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

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hardest job in the world - step-parent to RAD

I see quite a few people end up here after searching things like "Step Parents and RAD" so I figured I would put something out there.  I don't envy you.  You have one of the hardest, most thankless jobs known to mankind.  I've watched my wife go through it.  You want to love them but they will do everything in their power to thwart that.  They don't want it - there is no Love, only Pain.  And they won't let you forget it.  But I don't want you to think it's hopeless.  It's not.  But you're going to have to earn it.

My wife and oldest daughter started off with a really rocky relationship.  For the very reason above.  My wife loved little girls and did her best with my daughter.  She tried reading to her, she tried making things with her, she tried anything to bond.  But it just wouldn't happen.  For years she tried, only to meet resistance time and time again.  And it wasn't just passive resistance - my wife was made out to be the true evil step-mother / witch that wouldn't think twice about sticking children in ovens.

Which hurt.  A lot I imagine.  But she didn't stop looking for opportunities to bond.  For years she seemed to get nowhere.

But after years of hurt feelings, loss of trust, physical fear, and utter disrespect, things began to change.  For the better.  My daughter began to show signs of respect for her step-mother.  With time, those began to show more and more.  They began developing a rocky and frequently adversarial relationship, which became less and less so over the next year or two.

I can't tell you how many times my wife threw up her arms in frustration or disgust and screamed "I can't do this any more".  But more importantly, for each time she said it, there is also a time when she stayed.  And kept trying.

I've spoken with other parents where that didn't happen.  They had it bad up until the magical age of 18 no matter how hard they tried.

But there is hope.  I know there is.

As for my wife and her step-mother?  Today, they have moments where I'm almost jealous of how close they can be.  It doesn't happen a lot, but I love it when it does.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


If there's one thing I will never truly understand, it's the self-sabotage that seems prevalent among children with RAD.  I've seen it time and time again, and it is truly heartbreaking to watch.  Recently my daughter turned 17 (yesterday in fact).  As one of her birthday presents we (reluctantly) agreed to let her go to a concert with a friend.  At night.  In another town 30 minutes away.  She was soooooo excited.  We had only one caveat - she prove to us over the next 3 days that she could be responsible enough to go.  We didn't think that would be difficult.  She HAD been doing great.  Finished schools with almost straight A's, had been working hard to get her first job, and been relatively pleasant to be around in general.

Until we said we would allow her to go.  The *very next day* she had a job interview, and then was to go to the library afterwards, where my wife would pick her up.  She was told if she changes her plans just to let us know so we knew where to find her if we needed to.  She changed her plan but didn't bother to tell us.  We had no idea until my wife showed up at the library and the mother of the girl who our daughter had been hanging out with all afternoon came out and said Hello.  Since they had never met before, my wife was taken by surprise, and when she asked our daughter what was going on, she said "Mom I just talked to you on the phone" with a little eye shift.... apparently, the other mother was under the impression our daughter had called us and gotten permission to go.  But she hadn't.

Then today, she was supposed to go to her "prep day" at the High School she is transitioning to next week.  But even though I woke her up before I left for work, and called 2 hours before the event was set to begin, she didn't manage to get up and get there on time.  These are, in the grand scheme of things, perhaps small things to some.  But to us, they are just more of the same - whenever we try to give her just a little more freedom, she shows us time and time again that she isn't able to handle it.

But she can.  We know she can.  She has gone weeks with no problems.  The only difference there was that she wasn't looking forward to something like going to a concert.  No reason to self-sabotage.
Sometimes I think this is one of the harder things to deal with.  Knowing that deep down she doesn't feel ready to handle some very basic things that many 17 year olds take for granted makes me very sad.  Sure, I'm disappointed that she won't get to go (of course, she likely thinks I'm happy about it - she has said as much in other situations) but if we can't trust her for 2 hours, I'm certainly not ok with her going to a large concert in another town with a friend.  Does that make me mean?  Sometimes I feel like the meanest parent in the world.  But with her lack of boundaries and history of self-destructive behavior, we need to be able to trust her.  And that just hasn't happened yet... :(

