Traumatic Stress

stressed woman 2jpg

Moms have a way of holding it together until a crisis is over. Then what happens? Read about what happened to me.


After Chris recovered from his first psychotic episode, he returned to school. First, he went for only a few hours. Then, he attended for most of the day. Finally, he managed staying the entire day.

Although things were back to normal, I felt unusually tired, cried easily, and overreacted to situations. My fragile emotions caught me by surprise when I least expected it. Like the time Rob called to ask for ride home from school.

“Mom, could you come and pick me up? Band rehearsal is over.”

“Sure, I’ll be there in a ten minutes.”

When I arrived at the high school, there was no sign of Rob. As I waited in the car, I observed a mob of teenagers at the end of the large parking lot. Just then, I noticed the principal and vice principal walking towards them. Soon after, the huge crowd dispersed. The administrator returned to the school building.

Something must be going down. Maybe a fight.

The arrival of two police cars interrupted my predictions.

Looks like I’m right. Those kids were up to no good. Where’s Rob? He needed a ride home. He said band practice had finished.

A horrible thought crossed my mind.

Was Rob a target of some sort of violence? Did those kids see him waiting for me and beat him up? With the way our lives have been going, I wouldn’t be surprised. Oh, Lord, please let that not be what happened.

I tried to comfort myself.

Calm down, Vicki, Maybe he’s just watching the whole thing.

Such a thought was no comfort.

If he’s doing that, I’ll kill him!

I drove to a pay phone to call home (since this was before smart phones and texting). To my shock, Rob answered the phone.

“Rob, didn’t you call and ask me to pick you up from school?”

“Oh, yeah. Dave’s parents offered to drive me home. Sorry.”

What a typical teen! He acted in the moment. Rob was home safe and sound while I was mentally living my own worst-case scenario.

My emotions swirled inside. Now that I knew Rob was safe, I felt relieved.

Now I can fall apart. Have a good cry

My thoughts were interrupted by the car in my rearview mirror. I hadn’t yet driven off the school grounds and one of the police cars was behind me. So I focused on my speed. Driving fifteen miles an hour isn’t easy!

Making a right onto the road, I noticed the speed limit sign. Deep concentration was in order. No time to fall apart or let my mind wander.

Keep it at 25 miles an hour, Vicki. Did the cop turn right? Yes. Better make sure I signal to turn left at the next light. Don’t forget to turn on your turn signal. Check your speed. Don’t start to cry. Hold it together.

After I turned left onto the next road, I noticed the police offer did the same. There were two lanes going in my direction, so I slowed down. Making it easy for the cop to pass me. He didn’t. He stuck behind me past three more traffic lights. Even when I turned right, he followed my route.

He must be following me. Why’s he following me? I really don’t need this. I don’t know if I can hold it together much longer—

My thoughts were interrupted again. His lights signaled me to pull over.

Perfect, just perfect!! I’ve never been pulled over before. I don’t even know how this works. I guess I need to get out my license, registration. Do I need my insurance? Better get that too, just in case.

By the time I collected all the documents, he still hadn’t approached my car.

What’s he doing? What’s going on? He followed me all the way from the high school. Did he think I was somehow involved in the fight? Is he waiting for more back-up? Oh, how embarrassing! What did I do wrong? I’ll tell him the truth: my son was missing and I thought he was being beat up. The officer would believe me because he saw me drive away from the school.

After what seemed like an eternity, he still didn’t walk towards me.

Maybe I’m supposed to get out and go to him.

Finally, the officer appeared at my window.

“Hi ma’am. How are you doing?” he asked in a very pointed manner.

“Fine officer,” I lied.

“The date on your registration sticker has expired. You should have gotten a new one four months ago. This is just a reminder. You need to get that taken care of as soon as possible.”

With all that had been going on in our lives, it’s no wonder why we hadn’t attended to that detail. Even though the officer didn’t ask me any questions, I felt the need to spill my emotional story.

“I thought my son was missing.”

“Do you know where he is?”

“Yes. He’s home.”

“I’ve met your son.”

His comment thrust my mind back into worst-case-scenario mode.

Why would our local officer know Rob? What did he do?

I continued with my calm façade and casually asked, “Oh? How do you know my son?”

“I was there that night.”

THAT night.’ He met Chris the night Chris assaulted Howie and me? That’s the night the police took him to the hospital in handcuffs. The night Chris was admitted into the psychiatric unit of our hospital.

The emotions of ‘that night’ hit me like a tidal wave. Transporting me back to Chris’s behavior. Scenes I had suppressed in my mind flashed like lightning bolts in my head. Chris’s distorted thinking. His accusations that we assaulted him. I feared the police believed Chris’s words. Before I could speak, the officer expressed compassion.

“How’s your son doing?”

“He’s doing fine. Much better. It’s a shame you saw him like that because that’s not at all like he is.”

“We knew that he was dealing with mental issues. Actually he was pretty funny that night.”

‘Pretty funny’ wouldn’t be how I’d describe Chris that night.

“Thank you, officer,” I said politely as a way of saying I’m done with this conversation.

As I drove home, scenes of that afternoon replayed in my head: the mob of kids, being pulled over, the officer knowing ‘my son’, the officer being there ‘that night.’ I realized when the officer asked me how I was doing he knew what our family had experienced. He cared.

God used a man who upholds the law to show me compassion. It took me a while to realize that. The traumatic stress of my life blocked the verbal hug God sent my way.

Kind of like Joshua. The looming stress of the upcoming battle of Jericho prevented him from recognizing his Lord.

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’”  Joshua 5:13

 “‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’”  Joshua 5:14

Ask God to help you recognize His love for you and to hear the message He has for you today.

May this song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord”, be our prayer:

2 thoughts on “Traumatic Stress

  1. I think I will just expect to cry after every post… Love you, Vicki. Your blog is helping me get through the swirling emotions like none other.

    Lisa Copen Rest Ministries Founder, Director Be sure to sign up at our website for our daily devotionals!

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Dear Lisa,
    I’m grateful it’s helping you. Your empathetic tears help remove my feelings of isolation…because you know.
    As you’re aware, I’m an expert crier…Have shed many a tear, but I’m still standing strong in the Lord. And so are you! Praise God for His faithfulness.
    In constant prayer for you,

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