Thursday, November 28, 2013

Walls Come Tumbling Down

 But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
 Pompeii~ Bastille

It is Thanksgiving and honestly I have been in a pretty bad funk. In preparation to adopt an older child, we have prepared ourselves in a lot of ways. I can't even count how many books I have read or cds I have listened to about all kinds of adoption issues. I know more about Reactive Attachment Disorder than most of the mental health workers we encounter. I know the more our daughter loves us the scarier it becomes for her and this causes her to push us away. I have written on this topic many times. Even though my head knows how Sweetie will respond to certain situations, my heart still gets hurt when she does respond in a negative way. Sweetie seems to be wanting to make changes in herself to heal. She has been participating in therapy, she says she believes we are good parents and doing everything we can. She says she needs to take this time to work on herself. I believe her. What is hard is when we try to visit her and she can only deal with being around us for 2 minutes without reacting in a negative way. I am not sure if it a control issue or if it is a shame issue. She can hardly look at us when we see her. I know she feels bad for accusing Cris falsely and for attacking me. She verbalizes this to her therapist and understands it is those actions that are why she is in the program. It is a good thing she is able to verbalize these things. 6 months ago Sweetie could not have done that. So, even though her behavior has been it's absolute worst, she is now beginning to experience some healing. She can recognize that she is doing these things to test us to see if we will really will stay and if we really unconditionally love her. She can admit that she is scared that she will chase us away. But she hasn't chased us away. Honestly it hurts awfully when she does this. It is hard not to take it personally. On days like today, I find myself relating to this song. When I close my eyes it feels like nothing has changed at all. When I close my eyes I feel like I have been here before. And I ask; how I am gonna be an optimist about this? If it wasn't for the faith I have that God has brought Sweetie to us because he could use us to help her heal, I would not be optimistic. Even with the true hope that I have, there are days that I have my doubts. But, I look back on where Sweetie has come from and what she has survived. My sweet girl is strong, she is smart, she is resilient and most of all she is loved. Her walls are beginning to come tumbling down, exposing the hurt child inside. When I was talking to her therapist yesterday she said something that no one has said to me before. She said that Sweetie is one of the few kids she has worked with that if it was not for her trauma, she would not have any mental health issues. That most of the other children she works with have biological mental illness. She believes if Sweetie had not gone through her early childhood trauma, she would have been able to have a life with absolutely no limits.
At first this made me profoundly sad and angry. I am having to really work hard on forgiving her others for hurting her so much that they have broken her spirit. They have shattered her soul. They have left a hole in her soul that nothing can ever fill. I pray that God's love can heal that wound.
I will be grateful for when the holidays are over, so we can get past all of the triggers for a while and Sweetie can get to a place of peace.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Surviving the Monster

