Tag Archive | secondary trauma

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.

 

Advertisements

Keep holding on

 

This weeks’ Adoption social #WASO theme is ‘reasons to be cheerful’ and from the perspective of the outside world, I have plenty of things to be ‘cheerful’ about.

  • I have two beautiful sons who make sure my days are NEVER dull, and just seeing them letting go and just ‘being’ is enough to live anyone who really knows them spirits.
  • I have a wonderful husband who is also a wonderful dad (even when he is butting heads with them both).
  • I have two wonderful and supportive parents who ‘get it’ most of the time and even when they don’t, they don’t try to tell me ‘they know best’.
  • Home educating Buzzbee, I get to see his true personality shining through every day and watch him grow physically and emotionally.
  • I have Beedog, who is always happy to see me with a big wet kiss, a manic wag of her stumpy little tail and her sidewinder wiggle.
  • Where I live, we are blessed by lush green fields, hillsides, woodlands, rivers and canals to be able to visit and walk in.

And, they are right! There are so many other reasons that I could list here, but for several reasons, at the moment I am struggling to identify them.

At a time when I should be gleefully making plans for our holiday to Disneyland Paris and getting excited over the little details like Character breakfasts and visiting Paris itself. I have let Beeswax’s stupid school get inside my head. Leaving me consumed with misplaced guilt over taking Buzz on holiday while Waxy is on his school skiing holiday – ridiculous I know!

At a time when I am seeing Buzzbee making tiny steps in the right direction and I should be celebrating it. I am worrying that I am not doing enough for him and I am failing him because I have not managed to get the ‘powers to be’ to acknowledge that he is being short changed, support wise.

I could go on but who would that help? Not me, that is for sure!

Last week after a particularly stressful meeting at Waxy’s school, Shamrock (PASW) and I went for a quick drink and a brief catch up and while trying to explain to her that all is not okay in the Hive at the moment. I don’t know if it was the way I delivered my explanation or because I was running on nervous adrenaline for fear of her getting the wrong end of the stick, but somehow I stuffed it up completely because on leaving the café, Shamrock announced “it is lovely to see you looking so well” – that’s what I get for managing for once to put on some make up.

So if this is what Shamrock was truly seeing then I am determined to end this VERY disorganised post with a smile metaphorically painted on my face.

It is not that I am not thankful for everything I have or that I have fallen into such a deep well of despair that I have become numb to the joys around me. It is just at the moment I am having to work that little bit harder to recognise it all.

And, on those days, for now, anytime I need a reminder that I do have ‘reasons to be cheerful’. I can look back over my #TakingCare100 photos, smile and remember why I chose that picture on that day.

takingcare2label

taking carelabel

 

Doing what has to be do.

I really should begin with apologising for the rant that is about to unfold with this weeks’ #WASO post.

Earlier last week our PASW and I prepared ourselves for yet another school meeting where the expected end result was that, at the best, we would leave with lots of empty promises and the feeling that we spent the majority of the time ‘hitting our heads against a brick wall’. Or, I would end up having to excuse myself from the meeting with a river of tears pouring down my cheeks, in order for me to avoid coming across any more neurotic and ‘over-sensitive’ than they already believe I am and avoid me telling members of staff what I really feel about them and their professionalism.

This meeting has been a long time coming and dates back to before school broke up for the summer – OK really it dates back a couple more years than that, but now it has come to a head and I need to see an end to it before it, not only makes me ill, but ends up resulting in more serious implications for relationships with home, school and Social Services. Prejudices and personalities need to be checked at the door before Beeswax slips through the net.

So with Beeswax and his welfare, front and centre of my mind:

I sold my soul to pay the devil.

I fell on my own sword in the name of my son

I sacrificed my self-respect just to keep the peace.

Or would it be a more accurate description to say. Today I took the higher ground. I can’t continue the sentence with “and it felt good” because it most definitely did not feel that way.

OK I know I am not making any sense, am I?

Over recent months I have been having more than a couple of issues with Waxy’s school and their understanding of his needs (or lack of it more often than not). As a result I have been on the receiving end of some pretty horrible treatment by several members of staff – sometimes I wonder why I put myself through this carp. When he joined the school I could have easily put him on transport with the intention of (with exception of parent’s and sports days) only having indirect contact with staff. Maybe if I had, we wouldn’t have had to get to this position. Who am I kidding! Waxy’s default mode is ‘Splitting’. He cannot bare home and school working together, and in his mind mums are the easiest target – heck I am definitely not perfect and have definitely made mistakes over the years, but you would think I was some kind of Dickensian matriarch who wants her children to be ‘seen and not heard’ and do as they are told always and every time.

