I go to psychotherapy weekly for my PTSD. In some ways, that’s awesome — it’s easy to see my progress, and to progress rapidly. I’ve developed good rapport with my therapist. It’s always on my calendar so it’s harder to forget.
But in other ways, it’s really, really hard.
Instead of being deeply buried, my trauma is always just under the surface, making it easier for normal life to bump against it. The emotions, thoughts, and consequent behaviors leak through much more frequently.
Less abstractly, though, it also means that every week I have to find child care for my son. We don’t live close to family, so while other people might think it was a great chance for their little one to hang out with Grandma or Auntie or whoever, I don’t have that option.
It’s further complicated by the fact that I have a hard time asking for help. I feel like if I need help, I’m doing something wrong. I feel like a burden. I feel like I will be resented and shamed for asking. It’s always worse when it’s people I really want to think well of me, and who I am eager to give help to. Like if I am “needy,” I’m disqualified from their friendship somehow.
(In other words, my PTSD makes it hard for me to find a sitter so I can go to therapy for PTSD. Go figure.)
But I figured out a system, and it’s working. So I wanted to share it with you.
First, make a list of all of the people in your life who would happily hang out with you child, and who you would feel OK asking to do that. Think about each of your social circles — family, work, church, neighbors, etc. If this list seems slim, maybe it’s time to invite some of these people over for dinner and deepen some friendships. The goal here is to have 6-8 people in total.
For me, there’s the wives of the guys my husband carpools with, a neighbor, a couple of moms at church, and an old friend. With this list of people, I’ve essentially established a rotation (not that they’re really privy to it) for who watches X while I’m at therapy. And if someone is sick or out of town, I just move on to the next person on the list.
Among these close friends, requesting free childcare every five or six weeks is no big deal. I don’t feel needy, and I don’t feel overmuch like I need to reciprocate in some way. That’s especially good, since other people’s small children are really, really hard on my PTSD. Even if I do want to give something back, it’s easy enough to find ways to do it that don’t involve childcare swaps. Bringing over dinner one night, or offering to run an errand — that I can do.
And then, everyone’s life gets subsequently sweeter.