What’s on My “To Read” List

This has always been one of my favorite sayings.

So many books, so little time. I have multiple topics I love to read about. But within those topics there are so many good books! I try to stay up on what’s current in Reactive Attachment Disorder but obviously self-care is also big on my list! And with August’s current prison stay, I’m now moving into looking for books to help me understand what to expect afterward. But what’s on my “to read” list is a constantly moving target!

In the area of books on RAD, there are not a lot of new books being published on the topic. The work being done on possibly changing the name is still under consideration so no one has published a full book on the subject. Nevertheless, there are some new books that have come out in the last few months. I haven’t read them so this isn’t a recommendation of any sort. But based on my research they look promising.

Reactive Attachment Disorder Books

  • Reversing Reactive Attachment Disorder: Overcoming Cravings The Raw Vegan Plant-Based Detoxification & Regeneration Workbook for Healing Patients. Volume 3– I know the effect of food on RAD has always been a hot topic. When August was little it was food dyes and Dr. Feingold’s diet. This one uses what is now known about the benefits of a plant-based diet focused on RAD.
  • Love Never Quits: Surviving and Thriving After Infertility, Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder– This is one family’s story of adopting a child from Guatemala who has RAD. After years of infertility they adopted one, then a second child and that one had RAD. She deals with her years of struggle with all these issues and the emotional roller coaster ride that it takes the family on. It sounds like the story of my life!
  • My Self Healing Journal Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder: Prompt Journal For Families Surviving RAD/Reactive Attachment Healing Journal/Reactive Attachment Diary– This is a self-published journal and each page includes a writing prompt to help you with getting out your feelings about life with a RAD kiddo. If you don’t have a great support group and need some place to vent your feelings, this may be a good option.

The other topic I keep an eye on is help for school. This one is harder because the issues tend to be more subject-specific or child-specific. But here are a few that looked interesting:

  • Helping Children Manage Anxiety at School: A Guide for Parents and Educators in Supporting the Positive Mental Health of Children in Schools– Anxiety can infect so much of a child’s performance at school. And RAD kiddos who feel shame and have no control don’t have to look far for sources of anxiety. Add to that learning disabilities and they can have so many strikes against them. Managing anxiety can go a long way toward creating a successful school experience.
  • Lessons from the Listening Lady: Adolescents & Anxiety A family guide to making the mind, body, spirit connection– This has the same goal as the previous book but it is specifically targeted toward adolescents.
  • Words Will Never Hurt Me: Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying and Putdowns– This one looked particularly interesting. August had a rough patch with bullying in late elementary school (when your name is also a month…) His quick temper and grandiose opinion of himself didn’t help him handle it well. I wish I would have had a way to better handle talking to him about dealing with it.

The last section is self-care and that is a monumental list that I could write about forever, but the easiest way to help with this is to recommend goodreads. If you’re not there, you should be! You can connect with friends and share what you’re reading, what you want to read and what you’ve read. You can look for what celebrities are reading! And you can browse by subject to get information on what the goodreads universe is reading to see what is recommended in about every genre. I’m not copping out but their self-help section is particularly good. And, of course, there’s an app for that!

Roald Dahl has been and continues to be one of mine and the boys favorite author. If he’s not as familiar to you, Google him. You’ll be amazed!

I am sure there are many more you might be reading and I would love for you to share them! And as I get through these I will post reviews! I will also move these titles and more information over to the resources page for easier referencing!

Until next time,

Shannon

What Happens to You When School Starts

It may seem like parents get released from summer prison when school starts. No more trying to entertain bored children who don’t seem to want to do anything you suggest. No more endless family vacations inevitably wrecked by meltdowns or horrible weather or fights or any of a million other possibilities. And school couldn’t start soon enough. But somehow it seems you’ve just jumped off the teacups and onto the roller coaster! Now there’s carpool and homework and after school activities and lunches and summer already seems light years away. So what happens to you when school starts?

It can be very easy to go on “automatic pilot” at the beginning of the school year. We get that schedule humming and feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders because we’ve not left anyone sitting on the curb at school after soccer practice (yet). And there haven’t been any calls from the dean’s office (yet). So far none of your kiddos has had a sick day (yet). But in all of your amazing planning and scheduling you’ve left out the most important person in the equation – YOU.

