adoption, Attachment Disorders

If I Die Before I Wake

I pray the lord my soul to take. I wish these were just the words of a bedtime prayer. In my case, these words are real. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that our children have experienced an intense level of unspeakable trauma. Luke and I know this. We know how to parent therapeutically. We know how to get as many services as possible for our daughter. It doesn’t matter. She is a real danger to me and to her brother right now.

Our daughter has learned to survive. Her current diagnosis are PTSD-dissociative subtype and Reactive Attachment Disorder, with periods of psychosis. There is a lot of chatter about the RAD diagnosis, which I won’t get into here. Because I don’t care. Whether it be Developmental Trauma Disorder  (DTD, which never made it into the DSM-V) or RAD or PTSD or DMDD or any other diagnosis she’s had, it doesn’t matter. She still wants to kill me. A mother’s love is something she craves so badly that it hurts her. It twists her happy feelings into anger and possessiveness.

It all started the month we needed to buy her bras. She’s only 10 but here comes puberty. And so it began. In with the bras. Out with the effectiveness of her medication. She began hearing voices. She started to journal about my death. She began to tantrum and scream and fight invisible foes that only she could see. Oh, my dear little Mary, how I wish I could fight them for you.

Her love for me is desperate and all consuming. She needs me every second of every day. If I take a shower, she tantrums, if I leave the room, she explodes in a fit of rage. If I ask an innocuous question such as, “Do you like your new shorts?” She hears, “I hate you. I no longer love you. I am abandoning you.” When I turn to her brother for a momentary comment, she attacks. She will circle me and chase me with her little fists flying. She is trying to hit me in the spine. She will cripple me before allowing me to speak to Carl. So far, it hasn’t worked.

“If I can’t have you, ” she tells me, “no one can. I will stab us both.” In the night or early morning, she will loom over the bed, watching me sleep. “Mama?” she whispers, “Do you love me?” Of course I do. But I can never show her enough to quell her fear of losing me. She will make comments on my facial expressions. Why did my eyebrow twitch? Why did I move my top lip? Am I trying to get away? Have I stopped loving her?!The last 3 years of Trust Based Relational Intervention made all the difference, until now. TF-CBT made all the difference. Until now. Her anti-psychotic medication made all the difference. Until now.

The worst part is that it becomes unpredictable. We play mirroring games,we snuggle, and I give her all of my attention. Our time is spent connecting. As close as I stay to her, and as much love as I provide? I can never guess when a momentary glance at another person or thing will invoke her uncontrollable rage. We keep our knives and “sharps” locked up. You need the combination for a screwdriver in this house. Only, she finds other things. She shows me a bottle opener I’ve overlooked.

“You know this is sharp enough?” she casually quips, “I could stab you with this.”

The part that gets to me is how she discusses my murder without any observable emotion at all. Her brother tells me that earlier that she’s tried to figure out the combination for the lock on the knife cupboard. We only use plastic silverware in our house now.

As far as I can tell, nothing has changed. Nothing except the onset of puberty. Her intense violent rages happen every day. She injures herself most frequently.  She rips out her hair or punches herself in the face. She screams about murder. And blood. And the death of everyone on this planet who has ever hurt her. The bio-mother who abandoned her and hurt her. The mother she has now who sometimes needs to shower.

She is being released from the inpatient psychiatric hospital for the 5th or 6th time tomorrow. I’ve lost track. We have in-home services. We have an amazing trauma therapist who has worked with her for 3 years. We have a parent therapist for Luke and I. We have a partial hospitalization program set up that she has used more than I could even count over the last 3 years. There aren’t anymore services, unless the state agrees to help. Her medication no longer works. Today the inpatient hospital program told us they are releasing her tomorrow because there isn’t anything more they can do for her on the unit. Ever.

We’ve called a meeting with all of her providers for safety planning. We have PHP, Trauma team, And IICAPS (Intensive In-home Adolescent and Psychiatric Services) all concerned for safety is she is home. I miss my girl. I want her home. I’d just like to remain alive for her childhood. She hasn’t managed to truly hurt me yet, beyond a few arm and leg bruises. She hasn’t hurt Carl yet. It isn’t for lack of trying. It’s because Carl and I are too quick. We lock ourselves away and call for help.

Luke and I are doing the only things we can do. We are installing security cameras in all of the common areas of the house. Everywhere except for bedrooms and bathrooms. We need to objectively see what is happening. It’s entirely possible that we are unwittingly triggering her in some way. It is entirely true she doesn’t want anyone to see the things she does in the privacy of our home.

It is also highly probable that she’s spent a lot of time talking to “Josie” the “ghost” who orders my death (and possibly that of her brother.) The therapists in our home see her mood fluctuation and dangerous actions. So does her long term trauma therapist. But to most other clinicians? She is the sweetest most charming girl of all. She has always had to be this way, in order to survive her biological home. My Mary is a fighter. A survivor. For this, I am proud. I only wish she didn’t feel the driving need to survive being loved. 

