Advent 2018

I know that it’s super late to be talking about what we got up to over advent, but as I have said in some previous posts, we haven’t had the best of Winters… not that Winter is easy for anyone, but anxiety is especially high in our house from approximately October through to mid January here. And then we had loads of things happen like flooded house, car accident, emergency vets, a 3 am trip to A&E… on top of building works, it’s been quite a time. And this blog is primarily for me to keep a track of what’s occurred so I need to go through it all… no matter how late!

As we do every year, we arranged a calendar which gives the children a bit more focus and reduces the anxiety somewhat (well… it doesn’t reduce it, but it makes each day more manageable). The calendar is presented differently each year – sometimes in a series of envelopes, sometimes in little glass bottles. And in each one is a little message that says what today’s theme is.

There are days and activities that occur annually: Letters to Santa on Day 1, putting up the decorations on the first Sunday, Christmas Eve box .The rest generally follows this pattern (unless the above falls on one of those days:
Monday: Charity day
Tuesday: Craft/Challenge
Wednesday: Christmas food
Thursday: small gift day (basically, something we would have given for Christmas but they can’t cope with much so we spread it out).
Friday: Family movie day
Weekends – family related activities (such as visiting Santa, baking Christmas goodies etc.)

This year, as they are loving the whole West Midlands Safari Park idea, we did the Santa Safari for their annual Santa visit. We got an early slot, so that the kids could beat the busy atmosphere – we won’t usually go somewhere like this on a weekend at a “normal” time of year, let alone a busy one. We got there a little early, and they were first in to see Santa. It was definitely well thought out; they had the normal safari park stuff (no theme park during Winter) so access to the safari drive through, access to the walk around bits and sea lion show etc. but with an area setup for Santa. The kids go went through these little sections to break up the queue; a “sleigh ride” to the North Pole, a walk through a little winter Wonderland to Santa’s little lodge, where they get a photo with Santa and then through to the workshop to choose their toy. The ticket also included a visit to get one of Mrs Claus’ cookies and a hot chocolate. The kids thought it was amazing. Because we have done the safari park and the bits around, we didn’t stick around for the festivities as they really cannot handle it, so we leave on a positive note before they get too overwhelmed and have a meltdown. They loved every second of it.

This year, we added a new event to our advent setup that we think we will continue to factor into our yearly plans; we arranged a Christmas coffee afternoon. You can read more about it in our Christmas and New Year 2018 post… but this meant that one of our days was spent baking in preparation.

Raw, unfiltered, unedited: Sleep deprivation and manipulation.

Another night of no sleep with a child refusing to, in order to manipulate and control. A fear response. They aren’t in control, they are not safe, an adult cannot provide safety.

So manipulate adults in to getting what you want (note, the want and not need there). What they need is sleep… not this strained and stressful rubbish night after night. What they need is a sense of security in the knowledge that it’s safe to hand over control to an adult, not maintaining control and manipulation. What they need is understanding, compassion and time.

How as a human being can you be expected to provide a constant source of nurture and attention, patience and tolerance, empathy and understanding when you are so utterly and completely burnt out?

I don’t know the answer, I search for it daily. I wish I knew it. I want to be that person. But I feel you have to almost be a robot to not get weighed down by the exhaustion of the lack of sleep. The mental exhaustion of having to untangle these levels of trauma daily. The physical exhaustion that comes from the mental exhaustion of the day. Then the exhaustion that comes from other people and lack of understanding or compassion (or even will to understand the situation, or accept your words at face value). You can’t provide that nurture as a robot though. So in short, you can’t provide it. So you are setup to fail surely?

There is a term “good enough parenting” the name of the person it belongs to escapes me, I’m tired and I have no energy to search… This is an “in the moment” post. Raw, unplanned and developing with my thoughts, but the name Winnicott comes to my mind. Effectively you don’t need to be perfect, you can be flawed, be human, and not provide more than they need. But I do question it in our example. I mean, I’m confident that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be the best type of parent… But it appears that even if we are perfect 99% of the time, the level of trauma our child has experienced means they ignore (or can’t retain) what you HAVE done, just what you haven’t. And it gets stored up and we’re held to ransom over it.

Would have helped if we’d had early intervention with therapy. But the Adoption Support Fund application wasn’t forthcoming, or rather the application process was not only not forthcoming but convoluted and shrouded in politics that it took ages to get approval once we finally did get it underway. I can see how therapy may help. But, it’s quite late in the day to start. I for one need to go in fresh and motivated. I’m barely motivated to poop when I need to, cause “effort”, let alone attend 3-4 hour intensive and exhausting therapy sessions. But hey, that’s the state of Adoption & Mental Health Services these days right?

And self care could help with the motivation I’m told… Well, if so many professionals hadn’t messed up consequently leading my child to see, even though they can’t trust me wholly, I’m definitely the person that understands them the most, so keep them feeling the least vulnerable and the most safe. Perhaps I’d be in a position to separate and go fill my cup up. But, alas, here we are.

In the meantime I’m left like a tyre with a slow puncture, after almost 3 years of deflating I’m more flat than inflated. But I get a little bit of air added now and again, not enough to fill me back up, but enough to just keep rolling a little bit longer, sometimes depleting that top up and a little more before the next lot. Rolling onward, focussed on the destination and ignoring the miles still to go. (Cause I would just explode if I had to think about it).