 Fire only needs 3 things: An ignition, oxygen and fuel.
For about 10 years I was a volunteer firefighter in upstate New York. Most of the time I managed to get through things pretty unscathed. Then their were times that like when I managed to miss tucking a patch of hair inside my Kevlar hood and burned of a huge chunk of hair. Over that time I was able to learn a lot about fire and what a monster it can become. I came to view fire as a living breathing thing. It was born, it ate, it grew and eventually died. When tended to carefully fire can be a wonderful thing, providing warmth and light. But when abused or neglected it becomes uncontrollable and takes the form of a monster devouring everything in it's path. Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are in some ways like a forest fire. They can start from careless mistakes of selfish people. Imagine young campers having a good time creating a campfire. For a while they tend to the fire, it is fun, it is a source of entertainment. But eventually time goes by and they get tired, bored, go to sleep and eventually leave. When the fire isn't being provided with fuel, it can spread to surrounding areas to feed. If there is no one there to care for the fire it becomes more and more destructive until it either runs out of fuel or someone steps in and smothers it. For our children with difficult past, no one was there to tend to their needs. The fire from their fear became anger and it grows to become an out of control rage. And like a fire that has smoldered for a long time just barely alive, they can blow when oxygen is reintroduced. In our journey with Sweetie love is oxygen and the things we have bought for Sweetie is the fuel that has fed her fire. For a child who has been deprived for so long of basic needs and love, the flood of love and gifts creates a scenario very similar to a backdraft. Unleashing an uncontrollable monster. This is what happened to my Sweetie. And now we are left with the aftermath. We are a family that is a pile of debris and ashes.
However there is still hope. Soon after the largest of forest fires, new life rises from the ashes.
Our family is already starting to see sprouts of new growth already in Sweetie.
I have already shared how hard it was to place Sweetie back into a PRTF( Psychiatric Residential Therapy Facility).and how this one is way more structured and is just a tougher program. We were to have our first family therapy session today, but were unable to because I caught the flu. Even in this misery, God has made good of it. When we could not go, it allowed Sweetie to do an individual therapy session that was monumental in her journey. After the session her therapist wrote to me the following:
It went fantastic, actually. Really pleased with how she responded. She said that she felt like she had never really had much individual therapy before and that she needs it. I had some discussion with her about RAD and what that means and why it isn't her fault that she's had some difficulties forming attachments. It made sense to her and she was able to recognize that RAD is why she tends to form very quick attachments with peers and becomes emotional when those attachments dissolve quickly. She also recognized that with each foster placement she has had, it has gotten more and more difficult for her to trust caregivers. We also discussed that she has trouble trusting men and worries that they will sexually abuse her. She identified that a big goal of hers is to learn how to trust and to learn what love really is when it's healthy. She believes that she needs more 'help' than you guys do and believes that you are good parents. I think she really can be successful here if we can continue down this line of thinking. 
This is the first time that Sweetie has taken ownership for her behavior or treatment. It has always been someone else's fault or someone else had to do something to fix what was happening.
Even though I can hardly breathe and severe muscle and joint aches, my heart is happy and excited.
This is so huge for her and us. I was able to speak with her and she is sad and low. My heart hurts for her in that sense. This is the first time she is allowing herself to actually feel sad. Until now, she has always converted sad and fear to angry. She is being very insightful and in tuned to what is going on.
Unfortunately,she has stated that she does not want to see us for Thanksgiving because she does not feel safe around us. She said she loves us but just can't handle seeing us right now while she is in a bad place. I told her I was so proud of her for telling us how she felt, that I respected her for being able to voice that. I told her we support her in her decision and we are here when she is ready. She was the saddest I ever heard her and I believe this interaction to be genuine.
I am continuing to pray for radical transformation for my girl. I will continue to show her God's love through me. 
I am hoping to hear back from one of our pastors. He took a picture of this amazingly beautiful thistle and gave a wonderful talk on flourishing, not just surviving. I am so happy to be able to share Kurt's amazing photo. This is what I want for our Sweetie. I want a life for her where she does not merely survive. I believe that God has a beautiful path laid out for Sweetie. I believe in her ability to take a stand against the monster inside of her, find redemption and flourish.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Broken Girl

I will never share Sweetie's full story with anyone for 2 reasons. First I don't know most of it. I have only gotten bits and pieces that come out in rare moments and then they are retracted and denied. But more importantly because this is Sweetie's story to tell. She may never tell anyone everything. Most of the time I believe she can't even bring herself to face most of it. All that I know is the severe abuse and neglect left my child shattered and completely broken. I can not even tell you how many tears I have shed over her lost childhood and innocence. No child should face what she has. IT is not fair that she is the one who is paying now for what others did to her. I can never wrap my brain around the fact that they could not get past themselves to care for their children. But part of me has pity for them. They could not do it because they did not know how. They were never shown. They were broken children themselves.

Bringing Sweetie back to a PRTF (Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility) was not any easier the second time around. Now that she is a teenager the program she is in is a bit more hard core. This has meant no contact so far. We will have our first family therapy this coming Wednesday. We are faced with an empty house again. It is so quiet now and sad. For every stressful time we had with Sweetie we also had moments that were fun. I miss her laughter. I miss her singing and most of all I miss her hugs. Even with all of her attachment issues, Sweetie loves to be hugged and cuddled. Granted it needs to always be on her terms, but she is willing to accept affection. This is one of the things that gives me great hope for Sweetie.

While Sweetie was in the hospital the past couple weeks, she had to work on written processing of her recent behaviors and goal setting. Even though she could not face us to apologize she could write that she felt horrible for how she assaulted me and how she accused Cris falsely. She wrote that she knows she needs help and that she wants to learn to control her anger. This too gives me hope.
It must be hard to face those you have hurt so badly. Especially when you already have such a core of shame and pain. That would be difficult for any adult. I can't imagine how difficult it is for her.

