adoption, family

What Have I Done?

There are times when rage bubbles up inside of me like so much lava. I choke it down and attempt to swallow it whole. It seems I can barely breathe for choking on my own anger.

Carl screams and screams at me. He pounds on his door and smashes the things in his room. When upset, Carl tries to assert his dominance. He speaks to me in the horrible way an abusive husband speaks to his wife. Carl makes a show of his physical strength in an attempt to…I’m not sure. Maybe in an attempt to intimidate me or scare me.

The last two weeks have been up and down with him. He’s gotten into several physical altercations at school. I’ve had to pick him up from his intensive outpatient program for throwing rocks at a boy and smashing him over the head with a water pitcher. They discharged Carl the next day because his treatment program was “finished.” At this point, Carl has done so much property damage at home that the drywall in his room resembles Swiss cheese.

Last Friday he slammed his own head against the wall in anger. On autopilot I gave him Tylenol and an ice pack. My calm face and quiet voice almost never falters. It’s like a therapeutic-mom mask that I’ve worn too long. I can’t take it off, even when I try. I also can’t bring myself to exactly care that his head hurts. From a detached place inside of me I check him for signs of concussion and then simply walk away.

The past two weeks have been hell. Actually they’ve probably been my family’s version of normal. Marcus has screamed and yelled at me about calling the police to check on him. Then he yells and swears at me to give him money. He questions why we ever adopted him. Why did we change his name?

On a two-hour round trip visit to see Mary she dismisses me after twenty-four minutes. Her therapist has inadvertently scheduled a trip to get Chinese food with her. If I stay, Mary can go the following day for Chinese food. I don’t stay.

I don’t stay because Mary wants the food more than the visit. If I force her to finish this visit we will both be miserable. Taking food from one of my children is akin to cutting off a finger. Disheartened, I drive home only to get a phone call from Carl’s school about yet another behavior issue.

My face is stuck in a small strained smile. I must resemble some freakishly macabre scarecrow. No matter how I’m feeling on the inside my outer veneer remains frozen.

The truth is that nothing is getting better with our children. I looked back at all the notes I’ve taken over the years. I checked all of the blog posts I never published, the data I never looked at cumulatively. The younger children only improved after completed trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. That was the only time things improved.

At least, they improved to a point. When Carl began psychotropic medication things got a bit better. This first year showed the most, and the only, change in his trauma symptoms. Every Spring after this we’ve had the exact same experience with Carl.

We have been fooling ourselves thinking that things have gotten incrementally better over time. The data says otherwise. It says that beyond year one things have remained the same for three years. No matter what subsequent medication change or modality of therapy, Carl has been the same every Spring. He is physically violent and verbally abusive in the exact same way every year.

Now I stand in Carl’s room with my anger- lava finally flowing from my mouth. The veneer of my face has finally cracked.

“Enough!” I yell back at him. Yelling back is never wise. It doesn’t help anything. Still, the lava is spewing out now and I don’t care to stop it. “You cannot talk to me like this! You cannot treat people like this. Screaming at me every day is abusive. Trying to intimidate me by smashing things and throwing things is abusive. You are acting like an a**hole!”

He (of course) yells back at me, “You think you’re making me feel better but you AREN’T!”

I realize that I am uninterested in his feelings. I am uninterested in his healing. I am uninterested in helping him to feel safe. Instead I yell, “I don’t care how you feel! You are done treating me like this! You are done acting like an abusive a**hole!”

“If you don’t like it when we yell at you then WHY DID YOU ADOPT US??!!”

I open my mouth to deny this but nothing comes out. I want to say, “I always wanted you. I’d never second guess this choice.” The words never come. I choke on these, too.

It’s hard to admit that Carl has struck upon something here. A dark, ugly, secret part of me agrees with him.

Why did I do this?

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


29 thoughts on “What Have I Done?

