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, October 27, 2015

"If you find out I'm not perfect, you'll leave."

"If you find out I'm not perfect, you'll leave." 
Our kids feel deep down that they are unworthy and unlovable.

When Kitty trusted me enough to admit this fear out loud, I think she was finally ready to start healing. I feel the best thing I did was reassure her that I already knew she wasn't "perfect" and I still loved her. That I wasn't going to leave because she didn't/ couldn't behave, and she sometimes took joy in causing chaos.

I believe that was what both my kids with RAD were the most scared of - that they were unlovable and unworthy of love. That if people found out what they were "really like, " then they would leave him/ her. At the same time, they needed control of the situation so they would push us away, feeling it was inevitable that we were going to leave so they wanted to be the one leaving.
{I think this is also one reason why they try to go back to birth family and at the same time the reason why it terrifies them - they need to prove/ disprove that the people who rejected them were right (or wrong)}

Why Do They DO That?!  


Acting Badly Toward Female Caregivers/ Mom
I believe this is one reason why our kids tend to behave differently (usually worse) with the female caregiver. In their mind, the mother is the person that hurt them the most, that can hurt them the most.

Even when we have never hurt them and never would, sometimes they get stuck in the past! Sometimes with my kids, it was because things that happened to them before they came to us, got their feelings and the events of their childhood mixed up with me as their mother figure. I know some kids talk about things that they remember having happened to them as a child, as though it had happened recently.

Another thing about their issues with mothers is that we're almost always the ones "forcing" them to deal with attachment and feelings,

Why Is Attachment Scary?
The following is the list of common beliefs of children with attachment disorders (Katharine Leslie, When a Stranger Calls You Mom). I have to say Bear definitely believes most if not all of these. Kitty believes a lot of them.

  • Those who love me will hurt me.
  • It is safer to get my needs for closeness met by strangers or those who are not important to me. (Can you say, "Kleenex girls"?! I knew you could.)
  • I have to look out for myself, cause nobody else will.
  • I have to hurt others before they hurt me.
  • I lose myself (I will die) if I become who you want me to be (like you).
  • I might as well lie, no one believes me anyway.
  • I'm forced to lie when people ask me questions.
  • People should stay out of my business.
  • If I want something then I should have it.
  • If I see something I want I should take it.
  • People make me mad.
  • When I'm mad I don't care who gets hurt.
  • People deserve what they get.
  • If I don't get what I want you are to blame.
Damaged/Broken Trust 

The Frozen Lake Story
"In order to understand what an unattached child feels like, one must understand his perspective. Imagine that you are the young child who must cross a frozen lake in the autumn to reach your home. As you are walking across the lake alone, you fall suddenly and unexpectedly through the ice. Shocked and cold in the dark, you can't even cry for help. You struggle for your very life, you struggle to the surface. Locating the jagged opening, you drag yourself through the air and crawl back into the woods from where you started. You decide to live there and never, never to return onto the ice. As weeks go by you see others on the ice skating and crossing the ice. If you go onto it, you will die."
"Your family across the pond hears the sad news that the temperature will drop to sub-zero this night. So a brave and caring family member (that is you, the parent!) searches and finds you to bring you home to love and warmth. The family member attempts to help you cross the ice by supporting and encouraging, pulling and prodding. You, believing you will die, fight for your life by kicking, screaming, punching and yelling (even obscenities) to get the other person away from you. Every effort is spent in attempting to disengage from this family member. The family member fights for your life, knowing you must have the love and warmth of home for your very survival. They take the blows you dish out and continue to pull you across the ice to home, knowing it's your only chance."
"The ice represents the strength of the bond and your ability to trust. It was damaged by the break in your connection to someone you trusted. Some children have numerous bonding breaks throughout their young lives. This is like crashing them into the ice water each time they are moved, scarring and chilling their hearts against ever loving and bonding again." By Nancy L. Thomas

The Matrix Analogy


For more about Safety and why it's essential to a child's survival -  see this post, Safety First. Children NEED structure and caring support to feel safe and start to heal.   This feeling of safety is not about physical safety and often not based in reality – it is a perceived feeling of safety.

Just like our kids keep using old defense mechanisms that are no longer needed, our kids with scary, traumatic early childhoods often get stuck in the feeling that they are not safe.

This is a life or death feeling! 

A child who feels unsafe is a scared child. A scared child will act out (or act in) to try to feel safe again.

Feeling unsafe is not rational. You can't explain to the child that they're safe now. Logic doesn't work. Feelings of being unsafe can pop up at the most unexpected times, like a PTSD flashback. Generally, this feeling of being unsafe will fade as our child heals, but there will probably always be times when it comes up again.


