Mental

10 Oct

It’s been 8 months since my last post. I don’t know where time has gone. I’ve had sporadic intentions of writing but then words have failed me or outbursts have flailed me. One or the other.

I’ve been working on some self-healing by curling in on myself and only branching out to a few, very close, unsuspecting victims, while revelling in the mundane minutiae of life trying to find some semblance of sanity. And in fleeting moments of freedom from the hazy torpor, I’ve been (over-)indulging in self-care and, frankly, bloody loving it!

Pickle is now at long last under the supervision of the child psychiatrist. Because of his complex nature, we haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the right kind of therapy for him, if indeed there is one.

Rather unexpectedly however, we have found ourselves squeezed together on a (rather small) couch in a child psychotherapist’s office…..without Pickle!!

Talking through our concerns, worries and fears for Pickle now and in the future has been remarkably uplifting. The sessions compound my growing knowledge and confidence and, if I’m honest, make me feel like I am predominantly on the right tracks. My obsessive reading, challenging and fighting must finally be paying off a little.

Over the years, I have attended most professional meetings alone so having the OH with me has been a fantastic support. I think he finally believes that I was right to wallow in pages and pages of psychobabble, funding the endless complexities of my (mostly) female mind. Even though it has (quite possibly) been to the detriment of my own usually steely mental resolve and is (very possibly) the reason I overdose regularly on Jaffa Cakes and gin.

Pickle’s official diagnosis has come after years of my insisting that the professionals followed through with my gut feeling of “attachment issues”.

I was told not to be so “fixated”. Not to “self-diagnose”.

I listened. Of course.

After all, they’re the experts, right? RIGHT?

(I realise I could be repeating myself here, I refuse to read past blog posts)

Countless meetings, assessments, tests, tantrums, outbursts later and I have it in black and white:

Diagnosis: my-gut-feeling-feckin-itis

(Otherwise known as: attachment disorder…with significant traits of ADHD and autistic tendencies).

A testy and unforgiving trio. Not the sort you’d like to meet on a dark night!

Pickle was walloped with some horse pills, which seemed to have little effect. A few weeks later, the dose was increased but again with little effect.

A third and final attempt at a different medication is starting to show some signs of light relief. Though in all fairness, I refuse to place all the credit at the feet of medication. Pickle has made a staunch effort to understand his challenges and still wows me every day with his understanding of the workings of his own mind. We talk very openly. He has a wonderful, descriptive imagination and is excellent at drawing analogies that help me understand his emotions and feelings.

This leads me on to what the actual catalyst for this post was. Last week I heard some dreadful and tragic news: an old school friend chose not to continue in this tangled world of crazy. And it broken my heart. I sobbed uncontrollably.

I didn’t know the man he became, but I did know the boy he was and it made me think even more deeply about my own boys. About the external influences that impact them every day. About how important it is that the channels of communication remain open to our children, our families and friends. About the need to fight even harder to be heard.

Many of my regular followers know how passionately I feel about mental health issues. How disappointed and utterly frustrated I am in the mental health service provision in this country – especially in my local area.

It angers me on a daily basis when I read the stories of the often needless difficulties created by the lack of funding, bureaucracy and oftentimes (in my experience) downright lazy-arsedness. But what angers me most of all is the needless loss of life. This doesn’t and shouldn’t need to happen.

In March 1998, I lay writhing in pain on my sofa – unbeknown to me – with a practically perforated bowel. It coincidentally happened to be Bowel Cancer Awareness Week and I overheard a news item strapline declare: “Don’t die of embarrassment”.

That was the rocket up the ass (pun intended) I needed to seek medical help. Thankfully, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and not the Big C.

Though ulcerative colitis and crohn’s disease are both physical illnesses, they are also invisible illnesses. As with mental health disorders, you can appear perfectly well to those on the outside.

I was so grateful to have absorbed that message enough to do something about my symptoms. In the same vein and in the hope that just one person who may be struggling with mental health issues will read this and act on it: Please don’t suffer in silence. You’re not alone.

And to those of you who are lucky enough to have close support and are at ease with being open, try not to judge others based on what you see or don’t see, what you hear, what you assume.

Talk. Ask people how they’re feeling.