  1. Anka says:

    4 years in with our 14.5 yo and we’re feeling the same. He’s made lots of academic and skills gains. But behaviorally nothing is better. He’s also physically bigger and now poses a danger to me and smaller classmates when he’s dysregulated. He won’t participate in therapy. He’s been kicked out of public school. He’s smashed laptops and cellphone, broken down doors, hit parents and teachers. The only option would be RTC but we’re still opposed to that. For how long we’ll hold out, I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MS says:

    I think we all go into adoption believing that love can fix everything. I so wish that were the case. Also feeling rubbish tonight having shouted. I think I am going to pretend today didn’t happen and start fresh tomorrow. Let’s hope the amnesia is contagious and my small person can move on too. Sending you best wishes tonight x

    Liked by 3 people

  3. So many of us have had these thoughts. I know you had reached out to me before with a phone call but I was drowning in my own son’s issues at the time. Things are actually calm here and I would love to talk with you. If you need my number again, just message me.
    Sending you strength,
    Debra Cronnelly

    Liked by 1 person

  4. silveryew says:

    Oh Herding, you are only human, please don’t feel bad about this. As an aside i cannot believe they discharged him, he clearly is not ‘finished’ and continues to need intensive support. He is starting to grow and it won’t be long until he is an adult physically and what will happen then? Whoever discharged him without offering more treatment (if that is the case) ought to have their licence revoked.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. It’s all about insurance. The company refuses to pay more so they discharge. We are waiting for our in-home treatment to start. Wish us luck. He’s not getting any smaller!


  5. empriss7 says:

    Hello, I have been reading your blog for quite sometime. I have been so moved by the love you have for your children and all that you are doing for them on a daily basis. I have wanted to reach out to you for quite sometime, so I hope this is okay.

    I have an adopted son who has been diagnosed with ODD and most recently with disorganized attachment, fancy ways of saying Trauma, and lots of it. Although his behavior is not to the same extremes as your children, it can be crazy making for those dealing with it on a daily basis. I guess I just want to tell you that I understand!! I understand watching someone destroy your home and belongings because they are triggered by even the slightest thing. I understand listening to them spew venom your way while you stand there trying not to yell. I understand the deep compassion that is felt for these poor souls who were traumatized at a young age. But I also understand something else, I understand that no matter how much compassion we have, and no matter how well we understand the reasons that they behave the way they do, sometimes all the understanding in the world doesn’t make the behavior easier to deal with on a daily basis. We are human, we get tired, and some days we feel numb, sometimes we struggle to care that they just hurt themselves destroying our property, and some days we do ask ourselves why am I doing this? I have done all of these things and asked myself the very same questions many times over the years. I have been ready to give up on so many occassions, and I suspect I will be again, but I will just continue to do my best, and hope that it is enough. I guess I just want you to know that you are not alone. So please, forgive yourself for the days that don’t go well, (easier said than done, believe me, I know). Don’t beat yourself up for questioning your decision. In the end the questions don’t matter, what matters is that you try, you get up every day and you try your best to help your beautiful, wounded children. I thank you for being brave enough to share your story with others who are facing similar hardships. I thank you for all that you do every single day to help your children heal💛 I hope that by sharing a little bit of my story with you it will give you some much needed strenth, just as your blog posts have been doing for me.

    With much love,and understanding, Emily

    P.S. If you are open to researching therapies, we had some great success with the safe and sound protocol created by Dr. Stephen Porges based on his polyvagal theory. I do not wish to push anything on you, as the purpose of this email is to offer support and understanding. But I would be happy to tell you our experience if you decide to look in to it. I am in no way affiliated with them, it just helped us so I thought I would throw it out there.

    On Jun 30, 2018 7:46 AM, “Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care” wrote:

    HerdingChickens posted: “There are times when rage bubbles up inside of me like so much lava. I choke it down and attempt to swallow it whole. It seems I can barely breathe for choking on my own anger. Carl screams and screams at me. He pounds on his door and smashes the things “

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kathrin says:

    How are you? You haven’t posted anything for a while so I just wanted to check in with you! Hope you feel a little better. Sending love and strength!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve been offline so long that I’m reading backward in your posts. Taking time for yourself (HA! I know that sounds ridiculous, I suppose I mean just staying offline) is important too. Thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. skinnyhobbit says:

    Big hugs! Go easy on you. You’re human and it’s tiring to keep on doing your best when you’re faced with so much. You’re human and you deserve breaks and not to be abused in your own home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Storm Has Passed | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

  10. Your BLOG puts me in a place beyond my own pain. I’m so SORRY for you and the children. There is so much work to be done and day in and day out you are present. At least going thru the motions. I commend you for your continued support of your children, honesty to yourself and for sharing your woes.

    Keep BLOGGING — it’s therapeutic to you and we can support you simultaneously. Even better, others can learn from you. 🛀🏻 📚 🤫 🛏

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: “The truth is that nothing is getting better with our children.” – Riddle from the Middle

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