Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Reflections and Wonderings
taking the kids to see the power puff girls today and have just about an hour to myself before we have to go.
it occurred to me yesterday that it is possible that the difficulties the kids are dealing with, except for John, who wasn't there at the time, could be traced to PTSD. okay, yeah i know that you don't look for a zebra just because you hear hoofbeats. it's most likely a horse. still tho, the wrong messages the kids have about themselves can almost all be traced to one event.
yesterday Krys and i were talking about the EMDR session i had that day. Krys is severely hematophobic and nemataphobic (blood and needles). she is 2 years overdue for braces and due for a tetnus shot. she's panicked her way out of stitches 2 years ago and as a result has a nasty scar on the heel of her hand. she knows she needs to deal with this fear and is driven to do so. EMDR provides her with the only treatment option that doesn't involve in one way or another, flooding herself with the thing she fears. she's willing to try it because she's mature enough to understand the far reaching consequences such a phobia can have on her entire life. i suspect i know the source of these fears but they are tied to something she does not remember.
but back to the single event that has left the kids with these negative messages about themselves... From Daniel to Krys i can see in their varied personalities the echo of one horrible night.
when Daniel was 15 months old, i was working as a deejay, and Charlie was in jacksonville,fl for 2 weeks. i'd worked late, gotten the kids picked up, ran a ton of errands, including getting groceries and when we got home there was barely time enough to feed and bathe the kids.
after dinner, i got Daniel and Rachel, who was 3, in the tub. Daniel had a tub chair he loved and i would often sit with them for an hour while they merrily played.
this particular night, Becka, i think, came to the bathroom to tell me about something. i left the bathroom thinking i'd be gone only seconds. at this time in my life, i had managed to 'forget' my multiplicity but still switched at times and lost time. i remember thinking, that Daniel was in his tub chair, had never even tried to stand in it and that Rachel would yell if he tried to get out. nice little rationalization huh?
long story short, i got distracted, switched to a younger alter who jacked up the stereo so that we couldn't hear what was going on in the bathroom. this alter had no idea the kids were even in the tub. if she did, because they believed themselves separate from me at the time, probably believed that while she was dancing and folding laundry with Krys, i was sitting in the bathroom.
i do remember hearing Rachel crying 'mommy! baby!' but she didn't sound distressed and she never referred to Daniel as the baby. baby was a 6 week old kitten that followed her everywhere. it was assumed that Rachel was yelling because the kitten was trying to follow her into the tub again. totally disconnected from what was happening, the instinct to protect my children never entered the picture. something that to this day causes a shame that is almost suffocating.
in reconstructing that night we know i was out of the bathroom for at least the length of 2 songs (deejays have a unique way of measuring time). it was not i who walked casually to the bathroom, but the young alter who was enjoying a rare time of fun. with Krys by her side, they walked into the bathroom and at the realization that Daniel was not sitting in his chair, i was thrust forward. as Rachel cried 'i couldn't pick him up!' i saw the blue and bloated face of my baby. his head underwater with his chin held by one of the bars of the tub chair.
snatching him out of the tub, i began screaming for a towel. the child i held in my arms was dead. there is no doubt, medically or otherwise. he was a dead weight and he had let loose his bowels in the water and continued doing so over the next few minutes. frantically searching for the cordless phone, i kept screaming 'oh my god, he's dead! oh god NO!' Krys and Becka at my side, i ran to my bedroom. laying Daniel on the bed, began CPR. when i tried mouth-to-mouth i found that his lungs were so full of water that the air only caused the water in his throat to gurgle. he wouldn't breathe with all that water there. the phone was nowhere to be found and the phone by my bed was kept unplugged because Daniel liked to play with it. trying with one hand to do CPR while with the other hand, fighting the sliding child-safety cover over the phone jack so we could call 911. yelling at Becka to go get me a towel, it never occurred to me that Rachel was still in the tub, alone. Krys tried to take the phone from me saying she would call emergency. i said no. please go outside and wait for the ambulance. B came with the towel and i wrapped Daniel in it while dialing.
time stopped as i saw before me a small white coffin. i knew my life was over. if i had to bury my son i'd never be able to live with what i had done. that was when i heard the voice over my right shoulder. it was gentle but commanding and VERY firm. "pray for the child NOW." in that fraction of time between dialing the phone and the dispatcher answering, i prayed the most selfish prayer of my life. "god, don't take my baby away! please make him breathe! don't do this to me!