My kids tend to behave only because they fear the consequences of being caught (if they understand consequences at all) rather than doing something because it's the right thing. Lying and Stealing. This is not because they're bad, or manipulative, or hate me, it is because they are stuck at the bottom of  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Their fear keeps them feeling like they're in a war zone  - focused only on survival.

Maslow’s five levels of hierarchy are:
1.) Physiological or biological needs. These are the survival needs — air, water, food, sleep, and procreation. These requirements are the basic needs of human existence.
2.) Security or safety needs. These needs include health, financial security, shelter and the assurance of living in a place where one does not feel threatened.
3.) Social needs. Maslow felt that once physiological and security needs were met, people start looking for love, friendship, and community. Families, religious groups and social organizations fulfill the need to belong.
4.) Esteem needs. Maslow noted two types of esteem needs — self-esteem and esteem from others.
5.) Self-actualization needs. This is a search for becoming his or her "best self." Unlike the lower levels of the hierarchy, this need is never completely met as there are continuous new occasions for growth. Maslow stated only about 2% of the world population is in the self-actualization state.

These first four levels of hierarchy are referred to as "Deficit needs," sometimes called D-needs. The theory is that if a person doesn’t have enough of something in these four levels, he or she would feel the deficit — or need. If one does have enough, it is oftentimes not noticed. Maslow has also termed these first four categories as survival needs, as humans instinctively attempt to cover all of these. If one of these needs was not properly met when a person was a child, that person may fixate on the particular need throughout the rest of his or her life.

With D- needs, once fulfilled you don’t often notice them. The B-needs, however, become stronger as they are realized. These are the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy and are called the "Being Needs" or B-needs. When the first four D-needs are met, then a person begins to search for becoming his or her best self.

Why they Act Differently When They're Away From Home

My kids have what I call "Charming RAD" officially known as Disinhibited RAD. That means for my daughter, that she would literally rather die than let others see that they are not perfect --- because it feels like life or death to them.

For Bear, it's more about empathy, getting warm fuzzies (and other stuff) from people who feel sorry for him, impressing people so they think he's a "big man" and won't mess with him... misdirecting others so they won't see the real him. He brags about how "badass" he is. He lies about... pretty much everything (He belonged to a gang when he lived in the ghetto in Chicago  (he was only 6 when he lived in Illinois and didn't live in Chicago). He saw someone get murdered in his bed. He spent all of Spring Break drunk in another city. We abuse and neglect him. And on and on...).  

People can't reject him if they don't see the real him.

People-pleasing is one of the strongest defense mechanisms they have. Most have an uncanny knack for knowing what they need to do to make people like them and want to take care of them - even though they have a total lack of empathy and almost no social skills.

With parents, this usually starts as a honeymoon period. Once they start to trust us, we start seeing more of their imperfections. It sucks, but it means they trust us more than they do other people in their life (most of the time I wish they didn't trust me that much!).

At school, in public, or at a friend's house, they appear to hold it all together, convincing you that if they have control over their behaviors there so they should be able to do it at home too! 

Unfortunately, that's not the way it works

Imagine if you have to give an important presentation at work, but you have the flu. You get up, give your presentation, and then go home and collapse. Our kids run out of emotional reserves. (see this Spoon Theory post). They're living in a life and death war zone in public, and can only hold it together for so long,

Mommy Shopping
A common defense mechanism for our kids is to try to leave before what they believe is their "inevitable" abandonment by us. Attachment and people loving them is scary. Especially love from the female caregivers - they push us away the hardest of all. So they try to move on before things get emotional. Demanding that they want to be put into a new family, foster care, group home... somewhere else, where everything will be "better."

They act like they believe that the grass is greener somewhere else, and I know that for me, I often felt like there must be another family out there who could do a better job than I was!

It didn't help that outsiders usually believed my very convincing children who "present well" and often lied so convincingly about things that they seemingly had no reason to lie about. They didn't understand why any child would act like this. It was out of their realm of knowledge.

Many people, especially the "professionals" who worked with my kids,  treated me like I really was the child abusing, over-controlling, money-grubbing, rigid... *w*itch that my kids often claimed I was. (Don't believe me? Check out some of the comments on my posts).

This is why it is so important to find support and validation from people who "get it." It's also important to recharge our batteries so we can hang in there through this. Self-Care!

Sometimes it's the opposite! Instead of pretending they don't care about us and keeping us at arm's length, our kids seem to want all of our attention all the time and act jealous and angry when we pay attention to someone else. Our showing affection toward our spouse or other children (even random strangers) can trigger rages and even "payback" toward us and/or the other person.

