Parenting with PTSD: Parenting Through Fear

I have PTSD. Not the kind that most people think about. I haven’t been to a war. I haven’t been in a car accident. I haven’t watched a loved one die in front of my eyes.  I have PTSD from sexual and relationship based trauma as well as from the abandonment I felt from being sent to boarding school.

I would describe my parenting style as relaxed in some aspects like she has screen time, eats whatever she wants and sometimes I allow her to back talk me because I think she will turn out funnier…but I tend to parent from a place of fear in some ways. For tips for parenting with anxiety, click here!

Wondering how I rangle a 4 year old by myself? check it out here

I experience intense and unwanted fear that similar things will happen to me again or to my child. I have unwanted reoccurring thoughts that my daughter will get molested by her someone at her daycare, a friend of mine or a family member. I experience irritability and hostility occasionally. This irritability and hostile occur especially when I am experiencing anxiety and lack of control over situations. I felt guilty and ashamed of my unwanted sexual experiences for over a decade. I exhibited self destructive behaviors like pulling hair out, nail picking (until they bled) and high risk sexual behaviors. I experience sleep disturbances and have vivid nightmares of being sent back to boarding school. I experience vivid nightmares of horrible things happening to my daughter. 

I have severe mistrust of people and severe anxiety related to relationships. If my partner texted me “we need to talk” I would probably have to leave work, take an Ativan and sit on the couch to breathe. I find it hard to take criticism. I get intensely emotional when there is conflict between my partner and I. Criticism in a sexual way is the hardest thing for me to hear. Breakups are very difficult for me. Breaking up feels like abandonment (even if it was my choice).  These are things that I just can’t handle (though I am WORKING on handling them!) I have a heightened sense of awareness for people around me and their behaviors. I have a radar for a weirdo a mile away. When something doesn’t “feel” right, I am usually the first to know it and say it. 

When I sat down with my Psychiatric Provider on February 13th 2018  she said “I am unsure on how you have never been diagnosed with PTSD, you have scored in the SEVERE trauma range” For some reason, this felt like I won. I won against anyone who had told me to

“get over it”

“just stop thinking about it” 

“that won’t happen again” 

“you deserved it”. 

“it sounds like you let him touch you”

“you really don’t seem like you have anxiety”

“you are very well adjusted”

I won against everyone who told me that I don’t need therapy or medication. I finally received validated and confirmation that I was having abnormal thoughts and behaviors. I was relieved to know that my symptoms made sense for my experiences and likely both medication and therapy would greatly improve my life. This was day 1 on getting better. 

Flash forward to day 295, today. 

Today, I have more trust for people (I’d say, I am about 35% better today). I am in therapy, a little over a year in,  and I am on a daily antidepressant to target panic disorder and anxiety. I also take Ativan which is used to treat panic attacks. Read my review of my medications here.

My therapist and I do a lot of work on Cognitive Distortions. What the heck is a Cognitive Distortion?

Examples of Cognitive Distortions:

Free printable to use in your life, click here

All or nothing: He doesn’t like me at all if he doesn’t want to get married right now.
Corrected: He likes me and isn’t ready to get married yet. 

Mental Filter: I am very bad at math
Corrected: I don’t do well in math and I am can write very well. 

Over-generalization: Every time something good happens, something bad always happens right after. 
Corrected: Good and bad things happen to me sometimes. 

Discounting the positive: I know that people think my blog stories are embarrassing, why else would they be reading it? Corrected: People read my blog because my content is interesting.

Magnification: That break up really tore me apart.

Minimization: I don’t feel bad when people make fun of me. 

Emotional Reasoning: I feel like a failure as a parent so I must be one.

Should statements: I should be further along in my career. I shouldn’t have had a child before I got married. I shouldn’t be dating while my daughter is still young. I must get married before I’m 30. 

Labeling: I am a slut.
Corrected: I used sex as a coping mechanism for mental illness. 

Blame: I chose to take naked pictures of myself when I was 12. 
Corrected: I was coerced and manipulated at a young age to do something I was not comfortable or able to consent to. 

Do you find yourself using any of these cognitive distortions? Once you are aware of this type of thinking it will be easier to change your thoughts. 

