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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Part II

It was a dream—a nightmare. It felt real. It was three-dimensional. I would swear it really happened.

A few days before my son was to move out, I dreamt that he and my daughter were in my kitchen on moving day. My sons-in-law were in the basement getting the furniture. My son and my daughter were having a conversation with gestures to the door and glances at me.

I asked, “What are you whispering about?”

They looked at each other and my son said, “Dad’s here and he’s going to help with the move.”

I freaked out. “I do NOT want that man anywhere near my house! I don’t want him in my neighborhood!” I screamed and acted like a crazy person. My son tried to calm me down. I saw the door open and knew it was my ex-husband walking in the door.

“AAAHHH!” I screamed at the top of my lungs in my dream, but no sound came out, like my vocal chords were paralyzed. I jumped up and down, like in a temper tantrum, thumping my hands through the air. My mouth and body were only going through the motions.
Just like in the movies, I woke up with a start, sat up and was panting like I’d just run a marathon. But it was real. I know it happened.

It was early in the morning, the sun just coming up. I got up and checked my kitchen to see if my kids were here. “It’s not moving day,” I told myself. “Nobody’s coming through the door.”

I got back in bed, one more hour until my alarm was set to go off, to get me up for work that day.

A few days later, it was moving day. I rationalized their father would not travel across the country to help my son move a few pieces of furniture and a few boxes.

Still I panicked whenever I thought about it. I had heart palpitations all morning, expecting my ex-husband to show up, yet knowing he wouldn’t. Yet questioning . . .

Does this story sound familiar? Nightmares, panic, heart palpitations, paranoia? Blame Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—PTSD.

Though I don’t have minor children or a court-ordered custody arrangement, I still feel stressed to think someday I will have to see my abusive ex-husband. There will be weddings, college graduations, christenings and baptisms. I’ve already been through one wedding right after my divorce. It was so extremely difficult to even be in the same room with him, let alone stand in a receiving line with him.

I can’t imagine having children who need to be handed off to the errant parent and having to SEE him/her on a regular basis. My very, dear friend has minor children and says seeing her ex makes her go to her panic place (that’s what I call it) and it’s hard not to let it show in front of her kids. Children are amazingly intuitive.

With PTSD, one’s brain goes on a loop, thinking of the “terrible awful” memories harbored within (to quote Minnie from “The Help” for a minute). As time goes by, and distance is allowed from the abusive spouse, those stressful times may lessen, but it often take years.

Healing might be possible quicker if you don’t see the spouse. Absence makes the heart grow stronger, in this case. With grown kids, you can turn the other cheek—and walk away. It’s not that easy with custody exchanges.

My friend seeks the healing wisdom of appealing to our Father in Heaven on a daily basis. She said, “Every day, I make a conscious decision to start my day by ‘choosing’ the Lord.”

Her day begins with prayer, reading scriptures, writing in her journal and listening to uplifting talks by church leaders.

My friend said, “When I do that, I feel the ‘life’ trickle back into me. I feel refreshed and ready to lead my little family along the path of our wilderness with energy and enthusiasm.”

That, my friends, is the number one way to help yourself during a divorce. Prayer. All the pat answers of Sunday School will never steer you wrong.
My kids are adults, and, despite the nightmare I had, they know where I stand about their father, at least for now. They might not understand, but they know I don’t ever want to have to see him again.
I know I will have to one day. I still have two unmarried children and one college graduation to get through. In the future there will be grandchildren events. Maybe by then I’ll be stronger. Maybe I’ll be able to take it.
Healing might come. I’m just not there yet, so I can’t say.

How do you cope with child visitation? Do you have nightmares or PTSD loops?

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