Dealing with PTSD and social anxiety with Coralie Seys
Today, we are welcoming Coralie who is a single mom I actually know personally as she is part of my family. I have to say this episode particularly touched me and it was so interesting to learn more about what happened to her and her son Thomas as he developed social anxiety a few years ago following a traumatic event.
Thank you for listening, feel free to share if you think it might be helpful to someone you know. If you enjoyed this episode, then please make sure to give it a rating and subscribe if you haven’t already. See you soon with the next episode and in the meantime have a lovely day!
Positive Education, positive upbringing, PTSD, social anxiety, trauma, parenting, improve communication, support
Julie Pabion 0:05
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the bubbling adventure, a podcast all about kids and how educating them positively can impact their entire life as well as society. Each week, we're having conversations with guests on different themes. And now our aim is to have open discussions, share different points of view, and learn in a non judgmental way. Today we're welcoming Coralie, who is a single mom, I actually know personally, as she's part of my family. These episodes particularly touched me, and it was so interesting to learn more about what happened to her and her son tumor as he developed social anxiety following a traumatic events. But without further ado, let's begin.
Hi, Coralie, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you doing?
Coralie Seys 1:16
Hi, Julie. Thank you. I'm doing very well. And I'm so pleased to be connected with you today.
Julie Pabion 1:21
It's a real pleasure for me. Thank you so much for being here. Could I please ask you to introduce yourself?
Coralie Seys 1:28
Yes. So my name is Coralie. In a few weeks, I am going to be 50 years old. No way I yes. And I have a 19 year old son who was called Toma, we are both from France. We were both born in Lille, France. And I was raised from the age of six years old to 22 years old in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. At the age of 22, I chose to go back to France to reconnect with my origins and my family, which you are a part of. And initially I had thought going back for one year, and I ended up staying 24 years. That's how much I enjoyed spending...
Julie Pabion 2:16
But you loved us so much, you had to come back!
Coralie Seys 2:19
Yes, yes, exactly. Exactly. And so I got married in France, to a French man. We had a son in 2001. And unfortunately, a few years later, after Thomas birth, we divorced. I continued living in France so that Thomas and his dad would continue their relationship because that is something I did not have when I was younger. I did not know my dad. So I thought it important for Tama and his dad to continue seeing each other and maintain that relationship. And then in 2017, Thomas and I decided to come and live back in Vancouver, Canada. So that's where we are right now.
Julie Pabion 3:03
Amazing, great. And I imagine it must have been hard. And was it an easy decision for Thomas to make to move to Canada?
Coralie Seys 3:12
Actually, the initial decision came from Thomas, because I had always thought that I might not be coming back to live in Canada until Thomas was really an adult and had his own life. So I had always told myself that I would not ask Thomas to move to Canada because the relationship with his dad in his stepbrothers being so important, because he has to stepbrothers that, as a person as a human, I could not break that relationship by taking trauma and bringing him to Canada. So at a point in our life, I was living with somebody new, Richard, that Thomas and Richard got along really well but at some point after eight years of living together, Richard and I's paths kind of deviated. So we separated and on very good terms because even now from Canada, we communicate regularly and he's he's still a very precious friend. But at that time I talked to him about Okay, Richard are going to be separating. Don't worry, you were going to find an apartment, in Miribelle. We were living in Miribelle at that time. We're going to find an apartment, everything's going to be fine. We'll still see the shower once in a while, whatever. And at that time, Thomas said, Well, why don't we go live in Canada? I said, Are you kidding? He said no, I'd love to live in Canada. He'd been here already three times for a month at a time to stay with my mom. And so then we started thinking about that for three months. I tell him while your friends won't be close family will be far it's not that easy. And he still wanted to do it. So he asked permission to his dad. His dad said, Okay, I knew this was going to be coming one day or another. So okay, you can go. And so Tom and I packed up and came here.
Julie Pabion 5:11
Amazing. What a change.
Coralie Seys 5:14
Unknown Speaker 5:15
I think it's great that it was coming from him.
Coralie Seys 5:18
And yes, in a way he wanted to connect with a part of with a part of my origins.
Julie Pabion 5:25
Yes. That's sweet. Yes. And so something happened to Thoma a few years ago. Obviously, I know but I would rather you tell us in your own words.