If you manage to keep this schedule running like clockwork you’ll be dead by Thanksgiving. There’s no way to go full steam ahead all day every day with RAD kiddos plus siblings in tow through a busy school year and not take intentional time to decompress. And I can almost guarantee on that master schedule on the kitchen wall is no “ME time” anywhere. Go look. I’ll wait.

When school starts back up and the whole world is depending on you it is the absolute best time to double down on your efforts at self-care. Especially if you find yourself with some kid-free hours during the day. If you work an additional job on top of the parenting, then those hours may be taken, but we will figure out a time to get in some quality self-care, I promise.

First let’s look at what might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’m going to guess reading for pleasure, sleep, exercise, healthy eating, quiet time or meditation. Losing any or all of those can start to weigh on you mentally and physically after just a few days not to mention weeks if you are deprived of them.

But you may feel guilty about trying to spend that much time when the schedule is so overloaded with the chaos of school. So we will have to move into “wild” self-care; finding time for yourself in the maybe the more unlikely of times and spaces!

  • Reading in the carpool lane – I always kept a book in the car. Even if I was reading something else in the house. I kept something in the car to read while I was waiting to pick whoever up from whatever. Now not everyone may be able to read multiple books at once but if you can, this is a treasure. You’re alone, it’s quiet, bring a cup of tea, leave earlier than you need to be there (you get my drift…) When both boys were in school every once in a while I would be too tired to read and my youngest would read to me (if the book was appropriate). I’d close my eyes and he’d read to me. It was heaven. That’s how he got hooked on The Hunger Games at eight years old!
  • Getting Exercise – getting to the gym may not be anywhere on the schedule but it doesn’t mean you can’t get in some cardio around the kiddos’ activities. Soccer practice? Walk the track while you wait. Is school close? Walk there with the kiddos when the weather is still nice out. Or stay after school with them one day and bring a basketball and shoot hoops. Make a game out of math homework with hopscotch for the little ones. Particularly with RAD kiddos, exercise and homework seem to be a good pairing I have found.
  • Healthy Eating – The temptation to make yet another run through “insert fast food restaurant name here” is great when school is in. I know. When you have two hours between the end of play practice and the beginning of choir practice to get the kiddos home, fed and homework done, those golden arches can be your best friend. And those little body metabolisms may not take much of a hit, but boy you know you will! So what’s the answer? Make the instant pot and crock pot your friends. Throw something in there in the morning and let it cook all day and then serve it up the minute you get home. You’d be amazed and what those things can create! Also meal prepping on the weekends and freezing things that can go in a crock pot or quickly in a skillet. My kids love meatloaf. I’d make them in muffin tins and freeze them. I took them out of the tins and put them in big ziploc bags. Take out how many you need and put them on a baking sheet, bake (takes less time because they’re smaller) and throw together a salad and you’re good to go!

These are just some ideas of how to reclaim your self-care in the chaos of the school year. If you need something to put next to that master schedule, here’s a great checklist! I’d love to hear your ideas of how you keep YOU in mind when school starts! 

Until next time,

Shannon

We Have A Mental Health Crisis

This is not what I planned to write about today. But this weekend has rocked me as I’m sure it has affected all of you. I do not want to be political or take a stance on gun control. What I want to talk about about it the state of mental health treatment.

As I write this, it has been barely 24 hours since the shooting in El Paso and less than that since the shooting in Dayton. The second one occurred maybe 40 minutes from where I grew up. There is information being delivered on 24/7 news channels about victims and timelines for first responder activities. There are broadcasts of tip lines of where families can check in who still have loved ones missing in the aftermath of these tragedies.

And inevitably there are the stories of the shooters. So similar. White boys; early 20’s. Conversations with friends and neighbors describe them as loners, overly interested in guns and the military. Maybe they were treated for mental illness earlier in their lives. Maybe their parents saw them as “a little off” but never really did anything about it because teenagers go through things. It might come out that they were not great students or they were bullied at school because they didn’t “fit in” with the social norms of high school.

