Tag Archive | professionals

Moving on up through the tears

There has been a distinct lack of post from me lately and it probably won’t come as a surprise to some of you the reasons for this, but it hasn’t stopped me beating myself up about it. Yes! I know it is not helpful to anyone, me being so hard on myself, but as ‘Blame Honey for everything’ seems to be a common theme at the moment. I guess if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them. This way maybe I won’t feel the painful sting left by the unending feeling of desperation and isolation.

Last weekend was a difficult weekend.

NO WAIT! Last weekend was a complete mess! Decisions were made that I have resisted for so long, and as I sank deeper into the dark pit of failed attempts at trying to therapeutically parent an angry and emotional, vulnerable teenager, relationships and emotional health crashed and burned along with it.

I guess you would say…… We hit rock bottom! (I certainly did anyway).

hittherocks

Calling the police on your child was never going to be an experience that I could or would relish. After Waxy’s early life experiences, he is understandably anxious (and angry) with the ‘boys and girls in blue’, and for a very long time I have used this knowledge as justification for not drawing a line in the sand sooner – Some would say I was being too soft and making excuse for his actions, and in some ways they were right and I wish it was as simple as that, but as many of you will know:

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to living on ‘Planet Adoption’.

So if in the past I have been a repeat offender and tried to manage the consequences and restitutions ‘in house’, which has almost certainly backfired, what was different about the weekend this time that prompted me to change my mind and report Waxy to the police for criminal damage?

Was it, just simply I reached the end of a very long and crumpled straw and felt I was left with no other option?

Was it because this time it wasn’t just myself or an inanimate object of some kind that was at risk of harm? He had lost control and Buzz, Beedog and Waxy himself were all at risk of serious harm.

Or, was it the fact that this time Waxy had lost so much control that he was displaying everything for the world (okay neighbourhood, which he would never usually do) to see, and I no longer felt safe in my own home?

I could hypothesise and dissect the ins and outs of the events of last weekend but it wouldn’t help anyone.

Nor would be having a VERY long rant about Post Adoption Support, or should I say the lack of it (5 minute phone call, 5 days after the incident happened and complete disinterest from PASW about the impact the weekend had on Buzzbee or myself – she just wanted to tell me how she had had a lovely long and pleasant chat with Waxy and he only did what he did because he felt I was being too strict – Hmmmm so wanting to treat my sons to a day out with Nando’s for supper is being too strict is it?).

Anyway, this weeks’ WASO theme is ‘Moving on up’ and I suppose through all my waffling, I am trying to come to some kind of rational conclusion as to the fact that I cannot change what has happened in the past, and while it WILL this time take me some time to bounce back, we have hit the bottom so there is only one way we can now go and I need to move on and move up (and not move out as I was ready to do Sunday).

How I am going to do this?

I really don’t know at the moment.

I guess for now, all I can do is wait out the storm and not beat myself up so much for events and choices that are not in my control, and pray that one day our family’s equilibrium will be once again be restored.

lifeisabike

Unprofessional

I am going to apologise in advance for any potential offence I may cause or personal ranting that I may do in the course of writing this weeks’ #WASO, but after stewing on things for the last few days, I really need to get this off my chest.

There are several people who have known me and shall we say, they have seen more of my ‘passionate’ side than I probably would like them to have. It is definitely something I am working on, but it isn’t a personality trait that I have always had. Okay, I am not ashamed to admit, I used to be a bit of a doormat. I would have done anything for a quiet life, or not to encourage conflict. I guess that is why my sister STILL thinks she can be a pain in the backside and I won’t say a word (tough luck girlie, the old Honey is gone).

It would be easy for me now to put the blame at Adoption’s door and say that my need to advocate for Buzz and Waxy to get their needs met, as well as trying to keep my family together and happy, has turned me into someone who I am not always very proud of, when handling situations with professionals or individuals who have come into our lives for whatever reason.

While the ‘adoption’ process was not the spark that originally ignited the passion (that would be a very difficult story to tell), over the last 8 years its repeated fanning has certainly kept the flames flickering along, and every now and then someone or something comes along and gives the flames a few prods, turning flickering flames into a raging inferno of frustration and tears, and more often than not my own fight and flight responses kick into gear and I have to run (okay walk out) from the situation because I know I have or am about to make a complete fool out of myself and at that point I am certainly not helping my sons one iota.

Okay so why am I telling you this again? Oh right yes! I know why it was.

I have lost count of how many times I have heard so called ‘professionals’ comment or directly tell me that I am being ‘unprofessional’ when I have struggled to keep my composure while trying to advocate for my boys in a room full of people who just ‘DON’T GET IT’, and each time I have just wanted to scream “I am not a professional. I am their mum”.