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Looming Transition

Soon the transition begins.  One more week of DTC, then a break for one week, then the fall session begins.  And with that comes the transition to the general High School  It's only 2 classes a day (after lunch), and after speaking with another parent whose daughter recently transitioned, it sounds like they have good support in place, but my daughter didn't do so well at the general High School before.  So we are undoubtedly anxious.  My daughter definitely has it in her to succeed if she chooses, it's just that she doesn't have the best history of making the best choices.  As with most children afflicted with RAD, it's all about the instant gratification, the NOW - consequences be damned.  Those can be dealt with later.  And that puts an incredible amount of strain on a relationship, no matter who is involved.  Few things are as painful as loving somebody who doesn't care about their self.  Certainly much progress has been  made over the past couple of years - even with the move.  Definitely we are happy to get her out of her current program where she seems to have stagnated.  But the fear that things will return to where they were before is very real.  The police, the social workers, CPS breathing down our necks - all because of the choices made by a teen. 

She still enjoys playing the pity card - and that's what got us into trouble to begin with.  When you're a kid, what better way to get attention from people than to tell them your parents "starve" and "torture" you?  Although I think she has come a long way, she still wants people to pity her - and that could lead us right down that same road. 

But it's a chance we'll have to take in order for her to continue healing.  She doesn't deal well with change - even little change.  If things such as changing seats at the dinner table can set her off, changing High Schools is going to be no piece of cake.  If all she does is return to cutting, is it still a success?  In our case I'm going to declare that a win...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Job Corps?

Well she turns 17 in a couple of weeks.  I can't believe it.  I remember being 17 and my life was so much different than hers.  My life wasn't perfect and I wasn't exactly a "good kid" (was going through a lot and probably had full blown PTSD by that point), but I had more freedom and was more responsible.  It's not that she can't - she just won't.  We've tried and tried to get her out there and get a job, to have friends, to DO things, but she seems perfectly comfortable where she's at - which is home, with us, all the time.  Not content.  Not by a long shot.  But comfortable.  Comfortable enough where she's not willing to make the effort required to change things.

This doesn't make us feel overly confident for when she turns 18.  Will she be ready to live on her own?  I think the answer to that is a resounding NO.  There are certain aspects of her life, such as diabetes management, where I know she'll do fine.  It may take a while for her to get into the swing of it, but I know that she knows what to do.  It's the other things... getting a job, paying bills, continuing her education - all the "adult" things that she has no clue or desire for.

Enter Job Corps.  We hope.  We've started the process to get her in there.  We don't qualify under their income requirements, but they make exceptions for people with disabilities - I'm hoping between the type-1 diabetes, the erbs palsy in her left arm, and her emotional issues that she will qualify.  We just aren't sure yet.  I'm hoping her DTC will be able to assist with getting her in as well.  They should - they've done it for other children and if anybody should be able to weasel her in it would be social workers and counselors. 

Not only would this move her out of her comfort zone, but it would give her the life skills that we've been trying to foster in her.  Of course, as parents, nothing we say or do makes any difference - we're the bad guys.  So hopefully when it comes from somebody else it will make a difference?  I think it will.  She'll be forced to be responsible for herself and that's what she needs.

The beauty of it is they have a Culinary Arts program - which she is really excited about.  Did I say "excited"?  I guess I should say "interested in a nonplussed kind of way" since she rarely gets "excited" about anything.  I think I'm more excited about this than she is.  But she has a friend from her DTC that is there so at least she'll know somebody (assuming they end up in the same place).

Who knows... either way, it'll be an adventure she will carry around with her for the rest of her life.. with any luck it will be a positive, life changing adventure...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

little things that add up

Had to drop off my daughters lunch at her school today.  One of her teachers saw me and asked "rough morning?" and chuckled.  Because he gets it.  And it WAS a rough morning, but for all little things.  Little things that don't mean a lot by themselves.. annoyances such as a library card that disappears and then reappears magically, things that supposedly get used but the user can't tell you where all the pieces are, just little stuff.  But the problem is that when you add up all the little things, it paints a picture of somebody who is still playing games and, as hard as it is to accept, isn't ready to cooperate honestly. 

