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Showing posts with the label Mental Health

Blending families: Fairy's story

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Fairy was only five or six when we started the adoption process. We did what we could to prepare her, as you do, and being the beautiful, empathetic child that she is, she really got it. She instinctively understood about her future brother being worried, about having to teach him that we are kind, that we would look after him. That it would take a while for him to settle in. Throughout the process, both Husband and I, and various Social Workers periodically used to ask her if she had any questions, but she only ever had the one:
"How long will it take for us to get to know each other?"
She knew it was a question that couldn't be answered, obviously, but regardless, that was the thing she most wanted to know, and she held it clutched to her chest like a talisman. 
Fast-forward nearly four years, and she and I were chatting about this in the car, part way through our half term break. To me it feels like something has slightly shifted this week, like she is starting to find h…

Support: Why I want you to watch Three Girls

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Over the last three nights there's been a drama on BBC1 called 'Three Girls'.



Three Girls tells the story of three of the children involved in the Rochdale paedophile grooming investigation. I wasn't sure whether to watch it, initially. Considering what we're going through at the moment it was quite possible it would set me off crying for a week, or in to deep depression. In the end though I did; I'm not entirely sure why, but mostly I think because it's important to face things head on. The girls were brave enough to tell their stories, and they deserve to be listened to.

I'm glad I watched it. I want you to watch it too. I want all my friends to watch it.

It's taken me a good hour mulling it over to work out why that is. At first I thought perhaps I wanted people to see what it was like to have a different life. If I'm really honest, I'm pretty jealous of most of my friends at the moment. I see my Facebook newsfeed full of everyday problem…

All aboard the self-care shuttle!

My lovely Twitter friend Hannah Meadows wrote a great post about mental health for adoptive parents recently. (And I am *not* just saying that because she linked to a post of mine in it..!)

Mental Health has been right at the top of my list of priorities for the last couple of weeks. It's been odd, and it feels slightly weird to be consciously doing things for myself. Unfamiliar.

However, we have a LAC review on Thursday, and apart from anything else I want to show that we are active participants in the 'supporting Mum and Husband' club. I want Social Services to see that we are not giving up. (We are not. We decided the other night.)

[I know this is utterly the wrong reason to be doing things, and I don't really think it will make a blind bit of difference to Social Services, but I'll take motivation from wherever I can get it at the moment.]

I feel very strongly that self-care is absolutely vital for us to survive this. If we don't keep on top of this, our fa…

Saturday

Saturday started at 5am, as usual.

Husband took the early shift, also as usual. He seems to need less sleep than I do, and is also blessed with one of those brains that will switch off on demand, meaning he drops off within minutes of getting in to bed.

This particular morning we’d agreed the night before that Husband would definitely get up if it was any early one, as I’d been up early quite a lot of the week and was feeling tired to the point of not quite feeling safe to drive. Needless to say, I had then proceeded to wake up at half past four, half past six, and finally at quarter to eight – this time by the absolute racket that was coming from downstairs. Quite apart from the noise Tickle was making, Husband is normally very calm and softly-spoken, so the fact I could even hear his voice from upstairs was an indicator that something wasn’t right. The fact that his voice was saying “Tickle you are not allowed to head butt me” was an even bigger clue.

Thanks to Facebook messenger, I…

Reflections on this week

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It's been a funny old week. (By which I mean I have journeyed through the depths of howling despair and back again.)

Less than a week ago I genuinely thought we might have to disrupt. Weirdly, today I'm feeling more positive about things than I have done in quite some time. This has been achieved, I think, by a few significant shifts in the way I'm thinking.

The first was to do with self care, though actually it's more than that. We all know that we should look after ourselves, do nice things, make sure we get a break now and then. However, this week I realised that what self care actually means is placing my own needs on equal footing with those of my children. Or maybe even above them, sometimes.

For the last 18 months our entire household has been a slave to Tickle's emotions. He has blossomed under this approach, but the rest of us have suffered.  This week we gave ourselves permission to step away from him and focus on ourselves and each other, even at the ti…

The Key

I've had a really crap few days.

My friends reading this will know that I had a big event last weekend; an event I've spent all year working on, which hundreds of people came to, and something of which I am very proud. I honestly don't know how I got through it - the build up, the preparation, the event itself. I've got a team of amazing people working with me, but I'm the big boss, so the buck stops with me.

