Educating the world about Reactive Attachment Disorder through experience, hope, humor and love.
(Warning: nothing here should be taken as medical advice)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spinning in Circles

Last night I was in the kitchen cooking and I had everything under control. Until I didn't. I don't remember what the catalyst was, but suddenly I was literally spinning in circles and couldn't figure out what to do next. Everything had been going so smoothly and suddenly the salad was only half made, the meat was drying out, the vegetables were boiling over and I hadn't gotten the drinks together. The simple and most effective thing to do would be to turn off the stove (meat and veggies), pour the milk, and finish the salad. An easily accomplished to-do list. But I couldn't think. I felt like I had to do it all RIGHT NOW and couldn't figure out what to tackle first. I knew what needed to be done, I was just frozen (well, except for the spinning in circles thing).

Funny? Yeah, now. To me. But this is a common occurrence for RAD kids. They (well mine anyway) don't adapt well to change at all. An unexpected change in plans can send them into a mental spiral that they can't seem to easily stop. For me, I was able to stop, take a deep breath, and gather myself to complete dinner. For a RAD, there is no stopping - at least not easily. Many RADs suffered abuse (thankfully not mine), neglect and/or abandonment at a young age, and this was imprinted on their brain at a very low level. It is this part of their brain that takes over when they get overwhelmed, and while I was spinning from a minor fear of "what do I do now?", the fear that drives these kids is far deeper and more sinister than a burned meal. If you've ever been in a car accident, think about that split second right before impact. Were you able to calm yourself? Do you think you could have rationalized your fear away? Neither can these kids. They never learned how. And telling them to "relax" is like the driver of your car telling you "don't worry, you won't be hurt" - you're still going to flinch (or worse) on impact.

These are the times when our children need to be taken back to their youngest years and comforted as if they were that age again. It's the only way to help build those brain connections that are missing. This is when you just have to grab your child and hold them tight. It doesn't matter how big or how old they are, when they are in that state they are as young as they were when the 'bad things' happened to them.

I've gotten strange looks, and even stranger comments ("you should stop coddling that grown child!") when I have felt the need to grab and hold my teenager. It doesn't happen often, but you can literally feel them soften up when you do. My pre-teen? Not so much. Oh she needs it, but she'll fight it at first. And THAT gets horrified looks from people if we're out in public. People see me grabbing and holding a big girl while she's freaking out and they automatically assume I'm the cause of the crisis, when it's nothing like what they are imagining.

Those of you with RADs know what I'm talking about. Those of you without, perhaps you'll remember this post next time you see something 'odd' going on between a child and parent.


  1. {{ SIGH }} -- It's so true! & Good for you -- hug them both anyway -- pre-teen needs it & who cares what people think -- with RADS -- they have plenty to "think about" if they want too. I am learning to stop worrying about what others think and just concentrate on my kids. (notice I said learning - not learned :) )
    Keep up the good work.

  2. I don't think we'll ever learn all there is to learn about our kids! All we can do is keep trying :) Thanks for the comment!