Sunday, December 22, 2013

Love Is Christmas

I thought I knew what unconditional love was. But now I know my idea of it was not even close to what it truly is. After having one of successful therapy session we are back to awful. I knew it was coming and tried to prepare for it, but there is no real preparing for getting your heart broken....again.
We intentionally kept our gift giving to a minimum this year, because we knew no matter what we gave her, Sweetie would find a reason to be disappointed. And as expected she was disappointed and this time over shampoo. Weird I know.
First I should tell you I love stockings! Almost more than big gifts. I always thought they were fun and if you ask Sweetie about last Christmas, the first thing she would tell you is she caught me sneaking into her room at 4 am to put her stocking at the foot of her bed. And how she pretended to sleep until I left so she could rummage through it. Which is exactly what I did as a kid. I know this is a good memory for her. I put lots of fun stuff in her stocking. Lip balms, hair bands, nail polish, cute socks and cute gloves. She loves my Pantene conditioner, so this year I put a big bottle of that in there as well, since she doesn't have any at the residential facility. She opened all of her gifts with minimal response at all. She wouldn't even make eye contact today. She just opened her gifts and in a monotone voice made some kind of comment on most of them, mostly negative like "this is too big or it's not from Rue 21". Then she says "Where's the shampoo?' I just said it wouldn't fit in the stocking. She just said " Well I'm done, I'm going to take a nap". I could tell she was getting upset. She has tell tale body signs, like grabbing her ear or moving her chair side to side while staring at the ground and she gets a very sharp tone. We did not want there to be any negative memories for today, so we just let her go. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. No smiles, no laughter, just an empty girl, who wasn't pleased with anything we gave her. She has found a new way to reject us. From the outside most wouldn't think anything of this. People often make comments like "she is just a teenager, they are all like that". No, no they are not like her. Her actions are all calculated and manipulative. Each comment is meant to have a direct effect and meant to push us away. But they are also self preserving. In the words of my friend Melissa "Trauma Sucks". There is no other way to put it. It destroys our children's childhood and tries it's best to destroy their future. But I do not accept defeat in this. Yes today, trauma won. But the battle for my Sweetie is far from over. I will be honest, I am not really as strong as I appear. I do rally up my strength, but a good part of the time I am just a mess. I cried for hours today. I battle with wondering why I don't deserve to be happy, why don't I deserve a child who can love me back. I know in my mind that it is not about deserving, but my heart just longs for a family of my own to love and for them to love me. But adopting a child is not about having someone love you back. And in reality, Sweetie may truly love me. I know she does love me the best she can. And I will just have to accept that it is the best she can do. Her defenses will not allow for more. This is when I see what true unconditional love is. I receive nothing in return of my love. I am hurt over and over and I still adore this child. I can only credit God for this. This is not something I was taught or experienced. I am someone that has always tried to be perfect for people to love me. So I have always experienced conditional love. People love that I am funny, kind, a good cook and giving. But how many really love the hurt and dark me?  The one that no one gets to ever see, for fear of being rejected. My dear husband is trying so hard right now. He is the closest to seeing the real me, but I don't even show him the brokenness. He is sweet with his words and he is even humoring me by helping me prepare meals for the homeless. I feel at times like I react to him the way Sweetie is towards me. I know he takes the burden of my sorrow heavily. He wants nothing more than to fix it.