It's my favourite weekend of the year, usually, but this year I didn't enjoy it. I mean, I did - I smiled, I laughed, I saw my friends, I felt proud of it all... but it was like I was viewing it through a lens. I didn't feel connected. I could see everyone having a great time, but I couldn't get a hold of that deep down in your stomach happiness. I just felt a bit hollow.

I've been feeling this way for a while. Not all the time, certainly, but I have noticed a definite reluctance to connect with my deep down feelings. Sometimes it's bec…

Therapeutic parenting and CPV

I've been doing some thinking this evening.

I've not had a brilliant day today; nothing out of the ordinary - not our ordinary anyway - apart from the fact that I had a big work thing this weekend (the sort that is a year in the planning) and that I think all the holding-myself-together that I've been doing for the last few months came suddenly and spectacularly apart at the seams. I finally let myself think the unthinkable in a way I'd never really done before, and not only that I went and admitted it to both Tickle's Social Worker and our Adoption Social Worker.

So this evening I'm worn out, and I've got a hell of a headache from crying for six hours, but I do feel a tiny bit relieved to at least have got it out in the open. Our Social Worker was practical and solid. She asked questions and she took a lot of notes. We formulated a bit of a plan of what we were going to do over the next few days, and she's going to come and visit again next week. Tickl…

The Walnut under the Mountain

I'm drowning.

I'm in bed, at 10.30 on a Saturday morning, because I can't bring myself to get up and face the day. Face Him.

On Thursday afternoon, Tickle head butted me, full in the face. In the nose, actually. It was incredibly painful, and would have been even worse if I hadn't read his body language and reflexively started to move backwards. I suspect a trip to A&E would have been on the cards.

Since the incident, I haven't really spoken to him. Husband and Gran between them have picked up the slack, and I've not had to do much more than say goodnight.

I'm struggling with the idea of being in the same room as him. I was thinking earlier that he doesn't even feel like my son any more, though when I came to write it down I was relieved to find it didn't feel quite right. I do still have that tiny knot, deep in my stomach that connects me to him, though at the moment it feels like a walnut buried under a mountain.

Mostly at the moment he feels …

It's been a tough week

It's been a tough week for us, my Little Man.
A week in which you've pushed your sister down the stairs
Yet stroked her back while she lay coughing.
"It's ok, sweetheart" you said,
Not three days since launching a missile at her head.

It's been a tough week for us, my Little Man,
As your hard veneer at school has cracked
In spectacular fashion;
Hitting teachers
Throwing plates
Overturning tables and chairs
Pushing, shouting, spitting.

I see you, Little Man.
And I see the Monster you struggle with inside.
I see him rushing to protect you from the danger he senses
but doesn't really understand.

I see him in your board-stiff limbs.
I see him on guard in every vein
I see him shove your sweet nature aside without a second thought,
To attack, bite, spit, and claw
When he thinks he's the only thing
Keeping you safe.

It's been a tough week for us, my Little Man.
Your Monster is close, overpowering you.
Protecting you.
He screams, drowning out the raging …

The morning after

It's the morning after. I'm writing because I still haven't quite worked out how I'm feeling. I'm feeling ill, which doesn't help; my endo has flared up and my head feels fuggy from crying so much yesterday.

Husband took Tickle out for the day yesterday, while Fairy went to Gran's and I had a rehearsal for a gig I'm doing next month. The music helped, gave me a focus, but as soon as that had finished everything was waiting for me just under the surface.

Trying to get my head around what I'm feeling is so difficult. In terms of actual, physical harm done to Fairy or myself, it's negligible. I'm sure there are many brothers who have done far worse things to their sisters and everyone has been OK. The emotional damage, on the other hand, is far more complex. Normally, when siblings are fighting, and a parent gets involved, you'd expect the fighting to stop - or at least for the angry child to find some semblance of self-control. Not with Ti…

Happy Mother's Day

Picture the scene. It's Mother's Day. I'm reading a book in bed, Husband is about to get Tickle dressed to take the kids out swimming, and just pops in to the loo. Fairy comes out of her bedroom, and starts to walk downstairs to get herself some breakfast. I hear a shout.

"Tickle! Stop it! Daaad!!"

I jump out of bed. Tickle has tried to push Fairy down the stairs, and is now thumping her on the head. I grab him, and take him upstairs to my room. I know I ought to stay with him, he's obviously in a bad place and needs me to stay close and regulate him.

