Being a good parent with a mental disorder is not impossible
By Trish Russell
Parenting is the hardest job on the planet. When you add PTSD, it can feel like an impossible responsibility. How am I supposed to process all the demands that are coming in at one time? My brain feels like it’s going to explode.
How are we supposed to process the questions and emotional roller coasters that never seem to end? There is never a moment of relief unless we allow screen time, and that brings on new challenges.
I’m always worried I’ll say damaging words that can never be taken back.
I’m terrified my fight or flight will kick in with our children.
I’m always wondering if this is a normal parenting moment or an extreme response?
During my parenting journey, I’ve discovered a centering truth; healthy parenting with PTSD requires constant vigilance and support. As I learn to manage my life with PTSD, navigating the ongoing turmoil and feelings of inadequacy, I’m continually looking for solutions and patterns. Even though life with PTSD continues to throw me curveballs, there is an observation that continues to surprise me.
My abilities as a parent skyrocket when I put my phone down. And keep it down. I have measurable results for this too. I decrease the number of times I raise my voice. I increase the number of minutes engaged with my kids. You would think putting the phone down is easy then. My parenting is better, more loving, and less strenuous. Unfortunately, I am constantly fighting this addiction. Addiction to information. Addiction to superficial connection. Addiction to escape.
There is science explaining we are addicted to our phones because of dopamine and it requires a great amount of energy to go from one topic to another, i.e. your phone to kids.
Even knowing all of the facts and seeing the results myself I struggle. Maybe you do too. But I do not give up. I’m committed to making this change by logging all my screen time, tracking my phone picks ups, and scheduling when to “check my phone.” I have shared my addiction to close friends and therapists. It’s an area of my life I invite others to help hold me accountable because I have found that I am not able to overcome it alone.
If you find yourself less than the parent you want to be, take a step back and look at your phone usage. Repeatedly taking this step to put the phone down is something I can do immediately to make a positive impact on my mental health and for those around me. There are other things you can do in addition to putting your phone down, like these 4 Tips for Parents with PTSD.
I’ll be honest. At first, it feels weird to check my phone twice a day and delete social media apps for the weekend. I feel shaky and a sense of loss. For three years, I have made unplugging from technology part of my life rhythm, and I continue to experience the disorientation from taking a break from the online world. The good news is that after a week of being diligent, I adjust.
One day I hope to be broken of my addiction or understand how to manage technology in a healthier way. Until that day, I will keep working to free myself because when I put my phone down and keep it down, I immediately create space to be a more engaged and connected parent.