Anyway, I still haven’t got to the reason for writing this and I honestly do apologise for rambling.

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to attend my second DDP Network Southwest study day. I had enjoyed the previous study day and was looking forward to another enjoyable and informative session surrounded by professionals and a couple of adopters/foster carers in an inclusive environment where no one person’s job or role was any less important than another’s. In fact unlike several conferences I have attended over the years, at the study days, your role is practically anonymous. No name badges. No job titles. No badges labelling you to a specific classification of involvement with fostering or adoption.

Bliss!

However this time my experience was not so positive and not because of the content of the study day or the presentations or the professionals who had work tirelessly and voluntarily to put the day together.

No! My experience was marred by 4 very rude so-called professionals, who were sat directly in front of me throughout the day and whose behaviour I feel was more than a little unprofessional (and a professional sat beside me agreed also). No that is wrong they weren’t a little bit unprofessional – they were downright and completely unprofessional countless times throughout the day and, if my memory serves me correctly, 2 of these professionals were on my table at the last study day and I ‘may’ have spoken my mind to them then about their negative attitude towards adoptive parents who may be having a tough time.

meeting-clipart-clip-art-meeting-340741The main discussion point and presentation for this study day was based around NVR and the principals applied to it, and while there were several people in the room who were clearly anxious about some of the conflicting and counter-intuitive advice that was being discussed, the questions were largely productive and created insightful discussions (some were definitely being a little closed minded but hey, I can’t judge, I can be a little set in my ways and adopt a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ stance at times), but the ‘unfantastic four’ weren’t following the flock, they were rarely challenging viewpoints or airing their concerns about conflicts in method ideas in an open forum. No they were leaning on and calling across each other, like naughty school kids, sniggering and making inappropriate comments, at inappropriate times, at levels that were audible to everyone surrounding them, and on the odd occasion that they did raise a comment openly, the theme of their comments was always the same “sort out the parents because they are the problem not the children.”

I have to confess on one occasion, I allowed myself to be affected by one particular professional from this group (I wish I knew what her role was), who spoke about parents with such repulsion and dismissiveness of the impact of child to parent violence, and later making a comment about how adopters are far too emotional and have no place attending events that are designed for professionals. While I may have shed a few tears over the first comment and it had done nothing for my view point that professionals cannot be trusted and will screw you if you dare to ask for help. Their wonderful comment about adopters having no place attending this event on the other hand I could quite smugly say ‘’As someone who has completed her DDP level 1 training, I have as much of a right as you have to be here today”.

While I am not always the biggest fan of certain professional bodies, especially when they love to suggest that my meltdowns are ‘unprofessional’, until this week I don’t think I have ever encountered professionals that I would suggest had conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner and further compounded the negative reputation that professionals involved with looked after and adoption services already receive at times.

But before I start sounding like a ‘Negative Nelly’ or ‘Moaning Minnie’ myself, I have to say a huge congratulation to Jemima (our previous DDP therapist) and the members of DDP UK for arranging another wonderful study day.

 

 

Return to Paper Mountain

“Transferring Buzz’s statement of education to an EHCP, shouldn’t take much! It should be really straight forward”

“The paperwork work we will need to do, won’t be any more than has been needed for his reviews in the past!”

“Taking over Buzz’s personal SEN budget will give you the flexibility and freedom you need to fund and timetable a weekly plan for him that suits his needs, without having to bankroll it yourself, and all you need to do is keep a record of all spending, mileage, DBS checks and employer insurance details. It will be easy for you!”

I have a feeling the professionals are living on a different planet to myself because: –

Straight forward, they said! – Let me think……… Um. No wait this is an easy one to answer. NO IT IS NOT! 99% of Buzz’s statement is now not relevant and this, along with results of his recent assessments, means that the whole document practically needs rewriting, instead of minor editing.

No extra paperwork, they said! – please see previous comment, and then add an entire week of mind-melting, soul-sapping, time-eating, sleep-depriving hurricane of box files, invoice/receipts, reports, emails, phonecalls, budgets and timetables, squeezed into every spare second of an already full and busy week of Home Education, housework, food shopping, school runs, meetings, letterbox contact letter writing, dog walking – actually Beedog has been a good excuse to take regular breaks………. Oh and of course, not forgetting writing this weeks’ #WASO post.

More flexibility and freedom, they said! – Okay I will give them this…………Hahaha! Who are they kidding? Freedom and flexibility, well yes it will give me the ‘freedom and flexibility to tailor Buzz’s weekly timetable to his needs without financially crippling Bumble and I, but what is it they say? “Be careful what you ask for”, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”.

Some of you will know that we felt forced to deregister Buzz from his primary school, because neither he nor they were coping. We fought to get him an SEN Statement that specifies that he should be placed in a Specialist School. Trouble was – there wasn’t one suitable, and he wasn’t ready in any case. So for the last two years, I have been home educating him.

