I wake up, hot and sweaty, my heart is racing and it’s hard to breathe. Glancing around I realize that it’s just after 5:00 and Von is crying, ready to eat before going back to sleep. I feed her, put her back in her crib and then I’m back in bed. Taking a few deep breaths, I remind myself that the dream that I had just before wasn’t real.
It wasn’t real. I repeat this again and again in my mind, it wasn’t real.
I am safe in my two bedroom apartment, with Von sleeping in the next room, Griffin sleeping beside me and Persephone at my feet. Somehow I am able to fall back into a fitful sleep for another few hours before Von is actually up for the day. I vaguely hear Griffin’s alarm go off, remembering that he was going to get up to exercise this morning.
That’s not happening for me, if I could, I would stay in bed all day.
When I start to hear Von stirring again around 7, I groan a little. It’s not that I don’t want to get up and take care of her, it’s just that I spent most of last night awake, afraid to sleep because of the nightmares. Then when I did finally fall asleep, there were nightmares. I used so much energy fighting the demons in my mind, I don’t know if I have the energy to be an energetic mom today. And Von is only 7 months old, at this point, she probably doesn’t care much about what I do while she plays.
But I still feel guilty.
And so I pull my exhausted, anxious body up out of the bed. I can’t help but smile back at her as she smiles up at me from her crib. She’s always so happy in the morning, she’s always so happy to see me in general. On the hard days, it’s that smile that keeps me going.
We spend most of the day with the TV on as background noise, and I know I spend too much time on my phone, but I can’t handle all of the anxious feelings I’m having. Or the memories that come with the dreams.
I just want it to end. I want the dreams to be done and my anxiety and panic attacks to stop and I want to be free from this illness called PTSD. But even as I think that I know that may never be the case. Sometimes this thought is overwhelming, but for some reason today it’s not. I stand a little taller actually, acknowledging that this is my life and I can either play victim, or I can keep fighting and trying, exhausting as it is.
We fold laundry and roll around the floor. Von eats and I eat. We watch more TV and then we FaceTime my sister. Griffin tells me he’s going to be home a little later. I feel slightly defeated at this, but I turn on Spotify and clean the kitchen while Von plays on the ground with Persephone.
Griffin makes it home. We all go out and play at the dog park and it feels good to be outside, even though I’m anxious and I feel incredibly vulnerable being outside. We eat dinner and then hang out as a family.
Von eats, but then doesn’t immediately fall asleep. I feel myself losing control of my emotions. More than anything I’m upset that she’s not sleeping because that means I can’t be sleeping. Griffin takes her for a while, trying to get her to sleep but she just wants to play. I cry and cry. Finally, hours later, she eventually does fall asleep. I’m grumpy and anxious and oh so tired.
I get in bed and pray that insomnia that kept me up the night before won’t keep me up again.
And thankfully, after a few minutes of tears, feeling lonely and tired of this emotional stay I’m in, I fall asleep and the day is over.
Having PTSD is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. Being a mom with PTSD is something that I’m still not exactly sure how to explain. It’s like being sick and not being able to really take care of yourself, but still having to take care of someone else. Some days are very hard. As I’ve thought about the posts that I want to share here on The Faith Project blog I knew that I wanted to talk about being a mom with a mental illness. In my experience, it’s a subject that not many people are talking about. But I know that other women experience it, just like I do.
I want to be open and honest about my experiences with having a mental illness and being a mom. Both of those things are hard and together well, some days it can feel like a crazy mess. But, I feel like I’m also learning a lot with each passing day. This is my normal. For so long I prayed and wished for my PTSD and anxiety to go away so I could be ‘normal’ but the reality is, this is my normal. I’m a mom, I have PTSD, and I’ll be sharing pieces of my story every month. This is my normal, and I know normal for other people too. I want to start talking about it more.
Having a mental illness can be lonely. Being a new mom can be lonely at times too. One of my goals is to help other people with mental illnesses feel less alone. And to help new moms feel less alone and help them discover their purpose (in regards to motherhood and life.)
There are so many resources out there if you are fighting a mental illness. I am not a doctor and will always recommend reaching out to your health care provider or a clinical therapist. If you are looking for more stories about mental health in general, check out The Mighty website. If you need someone to talk to my inbox (email@example.com) or DM is always open.