As the parent of a RAD, this isn't uncommon.  It's nothing we haven't dealt with for years (and years, and years, and...).  give a little, lose a little.  Slowly we ARE gaining ground, but slowly is definitely the key word here.  And we're running out of time.  We're going camping next week, and the oldest daughter doesn't want to go.  She's never been a big fan of camping and we have always tried to accommodate her, knowing that if she doesn't want to be there, and doesn't HAVE to be there, it's more pleasant when she's NOT there.  This isn't to say we don't enjoy spending time with her - if I had my way, I'd love for her to come - I love spending time with her.. but I already know how it will turn out.. she'll be miserable and that makes everybody miserable (we're already going to get enough misery from her sister).

So my sister graciously agreed to allow her to stay there for the week.  Which is pretty awesome, especially since she is already having guests over that week.  But at least with her we know she's safe and in a warm, loving environment.  So that has been the carrot. 

But ogres don't like carrots.. and when the oldest daughter gets in these moods, that's what she reminds me of.. A big, grumpy ogre.  Rather than be honest, she would rather continue to play her games and miss out on going to her Aunts house.  And it's not like she'd get in trouble either - we already know what is going on - it's not like she is hiding some shocking news that is going to piss us off.  But we can't ignore the game either.  Well.. I suppose we could.. we could let her have her way.  But the real world doesn't reward games like that - not if you're going to work for somebody.  Not if you're going to rent a place to live.. pretty much nobody you deal with is going to let you get away with those games for long.  So why should we teach her it's ok? 

Besides, if we can't trust her with a library card, how are we supposed to trust her with her diabetes?  Especially just a couple of weeks after finding 4 syringes filled with insulin that she was hiding from us and injecting herself with randomly?  I can't, in good conscious, just drop her at my sisters with all that going on - my sister has enough to deal with already without having to follow her around 24/7 to try and keep her safe.

Of course it's OUR fault.  WE are the ones who smother her.  WE are the ones who don't let her do anything.  WE are forcing her to do things she doesn't want to do (i.e. go camping).  Again we're back to the lack of cause and effect thinking common among RADs.  It just doesn't exist (at least not at levels found in neuro-typical children).  And no matter how far along I thing we've gotten.  No matter how much progress I think we've made.  We are, time and time again, reminded that some things are just too deep to fix easily....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I can do it - but don't want you to know...

Well, it looks like the transition to the general HS will be delayed.  Am I disappointed? Yes.. Surprised? Not at all.  It has always been the pattern.  When there is something good to be gained, my daughter works hard for it.  Then, when it's almost a sure thing and she has done so well, she sabotages it.    We aren't sure whether this latest round will be enough to keep the transition from moving forward since there is still time to pull it together, but my daughter has definitely told me she is anxious about the move and hopes this "puts off" her transition (her words, not mine).

The thing is, there is something that needs to be done.  That "thing" needs to be done within certain parameters as set forth by doctors and social workers, with minimal interference from parents and teachers.  Only then can we move on to "freedom".  We already *know* she can do that "thing" - she has proven it to me several times.  But, when she doesn't do it within the guidelines, we can't be sure of her safety, hence the restriction (the guidelines were put in place after some near fatal mistakes she made - we don't just put them there arbitrarily as some have though).  A restriction which we're all hoping we can dump sooner than later - all she needs to do is do the "thing" within the guidelines.

But she refuses.  So we have to keep starting over from square one.  Being in square one may or may not prevent her from transitioning, but it's certainly going to make the transition much harder on her than it needs to be.