And more importantly, listen!

Today is World Mental Health Day and it felt fitting to write this post, which I now realise is completely haphazard, manic and maybe slightly….mental.

But I’ve written it with no thought, just a mixture of anger and deep, deep sadness.

In memory of PG.

Abbi’s Words

4 Feb

All evening – since receiving it – I have been deliberating over how to introduce this guest post.

To be honest, no words seem to come close enough to express the feelings I felt when I read them. Not only the sentiment but the sheer mastery of language and rhythm.

I was approached by the author’s mum last week. She told me that her daughter was very keen on writing and had been enjoying reading my blog. She liked my writing style and really wanted to write something for me to have a look at. How can anyone ignore such enthusiasm.

What I read, though, was way beyond my expectations.

The young lady who wrote these words is just 12 years old.

She sits in a classroom for an hour and a half, once a week, with Pickle.

These are Abbi’s words:

 

Pickles uniqueness led me to write this description today.

I had never met anyone like him before. He was gentle yet boisterous.download

A total contradiction.

I knew there was something different but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.

His presence fills the room. Completely.

Everyone loves to be around him.

Listening to his stories. His jokes. His laugh.

As he moves around in his own secret world I feel compelled to protect him.

From loneliness.

From fear.

From isolation.

Like magnets attracting, Pickle gravitates towards adult company:

Reassurance.

Sympathy.

Understanding.

And all is well with the world again.

To this day, Pickle inspires me.

Trauma

28 Jan

Dear Pickle,

Today, I looked Trauma square in the eye. I saw him like I have never seen him before.

He wasn’t just defiant, disobedient and rude. Not this time.

Today, I saw him encapsulate and possess you with such ferocity, it scared me.

I witnessed his Herculean strength burst through your 9-year old body, bulldozing furniture with unfathomable rage.

I heard his distraught, deeply-embedded roars mushrooming through your chest.

Trauma was in charge today.

He took you to new place of deep self-loathing and heightened emotional distress.

I crouched down, away from you. Trauma wouldn’t let me come close. All I wanted to do was hold you. At that moment, I hated him for keeping me from you. He burned through your eyes with fear and apparent hatred for me. He screamed at me to “GO A-WAAAAY”

Then he relented. You invited me to sit next to you. Briefly.

Trauma never lies dormant for long. He detonated inside you again and he made you run.

Trauma often makes you run. He steals all rational and logical thinking when you are in that deep dark cavern of wildly looping guilt and shame.

But today, when Trauma made you run, he made your body clamber those railings with such determined and incredible agility, it was shockingly impressive.

I think I must have managed to portray a calmness that made you trust me and, in turn, to silence Trauma.

I told you that it looked so high and scary up there. And you came down.

Once down, you sat next to me on the step where I had remained, fixed. My mind whirring but my body open.

You placed your head on my shoulder.

We hugged.

You sobbed.

I suppressed my tears.

Then raising those long, beautiful eyelashes, you looked at me and said “My hands smell. Can I go and wash them?”

You have no idea why Trauma does this to you. That makes me so angry and so incredibly sad.

I’m learning all the time but I don’t always get it right. In fact, I have no idea what “right” is.

As welcome as I have had to make Trauma feel, I loathe his presence. I hate that he lives inside you. I hate that I can’t protect you from him.

I hope one day you will be able to read this and smile. And maybe say: “Wow, was that really me?”

I hope you will be able to read it and feel no shame; only pride at how much you have achieved.

I hope.

Mummy x

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Are we nearly there yet?

21 Nov

After 5 years, it feels like this therapeutic parenting lark may finally be starting to filter through.

It isn’t easy and I am still guilty of wandering from the gold-paved path. It’s a very conscious way of parenting and is the antithesis of my instinctive style.

This mindful approach sends streams of information to my head that make it explode. It gets messy in there. It means I can think no further ahead than the next small chunk of time. It means I have to forego my morning crankiness and my grumbling of succinct greetings. It means I have to inhale caffeine at some ungodly hour just to muster up the strength to tackle the potential shiz that may be thrown at me.

But, as with any …erm…hobby, practice makes perfect!

