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!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control

A sweet friend made some comments about Kitty and homeschooling that I wanted to address. I want to assure her that while I see her point and value her opinion, there are some differences between raising a biochild and a "damaged" child. I love you Denise, and I know you have my best interests at heart.

I have been reading the book Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control by Bryan Post, and while I definitely don't agree with everything he says - some of it makes sense. His main premise is that there are only 2 emotions - love and fear. EVERY other emotion is based on one of those two emotions. Therefore when Kitty (or Bear or any of the other children) becomes angry or has meltdowns, it is because they are scared. When people are very scared they drop into what has been called the reptilian brain or the brain stem. It could also be described as instinctual and while they are in this state they have no control and no cognitive thought. Basically their body is saying "Fight, Flight, or Freeze."

For example, if a Vietnam vet with PTSD hears the backfire of a car - he will immediately drop to the ground. This is an instinctual first response. For my daughter the triggers vary, but the response stays the same. Usually she freezes first while her brain tries to process the information. Flight can mean actually running away or dissociating. Kitty is very good at dissociating, and when she's stuck in this part of her brain she cannot be reached at all. All we can do is reassure her and try to help her feel safe while we wait for her to move into the cognitive brain.

Right now Kitty (and Bear) are very hypervigilant. This means they feel that their world is a very scary place and they have to constantly be on guard for dangers. Every minute our brain receives thousands of messages (I hear my husband talking on the phone to a debt collector, I hear Bear making his lunch and breakfast, I'm listening for the sound of his bus, I'm listening for sounds of the other people in the house, the chair I'm sitting in is uncomfortable, my stomach is full from my breakfast, the screen is very bright in my cubby under the stairs because my only light broke, if anyone comes to stand in my doorway I'm trapped...). As a normal adult we don't even consciously process 1/10th of this stuff. For hypervigilant children this information is overwhelming.

Because the world is so overwhelming, the children become disregulated very easily. When they're disregulated they can't handle even simple things that normally they would be able to handle. Right now Kitty is on overwhelm. My job is to reassure her that she is safe. I also have to help her cope with her world by making it smaller. She does not have a lot of toys, she stays in my line of sight, and since right now Grandma is obviously triggering a lot of her issues, I will have to take her to work with me. This could potentially be seen as "giving in" to her, but right now she's in that instinctual state and NO consequence is going to reach her. All consequences and discipline do at this point are trigger her more.

Normally she is emotionally about 6 and consistency is key. When she is in this state she is emotionally an infant and has to be treated as such. If an infant is crying, you cannot tell it the bottle will be ready in 10 minutes, you cannot explain to it that your hands are full and you can't pick it up and comfort it right now. All it understands is that it is afraid that the food will never come - especially because for this child the food, comfort, or diaper changes often didn't come.

So I'm taking my overwhelmed infant to work with me. I made her a therapy appointment to start her EMDR today. She has a doctor's appointment this afternoon to see if she has bronchitis like her sister.

Well, it's past time to start my day. Please forgive the horrible photoshop job I did on Kitty's baby picture. The original had a huge purple stain down the right side of her face and body. I tried to clean it up but I should have had one of my staff do it. They did some amazing things with other photos!

Hugs and prayers,



Anonymous said...

Just testing to see if I can leave a comment... If it works I'll be back later to do so, I'm running errands today.

Torina said...

I'm glad you started blogging :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so avoiding housework right now...

So right after I hit "send" on that email yesterday I thought to myself, "You don't have special needs kids, you probably don't know the whole story." And sure enough I was right.

Mary, is it possible for Kitty to start attaching to your mom? It would sure make things easier for you all if she trusted Grandma. It's the only loose end/solution I can see in your story that might be of any help whatsoever. Maybe with time and consistancy the bond will form and home schooling will get easier.

Lisa said...

As always you put it so well....
I am so grateful you're my friend!