She's a teenager.  I get it.. she wants to do things her way.  I certainly did.  But if somebody had told me "you need to do A and show us so we can move on and you can have your freedom with it", I sure as heck would have done it and said "look, here it is now leave me alone".  But not her.  She would rather do it, and hide it from us.  Make sense?  It does to her... yeah, I don't get it either.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

destruction and drama

Came across a photo last night.  It was an old photo - maybe 15 years old, where the wife, oldest daughter and I were all standing in our Halloween costumes.  Or at least that's what it used to be.  Both the wife and daughter had been torn out of it. 

Since we (well, we being the little sister) found it in a box of stuff in the garage that belonged to the older sister, it was pretty obvious who had done the 'pre photoshop style editing' job.  So we asked her about it.

Instantly she became really upset.  We weren't accusing her, we weren't even mad at her.  We were just a bit shocked and definitely confused.  Why did she do that?  It's not like her love-hate relationship with her step mother is any big secret.  Some days step mom has a closer relationship with her than I do, other days.. not so much.  (thankfully, there are more 'good' days than not, but it hasn't always been that way). 

But why rip up the photo?  Obviously she was mad at the time.  Ok.  Got it. 

But it wasn't the ripped photo that carried through the night - that was pretty much addressed and done with.  But daughter refused to eat dinner.  Said she didn't want to listen to people whispering about the photo (eh?).  She refused to tell me when or why, saying she didn't understand why people are upset.  After all, "it's just a picture".

And it is "just a picture".  And in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter.  Nor does the When or the Why it was ruined.  Those are pretty easy to figure out and are pretty much par for the course when it comes to RAD.  But I can't figure out her reaction.  Was she upset at herself for ruining the picture when she was mad?  Was she upset that I was upset that she ripped step mom out of the photo?  Was she just upset about.. well.. I dunno?!?!  Is she PMSing?  Is something going on at school? (oh wait, yesterday was the first day of Summer vacation - at least we didn't have THAT blow up.. yet)...

Just when I think I have a handle on this thing, I find that's only on the surface... underneath RAD is a whole world of WTF...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sold out...

Parenting children is hard.  I think it's a hard job no matter how "neuro-typical" your child is.  Sometimes the hardest thing about it is knowing how thankless of a job it is.  Sure - eventually your child will (you hope) learn to appreciate all the sacrifices and hardships you went through for them, but other than the rare moments, that doesn't usually happen until they've moved out.

Of course, in typical RAD fashion, these kids take it to a whole other level.  These are children who, in their drive to protect themselves at any cost, will step on anybody to keep their head above water and keep breathing.  For them it's a matter of survival.  But even knowing this doesn't make it easy to swallow when it happens to you.  It's easy to remain clinical and detached when it's happening to somebody else.  After all, that's how these kids are wired and it shouldn't be taken personally.  But when you're the one being stepped on and you realize that all you've done, all you've given up, is - if even for a minute - worthless in your childs eyes, it's a horribly painful stab in the heart.

When I was growing up I had more than enough reason to hate my parents.  Not in the typical "you made me clean my room when I wanted to go play baseball so now I hate you because you're ruining my life" kind of way, but a "you sick bastard, how could you do that to a child, you deserve to rot in hell" kind of way.  But even with that, I was always protecting and defensive of them. After all, they were my parents.  I knew that even in their own weird way, they loved me.  They weren't perfect (farrrrr from it), but I knew I would never have to worry about food, clothing or shelter. 

As for me, I may not be the perfect parent either, but I'm 10x better than my parents were, and my children are safe.  So when I read on Facebook this morning a comment from one woman to my soon-to-be 17 year old that "the suffocation is about to be over!" in a context that can only refer to her turning 18 and moving out, it was a slap to the face.  This is the same woman that was bringing my daughter food every morning (laden with carbohydrates even though she knew my daughter is a diabetic.. and she's a nurse?) and then called CPS on my to report I wasn't feeding my daughter (despite my having my cupboards and fridge stocked with food).  

I know this woman has been totally misled by my daughter - she makes the perfect RADsnack, eating up everything my daughter has told her in the past and turning it all into "oh poor you!", which my daughter just loves.  And I know my daughter has, in the past, tried to turn every relationship into that "poor you" - no matter what she had to say or do to make it so.  But she has matured so much lately.  So many of those behaviors have dropped away and we have made so much progress that it was even that much more of a shock to read that comment.  

