Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Beyond Ourselves

This job is hard – really awfully draining and stressful hard sometimes. Over the past seven years of raising kids who are healing from horrific trauma, I have learned I cannot do this alone. Choosing a life as a trauma mama is the greatest challenge and the greatest on-going question of my life. Why these kids? Why me? Why hubby? Why our bio boys? Would I choose any differently if I could go back in time to that day I began all the paperwork that would take two and a half years to complete before we could travel to Eastern Europe and bring these kids home? How has this changed me? (Because it indeed has changed me.)

Few people totally get those questions. Not all adoptive moms get those questions. Some have different questions or more questions. I think the one we all have in common, though, is “how has this changed me?”

I am fundamentally changed. I am no longer the person I was in 2005 when I began this journey and certainly no longer the person I was on June 14, 2007, the day before I left to adopt my two youngest children. When I'm down or being hard on myself, I see the things that have changed that are not for the better. And there are things that are not for the better. When I'm optimistic (usually after I've had a break from what has become my new normal) I can see the things that have changed for the better. I can see where God has worked in my life and in the lives of the people in this family. I can see how He's used me to help others. Frankly, the former happens more often than the latter. That is why it is SO very important to get outside ourselves and to have connections with other women who know what this walk feels like.

For this reason, I am so thankful for my trauma mama friends met through blogging and through Facebook. I am also thankful for the two trauma mama friends I have locally who are also adoptive moms and with whom I attend church. I'm leaving the house to go have a cup of tea with one of them in just a little while, so I'm writing this quickly! These breaks are necessary retreats for me. My kids are doing much better than they ever have but really, a lot of it is because I've also gotten used to the things that aren't really normal to most other families. They're just our normal now. Still, I need the retreat and I need to be with other women who get it.

If you're a trauma mama or papa reading this (and I'm guessing you probably are because that's who reads this blog usually), then I cannot stress to you how very important it is to make connections with someone – whether online or locally – who gets it. It doesn't have to be someone just your age with a kid from a situation just like yours. Trauma does the same kind of stuff to the brain even if the circumstances are different. It just needs to be someone who's going to be there for you and someone you can also be there for when times are tough. It needs to be someone you can laugh with and talk to. It especially needs to be someone who will not judge you when your kid has a reaction – or when you have a secondary reaction to post trauma.

If you don't know where to start, start with me. Reach out and send me a comment. If you don't want it published, say so (comments are not automatically published on this blog – I have to approve them first). You can use the comment as a sort of PM. You can also email me at TraumaMamaT at the big scary gmail email thing. Just reach out. I may not be able to be everyone's best friend, but I will try my best to support you in any way I can. I will also try to help you find resources and friends who get this life.

I've found support in groups of trauma mamas. I have a special connection to Hope Rising and you can find more information by clicking their logo in the upper right hand of my blog page or by going HERE. This is a growing group and they do retreats in the fall. Who knows? Maybe we'll have one in the southern Midwest next year? For this year, though, there are still a few spots open in some of the retreats including Arizona and Utah. Retreats run Sept. 24-28 this year.

There is also the Beyond Trauma & Attachment (BeTA) group and you can find information about them at http://www.momsfindhealing.com/ I have met dozens of fantastic moms through this group and was also privileged to attend their retreat in 2013 in Orlando, Florida. What a lovely break from winter temperatures where I live to be in 70's and 80's in Florida in March!

Other groups, retreats and conferences are available. I would love to attend a conference with Dr. Karyn Purvis and Empowered to Connect. This is a Christian-faith based, but clinically sound therapeutic parenting method. There is a lot of good training available for parents raising attachment challenged kids of all ages at these conferences. I just haven't personally been able to afford to go to one yet.

There's also the conferences through Parenting in S.P.A.C.E. I know several moms and dads who attend these conferences.

My point is find someone to walk with. Start with another mom or dad. Connect through a blog, through Facebook or IRL (in real life). Then grow that circle by becoming part of a group, whether a formal non-profit 501C3 like Hope Rising or BeTA, or a group of friends who meet for coffee every so often. Learn. Attend a conference or take a therapeutic parenting class. Then teach. Be here for the ones coming up behind us or who are struggling along side us.

No one group has all the answers or can be all things for any one of us. Not one of us has all the answers. Together, however, we can be pretty amazing and much stronger. – Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:7)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Where have you been, Trauma Mama T?

Almost a year. That's how long it's been since I last wrote anything here. A lot can happen in that amount of time and, well, it has. Frankly, I don't know where to begin. Even following my freshman English comp teacher's advise to “pick one thing and tell us everything” isn't working very well. How do I pick ONE thing?

I am scattered. I've fought depression this year. I am t.i.r.e.d. There's that. People looking in from the outside would think things are going pretty well. Even people who know the things we've been through this last year seem to think that. If they think any differently, they're not saying so. Well, except for a couple of you. A couple of you know better – and you know who you are, you two. I am beyond thankful that you see with spirit eyes and loving hearts and I cannot wait to hug you both again.

