OB: Fear = Freeze

The following post was from a little over two years ago.  A post on a group reminded me of it.  That and I’ve been going NUTS with this child’s “staring” rather than answering when I speak to him. I really wish I was as empathetic as I used to be.  I’m working on it.  I saw a few other posts when looking for this one.  Maybe I can get back to being more gracious.

A week ago, we had a situation come up that really helped me see how solidly T-lo is operating in a state of fear rather than actually being *here* sometimes.  All the other kids had gotten down from the table. T-lo was playing with his second piece of broccoli.  He had eaten the top off the first piece.  It had been 20-30 minutes.  This is something we struggle with not stressing about due to his growth issues.

I turned his chair to help him down (we have one of those bar height tables AND he has a booster seat).  I picked him up and told him “I love you. No matter what happens I love you. I. Love. You.”   He looked terrified.  I asked him what I had said sure he couldn’t have heard me or he would seem so scared.  He said, “get down from the table.” I tried again and he replied, “eat.” I tried one more time and he went back to his first answer. The child was so terrified when I picked him up, that he could only guess what I had said.

I hugged him tightly and a few moments later repeated what I had really said. This time he heard me. “I love you too, Mama.”

So that was quite an education.  A lot of times he seems to blank out, zone out, just not be there when we say something to him.  Or he’ll start crying though what is being said or done is not cry worthy (sometimes, quite the opposite).  It’s like he’s responding to something else.

I don’t want to….

“I don’t want to get beat.”

“I don’t want to get killed.”

That is what my little Professor told me when he knew I was angry.  I had tried to hide it.

“Professor, if you are going to poop on yourself, you’re going to have to clean it up.  Stand in the tub til you are clean.”  I handed him wipes and a Wal-Mart bag.  I walked out.  He cleaned up pretty well.  Of course, there was poo in a few places despite my trying to contain it.

“{Adult Daughter’s name}….argh.”

That is when he looked up at me, in the hallway, and said it.  It was so matter-of-fact.

ETA:  I thought maybe I should finish this story when I told hubby about it.  It might not surprise you that not long after all this, Professor pooped himself again (how come kids who don’t poop over-much generally can poop so much when they need it to say something?).  I put him him the tub with wipes and a Wal-Mart bag.  He “cleaned up.”  He had poop ALL over him.  I put him back in the bathroom and told him to clean up, giving him more wipes.  He comes back out clean-ish. I walk back to the bathroom to put him through a quick shower and saw it.  Poop smears all over the carpet.  Goodness.  My daughter steam cleaned the carpet.  I started him bathing.

Then we went to the park.

I had planned to write about something else today, but this made me cry.  I walked out the outside trash with his wipe bag and wondered if I can continue doing this.  How much more heartbreak for my kids can I handle?

OB: “They Seem Normal to Me”

The below is another repost.  I hope it is helpful for someone.  Please know some of us understand, at least a little.

NOTE: A couple of my kids have attachment disorders,  not RAD (reactive attachment disorder).  ETA: This has changed and RAD is a diagnosis here.  However, I think this is an important topic (and I hope I don’t mess it up royally!).

There is one sign of attachment disorders I wish everyone knew:  Parents may seem hostile and angry (at times, regularly, often, etc).  The parents seem to be pulling their hair out, lamenting over their children’s behavior; but all the rest of the world sees are cute, sweet, easy, well-behaved children.  Please believe the mom!

I have an example for you.

For the past several years, I’ve known this family.  A lovely woman who took in a family member’s extremely neglected and abused children.  The children dressed extremely conservatively, demure.  They were very understated in their appearance and mannerisms.  They were very sweet, mild-mannered, quiet, etc.  They attended all events and played with the other kids.  They seemed to love their mom, weren’t inappropriate with their affection, didn’t seem to mommy-shop, etc.

I had heard that they had some troubles.  Really, maybe mom was just expecting too much.  Maybe she was being too strict with her kids as they were getting older (preteens and teens).  Maybe the kids had gotten in a bad crowd so were trying some stuff out.  But mostly, they still seemed just fine. Remember, I saw them regularly.

Mom didn’t complain a lot, but she did seem frustrated.  VERY frustrated.

Well, stuff has happened and the girls are no longer around.  Sadly, they’ve chosen a horrible life, are out on the street, are both currently pregnant (at the time this post was originally written).  They are halfway across the country.

So I’m talking to mom yesterday.  She kept it brief; but what she went through with these girls was awful.  As you read through the diagnoses, a picture slowly starts to form.  They had a ton of diagnoses: RAD (reactive attachment disorder), IED (intermittent explosive disorder), ADHD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  Other than adhd, those are some pretty hefty diagnoses.  And the diagnoses give you a GLIMPSE of what her life must have been like with these two children in her home.

I do want to say that though her anger, frustration, and fear were very evident, her sadness and love came through clearly also as we talked.

If you know a worried or frustrated foster or adoptive mom of charming children, please know that you see only what the children want you to see.  They can hold it together pretty well, “honeymoon” for you; but mom pays the price for that sweetness when she gets home.  She gets the rages, the tears, the poop, the urine everywhere, the hurting people, the masturbation, the threats, the being pushed away.  SHE gets all the child’s anger, sadness, and FEAR.

I wish I could explain this better.

Secondary Trauma

As I was looking around WordPress at posts with fostercare tags, I saw this article regarding Secondary Trauma.

Here are some excerpts from a post I wrote a year and a half ago:

  • I was hiding tears a few times because of the sadness, hurt, and anger my preschoolers are dealing with. It’s not because they are hurting me or I can’t handle their behavior (though I did wonder one day!). It’s simply that I hate for them to be hurting SO incredibly badly.
  • I wish I knew what to say to them. <snip> I have a 3yr old who spends an hour crawling to me whining then rushing away from me saying “leave me alone” while kicking and screaming with a lot of “I miss my mommy” statements sprinkled in. Growling and whimpering. Screaming and pouting. He looks so angry. He looks so sad.
  • M is so much more demonstrative and going through it ALL day right now where S pretends to be an animal (usually a T-Rex) 70-80% of the time (though he whines and snaps at people on a dime) and  P stuffs it all like nobody’s business then it comes through in a whiny paragraph like the one below. She never cries…not really cries. The last two times she’s gotten in trouble, she had crocodile tears; but in 2 months, she’s never cried for real.
  • These poor kids. And I get so angry about what these people did! “My daddy whooped me all the time. He ‘pankt’ all of us. He pushed my mommy down too. I don’t understand why he whooped us all the time. I just don’t understand. I helped my mommy up and he pankt me.” BTW, this after she told about an accident (there were SO many accidents!)where she was hit in the face with a hammer. But Daddy took her to the store to get special bandaids. Isn’t he such a great guy?
  • That same night, P tells me (as we’re talking about things they can dream about tonight which has helped end the bedtime whining, behaviors, anxiety considerably) she wants to dream about her mommy and daddy. I told her to dream about the good things, not the bad. I just wish she hadn’t said it in front of her brother because I really don’t need MORE screaming all night from those back bedrooms.
  • These kids have just been through SO much. It’s insane.

Is it any wonder when a mom, foster or adoptive, is dealing with all that all day every day long term that she struggles with vicarious trauma?

Actually, after I wrote all that, a few months later, I finally went to therapy myself.  I needed to!  I just needed help to take care of myself so I *could* take care of them (and the other children, bio and foster, who were in our home)

Anyway, so since this blog is new and some may not know me yet, yes, some posts may be heavier like this.  I’ll try to put something light and fun up soon 🙂