Custom Search

Viewing entries tagged
Reactive Attachment Disorder

Comment

An Everlasting Fugue

I’m currently sitting at my computer, fluffiest cat in my lap chewing on a hole in my jeans, while I pick my nails and rigorously assess my hair for split ends. This is what my writing process has come to. The dos and don’ts of what can and cannot be shared, the ever-increasing desire for privacy from my children as they age, legalities regarding Isaac and the child welfare system… these are the things that paralyze my writing – my very need to release has been hushed. There are so many thoughts swirling about my mind, preventing me from putting pen to paper, that I fear I will be bald and fingernail-less within the hour! So please, bear with me.

My husband said it best yesterday when he referred to our oldest two as the Mozart and Beethoven of nonsensical arguments. I’ll forgive him for the misquote due to his lack of composer knowledge… because obviously my kids are more like Bach. A schizophrenic Bach who got stuck in an endless loop of fugues, creating chaos while feeding off the other’s energy. Their composition is entitled Cameron and Taylor – An Everlasting Fugue. These two children are, in a sense, The Song That Never Ends. (At least Shari Lewis gets to rest in peace, unlike those of us living in my home.)

It’s to the point that even the three-year-old recognizes the disparities, both social and intellectual, between himself and his siblings. He regularly tells them to stop arguing and to “Quit acting like babies!” He reiterates that he already told them something ten times and, because I know he is my child, when they continue to ignore his directions he puts his arms in the air with a flourish and yells “I’m done!” before stomping away. (I swear it’s like looking in a mirror!)

But what Wyatt fails to understand at his young age is that Cameron and Taylor are stunted. Taylor remains under close watch and with limited freedom due to her extreme need to have the adults in her world enforcing moment by moment safety measures over her. This confuses Wyatt, as well as many of those close to us. When others look at her, they see a beautiful, vibrant 10-year-old. What they miss is the overwhelming need my daughter has to love and be loved in the only way she was shown as a young girl – a way that was traumatizing and abusive.

Even with Cameron, Wyatt constantly yells at him to stop being mean. And just like the regressed, overgrown toddler that Cameron is, he continues to instigate and torment, despite the consequences. But this week was a difficult one for him, both physically and emotionally. Not only did he have a kidney relapse after over-exerting himself on a youth group retreat, he also had his neuropsychological testing done. Whereas we haven’t received the results back from the 3.5-hour test, it was evident by the looks on both Cameron’s and the doctor’s faces that our follow-up appointment will be one that is lengthy. If that weren’t enough, on our way home from this exhausting test, we had no choice but to pass the town where Cameron lived before being adopted.

I do my best to avoid certain towns and neighborhoods with my children, but there are times when there is NO other route and the memories just start flooding. This was the case with my son as we drove home in silence from the doctor’s office. It was as if he couldn’t handle the thoughts in his head and they had to come out. As he spouted story after story, feeling after feeling, he made a statement that I’m still trying to process days later. He said that he has these feelings and thoughts that take over and he can’t stop thinking about them until he acts on them – things that make him want to do things that are dangerous, harmful to others, and scary. He admitted to actions that I had no idea about, things that he had previously kept hidden or blamed on others.

Ok, these are the moments that make you question becoming a parent, let’s be honest! There are days where I just sit there and wonder if I’m harboring future predators and serial killers (this increases the nail biting and hair picking by about a million percent) and then there are other days when I remind myself that it is RAD, brain damage, learned behavior – that they have a therapist, mostly sane parents, and a very big God. Those are the days that I remember to breathe as I push thoughts of felonies from my mind.

And then there’s Isaac. The sweet boy who is quickly fading under the perpetual weighty exposure of drugs, abuse, sex, and instability. With each new update on his condition, each failure of the police or CYS to rescue him, each broken Christmas toy and returned birthday gift – I am devastatingly aware that he was the one that was left behind. Cameron and Taylor were saved, even if it may have been too late. But Isaac is just a number – a statistic of gross negligence from society who wants to be helped but is quickly learning that help will not come. At least not for him. However… his smile is still a sight to behold. When I catch a glimpse of a new picture and see a hint of the twinkle that I remember so well, I feel a warmth spread through my soul. He is not a number to me.

