Sometimes of course, the logistics of this don't work. Especially with my car breaking down consistently. Some days I managed to be alone in the car with Bear in the mornings on the way to work. I decided to sit quietly and see if he would initiate conversations (since his biggest complaint was that I was unavailable). Usually we end up sitting in silence for about 1/2 the trip. Then I would ask an innocuous question (how did you sleep?) or he would start complaining about something (usually about how I was forcing him to work a job he hates, preventing him from getting a job at a local boot store, and therefore ruining his Summer...).
Hubby has been encouraging me to not let him get away with this behavior, so I've been informing Bear when he hurts my feelings or I feel attacked by his tone of voice and statements. Then poor Hubby has to listen to me vent because I'm so triggered by Bear's behavior.
This morning's argument: Started out with the random comment that he wasn't planning on taking PE this school year. I reminded him that it was recommended to help him with focus. He fussed at me then said he was planning on going back on the ROTC team this coming school year. When I asked him why, especially after he dropped out a year and a half ago when he found out he wasn't eligible for the military, he went on the defensive. Any question, comment, and finally my silence... and he was jumping down my throat.
Conversations with Bear are never about anything but what he's interested in, school, work or something "therapeutic" (his history). I could probably list on one hand the time he and I just chatted or joked around (and honestly I can't think of one). He's been trained by others to ask, "How was your day?" but it's obvious he doesn't want to hear the answer.
In the joint family therapy we started recently I've noticed that both Kitty and Bear tune out if the conversation isn't about them right then. Conversation isn't really the right word. It's more like interviews. The kids rarely speak to each other at all (every now and then they might contradict something the other said, but only if they're paying attention).
Something has to change. I have enough on my plate that I don't have a lot of emotional energy. I need to decide where best to "spend" my energy. Some people I expend energy on give back, like Hubby and Ponito. Some don't give back as much, but I know that my energy is making a difference so I consider it "worth it."
I'm trying to decide if it's worth it to keep focusing so much of my energy on something that drains me so thoroughly, especially while I'm dealing with Kitty's meltdowns too. So I tried to look at this logically.
My biggest concern is am I trying to hold him accountable for something that he's not capable of changing? When we talk about our discussions, he doesn't remember them. I don't know if this is a defense mechanism, if he slips into fight, flight or freeze mode and the adrenaline rush of the life or death feeling wipes his memory, or if his memory issues really prevent him from remembering (object permanence). As Hubby put it, "It's like trying to teach a pig to dance. It frustrates you, and annoys the pig."
Here's some of the options I'm considering:
- Status quo- I ruled out sticking with status quo pretty quickly. I think that's the definition of crazy. Doing something over and over and expecting the results to be different. There's a small possibility that it's getting through to him and he just needs a lot of repetition, but frankly after over 4 years of this, with only this much to show for it... it's not enough.
- Removing myself from the equation. Not being alone with him anymore. Not allowing him to sit in the front seat of the car if we're alone. Shutting down conversations if they even start to drift in a negative direction.
- Confrontation - Taping one of our "conversations" and playing it in therapy so we can talk about what's going on. This is Hubby's favorite option. I think Bear will just shut down and feel criticized. He told me today, the only thing he's "perfect" at is running and fighting. He emotionally shuts down or "freezes" with men, and "fights" with me and other female caregiver types.
- Forcing a change by making it no longer comfortable for him to continue (consequences, removal of privileges...). With the focus being "fake it until you make it."
- Losing privileges until earn trust (have to find concrete ways to do this)
- FAIR Club - writing assignments and behavior assignments (ex. have to have 10 appropriate conversations, possible with written conversations starters).
- Scripting - teach him the right words, "Here's where you say ____________."
- Repetition for tone - have him repeat something until he can say it in a pleasant tone of voice.
- Have to give 5 positives for every negative comment.
- Require apologies and other repairs to relationships.
Hubby already sort of started this. He told Bear that Bear's cell phone was in "time out" until Bear had a polite conversation with me about random topic (my experience traveling in Europe when I graduated high school). Bear put it off until bedtime, when Hubby checked in to see if he'd done it. When Bear approached me 30 minutes after bedtime asking to talk to me, I told him this was not the time for conversations. He wandered off, muttering about not being willing to wait.
I'm really tempted to record tomorrow morning's conversation when I tell him he's going to have to sit in the back seat on the way to work because I'm not willing to talk to him in the mornings anymore.