Deep down our kids feel they are unworthy and unloveable. Us showing affection or even just being friendly to others triggers feelings of abandonment and they lash out.

Also, my children see the world in black and white. If you're loving on someone else, then you hate them. If you're paying attention to someone else you're saying that your child is not worthy of your attention.

What looks like your child wanting attention focused on them all the time is not them being selfish, it's them being afraid that you'll realize they aren't worthy of that attention. Their insecurity in your love causes them to feel that they need to do anything they can to keep you from leaving.

When They Act Out and Then Demand Your Attention
 Mine seriously don't have the ability to make the connection between their behavior and my feelings toward them. They just don't get why they can't do something fun when they just screamed in my face 10 minutes ago. That was "so long ago" and they don't understand why I'm "holding a grudge." If they remember the event at all.

It makes me so angry that they expect me to be loving and affectionate when they just abused me. I'm expected (not just by the child but by everyone else) to just squash my feelings and continue on as normal. How am I supposed to do that?! Doing so drains my emotional reserves until there's nothing left for anyone. Not doing so makes me feel mommy guilt and I look like a bad parent to others.

It sucks dealing with the fallout, but I've had to learn to prioritize my marriage and relationship with the rest of the family over this individual child.

Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order!
Marriage - Keeping It Together 

Seeing me being affectionate with Hubby, doing fun things with the other kids, taking care of myself... all are hard for my adopted children to deal with at the time (and they've said more times than I can count that I love my biokids more than them) but I hope as they've grown that they've learned that they deserve these things too. That they will expect their significant other to be kind and affectionate with them and that they deserve that respect and love. That children deserve to be treated well and loving one child does not mean we can't love another.

And I deal with the stress of all of this with lots of Self-Care! {Finding the Joy, Continuous Traumatic Stress}

