What I Wish My Parents Knew About PTSD
“Dear Mom and Dad
I know watching PTSD in children is hard for you. I know you’re concerned about all the changes you see. I know you want answers and signs of PTSD in children. Here are some things I want you to know about what to look for in PTSD or C-PTSD in children because, mostly, I need your help.
The first thing I want you to know is that I appear to have a lot of mood swings. Trust me, it feels crazy on this end too. A lot of the time I may look happy on the outside, but inside things feel like chaos, and I use a mask to hide what’s going on. I don’t want to scare you. That’s probably why you get confused when I have oppositional behavior and I’m short tempered. My outbursts don’t mean I hate you or anyone else. I frequently get angry and I feel like I’m barely keeping it together. I don’t like feeling like I’m out of control.
Most of this is because of anxiety. It’s really real. Even though you may not know what it’s like, please don’t dismiss it. It affects me in many ways. Sleep can be fleeting and when I finally get to sleep it can be hard to stay asleep. Lack of sleep only contributes to my agitation and can make me extra cranky and grouchy state. Anxiety can cause me to overreact about little things that seem trivial. I then become expectant for dangerous things to happen and it’s hard to stop worrying about what-ifs. I feel like they can choke me. I don’t mean to blow things out of proportion, but my mind can’t shut off. The professionals call this “dysregulation”, and it’s simply the fact that I’ve lost the ability to self- soothe and lose my ability to cope with stress. Things that didn’t bother me before are now intolerable. Things like social situations make me want to curl up in a ball inside myself. My anxiety makes me restless some times and fatigued at other times. I’ve even had people mistake it for ADHD. But during those times of fatigue, it’s sometimes all I can do to go to school and make it through a day. Please don’t think I’m being lazy on purpose. That doesn’t happen near as much as you think it does.
Another thing I want you to know is that sometimes it is or would be really easy to resort to unhealthy behaviors in order to get away from the depression and hopelessness I feel. This can look like alcohol, drugs, and yes sometimes even self-harm. Self-medicating may be the only way I can make a connection to something that feels “normal”. Things seem to feel like there is no way out, no matter how hard I try. Sometimes there seem to be no positives to look to. I need to learn new coping skills. The things that may have worked for me before may not be working anymore.
I know its frustrating for you to see me make choices that aren’t the best. Sometimes to survive I may make poor health choices like drinking or drugs, poor spending choices like getting things I don’t need or that seem irrational at the time. Sometimes it’s just a way to make it past the hopelessness of things.
Calling depression “moodiness” is like calling a landfill “messy”. Because of the complexities of the human brain, we are learning new information on its function every day. By classing depression as a mental disorder, it is differentiated from an illness or sickness in that it is simply out of the norm in terms of normal brain function.
I Have My Own Symptoms
That brings me to another thing. I need you to learn and educate yourself on PTSD. There are reasons behind the things I do that look like they’re out in left field. If you’ve known someone else that had PTSD, you have to realize that I am my own person and that I may not have the same symptoms and I may cope with similar situations in a very different way than they did. Don’t try to fit me into someone else’s mold. I’ll work through them in my own time and my own way. Sometimes that may require help.
Talk to Me
So I’ll need you to talk to me. It’s so reassuring to hear your voice. Anything, everything! When in doubt, ASK! I need you involved in my life and talking is the easiest way to do that. But please don’t be pushy if I don’t want to. It never helps to force things. Knowing that you have my back even when you don’t understand why is something I cherish- even if I say I hate it. I remember what you say to me, good and bad. Please don’t criticize me. Please be generous and forgiving. Normal and consistent connections mean a lot to me and I can relearn what that “normal” should look like. Sometimes that means knowing when to call a mental health professional. I don’t expect you to know how to fix me, but providing help for me shows me you care even when you are confused.
We Can Do This Together
I understand that you love me and that I love you. And nothing will change that. Although I may not act like the child you once knew, I’m still me and I still need your guidance. No one stays the same forever, and I need the wisdom you have to help. No one is to blame. Not you, not me. I’ve heard that early intervention can work and that with time and good treatment I can live a great life. And I want that, but I need direction. We can do this. Together.”
Let LifeLine Help
If you feel like your child needs help with unexplained behaviors, radical changes in interests, academics and social settings, we invite you to call Lifeline For Youth today. Indeed with a large range of traditional and modern methods tailored to each child’s’ needs, we can stem the flow of more destructive habits and behaviors down the road. We specialize in getting your child on track to a productive and healthy life. You aren’t in this alone, call today!