The attachment challenge

After reading a couple friends blogs yesterday, i saw that a fellow AP posted a challenge for people to talk about their attachment. While I think it’s a great idea as there isn’t enough talk about it, I couldn’t bring myself to type anything.

I sat around all day thinking about what to write but then I wondered if maybe I already post to much through other outlets about our situation. Then i wondered if maybe i would let too much info slip, not enough enough out, or just go way off subject. I also am NOT and eloquent writer and things often don’t come out sounding right but in the end it boiled down to being exposed.

I don’t like to be exposed, I don’t like my feelings or my business being exposed to people i don’t know and sometimes even to people i do know. However after a whole day of debating with my self I’ve decided that if i can shed even a little light on our situation or to help someone in our situation, or even just to make someone feel less alone then i feel, well then it’s worth it.

My husband and I adopted two beautiful girls from Ethiopia in 2009. Shortly after arrive back home from Ethiopia my husband deployed, and by shortly i mean 4 days. They have now been home a year and a half now and he’s been back 8 months. While in Ethiopia my YDD(youngest dear daughter) was like any typical baby from what I could see. Didnt do much but smiled a lot and was super tiny. Meeting her was what any AP hopes their situation is like she was cuddly, lovey, smelled like heaven and made me cry from the moment i saw her tiny little face. I’ve never felt relief and happiness like that before.

Meeting my ODD was not the same. She immediately wanted nothing to do with me, wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t go within 10 feet of me with out screaming her head off, she wouldn’t go potty in the toilet around me, wouldn’t eat or drink, would only cry until she shut down and fell asleep. I had read the books, looked at the blogs, and done the research about the possibility of this happening so while i thought i was prepared, nothing really prepares you for the emotions of it actually happening,the feeling of loving someone who wants NOTHING to do with you.

Leaving the country was absolutely miserable as she screamed the entire 36 hours home on every flight i had to warn people ahead of time and in washington at customs I had such a break down that two random Ethiopian woman i didn’t know at all came and took both the girls from me and rocked them and played with them so I could cry.

Upon arriving home I was exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally as i know they were as well. Things were touchy the first couple weeks but after getting much needed rest we were all falling into a routine and i noticed ODD would smile once in a while. I thought, “Yes! Fnally she’s coming around. The books were right we are going to be ok.”

The books hah… To this day I wish i hadn’t read one of em, but I’ll get to that later.

As time went on ODD started opening up more, she was speaking full on English in about a month, she was eating me out of house and home, had a love affair with Yo Gabba Gabba, liked to play with toys, and loved water. Things from what i could tell were going really well. She stopped tantruming at bedtime, although the being bedtime potty trained stopped as well, and i found her curled up on the floor in the corner every morning instead of in her bed. But behaviors like that were to be expected.

As the months went on I don’t know when it happened and why I didn’t see it but she changed. I mean obviously she changed she’s getting food in her belly, she’s getting healthier, and older but that’s not the change I mean. Her smiles were still there but it was only on her mouth, the rest of her face, her eyes all said something else. She started getting very demanding, very jealous of her sister who also was growing and changing and doing new things. She started having accidents again, started being manipulative, and started “forgetting” how to do simple things she knew how to do before.

Once again the books all said this is normal this is normal children relapse blah blah blah. So i left it at that. I helped as much as i thought i could, I let her know we loved her and expected it to blow over. It didn’t. In fact the older she got, the worse it got. The lying started, the pointing fingers at anyone but her self, the nonsense chatter, the CONSTANT talking and noisemaking started, then something I’d never seen before. She was in timeout/time in whatever you want to call it. She had thrown herself on the ground and was screaming and crying so loud I seriously started worrying about the neighbors. She was told her time didn’t start until she sat there quietly(about 6 feet from me). She then I guess ran out of tears so she lifted her hand and starts pinching herself HARD to point where there are marks and she starts screaming again.

I didn’t know what to do. I’d never seen a child hurt themselves before on purpose. As more time went on the tantrums and rages became more frequent. The abuse to herself became more frequent the abuse to her sister started ad became more frequent. The lying about obvious things increased, the lack of eye contact increased, the noise, the chatter, the questions, the manipulation, the hateful, hurtful behavior to others except in public increased.

Oh yeah see my daughter was loved by everyone. Every person she came in contact too on the street, at the store, out to eat was smitten with her. She’d bat the lashes on those big ol eyes and smile at you so big your heart would melt. I got compliment after compliment from people everywhere about her wonderful disposition and her beautiful manners. It took all my power and literally sometimes biting my tongue to say you haven’t seen her at home. At home she is terrifying.

I called doctors, emailed adoption specialists, social workers etc etc who provided no help. None. I felt like a victim in my own home and was miserable everyday. I didn’t want to get out of bed, i didnt want to do anything except run away. After months and months of research and calling doctors and saying THIS IS NOT NORMAL, I found a couple webostes online that sounded like they had been written about my daughter.

Superficially charming and engaging, particularly around strangers or those who they feel they can manipulate- umm double, triple, quadruple check !