Now, please don’t think I am being ungrateful for the opportunity to have direct access to funding that can be used to enhance and open doors to future learning opportunities for Buzzbee, with the sensitive support he may need. From the moment the lead SEN worker assigned to Buzz’s case suggested that it may be an option that the SEN panel would consider a viable option for him, as they are currently not in a position to provide him with suitable specialist educational provision, I could see the positives to taking full responsibility for providing him with what he needs to progress not only academically but socially and emotionally.

workinghardHowever, it has come as somewhat a shock, the depth and volume of research and planning that I am currently having to put into creating an acceptable Direct payment budget proposal to present to panel.

  • Complete costing breakdown and proof of payment for any current activity or home ed based learning tools and equipment that we are using to support Buzz with his timetable.
  • Complete financial breakdown of proposals of current and future activities/timetabling and the expenditures that will occur as a result.
  • A breakdown of timescales and frequency for each activity.
  • A detailed description of the activity/subject and how this fits into Buzz’s home ed timetable and how it ties in with his SEN needs – and when I say detailed, I mean detailed!

And, I haven’t even mentioned the long list of amendments/rewrites that are needed in order for Buzz’s statement to transition with moderate ease (fingers, toes and eyes tightly crossed).

While the reality of taking on this challenge is most certainly not straight forward and my mind keeps drifting off into space and questioning what I am doing and whether I am in fact up to the mammoth responsibility this entails, the long and PAINFUL process of dissecting Buzz’s home education experience has also, in a very strange way, been a positive experience and has quelled extended bouts of self-doubt and criticism of myself when it comes to the quality and extent of Buzzbee’s learning experience.

Buzz may still find physically reading and writing stressful, and fight me on a daily basis when presented with activities or exercises that he needs to complete. Yet he is now rarely asking for someone to read dialogues or game instructions when playing on the computer or tablet, and he will often find himself a note book and jot down random words he has seen around or practise spelling words he is familiar with.

I have worried that there is a limited volume of work physically produced to prove his is learning and not sat all day playing games and watching TV (he wishes), but in truth he has been exposed to so much more than I could have possibly expected, both through direct and indirect exposure to educational opportunities.

What Buzzbee lacks in core literacy and numeracy skills, he more than makes up for in physical and verbal demonstrations of the wealth of information and knowledge his has absorbed, and my little caterpillar is slowly breaking out of his chrysalis and morphing into a bright and articulate butterfly before our eyes.

hungrycat

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Stitches for the heart

mend their heart

*Advanced warning – I tried to keep this post short but failed miserable. I am SO sorry!*

All this week The Adoption Social have been featuring articles and anonymous blog posts covering the ‘sore point’ topic of ‘Child to Parent Violence’. A topic that I wish to god wasn’t always at the forefront of the family dynamics in my family, and one which has had me agonising for a while now, whether I should or shouldn’t write a post myself, or whether I should ask for it to be posted anonymously or stop hiding from the truth and post it on here.

Stop hiding it is!

Sitting here I am trying to work out how to begin this post and even more so, what do I feel I need to write? How far am I going to go with this? Am I ready to do this? – If you haven’t worked it out yet. Just thinking about writing a #WASO post about my experience of CPV is triggering a secondary trauma reaction of fear and shame.

  • Fear of repercussions, on the grounds that the last time I was completely honest about what was going on behind closed doors. I was not only confronted with a barrage of accusations and blame, but I was also left humiliated by the people who I thought I could trust and as a result of their ill-informed, prejudicial judgement and narrow-mindedness, I very nearly lost both my boys.
  • As for the Shame. Well, I don’t know what to say here or how to describe it, other than to say. For a long time I was ashamed of myself for allowing Waxy to be able to reach such a dark, fearful point, that his ‘fight and flight’ responses would kick into action and he would come out fighting like a ‘terrified, wounded animal’. I am even more ashamed to admit that in turn Beeswax’s trauma and response systems, took me to a place in my thoughts and parenting that I NEVER in my wildest dreams imagined I could go. Then there is the shame of knowing that I had failed my boys, by failing to protect myself (and I am not only talking about the CPV). Okay in truth I cannot remember a day in the past 5 years I have not been left feeling wracked with guilt and shame for the situation our family was in.

As you can see I am already beginning to waffle – but then if you are a regular reader you will already know that this can often be my default mode when my brain has gone into overdrive (usually at stressful times).

I don’t want this post to become a post about blame or (as I fear to some it may come across as) self-pity, and no matter what I write here I do not want anyone to think that we regret our decision to welcome Waxy and Buzz into our home and hearts for one minute – they are my world (sometimes too much as I am often being told).

