Thursday, 28 December 2017
Saturday, 29 July 2017
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
I think the whole concept of growing up is scary and I don't want it to happen, however I'm very excited to move on and see what the future holds. I'm worried of how my AD may change me and how I'll respond to situations. This blog has gotten a lot of response and I'm so happy to see it helping many of you with children or friends that struggle with it.
As a part of AD my sister will have regressive panic attacks or meltdowns (you may recognise this in your child) Around 2 years ago I started getting panic attacks and while they aren't as full on as my sisters, I can empathise and describe the feeling. As parents reading this you may not have much understanding of it, or you may know a lot!
There are different ways of comforting a child with AD if they are having a panic attack or regressive one. When I get panic attacks I often look at my brain as one big room with lots of filing cabinets in. Now a normal brain has grey filing cabinets in. All of the files in order, maybe a few disordered files and a couple of draws in the wrong cabinet. However this is fine. I see my brain as filing cabinets, they're grey, with attachment disorder there's always at least 2-3 cabinets which are muddled and wrong and messy. This is a normal AD brain. When children with AD experience regressive panic attacks their brains filing cabinets are always open, the draws are mixed and the files are constantly flying around out of the boxes, when this is happening they are panicking and trying to re-order every filing cabinet and put the files back in however this doesn't always work and they panic even more. It can create a feeling of chaos and unsettling nerves and constant high alert or vigilance or sometimes the feeling of suffocation (I feel this, you can breathe! You just feel a very heavy weight) I use this idea to help me express what it's like and it often works.
Now, comforting a child or anyone when they're having one of these is hard as they can't always tell you what they want. It's confusing and can sometimes leave them empty, numb, tired, sad or angry and confused. They cannot communicate straight away, don't assume anything, sit next to them and stay quiet until they speak or move. If they move away or closer they may need comfort or just time alone and some quiet space to re order their brain.
When I have a panic attack I sometimes feel better if I'm left alone but the majority of the time having someone hugging me tightly works well as the feeling of closeness is comforting. It's important that you try not to display any negative emotion after they've had a regressive panic attack as it can make them feel like they're in the wrong. Give them chance to calm down and become neutral again before talking things over, it can be frustrating but is best as it assures the child feels happy and the environment can feel calm and safe again.
Sunday, 11 June 2017
I've started getting people through my door for Reiki which is fantastic. Even more fantastic is that many of the people who have come are recommending me to others. Rome wasn't built in a day and it takes time to establish a new business so I'm having to find avenues for advertising and keep my dream of offering Reiki at an affordable price to as many people as possible. I'm hoping and praying that people will come but am very realistic about the time and effort it will take so I'm also typing and transcribing as well. I'm reminded of the saying about the man asking God repeatedly to win the lottery and after six months of listening God asks the man to buy flippin a lottery ticket. You have to be in it to win it and make your own effort to succeed. This has been my dream for years and I have to give it a go otherwise I'll always wonder.
So, as you can see, life has just been too busy to write. There's been stuff going on as there always is. Some good and some more challenging. Katie is making fantastic progress at school. Her concentration and work output is improving. I'm putting it down in part to a little maturity and also to learning to drum as part of her Rocksteady band. She's quite the little drummer, so much so that she's now doing vocals and drumming at the same time. She's also just been selected for gymnastics squad which involves training three times a week. We couldn't be prouder of her achievement because it took a massive amount of bravery on her part to even try out for squad. She missed the first deadline because she got so stressed about the decision. Luckily she had another chance, a big part of that I think is the belief that her coach has in her. Her coach really gets Katie due to a shared background and supports her a lot. The results are a much more confident gymnast who has just passed her Bronze Fitness badge! The training is having a fantastic impact on her sleeping. Last night she slept for 12 hours straight and has her first sore muscles, poor thing. I couldn't do what the squad kids do in their conditioning sessions. I doubt I'd get out of bed ever again!!! We had a panic blip where her low self esteem, FASD anxiety and fixed thinking took hold and mixed itself up with a massive dose of "I can't do it!". We rode the crescendo of her worry and had a change of plan about who was taking her to her second session so she felt secure and a weary smile with pink cheeks was found when I collected her, her enthusiasm and confidence restored. One of the things I find very challenging with Katie is having to force her to ride through her anxiety and out the other side where she realises she can do it. When you're faced with rigid thinking on the matter I feel like I'm the most evil parent in the world for urging her forward. She cannot see for herself the confidence I have in her and, like many of us, fights against the urge to stay where she feels safe. Most of what she said to me about it was unrepeatable. Holding onto confidence in my parenting strategy is challenging, as is staying calm in the heat of the storm of conflicting emotions thrown at me. We've come through it though and the other side of the storm is happier.