I love this quote…I wish I knew the answer to the question.

Any or all of these things could be true. On top of the motive that made them ultimately pull the trigger. Because no one can deny that someone who makes the decision to commit mass murder is not mentally stable. And I don’t need to let you know that this becomes an issue that doesn’t get addressed because of the cloud of gun control arguments that take center stage.

Mental Illness is a crisis in this country. Besides your RAD kiddos and possibly yourself, I am sure most of you can think of several people who have been treated for a mental illness. But it continues to be the secret, taboo, non-disease that no one will talk about, let alone take on as a legitimate issue. Insurance coverage is hit or miss. Parents are reluctant to address it with their children. Schools don’t have resources to handle children whose mental health issues move too far outside the box.

Statistics show that over half of all inmates in jail and prison have a diagnosed mental illness. That shouldn’t be surprising. Once an untreated mental illness spins out of control, it is very hard to bring it back under wraps. When children turn 18 and don’t have to listen to their parents any more about medications or therapy (if that was happening at all), behaviors can become exaggerated or even violent. It doesn’t excuse their actions, but to a degree, they are not responsible for their behavior.

I know for a fact that there is a breakdown in the effort to get help for children who belong in treatment not jail. Even with families who are supportive and have the means. When August was in the juvenile system he was given referrals to the behavioral health intervention that worked with the courts system here. We couldn’t get someone on the phone. When we could get someone on the phone they would say they weren’t the person we needed. When we did get someone and got an appointment the red tape was insane. And then even if we did get through the process, and with a diagnosed mental illness already, he never got a day of treatment.

These boys are a result of a system that has failed them. A healthcare system, family and friends, the government who refuses to make mental health a priority and many more. And I’m sure you have experienced this in your efforts to help your RAD kiddos.

There have been a few advocates for mental health awareness. Tipper Gore was a great one.

I don’t have any answers to all of this. It breaks my heart to have to see these boys whose brains aren’t even done growing yet having their lives cut short because of a disease. Mental illness is a disease. Like chicken pox. We need to treat it with the seriousness it requires and keep this from happening. Protect our children.

Until next time,

Shannon

A New Name for Reactive Attachment Disorder

This wasn’t the topic I’d planned for today. But the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing more and more information about a new name for Reactive Attachment Disorder. Reactive Attachment Disorder hasn’t been on the radar of psychiatrists and the DSM (the manual used for making diagnoses of medical and psychological illness) for many years. If you have a RAD kiddo, you may have found like me that a lot of mental health professionals haven’t even heard of it. 

And many times, as a lot of you have also experienced, RAD is misdiagnosed as other disorders. Sometimes it’s because they are looking at symptoms and not causes. August was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and one therapist even suspected Asperger’s. Finally we found the psychiatrist who knew what he was talking about. Then we understood what we were dealing with.

But lately a group of psychologists have been talking. There is a new term being discussed and developed to talk about trauma-affected children. There is a group of 10 mental health professionals working to coordinate the understanding of childhood trauma. They are describing the effects it has on the brain, the long-term behaviors, the ability for normal relationships and attachments and more.

I am including the link to the article which most plainly explains this progress here.  Then this article explains what the diagnosis might look like. You will see quickly that it looks a lot like RAD. 

So is this new name and inevitable inclusion in the DSM going to finally get us some real answers to treatments which will work and trained therapists? Well, it’s not that much good news. But it does give us a simpler explanation for the real long-term effects of childhood trauma. We might be able to carry this with us to help explain our kiddos better to doctors, therapists, teachers and others. For example, here’s another article that helps simplify the new diagnosis. 

I’m not completely comfortable with it yet. I still want to hang on to RAD because emphasis on that “attachment” piece is missing in this new diagnosis. That is also what is missing in our trauma-affected children. But it is the first time in a long time that any attention has been paid to what happens to our children in those early years and what needs to be done to help them. So I’m giving a big cheer!

I’m going to be keeping an eye on this one and seeing what happens. I would suggest you talk about what your child’s official diagnosis is as the new DSM is released. This may be of particular importance for insurance coverage for residential treatment, disability insurance and other payments. 