When I last wrote, The Princess was preparing for her first year of high school. She had high anxiety and so did I. When my father-in-law died in May 2013, she sneaked off to “make out” with a boy at the elementary school playground where we live. Her older brothers, who were left to hold down the fort while Hubby and I traveled out of state for the funeral, were frantic. She just disappeared and no one knew where she was or why she was gone. It was a first for her. So far, it's been the only time she's done something like that. She said she learned her lesson and doesn't want to do that kind of thing to any of us ever again. (We were scared. The police were involved looking for her.) I want to believe it, but the beginning of high school had me worried. Thankfully, she made it through her freshman year pretty well. Ended up with a high GPA and will be taking an Advanced Placement course in 10th grade. (Not bad for someone who didn't even speak English 7 years ago and had the equivalent of a preschool education at the age of nine.) She just turned 16 a few weeks ago. I am still anxious. Maybe more so. Secondary PTSD and hyper-vigilance are REAL, folks and I have them.

I want so much for this girl. Right now, I'd be very happy if she matured a bit and acted more like 16 than an attention-hungry four-year-old, but she's usually pleasant to be around. So that's good. I love her so much but she drives me absolutely bonkers. She knows it and thinks it's funny. Thankfully though, I also know she loves me, too. So does she. That's a real gift when you've been through the kinds of attachment stuff we've been through. She has healed a lot. (Maybe that's why I see just how far she has yet to go?)

As for Youngest Son, he will be 19 in just a few weeks. He will also be a senior in high school this year. He is getting by at school, taking the very basic courses he needs to take in order to graduate. He does indeed struggle very much academically and has no real desire to learn anything more than he already knows. Yet, he has plans for his future (admittedly, much “inspired” by his father and I). He needs to buckle down in some areas. For his sake and for ours, he will be out of our home (one way or the other) within a month after his high school graduation. (There is much I'm leaving out here, obviously. Those who know us know why.) Still with all that, he's also doing better than he ever has. He doesn't push the envelope with me as much anymore and is sticking to the family rules on a lot of things. Of course, he has also lost a lot of privileges (things we paid for) over the last year due to his choices to challenge those rules. Whether he agrees with us or not, he knows that at least WE need those rules to make OUR family run smoothly. Frankly though, there's a lot we've just given up on trying to teach him. If he makes a stupid choice in the community, he's of age now and he knows he's on his own. That shows some maturing on his part and for that we are thankful. He is working as an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant. He has a routine. Routine is essential for our guy. It is healing for him. He has come a long way.

As for losses, in addition to losing my father-in-law last May, my own Dad also died as the result of an accident late last October. I am still grieving. I'm doing okay most of the time, but sometimes something will happen or someone will say something and the pain of his loss is searing. With his passing also comes the loss of my childhood home. It's just a house now and it doesn't belong to our family anymore.

Last September, I took a job as a family advocate working with child victims of crime. On April 4th, I was fired from that job for no reason. Really. No reason was given. I have yet to be given any reason officially and only have “he said/she said” reasons. One is that the soon-to-retire director was close to being fired by the board of directors herself and she threw me under the bus because she didn't want me finding more of her mistakes when she left. (This is a plausible reason as this person suddenly, during her last month or so in the position, began cutting off my responsibilities and starting making me do things that she later told me I should not have done. I was in the process of a project going through literally hundreds of records to find DOZENS of them that had been incorrectly entered into the data base system by the previous family advocate and were never caught.) Another reason is that two local cops decided they didn't like me and complained about me to the sheriff. (This is also plausible as there are two cops on our police department's force that wouldn't crack a smile at me if I handed them XXXX – fill in the blank with whatever sounds really great to you -- on a silver platter. I don't know what their problem is but a couple of cops not liking me is no reason to fire me.)

I live in a very strange, very small Midwest town. There is a culture here like no town in which I've ever lived before, and I've lived a lot of places. There is a distinct divide among people groups. Cliques really. If you're not from here, it's very difficult to find a place to fit in. Plus, after you've been fired, it is pretty much impossible to find a job anywhere else – at least doing anything professionally. Everything and everyone are connected. I can't even get an interview. And I won't lie. How do you answer the question “Why were you fired?” when you were never given any real reason WHY. You just were.

