My daughter’s seizures made me question my relationship with myself
Six months ago my daughter had a seizure in my arms. The experience shook me to a core so dark and fearful I didn’t even know I had it. All it took was one minute — one interminable minute — and I became a new parent. Suddenly, I was afraid of everything.
The seizure, and the one she had 11 days later, left me with minor PTSD symptoms, particularly flashbacks. I cannot get the images out of my head, though fortunately they are starting to blur.
Over time, I have become less gripped by fear and the trauma has begun to distance itself. But now the fear is being replaced by guilt.
PTSD is for people who have experienced something really traumatizing, like rape, death, war. Awful, awful things. Things much worse than what I went through.
I feel like I can’t claim to have PTSD because what I experienced wasn’t bad enough. As if PTSD is a physical space and there is only so much room in it. As though by saying my situation wasn’t bad enough to be considered trauma, I will no longer be traumatized.
It doesn’t work that way, though. The only way to begin to work through it is by accepting it — one of the five Kübler-Ross stages of grief. Acceptance is the only way to move forward, but I can’t move forward if I continue to minimize my own trauma.
Having applied my situation to the grief cycle makes me feel even more fraudulent. What am I grieving? A few minutes’ time? Why am I complaining when people have real problems on their hands? Pain so ingrained in them that they can no longer differentiate between themselves and their trauma?
This destructive thinking elicits a new question: If I allow myself to be fearful of an experience pertaining to my daughter, but I won’t allow myself to go through the motions needed to heal, then do I love my daughter more than I love myself?
This question has made me examine my relationship with myself. I’ve realized that, to my own detriment, I have double standards. When my daughter is sick, I give her the space and time she needs to recover. I would never tell her that her ear infection is less bad than someone else’s ear infection, therefore she is not entitled to antibiotics. I wouldn’t keep Ibuprofen from her just because her fever isn’t as high as it was last time.
Why, then, when I need to recover from an experience I had, would I compare my trauma to others’ and decide it’s not bad enough to experience PTSD symptoms?
Whether or not I actually have PTSD doesn’t matter; I still have to put up with flashbacks and fear. This is a situation worthy of the care I provide my daughter when she is unwell. And if I don’t give myself space to heal, I will hurt my daughter, too.
The sooner I learn to love myself the way I love my daughter, the better off the both of us will be.