Tag Archives: attachment

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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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!

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

In a Party Pickle

7 May

Make a wish

Earlier this afternoon I stood in the doorway, hooks a-tentered, as I waved Pickle off. He was on his way to join a mayhem of 6-year old little monsters for a birthday party.

Parties have become a bit of a nightmare for Pickle. In his words, he ‘gets scared’. He categorically refuses to put his shoes on – the very same ones he loves to launch at me – and firmly anchors himself to the nearest floor, chair, step, person. There have been tantrums, but recently the tears and wobbly, protruding lip have taken over.

It didn’t start out this way. Parties were always previously an over-exciting event. It’s a relatively new behaviour that has crept up on him, and us. Over time, its intensity has become progressively worse.  The initial fretful flare-up was just before the very first party that Pickle went to without me. OH was the ill-fated shepherd on that occasion. The fires of holy hell leapt up and burnt our unsuspecting plates of meat.

That particular (not-so-)merrymaking was a ten-pin bowling party. Pickle had been bowling once before on his debut outing with his paternal grandparents; an outing which ended in complete disaster. His behaviour was beyond control at that point in time. He ran off through a busy car park with two elderly dodderers and small Gherkin in tow. He refused to get into the car and hurled abuse – as well as his spade-sized shoes.

At the party, he refused to roll any balls. He was, however, happy enough to buzz around in his own self-contained microcosm of mayhem.

Every party since then has manifested itself in much the same way, with mounting apprehension in the moments leading up to it.

Today’s party was for a son of a close friend, who has been part of Pickle’s life from the very outset, and who is shortly to abandon us to start a new life a zing-zillion miles away in the depths of the countrified burbs; where witches perform infernal rituals and demon dogs dance at dusk. (You know who you are *glares with one evil eye).

Pickle didn’t bat an eyelid as his left for this party. He quietly asked why I wasn’t going along. I told him I had to go out, ducked, and waited for the usual feisty flip-out. Silence. I slowly opened my non-evil eye just in time to see him merrily skipping off towards the car. Result.

Maybe it’s the closeness of the relationship with my friend that has made the difference. Maybe it was the fact that Gherkin was going along with OH this time. Maybe Pickle finally realises there is no longer anything to fear from parties. Maybe being without me isn’t all that scary after all. *sulks briefly.

Smile

Who knows, who cares. I am just going to wallow in this mini-breakthrough.

Bitter or Sweet Rivalry?

1 May

“I hate him. I hate him hitting me all the time. I wish HE had never come here. I never used to get angry before HE came.” The utterances of a 9-year old birth child about his adopted brother.

I have talked about this issue in a previous post (The World According to Gherkin), and I am now going to somewhat contradict myself. As times moves on, so do the ups and downs of post-adoption life.

Recently, I have noticed the red mist enveloping Gherkin in a way which is really starting to concern me. In a split second it consumes him and forces him to lash out at Pickle with a foot, or an elbow, or a random object. It is never unprovoked but it still concerns me. I see it rise from the pit of his stomach and fly out of his body with such velocity and venom, it’s soul-destroying.

There is so much written about the psychological effects of adoption on the adoptee but much less about the effects of adoption on birth children.

Birth children, who were once secure and happy, can be negatively influenced by the presence of the new addition the family. I am fully aware that this can happen generally in most families. Certain neurotic reactions, such as jealously, are to be expected.

When an adopted child moves into his forever home much emphasis is placed on the traumas to which the child had been subjected: the separations, the anxieties, the attachment issues, the lack of a sense of belonging and identity. The need to forge bonds with members of the new family is utmost in everybody’s mind. This is fairly cogent reasoning.

What can and often does go unnoticed, however, is the simultaneous trauma occurring in the birth child’s life. For every complexity faced by the adopted child, there is an equivalent reaction in the birth child. Often thrown in at the deep end with little support, he may be left to assume adult strategies when tackling unrelenting barriers head on. The subtle, even silent, dilemmas he’s struggling with are often difficult to pick up on.

