Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leaning Towards Gratitude

I was speaking with a friend recently, who I hadn't seen in a few years. Naturally the conversation wound up child focused, our children are close in ages. She knows Genea's full history and was there at the beginning of our adoption, until The Husband and I began staying home at a rapidly accelerating pace.

I briefly updated her on both girls,  hitting high points as well as reality. Discussing Teena was easy. Discussing Genea was frustrating. This happens often. If I'm talking about something wonky Teena has done, it's either laughter or "uh oh" in response. If it's something wonky Genea has done, it's either "ohhhh poor thing" or "oh, that's normal". Frustrating as it is, I understand the reaction. Genea's life has been an enormous struggle and I suspect the person believes they are being supportive and reassuring.

At some point clarity bulldozed its way through the fog of kid induced exhaustion. First, most people aren't going to understand what I am talking about. They hear my words and match them with an experience in their brains file drawer. They really cannot imagine what I am describing.

Second, and this is the gratitude part, I'm glad she doesn't get it. I don't necessarily want to be all kind and gracious. But the alternative is for the person to be living the same challenges, and I don't want that for them either. So I'm trying to remember to be grateful.

I am grateful she has healthy children who do ridiculous things and learn not to do it again. Who throw tantrums when they are tired or frustrated and not because their neurology is snapping like bacon in a frying pan. Children who enjoy hearing a compliment and who avoid parent anger (most of the time) instead of seeking it. Children who respond to a reward for good behavior by repeating the good behavior.  They often stop being annoying when ignored instead of becoming violent. Correcting, redirecting and natural consequences work with her children. They respond in the way one would expect. That is SO GOOD. 

Let's make no mistake though. I have to poke myself in the eye with a shishkabob skewer sometimes to remember WHY I am okay with the persons lack of understanding. It's hard sometimes, when I feel annoyed, irritated, frustrated because I am unable to get my point across. Lots of times I want to hiss between my clenched teeth the words "you don't get it and that. is. okay. because I am soooo fucking happy for you".

She doesn't get it when I describe the chaos, she's probably not going to. I try to do my part to ease the stigma of mental illness by being real. Same with adoption related issues- no unicorn farts or rainbows here. However.

This is what I've come to understand. For some things, there is no preparation. You can read about Reactive Attachment Disorder. You can work with dozens of kids who have multiple mental health diagnosis.  You can "get it" that institutionalized kids are going to have specific issues. That the challenges are going to be so hard, so intense, so incessant they will stretch your capabilities far past every edge.

If you don't get it,  I 'm happy for you. Thankful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Things that are good

I've been trying to write out a post about Genea's overall emotional growth for a while now and I'm finding it difficult to express. It's the absence of negatives that defines much of her progress and that's hard to write in a readable way.

Like this... "Genea USED to pick paint off the walls and draw on stuff everywhere wherever she wanted too, BUT she stopped!". Or, "after six straight years of having the table manners of a buffalo, she told me yesterday she is practicing all the things I've been telling her so she'll have nice manners at Thanksgiving".

See? Those are two really awesome things, but to share them I almost have to include negative information for context. Otherwise? A ten year old who doesn't draw on the walls in crayon? Not impressive. I'm going to try to present things in a positive way, but if it reads awkwardly, well, hopefully the point will still get across.

So, here are some that *seem to be* sticking!
(I say that with a disclaimer so as to not incur the wrath of any Blog Gods or Goddesses who think I am getting uppity, or confident, or flippant, etc)

Genea goes to her performance classes every Monday until 7 at night. When she comes home, she has to get everything done in an hour. Her bedtime is 8, but even if we let her stay up late she asks to go to bed by 8:05. She finishes it ALL, without even a sigh of complaint. She sits at the table with her dinner doing her homework at the same time. She does homework on the bus and during class breaks to get it all done. I would say she does as well as "the average child" but honestly, I think most kids would whine about it. She does better than most kids.

On schoolwork, she is consistently just a bit behind her class academically. Just a bit! Even though it takes her 2 or even 3 times longer than other kids to get homework done, she just damn good and well does it. Any fuss is well within the range of "normal" annoying kid behavior.

She pretty much does all of her own personal tasks. In the past, every little thing required my constant attention and fits could be thrown for hours over any part. Now, she gets dressed, does her hair, picks out her clothes, cleans the room, changes her bedding, showers, all those things without any pleas for unneeded help.

I can hug Genea and she does not lurch away, recoil, or rub the spot I touched as if I'd hugged her with a plumbing wrench. I can hug her first.

She really remembers what she's been taught at school. She especially has a talent for retaining obscure bits of minutiae. Why is that such a great thing? Because The Husband has an intense love for the most tedious facts ever invented. Typically he has had only me to share with. The GNP of Nepal? Gosh.... I used to know.... hmmm. Now he and Genea can trade details!