So, on those days that my kids are fugueing up my very last nerve, I choose to remember the moments that have been special – like when Cameron thought Wyatt was having hallucinations because he was talking to himself (aka, using his imagination), or when Taylor asked us at kids’ church to pray for all the children who didn’t get cute boots for Christmas like she did, or when Wyatt told me he would be my best friend forever if I gave him some Doritos (followed by screams that I’m a “bad girl” because I didn’t give him Doritos), or when I think of Isaac’s belly laugh, the one that will never leave my mind, even though I’m sure he would wreak just as much havoc as the others if he were here with us today!

Despite the nonsensical arguments, the nail biting, and the split end picking, there is a beautiful and slightly distorted, off-key composition taking place in our home. Whether it’s a day of putting in ear plugs or choosing to sing along to the chaos, I know that our music will continue to grow and change – our everlasting fugue.

fugue.jpg

Comment

Finding Hope: Parenting Children With Trauma

Comment

Finding Hope: Parenting Children With Trauma

Ok, so apart from realizing that I stand with my legs too far apart and that my outfit was put together by a blind elephant from the 1990's -- I mean, once we get past all that, some of you may enjoy hearing my break-out session from the Imagine Conference in Pittsburgh. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to speak on raising children with trauma and how that effects our day to day lives as parents.

If anything, I hope you can relate, have a good laugh, cry, and remember that you are not weak because you can't "fix" your kiddos. You are strong because you have survived another day and still get up again to start the day all over. It's conferences like these that remind me how many of us there are and that together, we can move mountains.

God bless and enjoy!

Comment

12 Comments

To Place or Not To Place

I expect to receive backlash from this post, but as I contemplated writing it, I found that the pros outweigh the cons. The ability for parents and guardians to be able to have an open dialogue about placement of their child in a hospital or residential facility is a need that oftentimes goes unmet. Whether it’s due to stigma, guilt, or the feeling of having failed a child – we speak less about the emotional turmoil leading up to placement than we do the everyday battles themselves.

And quite frankly, it is that very place of being in the unknown, the questioning and the decision-making, the wondering if you’re making the right or the wrong choice – that is the time that your emotions are the most raw. Wondering if you were meant to parent this child, handle this situation, manage this mental illness / behavioral problem, etc. It’s in those moments of questioning that we can become muddled and dizzy with what is right in front of us.

When do we contemplate placement? When have we done all that we can do and hand the reigns over to a team of others?

130606094558-girl-depression-horizontal-large-gallery.jpg

For me, I sit with these very questions in this moment. After months of making apparent progress, my daughter with Reactive Attachment Disorder put my 3-year-old son in a very unsafe situation. This is not the first, second, nor third time we have faced this dilemma with her. However, this time she reported that she did not feel badly about this and that she doesn’t believe she was wrong. Upon further investigation into the situation, other evidence around her room suggested that this was not a singular relapse.

I feel the betrayal and heartbreak of knowing that my son has been compromised because I allowed myself to let my guard down – because I believed that things were getting better, that she was learning emotions and empathy and how to control her impulses. I let us feel “normal” together… and now I must pay the price for that. I also know that I will be scoffed at for sharing too much personal information about my family and our situation. And yet how else are we to support one another and create a community of help for one another if we limit ourselves to speaking of only what is comfortable – what is “permissible”?

So many parents have emailed me over the past several years, struggling with this same dilemma. They ask for input on agencies and when they should finally let themselves take a break while the professionals give it a try with their child. And I have always said the same thing – this is a personal choice, but when you know you have loved and persevered and done all that you can, and you or your family are still being endangered, then you never have to feel like you’ve let anyone down, including yourself and your child.

The regular world of parents and families doesn’t understand the daily lying and theft – the number of calls from the school you get and the emails from angry parents. They don’t lay awake with anxiety over their child’s behaviors every night or feel physically ill on a regular basis because with every 2 steps forward, you’re forced to take 10 steps back. The regular world sees your child as charming and amiable, while you experience something far different behind closed doors. The inability to connect with your child – to feel honest emotions with them – to cuddle them and to look forward to the future together – these are things that the RAD parent faces.