So, now I will get into the part of my weekend where I realize how I must really enjoy being tortured.
Every once in a while I check out the adopt nc kids website. Mostly to check if any of the kids we inquired about while looking for our children have been adopted. I want so much for them all to have loving homes. I wish the system was different and I could adopt several at a time. But it is not. You have to wait a year between adoptions and then the adopted child must be stable for at least 6 months.
Which means each time Sweetie gets hospitalized or spends time in residential our clock gets restarted from her discharge date. Back in September I wrote about the day I picked up Sweetie when she was discharged from her first residential treatment. The staff at the facility made an exception for me to come to chapel that day. Sweetie did not want to be seen with her mom, so I sat in a row towards the back by myself.  Then a group of the younger kids was brought in. And this little girl with big brown eyes sat down right next to me. I can still picture her hair in a ponytail and her banged up, scrapped up legs from playing outside. She was a bundle of energy as they sang their hymns. They showed a video of an interview of the kids at the facility about how they would make the world a better place. Sweetie did not participate in this project, she did not participate in many activities while there. This little girl was in the video and she said she would make the world a better place by using her super hero powers and shot her fist toward the camera. After the video, the pastor was discussing different ways of making others feel good and asked the kids to share a good memory from a birthday that they had. This girl looked at me and said " she never had one". That was the moment I knew I needed to more for these kids. They deserve to have birthdays and holidays. They deserve to be protected and loved. They deserved so much, but were failed, just like my Sweetie. At the time I thought this was finally "My Calling"! I thought I was meant to be a foster parent. Maybe I still am. So, I come back to the website. I was looking at it this weekend and I saw her picture staring back at me. Her bio so much like my Sweetie's. It is very common for kids like her to be available for adoption for years. Sweetie was 9 when she could be adopted and it took 3 years for her to get to us. Could we be this girl's family? Maybe we could show her unconditional love before it is too late for her and she is unable to accept it. I put out an email to Sweetie's therapist from the residential facility and she is going to pass it on to the girl's team. I know this is crazy, I know we (In the words of my mom)" already have a lot on our plate. It may take months or a year for Sweetie to stabilize and for us to add to our family. But I can't lose hope that we will have our large family. I know many will not understand this... why we would want to bring more chaos and potential pain into our lives? But in my heart I cannot find a reason not to. Does God stop loving all of his hurt children? The ones who strike out and try to hurt themselves, others and him. He has not turned his back on any of us. How can I turn my back on those who so desperately need parents. This is what I have found unconditional love to be. Isn't Unconditional love really what Christmas is about? It is not about the presents and the parties. For me, it is about loving one another wholly, unconditionally.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wherever You Go

I know it has been a few weeks since I last posted. There has been a lot going on. The last 2 weeks have been very busy and also very tough. It started on a high note after Thanksgiving when Sweetie gave me this letter. It is a letter she did in therapy and I saw a big glimpse of Hope for our girl.

And like every other time my girl shows me some major affection, she does something equally awful to sabotage it. She must be really scared right now, because she is pushing us away harder than ever before. She is refusing to see us or talk to us again. But we keep trying. During this weeks family therapy she was something different. She wasn't out of control tantrumming like she normally does. This week she was very calculated, very deliberate and full of disdain.
As we were walking down the hall to the therapy room we could see her walking down another hall and she was laughing and waving to everyone. The minute she saw us, she literally flipped a switch and threw herself back. If you can picture trying to put 2 positive charged magnets, how they repel each other...that is how she responds to us. Her movements are extremely exaggerated. If we step toward her she will run completely around us to the farthest corner while yelling or screaming. is week therapist tried something, by letting Sweetie feel in control of the session. . Giving Sweetie control immediately backfired. She sat in the therapist chair and rhythmically banged the chair right to left hitting the drawers on each side hard enough to have them open and slam shut. She did this on and off the whole therapy session. She verbalizes that we have rejected her and calls us those people. We are no longer mom and dad. She dominated the whole session, cussing and yelling and then singing songs when asked questions. She says that she wants to kill rejection and that we are rejection. Does that mean she wants to kill us? I know that the Reactive Attachment Disorder is in full swing right now. She is getting superficial needs met through peer interactions and have limited contact with us, due to an issues getting through to her on the phone. To be honest she seems to be getting further and further away. She is constantly rejecting us now and in turn she is feeling that we are rejecting her. She has gone back to thinking we are doing things we are not doing or saying things we have not said. Cris and I said very little during the session because she was dysregulated and was saying she was going to blow. But that was last session. Luckily her therapist is open to trying things we know work. And what works is pushing through the uncomfortable and forcing her to deal with me. So this week it will be me and her in an empty room. The therapist will be outside.
I will do what I always do with Sweetie and I am going to be honest and level with her. She is usually receptive to this. I am not afraid of her hitting me, I know I can take her punches. So this time when she fights with words or behaviors I am going to push through with her. I am going to get through to her. She is going to see I am here, I have not gone anywhere, I am not going anywhere. If she wants out, she needs to figure out how to do that legally by getting emancipated, but that will be her choice. We are not giving up. I will tell her she is our family, we want her to be our family. If she wants to be part of the family, she does have to try to work to be part of it. I do not expect perfection. Lord knows I am far from perfect. But we do expect effort. IF she does not want to be part of our family than she does not get the privileges of this family. Which means no gifts, no trips, no fancy hair coloring/cut.
We are a good family, we are good parents and deep down she is a good girl. She is just scared to death of us rejecting her. She is trying to control that rejection. While in therapy and she was making a bunch of noise I asked the therapist several times, so that Sweetie could hear me "I wonder how long a scared girl can push and push until she realizes that these parents aren't going anywhere?"
This was an exhausting and heart breaking visit. It crushed both Cris and I.
I am pretty sure she heard me. Because the next day, she did call us.