Why kids act differently in RTC (or psych hospitals, school or anywhere else):
  1. YOU are not there. You are the symbol of all mom caregivers, and you dare to try to “inflict” your love on him. In an RTC, our children don’t have to deal with the stress of family and emotions, which may reduce enough of their stress to a point where they can handle it better.
  2. Too “Broken” to Function in a Family. Some kids do better in RTC. They NEED an environment without emotions and long-term consequences, and need people to keep them, and those around them, safe because they are not capable of doing it for themselves.
  3. Trust. The child trusts you enough to “let his/her hair down.” They really do believe that you love them enough to put up with their behaviors. Which is true, but sometimes I wish mine didn’t trust me that much! My daughter “holds it together” all day by cramming everything inside and ignoring it – then she gets home and lets it all out on us. Those feelings have to go somewhere, but they can also hold it for a long time when they know it’s life or death (which it usually feels like it is).
  4. Honeymooning/ Shut Down/ Dissociation. RTC/ schools, etc. are scary places. My daughter will lie, shut down, dissociate, escape by sleeping, “talk the talk” (years of therapy and being in hospitals can teach a child all the right buzz words)… anything to get through this and get out. With the right meds and enough motivation, they can hold it in for months – up to a year depending on whether or not they see that it’s working.
  5. Structure and Support 24/7.  Making decisions and choices is hard for our kids. They NEED structure and support. Concrete expectations make them feel safe. In an RTC, there are very few gray areas for the child to have to figure out. They have fewer decisions to make (bedtime, where to sit, what to do next...). My daughter feels “safer” when someone who knows her issues is monitoring her 24/7 -- so well supervised that she doesn’t have to stress about making bad choices. She can’t suicide, self-harm, use drugs or tobacco (supposedly! – my son found a way to sneak chewing tobacco). My son deliberately acts out at public school until he gets sent back to the special school, because he needs and craves the structure and support provided by the special school. We cannot always provide the structure and concrete expectations that our kids need/ crave, especially over the long-term. RTCs have much better staff to child ratios and back up than we ever could! It is not possible to live real life like an institution (although we sometimes come close in our house), especially when you have other special needs kids and are dealing with life.
  6. Staff is Easily Manipulated. The staff is used to being treated like scum, so any child that is nice to them… They don’t necessarily recognize or care that it is manipulative. Generally “Charming” RAD kids hug and are warm and sweet to everyone (as long as they aren’t family). This helps the child feel safer. The child doesn't actually trust or care about these people, but they are pretty believable so the staff, case managers, teachers… have no clue. They want to protect this sweet, loving child from obviously crazy, overly strict parents with Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. Which feeds right into what the child wants.
  7. Not Their Problem. Short-term focus and our child’s best interest is not the staff's problem, especially in the long-term. Staff can avoid telling the kids what they don’t want to hear (like “no”). So our kids behave better, because they like people who rarely tell them no. No one cares about long-term consequences (except you!).
  8. Closed Environment that is impossible in the "real world." This is a locked campus that goes way beyond child proofing, so staff don’t have to deal with watching him and correcting him when he gets into things that could hurt him. There are no small children or pets running around that the child could sexually abuse, torture, torment, or just be cruel to. They don’t have to protect a whole family, just a bunch of kids who are not exactly perceived as defenseless. 
  9. Concrete, Absolute Rules - Your child KNOWS he has little to no flexibility or “wiggle room” on most subjects so they don’t bother to argue with staff about bedtime, computer time, respectful words…
  10. It’s Not Personal. It’s just a job. Staff can walk away. They go home at the end of their shift. They can quit. They can let someone else take over for awhile… we have to protect ourselves and the rest of the family, and that influences how we handle our child. Staff don’t have to do anything that isn’t in their job description. If someone vomits that’s the job of the cleaning staff. If the staff person has the flu, they can take a sick day. We have to deal with everything our children throw at us, no matter what, and it often hits home and gets personal.
  11. Nurturing is Optional. Unlike an RTC, when a child is rude, horrible, scary, threatening, tries or succeeds in hurting us and/ or a family member, we have to continue living with this child. If a stranger, or even our significant other, treated us the way our child does, then most likely that person would go to jail, and everyone would be encouraging us to leave him, but when it’s a child, we’re expected to handle the emotions and stress, not show it in any way to our child, and be warm and loving all the time.
  12. No Social Skills Needed or Required. No one expects the child to care about anyone else’s feelings. Empathy, sharing, cooperation is rewarded as something above and beyond. 
  13. School is Easier in an RTC. Lower expectations and lots of one-on-one instruction. No one knows or cares about your child's actual capabilities. The child is not expected to live up to his or her "potential."
  14. Blank Slate. If the child messes up, they get to start all over again with a blank slate the next day. No one cares what he/she did last year, last summer, or even last night. No grudges, no expectations, no hurt feelings, no holding the child to a higher standard….
  15. No Personality Conflicts. If someone doesn’t like your child, or the child doesn’t like them… the child can just wait, they’ll leave and/or go home soon. Our kids don't expect people to stick around.
  16. No One Knows the Child's Family - Staff. They mostly only know what the child tells them. They tend to believe the child if he tells them that you beat him daily, or “hug him too much” (Yes, my son told the staff that was one of the main reasons he was in RTC – we’d known him less than 6 months at that point… let’s just say that was NOT why he was there). Most RTCs are not used to working with kids with loving, involved parents. They’re also not used to working with kids with attachment issues. If the child says, "My dad beats me every day," "My mom doesn't feed me," "My parents won't let me have a cell phone because they are unreasonably strict,' "I'm a poor little abused orphan that no one cares about"... well, to the staff, it's entirely possible. The staff and other kids will validate your child's every entitled feeling, and will most likely try to "make it up to the child" by giving them things and special treatment. We also got a lot of pressure to give our child the same privileges a normal teen "deserves." Example of how we handled this.
  17. No One Knows the Child's Family - Peers. The kids in RTC and school will reinforce your child’s beliefs, and make the child feel better about him/herself (usually at your expense), based on whatever the child chooses to tell them. Ask my daughter how many of her “friends” (and biofamily) think we are evil, strict parents, and have offered to kidnap my daughter and let her live with them – most of them call us names (which she loves to share with us) and some of them have even offered to hurt us for her.
  18. RTCs Can Be Fun. Tiny successes are celebrated and rewarded. Even with almost no positive behavior they get to go on field trips, go to the playground, have dessert… get to go out to eat with parents (who are expected to be sensitive to their feelings), and can eat all the fried foods they want. ...things they get to resent you for for not doing all the time when they're home again.
  19. Chaos Feels Normal. Even children adopted at birth can be used to high levels of stress hormones from the womb. An environment of chaos, can feel normal and familiar. RTC’s feel normal. Nice, quiet homes feel abnormal and “boring.”
  20. It's Not Safe to Act Out. Tranquilizers, lock down, intimidating staff, big scary kids who fight back… RTC’s are scary places. It’s not safe to fight or draw attention to yourself.
  21. What's Normal for your child? Staff don’t know your child’s history or what is normal for him or her. They don’t recognize his/ her anxious behaviors or what Acting In looks like. We were told our daughter was “a little homesick,” but other than that was doing great. On the same day they gave her an anti-anxiety med PRN because she told a staff that she wanted to hit a girl for telling her to “shut up.” They don’t know this is totally out of character for our daughter.
  22. Compared to Whom? I always forget that staff’s definition of “normal” and “sweet” needs to be taken with a truckload of salt. Remember what they are comparing him too – NOT neurotypical children his age! My son is the best behaved kid in the school... a highly structured program for emotionally disturbed youths. They’re always trying to promote him back into regular public school, but that’s because they don’t even notice his “minor” behaviors, like crying, cussing, punching lockers, being rude and oppositional to staff but complying in the end… because they have kids that are listening to the voices in their head that tell them to kill, are spitting in people’s faces, constantly screaming and cussing in the middle of class at other students (because he broke up with her to date her twin – yes this was my son *sigh*), destroying property…
  23. Like Attracts Like. ALL the kids in RTC have poor social skills, so no one will notice that your child is not “good friend” material. So he can have lots of friends if he wants. Plus my kids are naturally attracted to other kids with issues (probably because kids with issues are more tolerant of the poor social skills or maybe because they crave chaos since that’s what they grew up with) so they have a large pool of choices… who can’t escape! It's all short term too, so they can even appear to be popular. {Kleenex Girls}.
  24. No Self-Entertainment Required. Self-entertainment is often difficult for kids with attachment issues to do - it usually requires imagination, which can be very difficult for concrete thinkers. In an RTC, there’s always something to do and people to entertain you. For example, if we try to stick to a schedule that says we have dinner at 6pm then we have to leave the child(ren) to their own devices for ½ an hour or so while we make the dinner. In an RTC there is staff with them entertaining them all the time, and then they get up and walk to the cafeteria where dinner is magically ready. The child rarely has to self-entertain in an RTC.
  25. Medications and Round The Clock Staff. RTCs can make dramatic med changes, whereas we as parents have to work with small incremental increases to a therapeutic level, and don’t have access to 24/7 nursing/ psychiatric care if our child has an adverse reaction. We have to deal with a raging or dysregulated child while the right medication cocktail is found. 
They don't feel Safe (Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?)