Until next time,

Shannon

 

RAD Self-care Sabotage

As parents of trauma-affected children, we live in a constant state of awareness. All our efforts are focused on taking care of them, their siblings, our partners, our jobs, the house and often last and least, ourselves. But what are our RAD kiddos focused on? Sometimes it seems like they have one goal and only one goal: sabotage. 

I know this sounds like an evil plan hatched by a demented Dr. Frankenstein. But there were occasions when August was little where it seemed just that devious and planned out. And  yes, I know it wasn’t. But when you’ve waited all day for a bath and a little quiet and that’s the time he chooses to pee all over the plastic kitchen set in his room, you just have to wonder!

So I want to talk about RAD self-care sabotage. What it might look like. What it might mean and how we can react to it when it might feel so personal to us. 

  • Does it feel like they only need you when you’ve gotten on the phone?
  • Do they talk to you through the door while you’re going to the bathroom?
  • Do they refuse to eat what they ordered at a restaurant but your food looks awesome?
  • Does the one sound they know drives you nuts get louder as soon as you ask them to stop it?
  • Has your favorite shirt, sweater, necklace, scarf been ruined by an “accident”?

I’m by no means implying that all RAD children are lying in bed plotting and planning. However, two of the most recognizable characteristics of reactive attachment disorder are that these children are control freaks and manipulative. They want to push our buttons. They want us to react and explode and get mad. Because that reinforces their beliefs that we don’t love them and we don’t want them. And to sabotage the self-care moments that we most treasure in our chaotic lives is pushing a very big button, don’t you think?

So why do our RAD kiddos choose these moments to inject themselves into our lives? Why are they so skilled at finding the times that we need the solace and relief of our daily grind and pick that time to ramp up their behavior? Because it’s when we’ve let our guard down. Our defenses are weak. Think about it. When is it easier for you to respond to your child having spilled a gallon of milk on the floor, when you are loading the dinner dishes into the dishwasher? Or when you have sat down for the first time all day to read a book for 30 minutes?

Now again, I can’t say for sure that all the times that August did those things that made my head explode, he’d waited in the tall grass for me to relax and look the other way. But there were more than enough examples for me to think it was more than a coincidence. And I think if you look back you might find the same is true for you.

So what do we do? Self-care is vital to our well-being as well as the success of our family. So not doing it is not an option. But making sure it happens even if your children are home might mean making some changes. Here are my ideas:

  • Tag team with your partner. Make sure one of you is covering the kids so the other can get in the needed self-care time and then switch. This may not be an option for everyone but caring for special needs kiddos needs to be a team sport as much as possible.
  • Depending on the age of your children, try and help them understand your plan, your timeline. Just a warning, sometimes this can backfire. But try to phrase it like, “I’m going to relax for 30 minutes and then we’ll go to the park so what would like to do until then?” Because this way you’re giving them control over that 30 minutes (within reason). Not just go away until I’m ready for you.
  • Let them self-care with you. Again, this is one of those that could backfire. But maybe you and the girls could all paint your nails or do mud masks. Or you and the boys could all go for a walk. I know the real point of self-care is time away from the children but the main point is that it is stress-free time and these are activities that for the most part shouldn’t end up in arguments and yelling (I hope!)
  • Confront them with the truth. If they’re old enough, they may know exactly what they’re up to. They know you can’t talk to them or help them when they’re on the phone or in the bathroom. They know how little time you take for yourself. Sitting down and having an honest conversation about your needs and the benefits to the relationship between the two of you and the entire family might just clear the air and get a different attitude going forward.

So take some time to think on whether your RAD kiddo is doing some self-care sabotage in your family and think on some ways you can intercept those efforts to make sure you’re getting the quality care you need. Please feel free to share your stories and ideas. I don’t know everything and we all benefit from everyone’s input!

Until next time,

Shannon

Outside Isn’t Punishment!

When did “getting” to go outside turn into “having” to go outside? When I was young we couldn’t wait to get outside. Now growing up in Ohio it seemed like winter lasted forever when I was young and sometimes bundling up to go out just wasn’t worth it. But doesn’t it seem like kids these days see going outside like going to the dentist? How do we change that? How do we help them see that outside isn’t punishment?

