All posts tagged cortisol

Its all been a bit too much

Published March 19, 2014 by thefamilyof5

It was Sports Relief day in school today. There was a sponsored walk and lots of other lovely sporting activities planned for the day, the children all went to school in sporty clothes ready to have fun.

I was greeted tonight by baby girl who manically did star jumps across the playground before bouncing in to me. She looked as though she was having a major sugar rush, really hyper. I asked her if she’d had a nice day, she threw her arms around me, nuzzled her face into my jumper and stayed there, her heart beating rapidly.

Big girl came out of school looking gravely worried. I asked her if something had happened, she said no and edged closer, I asked if she’d fallen out with her friends, she said no and edge closer still, have you enjoyed your day, I asked, ‘it’s been ok’ she said as she put her arms around me for a cuddle, and there she stayed.

Middle girl came out of school her usual smiley self and reverted to her usual angry self once we got home.

Big girl has talked tonight of how she chose to help look after the younger children during the walk, the ‘perceived’ responsibility she felt for these 2 small children proved to be too much for her, she was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. You’d think that would make a perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep. Quite the opposite in fact, it’s the perfect recipe for a night of tossing and turning unable to sleep, cortisol rushing through her veins.

Baby girl found the excitement and change of her normal routine overwhelming. She spent the evening clingy and tearful before thrashing about in bed until she couldn’t any longer.

Middle girls spent the majority of last night awake, probably thinking about the day ahead. Tonight she was moody and angry right through to bedtime where she angrily thrashed around for almost 2hours before finally dropping off.

The uncertainty, excitement, and pressure of unstructured days in school has always been too much for my girls, it’s the reason why I’ve always taken them out for the last week of the school year, I’d hoped this year would be different.

The last week of the school year is generally filled with lots of lovely (scary) exciting activities rather than all that (safe) boring school work, all topped off with a huge helping of loss.

It makes me sad that the things that are supposed to be fun and exciting for my babies, are actually scary and overwhelming instead.

I’ve linked this post up with this weeks #WASO over at The Adoption Social.


She isn’t the same…………………

Published June 2, 2013 by thefamilyof5

She isn’t the same, her story is one of fear, neglect, terror and trauma. Her story is not the same as any other child in her class, in fact her story is not the same as any other child in her school, not even her sisters, so how can she be ‘the same’!

Baby girl wasn’t bought in to this world surrounded by love and hope, she was bought in to this world surround by chaos and fear. Even before she took her very first breath she was being subjected to emotional and physical abuse, from what should have been the safety of the womb she was already being abused, neglected, damaged. Her veins already being filled with cortisol levels that only you and I experience in times of sheer terror. Her neural pathways being damaged beyond repair as her development changed its path in order to prepare its self for the fear that awaited her outside of the womb.

And then she was born, into an environment of fear, violence and neglect. I don’t just mean dirty clothes and a broken crib. I mean no one soothed her when she cried, no one checked her nappy was clean/dry, no one fed her when she was hungry, no one kept her safe, no one gazed lovingly in to her eyes so no one made her feel loved, worthy and cared for. Instead her view of the world around her was that it was an unsafe and unpredictable place, but it was home and all she knew.

Then she was taken, taken from the violence, the neglect, the emotional abuse, taken from everything she’d ever known, everything that was ‘normal’ to her. Against her will and out of her control she was sent with only 1 of her many siblings, to live with someone else. Too young to understand, to scared to reason with.

Now this foster carer loved her, and nurtured her and showed her that the world was in fact a wonderful place and that she could trust the people around her to take care of her and meet her needs. She showered her in love, affection and helped her to grow both emotionally and physically. Baby girl learnt that when she expressed her needs, they would be met, she no longer had to feel frightened, she no longer had to feel hunger and she started to feel loved and worthy.

And then, just as she was starting to get used to this new lovely life, she was sent away again, still without the ability to make sense of why. Sent away by herself to live with 2 of her other sisters, 2 sisters that she barely knew.