OK I’m getting off topic and veering towards getting on my ‘soapbox’ about the complexities of the traumatic effects of both boys’ early years’ experience on their attachment history and how vicarious secondary trauma (at the darkest time – blocked care) can illicit reactions and responses in you that can give people the wrong idea about you – it is amazing how quickly school especially can put me into a defensive mode and I can then come across as ‘negative, cold and neurotic’ (I hate it and beat myself up afterwards every time), however NEVER at any point has school come to me and expressed their concern and instead they have drawn their own conclusions from the fact that while Beeswax is in school during the week he is a ‘model pupil’ (completely compliant) and all the problems are at home, so my relationship with him and my parenting is believed to be the problem. Of course it is! Nothing to do with the fact that he is terrified of the implications of acting out at school, feels unsafe and the fact that, throughout his life, Waxy believes that mums can’t be trusted (OK it is far more complicated than that, but it is his story and not for me to share, but I hope you understand what I am trying to say).

So why did I leave the meeting feeling like I had sacrificed my self-respect?

Quite simply, everyone and I mean EVERYONE, including myself and Shamrock (PASW) was expecting me to go into the meeting and open a ‘can of whoop arse’ on school. I could feel their tension and Shamrock and I had already come up with an ‘exit strategy’ if it got too much for me. So no one was more surprised than myself, when I found that I was in control of the meeting and the staff attending were very quickly thrown off guard by my responses and questions, rather than the dialogues being a barrage of pointless ‘he said, she said’ and lots of misunderstandings, miscommunication and Shamrock having to step in when a comment or two finally gets my heckles up. I believed I was going to have go into the meeting and ‘justify’ myself and I was worried I would make matters worse, but instead school became Beeswax and ‘therapeutic, supportive PACE mummy’ came out to play, and school were thrown – I wasn’t defensive, I wasn’t emotional (inside I was screaming) and I was completely honest with them, without telling them that ‘I think their staff suck at supporting and understanding children with complex emotional, social and behavioural difficulties despite it being a BESD school’.

So why had I requested this meeting? At the end of last year school had written a complaint letter to SS, which they refuse to show to me. As I covered in a previous post Dark clouds and shiny metal, apparently I lacked emotional warmth when collecting Waxy from school at end of each week – translation, I wasn’t all hugs and kisses and squealing with delight at his return home. Two main points here (which have been pointed out to them before and were again by Shamrock) 1st: Waxy cannot tolerate hugs from me most of the time, let alone very public displays of affection (that is a one way ticket to trouble later in the evening) and 2nd: I have often complained to Shamrock and Bumble that I never have a chance to even say ‘Hi’ to Waxy before the member of staff who is doing handover is bombarding me with over the top positivity about his week at school (don’t get me wrong that is great but I would prefer to hear it from Waxy himself and not have it presented to me in a manner that has me feeling I am being judged for his horrendous weekends). They have also complained about how, on a couple of occasions they have witnessed me being less than regulated when dealing with Waxy turning on his brother the moment he is out of ear shot of school staff and Buzzbee biting back – I admit I am not perfect and, yes, on occasion I have been upset or had to raise my voice to get the boys back in control. Do I like doing that? No! Have staff ever bothered to ask me if they can help or talked to me about what was happening? No! They just go running to SS and make ridiculous complaints about me (I know I sound really self-absorbed and angry at the moment, but this has been their default mode for a couple of years and never have they shown me the slightest bit of respect in coming to me and talking about their concerns – they never believed Jemima’s (Waxy’s previous therapist) explanation of the complexity of Waxy and my relationship and the ‘blocked care’ that I was experiencing at the time and working through. They saw a bad mother and still believe that to this day.

OK so I am guessing that anyone reading this will be confused by my comment that I feel I sacrificed my self-respect during the meeting – I did what any mother would do. I fought to get my child the support he needs and did it with decorum – everyone who knows how much I have been struggling with this situation, have told me how well I did and ‘this is what mum’s have to do for their kids’ – and they are right. The problem for me is school’s last complaint almost finished me off – I have been teetering on the edge of a deep depression cliff for several months and clinging on for dear life to what was left of my self-esteem and their character assassination left me feeling hopeless and I felt my feet beginning to slip on that edge of the cliff for the entire summer holidays.

Did I fall? Not yet, but at that time, in my mind, the only way I felt, I was going to claw my self-esteem and self-respect back was to tackle school and their accusations and backstabbing head on and change their minds about me, whether they wanted to or not – instead the result was I found myself biting my tongue and giving school the space to explore their feelings in a safe, accepting environment free from judgement (again, inside I wasn’t quite so calm and I was finally connecting the dots between some of the interesting nicknames Beeswax has given staff and his reasons for choosing these names, but all the time I managed to maintain a PACE mindset).

So what have I learnt from this?  First of all – I am stronger than I think, and secondly……. Well the picture says it all.

When they stop talking