But things were going so well!

I think this is related to why a kid who is doing well, suddenly seems to sabotage their success. Sometimes I think when things are going too well, and my kids get scared and pull back.

This could be due to:
  • A traumaversary, birthday, trauma trigger, holiday, change in routine...
  • They run out of emotional reserves. Spoon Theory. This is why a kid can appear to hold it all together at school, in public, or at a friend's house, convincing you that they have control over their behaviors so they "should" be able to do it at home too, right? 
  • They know things are going to "go wrong" so they self-sabotage things to take back control - by controlling when it happens it makes them feel in control and safe
  • The need to protect themselves from what they consider your inevitable rejection by rejecting/ pushing you away. 
  • They don't feel they deserve good things to happen to them.
  • Historically when good things happen, they are followed by bad things (usually involving great loss) - so our kids avoid the good things to make losing them hurt less. 
  • They're afraid that if they're doing well, then you'll raise the bar on your expectations and expect them to keep it up (which is a lot of pressure).
  • They "know" they're going to mess up, so they go ahead and get it over with.
  • Good behavior often leads to higher expectations and more freedom and privileges. Privileges that the child may be afraid they can't handle (actually may not be able to handle!).
    {Bear NEEDED a high amount of structure and support to feel safe - he did very well in a structured, supportive environment and there was a lot of pressure put on us as parents to "reward" that success by putting him in less restrictive environments - where he inevitably failed. I personally believe that failure was often (sub-conscious?) self-sabotage to get put back in the more restrictive environment.}

What we did: 

Reassurance/ Trust-building

I constantly reassured my kids that I would help them deal with these feelings (and find others to help) and that I wouldn't allow them to push me away. I also reassured them that I knew these behaviors and feelings were caused by their "issues," and that as they healed the behaviors and feelings of fear and wanting to hurt us would get better.

Structure and Caring SupportAt the same time, I set up boundaries/ rules/ structure that let them know they were safe (this is a perceived sense of safety - nothing to do with real-life physical safety). I let them know that while they were healing, I would be there to keep them and the rest of the family safe. That hurting me and the family was not OK, and that I would not allow it.

I took away most of their control (even about little stuff like when they would be eating and where they sat in the car), and by doing so they knew that I was strong enough to handle them and love them despite their issues. It took me a long time to understand that they didn't just need someone to love them unconditionally - they didn't believe in that, they needed someone to make them feel safe. Their favorite teacher was the strictest teacher, one of the staff in the behavior unit at school. She tolerated no-nonsense, but they knew she really cared about them.