The early history of both Waxy and Buzz makes for heart-breaking reading and when thinking about how the boys (Waxy in particular) are responding to their need to be parented, I have tried to remind myself of the feelings it stirs up emotionally for myself thinking about their history and while I have met members of their birth family, I never personally went through it and it is not surprising that they (He) responds the way he often does.

But, of course this cannot be used as an excuse to dismiss his actions, and trust me in our household it hasn’t been, although over time, rather than becoming more open with the volume and results of the boys’ rage, I have sadly in fact become considerable more reserved cautious about who I talk to about it.

I don’t think it would help talking about the first time I received a fat lip or when or why it happened and as for cuts, bumps and bruises, it would be easier to count on my fingers how many times I have successfully managed to go a week without a mark on me.

Over the years I have questioned whether already knowing the boys before placement meant that we were denied the customary ‘honeymoon’ period that we had hear so much about or if in fact, this had had absolutely no impact on them and the reality of moving into a permanent placement and having parents that wanted to take care of them was just too unbearable for Waxy to cope with.

No matter what the trigger was, the fact was, very early on in the boys’ placement, Waxy’s aggression and difficulties to regulate his anger towards members of the family (primarily Me), walls, doors, windows…….., were already reaching a level that was raising questions for us how to support him while keeping ourselves safe at the same time.

Over the months we tried everything we could think of from using PACE to safe holding to show him that we wouldn’t give up on him and he was ‘here to stay’ no matter how many times he hurt me.

We were very open with the boys’ social worker as well as our own and welcomed any advice they wished to offer, however sadly, they NEVER got to see them in action and Waxy certainly never let ANYONE outside of our tiny family unit witness his rage. So despite seeing the visible bruises and scars, I never felt that they really took the situation seriously and with every visit that I tried to raise my concerns for the impact this was having on Buzzbee on top of Beeswax re-traumatising himself every time. The moment the topic was raised they would often begin to fidget ever so slightly in their chair or would manage to change the subject.   The independent reviewing officer and school staff were even worse. I remember one time seeing them recoil in sheer horror and disgust when I voiced my concern at their dismissive attitude of the domestic abuse I was experiencing at the hands of my eldest son – Yes, hearing myself use those words was repulsive but that did not mean they were not true and at the time I could not understand why, because it was a boy rather than a man who was the perpetrator, the suggestion that I was witnessing domestic abuse was completely unacceptable to say.

Not everyone dismissed what we were experiencing in our family and both of these wonderful ladies did their best to help support us and help us find a way to navigate our way through this swamp of trauma. One of these wonderful people was the boys’ previous foster carer and someone both boys had developed a bond with and in his own way, someone Waxy truly respected. The other was of course Jemima, Waxy’s DDP therapist, who not only worked so hard during sessions to engage Beeswax and help him in a shame reduced environment to explore why he responded the way he did, but she was always at the end of the phone or email if we needed her and if it hadn’t been for her vigilance I don’t believe I would have ever joined the dots together and realise that I had fallen into the ‘blocked care’ trap and that my own secondary trauma was retriggering childhood PTSD symptoms for myself.

I am not going to go into the hell that social services and Waxy’s current school put us through because it is a place I still don’t think I can go there yet, but for all their faults, Waxy’s specialist EBD school was the turning point for our family and quite honestly. Saved our family!

During one of his therapy appointments, Waxy suggested that he thought, because he found being part of a family all the time too painful but didn’t want to leave Buzzbee, that maybe if he went to boarding school during the week and only came home at weekends, it would be more manageable for him. I wasn’t keen at first – I felt that if I let him then I would have failed him but Jemima convinced me that it was worth trying and that she would continue for as long as she was allowed to work with us both to rebuild our relationship.

Has the aggression ever stopped? No! But it did reduce in intensity for a couple of years and in this time not only did this give us both time to build a relationship and learn to understand each other. The space each week also gave me the time I needed to heal myself and once again become the mum I wanted to be to both my beautiful boys.

As we entered the teens, I will not lie we are once again seeing a return of many of his old destructive coping techniques along with an increased level of his second favourite weapon – the cruel, controlling and verbally abusive tongue.

The only difference this time is at the moment I am more prepared for it and I am (at the moment) able to look beyond the behaviour and focus on what is going on underneath instead – I am able to deflect his anxiety, rather than take it on board myself or worse still take it personally.

Is it easy? Absolutely not and like many of you who may be also experiencing #CPV on a daily basis, I definitely have my days when it is all too much and I dream of my way out and wonder ‘why the hell I got myself into such a messy situation’.

