Author: Julie H., Foster Mom
This is going to be a “big” post for me. I’m going to talk about my PTSD publicly for the first time. Close co-workers, friends, and family know about it, but people outside of that don’t. I have PTSD from childhood abuse and trauma. My mother has multiple diagnoses related to mental health. Due to this, she inflicted physical, emotional, and verbal abuse on my older brother and me throughout our childhood and adulthood. I was officially diagnosed with PTSD in 2016 after going through a situation where I was physically attacked at my job. This triggered my PTSD for almost a year. My hair fell out, I needed to start counseling, I needed to change jobs, and I needed to start medication to help me get through it. Thank you to my Doctor, Dr. Woolever, for his support through that time. He recognized the symptoms and got me the help I needed. I’ve struggled with the triggers and symptoms of PTSD my whole life.
When my husband and I reached out to Norris Beyond Fostering, I wanted to be clear with them upfront about my PTSD and what my triggers are. Could I be a foster parent for children with PTSD if I, myself, have PTSD from childhood abuse? Would we just escalate each other? The social worker at Norris offered me insight and support which made me a little more comfortable with being able to foster but I still had fear on my ability to be a good foster parent.
Me having PTSD actually has been a benefit to Miss D. It sounds strange, but I can “relate”. I can teach triggers and how to handle those triggers. The other day I had a trigger where I had to leave the house. I didn’t know where I was going, just that I needed to leave. For me, in my PTSD, I am a “flight” person…not a “fight” person. My middle son called me and asked me where I was going. I said I didn’t know, that I just needed to go. He asked why I took the SUV instead of the other car, and in that moment my response was “Well if I need to sleep in the vehicle, then this one is more comfortable”. WOAH: Did I just say that out loud? That is not even logical. He then said “Wow, mom, that’s a little extreme don’t you think? We were having a discussion about frying chicken wings and you took off and now you have jumped to needing to sleep in a car tonight?” I told him that this response was so built into my system (called complex PTSD) that I’m not even aware that I’m doing it. This comes from me having to run away when I was little and worrying about where I would sleep if I wasn’t going to sleep at home. I’m sure my dad doesn’t even know I have this “in” me to this day!
There’s nothing like a mirror held up to your face from your child to see that I was in a PTSD response. PTSD is not logical. It’s grimy. It’s dirty. It’s dark. It’s something that I deal with daily. Throughout my daily life, I am constantly surveying the people I meet and who are around me on if they have the possibility of physically attacking me and whether I could escape them or not. Again, it’s not logical, I get that. Miss D saw me leave the house. She could see the panic in my eyes I’m sure. But when I calmed down and turned around to come back home, I was able to talk to her about that feeling. And that we aren’t perfect. That fleeing is something I just HAVE TO do sometimes and that’s ok and maybe she can relate in some ways. But talking about it with the people we love gets us through. Miss D also saw and learned that families work through things. We apologize and move on. We don’t escalate to physical fights and police interventions. We handle things with love and caring. So, does my PTSD impact me being a foster mom? Absolutely.