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, February 5, 2015

Integrity Study - The Game

As part of a FAIR Club assignment, we did a study on Integrity.
Integrity Study Day 1
Integrity Study Day 2
Integrity Study Day 3
Integrity Study Day 4
This was a game I created to practice what we learned about integrity.

The Integrity Game

1) Roll the number cube (die) and pick up a card. Read and answer the card aloud.
2) If the group decides you answered with integrity, then you can move the number of spaces on the die.
3) Two or more players can be on the same space.
4) Continue to play until someone reaches the finish, then see who will finish second, third, etc.

Integrity Cards:
  1. Your friend’s parents give him permission to be at your house.  He goes to the park instead.  He asks you to lie about his whereabouts if they call.
  2. You are alone in your classroom.  You are standing near the teacher’s reward box.  It would be so easy to grab that cool reward trinket you’ve been wanting.
  3. You buy a burger. The cashier is distracted and accidentally gives you too much change.
  4. A group of kids is picking on a kid you really don’t like.  They want you to join in.
  5. You have a really hard question on your homework.  You know you can just write the wrong answer and will be allowed to make corrections before it’s graded.
  6. Your friends dare you to ask out someone you don’t really like.  (You aren’t allowed to tell the person it’s a dare).
  7. You agree to sell your old MP3 player to a friend, and someone later offers you more money.
  8. A friend is wearing an expensive new outfit that she really likes, but you think is ugly and unflattering.  She asks you for your opinion.
  9. Your friend asks you to find out if a boy likes her.  He says he likes you better.  Your friend wants to know what he said.
  10. You left at home all the research for your rough draft which is due today and a big part of your grade.  You could copy something off the internet on the school computer and fix it later before turning in the final report. 
  11. You’re thirsty but have no money.  A friend offers you a Frappuchino (cold, sweet coffee drink), but it has caffeine and a lot of sugar.  Mom would never know.
  12. You’re at a party and find out there will be no adults there to supervise and some people are drinking.  Your friends want you to stay.
  13. It’s fun to tease your siblings and they tease you right back.  Mom tells you that one of your siblings is really upset by the teasing, even though they don’t say anything and they tease you back.
  14. You discover that if you stand next to a certain air vent you can hear your parents talking about you.  You really want to know what they are saying.
  15. Mom’s told you and your sibling to quit roughhousing, but you don’t and your sibling accidentally gets hurt.  Mom asks you what happened and you know you’ll get in trouble if you tell her you were roughhousing.  Your sibling says, "let’s not tell."
  16. A big, mean kid purposefully spits on you in the hallway between classes.  You want to yell and scream at the kid, but you know the kid could really hurt you.
  17. You’re pretty sure your teacher gave you a bad grade just because she doesn’t like you.  You think your parent’s won’t believe you, but they might let you get out of her class if you tell them you’re afraid of the teacher.
  18. You left a big mess in the kitchen but a sibling is going to get blamed for it.  The sibling always makes messes and never gets in trouble for them.  If you say nothing the sibling will finally get in trouble for making a mess.
  19. You really want some cookies, but there are only a few left.  Mom would say no, but if you don’t take them now there won’t be any more later.
  20. Everyone cusses and would think there is something wrong with you if you don’t.  You think they might stop being your friend if you’re a goody two shoes.
  21. It’s a holiday and you want to sleep in, but for some reason Mom says you have to get up early.  You could go back to sleep and say you didn’t hear your parent say it was time to get up.
  22. You know you can’t get out of doing your chores, but if you do a bad job maybe they won’t notice.  
  23. Dinner looks really gross.  Your parents ask why you’re not eating.
  24. A friend says something really mean about you to all your friends.  You know a secret about the friend that you could tell.
  25. A person tells you that you made a mistake and it reminds you of a really upsetting event in your past.  You want to yell and scream at the person in the past, but the person who criticized you is the only one there.
  26. A sibling may have told people at school about something private about you.  You’re so mad you want to hurt your sibling.
  27. You don’t feel good because you stayed up late reading.  There’s nothing really going on at school today so you probably wouldn’t miss anything if you stay home.
  28. A kid in special ed likes you and keeps putting notes in your locker telling you how great you are.  Your friends are teasing you about the notes and you want the kid to stop.
  29. You’re in a bad mood.  You want to tell everybody to leave you alone, but your sibling is in your face being silly and obnoxious.
  30. Your friend asks you to come over, but you know your parents won’t let you because you’re in trouble.  Your friend will want to know why you can’t come and will tell everyone if you say it’s because you’re in trouble.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Books and Methods Review - Stop Walking on Eggshells

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason MSRandi Kreger
Do you feel manipulated, controlled, or lied to? Are you the focus of intense, violent, and irrational rages? Do you feel you are 'walking on eggshells' to avoid the next confrontation?