But Fairy is crying on the stairs.

She has done nothing to deserve this. She was just walking down the stairs.

I go to her, sit on the stairs with her, put my arms round her and kiss her head.

Tickle appears at the top of the stairs. He's holding the bottle of water that was next to my bed, and before I can do anything he has launched it at Fairy's head.

A few days ago, I didn't have a plastic bottle…

Therapy

We've just had our first meeting with our new psychologist - the one who specialises in adoption and trauma. It was just an initial discussion and we only scratched the surface but there are a couple of things she said that left me a bit stunned.

Firstly, I described to her how we manage Tickle when he's disclosing, or goes loopy, or gets violent. I described grounding him, giving him sensory input, bringing him in to the present moment, helping him to find the words to talk about what he's feeling, the gentle but probing questions, the wondering, etc etc.

She looked at me, and said "What you are describing is basically what we do in therapy."

In their big, full on trauma therapy. In safe spaces, with a trained therapist, for a limited amount of time, in a dedicated environment, with supervision and support for the therapist. Husband and I are doing that, all the time, at home. With no support, with no escape, with no limitations on how long we will let these big…

Parking

I need to get myself in to work mode today, but I need to park something first.

I feel awful. I feel like a massive ball of tangled up mess, and it's taking all my energy to keep it together. I know that the only way to feel better is - ironically - to let myself unravel, but I can't do it. I've got that thing, where you need to have a really big cry but it's just not coming. Occasionally something tweaks it and a couple of tears escape over something silly, but I just can't seem to let it all go. I suspect it's because I don't quite feel safe enough myself at the moment. There is no one for me to fall apart on, to pick me up afterwards. I'm doing it daily, hourly sometimes, for my two children but there's no one for me.
That sounds a bit silly, even as I write it, because I've got a fantastic support network including a loving Husband and my mum very close by, but they already have to deal with a lot of the same - Husband is the one getting up …

I went on a course...

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As some of you might know, yesterday I went on a course, which was about some of the Big Stuff that we are having to deal with. Although some people reading this will know more details, I'm not comfortable with being quite so blatant about the Stuff in this post, because really, it's Tickle's Stuff, not mine. So, for the purposes of this blog post, the course was about how children are affected by significant trauma, and what parents can do to help.

I was pretty anxious about it beforehand; I didn't really know what to expect, and was worried that I'd find it difficult and emotional. However, I found the day as a whole to be a really positive experience, and I came away with a lot of stuff whirling around in my head which I'm going to try and sort out in to a post here. Advance warning - it might end up quite long!

We started off talking quite generally about trauma, and what the word means. Apparently it comes from the Greek word literally meaning 'wound&#…

Fear

My life is ruled by fear at the moment. It's pervasive; it affects everything.

I got bitten this morning, because of it. Because Tickle was throwing stuff around, and I grabbed his arm from behind and surprised him, and he thought I was going to hurt him. He bit me on instinct, pure self-preservation.

Afterwards he was completely freaked out. If I'd thought about it, I would have expected him to go loopy, or need restraining, but he didn't. He was really shocked at himself. He kept trying to explain what had happened, but not quite having the right words; asking to look at the bite mark on my arm, rubbing and kissing it better. He said sorry without being asked. He was on the verge of tears.

Last night Tickle was able to articulate what we've known for a long time. He's scared of going to sleep because he thinks someone will come in and hurt him. He is terrified that his birth father will come to our house; it doesn't matter how many times I tell him that he do…

More crazy

Our tough time is continuing. Since Tickle made his disclosures his emotions have been consistently heightened; he's scared of everything, all the time. He'll wake up any time between 3am and 5am, and will be too scared to stay in his own bed, so either Husband or I will take a duvet and try and kip on his bedroom floor until about 6, when we really can't contain him any more. If he wakes earlier he will sometimes go back to sleep (though will wake instantly if we dare to leave the room) but after about 4.30 it's basically a write-off and it's just about keeping him quiet and calm. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I worry he's going to wake the whole neighbourhood screaming at the top of his lungs.

This is every day, by the way.

Once we give in and let him get up, he's reasonably OK for 45 mins or so while he's playing and having his breakfast. Sometime towards the end of breakfast the eyes will start to glaze over, the head will …