The steady “swish” of the washing machine reminds me that life is cyclical. The seasons change. The sporting events change. Right now we are in Lacrosse season, with both of the Littles playing, and Luke coaching. We also are on the merry-go-round of therapy. Our kids will be stable for a time and then, inevitably, one or the other is in crisis mode and we cycle back in. Right now we are in the season of Carl’s crisis. This is the never-ending circle of parenting children with trauma.
Little Carl is in a partial hospitalization placement right now. They pick him up early from school. He spends 4 hours a day, every weekday, at the center. They have group therapy, art therapy, and individual sessions. They drop him off at 6:30 every night. He is in an intensive placement, but it is still one step down from hospitalization. We get to tuck Carl in each night and have him at home on the weekends. From here, he will drop down into “intensive outpatient” therapy, which will only last for 3 hours a day. He will do this 5 days a week, then 3, then 2 until he is discharged. Then back to TF-CBT again with his normal therapist.
Watching the same clothes swirl around and around again in the washer makes me pause and think. Carl was in crisis last spring. When the days got warm, he became very intense and dis-regulated. He was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit towards the end of the school year. We know that every year, around Christmas, Mary goes into crisis mode. Sean used to blow at the start of the school year and again at Thanksgiving.
Curiosity about the Spring got the better of me. Why Spring? Yes, Carl is in the thick of his trauma work in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He was stuck in a place where he was able to vocalize all of the truly bad things he suffered at the hands of his biological parents. He just kept insisting that all of the things they did were his own fault somehow. Then, his therapist went on maternity leave. He is very dependent on her. We could see that this would trigger him. But still…the Springtime…it held onto me.
I went back into the files we have from the Department of Children and Families. There it was, staring back at me. May 4th. The day of the drug raid in his bio-home when he and his siblings were separated from their family. Bingo. It may not be much, but it gives me a clue as to why his behavior turns when the weather changes. It explains why he is more and more nervous that I may be “drinking” or “passed out” in my room. Trust me, the only thing I’m drinking is copious amounts of coffee. It has the opposite effect of helping me “pass out!”
There isn’t anything I can do about Spring. It will come every year. It’s not an excuse to be unsafe. I can only hope that, with continued love and therapy, he will heal. Understanding the fears he displays as anger is helpful for me. It helps me to sympathize. It helps me to see the sweet boy underneath all the layers of hurt and rage.
Seasons may come and go, but this forever family will always be just that; forever.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.