Pip is emotional in the extreme currently as he prepares to leave pre-school and start big school. Excitement at the step forward is mixed with sadness at leaving and a regression to babyhood and probably revisiting the trauma of being adopted. He's crawling and talking baby talk; screaming and shouting and pretending to be a dog a lot of the time. He's still not entirely dry and stress exacerbates that. Lots of sleep, cuddles, close time and firm boundaries are helping but these are accompanied by a relentless waft of pee and lots of shouting; throwing stuff and hysterical crying. The summer term is rarely easy.
I'm hoping to get back to writing a bit more as I settle into a rhythm of working and attempting housework around that. Once Pip starts school I will have more time to play with and that will be a new era for me. After a seven year break from working it's an adjustment in many ways. I like the feeling of doing something that is about who I intrinsically am as a person and my dreams though.
In other news keep a watch out because we will have a new feature here on the blog as the lovely RB who is an adoptee soon to start college who will be writing about her experiences of having an attachment disorder and her life as a young adopted person. I'm very excited to be able to share some of her very honest, eloquent and powerful writing. I'm learning so much about my own children from what she writes and I have no doubt that everyone who reads my blog will find her thoughts very beneficial.
Well, that's it from me for the moment. The crazy is building here again as Katie is haranguing me over setting up my old phone fir her to use and anyone with a child (and especially a child with FASD) knows that fixed mind thinking is very hard to ignore. This will all be achieved with the background noise of Pip thumping the drums and hollering something Ed Sheeran related at the top of his voice.
I chose a great time to give up wine and chocolate didn't I?
Sunday, 12 February 2017
Anyone travelling on the "my child has a difficulty" road will know that accessing support is patchy at best. Parents have to be dedicated and persistent in their accessing services role in order to make any headway. Progress is generally slow, intermittent, confusing and frustrating. As a parent you have to be the expert before you see an expert otherwise you run the risk of being fobbed off or branded as a neurotic parent or, even worse, being labeled the actual problem itself. When, as in our case, your child is able to present themselves well at school it is a challenge to describe the child you see at home when this is the polar opposite of their experience of them.
This week we've had appointments with our paediatrician and also with the generally illusive CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Appointments are like buses it seems, you wait six months and two and a half come along at the same time. Both brought frustrations and meant Katie missed chunks of school for little gain. After trialling both Ritalin and Strattera and discovering that, like many other children with FASD, they had no effect on Katie other than to give her awful mood swings (Strattera) we had the news that there was nothing else our Paediatrician could prescribe for Katie. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some drug hunting wild eyed parent seeking to medicate her child unnecessarily. I've had enormous reservations about giving a young child medication but after the success of the melatonin we wanted to see if we could help Katie just calm down from a sensory perspective. Nothing is worth the mood swings she experienced though. When she started to refuse to take the Strattera I have to admit I didn't push too hard for her to continue. They took a good while to wear off as well which was perfect timing for Christmas!