They were afraid (deep down) of the teachers/ people that they could manipulate, that they could fool into not realizing that the child was not perfect and was "unlovable and unworthy of love." People that gave them a blank slate every day, that forgave them every time, that didn't hold them accountable for their actions... those people weren't strong enough to keep them "safe."

I think me staying, no matter what they did, was a big part of what helped them heal, but I think a bigger part of that was providing the structure and support needed to make them feel safe and know that someone else was in control. That was, I think, one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was not the way I had parented my other children, most of the people involved in the kids' life thought I was overbearing and controlling, and it was NOT my personality (I'm a pretty laid back unstructured person), but they NEEDED that structure and loving support to heal.

I have had so many doubts about whether what I was doing was right and how to change things as they got older and more securely attached:
Slowed/ stopped progress
Justifying structured, (emotional) age-appropriate parenting
FAIR Club with "adult" children

I still believe Therapeutic Parenting was the best thing I did for my children
Therapeutic Parenting
The FAIR Club 

Other helpful posts:
Structure and Caring Support
Why Won't My Child Just Behave?


Anonymous said...

You should just explain to her that as long as you can have her social security money to spend on your "retreats", you will never leave her. I am sure she will completely understand.

marythemom said...

Not that it's any of your business, but most of the retreats I went on were inexpensive. For the most expensive one, I had a scholarship and drove there rather than fly. Even if I were paying a ton of money to go on retreats all the time (and I don't think 3-4 retreats/ seminars in 10 years is excessive), it certainly wouldn't be using Kitty's SSI money. That money doesn't really cover her expenses - food and consumables, eating out, clothing/shoes, smart phone, cable/ internet/ Netflix/ DVR, health insurance, transportation, her fair share of the utilities... Kitty lives a much more luxurious lifestyle than she would be able to if she were living on just her SSI.

Kitty pays room and board with her social security money (required by SSI or she loses her benefits). She has a generous weekly "allowance" (she can't handle money, especially things like budgeting and saving, so she receives her money weekly to do whatever she wants with - usually buying junk food and going to movies and other entertainment with her friends).

Not that she's really capable of living completely independently, but even if she were, her SSI money would not be enough to live on, at least not with the lifestyle she wants.

She's talked about going to live with biofamily in a less expensive part of the country, but she tried that for a time, and discovered she wasn't able to handle it.

Kitty doesn't understand why she isn't like everyone else. Understandably she finds it frustrating and unfair and complains about it a lot. Unfortunately that doesn't change the fact that she DOES need this support (a fact which is well documented and one of the reasons she receives SSI in the first place). Kitty has healed a lot, and while a part of her will always feel insecure (a major symptom of her Borderline Personality Disorder), I know that a bigger part of Kitty understands that she needs this support, and that's why she chooses to stay here with her loving family, despite what anonymous trolls apparently think of as our "abuse."

Anonymous said...

Oh come on. At least be honest about the fact that you are fleecing her. You charge her more for "room and board" than most people spend on their mortgage. Not sure how that makes me a troll.
Sorry the truth hurts.
I wonder, does Kitty ever get a fancy "retreat"? Because all you seem to write about is how you take care of you with her money.

marythemom said...

I don't know anything about where you live or your lifestyle (any more than you know about mine!), but in our area $400/mo is nowhere near enough to pay a mortgage. In our area, "as of August 2015, average apartment rent is $1452." Kitty chooses to live in this area. The amount of "allowance" she gets is plenty for her few needs that we don't cover. Yes, we could increase her allowance, but there are many, many reasons why for Kitty's sake we will not do so and why we should not.

You talk about how I'm using her money to take care of myself. I'm not sure where you get that idea? When the kids were younger, yes, I used the adoption subsidy money to be able to afford to be a stay-at-home mom. That is what the money is for, to help us give the kids what they need, and what they needed was a mom who could be there 24/7.

Kitty has finally become (mostly) stable enough for me to go back to work. I found a job(s) with hours flexible enough to get Kitty (and Ponito) what she needs (mostly transportation and "case management" type stuff) and still do some mentor and support work with other trauma mamas. Yes, we live in a very nice house, in a nice neighborhood, but Hubby makes good money and can support our family without the small amount of money Kitty pays in "room and board," although maybe with a few less of the amenities that Kitty enjoys.

Maybe you're assuming that all I do is take care of myself, because for the last few years this blog has been mostly about encouraging and letting other trauma mamas know that it is OK to prioritize their needs, even over their family, so that they can keep going. I know that most mamas are like I was when my kids were younger -- putting the kids' wants and needs before their own to such an extent that there was nothing left. I didn't follow this advice while my kids were younger. That's how I know how important it is, and why I say it so much now. I guess if you're reading my blog now, it could look like all I do is self-care. I wish that were true.