She obviously is still milking that "relationship" for whatever she can, and she's willing to do it at my expense.  That tells me we haven't made nearly as much progress as I had thought.  I've read many stories of parents whose RADs had moved out of the house and continued their hurtful behaviors.  I've watched how sad that makes these parents who gave it their all but couldn't overcome the damage done to these children at such a young age.  Then I've looked at all the progress we've made with my daughter and thought "I'm so glad that won't be me"

I can't say that with confidence any longer....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Long time since last post

I can't believe it has been April since my last post here.  That doesn't mean everything has suddenly gotten better, or that there is nothing to write about, simply that I haven't had time.  Some of it has to do with non-RAD related things (such as work..), but some of it IS RAD/ODD related.  We are looking to transition our oldest over to a mainstream HS within the next year.  Possibly as early as Fall on a limited basis.  This, of course, brings great stress to all involved in her care.  Of course the biggest stress is her lack of active participation in her own care.  Nothing can be done without her cooperation, so things tend to move slowly.  Unless it's something she wants of course - then watch how fast she moves! 

The big concern about the transition (at least for us) is the stress this will put her under.  She already doesn't deal well with stress, often resorting to cutting as her way of controlling it.  Putting her under the stress of moving to a new school where she won't have all the support, and will be among her peers is going to be heavy.  It's hard enough for any teen to move into a new place, with new people, but for one with such issues, both self-esteem and others, it's that much harder.  I'm sure she will give us plenty to write about, plenty to discuss, and certainly plenty to worry about.  But for now, we're just taking it day by day and enjoying the recent lull in over-the-top behavior. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yeah, you so funny...

So yesterday I received another call from the DTC.  After being off on Spring Break for a week and then returning to school this week, I'm actually surprised it took until Thursday for something to happen.  My daughter doesn't handle change well.

There were a couple of small incidents yesterday that the staff felt were inappropriate.  But they were relatively minor things.  What wasn't minor was my daughters reaction to them.  Every day she gets her "goal sheet", where they give her either a 1 or a 0 based on how well she met her goals for the day.  Yesterday she got 2 zeros.  We don't make a big deal out of them at home, but in her head it's a HUGE deal.

So anyway, she saw the zeros and flipped out.  It began escalating and they attempted to remove her from the classroom so they could speak to her without an audience.  So of course she went ballistic.  Thankfully, she's not a physically violent person (although she could be - she's no wilting flower) but she told them all she was going to call the police and fill a report that the male teacher touched her inappropriately "and raped her".

For obvious reasons, this didn't go over so well.

But when I got home last night, the wife had been talking to our daughter about her day at school.  Of course her story made her out to be the victim in all of that and she conveniently forgot about the allegation that really ramped things up.

Or was it convenience?  When I asked her about it, her response was "oh yeah, I forgot about that!"

I think she really DID forget.  I know these kids love drama.  It's what they're used to.  Their lives were so chaotic and dramatic at such a young age, that it's what they find comfort in.  It's "safe" because it's what they know.  They don't realize what an impact it has on the people around them - and I get that too.  They had to focus on their own survival for so long that it's hard for them to empathize with others - after all, how others feel doesn't really have any bearing on their survival (it does, but they don't see it that way - it's them against the world).  Even this morning when I brought it up and reminded her she is meeting with the school director and that teacher this morning, she smiled and thought it was funny.

Well it isn't to me!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Break Confusion

Day two of spring break and something strange is happening.  We decided this week would be a good time to give our daughter the freedom to show how responsible she can be.  We agreed that she could go hang out at the teen center (my wife would even drive her there) and spend time with her friends.  We weren't going to let her take her insulin, but we definitely wanted to work towards that.  We figured she would jump at the chance to be free.  To be a "regular" teen that can just go hang out and do stuff.  She IS 16 after all.

But we were wrong.

