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 as her biological mother was. 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. 

To this child, Mother's Love=Terror.

Monday, November 27, 2017

ACE Test for Glass Children

ACE Questionnaire for Glass Children who have a sibling with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) currently or previously living in the home.

ACE=Adverse Childhood Experiences
Glass Children=Children who live with a special needs sibling (in this case RAD) 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 sibling or child in the household 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 sibling or child in the household 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 __

Did a sibling or child in the household 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?
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 sibling or a child in the household 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 a sibling or a child 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 sibling or a child in the household depressed or mentally ill, or did a sibling or child in the household attempt suicide?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

10. Did a sibling or a child in the household 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.

•This is a modified version of the ACEs test. For the original ACE test:
•Learn more about the CDC/Kaiser Permanente ACE study:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What is a Glass Child?

Here it is, the TedTalk on Glass Children by Alicia Arenas that had the underground world of RAD moms in tears. Someone understood us, believed us, believed that our "healthy" children were having a tough time. We were thrilled and...guilt ridden. It was never our intention to "look through" our healthy children. I think my mom put it best, "You are stomping out fires (some families are literally) trying to keep everyone as safe as possible--there isn't time for much else when the family is in danger." 

I've since heard many other RAD moms describe a similar way of life.

It always makes me think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. During the 6 years my daughter with RAD lived in my home, I rarely made it beyond the orange level of Safety and Security. I had our Physiological Needs covered but was only managing Safety and Security by the skin of my teeth. It was not too bad when she was in school and my healthy son wasn't yet--we had time to love each other. Life got a lot harder when they were both in school and my daughter would lay into us in the morning and then the moment they both got in the car from school in the afternoon.

Here is a short synopsis of Alicia Arenas's TedTalk:

• Glass Children have siblings who are mentally ill, disabled, present challenging behaviors, etc.

• Glass Children are looked through by their parents. The sick 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.


Hi, I'm Julia and I'm a certified Equine Gestalt Coach, Reiki Master, and artist. I combine my skills to create an individualized care plan for each client. As an adoptive mother of two (one healthy and one with RAD), I am intimately familiar with the trials and tribulations RAD moms and their glass children face as they navigate the muddy waters of life with a mentally ill child. While I see many types of people in my practice, my heart and my specialty is the health and healing of RAD moms and their glass children. 
Learn more at The Mother Ranch.