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, October 4, 2009

Love Tank

As you know I love the book The 5 Love Languages. One of the things the book talks about is a Love Tank. When you are being spoken to in your love language your love tank is filled. If you never hear your language, eventually your love tank runs dry. This often leads to divorce.

Lately I feel like I'm running on empty. My love language is Words of Affirmation. This means that I feel loved when people tell me they love me, praise me, write little notes, leave comments on my blog...

Everyone in my family has a different love language. In other words no one speaks my language. Hubby and I deliberately try to speak to each other in the other one's language, but when we are stressed and overwhelmed, it gets harder.

I feel like right now I have been pouring love and energy into the kids. This drains my love tank even faster, and intake from Hubby's love barely replaces the energy/ love that's being drained by him. I don't have a lot of friends right now and work consists of Hubby and I and that's about it - it's a big drain.

Ponito pours love back into my love tank, and barely makes any withdrawals. Bob is 13. She isn't taking out much, but as a teenager she definitely isn't adding any. Kitty has recently started to make the tiniest deposits, but of course is more draining. Bear is 150% withdrawal. The only other intakes I'm getting are from the internet and e-mail so I'm spending more and more time on the blogs, websites, and e-mails... until the wee hours of the morning.

When I was younger I had what Hubby and I call "Puppies." These were people that need help and providing it gave me some warm fuzzies, which added to my love tank. But eventually the drain of helping these people way outweighed the intake. I eventually realized each time that I couldn't do anymore, and then I would be done. I would no longer provide any support and stopped completely. I was done and didn't want to deal with them at all. Not something I'm proud of but justified/ rationalized and self protecting.

I did finally figure out that I was not really helping my puppies. I was perpetuating their learned helplessness. I stopped taking in puppies a long time ago. Some of this could be my bipolar disorder. I take on projects, work until I'm drained and can't do it anymore, and then crash.

Children are different. You're supposed to help children to the best of your ability. You're supposed to give and give and give and never give up or quit. Kids, especially those with major issues like my kids, need all the love and support you can give them. So where's the line? Unlike adults who can/should/ need to take care of themselves, my kids still need everything. They are still very young children living in teenage bodies.

I feel the need to turn off the many draining faucets dedicated to Bear. I have to staunch the flow before I'm completely drained (yes, I know it's a little late for that). I just don't know how to turn off just a few faucets so I feel like I need to shut them all off and cut him off completely. To protect myself. At the same time, I don't really feel that's right either. He's still a child. I'm torn. I'm not sure I'm making a difference, but I know I can't maintain this drain either. My love tank is empty. There's nothing left for anybody.

I do know that part of my problem is the "intake." I don't have a lot of inner strength. I don't fill my own tank at all (leftovers from a childhood of low self-esteem?). God fills a tiny bit, but nowhere near as much as He could (my own issues with my faith). I have few friends, because I don't have time to be the type of friend I think I should. I don't have a job that reinforces my need for approval.

I'm not trying to be whiny, I just need to keep working on ways to get what I need. I've thought about writing a book, but I'm afraid it won't work soon enough. I've thought about volunteer work (which will get me the positive reinforcement I need, but that requires effort, which we've already established I don't have time to give... I feel like it's a Catch 22. I hate those!

What fills your tank? How do you keep from draining dry?


Jeri said...

Come with me on Thursay and I'll help ya get your tank filled. You'd be home in time for school letting out.

Bill and Ronni said...

We hear you, Marythemom, we're at the same place. Just to let you know, we have really benefited from the information you have provided on your blog, and we really need you to get started on that book. You are a great resource to the rest of us out here in blog world that are dealing with these difficult to parent kids. So, take this and put it in your tank. If you need more, just ask.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you 100% Mary. Obviously my kids are not as draining as yours, but with two teens and two twenty-somethings I guarantee they are draining.

I have the same need as you, "words of affirmation." Lately DH has found ways to say the EXACT WRONG things and he has no idea how much he hurts me. However, most of the time my jobs are fullfilling; I do find comfort in my work.

I am not very good at returning emails or even posting on here with regularity, but know that you are always on my prayer list and often on my mind. I do consider you to be a dear friend, even if I don't show it often enough.

Hugs and prayers,

Anonymous said...

Ditto. (Almost).

On the good side, you aren't trying to fill your love bowl with M&Ms. (I tried. It didn't work, but I did gain 15 lbs).

I'm wondering if it might help to "teach" Kitty and Bear what words you would like to hear by saying them yourself. "Oh thanks mom! I goofed up and didn't get my pants in the washer but you knew and found them and washed them and that is so great of you to look out for me like that!" Even if they mumble "thanks" after that, it doesn't feel as good as it should, but it is teaching them what you expect.

Spend some of your too-much-time-on-the-internet looking into the importance of body-clock regulation in bipolar. [Your fellow bipolar says at 12:30 at night while on the internet.] Regular sleep, wake & eating, and exercise. It really sucks, but those things help!

Since Bear seems very motivated by his ROTC stuff, you can write down clear rules - and email them to all who might claim they didn't know the rules - and have the consequence of going over the line be removal of un-necessary ROTC things. Bear needs to sign this as a formal agreement. In other words, you are doing a lot of work but not doing the vital CYA stuff and you are getting bitten for it. Verbal communication doesn't seem to be firm enough for Bear. Give up and move on to a more effective form of communication.
Shoot, if he starts claiming "that isn't my signature" then keep your camera next to the memo pad and take a picture of him holding the written agreement with his signature on it! He has to stop being allowed to wiggle out of things or you will always be in a losing battle = non-productive energy expenditures = draining = feeling like giving up.