Motherhood, PTSD and the Loss of Optimism


by Melissa Geissinger

2018-05-12 20.32.18

Strength and perseverance has always come easy to me. I've always been a 'glass half full' kind of person. To be fair, I haven't had the hardest life, but I can usually find a very clear path forward whenever the universe decides to make things interesting.

The universe lately has had one sick sense of humor.

I remember vividly the day we found out about Apollo's condition.

Sitting in the exam room having an ultrasound, just to make sure everything was okay. 99% chance it was going to be fine.

"There's something wrong with your baby's heart."

Go on to learn about all the potential slew of potential horrific ways defects can manifest. From certain death to basically raising a vegetable who would never have a chance at a real life.

That was the worst day off my life.

One of countless ultrasounds / prenatal echos studying Apollo's heart.
One of countless ultrasounds / prenatal echos studying Apollo's heart.
Optimism through the ashes
Optimism through the ashes

The more answers we got the easier it was to swallow. We found out exactly what type of heart condition it was. It actually had a name. It existed. There were diagrams from a book. It was tangible. There was a set course of action. We had a plan. A roadmap. We figured it out together. It made us stronger.

Then came the night of October 8, 2017. A wildfire burned over the hill. We smelled smoke. The winds picked up and the power went out as transformers popped. We barely got out alive with all our animals. Everything was gone. Decimated.

That was the new worst day of my life.

We could lay all that we now owned on the bed in front of us. It was devastating, but somehow the idea of starting over allowed us to get back on our feet and look forward to rebuilding our lives.

What was left of my home after the Tubbs fire. Image taken October 20, 2017, the first day residents had access to their property.
What was left of my home after the Tubbs fire. Image taken October 20, 2017, the first day residents had access to their property.

Apollo was born and he had his first surgery, according to plan. Unexpected complications and emergency surgery, and at 15 days old I was scared he would die.

That was the new worst day of my life.

After months in the hospital, with a couple more worst days thrown in there, we were home. "If he turns blue, get back to the hospital ASAP. If he gets sick, get back to the hospital ASAP." The hospital is 90 minutes away. Couldn't sleep for days, terrified out of my mind his shunt would fail and we'd have to take an emergency helicopter ride.

The most unsettling two weeks of my life.

But we made it through. We counted every milliliter of formula, every gram he gained, and when we got back for his next procedure, his team was impressed. We did a fantastic job, they said.

Home after 2 and a half months and scared out of my mind.
Home after 2 and a half months and scared out of my mind.
Mother's Day, 2018. It was pretty miserable.
Mother's Day, 2018. It was pretty miserable.

After another heart surgery, we're back home. He won't eat. He's supposed to be better but he's regressing. I feel helpless. A bad mom. I hit my breaking point and screamed so loud my mother thought she needed to take him away from me for his own safety.

And the other night the power went out, and I had a legit panic attack. I thought about the mad scramble to herd the cats while relying on my cellphone light to find my way through the dark house. I couldn't breathe through the memory of the ash pummeling me at 70 miles per hour.

I may have reached my new rock bottom.

My state of mind is entirely linked to how well my son is doing. Most of the time, I hate being a mother. I hate saying it, but it's the truth. I mourn the loss of myself. My career. My productivity. My motivation. My sanity. Most of all, my optimism. I don't know who I am anymore.

I'm losing my ability to see silver linings and that scares me most of all. Without the hope that tomorrow will be a better day, I worry that everything I am and everything I've always strived to be is lost.

I need tomorrow. I need some day. I need the potential for good things to happen for me again.

New glasses
Author

Melissa Geissinger

Melissa is a writer, serial entrepreneur, and a heart mom. She started Survival Over Surrender in May of 2019. She lives in Bodega Bay with her husband Cole, son Apollo, two dogs and two cats. She enjoys cooking, writing, photography, live music, daydreaming, and convincing herself to get outside because she's always happiest when she's exploring. 


