I started writing this blog a few days ago and since then things are back on the up. I was feeling a little frustrated and doing my usual over-scrutinizing of behaviours. I thought I would share the post with you anyway as it is a recurring issue we have, and I would be interested in your views.
The deeply clawed scratches that Pickle used to cut into his skin have started to appear again. Far more subtle than in the past, but still there are there.
This ‘ritual’ that Pickle has makes me feel far sadder than many of his other behaviours.
A silent implicit communication of his confused emotions. One that has no quick-fix remedy. One that requires patience and time ….and a non-analytical parent.
When Pickle was in foster care, all along the top of Krakatoa* (the part just above the ol’ derriere crack) was adorned with blood-imbued marks created by the talons of a small 3-year old boy. He had engraved his skin so profoundly that I genuinely believed, back then, that they would become a permanent part of his physical architecture.
I expressed my concern at the time and was told it was most likely due to mild eczema. I wasn’t convinced.
Anxiety was the main cause.
Over his initial months in our care, I observed him closely. I noted the vigorous intent with which he carved his emotional hieroglyphics. I logged the itchy-scratchy times and any notable triggers. I watched carefully how the cycle went around and around.
I vividly remember placing him on the thinking step after a particularly taxing bout of feral behaviour. Following a prolonged period of tantruming/screaming/stair-bashing/radiator-cover-kicking, we cuddled on the sofa and talked about what had happened.
Bearing in mind these were very early days and he wasn’t used to talking openly about his feelings. Nor, at that age, was he of sufficient emotional maturity to rationalise his behaviour. He still sat close to me; happy to be next to me. I talked, and as he listened he rolled up his sleeves and started to drag his nails across the area in the crack of his elbow. Over and over and over. I watched as the skin went from pink to red, and then redder still, as he grated away at the layers until blood tapped the surface. It was heart-breaking to witness.
I asked why he was doing it. Of course, he had no answer. He had no concept of what was behind this physical harm he was doing to himself.
He spent much of our recent holiday scratching the top of Krakatoa, and indeed other parts of his body, his chest in particular.
Back home. He settled into the comfortable humdrum routine and the itchy-scratchy cycle was broken….
Until I went away last weekend. What ensued was several days of fighting at school and home, insolent behaviour, boisterous outbursts, disrespectful attitude, and kicking and punching of walls. Of course that feeling of disappointment from us, his teacher and in himself has made him feel ‘bad’. Last night in bed, he was vehemently etching designs into Krakatoa again.
It wasn’t the time for discussion, so I left him with my Great Grannie Annie’s remedy of “rub spit on it”. (Don’t look like that, it works!)
(*a far-too-visually provoking term for my liking. OH’s not mine)