Friday, August 05, 2011
Temper Dysregulation Issues in Adopted Children
Martin, pictured here, my sweet son for over a dozen years is nicely emotionally regulated. More on dysregulation to follow this morning.
In 1954 Helen and Scott Nearing first published Living the Good Life: Living Sanely in a Troubled World at the exact same time my parents were living in Atlanta, two idealistic folks from South Carolina, because my dad was in seminary at Emory University.
I was born that July, less than a mile from a Krispy Kreme place, apparently setting off a lifelong love of those lard-laden, glazed sugar lumps.
Thank God it wasn't up north. What if I craved Philly cheese steaks or something nasty like that?
Re-released in the early 1970's, this book found a hungry, searching audience amongst hippies, and other disillusioned folks, launching a major back-to-the-land movement.
My generation, angry and blindsided, both during and after The Vietnam War, the deaths of Martin Luther King along with President Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy, not being very happy with the tract housing that became a materialistic suburbia, well, we were all searching for nirvana and answers. So many of us, the baby boomers, born in the fake prosperity shadow after World War II, rejected all that our parents had embraced, much as every generation seems to do.
When I first read, Living the Good Life, I marveled at the very thought of subsistence. I've read it many times since, and have spent this summer re-reading it, and many follow-up books, seriously spending my entire summer in my head in Maine, alongside those original back-to-the land folks.
I'd also spent the 70s, and every decade since, minus that one year bopping between Malibu Canyon and New Orleans, living down some dirt road or another, sometimes without running water, or refrigeration, Sarah and I'd used a deep well one summer just to keep milk and cheese chilled, another summer bathing in a river, living in a one room cabin, and I have always found myself the happiest when I produced my own food, living with minimal stuff that always weighed me down.
I'd always seen my parents and grandparents do so, I was a chip off their old dirt-grubbing block.
"Pay as you go," Scott Nearing, always elderly since he'd become famous, living to age 100, would croak into whatever microphone was thrust in his face. "That's the secret."
I believed him.
My free time, now there's a laugh, has always sent me barreling outside to work, eschewing shopping malls, and other normal trappings, I suppose. I never aspired to either marry nor accumulate.
Last night, this enormous lack of rain, nearly had me bust out crying watching vines wither, potential rain clouds dissolve, and I've not had a single bell pepper yet. The radar screen shows deluges in Atlanta and west of there, even around here, this particular end of the county has been beyond dry. Oh Lord, is it me? Is my own intense personal burning heat what's dissipating the chances of precipitation?
My figs and tomatoes are doing beautifully somehow, but that's about all I can count on at the moment. Instead of canning them I've been freezing tomatoes in gallon sacks, I'll cook 'em all down later in the winter. I also have oregano and basil, go figure.
Michael drove off with my four best behaved sons this morning, making me suddenly realize if Allen and JoJo get into a fight with each other, I'll be sunk without them, Martin and Chuy, to break it up.
That fourth one, Tony, has been extraordinarily helpful and industrious all summer long, a changed guy since last Spring, working on his issues with Dr. Mandy, shaking off many of the hurdles that'd kept him working so hard to provoke everyone into amazing fits of fury. CW's gone too, the one I can count on to help me with the work. Indeed he'd just cut Grandma's grass for her and done a beautiful job of it.
Certainly it's been a more light-hearted atmosphere around here this summer, with the glaring exception of Jonathan and his severe emotionally and mentally troubled issues. Scotty's been a bit iffy, but as I told Dr. Mandy yesterday, I can literally see the anxiety waves skittering through Scotty, and his sad powerlessness to gain control over it... is nearly heartbreaking to behold.
She again explained the emotional dysregulation that one large sibling group of mine has always exhibited. Knowing these facts, helps me. It's not that that entire group wants to act and react so badly, they literally have no regulator from within to monitor their mean, aggressive and angry explosions.
I've always described these flareups as rages. This article refers to it as temper dysregulation. Whatever. It's an initially shocking sight to behold, that first rage. Especially for a parent who has already raised birth children, one can't imagine the explosions that'll soon follow when one adopts traumatized children.
I was a naive birth parent of a grade-grubbing, sweet-natured, very smart child, Sarah, who'd never even raised her voice, much less exploded. Never. We were rational humans who had discussions about books and ideas. Nerds. Dorks. Maybe even social misfits as we both preferred seclusion to events. Still do, both of us. Yolie's become eerily similar. I credit that to her innate intelligence.
My first rager simply stunned me, now decades later, I can step over a rager and go on about my business. I've learned that nothing I do or say, in explosive moments, matters in the least. I might as well just go howl at the moon.
From the article: But families like Alex’s are suffering. It is important to find a way within the DSM system to describe their experience without use of the bipolar label. The criteria for the diagnosis must clearly reflect the intensity, frequency, and disruptive nature of the problem.
I have many children like this. I've often stressed, "They're not mental, but they are emotionally troubled," an understatement at best.
Dr. Mandy pointed out yesterday, "But they are in no less need of help." Yep, I so agree.
You'll be accused of playing favorites. "Why don't you yell at Lily?" Paloma would bellow.
Why should I yell at a kid who is sitting quietly drawing a picture, Lily being yet another normal, raised from birth, emotionally regulated child who's also never ever raised her voice in anger at anyone?
Then Paloma would dissolve into fury fits, hitting others, breaking things, raging, screaming, and accusing everyone who walked by her of everything under the sun.
Last night on the phone she told me of several fights she'd been in recently. I can only breathe a sigh of deep relief that I'm not the skinny ole bat having to break these fights up, while trying to keep innocent victims safe. I pigged out on ice cream last night that Travis got for my sons who'd helped him move. Maybe I'll gain a couple hundred pounds?
And the false accusations? Oh my goodness, who amongst us has not been accused of everything and anything? This other article makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, so closely does it mirror what I've seen over the years.
I'd wager that every nearly single severely traumatized child who comes out of the foster system into adoption has this diagnosis in some degree or another. How could they not? How can they be ripped from their caretakers, or having been severely abused or neglected, how can they not be dysregulated?
It's a crime against humanity, and it breaks my heart for them.
How can they not need therapy?
Yet I can name several children who've never raged here: Daniel, Sabrina, Yolie, Jesse, Gina and others
How 'bout this one? Gaslighting - Gaslighting is the practice of systematically convincing an individual that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term "Gaslighting" is taken from the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.
This is why I feel like a shattered egg.
Where is my reality, or, better yet, what is reality? My world is upside down and inside out at best.
But how much more so for them? For the kids?
Lord have Mercy, parents, tell me this doesn't describe what you've been through mamas?
Ouch, it even hurts to read it all.
And as I type? One just raged unreasonably that the milk I just bought is expired. It is not. But this is what emotional dysregulation looks like.
I deeply appreciate Dr. Mandy explaining to me yesterday, as I threw up all sorts of roadblocks about why I don't want to have anything to do with a kid, who doesn't live here, because of the way I've been treated by someone with severe emotional dysregulation. Dr. Mandy patiently talked me through it, probably unconvinced as I left, that she'd gotten through, but she did.
She probably knows me well enough to know I need to think deeply about ideas first.
Again, parents, this is why we need therapy.
I so miss CW, Tony, Martin and Chuy already and it's only been an hour. Hope they have fun on the beach in South Alabama.