For two days now, she has shown no interest in hanging out with her friends, or going anywhere.  She actually prefers to hang out with her step mom.  Yes, the very step mom she claims doesn't give her any freedom.  The evil step mom that is so mean and horrible.  The step mom that just a year ago she had detailed plans on how to kill. 

They really do get along great when it's just the two of them.  They usually do.  But I figured she would be all over our offer to let her go prove her independence.  After all, she keeps telling us she's ready.  So why wouldn't she take advantage of the situation?

Could it be that deep down she doesn't feel she's ready?  Or is it a more conscious decision to keep herself out of temptations way?  She had applied for a few jobs and was hoping to start working this week, but none of those have panned out.  So she hangs out with step mom, helping with the bills and the budget, planning meals, helping with the shopping.  All by choice.

I sometimes wonder if I'll EVER understand women!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Time to Sink or Swim?

Next week is Spring Break.  In the past we have always kept our daughter close at hand when she didn't have school.  Primarily because if we cut her loose, we'd have to allow her to carry her insulin with her and she doesn't have a good history with that.  In fact, her history with that has been to eat a ton of carbs, inject large amounts of insulin, and then not tell us about it so we end up giving her more insulin and then spending all night long stressing on keeping her blood sugars up so she doesn't die.  It doesn't make for a fun time, I can tell you that.  So her last diabetes doctor agreed with us and we took her insulin away.  It has been a year or so now and we still keep the insulin in a lock box at home and school.

But we're in a new place and she has shown signs of healing, so we're thinking perhaps it's time to see what happens.

Of course, this could go either way, and I can't tell you how much I'm stressing over it.  I'm pretty sure she's ready to handle the responsibility, but there is a part of me that keeps reminding myself "well, you thought that last time, and the time before, the the time before that...".  Times which resulting in CPS investigations and sleepless nights, times which were wrapped in lies and half-truths and resulted in potentially life-or-death situations that required adult intervention to make sure they ended up on the 'life' side of things.

But she's 16.

Going on 12.

We don't ask for perfection.  We expect things to be rocky.  Really all we ask is that she be honest about things and do her best to manage her blood sugars.  She does know how to do it, she has ever since she was little.  She chooses not to, and that's what frustrates everybody.  More than a few people have told us to "let it go".  But had we followed their advice, she would be dead.  Literally.  So thank you for the advice, but we're going to continue to stress over it until we know she "gets it".

And I'm praying she gets it before next week....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Triggers and Chairs...

Lately it seems we have come a long way towards healing.  Things are much better than they used to be for sure.  But every once in a while I catch a glimpse of things that make me realize there is still a long way to go.  The other night was one of those times.  It wasn't a big thing, but it really set off alarms in my oldest daughter.  On the positive side, she was able to express her discomfort and the fact that it was really hard for her to deal with it.  That's huge.  It means we really are making progress.  But on the other hand, she actually froze up when she found out about it.  Literally.  Her body froze and she got that frightened/overwhelmed look in her eyes that we are all so familiar with.  It was just for a moment, but it was there. 

So what was this thing that caused such an intense reaction?  We changed where we sit at the dinner table.

Research shows that RAD is very much like PTSD.  Like sufferers of PTSD, these children are constantly living in a state of hyper arousal.  Any little push can (and does!) send them over the edge. Picture a toy race car track where the cars are speeding around the track as fast as they can.  Now put a pebble on the track and watch the car derail.  That's pretty much what seems to be happening in these kids' heads when you change things up on them.  The trick is to put up a wall to prevent the crash before you toss that pebble on there.

Easier said than done though - I suck at carpentry :) ... but this time my daughter was able to catch herself and help me flip that car back onto the track.  It still threw her for a loop, and I don't think we'll be changing seats around again any time soon, but we're getting there... slowly, but we're getting there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parenting Zen...?

So yesterday I got *the call* from the Day Treatment Center.  "Your daughter has left the school".  Of course I called back thinking all sorts of crazy thoughts, not the least of which was "how could you let her just walk out?".  Turns out something that was really minor got blown into something huge and she just took advantage of it.  And they let her. 