As for support, well I have deliberately avoided raising it before now because although at present we are at the very early stages of making an application for the adoption support fund. Since Jemima left and Wise Owl left, post adoption support in our area has been drastically reduced and while we did have Shamrock for quite some time, because of the situation with allegations about my ability to parent the boys and her not being able to warn us about it. I lost any trust I had in her so found that even at the most difficult times, while I was able to accept her help with managing the schools. I just couldn’t bring myself to be open with her anymore about either of the boys’ behaviour – I suppose you could say “I was and still am experiencing ‘blocked care’ with the professionals who are supposed to be there to support us” – how do you sort that mess out?

I am conscious as a finish this post that I have focused on the ‘child to parent violence’ we have received at the hands of Waxy but haven’t really mentioned Buzzbee and there is a reason for this. Buzzbee rarely physically goes for Bumble or I, and on the times he has they have been because we have got caught in the crossfire, rather than Waxy’s lashing out or attacks. The other reason is Buzzbee has always been remorseful afterward, while Waxy cannot go there and has to deflect the blame back onto us for him hurting us.

Did I every expect when I started the adoption process that I would end up spending my days walking on eggshells and waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread and worry for how each day will turn out and whether I can keep my family safe and more to the point support my boys to the best of my abilities.

Of course not!

My heart may get shattered into a thousand pieces on a weekly basis but not because of the damage or harm that occurs because of the boys and their reactions to situations or request. No! My heart breaks because I see my boys in so much pain and I know that no matter how much I want to take that pain away from them. I can’t and as their mother that is far more painful than the physical blows I have been struck with over the years.

Child to Parent violence shouldn’t be dismissed by professionals and while awareness around this topic is growing, from a personal point of view there is still a long way to go and I hope that in the future professionals, families and friends will come to understand that if a parent was to find themselves in a similar position as Bumble and I have found ourselves. They do not need criticism, scorn or blame. They need your support and understanding.

 

New Year. Renewed determination

First of all.  ‘Happy New Year’ to you all.

Over the last couple of weeks I have struggled to put a blog post together. I would like to say that it was because I have been so busy and enjoying myself, that I have not had the time to sit down and write anything but the truth is a little like the reasons I have neglected commenting on other’s blog posts or responding to posts on twitter – I have nothing useful to say!

Okay, maybe that is the wrong chose of wording. What is probably more accurate is I have lost confidence in my own voice and have got myself into a ridiculous headspace where I feel anything I say will come across as completely wrong or unhelpful. It is a completely irrational thought process and completely unhelpful, but yet I seem to be allowing it to overwhelm my private thoughts while continuing to demonstrate an external image of being a strong and in-control mother who is confident in her parenting of her sons.

Don’t worry! This post is not going to be an ‘Eeyore’ style post. I have let the trials and tribulations of parenting Buzz and Waxy overwhelm me for long enough and while I know I still do not have the courage to ask for what I need from the people I need it from for myself, having Bumble home over the Christmas holidays has given me a little more space to regroup and reflect on what I need to do for my boys in order to support them more effectively and help them become the beautiful young men that they are blossoming into in already. And, in the process of doing this, hopefully Bumble and I will feel less like we are permanently living in hostile warzone with the boys and professionals and we can find the time to look after ourselves a little better .

For the past couple of months Buzzbee’s separation anxiety has been overwhelming for all involved and if I am honest because it 90% of it has been directed at me.

To give you an idea of how extreme it has got. I have got the boys back in the car after a supermarket shop and go to put the trolley away (2 cars away and I am still within sight), I return to the car to a hysterical Buzzbee who is inconsolable. Another example is when panic ensues if while out Bumble and I suggest that to save time we split up to get the jobs done quicker – he wants everyone to stay together at all times.

I know there is a huge control dynamic developing here and Bumble and I are working very hard to not allow Buzzbee to control us but we are needing to be very careful because every therapeutic bone in our bodies is saying that something has triggered off this overwhelming fear response in him and until we can identify what that is or we can find a way to help him work through the ‘BIG’ feelings so that they are no longer controlling him anymore, we need to tread carefully.

It breaks my heart to see him in so much pain. He takes 2 steps forwards and progresses in one area and is so proud of himself and then ‘BAMM’ something else comes along and he is thrown into yet another crisis and we have to fight hard to not let all the progress he has already made, become lost.

At the moment I could go on forever about what I believe Buzz needs and should have by now received but rather than go into another rant or tirade about it, I have spent the last few days coming up with a ‘Battle Plan’ and I am determined this year…… I WILL NOT ALLOW PROFESSIONALS TO BRUSH HIS NEEDS UNDER THE CARPET. This year I am going to get him the assessments and support he needs and if that means I have to be a thorn in the side of people until they listen. Then so be it.

