trauma

All posts tagged trauma

Big girls bag of worries.

Published April 11, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Big girls been struggling this half term, she’s very hyper, manic even, and not sleeping.

I managed to establish with her yesterday that she’s worrying about going back to school because she’s finding break times difficult. She often doesn’t have someone to talk to, or play with and finds being alone uncomfortable. She doesn’t want people to see her looking sad or alone so she finds herself running about, bouncing like a bunny (her words) and generally appearing busy. She tells me she doesn’t like acting like this (it is all very out of character behaviour for her, she’s not one for silliness really). She says it makes her even more anxious pretending to be enjoying herself and still worrying that people will be ‘looking at her’. We had a chat about it and I explained that I’ve been speaking to her teachers who will be trying to support her better at these times and also how she could go and stand by a teacher when she is feeling left out. We also talked about what she could do to feel less lonely and with nothing to do. She gathered a colouring book and some loom bands to put in her school bag and seemed happy with this idea. I thought, I hoped, that might be enough to reassure her.

After another sleepless night I suggested she spent some time really thinking about her worries. Breaking each part down and looking at what it really is about. I gave her some ideas on how to do this such a story, write a diary, design a poster etc. It really is something she needed to work through by herself. Big girl spends all day avoiding her thoughts by keeping busy and filling the quiet with noise. I suggested if she processed her thoughts and came up with some ideas and solutions that she felt might help, then she might do less ‘thinking’ when she’s in bed each night.

She disappeared, and reappeared about 20 minutes later looking pleased with herself.

Big girl: mom, I’ve just realised, if I can tell my teacher I have a pet hamster then I can tell her I have no one to talk too as well can’t I!

I really hope it’s as simple as that and she is able to remove her mask at school and let them see her struggles, or in the very least this simplified idea affords her some sleep tonight.

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Brains, RAM and virus protection!

Published March 28, 2018 by thefamilyof5

I’m a pretty organised person, I’m one of ‘those people’ that starts Christmas shopping in January, has birthday gifts purchased weeks in advance and has a collection of varying sized and varying coloured envelopes for all eventualities. Yup, I’m one of those people.

Well, I used to be. Yesterday I suddenly realised it’s Easter Sunday THIS Sunday! I’ve no eggs for the Easter bunny to hide in the garden or gifts for the girls (because they’re lucky enough to get many many eggs from friends and family). I’m thankful for my Amazon Prime account right now.

So whats happening to me?! Have I broken?!

No, well, not yet. It’s a distinct possibility for the near future though if I don’t clear out my busy head. My head is so busy that when I try and think, some kind of whirling spinning motion begins in my head with thoughts flashing past so quickly that I can’t even see what they are.

I know I know, I’m a mom, I’m supposed to have a busy head, I’m supposed to be planning tea, mentally keeping an eye on the washing basket, remembering to load/unload the dishwasher, feed the cat (Oh and our newly arrived Hamster), water the plants, iron the shirts (that’s literally all I iron, life’s too short for ironing!!), do the shopping, pay the kids club fees, keep the kids (and husband) alive.

Simple eh!

No, not simple, my brain isn’t doing any of the above because it’s too busy doing all the other crazy shit that is my life.

Always having to stay one step ahead of three ‘not to small any more’ people, always having to pre-empt what their reactions to things will be, reminding them to wash their faces, ensuring they’re brushing their teeth, checking they are wearing appropriate clothing for the day, sniffing hair as they depart the shower to make sure it was actually washed, keeping an eye on footwear, does it still fit? They won’t tell me if it doesn’t, constantly having to keep plans in my head until the last minute so they don’t get anxious, listening to everything they say as well as everything they don’t say.

In my head right now I’m keeping a hair appointment for Friday a secret, a trip to Nanny and Grandads for Easter dinner Sunday a secret, an optician appointment for big girl next week a secret, a day trip with grandparents in the holidays, a visit to see cousins next week a secret, even plans to visit the farm for Easter dinner supplies and possibly lunch in the cafe tomorrow has to remain in my head until tomorrow. I can’t even reveal that we may go out for dinner bank holiday Monday whilst Daddy is off work, as much as they’ll enjoy it, they won’t manage knowing this stuff before it happens.