Coralie Seys 5:37
Yes. Yes. It's it's a very long story. And I can't give all the information but I can, I can summarize it. And there was two issues. So first of all, the more minor issue was that Thomas suffered a sports accident in school where they were building a human pyramid. And of course, to my being a big strong boy, he was at the bottom of the pyramid. And when the pyramid crashed, somebody fell on Thomas back in the middle of his shoulder blades. And he suffered a condition that is now called scapular dyskinesia, which is basically that the shoulder blade muscles lost all the information on how to function. And so this is very painful when it flares up to my stays blocked for days and days at a time. So one day, the school called me to say that time I was blocked, so I went there. When arriving there, I saw that he was really blocked. I had never seen him that much in pain. So we decided to take him to the emergency room and ambulance came in took him to the emergency room. I followed the ambulance with my car. And there unfortunately, we met a doctor who had no sympathy for the pain Thomas was going through and looking back on it. I think that the doctor thought that Thomas was faking it to like be out of school or something like that. So he manipulated Thomas back in the wrong way, which made to my fate and be an extreme pain. And it's just I hate talking about this experience. So at that point, I was completely panicked as a mom. So I took my phone and I called Thomas dad who also lived very close to us and I said, Hey, you have to come out here. I don't know what's happening with Thomas. So his dad left work in a rush came out to see us we stayed the whole day in the emergency room and in the afternoon time I was feeling much better. They had given him pain medicines and so he was feeling much better and to cheer them Christophe announced (Christophe is Thomas' dad) announced to Thomas that he was getting divorced from his second wife which was very good
Julie Pabion 8:04
To cheer him up?
Coralie Seys 8:05
Yes to cheer him up because Thomas had a very hard relationship with his stuff second wife cuz stuff second wife never accepted him as part of the family. She was abusive to him verbally, physically, mentally, and she had a very negative huge impact on who Toma is now. He even doesn't think he's good looking. He thinks he's fat he all these things that she put in his mind. He thinks he's dumb, all this things she put in his mind that even now he has trouble getting rid of so it was good news for them. So Thomas was thrilled he congratulated his dad told his dad This was so it kind of felt like a fresh start for his dad because this woman was also verbally and physically abusive with the dad and took my what see that so he was just so happy his dad was gonna get out of the situation. So end of the day, we go home. Thomas sleeps that night and has nightmares all night long. The next day, he wakes up, and he's not feeling well. He's scared. He's, he doesn't want to leave his room. So I'm not really realizing what's happening yet. And I'm thinking that it's the traumatizing experience that he lived with a doctor. I'm just trying to sick and come eat at the table and he's on No. So I'm thinking also his back is still sore. He's still on pain medicines. So I leave him be the second night. Still all sorts of nightmares like he's gonna die or people are hunting him down or just horrible, horrible things. He wakes up he's not feeling good. He doesn't want to leave his room. He doesn't want to get out of his bed. And that's when I started to think hey, this is not normal. Because Thomas is somebody who always wants to go outside always wants to see people always wants to talk and he's really folding back in himself. So I start talking to him, I say, Hey, what's going on? And he says, I don't know. If I think about leaving my bed I I get heart palpitations, I don't feel well, I feel like throwing up my head is turning like, well, this is kind of weird. So I call our general practitioner or doctor who says, Okay, well bring to my out to me. And we'll see. So I wasn't able to take Thomas to the appointment because Thomas did not want to leave the apartment. So I said, Okay...
Julie Pabion 10:37
So that was on the day after the accident?
Coralie Seys 10:40
the second day, the second day. Okay, so I asked the doctor to come and see us. And that's when the doctor said that tomo was living, post traumatic stress disorder. And at first we were really thinking that it was related 100% to the doctor we had seen in the emergency room as the days and weeks moved forward. And this was not getting better. We started realizing that it was also all of the trauma that Thomas had lived with his dad's ex wife during 13 years, because they had a 13 year period together when his dad announced that he was leaving this woman overnight, all that trauma that he'd been holding that came out. So as a mom, it was very difficult to live. And I might even cry if I talked about it. It was very difficult to live. Because not having realized, during 13 years what my son was living on the other side, I took it as like I was a failure to my son, I hadn't protected him as I wanted. So it's very hard even now to speak about it. It's very hard. So my has explained to me since during counseling sessions that he did not want to say things to me about what he was living or what was happening, because I'd automatically go back to Christophe and his wife and talk to them about it and tell him I was scared that it would accentuate what she was doing to him. So he was auto protecting himself from it not getting worse by leaving me out of it. So then we had the whole discussion about I'm your mum, I'm here to protect you and everything. But yeah, so it was very hard. Once all that was over with our doctor, we decided that we had to find help for tomorrow. So we were still living in France at the time, we found him counseling with a psychologist that he was going to see once a week and our doctor had given him little exercises to do that we had to go try to go get out of the house twice a day. So it would start by just opening the front door and closing it because he couldn't go any farther, then the next day would be maybe opening the front door going to steps coming back in. So we were doing these regularly to build up and up and up, which worked quite well.