9 Comments

  1. Stephanie Thain on May 22, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    My heart hears you Missy, I know every Mom thinks she is just not cutting it many times in her child’s life. You have been thrown an extra helping of stuff that I know would make me a nutcase.
    Life gives to you and life takes from you, is this how we gain our self confidence our strength? Most of us are so fortunate to have been brought up by great parents, and with this in your basket , I know you will persevere…. your Mom And Dad are the best! I’ve gone thru many trials in my time, two children that are blessed in being healthy and smart. I went thru a divorce that put me into depression and reaching for love in relationships that were not to be, and so I continue my challenges alone for the most part. But I’ve never given up, yes had some good crying spells, yes doubted myself and my choices, let myself down. But in it all I kept a faith that it was going to be alright. I found a peace that calms my soul and my mind. I sleep pretty well at night. I look forward to the next day.
    I’m not the preachy type, not the pushy type. I just want to let you know I found my peace in God, that’s all I will say. I have faith in God that although this world really sucks at times and the issues we face are devastating, sickening, life threatening, and unfair. The faith I have will get me thru it all.
    Missy, it’s been a very hard year for you and Cole. You may think one more thing is going to break you. But, it won’t because of who you are, a sweet girl that I remember going to see Kenny Loggins was the best moment and memory to call back on in rough times. Your a woman who knows her business and who has such an abundance of talent. Your a woman who is now a mother, and this part is for the rest of your life, so stop and look at what and who you have beside you and in your arms, calm your soul, settle your heart and give it to God. I have faith it will all be ok maybe not easy but it’ll be OK.
    Love ya Stephanie

  2. Gary Brady on May 22, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Hi Millissa, congratulations on Apollo.
    Lots of people care about you
    Your a loving person, also I hope by now your accepting meds if needed. No excuse
    These may sound corny..they work for me. I have repeated them to myself until they became a part of me

    GOD grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

    God, I offer myself to Thee – To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.

    When your ready,
    let go and let GOD handle it, keep your health and ❤️ safe for the one’s you love. That is all any one of us could ever do

  3. Amee on May 22, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Is it ok if I am still optimistic for you? Because I am. I see you in there and it’s going to be ok. It just is. Also, I’m talking to myself while writing this. In bed. Fully dressed. Something smells like poop and a little kid is screaming for more ice cream. In my face.

  4. Eric on May 22, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    I wish you the best. The only things that come to mind are silly sayings, like, well you know … none are worthy. I believe you are strong and important in this world. I believe you are going to succeed in all life’s tests. You share wonderful truths. Know that Mel and I are right around the court for you, for anything!

  5. Vincent Poggi on May 23, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Melissa,
    Michelle and I have only started to know you, Cole and Apollo because of the shared tragedy of the Tubbs Fire. It’s unlikely that we would have got to know the many details of your lives had the Tubbs Fire not happened. I hope this message helps. Please forgive me if I am sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.

    Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever have.
    You never get a day off, vacation or retirement.
    Parenting will take you to your limits and beyond. The good news is that next time your limits will be higher.
    In the end, the rewards are greater than you can imagine.
    You can do it!

    Respectfully,
    Vincent Poggi

  6. Donata Mikulik on May 23, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing Melissa-The happiness-washing of parent experiences is infuriating! There’s some quote about it’s only in the depths of our sadness that we learn the depths of our happiness… so I hope your optimism returns (with just a little more sleep)! Being a parent pushes us to all limits, though I would never venture to think I could know what you’ve been through, but apparently I keep following your posts so here we are.

    One thing that my littles have brought me is all that optimism, delight, zest for life reflected back as they get older – and it’s surreal to see the joy you’re missing now coming out of that sweet little body aimed straight for you!

  7. Michelle on May 23, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    You are not alone. Rely on your tribe, your peeps, your family, your dearest ones…then, just take one breath, one moment, one day, one obstacle, one victory at a time.

  8. […] go through a trauma, it creates a rift in your life. For me anyway, there is the life I had before the fire and my son being born, and there is the life I have […]

  9. […] Read this First: Motherhood, PTSD and the Loss of Optimism […]

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