Wednesday, November 29, 2017

You are not alone.

I thought I’d share about what taking 2 years away from blogging was like for me. 

It was sorrowful.

I began blogging in September of 2007 in preparation for Michael and Maddie’s arrival. I knew the stories would be funny and gross because that’s motherhood right? I grew up on Erma Bombeck books, my mother would read snippets to me amid gales of laughter. When I was older I read many of them myself—what a talent she was! 

I wrote to sort out my thoughts and to tell a story. I wrote for my kids. I wrote to inform others about Reactive Attachment Disorder. I wrote to find answers. 

I stopped writing in September 2015 when there were no answers, when few believed me, when there was no way to help my daughter and no way out. I like to tell myself, “I was on a break.” and I suppose in a way I was. It was a, “I can’t cope anymore.” kind of break. 

My daughter left our home two years ago, December 9, 2015. She was 10 years old. She will not return. (more on this later) She is in a place where she is doing well.

In these last two years I yearned for creativity but there was nothing I could do. I tried to write but nothing came out. I wanted to tell the story but the story was so overwhelmingly huge that I couldn’t comprehend where to even begin. I thought maybe I could go back to painting but even that eluded me. My mind was a big blank. Big chunks of the previous 6 years (the amount of time my daughter lived with us) was gone. I couldn’t construct linear stories anymore. I couldn’t even speak them. 

I was to soon find out that these are just a few of the symptoms of PTSD.

I worried that people wouldn’t understand what had happened but the vast majority of people I told actually did. I worried that someone would say something horrible and I would come unglued. A few did and I didn’t. Come unglued that is. I explained that children who had been exposed to trauma in their developmental years (0-3 years old) sometimes have been so severely harmed that they abuse their family. Yes, children can be abusive. Surprising to me, most people had a story of their own or a close relative where something similar happened--children who harmed others. Yet another instance where mental illness isn't talked about. 

I told myself, yet again, “You know, there wouldn’t be such a stigma if we could all speak out about this!”

Mental illness IS scary but when I expose it to the light it’s a bit better. My daughter has PTSD and RAD. My son and I have PTSD from living with her abuse. 

What do I want from writing this time around? Yes, I want to sort out my thoughts, a story for my kids, and to teach others about RAD. 

I also write to bring light to the dark corners of families who live with a mentally ill child. 

I write to find connection. 

I expose my story so others can find an inkling of hope. 

I write to offer support. 

I write so that you know that you are not alone.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Triangulation & WHY Mothers!?

In families that have a child with RAD there is typically a situation that is called, “triangulation.” In simple terms, it means that the child with RAD is two different people with her parents. 

The child with RAD abuses (emotionally, verbally, physically) her adoptive mother when dad is not nearby and does so on many levels (directly or indirectly by hurting her other children, pets, etc.) 

The important part here is that the abuse only happens to the mother and healthy siblings while the father is not around. 

Dad never sees the abuse. 

When mom tells dad what is really going on, he doesn't believe her—it’s not his experience. As the triangulation continues the father can begin to see his wife as the problem. He sees her becoming a helicopter mom—watching with eagle eyes everything the child with RAD does. He sees her trying to control the child. He does not know that that control is necessary to keep herself, her healthy children, and her pets safe. 

This disbelief and, corresponding anger by his wife, causes a rift in the marriage. (The divorce rate in families with children with RAD is very high.)

This triangulation is, yet again, an attempt to hurt the adoptive mother.

Triangulation isn’t only a father thing—it can happen with the adoptive mother’s parents, grandparents, siblings, adult children, friends, neighbors, therapists, the county social workers, and at church, school, etc. Like any domestic violence abuse story, this isolates the victim (mom in this case) so there is no one to turn to for help. 

Why mothers!? 

Good question!

Let’s imagine a newborn infant, a little girl for this example. Her little brain doesn’t know much yet but there is an expectation in the primitive part of her brain that her mother will care for her, feed her, hold her, look deep into her eyes and love her with every fiber of her being. 

Many of us have that bond with our mothers. 

When it doesn’t happen, when a mother instead neglects, abuses, and abandons her baby, a “primal wound” is created. When that child is adopted into a family, the new adoptive mother attempts to create a nurturing bond with her child. Sadly, these abused children can only see her on the same footing as the biological mom, assumes that the adoptive mom will be just as abusive, and will, without a shadow of a doubt, abandon her just as her biological mother did. To keep this bond from happening and in their minds, to stay alive, the child will do anything to keep their adoptive mom at bay. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

ACE Test for Glass Children

ACE Questionnaire for Glass Children with a CETT (Child
Exposed to Trauma) currently or previously living in the home.