Then there’s the longer term stuff, holidays, meetings, birthday parties, weddings, which incidentally are a nightmare, imagine trying to keep an upcoming event a secret whilst simultaneously ensuring everyone has an outfit to wear, nightmare! Preparing for a meeting with all this stuff in my head is also a nightmare, I’ve been trying to refresh my brain on everything attachment lately for the meeting with big girls school (which was rearranged for the end of April) but as soon as I pick up one of the new shiny lovely smelling books that I bought, my brain starts thinking about something else ‘is our gas and electric on the right tariff?’ Or ‘have we got enough milk for tomorrow’s cereal’ or ‘why did big girl mention xyz eleventy billion times earlier, is it a problem?!’

Honestly, my brain has no filter, my filing cabinets are full and my virus protection is failing, the blue screen of death is fast approaching. And I still have no eggs for the Easter bunny to hide!

Consider the blog my ‘to do’ list, I’m hopeful I just freed up some disk space 😉

Splitting / Triangulation

Published March 15, 2018 by thefamilyof5

The honeymoon period was never going to last forever, I knew that.

Over the last couple of months big girl has been gradually withdrawing more and more from family life with her main and only focus being on school.

48hrs ago a minor incident at school that required us to have a gentle chat, instantly blew up in to something major. The minor incident was pushed to the side in place of control, aggression and violence and ultimately the rejection of any parenting beyond basic needs.

If I hear ‘shut up idiot’ much more, I may actually scream. Loudly. It breaks my heart to see her destroy the things she holds dear, family photos that she will regret having ripped to smithereens.

Big girl has always been skilled at splitting relationships, pulling the wool over people’s eyes whilst demonising another. Usually me. Its happened within the family, within the support services we’ve accessed, even a newly appointed social worker and of course, its happened in school.

It seems like its happening in school again. It can’t happen though. This school placement is big girls last hope, this families last hope, I fought hard to get her there, but she needs to feel safe there because the alternatives aren’t ideal.

So whilst school inadvertently take on the role of ‘rescuer’ and bandage her imaginary PE injuries and empathise with her difficult family life, they’re allowing her to play the role of the victim, which is playing straight into her hands and making her family the perpetrators.

Until this stops she will remain hostile and violent at home. Being able to control your teachers, doesn’t tend to make you feel very safe.

I found this great piece on triangulation and wanted to share it with you, I’ll add a link to the source as well.

Triangulation: This is one of the more potentially damaging hazards that teachers encounter with AD students. AD students are reliably on the lookout for other adults to playoff against their parents so as to make their parents look deficient in some way. Teachers are a favorite choice. AD students often present their optimal side at school, a side the parents rarely see at home. On the other hand, when the parents describe home behavior that the teacher has likely never seen, teachers are often incredulous. It is tempting, on the surface, to ascribe the difference to faulty parenting. With AD students, that conclusion is most likely incorrect. By adopting the perspective of blaming the parents, teachers step onto the Rescue Triangle. This is a dynamic that commonly occurs in human relationships, and it is always destructive. The Rescue Triangle has three participants. One is in the role of Victim, one is in the role of Perpetrator, and the third person arrives as the Rescuer. AD students usually place themselves in the position of Victim and then invite teachers to play the role of Rescuer from the Perpetrator parents. In attempting to “rescue” the child, the teacher unwittingly joins with the child as a co-perpetrator to victimize the parents. Now the initial roles have shifted. This is the nature of a Rescue Triangle. The roles are always shifting over time but nothing else really changes. No healing happens. No one learns anything. This same dynamic can develop involving only school personnel wherein one teacher is devalued (Perpetrator) while another is idealized (Rescuer). AD students always place themselves in the Victim position. It is essential for teachers to learn to recognize the invitation to enter a Rescue Triangle and decline it. In denying the AD student the role of “Victim”, the teacher will likely instantaneously become a “Perpetrator” in the student’s eyes, and may start to see behavior more reminiscent of the student’s behavior at home. This is the nature of the game at hand: any adult who refuses to support the AD student in the Victim role becomes a Perpetrator by virtue of their refusal. Instead of accepting the Rescuer invitation, teachers should suggest that the parents, teacher, and student all sit down to discuss how it is that the child’s behavior is so different at home vs. school. This breaks the Rescue Triangle for it requires one of the three roles to be absent at all times. If triangulation is not blocked, the teacher will become an unsafe adult in the AD student’s eyes- it’s just a matter of when, since failing at Rescuer is inevitable.

