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!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Self-Care - Caring for the Caregiver

There will always be times when we feel defeated.  Like we just can't take one more step.  We want to run away.  We want to drop kick this kid.  I have heard so many people say, "I am DONE!  I can't take anymore!"  I soooo have felt this way.  If it helps, first of all, remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!

Second, remember that all those well-meaning people who say you SHOULD (or should not) be doing ____________, have no idea what living 24/7 with a child with an attachment disorder is like (even those who have experience working with special needs children don't know YOUR child and how your child is with YOU - plus they work at most an 8 hour shift with your child, then they get to go home!  Also none of them take into account your other children.  Their priority is the one child, not your family as a whole.

Third, I remember one time someone compared therapeutic parenting to doing CPR.  You only do CPR on someone who is DEAD!  You did not kill them (hopefully).  You are doing your best to help them, but if you are not successful then you must remember that you did NOT kill them!  Most of our children are hurt/ "damaged" long before we meet them (sometimes while in the womb).  All we can do is our best, and sometimes that will not be enough.

Fourth, CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER!!!  Remember what they say about when you're on an airplane that is in trouble, put the oxygen mask on YOURSELF first.  If you are not taking care of yourself, then you can't help anyone else.  This should actually be first, because we all forget it and say we don't have time for it.  We sacrifice ourselves for our children (as we were taught to do and as we are TOLD to do by all those "well-meaning" people involved in our child's lives.).  What we MUST do is make ourselves a priority.  It is not selfish.  It is a must!  You have to find what works for you.

This is definitely easier if you have support, but you have to prioritize your needs, even if it's just something little, like keeping the best piece of whatever you're serving for yourself. Not all self-care involves being by yourself.

   -The Five Love Languages - I highly recommend figuring out your love language and teaching your family how to give you what you need to feel loved, but don't depend on your family (especially your spouse and those with attachment issues!) to meet all your needs!  That's not fair to them.  My Love Language is Words of Affirmation, so I go online and help people so they will give me what I need - Thank yous and compliments.  If felt self-serving at first, but it was the only way I survived when I was so drained that my "love tank" felt like the Pit of Despair!

    - Therapy - for ME!  I needed to talk to someone whose primary goal was helping ME deal with my life.  In a lot of ways, our children are abusers, and we are battered women - if our children were adults, we would be told to run away as fast as we can, but since they are children, we are expected to just take it.  There is no way to not internalize years of this abuse.  I know I had PTSD from it.  I saw an EMDR therapist who specializes in PTSD, and she has helped a LOT.

    - Medication.  It is not shameful, and it doesn't have to be forever, but a LOT of therapeutic parents I know (including myself) take medication to help with the anxiety and depression that come from parenting kids with trauma/ attachment issues.

    - I know you're going to ignore this, but GET SOME SLEEP!  DRINK LOTS OF WATER!  Eat Right.  Exercise.  All 4 are important, but they are in order of priority.  Please do everything you can to take care of yourself.  No one else can.

FYI, exercise does not have to be joining a gym or running 2 miles. It can be blasting your favorite tunes and dancing, breaking out the hula hoop, taking the dog for a walk... Kids can join in if they want to.

    - Avoid Toxic People.  This can be anyone who is critical of you and/or your parenting (whether you agree with them or not, even constructive criticism can be too much), people who delight in talking about their perfect children or insist that your child is just being a typical ____ (boy, teen, 5th grader...) - usually with the accompanying "My ________ (child/ nephew/ neighbor's first cousin...) did that once.  It's totally normal.  You just need to ______ (spank them, use a sticker chart, ignore it...)."  They never listen when you try to explain how your child's intensity, duration, and motivation is totally different.  They think they understand your child better than you do, and they (or  the imaginary "someone" else) would be a much better parent.

    - Forgive Yourself for not being the "perfect parent" (which doesn't exist!) that could heal/fix your child.  Give yourself time to grieve the child that you wanted (who could love you back, heal with your help, be RRHAFTBALL... all the things you hear about from those "perfect people" who post about how amazing their kids are on FaceBook -by the way, no family is really perfect some just hide the skeletons better).  Martha Steward, Fly Lady, and all those people on Pinterest do not have special needs children!  It's OK to eat macaroni and cheese on paper plates for 3 days in a row.

    - Follow the advice you give others!!  You know what you would say to someone in your situation!  You deserve to be treated just as kindly.  When my kids say something negative about themselves, I fuss at them just as much as I would if they said the same thing about a sibling.  ("Kitty, don't say mean things to my little girl!!")

I had to constantly remind myself that I didn't deserve to be treated the way my child(ren) treated me, even though I knew that it was their illness or hormones causing them to do it. Just saying, "Stop. It is not OK to talk to me that way," even if it meant dealing with a child's meltdown afterward, was important. Words of Affirmation are my love language, so they hurt me the most.