Indiscriminate affection, often to strangers; but not affectionate on parent’s terms- check

Problems making eye contact, except when angry or lying- check

A severe need to control everything and everyone; worsens as the child gets older- check

Hyperactive, yet lazy in performing tasks- check

Argumentative, often over silly or insignificant things- check

Frequent tantrums or rage, often over trivial issues- check

Demanding or clingy, often at inappropriate times- check

Trouble understanding cause and effect- check

Poor impulse control- check

Lacks morals, values, and spiritual faith- check

Little or no empathy; often have not developed a conscience- check

Cruelty to animals- no thank god

Lying for no apparent reason- check

False allegations of abuse- unsure of this yet

Destructive to property or self- check

Stealing- check

Constant chatter; nonsense questions- check

Abnormal speech patterns; uninterested in learning communication skills- check

Developmental / Learning delays- check

Problems with food; either hoarding it or refusing to eat- check

Concerned with details, but ignoring the main issues- check

Few or no long term friends; tend to be loners- check

Attitude of entitlement and self-importance- check

Sneaks things without permission even if he could have had them by asking- check

Triangulation of adults; pitting one against the other- check

A darkness behind the eyes when raging- check

Our breaking point was a couple weeks after seeing this, we were at the courthouse submitting re-adoption paperwork(not great timing of course) and she had to go for timeout. It was so quiet in the courthouse and I could see the storm coming so i rushed her to the bathroom and locked the door just in time for the fists to start swinging. She was punching herself all over her body she was swinging at me with more hate in her eyes then I’ve ever seen before. I had to grab her amongst the punches and kicks to get her on the ground and sit behind her with my arms wrapped around her arms pinning them to her sides and my Legs wrapped around her her waist locking her feet to the ground. Once she realized she couldn’t move, she tried to bite and wriggle herself free. After about 20 minutes of trying non stop she started to cry large heaping sobs and i felt her body start to relax. While we were both sitting there crying it dawned on me my daughter just attacked herself and me over a timeout. We are now sitting here on a public bathroom floor crying, we need help NOW.

I made an appt with a child psychologist immediately after that and a few appts. later after being evaluated I was told without a doubt that i was correct, i had diagnosed my own daughter and we had a LONG road ahead of us.

My daughter is RAD aka Reactive Attachment Disorder on the severe end stemming from her life before she came to me. While I was beyond relieved to get confirmation and answers my anger outweighed that. Not towards my daughter of course, but for the situation that led her too me, anger for her suffering, anger towards those useless unhelpful books damn those books, anger towards to doctors and SW’s who wouldn’t listen or do anything.

Amazingly since being diagnosed, shes gotten worse. Her therapy has increased, and she has an ot that also comes to the house. We walk on egg shells all day long, we have rages numerous times a day, at least 5 days a week sometimes more. She’s become increasingly mean to her sister and purposely teaches her unacceptable and dangerous behavior amongst a long list of other things. Therapy is not working as well as I had hoped but Ive been assured that it’s typical to not see results for up to a year or more.

My friends have all disappeared, my marriage is strained, my husband is giving up his career in the hopes that it will help his attachment to her. We are all exhausted, frustrated and we cry everyday. But we love each other tantrums and all, and i see glimpses every now and then of her love for us. My family is RAD but we WILL be ok.

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11 responses to “The attachment challenge

  1. You got me crying here. Your friends have not disappeared. Not this one. I believed you when you told me. She was so lovely and outgoing and smart, but a mother knows. You knew. You may not think so, but you are so strong and it’s got to be SO exhausting. So exhausting. I so wish you had more resources; at least a support group with other parents. Your husband sounds like he is giving his all also; I am sure the strain on your marriage has got to be so hard. Thank you so much for opening up; you are something else.

  2. I am grateful you decided to participate. I am so sorry about the situation, what a hard, hard road. I know that others will benefit from you sharing either by recognizing things earlier, or just, as you said, from knowing they are not alone. Good luck.

  3. While our daughter isn’t full blown RAD she does have some serious attachment challenges – I get it. It is sooooo hard. The best advice I ever got during the worst of it (and truthfully therapy is the worst of it some days) is take care of your self. What ever that looks like to you – reading a good book, taking a nap, going for a run… take care of yourself and your marriage.

  4. I’m so sorry you are going through this. Thank you for being brave enough to share it, and I hope it does someone (including you) some good.

  5. Oh my goodness, I cannot even begin to imagine what that must be like. Thank you so much for explaining so clearly what it has been like for you – especially how hard it has been to go through this ALONE. Your husband sounds like a pretty incredible guy – there are not many men who would change their careers in order to put their daughter’s needs first. But i can imagine how hard this must be on your marriage – parenthood is hard enough, but being on your own after four days (FOUR DAYS!!!) and then trying to help your daughter through such difficulties… that’s enough to put a HUGE load on even the strongest relationship.

    I’m finding it hard to know what to say in response to your post, because I haven’t walked the road that you’re walking. But I just wanted to say thanks so much for sharing and being so open – I really hope that it will encourage other families to not always listen to everything the books say!!!

  6. You are not alone.

    And most of our kids appear to get “worse” when we deliberately address their lack of attachment. It’s because they start to feel the progress and are fighting against it. As much as it pains me to say this, it’s a sign that you’re moving in the right direction.

    Oh, and really – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I just started a Parents of Trauma Map just two days ago, and it has EXPLODED! Instructions on how to email me to be added are on the left side of the map.

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=208832002670355666094.00049e22e0173a1cd9f91&ll=39.639538,-78.75&spn=44.616191,105.820313&z=3

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