As for Beeswax! On paper to most it appears that he has every bit of support he needs and yet last year the majority of my time and energy which I should have been using to find Buzz the support he needs, I spent it dealing with Waxy and the infuriating staff at his school and their inability to understand the effects trauma and complex attachment history can have on a hormonal and emotionally immature, teenage boy and how the complex relational dynamics between how he is at school and how he is at home, is causing an unnecessary rift between us all.

In the coming weeks we will have Waxy’s GCSE options open evening and I know that school, as well as Bumble and I would like to see him cover as many subjects as possible and we are confident he could achieve high standards but at the same time, Bumble and I are concerned!

Waxy is incredibly bright but simply from the conversations I have had with school and Waxy himself, we are aware that there is already a lot of pressure being put onto him when it comes to maturity and independence, especially with him organising himself personally and academically. While we are constantly working alongside Waxy to boost his confidence in this area, he still needs a lot of support. Sadly this is an area we are failing to help school understand and rather than them seeing us as trying to support him and work closely with them, they see it as we are over anxious parents who don’t want to ‘let go of the apron strings’ – which is amusing, considering he boards most of the week and refuses to come home during the week.

School see what Waxy wants them to see and sadly even now, after more than 3 years at the school, he still does not trust the staff enough to let them know what is going on for him, so holds it together all week and lets ‘Mount Vesuvius’ erupt every weekend.

Waxy is torn. He wants to be more independent but when he is put into a situation where he has the opportunity to ‘spread his wings’, fear takes over and he sabotages himself which then results in people becoming ‘reactive’ rather than ‘reassuring’ towards him and we end up back at square one.

My goal this year is to find a way to help school understand that Bumble and I are not the ‘enemy’ and rather than them repeatedly working against us, I need to find a way of helping them to see that we want to work with them and help our son feel supported and confident that he can achieve his full potential, rather than things staying as they are now and risking him slipping through the net and his needs not being identified until it is too late for him.

I have rambled on here and I am sure that none of this will make the slightest bit of sense to anyone reading it, but what I am trying to say is for too long now I have ‘let things slide’, or taken a “softly, softly, catchee monkey” approach and that has got me nowhere. I need to pull myself together, channel a large dose of therapeutic Zen and become a ‘Velvet Bullldozer’ from now on.

Watch this space!

bulldozer

Fear and Trust

Over the past few weeks I have come across several heartfelt, and incredibly amazing and courageous blog posts talking about struggling with trust, privacy and security issues, support networks and some truly incredible adopters who have had the bravery to open up about the impact parenting their children (and everything that comes in conjunction with this) has had on their own mental health.

I am in awe of their bravery! Especially because in each post that I have read, I have not only been able to empathise with the author, but because each one of them has stirred up emotions and memories that on a daily basis I am fighting to try to supress. Some would say “if they affect you so much, why would you continue to read these posts?”

The posts and the authors are not the problem – my secondary trauma and my fear of being overwhelmed by my emotions is the problem (I actually find reading the posts quite comforting, despite the emotions it brings to the surface – for a few short moments I do not feel so isolated).

I am not sure where I am going with this post – I started out thinking about how for every story/post that had been shared, there was an element of it I could identify with.  But as I am sat here writing this 2 words keep rearing their ugly heads – Fear and Trust, and the shame of my own awareness of the implications and how much impact I have allowed these 2 little words to have on my family’s happiness.

FEAR!!!!!!

I never imagined that I would allow this word to engulf and manipulate my life as much as it has over the past few years.    It is certainly not something I planned and I definitely do not want to be trapped in this endless cycle of fear and anxiety.

Did I bring it on myself?

Almost definitely!  I made the choices I did and now I am living with the consequences of those choices.

Do I deserve to feel like this?

At the moment I cannot answer this honestly.  No of course I don’t deserve to feel like this and nor should anyone else, but if I hadn’t been so naive, trusting and open with certain people, my already vulnerable self-esteem wouldn’t have taken such a huge battering  – so maybe Yes! I do deserve it.

TRUST!!!!!

Being the other word that dominates our household and my interactions with professionals, friends, family etc.

So why have these 2 words become such huge barriers in our home and our lives?

When we started the adoption process I made a conscious decision to not allow the walls I had built up around myself to get in the way of being open and honest with our SW and any professionals involved in the adoption process – I lapped up the spiel about not suffering in silence if our children’s early history was having an impact in anyway (school, home, personal, etc.) and as Bumble and I had a wonderful SW (Shamrock) who we got on really well with. I fell into the trap and have paid the price ever since.

Knowing your children for some time before they move in with you cannot only be a blessing but also a curse – looking back over the years we only had a very brief ‘honeymoon’ period (especially with Beeswax).  We hit the ground running the moment the boys moved in and found ourselves having to wade through all that this meant and, like many parents, we made mistakes or misinterpreted situations.  And that is how we I ended up trapped in this negative mind-set which stops me doing what I really need to do.

