time however we were transferred to children’s hospital in Denver where she would have surgery and we would spend the next 4 months.
Our family was split; I stayed in Denver with both babies and my husband stayed home to work and pay bills. Our oldest daughter was in 2nd grade and stayed for school and our toddler traveled back and forth a few times. For 3 months our daughter was intubated most the time due to needing CPR 12 times. Doctors were at a loss and things didn’t look good. Finally during a scan it was discovered that her heart anatomy was backward and there was a vessel compressing on her airway.Surgery was needed immediately to remove the vascular ring. She didn’t learn to eat by mouth and had a feeding tube until she was 5. She was behind on milestones and around 15 months we were told she would probably never walk or talk due to the CPR and probability of brain damage, yet she did. Things were hectic but we were finally home as a family, so things were good! Then trauma hit again!
As a mother, protecting my girls is my mission. I know now that I do not have control over other’s actions and choices but this didn’t help when I found out a family member had abused my daughter. My world crashed and I felt I had failed as a mother.We pressed charges, prepared for a trial, and a predator was put away, causing strain on several relationships. I was diagnosed with PTSD and felt like my depression meds weren’t working. My anxiety was out of control, I was hopeless, ashamed, had tremendous guilt, and I couldn’t function as a mom or person. In my mind I was a failure and my husband and kids deserved better, my mind wouldn’t stop and I couldn’t sleep.
I had a suicide plan. The day of however, my husband came home early. He saved my life, he was kind and didn’t judge me. He again was my rock and supporter, together we tackled another one of life’s challenges. I got my meds adjusted and began the journey to recovery and self-acceptance.
From my journey, I realized that my mental health is just as crucial as my physical health. I learned how to cope with my depression and anxiety and the importance to practice self-care. I developed empathy and a need to help others who are struggling. Life isn’t easy, everyone has a story and their own struggles. My depression, anxiety and PTSD doesn’t define me. My strength, faith and courage does!