I am far from perfecting this method of parenting but with each day I am finding that it is becoming less of an uphill struggle and more a series of small climbs. I am seeing the benefits and – dare I say – getting a glimpse of the rewards.

For those who don’t know what therapeutic parenting is: In a very teeny-tiny nutshell – it’s a nurturing approach that involves routine and firm boundaries imbued with empathy and compassion. It involves recognising and understanding the root causes of behaviours.

Though, mostly, it does feel like there’s a fine line between being a concerned, supportive parent and being a downright sucker.

Our children are often seen as “naughty”. They lie, manipulate, refuse to do as they are told, adopt a rude tone and appear controlling. Even when tackled and even if the child appears to grasp the “rules” of the house/school, they will often repeat their behaviours time and time again. They often have little or no understanding of cause and effect. But the roots lie buried in their traumatic early years.

Standard behaviour systems simply don’t work with our children. And certainly “shaming” techniques and removing privileges only serve to compound their feelings of shame and lack of self-worth, sending them into an enduring cycle of chaotic behaviour.

On Thursday morning, Pickle left the house just ahead of me. He swung his leg back to kick a twig on the floor and inadvertently wellied me in my bony shin. I bent down to grab my shin, making no sound, conscious that any rebuke would have a detrimental effect on his mood. But it seemed that even the innocent motion of bending down to nurse the throb was enough to reinforce any embarrassment, shame or whatever it was he was feeling at that moment.

Quick to explain that it was an accident, I reached out to place a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Too late.

He was salivating with spite towards me, screaming that I shouldn’t have been behind him. The now blazing ball of fire thumped the car – and himself – and shot out a rapid and repetitive barrage of “I wish I was dead”.

No amount of cajoling, bargaining or distracting has an effect at this stage. The only tactic is to ignore and carry on with mock cheerfulness, knowing that any verbal intervention will simply serve to contribute to one almighty backdraught.  I have to allow his fiery plumes to die down on their own so that he can regain control.

However – abandoning my querulous self-pitying – I have to admit that his bend-it-like-Beckham moment with its sweltering consequences has been the only lemon that he has thrown at us this week.

We have had a curiously level-tempered seven days.

I am wary of projecting these words on-screen as, no doubt, they will jump out and bite my (unfeasibly small – ahem!) tushy in the coming days.

Maybe it’s a blip, maybe we really are becoming more focused in our parenting approach, maybe – just maybe – we are inching forward again.

It’s a fragment of hope and I’m clinging to it for the sake of my crumbling sanity.

Hope

Pickle’s Profound Philosophy (3)

17 Nov

Today, Pickle’s teacher asked the children what was special about each of their families.

Pickle apparently responded with:

“My family gave up their time to adopt me. Without them, I would have nobody to love….and nobody to talk and laugh with!

Whoa, he kills me!!

At least, I’m disguising my floundering parenting skills well!

 

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Antsy? Not ‘Arf!

12 Nov

No one person’s problems are any greater or lesser than our own, since fundamentally everything is relative!

My ‘tough shit’ is written here….in this little padded cell in cyberspace that I’ve claimed for myself, yet share publicly. This space is my psychiatrist’s couch. It’s where I lie; it’s where I spew guff; it’s where I whingebag my way through life; it’s my space to say what I like when I like and drink as much virtual gin (my new tipple of choice: Brockman’s Gin – Try it!!) as I like without having to suffer the intoxicating after-effects.

Right now, I am feeling frustrated. We’ve hit somewhat of an impasse in the Permanently Pickled Household. And I’m buggered if I know which way to turn.

 

Actually, to be honest, I’m feeling downright fecked off, Dr. T’internoob!

I lay awake last night pondering the TAC meeting that we had a couple of months ago. Going over what was said, what wasn’t said. Going over how I personally felt in the meeting.

Feeling the defensiveness and sensitivity rising up and overwhelming me and having to bottle it up while the professionals battled over who has more experience, who can blind who with their semantics, and who has the busier diary! And all I wanted to scream was this is a child, a child who doesn’t understand compliance once his mist descends, a child who will not conform to the ideals of your theory books!

Listen to me! But I stayed quiet for fear of being the inflexible, irate and witless harpy that I invariably am these days.

