Cancer Free And Trauma…Plus Some Potty Training Tips

I haven’t been up to really writing this post even though as of January 2nd, our beliefs were finally confirmed after a biopsy, that I am indeed cancer free.

You see, except for mild pneumonia, from which I was able to recover at home, this was my first medical scare that required a hospitalization, a MRI under anesthesia, and a procedure in the OR all within 3 months.  Going to an oncologist also isn’t fun even though nobody ever really threw around the “C-word.”

This is unusual for people with severe cerebral palsy.  I’m very blessed to not have needed surgeries to fix joints and other things that can come with having severe or even mild cerebral palsy.

But after over 2.5 years of trauma due to the three major losses in our family, this pretty much sent us over the edge. I felt guilty at first for not being as happy that I was cancer free like everyone else because, for me (and my husband since he has to care and comfort me), it isn’t over.

Plus, because I’m unable to walk around like typical people and I have spasms, it takes me longer to physically heal.

As one of my good friends says, it’s actually satan-induced anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I have.  They are not mine to own.  Going to the bathroom can still be scary for me.  Sometimes certain things that happen in the bathroom or in my body send me into a panic attack or PTSD episode.

I want to talk about PTSD for a moment especially with this recent school shooting.  As I said in my previous post, people in this society don’t take mental health issues seriously.  They worry about the physical well-being of people, and only and/or repeatedly argue about objects that hurt and murder people when they are in the wrong hands.  Keeping them out of the wrong hands is crucial but also almost impossible because if someone truly wants to do something bad, they will.

That’s the sad truth. So learning how the young mind works and about mental health issues is one of the best ways to stop some or most of these horrible tragedies.

What is PTSD?

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault” (American Psychiatric Association, 2017, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd).

This video also describes PTSD very well.

I am working very hard to overcome this. My abusive background doesn’t make it easy because there’s PTSD from that as well.  However, through medication, including medical marijuana, meditation, professional counseling, writing positive notes to remind myself of all that’s good in my life, my small support group, and spending time with the Lord, I am slowly getting better.

It’s quite a process and I have to learn to be okay with however long this takes.  I have to learn how to not berate myself every time I perceive a “setback.”  Even learning self compassion is extremely difficult for me.

Why?  Because I grew up with a dad who was abusive, and school personnel putting me down. Plus, my disability has occasionally been treated as a “burden.”  Or at least this is how I felt as a child sometimes.

Children are very sensitive to their parents.  Everything we say to them is ingrained into their brains FOREVER — even if we don’t think they are listening.

Potty training for children is one of those crucial times when parents either remain patient, compassionate, and encouraging or become angry, punitive, and sometimes even abusive.  In both cases, most parents mean well but some understand gentle parenting and the consequences of not being gentle while others do not.

Bathroom trauma is REAL.  I found this article to be very informative about bathroom trauma in children.  It’s so important that young children have positive associations with going to the bathroom.

Here’s what I tell parents regarding potty training their children:

*Wait until the child is showing interest in the bathroom to slowly introduce him/her to the potty.

*Let them lead the way.

*Read fun books about going potty.

*Let them pick out their new underwear.

*Give them plenty of choices for what potty they want to use.  Some children like the small, portable potty chairs and use them while watching tv or wherever they are most comfortable.  Other children want to use the toilet with a small seat on the toilet and a footstool to put their feet on.

*Allow them to experiment with going back and forth between diapers and underwear.

*Expect many accidents and don’t overreact.  After all, we ALL have accidents.

*Gently remind children to go potty many times as they are often so into what they’re doing that they miss the signals that they need to go until it’s too late.

*NEVER force potty training.  Don’t punish or reward them.  This shouldn’t make them feel as if their whole identity is contingent on being able to go potty. You may celebrate by doing the “potty dance,” saying, “Yay! You did it,” and giving high fives.

*Poop is the hardest for young children to master when it comes to potty training. Give them plenty of liquids to keep their stools soft. Hard, painful bowel movements often make young children (and even some adults) afraid to go to the bathroom and then they hold it too long.

*Be careful with flushing the toilet in front of the children. It could startle them. And children can view poop as “a part of them” for a while and will get very upset when it’s flushed down the toilet.  This won’t last long.

*Use correct terms for body parts.

*Make the potty routine fun.  Read books, splash and/or run water (it helps them pee), sing fun songs, have special “potty toys,” and do whatever else you can to make going potty as fun as possible.

*Finally, feel free to set limits on the type of talk and behaviors that are only for the bathroom.  Children don’t have filters and exploring new language and body parts is so fun and funny to them. Give them a safe, private place to do this.  This is an excellent time to also reiterate body consent and who may and may not touch certain body parts.

If these basic guidelines are followed by us, most children will master potty training by the age of four.  Please be gentle during the whole potty training process even if it’s really hard sometimes.

Having experience with PTSD, abuse, and trauma, I truly implore anyone reading this to place more importance on, and time into, creating healthy human beings from conception on. They are our future.

Every child and adult reacts to trauma in very different ways and that needs to be fully explored and parents should do their best to look for warning signs as should others in the community.  It still takes a village to raise children.

Mental illnesses usually are rooted in childhood trauma.  Here are two excellent books that explain how trauma can affect children:

The Boy who was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry.

Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley.

I truly believe that by respecting children from conception on and providing compassion to them in the worst of their moments is the way to a healthier—both physically and emotionally—society.  Compassion matters!

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