Thursday, January 19, 2012

Therapy to help a Traumatized Brain

The brain is a fascinating thing. I could never be in the medical field because blood and pain freak me out, but I am fascinated by the brain and how it works. People have amnesia and lose their memories or even selective amnesia -- I couldn't imagine living life with a black hole where memories should be. And then there are those who have such a bad traumatic past who wish they had selective amnesia. My daughter is one of those. Our three oldest had a pretty rough childhood before they came into our family. They lost two major caretakers who had raised them, both leaving suddenly. So much loss has touched their little lives and especially our oldest Rosie, who has memories of it all. I can't imagine being in her place losing everything you loved and being placed in someone else's care. Someone who looks different, talks different, smells different, and that person whisks you away to a house that is strange and not "home". She had a right to feel unsafe and scared. But now after three years her brain is still in self preservation mode. She is just trying to survive the only way she knows how and that comes out as defiance and disruptive behavior to any passer by. But it really is the only way she knows how to express herself. As a mother you just want to protect them and take their pain away but for her we need to address these issues or things aren't gonig to get any better. Its no secret for those of us who know us personally that Rosie and I's relationship has its ups and downs. I just can't make her happy. She knew how to push my buttons and I didn't have the tools or knowledge on how to help "us". There are many a nights I go to bed crying thinking that I don't know what to do. I perceived this behavior as a defiant attitude put towards me and that it was all behavioral. While she was lashing out at me and stomping her feet and slamming doors, I was fearful for the girl she was becoming. I would give her things to help, but that didn't help. I would give her attention, but that was only temporary until I helped Gigi tie her shoe and Rosie would be upset again. So many times she would get me to my breaking point and I would find myself yelling at her... hating every word that was coming out of my mouth. And for those of you who judge.... I never thought I would be that mom. I can't for the life of me remember my mom yelling at me that's not how I was raised and there I was standing in front of my daughter yelling regretting it with every word spoken. Overwhelmed and knowing that our little battle back and forth was going no where, I called for help.... healing for both of us is on its way!

This past weekend Rosie and I went back to our adoption agency to go through a little bit of "therapy" to help start to heal her brain. All that behavior, the hoarding of food, the lashing out, the failure to communicate (are you singing Guns and Roses in your head now?) it was the only way she knew how to survive and communicate. Her survival skills before coming into our lives had taught her what she needed to survive. Now that she has us her brain hasn't learned how to let someone else take care of her and depend on a mom and dad. Her brain defiantly needs to heal and she needs to learn how to express herself especially when she is "deregulated" (nervous, anxious, scared, mad, etc.). When she gets anxious it comes out in anger or hurtful words in which I had perceived as behavioural issues and likely addressed accordingly by lecturing her (to no avail) or putting her in timeout or punishing her by taking things/privileges away. My parenting is just what I had learned from my childhood, remembering how I was parented or witnessing how my brother and sister in law raised their children. Parenting is something that you just acquire from watching people do it "right" or watching people do it "wrong". Those who you see doing it wrong you make a mental note not to do that! But every child is different. I had no clue growing up and watching someone parent being childless myself, it was easy to make a comment like "can you believe what she is doing?" or "Can't they quiet their child?" or my favorite "Can you believe her mom let her go out in that?" I take responsibility for spreading my "parenting wisdom" a few times before I had kids. I was so naive. You have no clue the history/relationship/style in which that other parent is making their family work...... okay sorry for the rant. So learning alot of knowledge about the traumatized brain from our GREAT adoption agency director was so enlightening. It was so encouraging and overwhelming at the same time. Rosie received a "toolbox" of items that she can use to help regulate and work through problems she has. My biggest concern now is using these tools in a healing way and having the time to really give Rosie the attention she needs. Sadly her brain isn't going to heal overnight and I am still learning alot and need to realize everyday that Rosie is just trying to survive with the skills that she has. It is my goal now to give her new skills to handle situations so that she can be happy.

I know this blog is a little more personal than I planned it, but I just felt the need to put my thoughts out there. If anyone can learn what to do or what not to do than I have served a purpose. Parenting is not easy. You can't read a book and get all the answers, trust me I have read hundreds of books and that has never solved the problem. It is hard to admit that things aren't perfect behind the scenes, but it is so much more important for my kids to be safe, than what other people think. Every mothers wish is that their children feel safe and loved. I have modified this wish to ask for the gift of my daughter's healing. I don't want her past to define her, I want the past to make her stronger. This may take time, years maybe, but I am doing my best to help her and will do anything for her. I think when you are waiting to adopt you don't anticipate some of the battles you have to go through. When you give birth and that percious pink bundle is placed in yoru arms you feel that they are a piece of you instantly. For me and Rosie that "moment" wasn't right away. It took her 13 days to even say the word "mom" and even then I don't think she totally understood what that meant. 46 days in from our placement I remember when she hugged me for the first time without me asking for a hug and that was a priceless moment. God placed her in my life and she has been one of my biggest blessings I only hope that I can give her what she needs.

I learned so much and I don't think we even touched the surface of her traumatized brain, but I will keep working and researching until I am blue in the face to make my daughter happy. A mother's love is stronger than anything and I plan on showing Rosie that!!! I may have been doing it all wrong before, but now I can change and be the mommy that she needs.
I hope to write more about Rosie's tools and share more about the traumatized brain,but let me see how these things go. We have been using some of the regulatory techniques for 5 days now and I see improvement.. but this is going to be a long process. It's amazing how easy it is to traumatize a brain but how long it will take to heal. The good news is that it can heal.

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