I have to say that everyone has difficulties in their lives and no one on the outside can truly understand the burden if they haven't lived it. Parenting trauma is not worse than other things, it is just different. Again, I am sharing my experiences and I am not comparing them to the experiences of others.
It all began in December of 2009. I didn't realize what the next three years would bring. I didn't realize the pain, fear, and the near complete emotional collapse that was about to happen.
All I felt was relief. Complete and utter relief. Rosie had been struggling since she moved into our home in 2006. We felt that we were at the end of our rope. The verbal assaults, the physical abuse and the complete exhaustion had started to catch up to me. Parenting a child with RAD and PTSD is tough. We tried hard core tough love, we tried nurturing tender consequences. NOTHING helped. She still had meltdowns that included cruel and manipulative words, physical assaults, and behavior that often sent me off of the edge. I cried often and was reactive to any advice anyone gave me. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to hear the good about my daughter because I was so emotionally damaged from parenting her illness that I could not see past her illness. In December 2009 Rosie was admitted to a psychiatric treatment facility. This was 5 days before Christmas.
I was gripped by the sadness of not having her there to open presents with us. I was devastated by sending her away so close to a major holiday. I wasn't able to realize that it was best for her. I needed the time to regroup and get a better plan of treatment for her. Our family was starting to spiral from the effects of RAD and Trauma. We were parenting two trauma kids and one needed help that we couldn't give her.
I was relieved the moment we left her at her placement. I felt such a sense of safety and peace. This probably isn't the "PC" answer for what you feel when your child is placed outside of your home but it is the honest answer. I could relax. It was the first night in over two years that I had a full night sleep. I was able to put my pjs on early in the evening and didn't have to have everything planned out in case she quickly spiraled. I was always in reaction mode so to be able to relax was heaven. She called me every night. I would see the phone number to the place and I immediately stiffened up. Our conversations were forced and she often spoke to me aggressively about what I had done to cause this. I would hang up in tears and I was becoming more bitter with every interaction.
People tried to be empathetic and they tried to support me. I was so broken and angry that I couldn't allow them to support me the way I needed them to. I had developed walls of protection. When you parent children with RAD you have to develop a hard shell, become detached. I was a quick learner. My psychiatrist believes I have developed PTSD from parenting trauma. Children with RAD and trauma have brains that are not wired like ours. They had to spend their young lives protecting themselves and surviving because the adults in their lives didn't or couldn't take care of them. They don't easily trust and therefore feel as though they must always be in control. It is exhausting. I can't even explain why these kids do the awful, horrible, disgusting, heart breaking things that they do. All I know is...it is painful to parent and it is even more painful to watch as the child you love battles this.
My family and friends wanted to support me. They wanted to be there for me. I am sure they wanted to love on me and show me they had my back. I couldn't allow that. I couldn't handle anymore pain and I didn't want them to see what a huge failure I felt that I was. They didn't know how to support me because what was happening seemed like it was a Lifetime Movie. I was too hurt, damaged, traumatized, angry, and too proud to show them how to help me. (Side note: if someone offers to help LET THEM. Show them what you need and how they can support you. They want to help they have no idea how to do it. Teach them. Let them love you!)
My sweet Rosie went on to SIX more placements. She would be gone for 3 weeks and come home for a week. Then she was gone again. No one would listen, no one thought it was as bad as it was....I went to endless meetings...it was difficult to maintain my job during this time, I am blessed that they stuck with me. We had to get the state back involved to get the necessary placement and services to stabilize her. During this period of time we met the woman that would change our lives forever. Elle was a family stabilization therapist that came into our home. She was introduced to us by another therapist because of her very in depth knowledge of RAD and Trauma treatment.
Elle came in and my burden became lighter. She saw Rosie the day she came home from her last placement. She came to our home for therapy as many times as we needed. I had her cell phone and she was always there to support us as well as Rosie. She connected with Rosie where she was. She was warm and nurturing. She validated my feelings and supported us. Her ability to connect with Rosie was the turning point. She was with us in the thick of some tough stuff in our family. She was there to support us as a family and as we parented Rosie. I began to see the good again. I was able to see my daughter as the beautiful, sweet girl that she is. It hasn't been easy....she still struggles and we still have to deal with trauma stuff. BUT she hasn't been hospitalized or required Mobile Crisis services since her last placement discharge in June of 2010.
This post so went on its own journey. Allow yourself to have whatever feelings that come up. It is ok to be angry, hurt, sad, scared or unsupported. They are your feelings and you need to be able to sit with them and own them. Allow others to help you, support you and love on you. They want to be there for you, let them in. Be kind to yourself. Don't brow beat yourself. You are an awesome mom and/or dad! Own that! Your child's behavior and RAD diagnosis has nothing to do with your parenting ability. It is their behavior to own and be responsible for. Allow yourself to be free of the guilt that you carry. You are worth taking care of.