This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter. I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children. I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)
5. When your mental health is bad do you try to protect me from it, and why?
Yes is the first part of the question. Why is much more difficult to write about. Through the years each of you children have witnessed a time when PTSD had the upper hand in my life. Your looks of fear are etched in my mind and I am fully aware that I caused that fear. You knew the rule don't touch mother while she is sleeping. That moment of time before I was fully awake and I knew who was waking me up was enough time for me to do something that frightened you. It was not my intent to cause fear in your life. Controlling my reaction to be woken up is impossible until I am fully awake. Yes, I am trying to protect you from my worse self. I believe that is true of every emotionally healthy parent. A desire to protect children is good and worthy. I am so sad that the danger is me.
I know that one of my emotional defaults is dissociation. To you I appear, cold and uncaring. The opposite is true but this emotional armor I wear to survive PTSD looks like I don't care about you. I want to protect you from this cold, careless behavior that served me well as a child but I don't know how to lay it down now that I know longer need it. I want to protect you from my dissociation.
Anger is another symptom of PTSD. I stumble over a trigger that ignites my rage and you blame yourself. Children tend to blame themselves for parents' anger. Parents often blame children for their anger. I was on the receiving end. I was told countless times how I made my mother angry. I now know that as an adult the only one to blame for my anger is me. I want to protect you from my feelings of rage. A rage that originates in childhood should have nothing to do with you. You were there, something was said or happened to set me off. I want to protect you from my explosions as much as I would shield you from a bomb. Sadly, I am that bomb when PTSD takes over.
I wanted to take care of all of you. My body would suffer from the physical effects of PTSD. Instead of me taking care of you, you were taking care of me. I felt so frustrated that this caring was so backwards. I try as much as possible to protect you from this effect of PTSD. When you were all small I put the bread, cereal and peanut butter in the bottom cupboards in case you were hungry and I was too weak to get out of bed. I couldn't take care of myself yet I had 6 little people depending on me to take care of them. Some days I lay on the couch and made sure you were safe and fed. That was all I had strength to do. I want to protect you from this lack of care.
I worked hard to protect you from PTSD symptoms that shook me like a rag doll. I didn't want you to understand why I behave this way. I don't want your lives marred by the nightmares that destroy my sleep. I often believe that Heavenly Father asked His angel children who would come to Earth and help a battered soul. You children raised your hands. All of you coming into my life made a difference. I wish to protect you from my worst self.