Sunday, January 18, 2009

Regression and Recovery

Yesterday was weird. I was thinking through a post on how we are trying to teach Genea normal. Regular. Ordinary. I am a hair ruffler. When I walk past a kid, I ruffle hair. I pat a shoulder, rub a back, whatever. Genea has always had the reaction of recoil and grunt, which I ignore and pat again the next time I walk by. Touch is hard for her, I know that. But it's also my job to help her with it. I know she wants the attention and I know she needs the sort of physical validation. Anyway, I finally sat down and explained to her, most people find this nice. Most kids feel their parents love them when they get a shoulder patted. It makes most kids feel good and happy. Evidently I should have pointed this out to her long ago, instead of just a few weeks ago because that is all it took. Now, she looks up and smiles when I ruffle her hair or give a quick scratch to her back. Somehow it seems she got in a habit of squawking and lurching away. She has done that since I have known her. I don't know where it started.

We went out to dinner last night, to Texas Roadhouse. If you don't have one, they are loud loud loud, with cheap steaks and unbelievably fabulous rolls. We have all been there a bunch of times together. Tonite, Genea was off. She was distant and vacant. When we sat down and got settled, I looked at her and realized she had swiped a roll and stuffed her mouth with the entire thing. She never would take food like that right in front of us. I am watching her, and she has become spacey and her eyes are glazed over. I try to talk to her, and she looks at me blankly and gives the minimum possible answers. It is so hard to describe when this happens because it is almost like she turns into another person. She sat quietly and colored on her book. Her eyes are vacant and she is barely responsive. It scares the living shit out of me when it happens, which is probably less than 10 times total, so not terribly often. So what is my complaint, right, she sat quietly and looked at her color book from the hostess. I don't know. It just isn't right, it isn't her. If Genea is sitting where she is supposed to, being quiet and calm, focused on a task and concentrating on it, something is wrong. She has folded herself into a dissociative state. Her regular, aware and dysregulated state is what we live in. Her real self is in there when she is jumping around like a ping pong ball. Isn't it?

Anyway, she continued like that all through dinner. She had an old fashioned meltdown right there in the booth when she finished her chicken things and asked for another order, of mac and cheese. We were like, what? Where did you get that idea? Her entire face forehead to chin widens and opens and spit flies everywhere and she melted down. Of course she had sucked down her juice when we weren't looking, and stuffed food the whole time she was eating. The melt down ended when I pointed out she could chew her ice.

She recovered when we left. The brutal cold of whatever, like 4 degrees, seemed to snap her out of it. When we got home, she went to bed. I found her on the floor a little later when I checked on her, sleeping with her eyes open. All night I could hear her, calling out, moaning, flopping around. Nightmares on and off for several hours.

This morning, she is back. She is back and she is great. She woke up first, didn't wake up anyone else with a fit. She got up and went and ate (on Sundays I set out the girls' food for them so they can eat and we can sleep). She was quiet and happy and calm, and in a good way. Not the freaky scary way. I don't know what triggered her last night. Usually its obvious. I guess maybe all the rough changes in schedules combined with being in the house for several days straight, combined with the loud crazy restaurant did her in. I don't know. Maybe that should be the title of this post, "I don't know"!


  1. Did my mom walk into the restaurant? Because she has that sort of effect on my daughter. :) Total instant regression and disassociation. It sounds like a PTSD reaction. There was probably some trigger along the way that you will never know about. Once we had it happen in IKEA. Turns out, Tara saw her previous adoptive family. Yikes. But there have been many other times that she wasn't able to verbalize what set her off. Our kids are like puzzles with too many missing pieces aren't they?

  2. It's really disconcerting when that happens. J used to do it a lot but it seems to be subsiding now. TV will still send her over the brink. Friday when we were returning the 1st new computer all the TVs on in Best buy and she totally dissociates over a dinosaur. Still having nightmares. Going to have to do tapping on it too. Places that are too loud or over crowed will send her over the brink too. It's like she feels like she has too many things to protect herself from.
    Torina's puzzle analogy is spot on.

  3. Mine gets triggered by two things, calmness and new experiences. And if the new experience is calm? Yikes.

    Mine never sleeps in his bed, we've tried and tried, won't do it. It's a battle we're willing to not fight for the next few years, we're happy to be sleeping all night and waking up not screaming.

    Good luck and God bless.

  4. I appreciate your sharing about the touch thing. Ilya is exactly like this most of the time. Grunt and dodge...and I LOVE giving my kids physical affection. I wonder if I've gone too far with him, though. For a while he would let me rub his back and he seemed to like it. Then, perhaps, I "took too much on myself" and touched in other ways. Kisses on the head, hand on a shoulder... Now he won't usually allow a back rub either.

    My bio-son, Aidan, would do this disassociation thing when he was little. I remember only a few times and each was associated with people watching him. I guess being the center of attention was NOT his thing in his early years. The first time we'd all gone to a carnival and put him on a ride. He got the weirdest out-of-body look on his face and his posture was absolutely still and sort-of slumped. That first time it scared the heck out of me - there he was on a ride that couldn't be stopped - and he looked like he'd had a stroke!

    But there were other incidents and I got used to it. We called it his "ironing board face" because he looked just like the cat when he sniffed the ironing board (maybe old fumes from Energine or something???)

    Fortunately he grew out of it.

  5. Is it really terrible that I am, not happy, but, hmm, less freaked out about Genea knowing other kids have this going on?
    Awful it may be, helps to know that we are not the only ones!


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