On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Survivor Videos

My therapist asked to view some of the videos we've created of Sissy's violent episodes at our next session. She's not questioning the authenticity of my claims, she is hoping to lend a helping hand in dissecting, understanding and providing therapeutic assistance to deal with these events. So I uploaded the videos to my laptop and watched them with as objective a point of view as possible. I was hoping I might discover something about Sissy's behaviors in the videos that I hadn't seen before because I was in those crisis events with her. I don't like to go to therapy sessions unprepared. I only have an hour and I don't want to waste a second of that time figuring stuff out. I like to spend that time problem solving after I have already identified the problem.

[aside] Right now Sissy is playing with an infant toy. She likes to engage Wonder Girl with these things even though WG will openly admit that she's not interested because these things are "baby toys". I didn't even remember I still had some baby toys laying around the house. (note to self - donate the darn thing to the church yard sale) Why do our RADishes prefer to gravitate toward items, TV programs and children that are developmentally below them? That's an open question for anyone. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

and now she's playing the piano. replicating the twinkle twinkle little star song that the infant toy plays.

oops. she got bored. just as I was typing the above thought. now she's pacing and asking me for things she doesn't need or really want. I hate weekends. I can't possibly replicate the strict scheduling nature of a school day even when I try. And I don't know that it would ultimately help Sissy. It would just become one more thing for her to rebuff me on. I've tried the love and logic approach of giving her two choices but when she gets boxed in, she screams. duh. she screams no matter what words come out of my mouth, so it's just easier to not let words come out of my mouth when she's near me.

I'm still not speaking to her beyond three word directives. She's been pesky but not difficult. It was nice to have a scream-free evening last night. She leaves for her outing in an hour. :-)

ugh. now she's opening up a jar full of beads to make something. This will last for five minutes tops before she gets frustrated trying to put the string through the little holes. (by the way, her behaviors are being typed in real time so as you've read these words, that's how long it took her to change her activity plan)

[Back to my original post thought, the videos]
So I watched them all. First, I had to turn down the volume. I tell people she screams. Loudly. I tell people you can hear her screaming when you're outside and all the windows and doors to the house are closed. I tell them this but they don't really believe it because they haven't heard it. She screams. Primal screams. My ears were ringing when I was through listening to the videos and that was with the volume turned down.

Second, comparing videos from before and after RTC, I can say with certainty that she's on a good drug mix. It might need some slight tweaking but the drugs have definitely taken out a lot of the psychosis factor. Before RTC, the videos show a wild-eyed Sissy that is screaming, scheming and moving very quickly with wild movements. And she is alarmingly disregulated. One video she is primal screaming and two seconds later she is sitting tall, speaking clearly and saying a thought that seems to have absolute clarity of mind.

After RTC, her videos show more infantile behaviors than before but more regulation (which I say tentatively because she still isn't regulated but it's marginally better). The intensity of her violence is lessened some and her mood is flatter. I think I can sum it up by saying the violence, mania and psychosis is still there but the meds are making it hard for her to get to the same level of escalation as before. It's kind of like a scene from a scary movie in which a monster is trying to escape a man hole in the street but someone is sitting on the man hole cover attempting to keep the monster in. The monster can pop up the lid some but the man can shove it back down with effort.

Third, the videos after RTC are shorter which easily quantifies the fact that she is getting regulated faster than before. Another positive.

[aside] and now she has spilled all the beads on the floor after making a bracelet that she decided after the fact she wanted to be necklace. I told her it was too short. She got mad and spilled them all. but if you asked her about it? she'd tell you they spilled by accident *enter baby whine with a sideways look at you to see if she convinced you* [1]

now she's picked them all up and put them into a plastic easter egg.

now she's putting more beads into a ziploc bag. (note to self: where the heck did she get a ziploc bag? When did she get that?)

and now wonder girl is trying to cut the new table cloth with the scissors that Sissy did not put away

and now she's interrupting me to ask if she can put on a tattoo.

and now she's asking if she can put her money into the bag that attaches to her bicycle.

and now she's pacing again with untied shoe laces that are clicking on the linoleum

[back to my original post thoughts]
Fourth, she is manipulative. Before and after RTC. When you watch the videos with an open mind, it is almost laughable. Her eyes betray her, as does her body language. It is very clear when she is screaming to get attention or to get her way and when she is screaming because she's past the point of no return (amygdala response of fight/flight). When I'm in the crisis moment with her, I don't pick up on those cues because I'm taking it all for the values that I see and hear which are a dis regulated child that is screaming at me. But the videos don't lie. Half of those moments were easily manipulations. [1] proof of my thoughts like the aforementioned. She really does make those sideways glances to see if she's convinced me or her dad of her manipulation. I saw them clear as day on the videos.

Fifth, and this is the most telling. As a whole, The Dad's stance just ticks her off. Flat our anger. There's no other emotion there except anger that he's told her to do something. But when I'm in the mix. Oh boy. It's scary.

In one video, she's screaming at her dad about homework. You can't see me because the camera is on Sissy, but I was sitting across the kitchen table from her, doing homework with Wonder Girl. WG and I were doing our best to ignore Sissy's outburst. At some point in the exchange with The Dad, Sissy immediately stopped her primal screaming and gave him a look of death (ha! Caught on video, this hairy eyeball isn't my imagination!). There is no sound and then suddenly, you hear WG and I laughing. OMG. I watched the three seconds over and over. Sissy went from look-of-death glare at dad to a completely different countenance, her head spinning to look directly at me and ... I can't describe it. It's like love, yearning, hatred and violence all rolled into one facial expression. Almost as though my laughing with WG was a betrayal of my love for Sissy. Then, three seconds later, she is literally leaning over the table primal screaming at me.