I did hear one interesting thing from one of the therapists on our county's multidisciplinary team about a month after I was let go. This person said, “I never heard any reason why either. No one's talking about it. It's just like you've disappeared.” Funny, that's exactly how I've been made to feel. Disappeared. It too, is a searing loss. Not that I'd EVER go back or have anything else to do with these people in that capacity. I have been deeply hurt by this. If someone just had the balls (yes, I said “balls” - twice now) to tell me what really happened I might be able to deal with it better, but no one ever has. I was never actually disciplined for anything. It is true I made a couple of mistakes in the early months of my tenure, but who doesn't make minor mistakes when they're learning a new job? It was stuff related to procedure and protocol – personal preferences of individuals – and how the heck are you supposed to “just know” that? Those were corrected. I was never written up for anything. There was nothing for which I could have been written up! It was a matter of a lack of training in some areas – not my fault – actually my boss's fault ultimately. But again, those mistakes were about the preferences of individuals – like those two cops - not about anything that hurt anyone. The parents and the kids loved me. One drew a cartoon of me as a super hero a week before I was fired. In fact, two weeks before I was fired, the sheriff pulled me aside and told me what a great job I was doing. Go figure. I hope the two cops and my now retired, almost fired, boss are happy.

Also now, our tri-county area does not have a trauma-trained, certified parenting class facilitator. (This was something I did in addition to my family advocate's position.) Not that I can't be replaced in that area, but for now there's no trauma-focused parenting classes in our area. And there could be. And there's a need. I suppose I could do classes on my own or through my church as a ministry, and maybe I will some day. But for now, the wind is out of my sails. I've been beat up a bit too much. These people will likely never know exactly what they did to me. If they did, I wonder if they'd care.

Now, I don't want this post to be a “pity me” thing. I'll be okay. In fact, I'm more okay than I was a couple of months ago. I have some really GREAT things I'm looking forward to over the next several months. First of all, I'm heading to a Hope Rising retreat for moms of kids from tough places – mom's raising kids with traumatic pasts. (If you're interested, read more about those retreats HERE. There are still a few spots left.) I'm very blessed as I wouldn't be able to afford this retreat on my own because things are a little tight financially since I lost my job. I was gifted the retreat cost by some folks who care about me. I'm very, very blessed by this. I just have to get myself there – and I am definitely getting myself there!

I also have my first grand-baby on his or her way! Our oldest son and his wife of four years will become parents some time around Christmas. We are beyond thrilled! (If you're a praying person, I ask for your prayers for a healthy, safe delivery for mom and a healthy, full-term baby.)

I am looking forward to Youngest Son's high school graduation and #4 bio son's college graduation. Plus, #3 bio son was married earlier this year and his wife is also graduating from college with our #4 bio son. Life is still very good even in the midst of all the loss we've experienced since I wrote here last.

I hope you understand that in dealing with the losses I just haven't been much for writing. I hope you'll forgive me and stick around. I do hope to write again soon – helpful stuff. Stuff that you can use. Stuff that teaches. That's what I want this blog to really be about. Death happens. Life happens.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, August 12, 2013

Starting High School

The Princess goes back to school in ten days.  Ten.  1 – 0.  10!  I cannot wait.

She, on the other hand, is as anxious as anxious can be.  Poor thing.  I know in my head what it’s all about.  Starting high school for any neuro-typical kid is hard enough.  Add trauma and developmental / social delays (a.k.a. immaturity beyond the immaturity of a NT kid) and we’re right on the edge around here.

Anyone else in these shoes? 

On one hand I can hardly wait to get her out of here and back in school for 8.5 hours a day.  On the other, I’m anxious for her, too.  And on the third hand (trauma mamas need at least 3 hands), I’m scared to death wondering whether or not she’ll pull some really big and really scary stuff now that she’s getting older.

For now, I’m dealing with a 15-year-old who behaves like she’s four and wants the privileges of a young adult.  She’s stupid lying and giving plenty of bad attitude.  She’s defiant and moody.  She’s a big ol’ pain in the butt.  And before anyone reminds me she’s a teenager, let me remind you she is my SIXTH child.  Plus, I was a challenging 15 year old.  I know how a witchy hormonal teenager behaves.  I know it’s not pretty even for NT kids.  My kid is not an NT kid.  This is different.  I’m not just blowing steam or venting or whatever you want to call it.  I’m writing because this is part of trauma parenting and despite what the Staples commercials say, this isn’t necessarily a trauma parent’s “most wonderful time of the year.”

I’m writing it to remind myself.

I’m writing it because I need to remember there’s more going on than just my kid being a pain in the tushy.

She’s scared and she doesn’t know it.  She can’t identify it. 

She told me the other day, “I’m sorry I acted like that.  I just get so ‘mad’ sometimes and I don’t even know why.”

I know why, baby.  And I am so sorry you went through what you went through.  I will try to remember you’ve been through more than I can even still imagine and I will try to catch myself and control my own triggers.  (It’s no secret that I hate being lied to.)  I will try hard to stop, breathe and relax – like I remind you to do.  I will do that so I can help you stop, breathe and relax.  I will remind you how great you really are and how very far you’ve come.  I will tell you I believe in you and I will pray that I come to mean it in a way I don’t yet fully.  

I will pray that the LORD will bless you and keep you, that He will make His face shine upon you and that He will grant you His peace that passes all understanding, and certainly any understanding I may know.