So because I live with PTSD, Anxiety and Panic Disorder and I have had experiences that I would wish on no one, I have a few rules with parenting my daughter. Could these change in the future? Sure. Am I open to them changing right now? may take some convincing. 

Rule #1 No Sleepovers

I was touched at a sleepover. I was touched at multiple sleepovers. My biggest fear is that my daughter will be touched and scared forever. I want my daughter to have normal sexual experiences when she is old enough to make consensual sexual decisions. I do not want my daughter to experience anything that I did. If you’re wondering more about my experience, check out my post above or click here.

I am open to having sleepovers at my house and I have let my daughter sleepover at my mother’s house. That is all I am comfortable with for the time being and I wouldn’t say I am even fully comfortable with her at my mother’s house. Do I think something will happen? No. But like I said, I have reoccurring unwanted thoughts that something WILL happen and those thoughts try to convince me that it IS happening. Make sense?

Rule #2 Early Conversations 

You know, I think my generation was done a real disservice in the realm of talking about our bodies and sex from a young age. I remember being sat down in my elementary school auditorium to talk about what is okay and what is not okay. But the conversation really focused on strangers, kidnapping and child abduction. We didn’t talk about what to do if a family member is touching you, or a close family friend or your own father. Maybe it isn’t appropriate (I don’t know, I am not a therapist or an expert) but I feel awful for children that this happens to and they have nobody to tell or they feel like it is okay.

I want my daughter to have a lot of knowledge about her body, how it works, sex education and healthy relationships. Most of it can be done by modeling the behaviors (being in healthy relationships, talking positively about my body, #bodypositivity) and having honest conversations that are age appropriate with your children. I, for one, wish this had been done for me. I was terrified of my period starting. I thought it was something to be ashamed about. My daughter is 4, she already knows the medical terms for her body, where babies comes from and what a period is, maybe I am making progress. I am aiming to be what I needed when I was younger. 

Rule #3 Popping In Unannounced 

I am notorious for popping in during lunchtime at her daycare or popping in at my mom’s house to see how babysitting is going. I do TRUST my mother but it is hard to get past the thoughts that I have. I know that I have PTSD and I am working on not letting it run my life, however, I want to know what is going on. I feel like if I catch someone off-guard, I can learn more information about who they are and what they may be doing around my child. Make sense?

Rule #4 No Male Babysitters

Could something happen with a female babysitter that could be equally as bad? Sure. Do I have a hard time trusting men around my child in general? Absolutely. Are most men good? Yes. Are there a lot of rotten eggs? Yes, in all genders.

I understand that this rule is irrational but my bet would be that MOST women would have a problem with a male babysitter (maybe I am reaching here). I also understand I should work on it. I am! Trust me!

So what are you doing to work on parenting through fear?

Well, a couple of things. Like I said before, it is extremely difficult to get past the reoccurring thoughts of something happening to my daughter. My biggest fear is that she will have a traumatic experience and it will mess up her outlook of sex. I am working on talking with my daughter about what is appropriate and what is not. I am talking with her about her body and how it works. I am talking to my daughter about how she should never keep a secret that someone asks her to keep from me. I am talking with my daughter about tricky people, not just random strangers that could snatch you off the school bus. I want my daughter to feel like she can come to me about anything and I think that takes time and conversations from a very young age. 

Do you have tips about parenting with PTSD?

Need help finding resources?

Check out TalkSpace

Treatment for PTSD

Cognitive Distortion Print Out

PTSD MeetUps

5 thoughts on “Parenting with PTSD: Parenting Through Fear

  1. Loved this. I get what you are doing. I can patent out of fear myself. But sometimes I think it’s for the better. I totally agree I don’t think our generation talked enough about consent what was right how to touch people ect. My daughter is 5 and she too know where babies come (out) of, periods, and the anatomical names for private areas. I’m really big on consent with her. Like kind of crazy about it. It’s a big thing that I preach to my daughter and even my son (2) even though he doesn’t fully understand. Even taking a drink of someone else’s drink when they said no becomes a big discussion on consent.


    1. Hi Alexis,
      Thank you for sharing your perspective. I agree with the consent piece too. I talk with my daughter about this too. When she tries to climb all over me and its hurting me I tell her that I said no I would appreciate it if she would respect my wishes. When we make it logical, kids seem to really get it. Thank you again!


  2. Pingback: The Next 6 Months

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