Julie Pabion 13:05
So just to recap, at first he was only in his bed, then around the flats, and then outside more and more progressively,
Coralie Seys 13:16
yes, progressively going outside. And then one day we were able to go around the building the next so it was very progressive every day and then we would write down when we came back in we would write down the daily progress and celebrate the daily winning So
Julie Pabion 13:35
how long did it take for him to actually be able to go outside?
Coralie Seys 13:41
a week to 10 days and in a period of three months he was able to to regain a normal life we did so far ology and counseling that worked pretty good on him. Then we I asked him because we had already planned to move to Canada when this happened. So I asked him Do you want me to cancel?
Julie Pabion 14:03
Right - So in the middle of everything,
Coralie Seys 14:06
I asked, Do you want me to cancel our trip? We can do this next year we can do this whenever and he said no, I still want to go I want to go so we continue we moved countries and we arrived here to my was feeling okay. Then he started school here. And one day at school here I got a call from the school that Thomas back was blocked. So I go to school and pick him up. It wasn't as bad as the time in France. So I was able to take him home, give him his pain medicines and all but I think in his mind, it retriggered what happened with the doctor and the whole vicious circle of things. So we started up again with the anxiety with the everything. We were getting it better and better than there was days that were better and then there was a big fall and then you'd have to build up again. It's not a progressive thing. So I decided to take a year off work, I asked my employer, can I take a year off to support my son? So they said, Yes, of course you can, but we're not going to pay you. I said, Okay, I don't care. Because the most important thing is my son after that year, when tomo was still not able to have me leave the house for eight or 10 hours a day and be my workplace was almost an houraway.
Julie Pabion 15:25
Okay. So at this point, he wasn't able to leave the house. And he also felt that it was a problem for you to leave the house as well.
Coralie Seys 15:37
He was able to leave the house, but just a couple blocks around our home, but he wasn't able for me to leave the house for long periods of time. I could leave the house for one, two, maybe three hours, but not a full day.
Julie Pabion 15:51
Okay. And so what would happened? He have panic attacks?
Coralie Seys 15:56
Yes. Yes. Yes, exactly. Exactly. It was panic attacks. And when we were outside, if he'd see people, that was social anxiety, also being scared of people and everything. So after one year, I saw that I still couldn't go back to work. So I had to find a solution. Because my work was not going to continue supporting me by giving me time off. So that's when I decided to create my own home business to be able to work, provide financially for tomorrow night while being at home, and also providing him the support he needs.
Julie Pabion 16:35
Right. And is he homeschooled now, or is he going to school?
Coralie Seys 16:40
Yes. So there, there was two different chapters in France during the first episode. He couldn't Of course, go back to school, when he was able to start school again, we had one of his teachers who volunteered to come one hour, twice a week to our home to help him out with two major subjects which were French and math. So this teacher took on his personal time days that he was not working to come help come up. So that was that was just a blessing that this man could do this for us once and he really helped to move forward. Once Thomas was feeling a little better. He said, Hey, now instead of me coming to you, you're going to come into the school at my house. So then we started going to this teachers house twice a week. And I thought that was very beautiful of him to open up his home, his personal space to one of his students. So we did that. And then he was also encouraging to my Well, after that step, he said, How about now we do a course in the school . But just you and me closed in a class. So he was helping Thomas forward.
Julie Pabion 18:01
little steps, yes.
Coralie Seys 18:02
Exactly. And the fact that it was coming from this awesome teacher who had a real personal connection with trauma, he was able to have him move forward, maybe faster than I was because I'm his mom. I'm always here. You don't feel like listening to your mom on time. So this man
Julie Pabion 18:19
it's easier to turn down, I guess.
Coralie Seys 18:21
Exactly, exactly. And the fact that I'd say let's try this. He didn't know I don't feel like it.
Julie Pabion 18:27
Especially as a teenager.
Coralie Seys 18:29
Yes. No, no, no. So this person who really helped us with these moving forward to the point that finally one day, he there was a huge school meeting with all the 2000 kids in one room and he asked Toma to go to that school meeting with him. So Tom, I went, he didn't sit down. He stood at the back of the room, but he was able to be in a room with 2000 kids, which was just like a huge one as well. That's great. It was incredible. Yeah. And then in Canada when this happened again, so he wasn't able to go to school. At first they sent to us. a substitute teacher once a week could come and work with Tama two hours a day at home. But in Canada, this program only lasts 12 weeks maximum. It's called the homebound homeschooling. So we we had that for 12 weeks, but after the 12 weeks time, I could still not go back to school. So they offered us an online schooling, which is through our province in Canada. It's called the BC online schooling and to my husband on that for the past two years now the one and a half years. It's a program where he can take two subjects at a time. So right now he's doing English 12 and history 12. In order to be able to graduate he should have graduated last year, but he did not have all the credits.
