Post-traumatic growth begins with decisions made in small moments of time. It is the transition from PTSD to life afterwards.
A decision to change – PTG
“I can’t keep living like this. Living in a panic, in survival mode. This happens to us at least once a month. I can’t keep acting like I am shocked. It’s exhausting.”
I was at a business meeting.
My business partners were offering their sympathies and support for yet another hospital admission with Matthew.
Not a decision you make once
This wasn’t the beginning of my growth journey, it was another step, of what I now know as post-traumatic growth.
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) involves “life changing” psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world, that contributes to a personal process of change that is deeply meaningful.
I didn’t learn this term until this year, more than 6 months probably after Matthew’s death.
For me, it was a journey that started with one life changing step and grew from there.
This process is one of the reason I write.
I have been astonished how blessed I am that I began this journey.
My heart has been breaking for families – especially mums – who only know PTSD. Not knowing that PTG is just as real and valid.
It’s not that I or anyone else on this journey isn’t still traumatised and learning to heal.
But that I have decided to use what I have been through to create something good.
To look for the good in everything that happened alongside the trauma.
Nothing ‘Post’ about trauma for families with children with complex disabilities
Along the way I have learnt a lot of parents with children who have complex medical disabilities actually have CTSD – continuous traumatic stress disorder.
To quote one mum “There is nothing ‘post’ about my trauma.”
Meaning they are continuously traumatised again and again on top of their previous trauma. As opposed to the concept of post traumatic stress disorder.
The repeated admissions to the hospital, the times you call an ambulance, clearing your child’s airway, holding your breath while you count theirs.
The hits keep coming for as long as your child has a ‘life limiting condition’.
Others have forged ahead on the PTG journey
Another lesson along the way was that I am not the only one who discovered post traumatic growth. Others have looked up from their problems (or PTSD) one day and said “I can’t keep living like this.”
My good friend Kat tells her story so eloquently on this podcast interview.
She could have kept crying all the time and be completely broken about her beautiful Noah’s prognosis. Or she could do something different.
Prior to the beginning of my PTG journey I was isolated & suffering sleep deprivation.
I was still shocked that doctors would just send a child like Matthew home when each infection was gone.
Expecting us to sort it out.
To figure out on our own how to take care of him during his ‘normal’ times.
To be clear ‘normal’ in the end was suction, nebulisers, oxygen, cpap, tube feeds, medications 7 times a day, enemas, constant monitoring. All his personal care and carrying him about.
New decisions come with new actions
After the day at my meeting, I came home and made some more changes.
A little at a time.
I created a go bag for myself. So I would always gave the things that made hospital life easier and mean’t I could run my business from wherever I was.
Having a business gave me practical ways I could serve others and have something positive to show for my days.
It gave me an outlet. Something I could work on while I cared for Matthew day in and day out. A purposeful reason to build a network and a community of awesome people around me.
In my PTG, my business and the people I worked with were the encouragement and support I needed to beginning investing in myself.
Doing personal development, working through some of the baggage that we all carry from childhood.
It’s living a life of stress from a place of peace and joy.
Living a life by design, choosing to create the best life we can as we grow.
Not denial or ignoring the trauma.
It’s not denying what is happening, not about ignoring it.
It’s about saying yep, this is what happening, how do we make a great life with this?
It starts with being aware there are choices you can make.
Research shows that once people who experience PTSD are aware that there is a choice you can make to have Post Traumatic Growth, they then have to make that choice.
Being aware of Post Traumatic Growth isn’t enough. People have to make a choice to have it as part of their journey.
Have a Google, look around, learn about ‘Post Traumatic Growth’.
But more importantly, step back, and decide if you’d like to give it a try.
Would you like to have a different outlook, a different perspective on what you’ve been through or what your future holds?