Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trauma, Part I

“How many times have I told you not to yell at your brothers
and sisters?”

“How can you remember this and not that?”

“How can you wake up one morning happy and the next morning mad?”

“Are you 2 or 20?”

Have you ever asked yourself these questions regarding your
child? Because, of course, none of us
would say them out loud…

If you’re the parent of a child from hard places, you may
have already read Jen Hatmaker’s post,
“The Truth about Adoption: One Year Later.” If you haven’t, I would encourage you to read it. I found it relevant, humorous and real.

I wish I could say that we experienced the same level of
healing at 8 to 12 months home, but we are still in the healing process at nearly 3 years post placement. Progress is evident, but I liken it to pushing a broken egg up the side of a glass bowl
with a fork. While we are making forward progress, there is much substance left behind – 1 step forward, 2 steps back. I am hopeful we will reach the top of the bowl, but I wonder how much gunk will settle in the bottom, only to surface in an unforeseeable moment of change.

I’ve asked myself many times why I feel compelled to post
about trauma. It’s not to educate because I’m not an authority. I’m a mom whose only professional credentials do not include recognizing or treating children affected by trauma. And the
mere fact that I’m living it doesn’t make me a professional; it only makes me a traumatized mom:)

I’ve also found that, generally speaking, those not directly
affected do not wish to be educated on the matter. Admittedly, it’s much easier to take the daily or limited interactions with the child at face value. Many don’t realize they are seeing the “I’m-coping-with-this-overwhelming-environment-by-acting-silly
kiddo. Or the kid who subconsciously doesn’t trust anyone and can’t engage in relationships beyond surface level. They don’t understand the child who responds out of fear and overwhelm. They may not witness the behavior that mimics bi-polar disorder.

Now that I’ve established that I’m not writing to educate, why am I writing this?

1) This will serve as a memorialization to mark
where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and eventually to reflect on how God has redeemed us. May He be glorified!

2) To educate myself. I need to understand the root of my child’s responses, and learn practical ways to change my reaction and lovingly guide him through the healing process.

3) To encourage other parents walking this lonely
path. You are not alone!

You see, I’ve been that parent who has longed to return to
the ‘waiting’ phase of the journey where I fell in love with a child on paper and couldn’t wait to bring him into the safety of our home, surrounded by siblings who were crazy about him and opportunities that were endless. No amount of reading could have prepared me for the child who rejected his family and viewed opportunity as another chance to fail.

I’ve been the parent who looked at the calendar and realized
five days have passed and I haven’t left the house...or planned a meal beyond ramen noodles…or covered my grey (eek!)…or answered the phone…or responded to emails…

I’ve been the parent who’s sat on the floor for hours, through
tears and sweat, trying to comfort my hysterical child who desperately wants to trust but is afraid because he’s not yet experienced a ‘happy ending,’ and flinches at the attempted comforting hugs because to him, touch equals pain.

I’ve been the parent desperately seeking resources offering
practical help, or at least affirmation that our family is not doomed and our other children will not grow up miserable, resentful or institutionalized because of the trauma we introduced into our once serene home.

I’ve been the parent questioning my ability to rear a child,
wondering if I’m setting safe boundaries or simply exercising control.

I’ve been the parent left in a stupor, wondering what
happened in the split second between the silliness and the sudden rage.

I’ve been the parent who’s spent days searching blogs for
signs that we are not the only family whose front door seems to have the invisible greeting, “Welcome to h*ll.”

I’ve been that parent, and I’m learning to be a better parent, to all my children. I’m far from there, but each day is a new opportunity for me to run the race. I’m thankful for the little
things, like the fact that every day will eventually end and sleep will come, a new shirt can make me feel great, an old verse can bring new perspective, a caffeinated beverage can change everything. Well, not everything, but you get the idea.

Change is occurring. We’ve come a long way. We’ve had to make some not-so-popular choices. But helping our traumatized
child become an adult is not about momentary popularity. It’s going to be a lifelong journey. It requires daily prioritizing and
remembering the goal. It requires change on our part. It requires a change in vocabulary. We’ve ousted the elusive term ‘normal.’

We are seeing trust blossom ever so slowly. We have begun
counseling in a non-traditional way, and it is probably the single most beneficial tool yet!

As I embark on this journey of discovering the effects of
trauma (an experience that produces psychological injury or pain) and the many ways it manifests itself, I will pray for guidance in sharing.

May we all find hope and encouragement, and most of all, may He be glorified.


Jerusha said...

