adoption, Attachment

What Are We Fighting For?

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You can’t fight a war on all fronts. Or so I’m told. Lately we’ve been fighting that way, though. Everywhere I turn there is something else to confront, another battle to win.

On the one hand, I don’t want to die. I don’t want Carl to die. And I most certainly don’t want to see that haunted look on his face ever again, where he says, “She sounds just like Mom G. (Bio-mom)” Carl is referring to Mary. After her 8th acute psychiatric hospital stay since 2017 began, we installed cameras all over our house. With motion sensors and night vision. We find a dog to be trained as a PTSD service dog. We find a trainor. We spend thousands, thinking “this has to work!”

After the 8th hospitalization, Mary came home with a murder plan. She’d written it down with pictures and words while inpatient. Despite our best efforts to monitor and keep our cupboards locked, she found a weapon. And she planned to find it, planned to use it, all around her father’s work schedule. When Luke wouldn’t be here to protect us. She wasn’t out-of-control. She was casually discussing getting rid of the people who cause her the most emotions. Because love hurts Mary. She fears it. She hates it.

We need more help, we tell providers. We need more help we tell her insurance company. We need more help we tell the Department of Children and Families Voluntary Services program. We need more help we tell the state Office of the Child Advocate. (That last one actually worked.)

We can’t take her home yet, we say to the Emergency Department. She’s too dangerous. We have another child in the home.  Luke cannot work because he stays home to protect the family when she is there. Carl doesn’t sleep. We’ve been putting the service dog in with him at night. “Her violent rages are increasing,” we say. That isn’t the scariest part. The part that terrifies us is when she is smiling and happy, but you find her with a knife.

We fight to get her services. She will be going to a short-term residential treatment facility. (Thank you, child advocate!) The director tells us that they are trauma-informed. They’ve worked on cases of RAD before. I’ve heard that before from providers with little to no experience. “But,”he says, “we can’t cure your daughter. Once we’ve exhausted all of our treatment options, you have to agree to take her home.” Huh?

“She’s not a renovation project,” I find myself defending her, “She’s a traumatized little girl. And, no, you can’t keep her.” But it’s said over and over again. “In cases like this we have to insist that the family agree to take the child home. If not, you may be charged with child abandonment.” What?!

“Do you know how hard we fought to adopt her in the first place? Why is this even a conversation?” So I’m battling again. To show others the good inside of her. To show them that we love her. She’s not a “bad kid.” She’s not a mistake. She’s just very, very dangerous right now. But she’s our daughter, so hands-off!

We fight to show the intensity of our struggle at the same time we fight to show the validity of our family. We fight for services. We’ve had trauma focused, in-home, and partial hospitalization programs galore. She isn’t getting any better. She’s having more intense periods of mania. No more SSRIs. We are fighting about med changes.

In the end we are fighting for her not to return/but then to return home. “What outcome would you like?” says the Residential Center director.

“Less homicidal,” we say, “less dangerous.”

If we can be safe we can handle the rest. I think. At least, we’ve managed so far. It’s probably too much to hope the girl I knew will be coming back anytime soon.

And I’m fighting with Luke. We hardly ever argue. Sure, we get upset sometimes but after a decade together, we work it out. Luke has always been my safe place. It’s just that I can’t seem to conceptualize “safe” anymore. Instead , I’m irrationally fearful. I still want to sleep with the deadbolt on, even while Mary is away. I walk Carl across the road in an empty parking lot. I’m irritable. I don’t like it when she calls Luke from the hospital to calmly argue her points on all of the reasons I should die and that “It was only a little knife.” Why even take the phone calls? So Luke stops taking calls until we can meet with a clinician. They are just too disturbing. And he is too much of a good man to listen if it hurts me.

I feel as though I’m fighting for my life. All the time. I’m fighting for Carl’s life. The hospital thinks we should live apart. Carl and I should take up a separate residence. Luke should stay with Mary and keep her safe. “You’ll have to agree to take her home” they repeat. Why do they keep saying that? Now Luke is fighting.

“I live with my wife! I live with my family!” He is fighting for me. He is fighting for Carl. He loves us. He will not have us separated.

