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How My Family’s Health Struggles Gave Me PTSD With My Children’s Health

Heredity isn’t the only way that families share health concerns. Many times, when you experience a health issue—or go through a trying medical situation with a family member—it is nearly impossible to keep the threat of it out of your mind as you watch your children move through life.

Several of these situations have plagued me since becoming a parent only a few short years ago; and I know they will continue to monopolize my thoughts with every bump and bruise, or cough, or headache, or tummy-ache my children experience. I know I’m not alone in this—I venture to say every momma out there has experienced something similar to this.

Let me start with the big one. In 2009, my dad suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). One morning in March, he was unresponsive and rushed to the hospital. There, he underwent multiple surgeries to stop bleeding on his brain. Although there was a fracture in his skull, the cause of the injury was—and still is—unknown.

Memphis Moms Blog surgery

He ended up spending nearly a year in the hospital and rehab, much of the early part in a coma. It was so scary not knowing if he would survive; and, if he did, would he ever talk, walk, or recognize me again? Unbelievably, over time, he regained his speech and a lot of mobility, but he suffered cognitive impairment and loss of short-term memory. He would remember the most obscure things from years ago and forget something we discussed two minutes ago. It was sad to watch, and I really missed having conversations with my dad. He lived more than nine years after his injury, and passed away from a rare form of leukemia in 2018.

Not only do I think of him often because I miss him, but my two toddler boys repeatedly thrust me into a panic about my dad’s experience with every knock to the noggin’. Since the cause of his TBI was unknown, it’s clear to me that it doesn’t take some crazy, tragic accident to cause that type of injury. I’m not joking at all when I say that I have flashbacks to my dad’s coma, the first time he said my name again after months, and the times he had to wear a helmet to protect his fragile skull, every single time one of my children falls down and bumps his head on the kitchen floor. Or when they are running around being crazy little boys and collide mid-living room. Or when they are wrestling a little too close to the fireplace. I get hot and cold all over just thinking about it, and the hair on the back of my neck starts to stand up. It’s a recurring emotional AND physiological response.

Memphis Moms Blog teddy

And these worries don’t end at head injuries. I have had a lot of gastrointestinal health issues, so every time my children have a stomach ache, I think the worst. And my older son, poor thing, has super-fair skin just like his momma. Of course, every time he goes outside, I think he’s going to be burnt to a crisp like I was that one time at band camp (I know you guys want to make a joke here….but it really was just that one time at band camp).

I guess these health instances are just like any trauma, haunting us way after the experience is actually over. I know the right thing to do is to focus on what we can learn from these experiences, but I’d be lying if I said I could disassociate them from the fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness that they caused.

As mommas, how do we rise above this post-traumatic stress? How do we keep our cool for our kids and never let them see us sweat? Is it better to shut these memories out of our minds or keep them front and center?

What do you think?  

Do you have any ghosts of family health issues past that haunt you?


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