Again, it's difficult to express what is so great about a kid who seems to be just meeting basic expectations. So I'll say this- for Genea, it has taken massive effort. I've never done heroin but I hear quitting is really hard. To turn around hard core habits- really hard.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Today's Twerk

Twerking my nerves today is this:

Where's the rest of it?
Was it stolen?
Is it in some CEO's garage?
I want the pizza that fit in that box dammit!
By my personal definition, which has no bearing on public perception, or anything else in the world except me, twerking my nerves is the equivalent of gluteal seizures. That is to say, super annoying and a little bizarre.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A few blows to the RAD (1)

Genea and I have been going to see the same psychologist for almost two years now. We are so lucky to have found someone who is good, knows what she is doing, and has stayed accessible to us. Although, nothing is perfect. We are supposed to see her weekly. Every time I make an appointment I ask for the next available opening, without fail it's not for another month. At least we get in.

That's as opposed to her psychiatric practitioners-  after five and a half years she is now on #6. Can't complain though, we've had to go about 6 months without, but have always found someone eventually. Lots of people don't have anyone.

She has a new diagnosis, one that I gave her. It's called DSM-NOS. Diagnostic (and) Statistical Manual (of Mental Disorders)- Not Otherwise Specified. From the professionals, she actually has seven mental health diagnosis's, the main one being Reactive Attachment Disorder. My opinion is once the number exceeds what I can count on one hand, it doesn't much matter anymore. If you were to scatter the contents of the DSM on the floor, pretty much any page would describe her in some way or another. So there you have it. DSM- NOS.

Anyway, somehow we got super lucky with our psychologist. She was new when we started, a fresh graduate, trained in EMDR. After our last experience, I decided to speak with her before committing. First, I said I wanted to be in the sessions. I won't talk if you don't want me to, but I don't see how we can work on attachment if I'm not here.

Second, I said, we had a bad experience with our last therapist. Here's the thing. Genea has a swiss cheese memory- random holes every which way. If she doesn't have a grasp on the details of an event, she will fill in whatever she thinks up. (I live with a constant fear of manufactured memories). I don't know if she believes what she is saying or not. I do know that if I am here she is less likely to do it, and I can often prompt her memory as well. I cannot allow her to triangulate either.

Makes sense to me, she said.

 She asked if I had read any books or was using any specific technique.  I started on my list, until she stopped me, laughing. OK, she said, you've educated yourself! I told her I use a hybrid of Heather Forbes's "Beyond Consequences" and Nancy Thomas's "When Love is not Enough". Both women might well shriek in horror at the thought of combining their techniques but I like to think I can tell when Genea needs for us to bond and strengthen our relationship or when she needs to have her butt kicked. You know, metaphorically.

Genea's problem with pea finally went away, mostly, about six months ago. If you have your own life and have not memorized mine, pea has been an enormous, incessant problem. If you can think of it, I tried it. The only thing that sort- of worked was an intense schedule of times, checks, and cleaning, including sitting on the pot 10 minutes of every 30. Sure it sort-of worked, but we couldn't live like that. Eventually I gave up and you know what? It didn't get better. It didn't get worse either. Basically no matter what I did that particular problem stayed the same.

(note I change the spelling of p e e.  If I use the word as it's spelled I get search traffic from people who should be incarcerated. So. )

We talked about it in therapy many times. I should be more specific. Genea crawled under furniture or screamed or curled into a fetal ball and sucked her thumb while the therapist and I talked at her about it. Once in awhile she would participate by shouting responses from under the table.

 Her psychologist suggested I give her a dime every time I "caught" her without pea on herself. This was not her best suggestion however I agreed to try another reward system.  As incentive, when Genea got to a dollar I would take her to get ice cream. It didn't work because around the 60 cent mark, Genea stole the money and brought it to the school Crap and Junk Store. Its a damn good thing I have a sense of humor. RAD rule #17- sticker charts can suck it.

Oh, and the pea continued.

It let up for a few weeks for no apparent reason. The therapist practically threw a parade with high fives and I'm-proud- of- yous. Pea then flooded the house. RAD rule #43- too many compliments are BAD.

We eventually landed on the true basic needs behind the behavior. Safety and security. No, it doesn't make sense. No, it doesn't have to.

Right about this time last year Genea told us that she was pea-ing to bring me to her. That I would not leave her if she needed me and if she kept pea-ing,  she obviously needed me.  She was using the pea to force me to her and make me stay. She was afraid I would abandon her if she stopped.  It's not great logic, but its how she viewed it and her realization has helped her stop. That day was the beginning of the end of that particular problem. She is almost fully reliable at night too.

We have had a few major breakthroughs in the past year, all massive blows to her Reactive Attachment Disorder. This one has had the biggest impact on our lives together but there are more to come in upcoming posts.


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