Julie Pabion 19:56
So and that's fine.
Coralie Seys 19:58
And that's fine. Yes, well There's no rush for that. And this organization, Thomas has a dedicated teacher, he can zoom call with that teacher, he can send emails. So there is the student connection. It's not just sending homework, you fill it out and you send it back. It's online work, but there is the interaction. And these teachers are also know about too much condition. So at first time, I was not able to zoom call with them. So I would do the zoom call, take the questions and be like the middle person. But slowly but surely, to mark came on to these zoom calls. And now he was able to do a couple of weeks ago, a one and a half hour zoom call all in English for a history exam.
Julie Pabion 20:47
Wow, big win.
Coralie Seys 20:48
Yes, hugewins. And Thomas's also been doing for the past year and a half something is called integrative body psychotherapy. It's with a naturopathic doctor that has an integrative body psychotherapy degree. And this is all about teaching trauma, how to be in the now how to be grounded, how to create your boundaries around yourself to protect yourself. And that has also been huge, huge success.
Julie Pabion 21:19
Oh, that's great. You've noticed a lot of progress lately. And I wanted to ask you, because I know that you have family in Vancouver as well. But was it possible for Thomas to see them? Or were you the only person he wants to see?
Coralie Seys 21:37
Yes, at the very first, I was the only person and we weren't able to have anybody come into our apartment. But then little by little we we built that. So what I've also lived as a mother, that's very hard is many people, family, even the closest family do not understand traumas, issues and situations. They don't live it. Like I've been living it for the past three years. They don't understand it. And they're always trying to give me solutions. Oh, you should do this, or you should do that, or you should do that. And it's it's not solutions adapted to Tibet. So I'm sometimes I don't feel supported the way I should be. It's kind of hard to say but yeah, it's
Julie Pabion 22:24
I guess sometimes people think they mean well, but they don't they don't actually see what you see. on a daily basis. And you see his anxiety attacks, you also been to therapy with him. So I think it's another level of understanding of what he's going through. Yes. And that must be very hard for you as well.
Coralie Seys 22:48
Yes, it is hard because I have to be strong to support Thomas. But I have to be strong to keep myself up also. And that's one thing I found that having lived the second big episode in Canada, where I only have my mom and stepdad. It was a lot harder this time around.
Julie Pabion 23:10
Yes, for sure. Although it was a second time, it was harder in a way.
Coralie Seys 23:15
I was more used to it.
Julie Pabion 23:17
But yes, so you knew what was about to come. So that must not be easy either
Coralie Seys 23:24
yes. Yes. We've had good support from Thomas' dad. Within the last two and a half years, he has come out to visit us five times. So he comes out here and he stays with us which are awesome moments for Tom and his dad to connect and to rebuild each other and rebuild the relationship after everything that's happened. But I noticed that Tom is dead since he's not living this every day. He doesn't understand it sometimes. And he tries pushing to mind directions that that Tom is not ready for. So I tried to say hey, maybe you shouldn't push too hard on this or try this ways but and then he understand but yeah, it's it's, I could have never imagined that Tamas life in one night could go from awesome teenager life to to these issues.
Julie Pabion 24:17
I can imagine. And is he keeping contact because you mentioned he has stepbrothers as well. And obviously his dad, is he able to just give contact and call them regularly?
Coralie Seys 24:32
Yes, yes. His stepbrothers actually came out last summer with the dad for three weeks. So they all stayed with us. And it was, it was a lot of fun. And for me, it was interesting to see Tom and his stepbrothers interact on a daily basis because I had never seen that before. And Thomas speaks to them multiple times a week they play video games together. And Timo was not a very video game person before all these episodes But now it has become part of his social life since he had not had time to make friends in Canada either. So we were blessed to have video games so that he could chat. He could be online with his friends in France and with his brothers and with his dad.
Julie Pabion 25:17
Oh, that's nice. And do you know what's next? Are you still going to therapy? The both of you are just Thomas - How do you see the next few months?
Coralie Seys 25:32
So right now, um, so my thinks she's about 80% out of the issues. So that's, that's, that's very
Julie Pabion 25:40
Coralie Seys 25:41
yes. For me, I see the daily little progress. So it's awesome. He's able to go out by himself. He doesn't go very far by himself. He goes maybe two, three kilometers. But that's already huge for us. Whereas before he couldn't leave the apartment. No, yeah,
Julie Pabion 25:59
huge progress. That's great!