I am fighting to muddle my way through EMDR therapy. It’s supposed to help my stress levels. Help me to cope. “But if I’m still in the same stressful situation, can it really be helped?” I ask the therapist. She has no answer.

Instead she asks, “what would you like the outcome to be? How would you like to respond to these incidents?”

“How would you respond?” I ask, “If someone was planning your death?” The therapist just shakes her head. She doesn’t know. Nobody knows how to do this.

And I’m still fighting back pain. My injury has nothing to do with Mary. It happened at work. And yet, it has everything to do with Mary. She cannot be near me so Luke always has to be home when she is. For safety. The neurosurgeon tells me that I will “probably never be asymptomatic” because my “reaction is very rare.” We won’t know for months. Mary worries that I will die. It’s better if she can control when that happens. That way her grief can’t surprise her like it did with Mom G. So Luke has to fight to keep Mary away from me. We literally can never be alone together. So even if I’m not dying, I’m slipping away from her. This only feeds her fear.

At the same time I fight to help Mary, I’m fighting to regain my own balance. I’m fighting to remember that I’m a good mom, a good wife. Mary is still mad at that other mom. The first one. Her biological mother who hurt her so much. It’s just that, well, why do I always have to pay the price? Why does Carl? Because she assumes I love him more. Because I talk to him and this makes her panic. Therefore I should watch him get hurt. To pay for all the hurts Mom G doled out to Mary.

So I’m fighting. We are all fighting a war. But the question is, what are we really fighting for?

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

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49 thoughts on “What Are We Fighting For?

  1. I just want you to know that I have been following your story. My heart aches for you and your family right now during this incredibly difficult time. I applaud your willingness to share your journey as a means to help others. You are an incredible woman. I hope you and your family find some answers and peace soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It really annoys me when so-called professionals say things like this. They have the luxury of walking away from the issues. They can go home to their families with dinner on the table that they don’t have to cook, and they don’t even have to clean up after. They can forget about it until the next session when they can, once again, repeat the same platitudes and threats, over and over again. Their involvement ends when they close the file, ready to go back in the cabinet for another week.

    You, on the other hand, live the life, talk the talk, and walk the walk. You get the dubious pleasure of lying awake all night, listening for every creak of the floorboards.

    But remember this: If it wasn’t for you, Mary might have no hope. At the moment, her mind is in turmoil. And yet I can’t help but believe that she’s seeing the love and filing it away until she can deal with it; that she appreciates it; but she doesn’t know what to do about it, at this time. When the love finally breaks through, she’ll be back. Maybe she’ll never be the same child as she was before. But she will be back. And that will happen because of all that you have done, are doing, and will do; and because love never fails.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow you are incredible. And this situation is insane. I don’t understand why they don’t take your daughter in and keep her there until she is safe. If she kills you, who will be responsible? In the UK, people who are a risk to themselves or others are taken into institutions. I have worked with young offenders, I can’t imagine that situation happening in the UK.

    It sounds like she needs to be somewhere that will keep her safe and you safe, ideally a long term care facility and that you, Carl and your husband and maybe the dog can go on a long holiday with therapy to relax, massages, yoga, good food, warm sun. Then you can come back strengthened to be her Mum again.

    I want to help but don’t know how. So here are some thoughts which might help. I apologise in advance if they are not helpful. First of all, I am part of a large coaching community on facebook with people across the world. Many of whom are incredible, they come from all walks of life, some I think are psychologists others lawyers. I could raise the issue and ask if anyone could help. Then put them in touch with you if there is anyone. I won’t be passing on anyone who I think is not properly qualified. Secondly, I recently read an article on, and you have made clear your daughter is not thinking rationally not evil, but the article was on psychopaths. I mention it because the doctors in the article seemed to be comfortable working with this very difficult group so perhaps they would be able to offer more wisdom and support in your daughters’ complex case. Or perhaps they would have a facility where your daughter could stay for the longer term until she is safe. I will post the link if you say it is okay but I was worried about how you would react to the suggestion. To be clear, I know your daughter is not a psychopath but it seems that you need doctors and support who offer long term care. Maybe contacting the hospitals in the article might lead to some real help.