August loves the outdoors. It was a calming place for him. He’d spend hours outside just hanging out. Playing with sticks or rocks or bugs. I think that might have had something to do with not experiencing it much as a toddler. Or growing up 125 miles north of the Arctic circle! In any case,it wasn’t much of problem to get him to go out. Coming in was another story. That was until video games came long.

But there are ideas that can get your kids interested in the outdoors without coaxing or bribery. And maybe you all can have some fun times with these last few weeks of summer.

Bubbles
I know right? How on earth could bubbles draw a kid away from Minecraft? Well have you seen some of the ways you can make bubbles? It’s amazing what you can do! One of my favorite memories with August is with him in the bathtub with my grandmother. She would get her hands all soapy and blow big bubbles through her thumbs out the backs of her hands. Just with her hands. She said that’s how they did it in the olden days. And she said if you sat on a wool blanket the bubbles would come down and rest. They wouldn’t pop. Ah, such simple times.

But I cut out the middle of paper plates to make big bubble blowers, use string loops and put the blowers in front of fans to make tons of bubbles. You don’t have to spend a ton of money and get all the fancy motorized gizmos that wear out after one summer (or less!) For some bubble mix recipes and ideas, check this out. And try the wool blanket thing.

Outdoor Movies
Okay this might be cheating just a bit. But it’s still technically outside so it counts. I have a friend who regularly does a “Drive-way Drive-In”. He sets up a movie every weekend at his house and invites his neighbors over. A sheet on the garage door and a projector hooked to his computer and he’s in business. The projectors used to cost a fortune but now they’re very reasonable. You might even be able to borrow one from work! The grown-ups get some social time and it’s a kid-friendly movie so it works kind of like a neighborhood babysitter.

But you can make it much more active. Get out the sidewalk chalk and make a hopscotch board for before the movie starts. Let the kids run around and play flashlight tag during an “intermission”. There’s bound to be some wiggling and running around no matter what! If you’re an overachiever, checkout this amazing setup for movie night here.

Service Project
It’s possible there’s a senior citizen in your neighborhood that needs help with some yard work that’s more then they can manage. Maybe it’s weeding flower beds or raking leaves. Maybe it’s some painting or spreading mulch. Depending on the ages of your children and their abilities, you might be able to provide some help to a neighbor and spend the day outside. I found that August had absolutely no interest in helping out at our house but was incredibly generous and helpful at other people’s houses. When I was homeschooling him our church did a painting project at an elderly woman’s house and I took him. He worked like a trooper and never once complained.

I think the sooner and the more you can convince your kids that outside isn’t punishment, the more they will seek out opportunities to explore all that the outdoors has to offer. It’s a great big world and children should see as much of it as possible!

Until next time,

Shannon

Remembering the Funny Times

As I have talked about before, I get great hope, inspiration and comfort from humor. Laughing when sometimes I want to cry is a stress reliever for me and always has been. Sometimes I’m not as “appropriate” about when I use humor I think…but it has usually served me well. Now, when it seems like there is nothing to laugh about, I am working hard at remembering the funny times.

August has always been a funny and charming kid. And he’s done and said some things that have been absolutely hilarious. Here are a few examples of when he was trying and even when he was not:

When we first came home, obviously he didn’t have a great command of English and he was learning words phonetically and quickly. He learned how to count like he did many other things from Sesame Street. And learning by listening meant that he heard the words not quite right and they sounded funny coupled with his accent. So “four” and “fork” both came out sounding like the mother of all curse words. You can imagine standing in the pool with little 3-year-old August on the side counting till he jumps in…”One, two three, F*@K, Five!” We tried so hard to get him to just count to three but he was so proud of his ability that he wanted to show off.

The next one I remembered was about the same time period. Again, August was learning words phonetically. We began as soon as he came home saying Grace at dinner with the poem, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him, for our food.” As August got better with his English, he liked to do it by himself. But what he heard was, “Got is great, God is good, wet us tank he, ya ya food.” We loved it so much we didn’t have the heart to correct him for many years after he knew the right words.