Urban Dictionary definition of a troll: "One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers."

Maybe you aren't a troll, but I can't begin to guess why you feel the need to accuse me of "fleecing" my daughter without any evidence to that effect. I also have no idea why I keep responding even though apparently you won't be changing your mind no matter what I say.

Helen said...

This is one of those posts I'm bookmarking to come back to that helps me get it more acutely. Thank you, it's especially helpful to hear your view looking back with now young adult children on what turned out to be the right thing. It's so hard in the middle of it all to be sure!

marythemom said...

Thank you, Helen. :) I hope you've got a strong support system. That helps a lot.

Anonymous said...

Kitty chooses to live with you... That is interesting. She "chooses" but she also knows that if she leaves, you immediately attempt to sabotage her by cutting off her health insurance and access to her medication. How is that compassionate parenting?
Kitty is finally in a stable place? If memory serves, she was pretty stable until you disrupted her meds the last time she tried to leave your regime.
Really, I just think you are the epitome of everything that is wrong with the system. This blog represents the worst case scenario for kids. It seems to me that Kitty is trapped and you are reaping the rewards of her vulnerability and flaunting it on your blog.
And really can you compare the freedom of an apartment rental to living under your thumb in one room in your home? There is no comparison. $400 a month for a room in your house with all the strings you attach is outrageous.
And you know I am not a troll, I am a long time reader who has a very different opinion on your blog that allows anonymous comments. does that work? You are welcome for the blog traffic.
My hope is that my comments on your very public blog will give you a bit of pause as you continue what looks to many like exploitation.
I am glad to hear that Kitty is not a prisoner in your home that you are taking advantage of. I wish you would actually provide proof of that instead of blogging about the gifts you receive and your retreats and all of the perks of being a "trauma mama".

marythemom said...

Anonymous -
I do realize this is a public blog, and I struggle with how open to be. I know I wish I had had access to someone who was actually living this life when we were in the middle of it all. I don't claim to be an expert or a professional. Maybe this blog does represent the "worst case scenario for kids," but my kids represented one of the worst case scenarios -- seriously mentally ill teens in foster care. Maybe someone else could have done a better job raising my kids, but I haven't found many of their posts/ blogs/ articles. I hope that what I write here will inspire parents to keep trying, and find what works for their family... and yes, focus on the self-care that is needed to be able to continue to function. You can't pour from an empty cup, and this life is incredibly draining.

"I am glad to hear that Kitty is not a prisoner in your home that you are taking advantage of. I wish you would actually provide proof of that"

I don't blog much about the kids now, because the focus of this blog has been parenting children with RAD. Legally, my kids are no longer children so I choose not to post about them much. This particular post, for example, is about the early years. Kitty is attached now, and while she still struggles (always will), she does trust that we'll be here for her. This is why she feels safe complaining, but doesn't actually leave.

I blogged a lot about the struggles we had making that transition to legal adulthood, because I was trying to decide how to handle it. I had no guidelines or mentors. I don't know of any resources for parents with children in situations like Bear and Kitty. Individually, none of Kitty's issues (RAD/BPD, bipolar, low IQ (74), processing disorder, complex PTSD...) qualify her for most services. Combined they make it near impossible for her to function independently. I hope that will change as she gets older and her brain matures.

marythemom said...

"And you know I am not a troll, I am a long time reader who has a very different opinion on your blog that allows anonymous comments."
Actually, I don't know that you're not a troll. You make a LOT of assumptions considering the limited amount of information you see on my blog.

For example, you said I, "attempt to sabotage her by cutting off her health insurance and access to her medication." and "you disrupted her meds the last time she tried to leave"

Yes, if Kitty moves out we would stop her private health insurance (My understanding is that legally we would have to since she's not in school full-time and would not be our dependent).

No, that does not mean she would no longer have health insurance; she is on Medicaid.

No, I have never disrupted her medication, but if I posted here about the trouble we had with medication when she moved in with biofamily, I guess it could appear that way. The problem there was that Kitty lost her Medicaid coverage when she turned 19 in April and had to switch to our private insurance exclusively until she got on SSI and got Medicaid again. Private insurance required that she use mail order for her medications. Her psychiatrist required that Kitty be seen at least every 3 months in order to approve a 90 day prescription. Kitty was due to see the psychiatrist, when she made the sudden decision to move in with biofamily. While Kitty was with biofamily, she was supposed to see the psychiatrist that biomom had arranged for her so there would be limited disruption, but on that day they had to use the car to take Kitty's younger sister to the hospital (she'd recently had a miscarriage). The next available psychiatrist appointment wasn't for another month. Luckily, Kitty decided to come home and I was able to get her an emergency pdoc appointment.