I listened to them preach to me about healthy eating, exercise, and yes….rewards and consequences (was that an audible scoff from the adoption community??). I was asked about my parenting and about how we are helping to control Pickle’s weight.

Seriously!?!

I. Am. Frustrated. I have been festering on this for weeks.

Can you tell, I’m frustrated?

We had a brilliant summer in terms of Pickle’s behaviour this year. Given the huge changes that took place prior to the summer and during this summer, this was somewhat of an achievement.

Grandma passed away after a long illness. He was a rock. As ever, we were unable to predict his exact response. But this time he shone. Or had we raised our game of patience? Probably both.

Prior to the end of the last school term, Pickle was removed from his ‘mainstream’ class and placed unofficially in the Moderate Learning Difficulties division. Unofficially because he doesn’t have an EHCP. He has taken the non-existent 11th place in a class of 10!

I will be completely candid. On being notified of Pickle’s move to the MLD division, I was beyond gutted! I broke my heart crying and felt like I had let him down. There is no doubt that there is an underlying capability that will allow him to do well in mainstream education. But his hypersensitivity and hypervigilance make it difficult for him to concentrate, to relax, to function, to co-exist with others without eagle-eyed adults pre-empting his every move.

He is followed around the playground!! This week he attempted to escape the playground. As would I if I were faced with such totalitarian constraints.

Not long before his transition to the MLD I had been posting about how well he was doing. So well in fact that the TAC team had decided to cut back on the meetings. We were spending our time discussing his achievements as opposed to any negative issues.

So what happened? I have my theories, I know my child. I had a plethora of information in my head that helps me understand what is going on for him. I have the supportive words of many other adopters, carers and birth parents going through similar issues. But to lambast at this stage is not going to move things forward.

Over the summer, we had our first meeting with CAMHS and Pickle has subsequently undergone the QB test for ADHD. We still don’t have the results!

 

We have purported referrals for speech and language, the educational psychologist, and occupational health.

 

He has seen a physiotherapist for his gait, though we have had no feedback from her supposed visit to school, of which the school have no record.

 

I am still awaiting the minutes from the TAC meeting. As well as the TAC plan and its concomitant timescales.

 

I’m sure you get the general gist of how I’m feeling!!! And, to boot…I’m at an age when you really shouldn’t be messing with my tolerance levels. Even my see-sawing hormones are frantically trying to escape my crabby body.

 

So here I sit, weltering in my cul-de-sac, with my Brockman’s gin and current malignant loathing of the system, planning which of my prey to attack first!

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Holy Crap!

29 Jun

By now, it will come as no surprise to you that change affects Pickle’s ability to self-regulate. This is common is children with attachment issues. Pickle is basically a slave to his impulsivity, he has a lack of control over his emotions and over his responses to the emotions of others.

One thing I failed to mention in my Trouser-gate rant last week was that there have been several changes going on in the Permanently Pickled household recently.

The main one being that my mother-in-law is becoming increasingly unwell (see The Big C). This has meant that we have had to travel 3 hours south most weekends, disrupting the usual weekend grind. On one occasion, I travelled down alone at short notice without having the opportunity to speak to the boys before I left.

Family was called in to help at the last minute.

Superficially, Pickle often shows little in the way of what most would consider ‘obvious’ anxiety. In fact many people would unwittingly believe that he is über-confident. I have seen this described in attachment theory as “low self-esteem with a big ego”; the perfect description for Pickle.

Pickle’s anxieties tend to bubble away underneath, slowly simmering and then ultimately exploding like a violent sneeze, except more prolonged and far messier!

One of his (many) latest attention-needing behaviours which appears to have superseded the former forehead-smashing against brick walls – which, quite frankly, I feel like doing myself at times – is, quite simply, running!

Yup, he runs.

Just runs.

That’s it!

He runs out of the house, out of the driveway, sometimes down the street. Usually accompanied by a distinctive staccato roar, building to a crescendo of disparaging chants.

Prior to Trouser-gate and during my absence, there was a perfect Pickle moment at school, which involved a Usain-type bolt out of the classroom… almost out of school – had it not been Pickle-proofed!