If the answer is 'yes,' someone you care about may have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Stop Walking on Eggshells has already helped nearly half a million people with friends and family members suffering from BPD understand this destructive disorder, set boundaries, and help their loved ones stop relying on dangerous BPD behaviors. This fully revised edition has been updated with the very latest BPD research and includes coping and communication skills you can use to stabilize your relationship with the BPD sufferer in your life. This compassionate guide will enable you to:

  • Make sense out of the chaos
  • Stand up for yourself and assert your needs
  • Defuse arguments and conflicts
  • Protect yourself and others from violent behavior
There is a part on using coping strategies for self-care, how to seek support and validation, how to seek out Internet help and community groups and above all how to keep a good sense of humor.  Taking care of yourself, detaching with love, taking your life back, not allowing yourself to be abused, taking the heat out of the situation by gently paraphrasing and reflexive listening, creating a safety plan for imminent self-mutilation, how to bolster your own self-identity and self-esteem, taking responsibility for your own behaviour and remembering that sometimes, “… splitting and other BPD behaviour can be catching.” ~PsychCentral Review
    Marythemom:  This is an excellent book written for family members of people with BPD, but I feel it can also help parents of RAD kids particularly teens. I read an older edition, so my review might not be as accurate. 
    The first half of the book explains how the person with BPD feels.
    The second half addresses how to live with a person with BPD with practical applications.  It is assumed that everyone with BPD is an adult, and that we cannot change the person with BPD - treatment is their choice.  
    This book is NOT written to help the person with BPD.  It is how to cope as a sympathetic family member.  I plan to review some of the concepts from the second half of the book at a later date.

    Most of the following information is paraphrased from the book Stop Walking on Eggshells:

    1.  Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Imagine you are a 7yo lost in the middle of Times Square, your mom was there a second ago, but now you're surrounded by menacing strangers glaring at you.  People with BPD feel isolated, anxious, terrified at the thought of being alone.  Caring, supportive people are like smiling, friendly faces in the crowd, offering smiles, help and warm hugs.  But the moment they do something that suggests an imminent departure (often the trigger is just something the person with BPD interprets that way), the person with BPD panics and reacts - in a variety of way, from raging to begging the person to stay.  If the person was neglected or abandoned as a child then they may have learned to suppress this terror to the extent that they no longer feel or recognize the original emotion.

    2.  A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. This is called "splitting."  People with BPD look to others to provide things they find difficult to supply for themselves, such as self-esteem, approval and a sense of identity.  Most of all they are searching for a nurturing caregiver whose never-ending love and compassion will fill the black hole of emptiness and despair inside them.  Losing a relationship feels like life or death to them.  At the same time, their self-esteem is so low that they can't believe anyone would want to be with them so they are hypervigilant looking for cues that the person doesn't love them or is about to desert them.  

    CENTRAL IRONY OF BPD:  People who suffer from it desperately want closeness and intimacy, but the things they do to get it often drive people away from them.
    Splitting - fluctuating between extremes of idealization and devaluation, angel on a pedestal or wicked demon.  Often they base these opinions on the last interaction.  Add in major trust issues from childhood abuse....
    Marythemom:  We call this black and white thinking.  Bear loves someone almost instantly - she's "the one" and she "gets me," but the moment they have a slight disagreement, or she has to study, or be with her friends instead of him... it's over.  He's never had a disagreement that didn't almost immediately end the relationship.  That's why we call them Kleenex Girls, because he goes through them like Kleenex.  The same is true of jobs, friends, enemies.
     We also see the "flipping switch" changes based on the last interaction.  In one phone call with Bear, he spoke of coming home, getting back on his meds, going back to church... The next call starts with us confronting him on a lie, and instantly he's talking about not needing anyone, moving to a place where he knows no one...

    3.  Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. 

    Chronic feelings of emptiness.
    By the time people reach their 20s and 30s their self-image is usually fairly consistent - our likes, our dislikes, our religious beliefs, our position on important issues, and our career preferences.  But the person with BPD has no sense of self, just like they lack a consistent sense of others. 

     They feel empty and chaotic inside and are dependent on others for cues about how to behave, what to think, and how to be.  Being alone leaves them without a sense of who they are, maybe that they don't exist (which is one reason they desperately avoid being alone). 

     The one consistent thing?  They know they're not enough.  They judge themselves as harshly as they judge others.  They are actors, chameleons, victims of others (even when their own behavior affected the outcome of a particular situation).  Some people with BPD may play the role of victim because it draws sympathetic attention, supplies an identity, and gives them the illusion that they are not responsible for their own actions.  It's important to realize this chameleon-like ability to change personas is real in the moment.  It is not Machiavellian manipulation, it's not even conscious, and there is no real identity to revert back to... how terrifying to not know who you really are?!

    Those with abusive backgrounds may be replaying scripts from the past.  They may feel continually victimized because they've been conditioned to expect cruel behavior from people they trust.  They may have come to believe that something about them causes people to act in a heartless or abandoning way.  They interpret normal behavior as cruel or abandoning and react with intense rage, despair or shame (which confuses those around them who see no triggers for the behavior!).

