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!