Our next port of call is CAMHS. I had an appointment there about six months ago and was told we would be referred onto a parenting programme for children with ADHD. This is run by a service external to CAMHS so my understanding was we needed referring by an agency. Oh no, it transpires that we could have self referred six months ago and no referral has been made (do CAMHS actually ever do anything?). I re-read the letter I was sent after the appointment which mentions the service but at no point does it say we should refer ourselves or provide referral details. There's another six months wasted then! I've since contacted the agency to discover there's a waiting list of at least six months so effectively it's a wasted year in total. It was an uncomfortable experience at CAMHS, last time I went alone but this time I took Katie. Talking about Katie and her behaviour with her there made us both feel awkward. Katie told me afterwards she doesn't want people knowing about what goes on at home. I explained to her that we can't get help if we don't tell people what's happening. She hates people knowing about her behaviour though. She can be mid rant as we leave our house and will stop the second she steps outside the front door, smiling and pretending nothing has been happening. I suspect other parents reading this will understand her need to fit in and not draw attention to herself. I was as honest as possible with the therapist and watched Katie show her displeasure in the drawings she distracted herself by doing. I felt uncomfortable because, despite being a trained counsellor myself, I still hate the whole listening and not responding schtick of the psychodynamic approach. It pushes my insecurities like an internal nuclear button and I always end up talking too much to fill the silences. I sat there feeling all my anxieties about being a crap parent surfacing and spilling over, feeling as exposed and vulnerable as my daughter clearly was. It's a leap of faith really when you bare your soul. The question is always hanging as to whether it will be worth it. Will the gain outweigh the pain? Will the story be understood? Is help at hand? Is someone actually going to offer us some support?
When our hour was up the therapist said that she felt we would benefit from going on the afore mentioned parenting course. I'm happy to go but it seems their answer to everything is a parenting course. Katie has specific issues impacted by her ARND that are similar but not exactly like ADHD. Her hyperactivity is caused by external sensory overstimulation not by an inner overstimulation. She suffers from low self esteem and anxiety. Anxiety is common for children under the FASD umbrella. How we manage it is still a mystery to be solved. One thing we have been offered (if we're considered suitable) is a support group that is being set up locally for the parents of anxious children. I'll jump at the chance suspecting that, as always, other parents will probably be more help than anyone wearing a professional cap. Katie has been offered a "few sessions" with the therapist. I'm a little unclear as to what is going to happen in these other than it's to help with her anxiety. Katie is going to see the therapist on her own. This makes me wonder whether this is a good idea. I spent time working with older children on their own but Katie is only 9 and I'm concerned about how she's going to feel and also whether she will be able to talk honestly or even show her insecurities. Her hyperactivity was well displayed in the appointment but her aggressive reactions mostly saved for display at home. I was reading recently that the practice of seeing adopted children on their own was being questioned as to it's efficacy so I might chat to other adoptive parents and contact CAMHS prior to the appointment to ask more about this. I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions from other parents or professionals reading this post.
The reason for saying two and a half appointments earlier in this post was because after 18 months of chasing we finally have an appointment with the Educational Psychologist in March. I chased the referral up with the Head of Katie's school last week only to discover she thought I was making the referral myself. Oh if it were that easy! Are the budgetary implications really so great that nobody wants to refer? CAMHS wouldn't! GP wouldn't! Adoption Support Fund doesn't fund it yet it is one of the most key pieces of information to gain for a child with any learning challenges. So, finally we have a date in the diary. At the moment I feel like all I'm doing is pushing, pushing, pushing for referrals but I'm so concerned that if we don't get to grips with all these issues now we will lose the moment to act and as quick as the blink of an eye she will no longer be in Year 4 and will start secondary school and get lost in a world where student support is very hit and miss and highly dependent on good internal communication and the willingness for a staffing body to work together in the interests of the child. My pre-adoptive parent professional role was offering student support in secondary and college settings and I know first hand how challenging it can be to coordinate support for a pupil. Trying to explain FASD so far has been 5 years of my voice being unheard because Katie presents so well at school. It is only in the past few weeks that the gaps in her maths learning and comprehension are finally being understood and explored. I've been beating the maths deficit drum since Year 1 evidently having silencers on my drum sticks. Maybe a pair of size 11 hobnail boots would have been more use. Still we're getting there (I hope). Slow steps but at least they're moving forwards.