Thank you for this post. I can strongly relate. I loved Jen's post, although we have not hit those positive milestones nearly as quickly as her kiddos did. We are 15 months home, and there is still much unpredictable fear, anxiety, and brokenness to be healed. Not gonna lie and say it's been super fun. Nope. I am one who greatly appreciates knowing I'm not alone...and being reminded that God is faithful. :)

Carla said...

Thankyou for sharing and being honest. As a mom who's trying to prepare as best I can to parent a very traumatized 6yr old child I appreciate your words of wisdom, and experience.

Cari said...

I "get" everything you are saying here. Being almost 27 months into this, our ever so slow healing progress mirrors yours. It's so difficult to stay focus on the goal most days. All your reasons to write this post are things I think about all the time...this one really struck home: trying to affirm that my family is not doomed and that my children won't grow up miserable, resentful, etc.

I would love to hear more about your non-traditional counseling either on your blog or private email...for the benefit of trying to discover what may truly help our traumatized child and maintain our family's peace.

Tobi Wright said...

Connie, Thank you for today's post. We are still waiting for our first one or two from Ethiopia. I want to be as prepared for the trauma as possible. I don't want to walk blindly into adoption. I learn best and most from authentic women like you that speak honestly, telling us like it is. God is honored by that. I'm sure it's hard to post the not-so-fun moments but I do appreciate it!

Rebecca said...

I echo what Tobi said... we have 2 waiting for us in China (13 & 4). It's been a long road... I'm beyond the days of eager anticipation, like you mentioned above, and have moved into this stange & scary place called uncertainty. BUT I know the God who called us to this is faithful. I just keep telling myself this. I have all the same fears for my biological kids (4 of them under 13 yrs old)as you also mentioned. What is this going to do to our "peaceful" home? It's already not as "peaceful" as I'd like. You know? Thanks for sharing. Keep it coming...

Difference2This1 said...

Just returned from a 4 hr evaluation in the behavioral health dept at our children's hospital. I feel exhausted...and no one said the visit was unwarrented or that we've overreacted; in fact, they say just the opposite. Our eggshell isn't even creeping up the side of the bowl yet :( You are so not alone on this tough journey. Prayers for endurance for us all....

Jolene said...

Hey...Ohh...You talking to me?

We're 3 yrs out and still working on the same stinking things! Small world, this trauma thing...this RADical thing that attachment is (or isn't in our cases).

Its amazing because our kiddos can be SOOO charming and everyone is so blinded by the charming deception (and subtle manipulation) they think we're nuts!

However, they don't see the gory side of it...the fits and rages. The words said just to hurt someone (because said someone made him mad 2 days ago) or even the physical injuries caused by said little man because of fear.

No self-esteem and fear drive them to do the unthinkable. Nope, have no idea what your going through...

Seriously, though, after 3 years we DO see improvement and Praise HIM for that...and our current adoption is just the perfect storm for behaviors...Pray for the rest of us in the trenches right now!

Lynda said...

I can relate and find your honesty refreshing. Taking it a day at a time is really the best way to go. Spent years with my oldest daughter living a life in public where she was angel who garnered praise everywhere we went, only to return home and deal with the exact opposite. Severe RAD and PTSD became reality for us all. My fears of our son being permanently scarred having to protect him from her haunted me. Yet the Lord was SO faithful. Today she is a truly happy, balanced, bonded, loving and able to receive love, grown, married young woman. Hang in there, healing is possible. I remind myself of this now as we raise our youngest who has been with us almost two years and is dealing with the delemma of bonding and attachment. Healing from an identity that tells her she's basically "bad" and needs to reinforce this identity with negative actions. It's a process to try to assist in reprogramming those negative self images.

Melanie said...

Right there with you...thank you for this post. We have three beautiful girls from hard places that have experienced trauma in their short lives and one special needs grandson...yeah...our home is alot like the way you describe yours. Happy laughter and playing together one minute and rage and anger the next. Sometimes the bio kids are just as guilty if not more so. I long to know how to teach them kindness, thoughtfulness, manners, respect, treat others the way you want to be treated, ect... Still working on being a better parent and having a better response. There are good days and shocking times of progress when I think just maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel and God is working His healing touch in their wounded hearts. Even on the hardest days, I would not change a thing. Thank you for the honest post.

Heather Austin said...

Thank you for this post. I am living with and working through the same things, even after 2 1/2 years. Our daughter's issues are such a complex, multi-faceted, tangled mess and it is difficult to identify the reasons for her behaviors individually. Fear, inability to trust, low self esteem, anxiety, very controlling, PTSD, sensory issues, not understanding consequences to her own actions, emotional instability, afraid to be happy, afraid to speak, overly silly and charming...all of these things stem from trauma. We have seen her sharp edge soften, but the roots to these issues are still strong and deep. It just takes time!!

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