Until Beeswax, along with Buzzbee moved in, I don’t think anyone other than their foster carer really had a clue as to the true impact both their early years history had had on Waxy.  On paper we were everything he wanted, but for him the reality was far more terrifying and he needed to take any and as many measures as he could to prevent himself from ever getting too close to either of us.

Before I go any further I am not about to turn this into a “it’s all Beeswax’s fault” diatribe – Yes, his trauma and actions were the catalyst that brought about several of the issues, but he is a vulnerable child and we are adults and should have had more common sense.

Splitting was and still is his favourite weapon of attack and 9/10 professionals and busy bodies (of whom I really should say ‘their heart was in the right place and they were only looking out for him’) fell into his trap.  My crime was pointing this out to them in an attempt to prevent some of the conflict that Bumble and I were witnessing.  The reward for this was that I was treated as if I was the problem and he was a ‘poor, innocent young boy whose mother was cold and overly controlling towards him’.

So my first mistake – believing that the professionals understood the impact of working/parenting a child with a traumatic and complex attachment history.

My second was believing that when people are telling you “you are doing an incredible job” that they are being honest with you and not telling you what they think you want to hear to keep you quiet.

When things got difficult, we did what we thought was the right thing to do and spoke to Shamrock and Clover (boys’ SW) about our concerns – hey, that is what they drummed into us during our preparation after all.

To our knowledge, both SWs were supporting us and understood where we were coming from.  From where Bumble and I were sitting they were backing us all the way and truly understood how hard we were trying to do what was best for both boys.

Let me skip several months forward and to the point where my world was turned upside down and my own personal history plus my relationship with Beeswax was thrown to the wolves.  All the supposed support we believed we had was a big, fat lie.

The truth was:

  • People I trusted and considered to be close friends (along with professionals)were making allegations left right and centre about my parenting and my mental health.
  • A new SW had come into our lives and had put 2+2 together and come up with “Honey is an unfit mother”. (In the cold light of day – years later, I can see how with everything that was being presented to her, she really thought she was acting in the best interests of the boys. The problem I had was she never attempted to understand the heart-breaking situation we found ourselves in or at least allow us the courtesy of addressing some of her (and others’) concerns with us.  She simply just blamed it all on me and my inability to cope with my traumatised eldest son who was physically and mentally attacking both Buzzbee and I on a daily hourly basis (that sounds so bitter and self-pitying, but it is how I truly felt then and do now).
  • And then there was the fact that we found out that the one professional I thought I could trust had been keeping secrets from us (Ok maybe that is not fair to Shamrock. She was in an impossible position and deep down I have to believe that she wasn’t allowed to tell us what was going on). Yes, I feel she let us down and now, despite her still being involved in our lives, I find it very hard not to find myself being very guarded when talking to her.

And this was simply the tip of the iceberg.

Was I wrong to believe that by confiding in people I thought I could trust that they would support us and not condemn us? Sadly I do regret ever opening up and allow others to know how – tired, anxious, low, tearful, overwhelmed I had become.  I should have done what I had done for so many years before and kept my wall firmly up and weathered the storm.

Did we fight them tooth and nail to change their perceptions? Hell yeah!

Did we change their minds? Well, when it comes to the social workers, I would say we did, and I suppose the fact that they finally backed off and allowed us to formally adopt the boys is evidence of this! I am not sure I can confidently say this in respect to school staff or members of our village community.

Should I have done things differently in the first place to prevent this happening? Ok unless I had a crystal ball, I have to say “how could I possibly ever answer that?”

Do I think that I am now letting my mistrust of professionals prevent me from fighting for my boys needs as hard as I would have before the ‘bombshell’ hit?  Definitely! There is always that voice at the back of my mind saying “be careful what you tell them”, “It’s not worth the heartache – I can weather the storm” (and so many more unhelpful internal dialogues).

Do I think that I am letting myself and everyone else down by being so defensive and trying to hide away from my own emotions?  Well, reading this back it sounds quite ridiculous that I have allowed myself for so long now to be ruled by the fear of honesty. So I guess the answer is YES! But the truth is, even today (as I contemplate deleting this post before it is even uploaded) the fear of opening up to someone again is preventing me from getting the emotional support I know I need to get if I am ever to be able to move past this point, forgive myself and put it to bed once and for all, rather than ‘going through the motions’ and attempting to ‘fake it until I make it’.

And, I will eventually make it!!!!!!

Getting by with a little help

This week’s Weekly Adoption Shout Out theme is “Support” and it couldn’t be a perfect week for this theme to come around.