We're having some success at home with the ongoing zero tolerance policy. I've put house rules up on the wall and any breaking of the rules has a swift, relevant, consequence. No warnings. No opportunities to argue or negotiate terms are given. Katie is on an ongoing iPad ban until she stops swearing and hitting for a month. I'm quite liking this ban as she's going to sleep earlier now. The longest she's managed so far was 6 days. I'm holding on firm and resolute on this one. A week of no swearing earns her a few goes on Slither.I.O as a sweetener and encouragement but that's it. She seems to be watching rather a lot of Sam and Cat and Victorious instead but also she has discovered a love of reading which highlights her new ability to spend time alone and also sit and concentrate for longer periods of time which is a fantastic step forward and highlights more brain development.
So all in all we are making some progress. I just hope these appointments are worth it for all of us.
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Resilience is like an elastic band or a rubber ball. You can stretch so far before it pings you back with a snap to reality. It keeps you from going over the edge. It's an important key to the survival of trauma. The bouncebackability. It's a bit like the story of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise keeps going and going until he reaches the end of the race. Resilience keeps your feet taking each step, walking towards optimism. As someone who has experienced trauma and loss and suffered with challenges to her mental health throughout the years as a result I remain ever curious about mental stability and optimism and resilience. I believe that mental stability is tightly intertwined with optimism and resilience, well it certainly has been that way for me.
The other thing that fascinates me is how our layers of mental health peel away throughout our lives. Just when we think we know who we are circumstance peels away another layer bringing more learning and more healing. A period of stability is like a reprieve before the next layer is peeled, or ripped, away leaving you raw and finding ways to smooth the edges again. Mental health is something we fear in our culture. We talk about it in hushed voices. We brush feelings under the carpet in a desperate attempt to cling hold of normality and stability. We see mental illness as a weakness, something to apologise for, something to hide from other people. The inevitable crash when it comes from hiding all those feelings is often a surprise. What I've learned in my life is that crisis, healing and learning come in waves. Some of the waves are like tsunamis and some are ripples. The important thing is to never delude yourself that you are healed. Being healed implies a journey that is completed, a final destination, an end game.
We are sold an ideal of reaching self actualisation, the pinnacle of self learning but maybe self actualisation comes with acceptance. Being able to accept that we are an onion, ever peeling, ever learning, ever changing and riding those waves with the knowledge that each wave teaches us more about who we are, who we were born to be, what we are here to learn about being human. Not being fully healed doesn't mean you can't still be happy either. As adoptive parents we live in a world brimming with trauma. Our trauma, our children's trauma. We may be well on the way to healing our own trauma but slowly they intertwine like laced fingers and it's hard to see where one stops and the other one starts. It offers empathy but can also bring out the worst in us all as we react and take on their trauma and come to understand our own triggers. We see our darker side and that of our children more than we care to admit.
One thing I've learned in my life is that I have resilience in bucket loads. It came as a flash of realisation recently. It's something I've always had. Is it just my personality or is it something more? Personality does play a part but for me it's being able to hang on to the love I experience from my Grandmother. In the never ending storm that was my earlier years she stood there and loved me. She loved with without fanfare or requests for recognition. She gave me the biggest gift a person can give, unconditional love. I didn't know that during the turbulence of my childhood. It is only with the wisdom and clarity age has brought that I can see my life and the experiences that shaped me along the way. I can see the gift she gave me and how it gave me a layer of protection. I also had the ability to tune everything out. Nowadays we would recognise that as an insecure attachment disorder but don't knock it. That kept me safe throughout my childhood until I was mature enough to peel that layer away. Actually I've discovered there is more than one layer to examine on that subject but I keep that wave in mind and get out my surf board when the waves build up. Becoming a parent to adopted children has ripped a few layers off just at a time in my life when I thought I'd peeled and examined most of them. It turns out I had some big layers still left to deal with and being a parent was necessary to face some of the big ones. I fought them with my armour of optimism. I've been brought to my knees as I've faced some of the darker elements to myself. The ones I swore I'd never be but trauma and fear does that. It sneaks into you and impacts on your reactions. I've had to face the demons my own abusive childhood as my daughter expresses her anger. Unresolved trauma sees fear in many situations. Living with that violent anger taught me I'm still afraid of anger, my anger, her anger so it was time to peel that layer off and get to work in it. Learning to pause and feel and hold my inner child before reacting is an ongoing lesson that I'm really getting to grips with. I thought I'd dealt with that issue but my daughter has taught me that there was more work yet to do. I've had a few light bulb moments and I've also started to learn I have to accept that this never ending personality peel is part of the journey.