Yeah, this is the same DTC that for months didn't see any of her issues and were becoming convinced (and even said) all her problems were home based.  Well they don't think that way now.  In the past 2 weeks she has started showing them ALL her glory.  And maybe it makes me a jerk, but I'm happy about it.  It's about time they saw what we see on a regular basis.  Ha Ha.

But that isn't the point. After hanging up the phone, I hopped in my car and drove the 30 miles to travel the 6.5 mile path that *I* would have taken home from the DTC.. of course I didn't see her - she took a different route (RADs aren't known for taking the more direct route.. why should they?  They don't think linear for the most part).  But I had to keep telling myself "she's 16.. she'll be OK.  I did much more at that age". 

Somehow I managed to keep my cool even after not finding her.  It wasn't easy to keep telling myself she'd be ok, but I kept at it.  And when she arrived at home, acting like nothing had happened, the wife and I didn't make a big deal out of it.  We asked what had happened and then just let it go.  If there's one thing we've learned, it's that what happens at school needs to stay at school.  We can't make that part of our problem as well - we have enough of those already!

And instead of a raging 16 year old RAD, we had a calm, helpful teenager who seemed to appreciate that we accepted her decision to do what she did, didn't give her excessive grief over it (we DID explain to her that we were worried, that the cops were out looking for her, and a brief 'mini-lecture' about the dangers, blah blah blah), and let it go.  The afternoon actually went smoothly, and she was not only Responsible, Respectful and Fun to be Around for the rest of the day, but it went even beyond that.  We had a helpful and pleasant teenager.  Now how often does THAT happen?  Plus, we didn't spend our evening all pi**ed off over something we can't control.  We didn't waste our energy fighting or lecturing or anything like that... just let it go..

let it go...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kicking myself

When my daugherd was 15 I finally got her assessed for her mental issues and the school district quickly put her into a DTC where she has been healing for the past year (on her second DTC but only because we moved).  The difference between today and a year ago is huge.  She's not anywhere close to "healed", but definitely "healing".

When she was 8 she was diagnosed with a "minor case" of RAD.. at the time I had no idea what that meant and thought, like so many people did, that she just needed more love and attention. The therapist made it sound like it was no big deal so I didn't put a lot of thought into it.

Ever since I started really understanding what it meant (and started getting her the proper treatment), I've been kicking myself for not doing it sooner...

When she was 5 she was in full meltdown mode and managed to triangulate my wife and I to the point where we separated for a couple of years.  Yesterday, when I was going through a box in the garage I found a letter I had never seen.  It apparently had been sent 1 week before our separation and was a request from my daughters school to do a mental health evaluation on her.  The very same evaluation I forced them to do 10 years later...

Had I only seen that letter then, and knew what it meant, things could have been much different!  We would have been 11 years into healing instead of 1.  We could have stopped the inadvertent reinforcement of the very behaviors we were trying to prevent.  Life could have been so much different for all of us.

I wish I had seen that letter.  I wish they had contacted the new school district about it.  I wish the therapist who diagnosed her had made more of a big deal about it.  I'm glad I did something about it when I did though.  I'm glad my wife and I figured it out - together.  I'm glad my daughter is healing (better late then never).  In fact, I'm glad for so many things I just don't have time to be thinking about the 'what-ifs'.  Instead of sitting there thinking "what if such and such was different", I think instead I will just hug my kids...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An ally in healing... for better or worse.

As a child, I remember thinking my parents could never possibly understand me.  How could they? They were old, I was young.. they had always been old and I had always been young (at least in my world), and on the off chance they HAD actually been young once, well that was soooo long ago that it bared no resemblance to how things were for me.