    4.  Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).  Some people with BPD find it very hard to resist or control impulses and delay immediate gratification, and may be trying to fill the emptiness and create an identity through impulsive behaviors.  About 23% (Links et al. 1988) of people with BPD had a dual diagnosis of substance abuse.  Borderline Substance Abusers are likely to abuse more than one drug (often alcohol), are more likely to be depressed, have more frequent suicide attempts and accidents, have less impulse control and seem to have more antisocial tendencies (Nance et al. 1983).

    5.  Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.  About 8-10% of all people with BPD commit suicide.  This does not include those who engage in risky behavior that results in death.  Suicide (and other impulsive, dysfunctional behaviors) are seen as solutions to overwhelming, uncontrollable emotional pain.  Self-injury is a coping mechanism  that may release chemicals that lead to a general feeling of well-being.  There are many reasons for self-injury, and it may be done intentionally or unconsciously (unaware and in a haze).  An intellectual understanding of they they do it, doesn't make it any easier to stop.  There is a misperception that all people with BPD harm themselves or are suicidal.  Many high functioning people with BPD do not, but those that do, however, may seek professional help more often than those who don't.

    6.  Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).  When most people feel bad they can take steps to feel better, and control how much their moods affect their relationships with others.  People with BPD have a hard time doing this.

    Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).  Borderline rage is usually intense, unpredictable, and unaffected by logical argument.  It can disappear as quickly as it appears.  Some people with BPD have the opposite problem and feel unable to express their anger at all for fear of losing control or that the target of even minor anger expression will retaliate.  Some specialists believe that people with BPD feel ALL emotions intensely, but that anger is highlighted by the DSM criteria because anger is typically the feeling that causes the most problems for people close to them.  "People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their body.  Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement." ~Marsha M. Linehan (1993).

    8. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.  People who are severely dissociating feel unreal, strange, numb, or detached. They may or may not remember exactly what happened while they were "gone."  This can be mild or severe (like Dissociative Identity Disorder - formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.)  The more stressful or painful the feelings or situations, the more likely that the person will dissociate.

    Additional Traits Common to BPD

    • Pervasive Shame - Toxic shame is the all-pervasive sense that I am flawed and defective as a human being.  A shame-based person will guard against exposing his inner self to others, but more significantly, he will guard against exposing himself to himself.  John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame That Binds You, sees shame as the root of issues such as rage, criticism and blame, caretaking and helping, codependency, addictive behavior, excessive people pleasing, and eating disorders.  In their typical all-or-nothing way, people with BPD may either become consumed by their shame or deny to themselves and others that it even exists.  
    • Undefined Boundaries - People with BPD may need to feel in control of other people because they feel so out of control with themselves.  They may be trying to make their own world more predictable and manageable.  They may unconsciously try to control others by putting them in no-win situations, creating chaos that no one else can figure out, or accusing others of they to control them.  Conversely some people with BPD may cope with feeling out of control by giving up their own power, possibly by choosing a lifestyle where all choices are made for them (military, cult, abusive people who control through fear...).  Control is the ultimate villain in destroying intimacy.  We cannot share freely unless we are equal.
    • Lack of Object Constancy - Some people with BPD find it difficult to evoke an image of an absent loved one to soothe them when they feel upset or anxious.  If that person is not physically present, they don't exist on an emotional level.  The person with BPD may call their significant other frequently just to make sure they're still there and still care about them.  Letters, pictures, scents that remind them of the person they care about, may reduce their anxieties or fears and clinginess.
    • Interpersonal Sensitivity - Some people with BPD have an amazing ability to read people and uncover their triggers and vulnerabilities, like a social and emotional antennae.  Many adults who were repeatedly physically and/or sexually abused as children developed these skills to help them predict and therefore protect themselves (usually by dissociating).
    • Situational Competence - The ability to have competence in difficult situations while being incompetent in seemingly equal or easier tasks.  Possible explanation - they know deep within that they are defective so they try hard to act "normal" because they want so much to please everybody and keep the people in their lives from abandoning them.
    • Narcissistic Demands - Frequently bringing the focus of attention on themselves (can include complaints of illness and acting up in public) and reacting to most things based solely on how it affects them.  Limited to no understanding of how these actions affect others.

    Manipulation or desperation?  
    In most cases the person with BPD's behaviors are not intentionally manipulative.  Rather this behavior can be seen as impulsive, desperate attempts to cope with painful feelings or to get their needs met.

    People with BPD vary a great deal in their functionality and ability to live a normal lifestyle, coping with everyday problems, interactions with others.... 

    Low-functioning people with BPD often find themselves living from crisis to crisis.  

    High-functioning people with BPD act normal on the outside, but it's important to remember that they feel the same way inside as their lower functioning counterparts. 

     People in relationships with high-functioning people with BPD frequently need more validation - their perceptions and feelings confirmed - as most outsiders don't see the rages and verbal abuse.