So it looks like I’m going to need to meet with school, emails just aren’t cutting it. Big girl is going to have to be present for some of the meeting, she needs to see we’re all working together to support her. She needs to see we’re strong and consistent and school need to see that we are not the perpetrators and big girl is only a victim to her own attachment disordered world.

Here comes the sun…….

Published February 7, 2018 by thefamilyof5

It’s taken me a while to write this, I feel a huge amount of guilt over what I’m about to write, ashamed even, but I can’t deny it.

Since big girl went back to school, I’ve felt happier. So so much happier.

It’s not even that I’m feeling happier because I know she’s at a good school. I’m feeling happier because she isn’t chipping away at my smile from the second she wakes to the moment to goes to bed. It wasn’t until she wasn’t here with me 24/7 that I realised how much her negativity (aimed always at me), was effecting me. I know it isn’t her fault but the change I’ve felt in my own sense of worth and mental health has been huge. I know she’s just a child, a very anxious child at that, but her negativity is so draining. I feel awful. What kind of a mother feels happier away from their child.

“I can’t do that”

“That’s stupid”

“I’m not doing that”

“It’s stupid”

“It’s rubbish”

“I hate it”

“I won’t”

All worded in a way to imply that it was all my fault, that I was stupid, that it was my fault she couldn’t do it, that it was rubbish because of me, that she hated me.

Even when she was being remotely positive, it was still negative.

“It’s nice, but not as nice as the cake I had before”

“It was a funny film, but not as funny as….”

“It’s been a sunny day, but yesterday was sunnier”

“I had a great day, but my best day ever was….”

Can you see? It sounds so petty now I write it down, but the negativity was killing me. 24/7 sucking the life from me. Baby girl and Middle girl felt it too.

I would wake each day with a positive fresh outlook and every day she would gradually chip away at me until I ended my day full of gloom and despair. Big girl has always struggled with her relationship with me, needing me, but pushing me away, wanting to love me, but unable to allow herself. All of her anger and hurt has always been directed at me, her violence too.

My days still begin fresh and positive, and hers still negative. My days are now happier and filled with sunshine and laughter. Home educating baby girl and middle girl has become more fun and easy going. When big girl returns from school, seemingly after a good day, she still brings that bag of negativity with her, she throws it at me sometimes, but now I’m stronger, so I just pocket it and move on. I wonder what she does with the bag all day at school? She must pocket it too, saving it all for me when she gets home.

They say that children from trauma backgrounds often project the feelings they have about themselves, on to those around them, which is incredibly sad.

I’ve tried so hard to build up her confidence, fill her with positive experiences, happy memories and love. But always she’d focus on the negative. Big girl has never been able to talk about, manage, even face her feelings. She would rather die than even think about how she feels inside. Perhaps thats why she projects so much negativity, easier to throw it at someone else than it is to face it.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post, I don’t have a way of making everything OK for big girl. School, whilst she’s currently managing it, isn’t addressing her needs on a deeper emotional level, in fact, it’s probably just offering her a distraction from them. The medication she was prescribed last year, again just another way to avoid what’s real. The 4+ years of therapy she had was unsuccessful, she wasn’t able to engage. I’ve not been able to get through the wall, or even get her to acknowledge her own wall. She tells me nothing. Ironically, her teacher emailed me only last week and commented on what a lovely relationship big girl has with me and how lovely it is that she is able to talk to me. Goodness knows what she’s told them but realistically it’s just another way for her to avoid reality. Fake is safer. Fake is something she excels in.

For now, things are better. Baby girl and middle girl are enjoying their learning, I’m happier and mentally stronger, Mr FO5 is benefitting from all of the above and big girl is seemingly doing OK and enjoying aspects of school. So for now, I shall pocket my guilt along with big girls bags of negativity. The sunshine is here, and we shall bask in it for as long as we can.

Looking back…..

Published January 6, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Those of you that have Facebook will know all about the ‘on this day’ function. It’s a feature that reminds you of posts from ‘on this day’ over the years. Today Facebook reminded me of a photo I took of the girls at a family party, it was about 6 months after placement. They were settled, happy and attached so going to the party seemed a great idea. This party was our first big family gathering, we bought new dresses and shoes and were excited about being seem out as a family of 5.