    - Give yourself a break!  If the kids are safe without line of sight supervision, then do something just for you. Read a book or magazine, get on FaceBook, take a hot bath, turn on some tunes... and zone out. Give yourself a "time out."Take a little extra time in the bathroom. Or put on some noise-cancelling headphones and do your own thing while still being able to see your little darlin's.

    - Room Time- We required our kids, including teens, to have room time at 9pm (earlier if they had an earlier bedtime of course). After 9pm, Hubby and I had time for just the two of us. We could watch non-Disney tv shows, enjoy a glass of wine, talk or not, or even just go to bed. I don't sleep much, so Hubby typically goes to bed and I stay up and do my own thing.
    - Keep on swimming!  Feel free to scream this SUCKS!!! ...and then keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Don't look at how far you have to go.  Focus on surviving the day.  You already have a 100% success rate!!  You and your child have survived every single day until now.  It may not have been pretty, but you've done it!!  Good for you!

    - Find time to laugh! Do silly, fun stuff with the kids. Do silly, fun stuff just to entertain yourself! Here's some ideas 99 Ways to Drive Your Child Sane and Brighten Up a Boring Day!

    - Treat yourself!  Even if it's for the most minute of successes.  Have you seen that Wendy's commercial about a little girl who lost her baseball game, but they celebrate because she didn't get hit by a ball?!

  • I didn't smack my child when she screamed in my face for the millionth time (Get a mani/pedi - even if you do it yourself).  
  • My kids ate dinner, fast food in front of the TV counts!  (Go on an ice cream "date" with one of my healthy children).
  • No blood was spilled in the last hour! (Take a hot bath with a trashy novel and a glass of wine after the kids go to bed).
  • ... 

      - Prioritize your relationship with your significant other.  With any luck this person will be around long after your kids are out of the home.  Respite, date night, at least 5 minutes a day of time together where you DON'T talk about your kids.  I also found it helped to have 10 minutes a day to talk about the kids, and schedules and how your day went...

    - Spend extra time with your other kids.  Go on "dates" with them.  Find times to chat.  Treat them to a little extra mommy time.  The squeaky wheel gets the oil and that means often the other kids can get shoved to the side.  Plus it helps you by getting some time with your child that is capable of having a relationship with you.

    - Respite - even if you can't get it for the kids, find ways to get it for yourself. It doesn't have to be a full out retreat (although those can be amazingly recharging boosts!) - there are lots of alternatives.

    - GET SUPPORT!!  Find people who "get it."  Real life, on line... just find them, and share!! Remember, "YOU ARE NOT ALONE!"

    - ASK FOR HELP!!!  And ACCEPT it!!  When someone has a baby or has been hospitalized, people come over and help out.  They bring food for several days or even weeks.  They clean, go shopping, mow the yard, take care of the kids...  just because we haven't been to a hospital, doesn't mean that we aren't living like survivors of some catastrophic illness or major life event.  When people say, "Can I help?"  Say YES!  You need help.  You deserve help.  Ask for it.  Accept it.  Please!

     - Finding the Joy - this is one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I wasn't ready for it until my "love tank" was a little more full.

10 Essential Strategies for Reversing Parenting Burnout by Serenity Links Coaching

     - Some more Caring for the Caregiver Ideas

There's more, but the most important thing is please be good to my friend!  She deserves it!


Grieving widow said...

Thank you for this post. I sooo wish I could do some of these things. However, on March 27, my husband was killed in a semi rollover accident. Now it is just me. I feel so alone and scared. And my adopted RAD daughter is, not surprisingly, being absolutely horrible. I am thankful for your sharing such valuable information to those of us who are still daily struggling in the trenches with RAD. You're right, IT SUCKS!

Anonymous said...

I love your 11th point about following the advice you get others. And to those who doubt your love and attempts to give Kitty words of affirmation and boost her self-esteem, look at the example Mary puts in there about telling her not to say mean things to herself. Mary is a very caring person, and all her points in this post are good ones. The 11th one stood out for me though. Keep up the good work.

marythemom said...

I'm sorry to hear this Grieving Widow. Are you finding any support?

Anonymous said...

Thank you soooooo much for writing this. Thank you is not even enough! I am printing off your article so I can read it again and again and show my therapist. I am currently so burnt out my brain is completely fogged over and I have NO words to help anyone understand what I am feeling. (it has gotten so bad lately) God Bless you for helping me with your words!

LB said...

I have been wanting to read this book Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others @ I first learned of this book through The Trauma Therapists Podcast @ The pod cast is very rich in ideas and references.