When you make the decision to adopt and put yourself through the intrusive and intimate assessment process, you are full of hope and optimism that you can deal with anything life (or the children) throw at you, and when you come to the time in your home study where your social worker asks you to produce an Eco map of your support network, you are only too pleased to oblige because you are confident that the friends and family who have been there for you so far and have promised/offered their support will be there for you once the children finally move in. The suggestion from your social worker about how you would feel if, after children moved in, most of the people on your map suddenly disappeared and you no longer had that “safety blanket”, seemed ridiculous. Of course our friends and family would be there when we needed them! Why wouldn’t they? They have always been there for us up to now!

It pains me to say it, but she was right. Most of our friends have completely disappeared and the ones who are still around, we only see them if we make the effort to contact them and arrange something and even then it is strained because they either find the boy’s behaviour difficult to understand or more often than not they do not understand why we have to parent our boys differently to their children.  To be fair there is one friend who has stuck with us through thick and thin – Bumble’s best man.  Not only is he there for us when it is tough, but he is fantastic with the boys and almost unshakeable. Yes, recently we have had a little blip because his daughter and Buzzbee had a HUGE falling out and it made relations a little tense, but with a few weeks breathing space we are back on track.

Although we have lost people along the way, we have never felt like we were without support.

Our families are fantastic and although there are times where they really don’t understand the boys or why we do what we do – they are our families and they will always stick by us.

We have wonderful friends who we have met through adoption and fostering who are always at the end of a phone, text message, email – when you simply need to rant or if really need to talk to someone who gets what it is like to live with my boys.

And, let’s not forget the support that comes from strangers I have yet to meet but are always there at the end of a tweet or message when I have needed it. Social media and blogging definitely has a place in adoption support to my mind.

Talking of adoption support that bring me onto what this post is supposed to be about, so I apologise for the waffling beforehand (my fingers hit the keys of the keyboard and wouldn’t stop).

I consider adopters in our LA to be very fortunate to have a wonderful Post Adoption support team, who are almost always there when your need them.  And, that brings me back to 2 very special women – Wise Owl and Jemima -whom without their unending support and advice I believe I would have probably ended up having to throw the towel in a long time ago when it came to Beeswax.

When we first met Wise Owl she was working in the fostering side of children’s services but for the past few years she has been working as the Post Adoption Social Worker for our area (actually she has found herself covering a vast area due to the ill health of her colleague). In several tweets I have mentioned how fantastic she is at supporting me in school meetings where I have felt like I am bashing my head against a brick wall.  She is not only VERY skilled at keeping me grounded, but also at explaining to professionals what the concerns are, or explaining the needs of my boys in a way that they take on board.  At the same time she is wonderfully supportive and accepting of my frustration at telling the so called professionals exactly the same thing and them not taking a blind bit of notice. But, probably the most important gift over the years she has given my family and many others in our LA – is her time.  This may be a simple as swiftly replying to a rather neurotic, emotional, despairing email after an especially difficult episode with one of our children and we simply need to off load before we burst, to giving a quick phone call to just ‘check in’ at times when she is aware home life is extra stressful, right up to doing everything possible within the realms of her job description (and sometimes beyond) to review and implement a new support plan so that it reflects the families current needs.

The second amazing woman is Jemima – Beeswax’s previous therapist and the current supporting therapist at our local attachment support group.  I think anyone who has ever read any of my posts will know that I have built up a trusting and open relationship with Jemima and she pushes me in ways that I would never have the confidence to do if left to my own devices.  It is hard to put into words everything that she has done for my family, but what I can say is that Jemima has, like Wise Owl, given me (and other adopters) a gift that is priceless.  Over the years she has seen the best and worst of me and throughout all of this she has always treated me with respect and no matter how I am feeling or what I may say or admit to be ashamed of thinking, she has always been there and shown acceptance and empathy, and she will always validate my feelings before reflecting back on the conversation and steer me back onto the therapeutic parenting path. Again like Wise Owl – sometimes Jemima’s support is nothing more than a quick email between attachment group sessions just to ‘check in’.

OK that is the warm gushy part over with, now for the bit about the unwelcome news that I alluded to in last week’s #WASO post.  Two of the most incredibly supportive professionals I have ever had the pleasure of working with are leaving. One has taken redundancy, and the other’s contract is not being renewed, or should I say she is being replaced with in-house professionals who have absolutely no knowledge of the families they are expected to support, and more importantly many of the mums who come to the attachment group find trusting professionals really difficult and like myself, have good reason for this mistrust.  Personally the thought of having to be open with new people is a prospect that I quite honestly cannot envision happening.

In the end whether the support is coming from friends, family, twitter, Adoption UK message board users, blog or from such wonderful professionals as Wise Owl and Jemima (and trust me their leaving is going to be felt for a very long time), isn’t important. What is important is that you feel that you are supported and that when you need to laugh, cry or scream, you know that there will be someone there to share it with you.

 Hugs

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out