I have been seeing a few articles about PTSD and the NICU lately. I read only one of them because it is a topic that I am very familiar with and a topic I really don’t like talking about. All of us moms who have gone through the NICU, no matter when we did, no matter where we were at, no matter how long we did… PTSD from the NICU is the same for all of us. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s life-changing.
My twins are going to be five years old in six months and my NICU experience still has so much power over me. The first thought that always comes to mind when thinking of my NICU experience is the monitors and those loud alarms. They have such a specific sound to them when they go off. Those alarms trigger my heart to race so fast, even now years later. When I visit the hospital and just walk by a patient’s room, that alarm just stabs at me.
Over the years I chose to never talk about my experiences in the NICU. I told stories here and there. Especially the big moments like one of our greatest battles while in the NICU– The Meeting- Oct 2014
But I never really talked to someone. I went to a counselor a handful of times during that time and in the last few years. When it got to the point I felt like I had lost complete control of my life, I sought help. I was diagnosed and offered medications but I refused. I had taken pills for depression in the past and, although it helped with the depression, I felt like I was not myself. I was unable to feel. I was numb. Which, at the time, was a good thing. But now…. now I wanted to feel. I wanted to get through this because I knew this was the miracle that God had made for me. So I believed I just had to hold on and get through it. Which I did… which I still am.
So here I am, 4 years out of the NICU… I am almost at my 5 year anniversary of D-Day (Diagnosis Day) and I find myself realizing and accepting that it is time I talk about it. It’s time I tell you about my anxiety and the PTSD that has invaded my life over the last few years.
(I want to start by saying that just because I am talking about it, does not mean I am “giving it life”. I am merely just finally admitting it to you all out loud.)
I have anxiety and PTSD.
I googled PTSD and anxiety and I read this:
“Some of the most common types of PTSD behavior include avoidance or detachment symptoms and increased emotional sensitivity. While not always outwardly noticeable, people with post-traumatic stress disorder may also have vivid nightmares, or experience flashbacks of the trauma.
One strategy the mind may employ following a trauma is detachment. Some signs of PTSD behavior include refusing to speak about the trauma, losing interest in previously enjoyed pursuits, and changing or dropping regular routines. Relationships with close friends and family members can become strained because of PTSD behavior; victims may have difficulty relating to loved ones, or begin to sever emotional ties in order to detach further. While the mind may need to temporarily back away from the experience of a trauma, avoidance symptoms can do considerable harm to personal relationships and career goals over time. Moreover, a person enmeshed in avoiding the trauma may have difficulty healing, since he or she is unable to address the source of the psychological pain.”
The NICU affected me in everything highlighted in RED! I avoided talking about what I was going through at all costs. Everywhere I went I had a smile on my face. Everything I was doing, I was smiling through it. I avoided and detached myself from the NICU experience. I just wanted to live my life. I think that’s one of the reasons why I started Made For A Miracle. Because I wanted to be busy. And I thought what better way to stay busy than to help other moms with my experience.
And then there was the detachment phase. I don’t exactly remember when this phase started but I think it was well into our 3rd year. We were going through some real difficult times with my son and I detached myself from everyone!! Friends, co-workers, family and even my church. I felt like no one understood what I was going through so I had to remove myself from everyone and everything. I had been “brave and strong” for so long, I didn’t want to let anyone down. I didn’t want anyone to see me break. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry.
And that was another thing. Crying. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t want to cry because I knew that if I did start crying, I wouldn’t stop. It took me 4 years to finally let myself let go. Four years of balled up emotions. Four years of anger. Four years of grief. Four years of stress and worry. Four years of complete exhaustion. I cried. I cried for hours. I cried until I fell asleep. Then I think I cried in my sleep. And when I woke up, I felt sick. Almost like a hangover. It took me about two days to recover from the crying. But once I recovered, I felt so much better!! I finally let it all go….
I guess I can say, I gave myself permission to cry. Deep down inside I knew I needed to. I’m happy that I did. And being completely honest here, I think I got a little better after I cried. I still have my moments and my days where I just don’t want to get out of this house. But… at least I’m getting up. Because that is what we have to do every single day… get up!!! And each day after that we keep getting up.
Just know, if you are still going through the NICU or are a survivor, I am here for you. I am here with you. And you are not alone.