Friday 19 February 2010

God Help Me.....

What follows is my experience of post traumatic stress disorder. It is not clinically informed, and purely my own interpretation of what happened to me. If you think you (or a loved one) is suffering from PTSD please speak to your GP or health visitor

And can you tell me doctor why I still can't get to sleep
And why the Channel 7 chopper chills me to my feet
And what's this rash that comes and goes
Can you tell me what it means......
God Help Me.....

I was only nineteen, Redgum

Trauma and loss are common experiences for anyone who has been through a premature birth, whether your baby makes it, or sadly does not. You grieve for the birth experience you dreamt about, for your baby's first weeks, for all sorts of things.

For me the post traumatic stress disorder did not start until over a month after Joseph came home. It made no sense to me. I was feeling dreadful yet Joseph was well.....

Sometimes, something stops the grieving process. Post traumatic stress disorder, to me, is like a computer virus. A worm, a trojan. The traumatised part of your conscience fragments, and it weedles its way through your brain, your memories, dragging out files and corrupting them, in an attempt to make sense of what has happened. It stops you from following your thoughts, from having insight, from making sense of what has happened, and letting go.

For example, the stanza of the song I have quoted, kept coming to my mind. I haven't heard the song in well over ten years, yet it played through my head over and over again. This virus dragged up all sorts of memories, mainly traumatic ones, and linked them to Joseph's birth.

I was having nightmares, nightly. It got to the stage where I was avoiding sleep because I was scared of the nightmares. I had flashbacks in supermarkets, in the park, at home, everywhere. Here I was with a baby who slept well at night, yet I was awake all night, waiting for the next drama.

It wasn't until I broke down in our baby massage class that I realised I had a real problem, and it was not going away, it was getting worse.

I felt so confused, as I wasn't depressed. On the good old Edinburgh scale of post natal depression, I scored low. I couldn't really comprehend what was happening. I thought, like in my song, post traumatic stress was something that happened to war veterans, not mothers of small babies.

I went to my GP, and started receiving treatment. Suddenly, the world seemed a kinder place. I could finally see outside my own grief and see that of others around me. And I could see Joseph. As a bonny, growing, funny, clever little boy. And it's taken a long time, but I finally saw myself as a mummy, a good mummy doing the best she can.

And finally I could let go of my little tiny translucent skinned fragile being in an incubator, and focus on the future.


  1. Oh you.

    If only I'd known how rough you were having it I would've dropped everything in a heartbeat - no reason to not take holiday at ShittyJob(TM).

    I'm glad you're healing, I always knew Joe was a trooper, just look at his mummy and daddy :-)

  2. You are my little angel "smyles" that was always meant to survive anyhting that life threw at you. You are a survivor, and always have been (if anyone could make it through such a horridly unhuman experience as this, is was meant to be you). And for this we are all blessed to have you in our lives.

    I love you like you are part of me, part of my very soul.

    Thank you for sharing your experience to others that may then recognise the early signs they need to, or be unlike you and recognise them... or to simply let them know that they are not alone when in a time of need.

  3. Your experience of post-traumatic stress really reminded me of me. Last summer I had a baby, term but induced due to PE, who was sick and needed surgery. The whole experience was so shocking, even when doctors told me he was fine I couldn't believe it, I couldn't see how a baby who had been so poorly could be safe.
    I am just now starting to feel better and to see my son for who he is now and who he could become raher than thinking only of how ill he was.
    Thanks for writing your experiences down for others to share.

  4. Thank you. I have had the strong flashbacks and nightmares too and I thought I was going mad. My daughter was born 02/05/09 at 25+6 and had a very bumpy start to life. Her longterm prognosis was very bleak and we were told to expect the worse. She is proving the medical teams wrong everyday. But somehow I still see her as she was the day she was born. She is 10 months old, weighs 11lb 3oz and gives me smiles. Her consultant has said that I should forget what I was told at the hospital and look at her now. How can you just forget that your baby will most definately have severe disabilities caused by high end cerebal palsy. Every day I expect her to suddenly lose the functions she has. I cry and have a panicky feeling in my chest everytime I see a woman in labour on tv. Taking Summer to the hospital for a check up I saw the Neonatal ambulance waiting outside the maternity department. The next thing I know I am on the floor sobbing that someone elses horrid journey is just starting and I felt abit guilty that mine had ended much better than predicted. I think only time can heal this type of wound. Thank you for sharing. I feel better knowing that my feelings are normal. Lara Wiseman XX