Mary flipped out and began to yell at us and her inpatient therapist in the hospital today. She doesn’t like the cameras. She doesn’t want others to see her violence and destruction. She doesn’t want anyone to see her try to hurt Carl or try to attack me. When we don’t make progress with her on-call crisis team, we call 9-1-1. She will scream at the police and yell at the EMTs, but they never hear her plan my murder. Once we get to the psychiatric ward she is completely calm. Perhaps the video will help us to show what happens. After all, she only threatens or attacks those she loves the most. This kind of deep attachment-related trauma won’t be seen on a psychiatric ward. She simply does not require or crave deep relationships with revolving staff.

What she really needs from me is proof of my unconditional love. I try to give this as much as I can. Is it enough? It never is. What she is getting is 24/7 surveillance. Just in case. Because our daughter is trying to literally love me to death.

So if I never blog another post? Well then, I guess you’ll know why. 


**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved


44 thoughts on “If I Die Before I Wake

  1. c.d says:

    Mary seems to be in a very heightened state of hyper vigilance. Is it possible that she is looking for you to abandon her? She has found a mother and her fear of abandonment is so bad that she it looking for as to get it over with? All that is exacerbated by puberty. Just a thought.


    • You are absolutely spot on. I appreciate your insight. It’s so hard to navigate these waters for her. I know my love for my daughter will not faulted. She doesn’t feel the same. A momentary glance makes her feel abandoned. Any chance you’ve considered guest posting on my blog? Maybe if I asked a few questions? Trauma mamas need to know. We want to know. We want to help.


  2. I’m so sorry you and Mary are going through this. I want to affirm that being afraid and damaged by this very traumatic situation doesn’t mean that you love Mary any less or that you regret adopting her or anything like that – we know you are totally dedicated to her and will never stop loving her. It’s okay to express all your feelings, even the messy ones. Sending love and support.

    Liked by 2 people

    • N LP? Never heard of that. No. We haven’t found anyone for hypnotherapy in our areas. Although, she did quite well with Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We are looking for EMDR, Neurofeedback and ARC right now.


      • NLP is fundamentally based on Virginia Satir, a well known counsellor. I studied NLP and although I think it is brilliant in many cases, I don’t think it has anything to add here. Bandler, who developed NLP from studying how great therapists have the impact that they do, claims to have cured people in mental health institutions by joining patients in their delusions and working through with them what are the consequences of that delusion. So for a guy who thought he was Jesus Christ, Bandler agreed to the point where he started talking about crucifixition, at which the guy decided he wasn’t J.C. after all. I did think of this particular thought process but thought with all the professionals involved and studying you have done, you have probably done a form of this already. A great hypnotherapist could be of help though.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. bozzamountain says:

    I am so sorry you and your family are Going through this. I have three kids all adopted at older ages. My daughter is 10 and my son 12. They are slow bloomers so to speak but I know puberty is around the corner. I read your posts and can see this happening, particularly with my daughter who needs mom all the time. I am sending my support.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anka says:

    I feel your pain on this. It’s so hard when I hear advice about “parent this way” or “parent that way” to avoid triggers. I’m like *being parented* is the trigger – he can’t handle being too close to me, he can’t handle feeling not close enough. And sometimes it’s dangerous. And it’s so so exhausting (for me, and probably for him too!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sure I speak for all therapeutic parents in saying that we are all behind you in this. You are dealing with some of the most difficult issues in such a loving way. Well done. You are an encouragement to us all.


  6. I agree with what the others have said you are amazing. I know it hurts you to see Mary struggle so much and do not question for a moment the depth of love you have for her. I do hope with time things get better. I know puberty messes with things so hang on tight with time it calms down.You are doing awesome so keep it up!!!!


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  8. Oh, the calmness in front of others! It’s just so upsetting… When Little had to go to the ER via ambulance, I made the EMTs and Sheriff stand in my living room and whisper while they listened to him screaming and try to break his window because I just KNEW he would stop once he realized they were there. And, sure enough, he did.

    My Little will at least tell people what he’s done/did/thinking about doing. But often with a cute little smile as he does so, with such flippancy… One ER doctor (who was new, obviously) pulled me out of the room, saying he had never seen a kid speak such horrible things while appearing so fine with it all. He was a bit unsettled and wanted to admit him, but the attending wouldn’t allow it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. First time reader… was looking for some adoption blogs to follow and wow, jackpot. I have an adopted daughter, she just turned 10 and has been with me nearly a year. Our highs are high and our lows are low. She has PTSD, FASD and ADHD but thankfully I don’t think she has RAD, though she obviously has some attachment issues. She pushes me to places I didn’t know I could go… but she doesn’t try to kill me (she stops at punching, kicking, cursing, spitting and throwing things). I have a friend whose daughter experiences very similar things to yours, and it takes a lot out of her. This is a crazy world we adoptive parents live in!
    Wishing you patience, strength and a really big wine cellar. 🙂


  10. I don’t feel qualified enough to even comment sensibly, but, dear god, what this child has been through to turn her fear of abandonment, her buried craving for a mother’s love, into this expression of violence: so, so sad and you are heroic! Poor little girl, and all the children like her; what a world.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. I feel like I am reading my own life. You perfectly describe how a hypervigilent child can go from clingy to you to calmly threatening you. We have been riding the Bipolar roller coaster with our son for 2 years (4 residential treatment facilities, 14 hospitalizations, 2 Crisis Stabilization Units, and intensive family intervention services. I have learned so much in the trenches, please feel free to contact me anytime.
    Debra Cronnelly

    Liked by 1 person

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