And sadly, children with this disorder come by it quite often from serious neglect and abuse, cycles that continue to play out as they grow older, forever compromising their relationships with the world. As the parents, we feel guilty for even thinking of handing them over to the state, an agency, or even to a hospital – we know our children didn’t create their diagnosis. They didn’t abuse themselves. They were not in charge of anything that lead them to where they are today…

But neither did my 3-year-old son. And whereas I cannot put my daughter’s abusers on trial because this judicial and child welfare system failed her and my older son in such horrific and atrocious ways, all I can do is promise safety to each of them from this day forward. So, to the best of my ability, that is how I will make my decisions. Whether we place or we don’t, I choose to keep my promise to all 4 of my children. I will continue to fight for change to be made in child welfare and I will continue to advocate for the least of these… starting right here in my own home.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, know that you’re not alone. You’re not a failure and you’re not weak. Do all that you can and then trust that God will utilize whatever else is available to do the rest, even if that means it is no longer in your hands.

We’ve got this and we’ve got each other. Many prayers and much love to you all.

 

12 Comments

5 Comments

The Pre-Teen RAD

I am parenting a pre-teen RAD. By parenting, I mean keeping alive. And by pre-teen RAD, I mean sociopath. Because is there honestly a more difficult combination than Reactive Attachment Disorder and pre-pubescence? I cannot begin to imagine a worse combination, a more deadly mixture that could wreak this kind of havoc on a family! I mean, do I love this kid? Yes (thinks the tiny voice inside my heart that’s currently being bound and gagged by my humanity), but do I like this kid? Nope. Not even a little bit. Not right now.

Judge if you need to, I’m okay with it! My skin has become far too calloused from the past several months of lies and rants, tantrums and rages. I no longer carry the ability to feel “judged” by my peers. It’s kinda like when you reach a certain age and you can convert to leggings and the messy bun (every day for every occasion) – you just sort of quit. Well, that’s how I feel about parenting my son. I am the legging-wearer, the messy bun, the “screw the make-up” kind of mom now… and there may be no turning back!

And these are the reasons why:

Normal pre-teens have crushes, even going as far as to carry the “boyfriend/girlfriend” label for sometimes a week at a time! Whereas my pre-teen? The only girl he notices is his sister, and that’s only because he threatens to murder her in her sleep if she doesn’t empty out her piggy bank to him on a weekly basis.

Normal pre-teens have hobbies or sports and try to appear “cool” – to fit in – to be popular. My pre-teen is as coordinated as a sloth on roller skates, so sports are out. And I don’t know how he does it, but he can’t even make breathing appear anything but painfully awkward. He hates everything and only attempts to make a go at an activity if he might get paid to do so. He literally must be bribed financially to play with children!

Normal pre-teens look forward to school dances and after-school parties. My pre-teen plots ways to steal from those children while they’re busy socializing with friends.

Normal pre-teens start paying attention to the way they look, smell, and act around their peers. My pre-teen still only showers one side of himself, still can’t figure out how a comb works, refuses to wear an outfit combination that could even be considered remotely attractive, and often smells like a garbage truck…. Probably because he refuses to brush and floss his teeth, leaving weeks worth of food and plaque globbed between his braces.

Normal pre-teens plan for summer camp. My pre-teen plans for the psych ward.

Normal pre-teens get a pet and start learning the responsibilities of caring for another creature. My pre-teen kills or harms most animals he comes in contact with. If this is a sign of his nurturing skills, we may have to have him sterilized!

Now, those parents who do not have a RAD child are probably sitting back right now saying that only a terrible mother would right such horrific things about their own child! Eh, perhaps. But I look around and say that I would be a terrible human being if I didn’t warn the rest of the public of my child. I mean, in the words of Antoine Dodson, “hide your kids, hide your wives”, right? This is my due diligence to society… even if I don’t happen to have a wildly popular social media rant-turned-rap in my back pocket!

But for those of you who DO have a child with RAD, I can actually hear your Amens ringing loud and clear across the nation. I feel them in my soul as we stand together and say that parenting a pre-teen RAD is quite possibly the most exhaustingly heart-wrenching thing, the most tediously frustrating thing, the most frightening love-hate thing that has ever, ever been.

So, when you see me, bear with me. Don’t mind my dirty house, my broken objects, or the screaming child coming from the upstairs bedroom. Don’t worry when my child bangs on the car windows motioning for other vehicles to save him from his “abusive family”. Pay no attention to whispers of inappropriate conversation escaping my son’s mouth – the screams, the threats, the hate and disrespect for women…

My mind is now oatmeal, and my ability to carry on a conversation while watching for my child seek out his next victim is basically gone. If I smile maniacally, it is because my resting face is translated to my son that I am in fighting mode. And if I hyperventilate in your presence, I apologize… chances are I’ve been holding my breath until bedtime when I am finally free to ingest air again.