ACE=Adverse Childhood Experiences
CETT= Child Exposed to Trauma
Glass Children=Children who live with a special needs sibling (in this case a CETT) and who are unintentionally looked through by parents who are constantly stamping out behavioral, emotional, and sometimes literal, fires.

While living in your family home:

1. Did a household member (adult or child) often or very often...swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? Or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

2. Did a household member (adult or child) often or very often...push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? Or ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

3. Did a household member (adult or child) ever...touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

4. Did you often or very often feel one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? Or your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

5. Did you often or very often feel didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? Or your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

6. Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason ?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

7. Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? Or sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? Or ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Did a household member swear at her, insult her, put her down, or humiliate her? Or act in a way that made her afraid that she or one of her children might be physically hurt?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs? Or was anyone in your household a “cutter” (used sharp objects to harm themselves)?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

10. Did a household member go to prison, a therapeutic treatment center, a residential treatment center, group home, boarding school, into the foster care system, or was adopted into a different family?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: __   This is your ACE Score.

•For the original ACE test:
•Learn more about the CDC/Kaiser Permanente ACE study:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Glass Children

As a trauma-informed coach I sometimes run across a client who tells me something along these lines:

• no one ever pays attention to them, they feel unimportant
• they are lost in the shuffle of life
• their sibling/s always got the attention
• they weren’t cared for or loved
• they feel the need to be perfect

I’ve learned to pay attention.

This person could be:
1. someone from a large family
2. someone who listened to too much Smothers Brothers (I’m showing my age here! ;-))

3. someone who was a “glass child”

Glass Children have siblings who are mentally ill, disabled, present challenging behaviors, are Children Exposed to Trauma (CETT), etc.

Glass Children are looked through by their parents. The ill child gets most of the attention.

Glass Children are “the good kids” who go out of their way to not disappoint. They are seen as the child who needs less and this is a Godsend to the parents who are constantly stamping out physical, behavioral, emotional, and sometimes literal, fires from the unhealthy sibling.

Do you know a family in crisis? Do you know a glass child who could use some attention? Invite them to your home to hang out with your kids and keep them for dinner. If you're a family member with no children, ask to take them out for ice cream or a movie. Ask open ended questions to draw them out and get them to talk about themselves. If you're able, take the sibling who is sick for a few hours. You are giving the glass child and his parents precious time together.

Monday, July 17, 2017

An Equine Gestal Coaching session

I'm often asked to explain an Equine Gestalt Coaching session--here is a wonderful example:
I had a client recently who felt he was never in his body. One of the first things he said was, "I want to be in my body. I think a lot of my physical ailments might subside if I could be comfortable in my body."

We worked through a couple of older issues before bringing Rayn into the coaching barn with us. As we talked more about his wish of being in his body, Rayn went from standing quietly with us to a big stretch upward. Have you ever seen a cat stretch by arching it's neck and back? That is what she looked a 1,200 pound version. I didn't think much of it until she did it again, and then again--this time looking me in the eye. 

"Ah. Yes, I hear you." I thought to her. I then asked the client what he was feeling when he saw her stretching like that. He smiled. "I feel like she's showing me how good it feels to be in my body. That it's a safe place to be. I can just "feel" the stretch she is showing me."

Immediately after he said that, Rayn lay down next to us. Now, know that we are in a 24'x24' barn. While it's just the client and me in our chairs, it's not a lot of space and I've never had a horse lay down in there before. Rayn went down with her back to us and, again, looked over at me from one eye.

:-) "Yes, yes. Thank you."

I laughed, "Ok, well you know horses. This is not normal. What do you make of this?" He immediately blurted out, "That I can be in my body and JUST RELAX in it. It's not a fuss or a fight. I'm safe in here. I can own this space. I deserve to take up this spot. I can have my boundaries and just relax."

How beautiful. Thank you Rayn for sharing what he needed to see in a way that would make a difference to him. I know he won't forget your sweet, soft lesson.

