The Struggles of a Non-Custodial Parent

Once again the holiday season is here. For non-custodial parents this is a hard time of year. For some, they may not have been able to see their children for years. For others it may mean an unequal distribution of holiday time with the kids. The custodial parent gets part of each holiday, which equates to lost time with the children.

Some parents are amicable and do what is best for the kids. Other parents are selfish and think that every holiday is theirs and that the non-custodial parent does not “deserve” the time with the children.

Even when the children are grown, they are often guilted into spending the holiday with only one parent. This leaves the other parent out of the holiday experience.

Personally, I have not had an Easter, Mother’s Day, or Christmas dinner with my children for 12 years. For 6 of those years I did not see them on Easter or Christmas at all. Maybe this has made me and other non-custodial parents stronger. The time with the children becomes even more special and holidays are not necessarily the dates on the calendar.

For the non-custodial parents out there: I hope that you get to spend some time around the holidays with your children. Make each visit special.

First Visit to the House in Weeks

During October, I was in the hospital. I was not able to see the kids. This weekend will be the first time that they will be able to come to the house for a visit.

Christmas decorations will greet them when they walk through the door. I am glad to have the day to catch up with them and either watch a movie or play a game with them.

I am lucky that they still want to see me. I am sure that it has been difficult for them to have me in the hospital and not able to do as much as I would like to with them. They also understand that money is tight and we make sure that we all agree before we do anything. I am lucky to have them in my life.

I am Learning to Say No

For so many years, I have done what other people wanted or what I thought would make the other person happy. This past hospitalization changed some things. One was that I had to learn to be honest when I am overwhelmed.

A death in the family and a holiday was just enough to deal with. I had to opt out of going to my husband’s nephews religious ceremony. It was just to much. I was to amped up to go anywhere.

There are just some things that I do not have the ability to do right now. I am out of the hospital, yet recovery is going to take a while. I need to do what is best for my recovery.

Another Battle for My Kids

I had to be inpatient for a few weeks to work out a few internal conflicts and emotions. While in the hospital, I achieved and surpassed my goal. In fact, this is the first time that the techniques I have learned inside the hospital work outside of the hospital.

The downside of going inpatient is that I need to complete tasks in order to get my kids back. Sometimes it is hard knowing that I am still trying to get my bearings, yet I need to get the necessary paperwork in order to see my kids.

I had not gone in the hospital for a few years. In that time, my kids have become teenagers. Sometimes, I just want them to get to 18 so I can see them without all of these restrictions.

Having a mental illness does not mean that one will automatically lose physical custody of their children. It does mean that there will be a long and expensive battle full of experts and questioning of the kids. Luckily, my kids said that they still wanted to see me. I realize that I am lucky to still be able to have a relationship with them and watch them grow.

Coping Skills

When I am in the hospital, all I hear about are coping skills and being able to use them. I understand that they are important, however;’in the real world they are not always effective. For example, I journal as a coping skill, yet I cannot carry my journal around everywhere I go.

Part of what the hospital wants is for us to go to staff if we are having issues. Again, that is great in the hospital,yet who do I go to in the real world outside of the hospital. It is just me for most of the day.

I wish that they would teach coping skills that could easily be used in public. Maybe then we would have more success.

Out of the Hospital

This past hospitalization was extremely helpful. I made safety nets and step by step plans for everything that makes me nervous to leave the house.

I learned the steps to have a complete memory. I am starting with neutral memories and will move on from there. It is hard, yet it seems to bring a clear picture into my head.

I was as honest as I could be this hospitalization. When I could not finish something I got help from my therapist.

Now to continue this work outpatient that I started inpatient. It is not going to be easy.

Declining

For months now I have been hanging on by a thread that just seems to be getting thinner. I rarely leave the house because of my anxiety. I have become an expert at having things delivered. Anger seems like the only emotion that I am able to have.

Here is to hoping that the hospital may help with all of this. There are so many events in my life that I can just list off without feeling. I am scared to feel anything because then I may get overwhelmed. The hospital should help with regulating my emotions.They have staff that are trained to help 24 hours a day.

My eating is the worst that it has ever been. I need to get into a routine with food. I am not sure what that will even look like. Right now, I try to eat well, yet the junk food seems to call.

There are so many things to work on. I am worried that they will not get better. I feel stuck in this never ending loop that has cost me to lose those closest to me and to not allow for anyone new to get in. This has left me feeling like I am alone without anyone. It is a rough feeling.

Trying to Cope

I really do not want to go into the hospital, so I have been trying to use my coping skills. One activity I have been doing is to color. Whether the app on my phone or a color by number, it helps me to calm down. Deep breathing also seems to working. Spending time with my cats is relaxing. I am very lucky to have three sweet lap cats and they love to snuggle.

Sometimes the days are harder than others. Some days have more memories associated with them. On those days I have to make sure that I do something like journal to attempt to process those negative feelings. I am trying one day, sometimes one hour at a time.

Falling Apart *Trigger Warning*

Life is bad right now. My insurance does not have benefits for any long term care for my PTSD. I am struggling to tie memories and emotions together and struggling with safety. If I have to go into the hospital, it will be another bill that I cannot afford to pay.

My house seems like it is conspiring against me. The oven went up. The heat pump needs to be replaced or we will not have heating this winter. The other day I came into the room and noticed water on the blinds. Most likely the wood is rotten and needs to be replaced.

All of this has put so much strain on us. I am scared that we could lose our home if systems and large ticket items do not stop breaking down.

I am at a loss for how to get money, I am on a fixed income and can barely afford the essentials each month. The thought of selling my car comes to mind. Then I would not be able to get my kids or drive to therapy each week. Therapy is essential right now with my impulses the way they are.

I am hoping things get better, yet it feels as if I am being sucked into a black hole.

Resources for PTSD *Trigger Warning**

There are very few resources for people who have childhood trauma. First, there are few groups where people can gather to get assistance and support if they are struggling with symptoms. More outpatient groups are needed in order for those with symptoms to not have to turn to the hospital.

Then, very few doctors know how to treat someone with trauma. The symptoms can change depending on the time of year or if a client is triggered. Most psychiatrists do not know how to handle a patient in which suicidal thoughts run like background noise and self harm is pervasive. They cannot prescribe a pill to take the memories away or decrease the intrusive thoughts.

The cost of childhood trauma is far worse than what happened. Therapists are scarce and often do not accept insurance. For those on a limited income, therapy becomes out of reach. Unless one has a name brand insurance many hospitals that treat trauma are not accessible or affordable. A stay at a specialty hospital where all of the staff are trained on the techniques to help a client can start at $30,000. Again, for someone struggling with the outcome of childhood trauma, this is impossible to come up with.

General units do not seem to help with PTSD and trauma symptoms. Often, they are only acute care designed to just get someone out of a crisis. The problem is that a patient who is having and increase in nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or other symptoms is discharged and has no where to go. General units do not have staff trained to handle trauma or they are so short staffed that there are few around to help.

It seems to me, as a patient, that there is a big hole in the mental health system for those who have experienced childhood trauma. We need more doctors and affordable care. Insurance companies need to be aware that just because a client is not symptomatic one day does not mean that the symptoms will not increase in the following days.

Childhood trauma needs to be addressed from the doctors and therapists to the insurance companies. Once a week therapy is not enough. Limiting the number the number of sessions only increases stress and could mean that there is not any help when memories come up. The huge gap in the system needs to be fixed. Those with childhood trauma and PTSD should not have to hang on by a thread because there is no affordable help.