May is Mental Health Awareness month. The synchronicity of this being my son’s birth month and the same month that I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not lost on me. (if you want to know more about this, click here). So, for the sake of possibly helping someone, I am about to tell you about my journey with PTSD and how I went from surviving to thriving.
Two years ago today, May 16th, 2017, my life forever changed; it was the day that my son, Jace, was born. However, it is not the typical “he changed my life because he was born” story. This was the day that we both became survivors for the second time in 9 weeks. As I have casually mentioned previously, I was in a head on car accident (the rate of speed upon impact was 100 mph) at 32 weeks pregnant with Jace. I sustained substantial tissue and nerve damage in my left hip, a lower back injury and a severe contusion to my right foot and knee. Upon arrival to the hospital, Jace was not showing any life signs other than an extremely low heart rate. I was immediately prepped for an emergency c-section. Right before they took me back, they did one more ultrasound to check on him, and by some miracle his heart rate had gone up and he was moving! After 24 hours of monitoring I was allowed to return home. We were now part of the 1% of pregnancy traumas that were capable of going to full term. While this was absolutely a miracle, the mental toll that this had on me was profound. I had serious survivor guilt as well as night terrors, irritability, sleeplessness and panic attacks. Managing to fulfill the daily functions of life up until the day that I went into labor was a challenge.
Due to the severity of the accident I was placed on constant fetal monitoring during labor. Everything seemed to be going as planned until it was time for delivery. Essentially, it was never caught after the accident, but he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times (known as a nuchal cord). The third nuchal cord slipped off during delivery causing what’s called a “true knot” in the umbilical cord, cutting off nutrient and oxygen supply. By the time that this was realized, it was too late for a c-section and we were in a true emergency situation. Upon delivery, Jace was non-responsive and was immediately taken by the pediatric team. While the team was working on Jace, the doctor discovered that I had severe hemorrhaging due to abrupt placenta detachment. It was in this moment, watching my mom cry and plead and my husband panic, that I felt like what was emotionally left of me, died. Miraculously, we both made a full physical recovery and were sent home within a few days.
At the request of family member’s, I had been placed into therapy right after the accident. It wasn’t until 3 weeks after Jace was born that I got the formal diagnosis of PTSD. I was embarrassed. Here I am married to a service member and I interact with people all the time that have PTSD. One of our families dearest friends are a Gold Star family, because their son lost his battle with PTSD. What did I do that warranted the same diagnosis as these brave men and women? So, I internalized everything and my life began to spiral out of control. I stopped eating healthy, I stopped wanting to go anywhere, I was irritable with everyone and the Lauren that they used know slowly disappeared.
Talking about what happened helped more than I thought
I got my first lifeline when we took the kids back home to Colorado for Jace’s baptism. We went to meet with the pastor and she explained that they were currently in the middle of a series of sermons where they talk about God’s unexplained miracles and how they can show up unexpectedly. We all looked at each other and were amazed that no matter the circumstances, we were always being reminded of our miracle. We explained how Jace and I both narrowly escaped death not once but twice and are both in fairly decent shape. We also told her, that it wasn’t until after he was born that we looked up the meaning of his name. Jace is the shortened version of Jason, which in Greek means “the healer.” The pastor asked if I would share my story during Jace’s baptism because we were both living miracles! I reluctantly agreed. I knew that there must be a reason why we showed up when we did for his baptism and that for whatever reason I needed to share our story. Up until this point, I hadn’t shared the full story with anyone outside of my family and my husband. The day of his baptism I felt sick. My hands shook so bad I could hardly hold my notes but nevertheless I got up and spoke my truth. Afterwards, I was surprised how much better I felt to have been honest and vulnerable. It was then that I realized the only way that I was going to make it, was to speak about what had happened.
Meditation helped me manage my PTSD
Upon my arrival back in North Carolina, I continued to see my therapist and the night terrors and visions still persisted. I knew that if I was going to get where I longed to be, I had to dig deep. I had no choice. My kids needed me more than ever, as my husband prepared to do a two-year unaccompanied tour in Bahrain. The thought of doing this alone was terrifying. My husband has been my rock since I was 15 years old and now when I felt like I needed him the most, he was called to serve and I had to stand on my own. I knew that preventing an episode would be key, so I began to research ways to keep my mind in check. The first thing that came up was meditation. I was absolutely terrified to try it the first time, because I was honestly afraid to be alone with my own thoughts. The first time, I lasted a minute before the visions began and the panic set in. But I promised myself that I would try one minute at a time until it got easier. After a while, I was able to make it 15 minutes without a panic attack! I knew I was onto something.
My Spiritual Awakening saved my life
The easier the meditating became the more I was able to cope with my visions and night terrors. Anytime that one would come up I would remind myself that it is not real and that I was safe. In these moments I was slowly learning how to stop living in the past and be mindfully present. It was during this time that my spiritual awakening really took off. (You can read more about my awakening here.) I knew that I wasn’t alone and that I was not in control of what happened in my past but that I had a choice on how to move forward. I could choose fear or I could have faith and slowly move forward. The bible verse, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 reminded me that I needed to place all of my fear with Him and fully surrender in order to feel peace. After 8 months of working on being mindfully present, surrendering my fear and developing my evolving faith in the universe, I was able to stop seeing my therapist. I would still have triggers but I was able to deal with them on my own and this was a huge milestone for me!
Fast forward to today and I can tell you that I am still not 100% but I am damn close! I still have little fleeting moments where I can feel the panic set in but just as quickly as it comes, I am able to move forward. The Lauren that was in the accident on March 11th at 1:11 p.m. no longer exists but a new and improved version took her place. I needed to walk through hell to become who I am today. The silver lining was that I needed to learn how to be strong without being supported by those around me. I had always been a strong person but through all of the hardships I had ever faced, I never truly dealt with the trauma. Instead, I placed all of that burden on my husband and that was not his load to bear. While, what happened to me will always be a part of my story, I refuse to let it define me. I am not PTSD, I am not damaged, I am not broken. I am just Lauren, a strong and resilient woman, with a few extra bruises and scars. I am now taking an active role as an intuitive healer to help people heal from mental, physical and emotional traumas using a holistic approach.
If you deal with PTSD or severe anxiety, I want you to know that I see you. I know what type of hell you are going through and that the darkness is profound. I want you to know that you do not have to deal with this alone. I encourage you to reach out to anyone; a friend, a family member, a therapist, even me and ask for help. You may fall many times along the way but baby steps are still steps forward, so I implore you to never give up. There is always light in the dark, dim as it may seem but it is always present. Find it and cling to it for dear life.
Thank you to all of my close friends and family members that have towed the line with me for the last two years. I appreciate all of your love and support more than you know. Kaylee, my beautiful daughter, without your warm smile and constant hugs, life would be unbearable. Jace, thank you for being my light in the dark and for reminding me of my true purpose- to be an intuitive healer.
“Healers are spiritual warriors who have found the courage to defeat the darkness of their souls. Awakening and rising from the depths of their deepest fears, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Reborn with a wisdom and strength that creates a light that shines bright enough to help encourage and inspire others out of their own darkness.”
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide- please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.