Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Underground World of RAD--why are we "underground?"

The Underground World of RAD are a group of parents and caregivers, usually moms (adoptive, foster, bio, or stepmoms) who have, or have had, children with Reactive Attachment Disorder living in our homes.

We are “underground” because children with RAD have a specific set of symptoms that make it hard for the outside world to detect what’s going on. Professionals, including therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, clergy and teachers are most often “snowed” by the child. The child looks, to the outside world, as if she were a perfect angel-- while at home she is full of rage and abusive behavior. 

Why is she angry and abusive? Because Reactive Attachment Disorder is caused by trauma. Children with RAD have been abused and/or neglected when they were very young and their brains didn’t develop in the typical way. They really have a right to be angry. They do not have a right to be abusive.

Here are a few of the symptoms that relate to this particular piece of RAD, where the child fools the outside world:

• cannot give or receive honest affection
• often engaging and charming, but only superficially
• false allegations
• gaslighting 
• extreme manipulation
• little eye contact

When the child with RAD is at home, she is angry and abusive. She’s often frightening to be around. Often the nicest thing she has to say is, “I HATE YOU!” while pushing mom away.

When mom takes her kids outside to play with the group of neighborhood kids and mothers that gather in the afternoons, the child with RAD is sunshine and roses. She waits until her mom is talking among all the other mothers and then runs up with a big smile, throws her arms around her mother, and beams up at her, “I love you so much mommy!” As soon as the other mothers start to gush about how sweet she is, she angles her head so no one else can see her eyes and they meet her mother’s, throwing her a triumphant smile.

In the early days of this happening, the mom acts instinctively and pushes her daughter away. The lie is too much for a new RAD mom. The other mothers are horrified. (As time goes on, the mother resigns herself to this display and steels herself for the smiles and hugs that hurt.)

And this is the beginning of a life of isolation from friends.

This same story often plays out inside the home with her parents. When dad is home the child with RAD is easier, maybe not sunshine and roses, but much easier to live with. The moment dad leaves the house (even just to the garage or to get the mail), his daughter lays into mom and younger siblings doing things that, if he had seen or heard, would have had her father charging back in like an angry bull. So often, he never sees the abuse. He sees what she wants him to see. Later, when the kids are in bed, he finds his exhausted wife curled up in bed sobbing. Through the tears, she tells him what her day was like. He is confused. His daughter seemed fairly happy all evening. His wife is distraught. Her anger slowly fades to depression. He begins to wonder if she’s not well…is that why she keeps telling him stories that are obviously blown out of proportion? Has she not attached?

And this is the beginning of a life of isolation from her husband.

Grandma is visiting! The child with RAD really puts it on for her grandmother and they bond over makeup, nail polish, and clothes. Grandma is ecstatic over her girly granddaughter. She’s fun and sparkly. Sure, she’s a “spirited child” and “quite the handful” but her bright smile and booming laugh are infectious. While mom gets her kids ready for bed upstairs and away from grandma, her daughter says hateful things to her and pushes her away, hits her brother, and kicks the dog. Later, when mom, in tears, tells her own mother about what is going on, it’s brushed aside, “Oh well…you and your sister were bratty sometimes too.”

And this is the beginning of a life of isolation from her family.

Due to the nature of RAD most of us are not believed. Many of us have taken to online groups (and if we’re lucky, in-person support groups) where we can speak the truth. It’s such a relief to find that we are not alone in this life of fear.

And so, Reactive Attachment Disorder remains largely misunderstood and hidden.

There are many safe groups out there, most are closed and you have to ask to join, some are even considered “secret” where someone has to invite you to join. And yet, there are thousands of women who find their way in and find solace in a tribe of sisters who are enduring daily abuse in their own homes. 

Are you a parent in the trenches, or have a child with RAD somewhere in your family? Join the facebook group called The Underground World of RAD. This is a safe place to find support. This is also a place where we will be educating professionals. You can learn more once you're there! If you're a mental health professional that would like to learn more, please contact me

Please feel free to share this post (and maybe share just a little of your own story.) Make sure to set your own settings for your facebook post to "Public" so others can share as well.

We are getting the word out! 170,000+ people read my last post and it's all because of you! I see your posts flying across facebook and feel the power behind your words. I see you telling others, "Please share, I've made it public." and I am in awe of your power. I've gotten dozens of emails telling me stories like, "I posted my story on facebook and a long lost friend contacted me. We had the best talk, she listened and really heard me!" or "I posted my story on facebook and 60 people had supportive things to say!"

I see you. You are vulnerable, with your heart exposed to the world--scared but doing it anyway. 

Hi, I'm Julia and I'm a trauma-informed 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.

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