The new program is a lot tougher and more structured as it is a program for teenagers and her behaviors have been so severe. I am happy about the structure. It will push her. And I really believe she needs to be pushed hard while in a controlled environment. She needs to be pushed to deal with her trauma, not run away from it. If she keeps running, it will always follow her and she will continue to have a life of turmoil and drama. If she chooses to embrace the treatment and work through the trauma she can heal and she can lead an amazing life. We have provided her with unconditional love, support and all the tools to accomplish this healing. It is now her choice. She can work hard and eventually come back home or she can not and she can be placed out of the house. Either way she will still be our daughter and either way we will love her. I prefer her to be home but I will not live in a home where I will be abused.

I continue to put faith in God that she is where she needs to be to find healing. This will be a long few months. It will be hard with her not being home for the holidays. She will not be allowed to come home for Thanksgiving. We are choosing not to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Cris and I are going to go to the beach and stay at a friends house. I know it will be cold, but I love the ocean and need some time to clear my head and start to work on healing myself.

Friday, November 08, 2013

This is Not Your Legacy

"No, this is not your legacy
This is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you
No, this is not your legacy
This is not your meant to be
I can break the chains that bind you"
I refuse to give up on Sweetie. She can kick, shove and punch to push me away, but I will not leave. And that rocks her to the core. Her brain can not even begin to comprehend why. How can we love her when she was made to feel for so long that no one could? Oh how I wish she could just see that she really is loved and safe. How I pray for her to begin to trust that we will not hurt her. I want more than anything to see that she does not have to be where she came from. It is her choice where she goes. She has us, she has many tools to help her heal and she ultimately has God's love to help her heal.
This past week has been a roller coaster with trying to get her the help she needs. She has been in the behavioral health hospital for 10 days. And as of yesterday afternoon the hospital wanted to discharge her, but the psychiatric residential facility did not have a bed or the proper paperwork to even accept her as a patient. I started this process on October 28th and there were multiple beds available. At 1:00 yesterday afternoon I was informed that she would not be able to get into the PRTF until the last week of November and that she would be getting discharged. We could not locate a therapeutic foster home willing to take her with her violence and false accusations. Just the day before the hospital psychiatrist and psychologist sat down in a meeting and told us she was not safe to be in the community or even have us transport her to the PRTF and then we were faced with a real possibility of having to bring her back home until she could get into the facility in 3 weeks. I spent hours calling, emailing and texting anybody and everybody I could think of. It finally came to a head and I told the hospital& our therapist that I refuse to pick her up. I was informed if I did not that DSS would be called and we could have charges pressed against us and a DSS investigation would be open. My response was that I would rather have charges pressed against me than be dead. And within 3 hours all paperwork was sent to the facility that was needed. I immediately got on the phone again at 8 am. But 10:00 she was accepted into the program. I made a call into her representative with her insurance and he advocated on our behalf. By 2:00 her insurance who had 72 business hours to make the decision approved her. By 4:00the hospital agreed to keep her until Monday and arranged transport to the PRTF on Monday. Everything is in place for Sweetie to be admitted at 1:00 on Monday.
This program is completely different from her last. And I am grateful for this. The last program reinforced some really bad defense mechanisms. They taught her she didn't have to talk about her feelings, that she could just walk away anytime she got upset. Yes, if you are truly going to have a blow up you should walk away. But Sweetie lives stuck in an angry state. She does not know how to feel any other way. Being happy is scary and vulnerable. They are a lot more restrictive and structured. The program is structured for teens with severe trauma and sexual abuse histories. I feel really good about the program. I am praying this is where she can begin to really dig into confronting the demons that haunt her. Facing them is the only way she can move past them. She is really at a pivotal point in her journey. Her healing is in her own hands. I ask God to speak into her heart and let her understand the love that she has in us and him. I ask that she can see what a wonderful soul she has. She can have a life full of acceptance and unconditional love. She need only want that for herself.
This will be a long journey. But I know with all of my being that she can heal. She deserves to know true love. She deserves to have peace and she deserves to be happy.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sometimes you get hurt when you are parenting a warrior

