It took us 15 years to discover we had PTSD. Every year around the anniversary date of our daughters death we would start to feel all kinds of things… Honey would start having sore breast and thought she had cancer, she would forget things to the point that we thought she might have Alzheimer’s. I would start having chest pains to the point of thinking I was having a heart attack, I would “shut down” and not talk to anyone for days. We would both go into a depression and suffer various amount of mental stress. I would feel guilty for being alive and felt like I didn’t deserve to live, I would get angry at the drop of a hat or a towel on the floor…
Every year my wife would end up at the Doctor’s office and she would ask about tests to see if she had breast cancer. One day the Doctor told her that she came in every year at this time to ask the same question? Amazingly enough we would forget that part every year, and on and on it went.
Then one year, our 16 year old daughter told us that we suffered from PTSD, “what ever” was my response… “we don’t have PTSD. We’ve never been to war or anything like that!” Then, she asked us a few questions, like: Do you feel chest pains every year at this time? Do you think of suicide? Do you shut down? Are you angry? Guilty? Sad beyond comprehension? Our daughters had watched us suffer every year, I never even thought about what they were seeing… I was so stuck in my depression that I was blinded by it. “Do you do this on purpose?” she said. That’s when she explained what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was, it was our bodies reverting and reliving the pain of our daughter’s death. The dreams, the memories, the pain, all a response that was out of our control.
We discovered that if we started talking as soon as the symptoms arrived, it would help to ease the weight and side effects. The pain doesn’t disappear, but the symptoms are lighter. Every since then we take the time over a three to four week period to make sure we go for walks and just talk about what ever we are feeling. We also take time with our girls and share what we feel, and let them know we love and appreciate them.
It saddens me to think that we’ve given our daughters their own PTSD from watching us suffer and them having to deal with it. In the past few years we’ve discovered that they would sit together and wonder what was going on with us. Were mom and dad going to split up? Are they mad at us? What did we do? I wish that I could change the past for them, and make things different, but I can’t. All we can do is move on and be there for each other.
The pain is still real, I still cry when I see pictures and on days like today I sob. Today is the anniversary of TC’s death. It’s a day I spend thinking a lot about what we went through, but I also think about those parents who today will walk into a hospital emergency room and discover that their child is not well, and I morn for them, I am saddened for them, I suffer with them. I pray that they will have some form of comfort and support, that they will survive the pain and find ways of healing and coping with a situation no parent should ever see.
Chip and Honey Toodee