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!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cat vs Bear

Kitty (diagnosed with RAD, bipolar, processing issues, C-PTSD, and pretty much emotionally over reactive...), after months of being extremely tough to live with and meltdowns, is currently in an RTF to work on her severe trauma issues. Bear, her bio 1/2 brother (18), has similar diagnoses, but instead of being emotional, he tends toward intimidation and verbal aggression. In the past he was physically violent, but is now better medicated.

He is severely traumatized too, and his issues with women and relationships are significant. He's spent the last several months antagonizing Kitty or avoiding her (so he doesn't have to deal with her emotional reactions), not so much maliciously as much as just he doesn't see why he should treat anyone any differently (they should understand it's just the way he is).

When they were little (before they came to live with us) they were abusive to each other (and while only a year older, he has always been significantly bigger). I know she perceives him as one of her abusers, and the rest of us still have PTSD from his violent outbursts when he first came to live with us.

Now he's asked to visit her (not sure why), but I had to tell him she doesn't want to see him, because of his most recent behavior:

  • He threatened to strangle her when they were alone in a parking lot after an adoption support meeting - we were still talking to other parents so not right there

  • He and Bob have been semi-blatant about not wanting to hang out with her due to her emotional reactivity. They've excluded her and Bear has tried to pal around with Bob more (although she's not that thrilled with him either and has taken to isolating in her room)

  • While riding home on the bus, he turned to the girl sitting next to Kitty and started telling her she shouldn't hang out with Kitty.

  • He yelled at her in front of the entire bus when she accidentally wrote on his hat (she was handing a pencil to someone else and Bear brushed her hand out of his personal space).

  • ...

Bear's reaction to the news was that he's not going to deal with her ever again. Gotta love their Black and White thinking.

When I pointed out the impracticality of this, as well as the fact that he needs to be working on relationships with his family so he'll be able to have healthy relationships with other women in the future... he continued to state that he's going to ignore her until he moves out at graduation.

Problem is that's not realistic. For one thing that's months away, for another there's a pretty good chance he's not going to be able to move out when he graduates (no job, nowhere to go) and he NEEDS to work on his relationship issues (with all women not just her).

He insists that he's NOT going to work on his relationship issues with her, or me. I've been trying to figure out how to increase the "pain" enough to make him want to work on it. He's been ignoring the issue for years, and just stating that others are going to have to deal with it.

He's been having issues with his latest Kleenex girlfriend (Bailee, the "back-up girl: from our long text conversation a couple of weeks ago). He was invited to go dinner with the girl and her mom. He didn't ask us. He hasn't done chores in weeks. He's been refusing to do any relationship work in therapy... and Hubby basically said "No" when Bear mentioned it.

Next day on the way to his psychiatrist, Bear brought it up again. He started talking about feeling uncomfortable with letting the girl and her mom pay for him. We talked about this for a few minutes and needing to work on his relationship skills with family, and then I mentioned that his point was moot, because Hubby had told me he'd said, "No" to the trip. Bear tried to argue with me, but I just said that was my understanding, and refused to engage.

He pouted. We got to the psychiatrist's office and he refused to talk to anyone. Luckily he was semi-compliant and sat in the offices, and even signed some paperwork he needed to sign (for SSI when he turns 19).

That evening when he got home from school he sat down next to me on the couch and leaned in. I can count on one hand the number of times he's done that (if you don't count the inappropriately sexual hugs and cuddles when he first got here). He didn't say anything for awhile, he just sat there and watched TV. Then he asked me to give him a haircut. (Well, it's better than walking up to me and demanding I do it when I'm in the middle of doing something else or taking time to myself).

So what do I do with two seriously emotionally disturbed kids who have major relationship issues that seem mutually exclusive? I worry that Kitty can't heal with Bear intimidating and picking on her. I worry that Bear will continue to refuse to heal and we will have to continue living with him.

Videos of Cat vs Bear for your entertainment! One Two


Sunday Koffron Taylor said...

I feel for Kitty, I too had a sibling abuser and in many ways was relieved to be in RTC where I felt MUCH safer. But I will say that I resented the fact that I had to be in a RTC to be safe, while my abuser was allowed to go on with his freedom and in my view (to this day) protected from consequences, and deprived any meaningful help facing their own trauma. I guess it is good you are attempting to work with Bear. I wonder if Kitty will ever allow herself “heal” enough to come home while he is still there? I know I wouldn’t.

Lisa said...

You cannot make them do anything. If you keep pushing and make it more painful to him, he is just as likely to take off or lash out from what he perceives as a threat (having to deal with uncomfortable issues) than actually make any progress. I interpreted his leaning towards you and asking for a haircut as a manipulation. If he looks like he's making an effort, you'll let him go to dinner with his GF and her Mom, if you still don't, that proves to him that he shouldn't even try. You are working so hard for Bear and Kitty to heal. You are doing absolutely everything you can - way more than I would be willing to do at this point for him. Stop beating yourself up about this. I'm not saying give up and let them do whatever they want, but you need to put all of this in their court now - time is running out.

With my almost 18 yo son (3 mos from today), I know he will not be anywhere close to being ready to live on his own, support himself, contribute to society, etc. The problem is, he may never be able to function in a way that looks successful to me and I have to be realistic about it. He will leave on his own on his 18th b-day. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he will take off and he will start having consequences the second he leaves our driveway. The question is - can our kids live with those consequences? Can they take it in stride? Can they learn from them? If the answer is yes, yes and no, then we have nothing more to give. Our love is not enough to keep them tethered to us, we are trying to save them from their own stupid choices and it hasn't made them listen so far. When my dd18 left last spring (I was beside myself with grief and shock - this is his bio sister, adopted at 2) I was sure she'd be back, that she'd learn and realize and be home. Well, the feeling of freedom, whether that freedom comes at a high cost to them or not, is something I cannot compete with. She hasn't been back. She's called and apologized and begged to be part of the family again (never told her she wasn't, it was yet another manipulation), she's texted ugliness and hatred our way, but she hasn't learned the value of "FAMILY" and with her dx's (similar to Kitty and Bears) she sadly never will.

All that to say that you are over-thinking all of this way....too much. I did the same thing and the only person I hurt was myself. It didn't do a bit of good for the kids who refused help - and it did nothing to make my troubled kids closer to my neuro-typical kids or vice versa. Bob isolating herself is a very bad thing.

We all go into this with the best of intentions. We think everything will work out if only we do this and that (cause and effect) but the wrench that's thrown into our plans are the very kids we're tying to help. You cannot make them work on themselves.