She did not apologize but we did have a pretty insightful discussion.
I asked what she wanted from us besides buying her things? She said she didn't know. 
I asked what she was so upset about yesterday, that she was saying some really hurtful things and she said because we weren't buying her anything for Christmas. I asked her if I ever said that and she said no but you will buy me crappy stuff. I asked did I buy you crappy stuff last year? He said no. I asked did we buy you crappy school clothes and she said no. So I asked why would you think that now? She said she didn't know and that made her feel better.
I asked her what she needed us to do to make her feel loved and not rejected? She said she didn't know. I told her that is something to think about, because we have tried to buy her anything she ever wanted, we tried affection, we tried fun experiences. We are trying to just figure out how to show her we are here. But if she doesn't want to accept it, it is all pointless. 
She said she wanted to be with friends more and less therapy. I said when we can act like a normal family we can stop therapy. She said that we are not normal. I said you are right, I am not normal, Papi is not normal and neither are you and that is ok. We are not normal together. She asked me what I thought a normal family was. I said ones that are respectful, caring, forgiving, they don't yell at each other and they don't hit. They do still have disagreements but they talk them out and work on them. Unfortunately that was when her time was up for her call. We only get 10 minutes 3 times a week, and the first 5 minutes are usually her being distracted or asking me for things and me ticking her off by saying no.

It is so hard for me to say no. I love to buy things for people I love, that is my love language. Especially at Christmas. I see so many things I want to buy her. But this year it is 2 outfits, a winter jacket that she needs and a pair of pjs. As I finished up some last minute shopping today I saw so many things I wanted for her. When I envisioned being a mom I pictured all the things we could do, I loved the thought of having a girlie girl that loved hair and clothes and shoes. So did Cris. We would have given Sweetie anything. But sadly, she can not handle receiving good things. She sabotages them. So, this Christmas we are pretty much dealing with a tantrum either way. If she get's what she wants she doesn't feel she deserves it and sabotages. If she doesn't receive what she wants she gets triggered and feels we are rejecting her. We saw this last year, we got most of what she asked for. So much of it was never used and we gave it away. She had awful behavior for a week after the holiday.
This year, I have saved money and we will see how it goes. She is already saying it isn't fair. She is right it isn't fair. It is not fair that all this happened to her and that she has to live with the symptoms of RAD. IT's not fair  that we don't get to do things with our daughter and that she can't accept our love. The whole situation is not fair.
I am not sure what the next few weeks will hold, but I will be grateful when this holiday season is over. We should be in a trigger free zone for a while. Hoping then we can have some real progression with our girl. Sadly because of her behavior towards us she has not earned permission to come home during the holidays. And this makes me sad.
This has been one of my favorite songs for a while. I think of my girl when I am singing it.

There's a train leaving your heart tonight.
There's a silence inside your head and you're running you're running from it.
Down the tracks on a midnight line.
There's a red moon in the sky and you're running you're running from it.

But I'm coming for you, coming for you, wherever you go.
I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you wherever you go.

Wrestling angels till dawn breaks through
There's a blessing in the wound and you're running you're running from it.
When all your demons are at your door
it's a soldier they're looking and you're running you're running from it.

But I'm coming for you, coming for you, wherever you go.
I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you wherever you go.

I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you wherever you go
I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you wherever you go

Across the sea, the space between everything you think you know,
the things you keep and bury deep underneath the melting snow -
I'll follow.

Fathers & mothers don't always come through,
but I'm never gonna stop following you

Prophets and lovers don't always hold true,
but I'm never gonna stop falling for you

So, when your wine's all gone and your well runs dry,
Open your hands and look into my eyes; all that you see here,
you'll soon leave behind, so open your hands and look into my eyes

'cause I'm coming for you, coming for you wherever you go

I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you wherever you go [5x]

Yeah, I'm coming for you, coming for you wherever you go [2x]

I'm coming for you, coming for you wherever you go [2x]

Fathers & mothers don't always come through,
but I'm never gonna stop following you
Prophets and lovers don't always hold true,
but I'm never gonna stop falling for you