Yes, there would almost definitely be a disruption to access to her medication and medical services. Kitty refuses to use public transportation (we do have a limited service in our area), so getting to appointments and the pharmacy without someone to drive her would be difficult.

The biggest disruption would be that Kitty is not able to administer her own medication correctly. When she moved in with biofamily, she rarely remembered to take her meds (very dangerous). Even while living with us, she needs daily reminders to take her meds, and I just discovered that she thought one of her prescription medications was PRN, so she hasn't been taking it regularly (dangerous). To better help us track her meds, Kitty uses a weekly medication dispenser (I have repeatedly asked her not to take her med box on overnight visits, because she sometimes drops it or leave it where it can spill). Recently, when spending the night with a friend, Kitty left her med box down where the friend's toddler had access to it. They had to rush the baby to the hospital where it was determined he had spit out the pills. Any one of Kitty's meds could have killed that baby.

She has limited ability to handle her medical/insurance needs, and no idea how to handle anything much more complicated than checking in. She won't use the phone unless I give her no choice and I handle all her scheduling, insurance, specialists, record keeping, medication... this is not because I'm a control freak, but because due to her brain injuries, learning disabilities, processing issues, and quirks, she is not capable of doing this completely independently.

marythemom said...

This is just one example of why Kitty is not able to live independently and why she needs more structure. Of course Kitty would have more freedom in an apartment and with a lot less structure, but that doesn't mean she is actually capable of handling it. Even if she could afford an apartment (with or without roommates) and assuming I was still supporting her, managing her finances, and continuing to do all her "case management" Kitty CANNOT live independently. This is not because I'm mean, controlling, or getting some sort of personal satisfaction or benefit from her living with us, it is because of her mental health, her brain injuries, her personality, her trauma, and her capacities and abilities.

The reality is that I would love to find a situation where Kitty was safe and happy and living outside of our home. I love her, but do not want to take care of her for the rest of her life, any more than she wants to live with Mommy and Daddy. We're still working on this. Constructive suggestions are always appreciated, but pushing her out of the nest right now is not an option.

Anonymous said...

This is the most clear and concise explanation you have ever given. I see the picture clearer now. You are right, we are not going to agree about a lot of things however I do see that you are trying to give perspective to others who have adopted traumatized children. You are right, it is easy to judge when one is not living it. I, for one, would have assumed given Kitty's history that her departure was temporary and I would not have cut her off from insurance with such haste. I seemed extreme and punitive. Honestly, I just hope that Kitty is safe and has some enjoyment in her life. I think she deserves that.

marythemom said...

I must not have been clear somewhere. We have never cut her off our private insurance. There was a period of less than a year when she was without Medicaid (while we waited for her SSI to start), but she was on our private insurance that whole time.

While she would not be able to stay on our insurance if she were to move out permanently, of course we wouldn't make any changes until we're absolutely sure. She was adamant that she was never moving back here when she went to live with biofamily (she lasted a month), but while we let her know that losing the private insurance would be a consequence of moving out, we would not have made that change then until we knew she was not coming back. No idea how long that would take, but at least a few months.

Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad you're not a troll.

Traci said...

I loved reading your blog post - just got so upset over Anonymous' comments. Having just been through a false accusation from a church member, I am tender. I am sorry that she does not fully understand that you post these things from your own family in order to help those of us who come later with kids and similar struggles. Thank you so much for the wealth of good information you share with us. Parenting our children is not easy. But whatever God gives us, He also enables us to complete. God bless you., Mary!

marythemom said...

Thank you for your support, Traci.

Unfortunately, since I allow Anonymous comments, I do occasionally get "trolls." This person was willing to listen and accept that he/she was was making assumptions without the complete information. That's not how it usually works with a troll, so I consider this a win.

I'm sorry that church member made those accusations. I hope it helps to know that others out there know you're a good mother.

Anonymous said...

HAHA! I found your blog again, read it again, got to the bottom, and see my thanks to you from last year. So thanks again, just as valuable this time around. I was specifically looking for an article to give to a dear friend who works with special needs children, understands autism but not RAD. She has been bamboozled by our son's public persona and is beginning to misunderstand us, does not realize he is so different at home and why. I read the one about the RTC, but so much does not apply. What could you recommend?

marythemom said...

This post has a lot of info about RAD -
Hope it helps.