The trigger? Who knows! A pen tapping? The need for the teacher’s immediate attention? Sitting in the ‘wrong’ seat? Usually something seemingly trivial to those of us with secure attachment patterns hardwired in our brains.

So, Pickle does as Pickle does. He decided he had had enough. He was going home!

The teacher admitted to her momentary panic before realising there was no Tom, Dick or Harry tunnel leading under the school playground – well, not to her knowledge. (I believe a group of our older children know differently).

Remembering our conversations from the ‘Team Around the Child’ meetings, she remained firm, ignored the outburst and allowed him to make his under 10-second dash….to the toilets!

There, he resolutely locked himself away…for the best part of 4 hours!

I wish this were an exaggeration.

However, the four-hour sit-in did stretch over lunch hour and those of you who know Pickle personally, will be far from stunned to hear that he broke from this steadfast protest to feed his forever-famished face.

Stuffed to the gills, he then stubbornly went back to his self-locked sanctuary!

What his protest was about, nobody was quite sure.

One thing is certain, Pickle has bat-like senses when it comes to rumblings of restlessness in the ranks. Even the most minor of changes can still elicit seemingly irrational and extreme behaviours.

When I arrived back from visiting my mother-in-law, we lay together on the “Bladder Bag” (Pickle’s word for the Buddha Bag. Call me cruel but I haven’t corrected him) and talked about what had happened.

After much coaxing, he opened up by saying, “I don’t like it when you go away, Mummy. When you go away I think you’re going to die. And I’m scared our love will end.”

Suppose, both he and I had better get used to many more privy protests!

Trousers

16 Jun

7 a.m. and the bottles of Rosey in my belly basement started to rattle with despair and morbid dread, but I maintained poise and was the epitome of fake inner calmness.

“These trousers are scruffy. I look like an idiot. Everybody is going to laugh at me”.

The brand-new school trousers bought to replace the hole-ridden pair that have been flapping around his ankles for the past few months were scapegoated in this morning’s rather baffling outburst.

Pickle had woken up in a grump. Nothing was going to be right today.

His ever-growing defiance in the face of my often overly dogmatic ideals is becoming a challenge and a half!

It was literally a trouser-duel-at-dawn!!

The shiny new, downtrodden trousers, which were so looking forward to their debut playground outing, were simply cast aside with rude disdain while the tattered and worn pair cackled their victory with their large mouth-like holes.

The trousers were off the hook. Of course, they were. They weren’t going to steal all the glory. This wasn’t about the trousers; this was a Pickle morning. Albeit a more prodigious one!

The trouser rumpus, turned into a breakfast rumpus, turned into a teeth-brushing rumpus. You get the idea!

So after Pickle’s preferred approach of choosing to sit on the top step of the stairs screaming, “I don’t want to go to school. School is boring. I would rather have a punishment than go to school’, and after refusing breakfast, refusing to clean his teeth, refusing to put his shoes on, Gherkin and I hopped gaily into the car, birds tweeting around our heads, with a sullen Pickle dragging his shoeless feet behind us.

As the engine started and we set off down the road, Pickle chirped, “I want to brush my teeth”. Well, rats and blimin’ bastardry!!!

Rightly or wrongly, I ignored his request and drove off to school. Explaining that the time had passed in which he could change that particular behaviour but that he could still put his shoes on as a way of rectifying things. However, his recalcitrant nature re-emerged and again he flatly refused to cooperate.

Outside school, there was no way he was getting out of the car. If I wanted him out of the car, I would have to “get the headteacher”. Oh throw me a challenge, please!

Needless to say he got out of the car – without the need for the headteacher -, still shoeless, but now wailing that I was horrid and mean, and that he hated me. I flashed a sublime rictus grin at the passing mother with her perfectly behaved, merrily skipping children and slowly walked towards the school entrance, shoes in hand.

After a few paces, he called me back. The switch had rocked back for a fleeting moment, he put on his shoes as his watery eyeballs leaked down his cheeks.

Once in school, the fist-clenching, growling and head-thumping began. Sadly, that is how I had to leave him….

…with a cuddle, an ‘I Love You’ and in the capable and patient hands of one of his favourite teaching assistants.

