My kids hate to sleep in their beds. It’s just one of the vestiges of the trauma they grew up with. If you’ve seen my posts about trauma triggers around food or the bathroom, you might be familiar with this concept. PTSD remains with them from early childhood trauma they experienced. All of them have dealt with this differently, but the triggers are pretty universal.
When Sean lived here he would panic at bedtime and we’d find him sleeping on the floor in our bedroom. He also began to sleep on the couch in the living room. He tried moving his bedroom things in there a little at a time. It was a struggle to explain why that couldn’t be his room.
Marcus spent many a night in his car when he lived here. If he wasn’t able to sleep in the car (like when the first car had a leaking roof and it was raining) he’d just stay up. Marcus wouldn’t fall asleep until the dark was gone and the sun was out. He was, however, the only child that ever slept or showered with the door completely shut.
Many of Mary’s tantrums occurred at bedtime. Eventually we moved her to a mattress in the wide hallway outside our bedroom door. It took years to get her back into her own bedroom. Even then, she’d sometimes end up sleeping on the floor in our doorway near the door. It was a sign of distress.
Carl sleeps on his bed for the most part these days. Like all of the other children, he sleeps on the floor when he is under anxiety. Sleeping with the therapy dog helps him but his night panics come and go.
He’ll never sleep with the fan on because the noise it makes blocks the sound of potential danger. He’ll never open the windows for fear of what might come through. He doesn’t want air-conditioning in his room because he’s terrified it will let bugs in.
Starting the second year of middle school was much better for Carl. Since he’s so athletic he’s managed to make a lot of friends from the teams. I think it’s a protective factor for him when it comes to keeping him from being bullied again.
After the first month of school he started sleeping on the floor. I also noticed the increased food insecurity. There was more arguing. He was irritable. He begged for one of us to remain on the same floor of the house with him while he showered. Something was definitely up. My spidey-sense was tingling.
The first week of school I usually send a letter out to the teachers explaining a bit about Carl. I also ask that they let us know ahead of time if they are going to do any potentially triggering activities like genealogy papers, baby pictures in those “All About Me” books, and reviewing material relating to domestic violence, adoption, or loss of parents.
Basically it just gives us a chance to pre-set him and walk with him through the projects. We won’t remove the trauma triggers in this world, but we sure do our best to let Carl know he isn’t facing them alone. We are here for support.
I got a disconcerting email from his Reading teacher that he was running out of every class for the entire period without using his “break card.” He was going to the guidance office and refusing to return to class. Since this is better than throwing things and punching lockers, I thought “it’s progress.” Still, why refuse to go to this one class?
Apparently it was a book club activity where groups of kids each read the same book and discussed it every day. The book Carl was assigned? City of Orphans!
Don’t get me wrong. I love Avi as an author. The historical fiction aspect of this book has some insightful facts. The adoption narrative with getting rid of the “bad” parent to live “happily ever after” with the adoptive parent makes me want to vomit. Trauma isn’t magically “all better” after adoption!
Of course I addressed the matter with the teacher right away. There wasn’t anything we could do to get my kid to sit with his peers and discuss orphans. Not happening. If she wanted him back in class we would need to work together. At first she tried to protest that in middle school the books would begin to have more adult content.
I may have been a little tough on the teacher. I had to revisit the issue later when I was calm. I explained that it’s not like we wish to shield our son from more adult content or any possible triggers. Heck, he’s probably been exposed to more “adult content” in his first 5 years of life than many of us have ever seen!
We just want to prepare him ahead of time. We also don’t think he should have to be the group representative explaining adoption to the other 5 kids in his club. All I’m asking for is a little sensitivity around this issue. Don’t exempt him, just include us.
What I want is for my boy to be able to sleep in his bed again.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.