And to all of you other pre-teen RAD mamas and papas out there… my heart is with you. If you’ve kept your child alive, you are my heroes. And if you haven’t, I totally get it. Here’s to 7 more glorious years! (Oh, sweet Lord almighty…)

5 Comments

10 Comments

The Heartbreak of Living

            I would say that my heart breaks on an average of 25 times a day. Some days, some months, that number is significantly more. I think that’s the price we pay for loving people. Honestly, I can’t think of any relationship or situation I’ve been in where there hasn’t been a time of heartbreak. Sometimes I’m even the one doing the breaking. But at the end of the day, the only way to avoid this pain is to hide away and ignore the world entirely – not look at the news, not read social media, not have a family or friends, not leave the house. In a sense, to avoid heartbreak, you can’t actually live.

            However, since I’ve chosen life, I’ve consequently chosen some pain. And true to form, when it rains, it pours. In the midst of grieving a dear friend’s illness, I’ve continued to hear horrendous reports on our little Isaac’s situation. My heart breaks continuously for these two situations alone. Then I’ve had to deal with a personal ordeal that has left me devastated and questioning things about myself that I haven’t felt in a long time – feelings of insecurity and vulnerability – things that have reignited my panic attacks with a vengeance. And then I read the 2016 and what is to date of the 2017 Child Protective Services Annual Reports, only to find that the PA fatality and near fatality rates have more than doubled in this year alone… and we still have 6 months to go! So, my heart broke significantly more, not just for my own situations, but for the hurting children all around me.

            Naturally, in the middle of all of this, my own children decide to let their RAD hang out all over the place. It was only 9:30 am yesterday when I thought I was going to have to admit my oldest to the hospital for his rage (which the poor fellas doing construction on our new house had the privy of hearing). He was told “No”… that was it. That was the “big trigger”. The mooing cries started. The punching his head came next, followed by screaming at a pitch that would compete with a dog whistle. (Obviously I was to blame because I couldn’t understand what he was saying.) As he picked up a toy and cocked his arm, ready to bust out the window in our toy room (it took him over 6 months to save up to get his bedroom window fixed, by the way), I saw my toddler standing in his direct aim. We’d already been to the hospital twice within a week and I instantly feared that my youngest was going to be next.

            Jumping in front of him as quickly as I could, Cameron screamed that he hated me. That I’m a child abuser. That I always blame him for everything. That I’m the worst mother in the world. And when I told him that I was calling the police if he didn’t calm down immediately, he screamed some more and went upstairs to flip his bed. This happened 10 minutes before I had to leave and take Taylor to camp. Knowing that Cameron was hoping his sister would have to miss for the day, I was going to move the earth to make sure she made it, even if she was late!

Thankfully, my pastor’s wife jumped in her car and came to sit at my house while I got my daughter to camp, our builder was ready to step in and assist if needed, and a good friend picked my daughter up from camp, keeping her for a few hours while Cameron eventually calmed in his room.

            That same daughter, however, got mad at Wyatt only a few hours later, shoving him off her tall bed! I went running into the room upon hearing my toddler wailing in a heap on the floor while my daughter tried telling me the most physically impossible stories about what “could have happened” in order to avoid getting in trouble. There was no remorse when I told her that he could have been severely hurt. No. She cried when I told her she was in her room for the night and would miss choir practice.

I screamed like a lunatic for the hundredth time that day, ensuring my craziness to our neighbors. I sobbed, I slammed my door a few times, and I did a whole lot of hyperventilating! To sum things up, I was the perfect picture of an untherapeutic disaster, but I couldn’t have cared less. All I wanted to do was be by myself and sleep for a super long time.

But that’s the thing with choosing to live… you don’t get to step away from hard parenting moments. You don’t get to heal your friends or stop child abuse, fix broken hearts or save the world. What you get instead is an infinite amount of opportunities to be loved. Prayers from a parent, encouraging texts from fellow mothers, a pastor’s wife who will drop what she’s doing to step into your craziness, friends who will listen to your prattling daughter when you just can’t, children who eventually apologize (sometimes), and a God who is bigger than all of your heart breaks.

As always, I blog to process and to heal. My only hope is that someone out there who is also going through heart break will realize that it’s just the cost of living and loving deeply. Look for those moments to be loved back and wrap yourself up tightly in them… even if it’s just a little love from a blogger out in Western Pennsylvania. My heart is with yours.

10 Comments