Now this foster carer was different, once described by a social worker to me as the ‘belt and braces’ kind. She was the kind that fed and watered baby girl and only saw her as an income. So baby girls view of the world once again changed. Again she’d been taken, against her will and out of her control. Her views changed once more, ‘she was bad, no one wanted her and that’s why they kept sending her away. She couldn’t trust the grown ups around her to be in control any longer’. She tried really hard to keep this grown up happy, and she tried really hard to get her sisters to like her, because if she didn’t then she feared she’d be taken once again. She didn’t really like this new life, but it was out of her control so she regressed, she kept her self safe by becoming compliant, making no demands and taking care of herself just like she’d learnt to as a baby.

And then just as she got used to this new life, she was taken once more. Once again out of her control. This time she was taken away from everything, nothing was familiar, the sounds and the smells that she’d gown up around all went away. She was sent to live with some new people a very very long way away. The house smelt different, the air outside smelt different, there were new unfamiliar sounds and even the voices of the people around her sounded different. Other than the 2 sisters she barely knew, nothing was familiar. She’d been adopted.

Baby girls development is not the same of a typical child, she has not experienced the same things as a typical child, her neural pathways have developed differently so her brain does not work in the same way as a typical child. Her instincts, and impulses are different, she doesn’t yet understand cause and effect and consequences for a child that has lived like this have very little effect, she doesn’t care if you take her toys away, she never had any as a baby anyway. She won’t even try to earn the stars on your reward chart because she already knows she’s bad, in fact she’ll show you just how bad she is as soon as you get out that reward chart. She doesn’t always hear what you say because her ears are busy listening for danger, she doesn’t always make rational choices because inside she feels chaotic. In fact sometimes she feels so chaotic inside that the only way she can make herself feel normal, is to create chaos on the outside too.

I often describe baby girl as having a tornado of chaos inside her, she has a need for control and a fear of change. Is it any wonder, really?!

So on Tuesday when her teacher informs me that her behavioural expectations for baby girl are the same expectations that she holds for her peers, I have to try and find a way of explaining why this is unreasonable.



Stress, Cortisol & Secondary Trauma

Published February 9, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Stress is defined as an organism’s total response to an environmental condition or stimulus, also known as a stressor. Stress typically describes a negative condition that can have an impact on an organism’s mental and physical well-being.

Cortisol is released in response to stress, sparing available glucose for the brain, generating new energy from stored reserves, and diverting energy away from low-priority activities (such as the immune system) in order to survive immediate threats or prepare for the exertion of rising to a new day. However, prolonged cortisol secretion (which may be due to chronic stress) results in significant physiological changes.
Children who have suffered early neglect or abuse have higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels throughout their lives. High cortisol levels are associated with abdominal weight gain, sleep disorders, anxiety, cognitive issues (learning, memory). If your child had a difficult start in life (which can include prenatal trauma or stress), he or she is likely to be in fight or flight mode far more often than the average person.

Secondary Trauma
Secondary traumatic stress is a risk we incur when we engage empathically with a child who has been traumatised. Charles Figley (1995) defines secondary traumatic stress as “the natural consequent behaviours resulting from knowledge about a traumatising event experienced by a significant other. It is the stress resulting from wanting to help a traumatised or suffering person.”

Living with my girls is stressful, not necessarily because there are 3 of them and 3 kids are exhausting (although I won’t deny 3 is hard work), but because they’re 3 stressed out kids. They’re on constant high alert and their ‘stress’ is constantly seeping from their pores and contaminating those around them, mainly me.

They’re on a constant level of high alert. If I cough they jump, when I shout up the stairs ‘don’t forget to put your socks on’ someone covers their ears in panic, if I move too quickly, get irritated or flustered or do something unpredictable they’re filled with fear. They watch me constantly, try and read my every thought and pre-empt my every move. Yet If I’m ill or tired they’re filled with dread over who will take care of them.

They watch everyone, no one escapes their watchful eye. They listen, they see, they feel, everything.

Like any parent I worry about the if’s, the but’s and the maybe’s. I worry about the future and what it holds for us, and I worry about the things I cannot change.

My stress level’s are at an all time high. The girls had an unpredictable, traumatic and chaotic start to life. I’m on constant high alert because they are.

Its a vicious circle of trauma and secondary trauma.

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