Bitter-Sweet

The attention that is paid to Pickle often leaves Gherkin shivering on the sidelines. At times, I imagine, with a wry smile and an irrefutable sense of ‘what-about-me?’.

In instinctively requesting understanding and empathy from Gherkin, are we creating an underlying jealously and resentment that could impact on the boys’ relationship as siblings as they progress into adolescence and adulthood?

In encouraging Pickle to discuss his feelings of fear, anxiety and insecurity, are we unintentionally discouraging open discussion with Gherkin with regard to his confusion, hostility and impatience?

Wrapped in his invisible blanket of presumed security, does Gherkin feel that voicing his concerns will make him appear selfish and unempathetic?

Will what stems from this simply be a ‘normal’ rivalry that many blood-related siblings experience? Or will it fashion a deep-rooted sense of bitterness towards each other and/or the adoption process itself?

Does Gherkin feel that because Pickle was ‘chosen’ as part of the family that his being born into the family somehow makes him less special?

Am I forcing the relationship with my pushy insistence on friendship and a spirit of fraternity, instead of letting it develop naturally?

So many questions, so few answers.

I’m used to trying to micromanage each situation but I am starting to learn – as simple and obvious as it may sound – that children grow together. I am here to give them guidance and the tools to manage their own respect and understanding of each other, and to aid the development of their own personal and unique identities so that they can confront and overcome the challenges that adoption presents.

[To be continued…]

The Joy of Grandparents

14 Mar

It’s our parents’ job to worry about us and shield us from the harsh realities of the world outside As we, in turn, will do with our own children. But when does the worrying stop? Well, it doesn’t! Irrespective of our age, our parents will always be concerned that we are making the right choices in life.  Worrying is intrinsic to our very being.

At 26, I got the top of my left ear pierced. I remember my mum saying, “I get you to this age, married off, with no hitches, and then you go and do a stupid thing like that”. Annoyingly – as I’ve been told so often and as I will no doubt tell my own kids – mums are always right. It’s something I now deeply regret since my ear cartilage has subsequently rebelled and I look like I could have hailed from the Planet Vulcan.

So then at the grand old age of 36 (and 38 for OH), we go and do another ‘stupid’ thing to worry both sets of parents, we go and adopt a child! A stamped, marked, branded difficult-to-place child!

It never entered our heads when we embarked on this undulating journey: the fact that our parents would inherit the impact of our decisions, that they would be forced to accept a non-biologically related child as an integral part of the family, that they would feel the pressure to develop an emotional connection with a tiny tantrum-toting tyke.  And aside from that, as carers for the kids every Friday night, my parents would also have to be interviewed by the social worker and undergo CRB checks. They would have to be open and willing to do this. To take on the impact of a decision we made.

They did this readily and without question.

Both sets of parents were concerned about whether they would ‘take’ to the child, whether they could love him/her in the same way as a birth child, how we would feel in the future when that child wanted to contact his/her birth parents. All of these are very common concerns of grandparents in adoption.

Thankfully, Pickle never gave them a chance not to ‘take’ to him or love him. His boundless love, humour and energy make it pretty impossible for even complete strangers not to take to him on first meeting. Not that it has been an easy ride for them at all.  My parents still believe that they are some 4 or 5 months behind in terms of managing his behaviour, gaining his trust and developing security.  He pushes buttons with them that he dare not push with us. For OH’s parents, development is dragging even further behind. Primarily because they live a few hundred miles away and we only get to see them every couple of months.

A supportive family network is a crucial crutch when going through the adoption process.  The extended family is vital for helping to build and consolidate attachments and to create that all-important sense of permanence in an adopted child’s life.

This post is really just meant as a big shout out, pat on the back, and huge whoop whoop for all those grandparents who have inherited the ‘stupid’ decisions we kids make.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We couldn’t have done it without you.

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