And I get it… I do. As one blogger pointed out on Mid-Life Bouldevard, some mom bloggers may be going a step or three too far, posting identifiable photos of their children in the throes of something that they may later find humiliating.
Those are all very valid points against mothers like myself who choose to display the intricacies of our daily lives online for all the world to see, and those who rally against “mom bloggers” have certainly given me pause in sharing our story. I often find myself wondering…
Am I doing the right thing by sharing our story online?
Am I a horrible person for doing this? Am I exploiting my children and their trauma? Am I exposing my children in a way they’ll deem hurtful when they’re older? Am I protecting their privacy enough? Do I even have the right to share these things with the rest of the world? Is this really my story? Or am I just glomming onto the story my children are living and reclaiming it as my own?
Yes, many nights those questions reverberate through my mind so loudly I can’t escape them, and there have been times I’ve fallen into a cycle of self-doubt and considered ending my website altogether.
Yet, calling it quits and shutting everything down doesn’t feel right to me, either. And here’s why:
1. Another Trauma Mama’s YouTube videos saved me.
It’s no secret: I’m a huge fan of Christine Moers’s work. I frequently link to her website and videos here on Trauma Mama Drama and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve asked new trauma-parent friends, “Have you watched any of Christine’s videos?”
I’ve met her in person now and at this point, we’re friends. But no matter how far our friendship develops, no matter how close we get as pals, there will always be a part of me stuck in “hero worship” when it comes to Christine because she literally saved my family with her YouTube videos. The day I found her, I’d had enough of the trauma behaviors that I didn’t understand yet. I had my suitcase at-the-ready and a sad resignation speech prepared for Husband (who, at that time, would have been called Boyfriend) and planned on reciting it for him when he finished his long day of soldiering. I was distraught, and in a last-ditch effort to stay in the fledgling and dysfunctional family Boyfriend and I had created, I posted my woes anonymously to Reddit under the title “My Step-Children Are Sociopaths And I Don’t Know What To Do! Please Help!”
I’m so thankful to the person who gently replied, “You say they went through a lot of trauma. Have they been evaluated for Reactive Attachment Disorder? Check out Christine Moers.”
Only after watching Christine’s videos did I fully commit to my stepchildren who, at the time, frightened me with their unusual behavior. Only after watching her videos did I feel that tiny sliver of hope that continues to grow as time marches on.
If she hadn’t been brave enough to share her story, I very well may have left that day. I may have left, and never come back, and missed out on so many wins our family has notched on our collective belt (I know I focus on the negative a lot of the time, but really, our family is doing so much better than I would ever have anticipated on that day!).
Because another trauma mama saved me, I feel it is of the utmost importance that I share my our story with the blogosphere with the hope of helping another family stick together in the face of the confusing and frightening behaviors our children with trauma histories often engage in. Parenting kids from hard places is hard and most of us contemplate giving up at some point. So if I help just one person – just one! – decide to stay and give it another shot (or another 10,000 shots if need be), then sharing our story so publicly is worth it.
2. This story belongs to my kids AND me.
Ultimately, my story is their story is my story. My kids and I are intertwined, co-existing in the same house. My life has forever changed since they entered it – literally nothing has been the same since the day I met them. Even my career goals have shifted.
Sometimes I struggle with all the changes. One way I cope with that is by writing and talking with other trauma parents who find something valuable in what I’ve written. Yes, this blog is a form of the oh-so-important self-care.
I have the right to share our experiences through my perspective and I want to share our losses and struggles, as well as our joys and wins.
3. You can’t SILENTLY erase stigma.
I was recently reminded of the importance of speaking out thanks to Kelly Oxford’s tweet, asking her followers to submit stories of their first sexual assault (yes – first. That should be an indication of the problem our nation faces).
Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first:
Old man on city bus grabs my “pussy” and smiles at me, I’m 12.
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) October 7, 2016
Pardon the language there, but since a presidential candidate has brought that word into the limelight I hope you all don’t mind my inclusion of it, uncensored.
