Trauma Scars

Mike and I went to an intensive training workshop based on the book and behavior modification method: Beyond Consequences.  It was an 8-week course where we drove to Roseville for a 2-hour class each Tuesday night.

It was intense.  In that class, filled with other parents in our shoes, our eyes were opened wide to 1) our future and 2) the depths of patience we'd have to acquire to face what will most certainly be some rough years ahead.  For reference, there were parents in there that had placed their child in day/overnight and even long-term residential treatment care.  There were parents that had a toaster oven thrown into their regular oven leaving a gaping hole in the oven by their child.  There was even a mom that had suffered a broken jaw at the hands of her child. It was eye-opening and scary.

We learned a TON of tools these weeks and mostly we didn't feel so alone in our struggles.  It is often isolating to live with a child with such intense special needs.  People are really quick to brush behaviors off and say "Oh yes, little Jimmy acts like that too" or "that's normal, my Annie does the same thing."  I know from the outside it might actually seem like that.  But the level to which we experience things with him inside our home is massively elevated compared to what you might see at Target.  Geez how I'd love to "just have" a Target meltdown these days instead of the insanity that happens at my house.  

Back to the class.

Week after week we'd learn another little nugget to tuck into our bag of tricks. How to deal with certain things. How to have patience when an explosion occurs.  How to laugh at some of the crazy crap that happens. How to use voice control and choices as parent-led control.  How to stay focused and aware in order to maintain perspective...just to name a few.

At that time we were treating for something called RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, which is an attachment problem that happens with some {adopted kids.}  It often happens in an environment where they weren't nurtured properly, they suffered abuse, saw terrible abuse happen, etc. We believed that Luke might be RAD based on his inability to accept love from me without flinching as well as other highly combative & disruptive behaviors.   The RAD therapy, which was interactive parent play therapy to enhance and re-establish a bond, was very very effective for us.  

However, they say with trauma-induced brain abnormalities, there are some deep scars that write paths in their brains and hard-wire them with a stream of consciousness that says "I am bad; I'm not good enough, I'm not loveable; I'm a bad person" and other horrible self-talk.  I learned through this Beyond Consequences training that trauma can be physical, verbal or emotional abuse that occurred at some point in your brain development. These Trauma Scars can create patterns & cycles.  Perhaps there was a season that the trauma occurred, the wound is made and the scar left in its wake.  Each year, this scar seems to repoen and  it is called a "trigger" time. 

Every year for as long as I've known Luke, the spring has been particularly rough. Usually, from February to April (whoa! Spring Break? YIKES.) it's awful.  The worst of the worse behavior that typically escalates each year as he grows and becomes increasingly challenging and harder to deal with.  Every single year I find myself thinking "What in the heck is going on?" Every year I re-analyze things...Did we change meds? Is his eating different? WHAT CHANGED??? NOTHING!!  Then something clicks "AH HA.  It's this time of year...his Trauma Scar."

Now if you are anything like me you are asking yourself "What happened to him???"  And the truth is, I don't know for sure.  What I DO KNOW is that trauma scarring can happen in utero.  Those precious innocent babies we carry inside our womb are exposed to every single thing we are exposed to - alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, anxiety, depression, abuse (emotional/physical/sexual) can all impact this innocent wee babe.

Around the same time we finished up this intensive training, I reached out to birth mom and asked for her help.  I asked for her to share with me the truth. To be honest and I will not judge or condemn but rather beg to have the truth in order to help this child.  Thankfully, she did.  She was forthcoming and honest. It was hard to hear and sad to know...BUT, now I know.  And while I don't know specifics (dates, times, events) I do know that things happened that profoundly affected a tiny little baby.  A baby that is now a boy with deep dark scars that will never go away.  Those scars seem to break wide open year after year leaving us full of sadness, feeling powerless and causing an enormous amount of stress on our entire family.

I'd love to say that this is the only time of year this happens, but the truth is, it is not.  It seems to be a cycle like many other things in life.  The scars are plentiful. And as the quote goes "the scars you don't see are the hardest to heal."  Never have their been truer words.