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!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What is a rage?

When I had rages as a child (epileptic seizures). I would curse (words Mom didn’t even know I knew), fight my mother, and scream for hours. This started when I was an infant. I would scream for hours until I fell asleep, soaked with sweat and exhausted. I had a cousin who was the same way, they would put her in a cold shower to shock her out of it.

I finally out grew these with the onset of puberty. They were total blackouts for me. One of the last ones I had I remember “waking up” sitting on my mother’s lap (facing her) she was sitting on the closed toilet seat holding me. She pointed out my hand was bleeding. I have no idea how I’d gotten from sitting on the living room floor watching the Hulk (ironic, huh?!) to the bathroom. I still have the scar on my finger. From the blood we guess I’d hit it on the doorjam.

When we got our son at age 13 he was undiagnosed with bipolar, experiencing PTSD night terrors, and undiagnosed RAD. His rages were scary. He held everything in until something relatively small (like being told No), and he would explode like a volcano. He threw chairs (big upholstered chairs), put fists and objects through walls, yelled and cussed and would start swinging wildly if he felt you were getting in his face. He NEVER hit me or any of his younger siblings, but threw things without really caring if they hit me a couple of times, and certainly there was a lot of intimidation and verbal abuse. He is a big kid (5’9” and 200+lbs) so even though he wasn’t very coordinated his wild swinging was almost more than my husband could handle without hurting him.

Our daughter’s rages have changed over the years. They started like her brother’s, kicking holes in the walls, threatening to kill herself and run away, yelling that she hates me and wants to go home (to Nebraska), and physically attacking members of the family. When she’s in “fight, flight or freeze mode” she is acting in a purely instinctual way and will hit, kick, bite, spit… indiscriminately until she calms down enough for her brain to start “thinking” again. If she is able to hurt herself or whoever is trying to protect her - we have had to hold her until she calms down.

It's hard to see in these pictures, but here's an open mouth bite mark from one of these holds. It's hard to see, but the oval bruise wraps around my forearm. I've been trained how to do a physical restraint while I was a social worker and more recently as a foster parent. The foster parent training was a joke and unlikely to have helped us stay safe or keep our child safe. Even with the experience I still often get bruises like these, although Kitty has never gotten a single mark.

Now she has what we call “meltdowns.” Not true rages. She has some control over how far she goes. She still goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode easily, but the actual physical aggression has changed to mostly verbal threats, although she's not above kicking cabinets and biting me. We can usually reach her and calm her down fairly quickly, if not actually de-escalate her, before she “melts.”

Got a call this evening. Kitty goes to residential treatment tomorrow afternoon.

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