I shared my story, along with millions of other women (and men). I hesitated before I shared mine – it’s disturbing and fairly graphic. But I realized… By staying silent I’m reinforcing a culture of shame around sexual assault that is directed at the victim instead of the perpetrator.
My experience was awful, but it doesn’t define me. I’m a victim, but I’m not victimized. I own what happened, put the fault where it rightfully belongs, and talk about my experience with others. By sharing my story, I take away stigma others often want to put upon me without my permission – which is another violation that I can’t stand silently by and accept.
By sharing my story, I helped spread awareness on what is a huge problem in our country and, dare I say, the entire world. Husband was shocked that there were so many people chiming in with their stories – he had no idea that so many women experience sexual assault (whether covert and violent or so covert and subtle that the victim wonders whether anything actually happened) at a rate that can only be called despicable. And I’m convinced that he – and millions more men and women – had no idea because there’s a stigma surrounding the discussion of assault and rape in our country (“Don’t air your dirty laundry,” society says… To which I say, “If we don’t air our dirty laundry, how is the washing machine manufacturer going to know there’s a problem?!”).
The same concept goes for early-childhood trauma. Remember, we had no idea that traumatic experiences before the age of five could cause long-lasting damage to our children that could take a lifetime for them to fully resolve, if they get there at all. And we didn’t know because society has a tendency to brush the effects of repeated early traumas under the rug with comments like, “Kids are resilient. Don’t focus on it and they’ll forget and move on.”
Nothing could be more wrong when it comes to the effects of sustained early-childhood trauma. And so we share our story.
Husband and I plan on sharing this mindset with our kids – their story is not shameful. They did nothing wrong. They don’t have to tell anyone and everyone every single detail that happened in their early lives, but they certainly have the right to do so. And if it helps them process what happened and they can live with the repercussions of sharing their story with others, Husband and I plan on encouraging them to share it as often as they want – we won’t allow others to silence our children when they’re speaking of their uncomfortable pasts as long as they are sharing their experiences in an appropriate manner at an appropriate time.
In fact, we’ve already dealt with this to some extent. Middle would often arrive at school after a therapy appointment ready to tell everyone she ran into about some topic we’d discussed with her counselor. Obviously sharing some topics opens our children up to ridicule from others, so her teacher encouraged her not to share such things. After we intervened, Middle now asks to speak to the counselor or the teacher in private, and she is working on understanding social dynamics with her friends. We talk frequently about what she should share with her buddies.
Can I tell them I have PTSD? Can I tell them I have Reactive Attachment Disorder? Can I tell them what that means? Can you tell them so they don’t think I’m weird? Can I tell them about my first mom? What about my wonky brain?
I recognize that my kids may not be so open as they grow up and I’m committed to staying vague about some of their specific traumatic experiences. When they’re older, I’ll respect their boundaries and delete or modify anything they ask me to change on this website. Right now, they know that I write stories about our family to help others. I show them the pictures I put online and ask if it’s okay. Middle has even read a few posts I’ve written and given me the thumbs up.
“I want other people to know that having a wonky brain isn’t weird,” she said.
That was one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced as a mother – I feel like her statement shows that she may not like what happened to her but that the shame she used to feel and struggle with on a constant basis has started to wane, even if the waning is only slight.
I hope that as they grow they continue to realize there is no reason for them to feel ashamed about what has happened to them because it wasn’t their fault.
To mitigate my self-doubt over my choice to share our family’s struggle with the effects of early-childhood trauma, I use a few tactics designed to hopefully lessen the impact of my blog posts on my children’s lives:
I don’t show Middle and Little’s faces.
I call them Oldest, Middle and Little instead of using their real names.
I’ve also gone through and deleted or modified most of the information specific to their personal traumatic histories and information on BioMom’s role in those traumatic moments. I’ve considered removing all photos of Husband and myself, as well. I don’t feel the need to do so at this time, but it’s not off the table.
My purpose here is not to exploit my children and their histories for personal gain or attention. It’s to share our story to help others navigate these tricky waters flowing around our Traumasphere.
And until my children ask me to stop, until my children suffer from what I’m writing here, I will continue to do so.
Because all of us trauma mamas and papas need to know…
We’re not alone.
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