Friday, August 21, 2009

More on Healing

If you have kids with RAD or work with them in some way you are pretty familiar with those checklists (like this one and this one and this one )that tells the symptoms exhibited by RAD kids. When I started this journey I found them all (not just for RAD, but ODD, PTSD, Bipolar, etc.) because my daughter didn't have any diagnoses. She was described as charming, engaging, charismatic, resilient, smart, and well-adjusted. Of course that wasn't the case although I tried hard to believe that and treat her that way. Her therapist only saw what I had been told although she dutifully wrote down all that I described and Corazon got worse and worse. It took almost a year of research (my background is academia so when I say research I mean research...psych studies, adoption studies, transition studies, child development studies, mental illness studies, etc. etc. etc.). When I found these checklists I tore into them live a starving person and when I finally found the RAD checklists I saw her described perfectly and sighed with relief. Of course, that was short-lived once I realized that she basically had all but 1 of the "symptoms." Those lists saved my sanity. Eventually we found a more helpful therapist who helped us through the process of addressing her attachment issues and diagnosed her RAD, and I learned more and more about the various schools of thought on how to help my daughter overcome her RAD. So, when my older son arrived with over a dozen "diagnoses" and RAD was on the list, I was "ready." For the RAD, at least :-)

Fast-forward to today and those checklists. I run into my list every once in a while and suddenly I begin to realize that she is not only healing but that certain behaviors are totally and completely gone AND we have seen no signs of them in months or even years. For example, Corazon was obsessed with gore and fire and everything connected to fire (matches, lighters, candles, fire alarms, trucks, escape route maps (at age 4) AND she knew where all of them were in any building we entered.) She would stare at candles for hours and reach out as if to touch, she would ask for her own matches, lighter, etc. If we barbecued outside we couldn't keep her away from the coals. She talked about fire, asked questions about it, etc. She could hear a fire truck from the faintest sound and would declare "there's a fire." This obsession probably stopped about a year and a half ago. It wasn't sudden and I don't think I actually noticed it. I still hide any matches, lighters, etc. and we have a fireplace now so I watch her expressions and behaviors on the occasional times we light a fire. I look for glimpses of the old responses to fire. I am still vigilant (in more than a normal parent kind of way) even though her behavior seems more normal in this area. This is true for many of the other RAD symptoms she no longer exhibits.

A few months ago we were able to have a conversation about the attachment cycle and the symptoms of RAD and it really stuck with her. This week she asked me if she could look at the symptoms again because she wanted to see if she was getting better. She has always been an active participant in her healing but now she has the beginnings of an intellectual understanding. So we pulled out the list and she noted that she hadn't "lost" any of the symptoms she still has. (She probably still has between 1/4 or 1/3 of the more common ones.) I reminded her that healing takes time. She seemed pretty pensive that day and later declared she was going to "work" on the stealing (she does this oh so rarely) and the lying (more common). I supported her and pointed out she has made great progress in both areas but could afford to do more. She seemed sad although when I asked her she said she was fine. Later that day she came to me and said she was sad but she didn't know why she was sad. After a few questions from me it became clear that she was upset that it was sooooo hard to "fix" her behavior and she was sad because she was feeling the enormity of the task It struck me that she was sad and she was able to recognize it and begin to understand why she was feeling this way. Wow! How far we've come! When I think back to how long it was before I saw that emotion when we first started on this journey? It was probably a year or so and I vividly remember her being angry that she didn't know what was happening to her. Here we were feeling sad about the work to be done. And we were together. Of course, we have been together in this fight all along but now we are ON THE SAME SIDE. How awesome is that?!

As I reflect on this I am reminded that many times I didn't believe we would ever get here and HERE WE ARE! Many times when I was surrounded by the yelling, biting, peeing, lying, staying up all night for fear she would harm something or someone, stealing, running to school every day, talking to deaf ears (teachers, friends, and family) I could not begin to envision this moment. I didn't know to expect it and yet here we were talking about sadness and healing and working together. And it felt feels so very good.

I'm no fool. I know she won't always be so cooperative and receptive but I will take it when I can get it. As I sit here after another rough day with my son, I recognize that I have to find his list, go over, look for the healing and be ready to do what I have to do for him, each and every day. It is daunting but I have caught glimpses of the other side and today that is enough to keep me going.


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Just about 3 weeks ago, Genea asked me if I was mad at her after a big tantrum. It struck me that in 2 years she never cared about my side of things, only her own. Her own side being, not getting what she wanted when she wanted it hence the tantrum. Then she would usually come out of her room and proceed to fixate on something else to tantrum about. Certainly not caring as to how I felt!
You are so right. It really takes looking back to see the progress. It is not day to day progress and the problems can be so chaotic and intense that the small steps get completely overshadowed.
My daughter had a lot of medical problems when she arrived but none of them were RAD or Bipolar, in fact she had "no" attachment problems at all. Thank goodness lol!
Congratulations to you and Corazon and your whole family! Your kids are so lucky to have such awesome mom's ready and willing to do whatever it takes.

Tracey said...

What a wonderful, inspiring post! Thank you for sharing it, and congratulations to you and your awesome daughter!

BT said...

You have captured this perfectly. We too pull out our list of RAD symptoms and marvel at the progress to healing. Our son is 9.5, and he has been actively involved in his healing -- with an intellectual understanding of his condition and the work involved in healing for about a year now. He was shocked the first time we showed him the RAD list. He now shares Corazon's expressions of sadness sometimes when he thinks of the magnitude of the work ahead. I meanwhile are awestruck by realizing the magnitude of what he's already accomplished. And you're right: It's hugely motivating. Hang in there with Tortuga.

Lisa said...

I love being able to look back and see all the progress. It's what keeps me going. On bad days it's very effective to make a list so that I can remember and not feel overwhelmed because we're not "there" yet.

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