Coralie Seys 26:00
Every day, he extends his boundaries. Right now. He's continuing his integrative body psychotherapy. Once a month. It used to be once a week, then we went to every two weeks, every three weeks, then we're doing once a month, and he himself among itself is working on extending his boundaries. So I'm here to help.
Julie Pabion 26:18
Oh, nice. Yeah. So he is really eager to go through this.
Coralie Seys 26:23
Yes, he wants to start making friends here. He wants to be able to to live like he was living before.
Julie Pabion 26:28
And I'm sure he will.
Coralie Seys 26:31
Yes, I can't wait.
Julie Pabion 26:32
And you know what, I think this is very brave, that he is ready to face his trauma and ducked somebody. And I think yes, this is something that we should all do, in some extent. And, yes, no, we're very, very brave of him. And I think it takes a lot of courage to do that.
Coralie Seys 26:56
That's one thing that I would always suggest is each time I have proposed a solution to Tom, I haven't told him he has to do it. You have to do counseling, you have to do integrated body of psychotherapy. I have always suggested, do you want to try talking to a psychologist, it would be like this, it could bring you this, this is how a session work. And he I have always given him the choice of how he wants to be treated.
Julie Pabion 27:27
So he could also go at his own pace.
Coralie Seys 27:30
Exactly.Yes, yes. And, and choose the end choose the type of help that he felt best adapted for him.
Julie Pabion 27:39
Yeah, that's great. And I think it's very promising, and I hope we will be able to celebrate soon.
Coralie Seys 27:47
Yes, I hope so. And one of them was one of them at school each time. He has an integrative body psychotherapy session. At the end of the session, the doctor asks him, What's your goal, and for the last couple months, His goal is to be able to go to France on holidays and see the family. So he's aiming to big goals.
Julie Pabion 28:10
Well, yeah, so that means actually traveling, take the plane and see everybody. So that's, that's huge in that so great that he's also setting very high goal.
Coralie Seys 28:24
Yes. Well, I have learned a lot about life during all of this, about courage about how this courageous little young man is fighting day to day to regain his life. I have also learned how negative people can impact someone's life to a degree that's unimaginable. This has been a life experience. It's been very hard, but it's a life experience where trauma and I have learned a life.
Julie Pabion 28:50
And also I imagine that your bond is even stronger than it was before. I get even imagine just joint therapy, how much you need to communicate and be vulnerable. So that really must be something.
Coralie Seys 29:08
I wasn't in all the therapy sessions, because some of them were just for him. I was maybe in 1/10 of them, but also the bond that we've created. Because for the past, basically two years, not for the past one and a half years, we have been together 24 hours a day.
Julie Pabion 29:26
I can imagine and so did you go to therapy yourself? Or was it any joint sessions with Thomas?
Coralie Seys 29:36
I took a few sessions just me with the naturopath who does integrative body psychotherapy
Julie Pabion 29:43
just to be able to Yeah, because I imagined I obviously you need to protect him. Yes. But you also need to protect yourself so that you are able to help him
Coralie Seys 29:55
Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Julie Pabion 29:56
It's like you know, put your own safety mask. before you're able to that is or is
Coralie Seys 30:03
like that is exactly if I'm not good. I can't help properly. So yeah.
Julie Pabion 30:07
And so the last question is, if you could give us any piece of advice that you would like to share,
Coralie Seys 30:15
the piece of advice that I'd like to share is from this whole experience is really communicate with your children. Don't be too hard on yourself, like I have been on myself, when I found out that for 13 years, I had not seen something because our kids can hide things from us to protect us and to protect themselves. And once you see that something is wrong, or that something is not normal, get help right away, do not say, Oh, it's gonna pass or or this is just a phase or something. No, it's get help right away, get all the help you can all the suggestions you can. And my last bit of advice was for all these people who mean well, and who wants to help us but are actually not helping us. Try not to let it affect you too much.
Julie Pabion 31:01
Fair enough. Amazing. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. It was such a pleasure. And I learned so many things that I didn't know. So he was very good to talk about it. And all the best to the two of you. Thank you. And I hope to see you soon.
Coralie Seys 31:21
Okay, thank you, Julie. It was a pleasure. And thank you for the opportunity.
Julie Pabion 31:26
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. Feel free to share if you think it may be helpful to someone you know, if you enjoyed this episode, then please make sure to write a review if you're listening on Apple podcast, and subscribe if you haven't already. That's it for me. See you soon with the next episode. And in the meantime, have a lovely day.