So it's no doubt that my children think the same.  After all.. it HAS been "forever" since I was a teenager.  Certainly longer than I care to admit.  But that doesn't change some things.  The thing is, I know better than most people how my daughter feels - even though she doesn't (want to) believe it.  Depression, anxiety, PTSD, attachment issues (although in those older than 18 it's called "borderline personality disorder") - like her, those are all diagnoses that have been made for me, and like hers, they were all related to childhood trauma.  I know what it's like to sit in darkness and wonder if anything is really worth it.  I know what it's like to live in a heightened state of being, on alert for any danger that is coming at any second.  I know what it's like to live inside an emotional bubble that prevents anybody from "getting in".  I really do.  I "get it". 

Some might say it's a blessing.  To be able to know at least something of what your child is going through helps you relate to them on their level.  It gives me more patience and I'm able to come from a place of better understanding.  I can see the pain in her eyes and remember what it feels like, how it hurts.  It creates an emotional and mental bond between us like nothing else.

On the other hand, it's a curse.  To truly know what she's going through and remember what it's like is very very difficult.  It's hard to watch your child in pain, and even more so when it's such deep, intense emotional pain that you can relate to.  That you can remember being the worst of the worst.  Knowing how badly she's hurting inside and there's nothing you can do to ease that.  It's one of the worst possible things about being a parent - the helplessness when your child is hurting.

Then on yet another hand (no really, I have three hands... count em!), I used to be where she is but today I'm not.  It wasn't easy, and it wasn't quick, but I don't think any therapist or social worker or psychiatrist would label me depressed, or anxious, and certainly no longer suffering from borderline personality disorder.  I've come a long way and worked hard to "rejoin" the human race so to speak.  Where I was once closed off I can now let light in.  Where I once just wanted to sit in the dark, I now welcome the sunrise.  Where I used to just "not care", I can love.  I can really smile.  I can honestly laugh.  I can hug without flinching (well, mostly anyway).  I beat the darkness.

And that gives me hope for her.  She's stronger than I was.  She has an ally in healing (me!).  Together we can beat this.  But she has to let me help her.  She has to be willing to do the work.  She has to want it. 

It won't be easy.  It won't be quick.  There will be a lot of heartache, and she has a long, painful, personal journey ahead of her.  And that makes me sad.  I know how hard it will be and she doesn't deserve that.  I wish I could make it easy for her.  I wish I could wave a magic wand and have her heal overnight. But I can't.  None of us can.  All we can do is be there for them, no matter what journey they embark on.  

New therapists... can we all get on the same page?

Two down, one to go.  Doctors that is.  Yesterday was the diabetes doctor for my oldest, then at night a new therapist for the youngest.  She just might work - I like some of her ideas, and the fact that she has Been There, Done That as far as raising a RAD doesn't hurt either.  She has seen first hand how chaotic it can be and how it can affect everybody around them.  I like that about her.  She did seem almost more interested in the older daughter though, which isn't a good sign.  Granted, it's the whole dynamic that needs work, not just one person, but this is supposed to be about the younger and her anger issues.  I can't disagree though that some of those issues are directly related to the behavior of the oldest.

So the wife and I spent 90 minutes just scratching the surface of things.  It's going to be more money we don't really have, but we can't let her anger and bitterness continue to fester and we've done everything we can think of to help her and we aren't getting very far. 

This morning though, well... I'm not looking forward to it.  More time spent with Mr Smarmy and his buddy who think they know everything about how to help my daughter even though they know nothing about diabetes and are only focused on the one aspect of her.  Her diabetes doctor has said he's going to pull her out of there if they don't start focusing on her emotional and eating issues.  He's concerned that her complexity is just too much for their "strength based program" (as they like to brag about it) and they just aren't going to make enough progress letting her "lead the way".  I mentioned that in passing to them yesterday morning when I scheduled the appointment with them (I can't believe it either - we had an appointment with them before the Christmas break, I requested to meet with them a second time while on break and they asked me if such and such a date/time would work, I said no but these times would.. never heard back from them until I chased them down at the school yesterday) - that we were wondering if this school was therapeutic enough for her.  They, of course, were shocked that I would say something like that.  But I really don't know if it's the right fit - I guess we'll know soon enough.

Speaking of soon enough.. time to get the girls up and begin the day!