adoption, family

Drowning in Trauma

He puts his little 10-year-old hand into my hair and fiddles around with the curls. He’s smiling at me and watching the long strands of hair boing back when he tugs. We are giggling and being silly.  Little Carl looks into my eyes and twists one strand around a finger. He tugs gently but steadily. Something changes in his eyes. He is looking at me intently. He pulls hard and firm on the strand of hair. I gasp and throw up a hand over my scalp as he yanks the strand right out of my head.

“No, Carl. That hurts. We have gentle hands,” I admonish in a firm yet bewildered voice. He is smiling.

My husband walks over and Carl immediately falls to the ground wailing, “She hates me! She won’t even let me near her! She never loves me! All she does is yell at me!” He screams and thrashes around. Then he slams both fists on the seat and runs off.

It’s been weeks now. Weeks of leaving bruises on my arms from where he has “snuggled” me. Strangers exclaim about how loving he is. How sweet he is to me. He climbs into my lap smiling. He yanks my arms around him and then digs his fingernails into the soft flesh of my forearms. “What an affectionate child” I hear. They don’t see me bleed.

He has started to hurt his sister. He swears at her and shoves her down. He tries to bend her to his will. He does the same with me. A “no thank you” or “perhaps later” response is met with threats from him. When asked why he threatened to hurt his sister or why he punched her or kicked her or shoved her he shrugs. “She deserved it” he says.

There is violence from him. So much violence. He rages and screams and yells. He breaks apart his room and the house. He hurts me. He hurts his sister. Then he screams at us some more because after all, this is our fault. Women should listen.

When my husband is not around he will let me know that I am going to “learn my lesson.” He holds a fist to my face and steps forward. I stand my ground and repeat that I will not allow hurts in this family. We are a safe family. This is a safe house.

Only, I’m not telling the truth. Not really. Because we aren’t a safe house at the moment. We are a house caught in the past trauma of a 10-year-old boy. He is reliving the domestic abuse suffered at the hands of his biological family. As he faces these things in trauma therapy, he becomes caught in the past.

No longer is Carl the tiny boy being whipped with the metal of a belt buckle. No longer is he the victim of multiple men telling him to “learn his lesson” or that he/his siblings “had it coming.” Now he is bigger and stronger. Now he feels safer not being preyed upon. Now he has taken on the role of the aggressor. If only he can control his environment, he will feel safe.

But love is never safe. Falling in love means taking a risk that you could be hurt. “It’s ok to love us,” I want to tell him. “It’s ok to trust that we won’t hurt you.” I want to tell him. I do not say these things. He wouldn’t listen right now. He cannot hear a mother’s words. To him, in this moment, they are the words of the enemy.

Instead I wait. I pray. I try not to drown in the deep waters of his trauma. He has an intake tommorow for a partial hospitalization placement. I hope it will help us. It isn’t just the trauma’s effects on a little boy anymore. Right now our whole family could use a lifeline. We are drowning.

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37 thoughts on “Drowning in Trauma

  1. - says:

    4 kids (once had 5, one left at 19 and never came back) with rad and FAS, 5+ years in and this is what I can tell you from our experience. Learn to let the solidarity of ones who understand be enough because external help isn’t very helpful. The biggest changes come because of mom and dad. This is sad, because it means you have to know how far you can push yourself, and when to say, i can’t do anymore, I’m going crazy doing this as it is. It’s not enough and that’s a sad truth we have to work with. I resisted this for a very long time. Use the time he goes to this treatment place to recoop as much as you can. Refill yourself. Get supports for you. Use this time as treatment for you, you’ll probably get a lot more out of it than he will.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hugs that hurt are the worst.

    Middle and Little often get that change in their eyes when we play with them. Usually at that point someone gets punched in the face.

    Here’s a hug that doesn’t hurt for you. ::Hug::

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Panda Monium says:

    I am a TA working 1-2-1 with a boy with severe attachment disorder, He gets increasingly violent with me as time goes on. I hope you make it through.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful post. What an incredibly tough thing to go through, you sound very strong. He’s a very lucky boy to have a new chance with a loving family. I hope it all works out for you and he learns to trust again.

    Like

  5. NadeP says:

    I don’t have any magic words of wisdom for you… but I can send lots of good wishes and hope.
    Your post made me cry as we had to deal with aggression from our eldest but it wasnt due to abuse thankfully, just frustration and confusion.
    We got through it, I hope you are able to work through it too x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anna says:

    You are doing an incredible thing. My heart goes out to this little boy and to you for being there for him. The world is a better place for people like you xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You are a wonderful person. I cannot imagine the strength of heart and body to manage. I have worked with challenging young people but never in as intense a situation as it is for you. I remember going through the angry stage with a group of young men as they learned to trust me. I remember how friends had no idea what I was going through. I remember shaking with fear whilst holding my ground and my voice steady. At the crucial moment I was very lucky. I wish you luck or someone to watch over you and give you strength and support when you need it. I have total admiration for you. I have read how you love your children so you do it as their mother but it is still impressive what you have achieved. Wishing you a restful time while he is away. A time to heal and recognise what a wonderful person you are and feel safe. And wishing that he is able to let go of his fear and live in and enjoy love.

    Like

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  10. My heart goes out to you all 💞 You are a hero mom. I have worked with traumatized young people before but never have been a parent to one, so I can only imagine the strength you possess to stand your ground in the face of his memories. 💞

    Liked by 1 person

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