Anyhow. This is how it is to think and feel when living these moments. My raw, uncut thoughts and feelings. In my exhaustion. Just here trying to provide a little insight (not complain) over what it means to parent a child of complex needs and such trauma.

Why won’t you just sleep? Please!!!!

So, one of the children has struggled with sleep from the outset, one of them has issues every now and again. And as they are both children who feel extra vulnerable at night time, due to the way their history has played out, they both find it extra hard to seek the help they need at night time… even if you hand it to them on a plate.

We are in an “enduring” period at the moment with both of them. One is on high alert, and with high alert comes their go to anxious response – self harm. So, that particular child is under supervision, or listened in on, 24/7 during those periods. So, one of us is always sat with them at bed time… The other, just not sleeping, and then by 4:30/5am getting fed up of just laying there, so making lots of fuss, fidgeting and generally refusing to allow anyone else rest (with many dramas in between having gone to bed and this ‘final showdown’).

Well, it reached a boiling point today, and we bascially refused to do anything until they gave in and actually slept for at least 30 minutes. They could sit and do nothing, or they could nap (food and toilet and drink obviously occurred). But I mean, we are a few years into this now, and this is continuous, and we have tried everything (including melatonin). Awaiting a sensory assessment from an Occupational Therapist who specialises in Attachment Trauma and the consequetional attachment related sensory issues that could prevail.

But we haven’t had that yet as social services took 18 months to assess us, to secure funding for the initial specialist assessment. And a further 3 months to get the appointment through, and get a written report published that said we need to have a specialist OT to assess us (don’t even go there). But that means this year’s funding has been allocated. However, we can’t go through NHS because it is the responsibility of the placing local authority to fund this type of assessment (and any following support) for 3 years after the final Adoption Order is processed. So we have to wait for the next financial year to be eligible to even apply for this assessment, let alone attend, get a report and secure any suggested therapy/advice/training.

So assuming other timescales, this could mean a 1+ year wait…  so if our response seems strong, or extreme, ask yourself if a child who’s not sleeping (not even really a solid hour per night) is at more risk by being told to rest for a day, or by running themselves ragged on hyper alert, over tired, over stimulated, under regulated and with exhausted parents and a very grumpy sibling to boot.

Anyhow, late afternoon… a nap was achieved and then low level and calm activity could take place. But not without first having a discussion. One about why today went the way it did. Why Mumma and Daddy want them to have adequate sleep – to rest, to help their brain have more focus, for their health, for growth and development. It didn’t seem to sink in, but then a child that hates themself, thinks they are evil and the cause of all problems really isn’t going to give two hoots about themselves at all really are they?

Some very long discussions later and then the question was asked.

“So, Mumma is not angry. Mumma is concerned. About you. But not just you… about me, Daddy and [sibling]. We all need rest. And we can’t help you until you are willing to accept the help. Don’t feel shame. Don’t cry to try and get out of this. Just tell me, how do you feel whilst you are lying there at night. What is it that is making you feel something that is stopping you from going to sleep?”

After a few tries to emotionally manipulate their way out of the situation and some firm, but reassuring, responses that we really don’t care how bad they think it is, we aren’t angry, or upset… just want to help. Something happened. Something that seemed genuine, and would make sense…

“it feels like part of my brain stops working. Like it is broken”,
“broken how, in what way”
“it just stops working and then I can’t use it. It is switching off.”
“do you mean you can’t respond to things?”
“yes, like if there’s a noise or something.”
“Ok. And is that scaring you?”
“Yes, because then I don’t know what’s happening”
“Ok, I understand. But do you know what? That means your brain is working, it needs to shut off from everything that is happening so that you can truly rest. I know it may not feel familiar and safe because night time used to be scary… but you aren’t broken.”

This provoked many tears. There was some acknowledgement and then some funny demonstrations of being hyper alert and being flat out exhausted (tongue out, drooling type). And then further discussion about being safe now, and not needing to listen anymore, and their body knows this which is why it’s trying to work, but it feels unfamiliar and that’s what’s scary – it’s not broken, just unfamiliar.

We have now put some steps in place: thought processes, self-led conversations etc. and then calling for help, reiteration we don’t care how many times we have to get up if it’s helping etc. Now we are (hopefully) one step further forward, and the fight isn’t “what is happening?” but rather “how do we help engrain the feeling of safety and help recognise there isn’t a danger that needs protecting from?”

We’re going to keep reiterating these steps, and also compliment it with aromatherapy (we have a doTerra emotional aromatherapy diffusing kit we have purchased in the hopes to come to aid our ability to promote moods), make extra sure that bed time routines are fixed and peaceful (and nurturing) and potentially find some soothing sounds to play over a speaker to complete the soothing and safe atmosphere (and hopefully distract from the knocks of the heating and creaks of the house).

Slowly these walls are being taken down, even if it’s one brick at a time and we are removing 6 bricks and adding 2 back on. But it’s moving forward. And as a parent of a traumatised child, that’s a win you not only take, but celebrate!

 

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