How my Child can Trigger my PTSD

As a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, I am working hard to recognize and undo a lot of negative connotations about myself.

One of the hardest, “I am not good enough”.

I spent my whole childhood feeling like a burden to the family that was supposed to love me. I was raised by my dad after my mother died and I grew up as an only child. My abuse, at the hands of my paternal grandfather, started so young, I cannot quite pinpoint the age.

Everything I experienced through my childhood and teen years reinforced “I am not good enough”. The betrayals, the disinterest in my well-being, my abuse; I bounced from one family member to another, even a few months with a friend and her parents before I found myself 18 and on my own.

Through most of my 20s, I was unaware of how these negative connotations were affecting my interactions, my responses, or my feelings about myself. Now, when I think back I realize how often I faked confidence to survive. Sure, that works in theory – fake it until you make it – however, in reality, this is no way to live. The anxiety that follows lack of confidence can be a real bitch to live with, and not addressing the root causes of my insecurities made building confidence near impossible.

Now that I have established my baseline “I am not good enough” – fast-forward to this morning when my college-bound teenager mumbles under his breath that I am unreliable during a discussion about a ride he needs that I cannot commit to yet. #TriggersAreEveryWhere

Of course, the logical parent in me recognized the petulance and snark of a teenager who is not getting their way; nevertheless, the triggered inner child in me reacted fully with an increased heart rate, adrenaline shooting through my body and uncontrollable trembling.

Sure, the rational parent in me that is working hard in therapy saw immediately that this was a moment where I need to recognize emotional boundaries and not get pulled in; however, my mind began to race and I wanted to fight. I had so much to say, how he dare call me unreliable when I do so much for him.

I wanted to scream at him I am good enough!!

Instead, we argued about irrelevant things, slinging inconsequential jabs and shots at each other to get the upper hand, no longer really on topic. I kept hearing the echo in my mind to calm down and see the situation for what it was, to be the adult and lead by example but instead I kept trying to prove to myself, and my kid that I was good enough, that I take care of him, and how dare he say that to me.

Damn it, I am good enough!! 

Somehow the fight stopped. Now I sit here trying to figure out how I feel about it. This fight had nothing to do with me being good enough; it was about his want for a ride, my lack of commitment to a day or time, and his frustration at that. I went off track and lost focus of my responsibility to my own emotions. He was allowed to be frustrated, but not disrespectful. I was allowed to be upset about the disrespect. That’s where it should have ended.

Over the last month, I have been working hard and getting better at recognizing my emotional boundaries, today I struggled. Today my kid triggered me and despite all logic, I found myself fighting to prove myself to him and to myself. I see that. I am trying not to judge it but rather to learn from it.

This morning my confidence wavered and I felt challenged as a parent, it struck the rawest of my wounds. I realize daily what I missed as a child when I see how important I am to my children. I take my role with my children as their mentor, protector, guide – parent – very seriously; I want to be the parent I never had and clearly, that has a direct tie to this cognition to be “good enough”.

I am still trying to wrap my head around how deeply my abuse has affected me, today it reminded me with flashing lights and streamers.

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Love & Support 💜💚

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