I remember commenting on what a lovely time the girls had, they’d danced, enjoyed a buffet and smiled a lot. I remember the journey home, it was very late but none of the girls slept, they were just so excited I remember thinking. They were so well behaved the entire night. I felt so proud.

Then Facebook showed me a photo from the party. Their fake and forced smiles, the look of terror in their eyes, their body’s ridged and wary. I feel ashamed for now seeing it.

I realise now that even after 6 months of being their mommy, I didn’t know. I didn’t know their faces well enough to be able to truly read them, I didn’t know their body language enough to be able to understand it. I thought we were settled, attached and out the otherside. After 6 months of being a family, we were all still strangers, and they were still terrified, I just didn’t realise that at the time. 

That was over 7 years ago, we’re still getting to know each other today, they do now thankfully feel safe with us and we know them well enough to know when they’re not ‘ok’ and they know us well enough to know we won’t hurt them, but attachment, that thing that I naively thought we’d mastered in a couple of months, well, that’s still a work in progress. 

Let there be light….

Published December 1, 2017 by thefamilyof5

The second bit of good news from this week came yesterday in the form of a phone call.

Last year, when we were fighting to get funding for tuition from big girls ECHP, we built a really supportive and understanding relationship with a manager in the local authority SEND team. She really took the time to get to know us as a family and really heard us when we explained what the girls needs were. I’m confident if it wasn’t for her, taking the time to really listen to us, we’d still be fighting for tuition now. 

After visiting our local special school with that same manager from the SEND team this week, it was agreed that it wasn’t suitable for big girl. The upshot of this, is that the school we really feel is the most likely to be manageable for big girl, is now considered our nearest suitable school. This means that the local authority will provide transport! (If none of this makes sense, go back about 3 posts and all will fall in to place, I think).

The plan was always for her (and her sisters) to return to formal education, this is perhaps just slightly sooner than we planned, but it feels right and even more so with recent events.

Big girls attachment difficulties impact her ability to receive an education from me and inturn that can impact our schedule each day. Her autism makes socialising more difficult, and her attachment style means she avoids it. This really isn’t helpful for her, she needs friends, she needs  ‘no strings’ connections and social interactions with peers. I’m hopeful that she will eventually feel a sense of belonging at this school once she realises she is with children just like her, and who make no emotional demands of her (unlike family, inadvertently, does). Hopefully she’ll find herself.

So now we plan the transition. Big girl is still unaware of this plan, until we have concrete plans to share with her it’s better kept quiet, she’s far too emotionally fragile at the moment to manage such uncertainty. I’m hoping that we can start things pretty quickly, ideally before Christmas with a full time timetable implemented early January. 

I can’t fix everything for her, but I can do everything in my power to give her everything she needs to be the best that she can be. 

If only she knew how much she was loved.

Someone switched the light on…..

Published December 1, 2017 by thefamilyof5

The light, you know the one at the end of the tunnel, it disappeared months ago. It got switched back on again this week. A couple of things have happened, this was the first.

We met with CAMHS, big girl came too this time. We chatted about her difficulties and all the things we’d tried over the years, psychotherapy with them, DDP with someone else, home educating, therapeutic parenting, lots of interventions and resources aimed at helping her manage and understand her feelings, build attachment, even counselling. Some had helped, some had seemingly just put a very weak plaster over things. 

It had become clear that big girl was simply surviving, constantly at the peak of her anxiety threshold. We’d resisted the offer of medication for her anxiety from CAMHS in 2015 when things got bad, we’d opted to remove her anxiety by removing her from school instead. Whilst I don’t regret this decision, home education has been great for big girl, I can see now that we should have done both, helped her with her anxiety with the medication, as well as removed her from school. I feel bad, I feel like I failed her. 

The decision was made this week to start big girl on some medication to help reduce her anxiety levels. Finally some real support for her. It’s not a decision we took lightly but we feel we exhausted all other options. I still feel bad, I feel like I failed her. I’m her mom, I should have been able to ‘fix’ this for her. 

It can take several weeks before any benefits are felt we’re told. So. Now we wait.

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