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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Golden Miles

In the past, journal assignments just became one more reason for Sissy to rage and refuse to comply. Yesterday afternoon I explained to her that the point of the journal is not to punish her but to help her mind focus on the reasons why she is feeling bad and to process those emotions in a healthy manner. Then, instead of giving her a blank page, I wrote out questions that could be answered succinctly but still get the point across.

1. "What are the three top feelings I have about my first problem?"
2. "What are the two steps from the ACCEPTS [1] model that I'll use next time I'm upset about this problem?"

I asked her the same for both concerns she had that morning. I left the appropriate number of lines in between the questions and then I followed up the journal with the clincher:

"Why is using my skills to handle my emotions the best way?"
Using my skills to handle my feelings helps me because it distracts me from the thing that's making me upset. Not using the skills doesn't help the problem and only makes the problem worse.

I can't believe it! I was so amazed by her answer. It didn't take her long but her answers are well thought out and concise. I love that she knows she's hurting herself by not using her coping skills. I told her how proud I was of her and asked if I could share it. She didn't believe me at first that her answers were good but I assured her that they were not only good, they were fantastic!

Here's another shining "Sissy Moment":
Last week at the psychiatrist office, we were waiting a long time and she decided to peruse the pamphlets on the shelf, in particular, one about suicide. The first page of the pamphlet lists who is at risk for suicide. At the bottom of the list, it says siblings and family members of someone that has talked about, attempted or committed suicide is at risk. Sissy turned to me and said, "Mom. That's WG."

Stunned, I said, "yes, actually. It is. Everyone in a family is impacted when one person is suicidal."

"But WG definitely."

"Yes. I'm proud of you for recognizing that. It's called empathy: when you can understand how another person feels about a problem." (On the inside, I was shouting and jumping up and down and dancing a jig but I didn't want to spook her so I kept it neutral.)

Sissy started to cry, "I didn't know I was doing that to her."

"Well, that's WG's story; that's what she is working on in her therapy. You have your story and you're getting better every day."

I'm blown away. She understands EMPATHY! NEVER in a million years did I think it would be possible that Sissy would be able to get this far.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all rainbows and unicorns. Just last night before Sissy's shining journal moment, we were all crashing, burning and fuming at the supper table. I called a silence truce so we could all gather ourselves individually, THEN I had Sissy do her journal assignment and since WG wanted in, she and I did one too while AB did his math homework.

There was also the issue of the chocolate milk to deal with yesterday. I'll tell ya, 11 years in as a RAD mom and I'm STILL missing the cues. Sissy has been talking about "Tru Moo" milk non stop. Every time we go to the store she's begging for it like a two year old. If that's not enough, Sissy mentions all the wonderful things about Tru Moo all the time, and ten times more than that if she's just seen the commercial. It's been nothing but six long weeks of Tru Moo chocolate milk commercials flowing from her lips. You'd think it was liquid gold.

Then yesterday afternoon the school auto emails me that her lunch account only has $1.75 left. hold the phone. I paid that account with a month of lunch charges! I logged onto the lunch account website and clicked her transactions.

Tru Moo

In the past ten days of school she'd bought 14 extra milks at $0.50 a pop, $0.10 charge more than her reduced lunch rate. $7.00 in Tru Moo in ten days. I was really mad. Mad mad. How does a 12 year old not know that this milk costs MONEY?!? Answer? She DOES know. UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH Yes, she emotionally behaves like a five year old the majority of the time but she's intellectually 12. So I made a 12 year old consequence. I wrote her a bill for $7.00. The invoice listed the number of milks she drank, the cost for each milk and the total bill. Below I wrote "Pay to the nearest mom." Then I wrote a list of chores and varying rates so she could pick and choose how she would pay me back. I put it in an envelope, addressed it, drew a fake stamp, sealed it. When I picked her up from school, I nonchalantly said, "You have mail," and handed it to her.

She read it twice. Said nothing. I waited, holding my breath anticipating fall out. Finally at the traffic light I took a gamble and spoke. "Do you understand your mail?"

"yes. I like the part 'pay to the nearest mom.' That's funny. YOU ARE the nearest mom. Duh!"

We both laughed and it was over. She came home and started on some of the chores and has already gotten her debt reduced. She said she wanted to just pay me the money but I explained that just as everyone else has to work to earn money to pay their bills, she needed to learn the same. She didn't argue, surprisingly.

A day filled with highs and lows, followed by this morning's two year old behavior which just makes me looney. It's never dull but every centimeter of progress I consider a golden mile.

[1]ACCEPTS is a DBT model for "Wise Mind" Each letter represents one of seven different ways change the cognitive thinking process including activities that cross the left and right hemispheres (think NeuroCore work) so the negative emotions that drain the seratonin levels cease. The overall objective is to connect the body and mind to process emotions in a healthy way. This model is the only DBT that has proven to be successful in reducing the number of hospitalizations for children and adults.


Heather said...

Please help me to remember to ask you more about this in Orlando!!!

Integrity Singer said...

hey heather, ask me more about this in Orlando. LMAO

Kerrie said...

I've been wondering lately...what do you think it was that finally shoved Sissy to her turning point? Developmental readiness? Med balance? Something at inpatient? Elfin changeling?

Debora said...

Fantastic! I got tears in my eyes when I read that Sissy said, "I didn't know I was doing that to her." Wow! I will keep praying. And thanking God for these steps, whether they're small or gigantic. Hugs to you!

Ilsa said...

It has been so wonderful to read your blog these past few weeks and see positive posts about Sissy. I remember during the despairing times, how all seemed lost and hopeless -- which just makes reading about the good moments you are experiencing that much sweeter. You & your family continue to be in my prayers. I'm sitting here at my desk smiling like a goofball because I'm so excited about Sissy's progress!

Meg said...

This is such great news!! I am so happy for you guys.

CherylR said...

Way to go! I am inspired reading your posts about the progress being made! Thanks for sharing!

kisekileia said...

Sissy is accepting you poking fun at her in ways that I would have responded to angrily as a child or, for that matter, as an adult, and I have no RAD or attachment issues. I'm not sure how much of it, for me, is the AS tendency to not respond well to teasing, and how much is just a sensitive temperament. Either way, I'm not sure what I think of exchanges like this, except that it would have been nice if my mom had accepted the fact that I wasn't comfortable with them instead of continuing to goad me.

The empathy and self-awareness Sissy is demonstrating are awesome, though!

Integrity Singer said...

@ kisekileia - you're right, it's precarious teasing her but i have a good feel for knowing when it's safe to tease her and when it's not. And with AB, it's the same tight rope dance. Some times he can take the ribbing and other times it just really irks him. But the occasional gamble pays off big when my timing is right! I love to see them laugh and better yet, laugh at themselves. It helps that I constantly make fun of myself and let them laugh heartily at my expense.

Ranger said...

So wonderful you're having some good moments and getting to have some fun together! All your months and months and months of hard work it's lovely to hear you finding she's sharing some insights with you! {}

Heather said...

Remind me to give you a dirty look for that one in Orlando! ;)
Can't wait!