Thursday, 19 January 2017
I use this blog as a way of expressing how I'm feeling and making sense of what is going on in our lives. I share our lives and feelings now as a matter of course. I hope that at times it helps other people who are thinking of becoming adopters or who are maybe struggling with adopted life. Mostly I work my own stuff out. I write about everything, not to moan or complain but simply to share and try and make some sense of what is going on in our lives. It helps me enormously to just sit and write and I often find a sense of clarity by the time I have completed the blog piece. At the very least I'm usually breathing a little more calmly by the time I've finished writing. Over the past few years life has been very chaotic in the Life with Katie family for a variety of reasons, some of which I share here. For me chaos is very difficult. I like a more ordered life. My own childhood left me with a profound need for order. I can try and soar on the wind when I have to but mostly I prefer to know when the wind is going to blow.
Probably not the best personality type for having two crazy children and four cats and an often disorganised husband and a universe hell bent on throwing all it can at me.
I muddle through as best I can. I am a habitual over-analyser so I drive myself to the point of exhaustion questioning my reactions and feelings. Growing up in a house where chaos reigned and exaggerated emotions were shared daily left me nervous of big, out of control emotions.
Then we adopted Katie and Pip and our house and my life is now a plethora of big, out of control emotions. Many of them belong to the children and many of them belong to me.
I get on with it. I deal with it. I manage as best I can with it. I eat too much chocolate on the days when it's really difficult and I drink more wine in the evenings than I have ever have in my adult life. I shout more than I would like and this is one of my biggest issues I am desperate to sort out. I know I'm not alone. I know it's not ideal but really, you try living in our house and never get so frustrated you could literally drive away and book yourself into a hotel for a week! Arguments can literally break out before I've opened my eyes from a vaguely restful sleep some mornings and I feel adrenaline course through my veins before the dream of a cup of tea has even formed.
Is it must me or is that easier said than done?
I remember reading Bryan Post talking about the blueprint that we are given as children about parenting. Our parents parented us with the blueprint of a garden shed whilst being sold the ideal of living in a castle. I think about this often because of that ongoing irritation with myself of not being able to rewrite my blueprint sufficiently to enable my children to get the blueprint they need for their future lives. How much therapy does one adoptive parent need for heaven's sake?
I've been feeling a shift just lately though. A desire to say to hell with all these parenting books and
the fear of failure they instill. To hell with being able to solve all their problems in a month. It's unachievable. We have to be ready for the long haul flight, not the quick hop across the channel. As adopters we spend our lives trying to help our children overcome their own fears yet we seem to be doing it in a desperate swim against the tide of our own fear. What's that all about? Just as regular parents are bombarded with an onslaught of "this is how you do it" parenting books I fear adoption parenting is heading the same way. That's not to say some knowledge doesn't help and isn't desperately needed and I'm grateful for all the pioneering authors out there but sadly I feel the benchmark they set often isn't achievable either at all or without the right support from the right services. Therein lies the rub as they say. Mental Health services in the UK are very under-supported by the government. I almost laughed uncontrollably at the new Prime Minister's plans to add more money to community mental health support which amounted to effectively 97p per person! That won't even buy you a bar of chocolate let alone the ongoing support which we so desperately need.
One thing I do know though is that I will continue to write about it in this blog and probably continue to chase my tail for some considerable time to come. You're very welcome to join with me and continue to share your thoughts on my ramblings!
Thank you for all of those who do contact me and share your stories and thoughts and suggestions. It is wonderful to link in with you all and helps me as much as I know this blog can help others at times too. We are a wonderful community and supporting each other is something we do well. xx