dispatch answered and i frantically gave her the information she needed. she asked if i knew CPR. i told her i was trying everything i knew. i did chest compressions, held him face down on my left arm and pounded his back (the bruises remained for a week after). i held him to my shoulder and screamed 'breathe!'. all this time, Rachel was still in the tub. Becka stood by the doorway watching.
after what seemed an eternity, i raised him to my shoulder once again as i answered a question from the dispatcher. in one violent motion, Daniel spewed water and vomit that covering the wall behind me.
laying him on the bed, i watched and listened as he took one long, rattling breath. he spit up more water and took another breath. as he exhaled, he began crying and opened unseeing eyes. 'he's breathing!', i screamed. 'he's alive!'. i yelled to Becka to tell her sisters and she ran from the room. when Krys came to the room i told her to get our neighbor.
Linda (neighbor) came tearing into the house with Krys just as the paramedics arrived. by that time Daniel's cries were quavery but loud. he still seemed unable to focus, but he was there! as the paramedics looked at Daniel (i wouldn't let him out of my arms) i realized Rachel was still in the tub and sent Linda to go get her.
i know how this has forever changed me. i cannot begin to even imagine what it must have been like for Daniel. for Rachel who bravely tried to rescue her brother while mom ignored her cries, then to sit alone in the tub until Linda came for her. for Becka who did everything i asked, exactly as i asked (what 4 yo does that?). for Krys to be old enough to understand what was happening, but too young to do anything but stand and wait for the ambulance.
Krys will be the first to tell you it is the one event in her life she cannot get over. it is the one thing she's been thru that still haunts her in the night as she sleeps. she told me yesterday that what happened to Daniel is something she cannot accept is not somehow her fault. in that one night, a 6 yo child began to believe that she had been the cause of her brother's drowning and in that one night, she began a journey down a road of lies about who she is. the drowning being her fault (so she believed in her young mind) led to everything being her responsibility. which led to a feeling of helplessness because she couldn't control her environment. which leads to a belief that she can do nothing well enough or right, and so on down the road to 'i am nothing'. there are no words i can ever speak that can convince her that none of what she believes is true. Charlie and i have tried for years to let her know that none of it is her 'debt' to pay. because of the way PTSD works, until she can process the events and realize that it was all beyond the control or responsibility of a six year old, she will carry the event and its messages with her through out her life.
we know some of how this has changed Krys, but it is so different for the rest of the kids. Becka remembers much of that night but little of what she felt. since then however, she has developed an intense need to control everyone and everything around her. a sense of helplessness enrages her and because she was never able to verbalize (she was too young) what it did to her, she has since 'known beyond doubt' that her most intense feelings should be kept locked away. that it doesn't matter how she feels and that she is least important of all the kids.
Rachel, whose cries for help went unheard and who was too small at 3 to rescue her brother, believes that she can do nothing. just as she had told me that night, to this day she still says after one failed attempt at anything. "i tried but i couldn't do it.' tho she has blocked the entire event from her memory, it has, just as all traumatic events do, changed her. by the next day, all she remembered was that Daniel pooped in the tub. because all else was blocked, this was a funny thing to her.
what about Daniel. he was too young to register picture memories (that starts around 18 mos) but emotionally that memory is there, even if not consciously. it is no wonder to me that he fights. that he believes no one hears him or listens. that he violently fights believing that everyone is cared for but he is left with less than anyone.
we have gotten the kids 'professional' help, but i know that because this event has been passed off as just a thing and not a life changing event, that the people we've engaged to help, will not do much for the kids.
i know that all i can do is keep loving them unconditionally and trying my hardest to keep the truth of their incredible worth, out there for them to see. i can reinforce the positive, but at some point each of the kids is going to need to process that night.
if you ever find yourself wondering how one event in your own life can leave such a wake of pain, go back and reread this. when what happens to us is left unprocessed, it follows us in an ever widening circle of negative effects, until we find ourselves buried in a smothering darkness.
so, could PTSD be what my kids battle? i think so. now the task is to address it and help them heal. it's almost been 7 years too long without it. they have a right to peace now, without waiting their entire adult lives wondering what happened and why they hurt so.
keep Krys in your thoughts. i shared with her the details of the EMDR session and she brought up this event. she longs so to heal from it and, i hope, is beginning to prepare to take action herself. i so hope so. she is so worth the hope of peace for her. they all are. ALL of us are.