My daughter wears a suit of armor that has protected her the best it could when she was living a life full of danger. She has worn it so long it has become part of her. Over the last year she has removed small pieces. She has taken her helmet off so we could see her beautiful eyes and hear her beautiful voice. She has at times even taken off her gloves so that she could give you a genuine hug now and again. But then she notices how vulnerable she is becoming and puts her armor back on and when she feels extremely vulnerable she pulls her sword and attacks. This week that is what happened.
It rocked her to the core that I would not leave my husband for her when she had made accusations against him.  She began to question my loyalty to her, which ultimately resulted in her interrupting that as rejection of her. Sweetie's disorder centers around her negative self worth and shame. The perceived rejection became unbearable and triggered her biggest rage to date. Since the accusation Sweetie has become more and more unsafe at home. Threatening to blow the house up by sticking metal in the microwave. She started to randomly hit Cris and I, shove us& kick us. She would slam doors repeatedly and bang things on the walls for hours at a time. Even with therapist here. She would be waiting for Cris outside our bedroom door at 3 in the morning when he left for work.
Wednesday I came home from work late because we had our annual work Christmas card photo shoot. (Keep in mind while reading this next part, I was still wearing my costume). As soon as I walked in the door she started verbally abusing me and was being defiant. She grabbed the salt container and poured it out onto our dining room table. I asked he to stop and as always said "no you can't make me". So, I went over and tried to grab it from her hand. That was when she elbowed me in the face. From there she went to the freezer and started grabbing things and then the pantry. When she refused and cussed at me, I just said "That's ok, I guess you don't have to give you your allowance this week". (Natural consequence, right?) That set of a rage that turned into her destroying her room, including the dresser I just redid for her. She than began hitting herself in the face with a full length mirror. When I tried to take the mirror away from her she kicked through it and then attacked me. Cris tried to get her off me and then she attacked him. While she was beating on him, I called the cops. When she saw me again, she charged at me again and started punching me in the face. Landing several blows directly to my nose and mouth. Cris was able to yank her off and we were able to restrain her on the bed. At one point Cris let go of her legs when she seemed to be calm and she kicked me repeatedly in the stomach. After restraining her for a while, she calmed enough that we let her go. She got up and went over and started jumping on the broken mirror. I bent over to try to get it away from her and she punched me in the face again.
I was able to get away and we tried to block her in her room and then she began to throw things. She threw her tv and dvd player, tore pictures off walls and threw her full piggy bank at my head.
Then the cops arrived and she immediately settled. All she could say to me was I deserved it.
She was transported by police to the local mental health emergency room where they admitted her.
We are currently attempting to get her into a new Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility  that specializes in traumatized children. We are praying that her insurance will approver her for a second stay. That may be a challenge since she already was in for 6 months. Recent behaviors qualify her for admission, but insurance is a whole beast unto itself.

I have spent the last few evenings really digging through her records, trying to find out what happened in late October or Early November that triggers her so much. I could see where she was moved from different foster homes during that time due to behaviors, so I know something happened that is triggering her. We need to find out what that is so she can process it. She understands this. She has put together the same things separately and said the same thing today.

Despite everything we still love her. Despite everything we have more compassion for her. And despite everything WE ARE STILL HERE and STILL HER PARENTS! That will not change. She may not be able to live with us for some time, while we get her treatment, but our goal is to get our daughter back home someday, if she can begin to heal and can be safe.

I have had some say that they feel I air our dirty laundry on this blog. I do not want anyone's pity for our journey. I do not do this for anyone's admiration. My husband and I are flawed individuals too. We are doing the best we can and we are failing. But we are trying. I write mostly for other parents out there, fighting the same battles to know, you are not alone! We are going through this and we are surviving! Our relationship with each other is actually strengthening. My faith in God and his power to heal my daughter has become unwavering. We are better people for adopting our Sweetie.
For that I can be grateful.

My friend Kim put this song on my Facebook page this week before the big blow up. It is a good description of how I imagine her subconscious is feeling. I pray that she can find an outlet to be able to come to terms with the trauma so she does not have to be the warrior anymore and she can allow herself to be loved and love in return.