    I sincerely hope that someone will be able to help. I don’t pray, but my heart is praying for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Thank you. I appreciate your thoughts because it feels better to know that someone out there is thinking of us! Thank you, sincerely.

      I would love the link and/or referrals. I just finished reading “The Psychopath Whisperer” actually. A lot of the fMRI research about psychopathology in the brain was done at the very psychiatric hospital that had Mary so many times. But since she hasn’t actually killed anyone then I guess they won’t consider it?
      We don’t have many institutions like this left in the US. Health insurance doesn’t like to pay for residential. If she stabs me, a judge can send her. If she stabs Carl we will be charged with neglect. It’s a strange system designed to help insurance companies save money, I guess.

      We have at least the short term residential and hopefully in-home trauma/attachment services following that. We only got it by complaining to the state child advocate and offering to provide a lawyer for our son.

      I’m not offended. I’ve considered so many things with her. It appears she has a mood disorder with psychosis, RAD and PTSD. In the end it’s all alphabet soup unless we get the right help. We will see. Thank you.

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      • From the sound of the article, they help when there are signs. In the UK, one of my friends lost his job because a child he worked with killed someone. It wasn’t his fault but someone had to take the blame, so they passed it down the chain. But still it was a major incident. I’m surprised that no-one is at risk of losing their job over this. Again, in the UK, I would say to contact your Member of Parliament (MP). Here’s the article: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/when-your-child-is-a-psychopath/524502/

        I’ll put out a message to the group now. It might take a while to get a response. Fingers crossed there is someone who knows what to do. You are in the US right? It might make a difference if you can tell me which state you are in, as I’m thinking different states have different laws and different facilities.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. Yes, we are in the US. In Connecticut. We basically hit up all the services here we can access ourselves with cash or insurance. Now we have to wait on the voluntary piece from the government. Tomorrow we have the intake for short term residential. I’m trying to be hopeful.

        If someone gets hurt it’s on our family. If our daughter was at a facility and hurt someone then it might be on them. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to get her in? Well that and the cost.

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  4. Ha ha yes! I would have a bunch of people to contact then. I have been reading about your mental health service and start to realise what you are up against. I found this article by Republican Tim Murphy: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/tim-murphy and thought great he’ll understand and then learned that you couldn’t contact him as you can only contact your own representative. Have you tried that already?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. C says:

    Even though the director of the residential asked for the (seemingly bizarre but necessary) reassurance that you will be back for her, it seems as though he did do some listening to you. Correct me if that is inaccurate. If he is open to you take full advantage of that. One idea is to give a list of goals for Mary and for the family. Safety/stabilization obviously number one. This is just going of my own experience in a residential something they should be doing is developing a treatment plan. I think a good evaluation and suggestions for which therapies would be beneficial at this point since there has been a major change in her. The therapies prior to this major manic episode and experience with the SSRI may not be the most effective right now.

    You are fighting for your child. A child who’s first mother dropped the ball. My guess is that Mary is fighting herself right now. You are fighting for your son’s little sister. I know he has his issues too, but he is watching. You are setting the example of doing right even when it is costly and difficult. You are showing him your dedication to family. You are fighting for your family to be made whole again. I don’t know of any scenario in which that is wrong. I hope you know that it is ok to call a time out from the war. What ever that look likes for you. Take Carl and get ice cream. Take a short road trip. Visit Mary with the intention of not discussing mental health or therapy and play a game when she gets to that point. Let other family visit her just for “fun” if it can’t be you. It may be a war but you can chose which battles you will fight and when.

    Sending good thoughts and hopes for stabilization your way!

    Liked by 2 people

    • SB says:

      I fear we are headed this direction with our daughter. Have you read Beyond Consequences or The Connected Child? Our state has no more beds available right now. TBRI is helping some. I’m just so tired……scared…etc

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      • I love those books. TBRI has been amazing for our kids. Mary was relatively stable for several years because of TBRI and the right medication. Then she began puberty. Now I’m not sure what will work.

        Her mental health issues run deeper than just attachment or just trauma. That may be why she needs more.

        I’m sorry that your so scared. This is a scary place to be in. Just know that you are not alone.