A few months ago, right after this incident with Sissy, I was so shaken up by her response, that I discussed it in my therapy session. I told my therapist that it was like a demon was screaming at me. Sissy was leaning all the way over the table, holding a clenched fist to my nose, primal screaming about her spelling homework, all directed at me. But the original homework exchange was between Sissy and The Dad.

Now I see what happened. It was the dynamic between WG and I that set her off. Now I know why she escalates to violence against WG, she knows that WG and I have an appropriate mother/daughter relationship. Now I understand all of Sissy's other machinations - they are all geared toward triangulating her siblings and adults against me so that she has the upper hand. When she can't triangulate or manipulate them (which is almost always the case) she gets angry at ME. When she can't triangulate or manipulate me, she takes her anger out on WG (which, in her mind, is still taking the anger out on me because she's subconsciously declaring that our appropriate mother/daughter relationship should be destroyed) But of course, all it serves to do is strengthen my relationship with WG because right now, I'm the only protection WG has from Sissy. And this undesired result to Sissy's manipulation only escalate her rage more. Eventually, what I predict will come true. Sissy will have to keep upping the ante in her attempts to destroy the relationship I have with WG to the point of WG being seriously injured. I won't be able to convince professionals of this truth. Neither do I know how to circumvent this culmination. My only recourse is to stick with my maternal intuition (that is now supported by video proof) and to prevent Sissy and WG from having any alone time. Which is exhausting to say the least.

Sissy doesn't do this with Aspie Boy because number one, we have a mother/SON relationship which is functionally different, and because by the nature of his disorder, Asperger kids can't be manipulated or triangulated. Or at least mine can't be. Aspies only see black/white. Everything else is "against the law" as AB would say. Something the president should be notified about. The first hint of a supreme authoritative power like a president and Sissy backs down. Because that kind of authority is to be feared (because parental authority isn't truly authority in the mind of a RADish, rather it is an opportunity to out wit, out last and out play. [2] after all, isn't it the first parent that destroyed that level of trust? ergo, parents categorically can not be trusted [3])

In conclusion, I can apply these new discoveries to help appropriately parent Sissy. At least I hope I can. That said, what I've learned may or may not be transferable to other RAD children. However, I strongly recommend you create a few months worth of videos of your RADish in crisis or potentially critical moments in which they navigate correctly. Then watch them, after you've put time and emotion behind you. Analyze them critically. Learn from them. You may uncover some truths about yourself, your RADish and find a path toward healing that you didn't have before. Take them to your therapist (or theirs) and get a professional to help you work it out. But don't wait. Start today. We bought a cheapo $30 USB port pocket-sized video recorder that holds 10 GB. It was more than sufficient to do the job.

[2]out wit, out last, out play. The motto of the reality TV show, Survivor. I told a friend recently that I live Survivor every single day. Sissy tries to out wit, out last and out play me all the time. Literally. All.The.Time.

[3] this is not meant as a "dig" on first parents. It's just the subliminal message in a RADish mind, the trauma factor of improper parent/child relationship imprinting


GB's Mom said...

I hope it helps!

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Videos??! Wow. All we had to do was grab for the camera and our RAD-love would shut all her screaming immediately OFF and start grinning. . . Wish I DID have a video or two! (Thankfully, it's been a long while since we had the all out screaming, but much of what you wrote, I could really, really relate to!)

Jules said...

The fact that you haven't smacked the crap out of this kid yet is amazing.

L said...

I just wanted to comment on your concern re: Sissy playing with infant toys. Having my own trauma history, I'd say that despite how strange and perhaps uncomfortable it makes others feel, it may in fact be a POSITIVE thing for Sissy and others like her! I say this because of my own history as well as my educational/professional experiences.
Sissy may in fact be subconsciously attempting to self soothe. It could also be a reflection of her own low self esteem. We ALL know most everybody loves babies! Perhaps in Sissy's mind she consciously or unconsciously feels "If I act like a baby, will everyone love ME?" It seems like there at exists at least the POSSIBILITY that, given her history she is recognizing on SOME level that she didn't get those things and knows something is missing.
I wonder if it might help her regulate her behavior, accept love, etc, if you could allow/encourage her to actually "go back there" within set parameters either once a week or for maybe an hour or so daily? You could... explain to her in language she will understand "You didn't get thse things as a baby and maybe you wanting to play with baby stuff and cry and tantrum like a little one is a way to say you are angry about that or missing that. I wonder if you would like to be my baby now? Would you let me rock you? Feed you? Etc." Just an idea but run it by her therapists and see what they say. Or, by other moms who parent hurt children! Take care and Happy Easter, Lori (I've commented before)

Jennifer said...

Hi, Jennie,

Just wondering - since you have video proof of Sissy's escalations/machinations/manipulations - could this be used with your IFI team and even CPS in getting more help for you and your family?

Maybe this would help get your cut services reinstated or even upped?

Or - worse case scenario - help you get Sissy permanently out of the home (bec of violence to WG) without you and your hubby being charged with anything by CPS?

Jeri said...

Jennie, I think you need to have tshirts made: RAD Island...outwit,outlast,outplay.

I'm glad the videos gave you some clarity and most of all that you have them to share with the therapist. Hmmmmm, how many loblollys are still standing?

Mama Drama Times Two said...

I'm with Jeri- SURVIVOR RAD T-shirts to fund a nice relaxing respite (adult-only) trip for you....