It wasn’t always language-based that we found the humor. When he got into high school the laughs kept coming. This one he probably didn’t even know how funny it was. At least to me.

He spent 16 months at a residential treatment facility. When he came home we enrolled him in a private school designed for students who behaviorally just didn’t fit in a mainstream school. Smaller class sizes, etc. The very first day he found out there was a basketball team and it was basketball season. Basketball had been one of his favorite things at the RTC. The second day he was begging me to take him for an athletic physical. I gave in, we went. And no lie, by the end of the week, he was on the team and playing in a game. He was thrilled. I thought it hilarious his determination and belief that he was going to be the answer to their prayers.

Remembering these funny little moments helps with things are not at all funny. Here’s an article that supports the benefits of laughter. I encourage you to write down those funny moments with your children to look back on when maybe times aren’t so hilarious. And I’d love any stories you’d like to share. We can all use a laugh!

Until next time,

Shannon

How to Put Yourself First.

As a parent we are trained from day one that our children come first. We feed them, then we eat. When getting in the car we make sure they are securely buckled in before we fasten our seat belts. We make sure they are all tucked in at night (no matter how long it takes!) before we close our eyes. All our focus revolves around the needs of our little ones.

But think about the instructions before you take off on an airplane? The flight attendant is very specific to tell you that if those oxygen masks fall from the ceiling and we’re all scared out of our wits that your first job is to put on your mask and then help that child sitting next to you. Most likely going against every instinct and fiber of your being. The best course of action in this situation is to put yourself first. What do they know that we don’t?

How to put yourself first? For those of us with RAD kiddos we hardly ever see an opportunity for that. But being able to put ourselves first every now and then even for a bit is critical to sustain us for the long journey of caring for these special children.

There are lots of big and little ways to put ourselves first. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. I think the best thing to do is to remember the airplane analogy. And remember that you’re only worth something if you’re healthy enough to take care of your RAD kiddos. So here are some ideas of how to find some easy ways to put yourself first:

  • If you find a few minutes in the house alone, put on some music and sing loudly or dance around the house.
  • Take a bath (if you’re like me, when your children were little, you couldn’t remember the last time you bathed or went to the bathroom alone!)
  • Sit outside at night after the kids are in bed and listen to the night noises, even for five minutes
  • Ask for help from someone you trust. Could just be running to the grocery store.
  • Say no.
  • Read a book.
  • Unplug-no phone, no computer, no TV.
  • Eat breakfast first. Have your cup of tea or your toast or whatever. The kids won’t starve and there’s a chance you’ll actually eat.

I found these couple of blog posts from other moms who’ve seen the need and written about it. Check out this one about a mom who tried it for just one week! And then this article with a video on the benefits of putting yourself first from Forbes magazine. As always, I’ll add these links to my resource page if you want to go back and review them later. 

I know putting ourselves first goes against everything we believe as parents. We immediately thing we’re doing it wrong. But maybe if we put the oxygen mask on first, we will be able to spend more time doing it right.

Until next time,

Shannon

Early Childhood Trauma in the News

I am writing about this because I know that anyone who’s been awake over the last year and has a RAD kiddo has been thinking the same thing I have been. What is going to be the fallout of the family separations that are taking place at the Southern Border? How will this early childhood trauma show up down the road? I am not writing this as political commentary but purely from the standpoint of the psychological aspects of what the children are going through.

It is not part of their plan for these families to be separated. The children are not aware of what is happening and why. The main difference between these children and those in an orphanage overseas is that they aren’t given up willingly. However, the separation from a primary caregiver at a crucial time of bonding without knowledge of when or if they will be reunited is the same.

I found a couple of articles which discuss the short- and long-term effects of this separation on the children. I think as you read them you’ll see astonishing similarities between how the psychologists describe the children and our own RAD kiddos. The first is this one from The Washington Post. What I find most striking is the description of the pruning of the dendrites or nerves of the brain. This is almost exactly how the psychiatrist who diagnosed August with reactive attachment disorder described what the lack of bonding with a primary caregiver did to his brain. Exactly! I couldn’t believe it. So much of the description of the symptoms is spot on.