        Like

    • This is very sweet of you. Thank you. Her first day is today so we are going to ask about her treatment plan.

      We have tried a million kinds of therapy. So far TF-CBT was the most effective. It was amazing. But she needed to stabilize on meds to do it.

      What we haven’t tried is EMDR, neurofeedback, and/or DBT (not sure if she’s old enough yet. Has your child-version come out?)

      They offer EMDR at the center, which is great because she isn’t stable enough to drive for outpatient.

      We also haven’t done the in-home Attachment Regulation Competency (ARC) model yet. It’s intensive in-home services up to 6 times per week with a therapeutic mentor for Mary and parent coaching for us. It has a whole family approach for Carl, too. It looks like the advocate is pushing for us to get this once she leaves residential.

      I may take a break tomorrow. A day off, I’m thinking.

      Thank you!!

      Like

    • I appreciate your prayers. I’m not exactly standing but it’s a close approximation, what with my hot pink cane! Definitely badass. Thank you for your kind words. And any time you’d like to pass along some Jedi parenting magic…I’m waiting for it!

      Like

  6. So this my 3rd attempt to post a comment, not sure if it has posted already apologies if I have.

    Hello again, I had a reply on the site I mentioned from lady who I trust as genuine as she has made many comments on our site and our site goes pretty deep. Here is her reply, ” I know the exact people to put her in touch with. Please find out how we can connect and how we can find out where she lives.
    There’s definite hope for her daughter’s, rapid, gentle, and permanent resolution.” If you would like to go ahead and be put in contact with her, can you send me your email? I’m hoping you get my email address with this comment. Then I will find out her email and send you the details for you to contact. Or I can just send her your email but I thought you might feel more comfortable contacting her. I hope today went well and you can relax for a bit now.

    Like

      • I find it incredible that you have the time to computer at all with everything you have to do. Your time must be very precious. My frustration was at my own stupidity in failing to post the comment twice! Doh! Anyway, I have sent Danielle your email address. So I hope she can help you in the way you need. Please let me know if you don’t hear from her, in case the communication has gone astray. Please also remember you are an incredible person. I have worked with children suffering with traumatic pasts and know how tough it can be. I can tell you are an expert in looking after your children and that your children are doing as well as they are due to your love, energy and wisdom (and your husband’s). I hope that you can get some essential rest now and that Danielle will be able to help in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Heila says:

    I have no words, just want to send you a big (((HUG))). You may not feel like it right now but you are an incredible mom.

    Like

  8. This is so very interesting and it’s amazing that you’re sharing this story as I’m certain it’s helping others. You deserve so much respect for what you’re doing for this poor child. And I definitely won’t be suggesting that people have PTSD in a trite & sarcastic manner any more (like I did in my blog: bleurgh).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kathrin says:

    Hi there! Hope your family gets the help you need!
    Do you know Lisa Qualls from one thankful mom? Maybe she has an idea….

    Like

  10. Fostering Someday says:

    I just wanted to say: I’ve been following your story for a while. I first heard of your story when you were interviewed on the Creating a Family podcast. I was (and still am) so inspired by your grit, care and compassion for these kids from hard places. I work in a low-income, rural school and I frequently work with children who’ve had it very tough…It’s so hard-breaking to see how often they become just as tough.

    Even if you aren’t always feeling this way, you are doing it right. You’re right to advocate for extended time in residential programs and for extra help all around. It’s evident that your children are so loved and that you and Luke are giving them the very best chance in this world. Have faith and keep fighting the good fight! I’ll be cheering you all on!

    Like

  11. Kathryn says:

    You might look into calo preteen program in MO. We recently had our child placed there amd miraculously got insurance to cover the cost even though it is out of state for us. I know it is even more of a distance for you, but they work with kids from all over the US.

    We haven’t been in the program long enough to really share our ppersonal experience, but the model apears sound in terms of relational interventions rather than behavior systems which are so common at placements in my area. They seem to “get” trauma disorders better than professionals we have previously worked with.

    It’s a long, tough battle we fight for healing for our kids. Our prayers are with you aand your family.

    Like

  12. Pingback: All the Pretty Stars: My Trauma | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

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