And I was left exhausted and wondering…..who exactly wears the trousers around here?

Hug in a Mug

3 Mar

Sipping hot chocolate after a major meltdown, Pickle quietly whispered, “Mummy, sometimes I feel like I’m a really bad person.”

The anger had dissipated, the frustration eased. But the sadness in those words felt like a hand clenching and strangling my stomach. My heart sank. I wanted to have my own meltdown at that very moment.

“I get so angry. I don’t know why. I feel like I’m bad, a really bad person. It makes me want to kill myself”.

For an emotionally immature (not-so-)little man, sometimes I’m in awe of his heightened emotional intelligence. His paradoxical nature baffles, intrigues and saddens me.

We have had a rough few weeks. There have been (too many) difficulties at school. Primarily down to complacency, poor management and inadequate training. Mistakes have been made but after much steam blasting from my ears and many lip-wobbling discussions, plans and strategies* are being put in place and internal issues are being addressed.

“You’re not a bad person. We just have some hard stuff to deal with and together, we’ll make it easier. We need to have to a little bit of patience and buckets of determination”.

“Do you know, Mummy, you’re my happy person?”

We still have a long way to go but, for now, life seems that little bit better with hot chocolate.

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*Blog to come

Still Pickled

6 Nov

You may (or may not) have noticed that I have been mentally constipated for the best part of 2 years.

I had been unable to find a laxative to unbung my usual verbosity. It simply dried up.

The urge to run-n-tell has been within me but, in all honesty, I’ve been struggling to form a cohesive blog.

Bah, enough of the scatology. Basically I’ve been crap. Shit, there I go again. Oops and again!

In a nutshell, Things were going well, Pickle was jogging forwards at a sloth’s pace. I started putting more into my work, I got me a shiny new office and a shiny new colleague and I started to feel like a shiny new me. Not just the adoptive mum, with the adopted kid. It felt good, taking time away to focus directly on Pickle’s challenges, proactively tackling them and not simply focusing on the negative thoughts lounging around in my head. I felt like a better parent.

So much has happened over the last 2 years, it difficult to know how or where to begin. There’s no point in going over those past months since life as an adoptive parent is pretty much a haze at the best of times. I will start from the here and now and just type whatever guff spews from my fingertips and hope it makes some semblance of sense. Forgive the lack of coherence until I get back into the blogosphere stride.

Pickle is now in a year 3 pupil. A junior.

New teacher. New classroom. New building. New rules. New expectations. New anxieties. And with these, of course, new behaviours.

Some of his previous behaviours flicker now and then, but on a much lower heat, and they simmer for half the time. Rarely boiling over with the fervid zeal they used to.

His new behaviours have been, at times, rather extreme and, let’s say, different. More short-lived, yet more aggressive. More reasoned, yet more manipulating. More intelligent, yet more desperate. And worst of all, they’ve involved self-harming.

Sitting back, watching your child hurt himself, bang his head against brick wall, thump his own head, cause purposeful friction burns on his knuckles, scratch himself until he bleeds, all while maintaining a neutral expression is possibly one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever had to do. Stressful to say the least.

There comes a point where imbibing the super-human powers found at the bottom of a ‘Cardi bottle simply aren’t enough to turn me into the virago I was hoping.

Time for expert intervention.

First port of call: school. We have called in his new teacher and the SENCO. We have drawn up a CAF and established a Team Around the Child. The first couple of meetings have been promising.

We have had a speech and language assessment. All fine. We have had a referral to parenting support, which was deemed unnecessary due to the progress he has made with us and the techniques and startegies that we already have in place. We have see the paediatrician, who diagnosed “attachment disorder manifesting itself in anxiety and impulsive behaviour”. We have seen family support worker who, as well as being on the academic case to gain as much school intervention as possible, has engaged in play therapy focusing on anger management.

Our final referral, the one I’m dreading, is for CAMHS. We’ve yet to hear back. With the recent negative press in relation to our mental health services and the generally poor feedback from adoptive parents tangled in the CAMHS web, I’m feeling rather unenthusiastic and sceptical.

But since Pickle has fought – and continues to fight – so hard to gain some control over his emotions and behaviours. I will fight even harder to gain him the very best support.

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