My own lesson from this session was this: I sometimes wait too long before setting a boundary (needing to say no and being scared to do it) and then I feel crotchety, mean, and taken advantage of. When I finally do say no, I'm not kind about it. I'm defensive and that feels icky. Setting boundaries in a healthy way means to say no when I need to and then settling back and relaxing into it--the feeling I got when I saw Rayn lay down next to us. Next time I need to set a boundary, I will think of Rayn and her gentle lesson.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

White Chicken Red Hat

Most were uncertain why she left her family to strike out on her own but personally I heard her say it was "Boyfriend" and his harem of females.

"He's not particularly kind. He talks a lot about himself and his beautiful white "Silkie" feathers but he doesn't bother telling me how pretty MY white feathers are and he has never, not even ONCE mentioned my beautiful red hat."

She had had enough.

The minute she arrived at the Mother Ranch in their moveable house she ran for it. In all the chaos of the big move everyone was in a tizzy, talking about what had happened and wondering what was going to happen next. In a frenzy of homemaking, six of the harem laid eggs almost immediately. Boyfriend strutted around the house yelling at the girls to stop talking so loudly, they sounded like a bunch of...well, you know.

Watching the hubbub, White Chicken Red Hat knew. She had been all broody with her plan to escape at the old house but with the big move, the time was now. Acting exactly the same as the harem she shrieked and carried on with all the drama she could muster, "I don't know what we're going to do! That was the scariest thing ever! What if...! Oh no...! And then...!" And before anyone knew what was what she had slipped out the chicken door and took off at a dead run. She ran like a chicken with her head...well, you know. 
to be continued...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Laura Longtail's lambing story

Brad and I were finishing prep for a class that another coach was going to hold at our ranch-including evening chores and moving the sheep and their dogs to pasture 3.

The coach arrived along with one student and the guardian dogs were barking up a storm. I passed Brad in our work and he said quietly, "We're missing a mama sheep." Three ewes and their lambs were nearby but I didn't see Laura Longtail. I looked way out in the pasture and could see her standing completely still out in the middle of the tall grass. That was odd. Tess and Duke saw her and went barreling toward her. They stopped about 50 feel from her and became statues themselves--tails high and stiff.

By that time I was walking out because it all felt really weird. As I got closer I realized that Laura Longtail's tail was sticking straight out. Huh. She started walking toward me and as she got closer I saw her udder was huge and the teats were bright pink! Wha?? She passed me and I saw what the problem was, there was a lamb, stuck. It's nose, part of his muzzle, and one foot.

We didn't even know she was pregnant. 

Laura Longtail is a first time mom.

I called our friend Nancy and asked her for advice. She said not to worry too much, sometimes stuck lambs can survive. She said to find the other foot, pull it out, pull the lamb out, swing it by it's back legs and give chest compressions if needed.

I called Brad out to the field and with some tricky maneuvering we were able to get the flock and their dogs out of the pasture while keeping Laura Longtail in. Brad caught and wrestled Laura Longtail onto the ground and I got to work. I was able to just fit half of my right hand inside, right next to the lamb's head--what a tight squeeze! In a few minutes I found the lamb's other hoof and using her contractions was able to get the foot out. With a few short pushes by Laura Longtail, the baby lamb slid out onto the ground. No heartbeat. I quickly scooped him up and swung him (a ram lamb) by his back legs, trying to get things moving along. All I could think of was, "Come on little lamb, please survive." Placing him back on the ground and still no heartbeat, I did chest compressions. Nothing. I tried swinging and chest compressions one more time. Still nothing. Sigh. 

Okay. This is the hard part of ranching.

Brad brought the flock back in, they went out to graze, and I brought the lamb up to his mom's head and she began licking him. This was the saddest part. I wasn't sure how long to leave him with her. Do I take him away? Do I wait until he's clean and dry? I decided to wait and sat down next to her. Tess, their livestock guardian dog, waited with me--laying on the other side of the fence, holding space for us all. She was very calm and her calm seeped into me. Laura Longtail gently cleaned her baby for about five minutes. She stopped to look at him for a moment and then placed one of her nostrils directly onto one of his. Waited. A few seconds passed and she repeated it. She breathed. He didn't. She slowly got to her feet and walked away, back to the flock. 

As a child and into adulthood I've always loved the James Herriot books. Living on this ranch, one of my dreams was to assist an animal giving birth. I'm so glad I could save Laura Longtail. I'm sad I couldn't save her lamb.