Monday, September 8, 2014

The Summer of Big Feelings (Part 1)

Good. Bad. Hard. Easy. Exhausting. Reinvigorating. That was our summer. Except for recaps in pictures I don't think I can begin to reconstruct the many things that took place in those few months. One thing I do know is that there was an awful lot of growing that happened for Corazon.

Corazon has been doing incredibly well (not without some BIG bumps along the way). In many ways I think she is actively working to heal and yet she is also terrified of the changes. One of the biggest changes for her is that she is FEELING. That may sound a bit strange but for Corazon feeling anything too deeply threatens her sense of control in MAJOR ways.  She tends to intellectualize things or just react without thinking. Not to say she hasn't felt things along the way. Of course she has but the main feelings she regularly allows herself to experience tend to be anger, frustration, disappointment (which all tend to look the same--scowling, frowning, yelling, gritting her teeth, stomping, flaring her nostrils, slamming her body into a chair, bed, etc.) When calm she can talk about it but it has tended to be pretty void of any real feelings. It sounds like she is narrating a book or a movie or something that happened to someone else.  When she is happy or excited she is "over the top-giddy, impulsive, really loud, needs constant redirection, and basically lets herself do whatever she wants until she is unsafe or highly inappropriate and has to be sent to her room to regain  some semblance of self-control. Usually if we let it go it gets very unsafe and she really can't reign it back in regardless of how we try to address it.

For example, if she wasn't doing her schoolwork and I reminded her that if she didn't complete what was expected of her she would be missing diving practice, she might get her work done (minimally but within the "letter" of the law, so to speak) OR she might continue whatever she wasn't supposed to be doing.  Whether I continued to remind her or not didn't seem to make a difference. Once I told her she wasn't going because she hadn't done what she needed to do all hell would break lose. It might look like pleading for another chance, arguing that the directions weren't clear, that she could do the task, or that I changed the expectations, but usually ending with her yelling and stomping out of the room if I refused to engage in the battle. If she was able to regroup it might be as a "last ditch" effort to get me to change my mind. So she might come down from her room to apologize for her behavior but then ask me to let her go to diving. It felt manipulative (and it was) and would usually result in my saying "not this time but maybe next time we can make it work" and her storming back upstairs. There might even be some loud wailing and most definitely yelling that I was mean, unfair, unclear, etc. It would go on for hours before she could bring herself to STOP the behaviors and even then she stayed "edgy" for the rest of the day/night.

Much of that is gone. Over the past year, we noticed that she was showing a wider range of "normal" feelings whether it was happiness or disappointment or frustration. There seemed to be more "middle ground." She could get silly and regroup. She could snap at her brother and then stop herself from escalating. She could express disappointment at not getting to go somewhere without it becoming a completely ruined day.  We still saw a great deal of drama but it was also clear that her "heart" wasn't in it as much.  She still gets "stuck" and this summer we had a few big episodes of this that looked pretty ridiculous even to her once she got past it. But in almost every case she was able to regroup even if things got pretty ugly. It didn't take over her (and our) day. That is huge progress for this kid and it feels so good to see her hard work pay off.

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