The second one I wanted to reference is this one from The New Yorker. It’s much more recent having been written just three days ago. The psychologist in this article talks about the effects on both younger and older children and how they are different.

One of the important parts of this article is how it discussed the effects not just to the brain but to all the body systems: the immune system, the cardiovascular system and others. August is small for his age and has hung on to the bottom of the growth chart most of his life. Now we don’t know his genetics so there’s no way to know if that’s just how he is or not. But his psychiatrist told me early on about a condition called psychosocial dwarfism. It’s where children are able to actually will themselves to stay small in an effort to try and keep from having to become independent or take on more responsibility. As soon as I read that part, its immediately what I remembered!

If you Google “effects of separation on immigrant children” you can read lots of other articles on the subject. I am sure you will see your RAD kiddos in the descriptions as well. I hope there will be time for these relationships to be repaired and these children to be healed.

Until next time,

Shannon

Feeling Like A Failed Parent

This was not the post I had planned for today. I started writing it Saturday after a very long week last week. Some things happened with August and I ran out of antidepressants and I wasn’t sure I’d make it out of bed. And for the first time last Thursday I said these words out loud, “My son is a psychopath.” And now I’m feeling like a failed parent

Not my proudest mom moment.

I suppose this needs some explanation. The last couple visits with August had made me uncomfortable. I know Reactive Attachment Disorder inside and out. I have read and studied it for years and I understand what it looks like. This wasn’t RAD. I talked to him about various things some of which dealt with his behavior and how it affected people in his life. He said outright he didn’t care if he hurt people. He didn’t care if he used people for what he could get from them. Maybe it was for show. Maybe it was to look cool or strong. But it seemed all too real.

He talks about life after prison. His clothing, his lifestyle, how much money he will have. It’s all the best of everything. That is what he looks forward to. Nothing is about relationships with his family or friends. Nothing is about making a better life or repairing the damage he has done. He is not missing being separated from us at all. He says, “I love you” at the end of visits and phone calls but it’s always to hard to believe. 

I am still trying to piece together what has happened but near as I can tell he’s pulled some friends and friends of other inmates into some scheme that has gotten him and them in more trouble. He obviously didn’t care that he knew what he was doing was illegal and also illegal for them because he did it. Though I’m not completely sure he knew what he was doing. And it might mean extended time for him. I don’t know. Our conversation today revolved around his anger that he was in solitary and that maybe those he got caught up with might say something that would get him in trouble. 

Here’s the thing. July 5th. On July 5th he was six months without a conduct issue and was going to be eligible to get into a program which would get him moved to another dorm with stricter regulations which would help him stay more focused, and the program completion would get him reduced time and the possibility of a sentence reduction. But here we are instead.

Psychopathy isn’t the actual psychological term. It’s actually Antisocial Personality Disorder. For information about it, you can check it out here.  It is distinguished from sociopaths by severity and contrary to made for TV movies, they are not always violent serial killers.

But now I am sitting here wondering what validity I have as a parent to be writing to you all. I know my child is wounded from harm that I didn’t cause. That his brain is physically damaged. But it is also harm I couldn’t heal. And he harms others with seemingly no concern for their well-being. I started writing because I thought I had something to give to parents to help them avoid some of the mistakes I made. To provide a resource where parents could come together and learn some tools that would help them along the road to healing their children.

But I sat in that visiting room and listened to him. And now this has happened. And now I feel like such a fraud. 

Taking care of ourselves also means knowing when we’ve done all that we can for our children. His father has been much better at that. I keep wishing and fighting and hoping. Maybe in vain. Looking for that spark of empathy that I hope will magically appear maybe when his brain fully develops. My therapist years ago said that maybe August sabotages his progress in there because he feels safe in there and he doesn’t really want to get out. In there he doesn’t have to make choices of right or wrong where he has repeatedly made the wrong ones. Maybe when he voluntarily decides to take the medications that will help his brain function better things will change. Or maybe it won’t and I will finally have to realize I’ve done all that I can. Can a mother ever do that? 

Pondering the next time,

Shannon