This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Finding the joy


A women on one of my support groups was talking about feeling overwhelmed to the point that she found herself having no patience for her child and yelling at him all the time.  She was no longer able to be a therapeutic parent like she used to be.  In my response to her I realized that things really have changed for me over the years, and I don't think it's just because Bear is out of the house and Kitty is stable.  I really am in a better place emotionally.

I totally get it.  When my kids first got here, I was empathetic, calm and patient with them- maybe TOO patient.  I stuffed things down, let it roll off my back, and GAVE and GAVE and GAVE... until there was nothing left.  I was so burned out and overwhelmed that we were all miserable.  Here's what helped me:


1.  Understanding why they act the way they do.  It helps me a lot to know that it's not personal or malicious.  It helped to understand that my son is a scared little boy acting out of fear.  A lot of times with my daughter I repeat my mantra, "She's only 6.  She's only 6.  She's only 6!" (Chronologically she's 17, but emotionally she's only 6).  The books Beyond Consequences, Katharine Leslie's books and seminars, Can This Child Be Saved, The Explosive Child, and Stop Walking on Egg Shells, really helped with this.

2.  Lower my expectations.  REALLY lower them.  Quit waiting for _______ to happen before I do _____________.   Stop expecting them to grow up and change, or be able to do all but the most basic of tasks.  I found I was mad at her for constantly demanding the privileges of a teen, but not being able to consistently do chores or other responsibilities.  I had to forgive her, and let her know that I will no longer be expecting her to meet typical teen responsibilities nor will I continuously justify why she doesn't get typical teen privileges.  It really helped to have the validation of others, and I sought it out constantly for a long time, before I finally felt OK about this path.  http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2012/05/today-after-kitty-had-been-in-her-room.html

3. Redefine Success. Like many moms, success for my children meant college, finding a career they loved and that supported them in a lifestyle similar to what they have now, finding true love, getting married, living near me (but not with me!), having children... preferably in this order!  Basically living "happily ever after." When I realized that this was not the path Bear and Kitty were on, or even capable of, I grieved. A lot. The I took a deep breath and redefined success for each of my children individually.

  • Bear may never be capable of living in an unstructured environment and having a long-term relationship with anyone (employers, friends, girlfriends...), BUT he has found a structured environment that works for him (even though prison is not what I'd hoped for him), and he got there without violence.  He graduated from high school, and college would not be helpful to him with the lifestyle he needs to survive. 
  • Kitty may never be capable of living independently, but she is happy living with us and has the option of living with her biofamily if she chooses to try independence.  If she lives with biofamily then her SSI money will be enough that she can live mostly independently (something she can't afford to do where we live because the cost of living is much higher). As long as she has someone willing to help her she should be OK.
  • Bob and Ponito are on the path I dreamed of for all of my children, but if they step off of it that will be OK too.
4. Grieve. Give myself permission to grieve for the loss of the children I had dreamed about, planned for, and the lives they should have had. If you haven't read the story Welcome to Holland, I strongly suggest taking a minute and doing so.

5.  Therapy and meds.  I'm mildly bipolar and I've definitely suffered from PTSD.  I don't take meds all the time, but when I need to I take them.  I saw a therapist who specialized in trauma, and did some EMDR therapy to help with the PTSD.  Learning about my own issues, including my own attachment disorder, and accepting and dealing with them has helped a lot too.

6.  Date night/ respite with someone who "gets it."  We are incredibly blessed that my mom, who mostly "gets it," takes the kids overnight almost every Saturday night, keeping them through church the next day.  Honestly Hubby and I rarely do much more than rent a movie and go to bed together, but it's a chance to recharge our batteries and remember that eventually the children will grow up and leave home, but our marriage, and each other, will still be there, but only if we prioritize our relationship.

7.  Discovered my Love Language.  This was huge for me.  Knowing what I need (Words of Affirmation), made it possible for me to focus on getting it.  I tried to teach my family to give me what I need, and they do their best, but they are overwhelmed and of course some of them are RAD!  Hubby is the son of a "strong, silent type", I think my father-in-law said maybe a sentence a year to me, and while Hubby's not that bad, and is a really good listener, Words of Affirmation is definitely not his strong suit.  I went outside my overwhelmed family to get what I needed.  I went to the internet, wrote and read blogs, found support groups, went to seminars and trainings... I also helped and mentored others.  It made me feel good about myself, and they gave me the words of affirmation that I needed.

8.  Set limits.  Once I knew what I needed, I stopped giving so much that I had nothing left.  I’ve always been a rescuer, giving even beyond what I could afford to lose.   I had learned the hard way to stop doing it with others, but had felt that shouldn’t apply to children, especially MY children.   I soon found that the kids not only NEEDED the structure and boundaries I set by saying “No,” but they also did better with them – they felt safe which allowed them to trust enough to feel loved.  (I strongly recommend reading the book, Stop Walking on Eggshells!  The first half helped me with empathy, but the second half gave great practical advice in setting boundaries.)   "Saying "no" is not being negative.  Negative is saying "yes" to things that are destroying you."  

9. Find Support from people who "get it." You Are Not Alone!! I found a forum for those who had adopted special needs children and through that made friends in the blogging community (Life in the Grateful House and Welcome to My Brain), joined a local adoption support group (COAC), then BeTA (Beyond Trauma and Attachment), and finally FaceBook groups. Now I moderate a FB group called Moms of Attachment Challenged Children and try to help others. This is a good post reminding us that we are an AMAZING PARENT!

10.  Choose joy.  Every day I try to focus on the positives.  It's hard as heck, but it is important.  I vent, but limit it to a maximum of 3 vents, even less if I can.  I needed lots of validation that what I was doing was the right thing.  Over time I eventually began to believe it, and that makes me feel better about myself.  I look back at the Godincidences (like reviewing my blessings) that came out of what frequently seemed like tragedies at the time.  I try to focus on how many of these “tragedies” have made me a stronger, better person.  Most importantly I focus on the positives and Choose Joy , like the little old lady in the nursing home.

A 92-year-old, petite, poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. "I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. "Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room ... just wait." "That doesn't have anything to do with it," she replied.

"Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do."

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away ... just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account ... you withdraw from what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
Not easy, but Wonderful Advice....for all of us.

An amazing post about not letting grief steal your days, and one way a woman keeps mourning about the lives her RAD children could/should have had from stealing the joy in her life.

3 comments:

Kelley said...

Love this! Love you!

Tereasa said...

I love this. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!