Posts tagged ‘abuse’

I had “THE” Talk with My Teenage Daughter

If you have been following my blog for a long time, you may know of my daughter, Marie’s, early trauma and severe abuse. When she came to live with us at the age of 7, she insisted that she was a boy, not a girl. She wore boy clothes and had a boy’s haircut. She even begged the pediatrician to sew a penis on her! Bless him for not being shocked, but for telling her that decision would have to wait until she was an adult.

Because she is deaf, she didn’t hear when I’ve called her my daughter and when I’ve used the pronoun “she”. It also didn’t seem to faze her that her name was a girl’s name. After the abuse she lived through, my goal as a mom has been to make her feel as comfortable with herself as possible. If having a crew cut and wearing boys’ underwear suited her, so be it.

Marie insisted she was male right up until she got her first period. At that point she conceded to me that she WAS really a girl, (no denying that fact,) but that she wanted to appear to be a boy so that no man would “hurt her”. This was understandably a clever accommodation on her part!

Enter Marie the teenager…and “THE” talk about sex… She brought the subject up as we were watching a teen movie on television where the heroine and hero kissed. Marie did most of the talking, (in American Sign Language of course,) asking me who was better for her to “like”, boys or girls. She said she has had childhood boyfriends and girlfriends, but that she didn’t know which she should “like” for a real mate whom she would someday marry. She looked at me with questioning, soulful eyes as I put on a brave face, pretending to be wise. The answer was simple, of course. I told her that she would end up finding a mate with whom she would feel comfortable having sex. SEX????? She signed, aghast. She wasn’t talking about SEX…..in fact, she was NEVER going to have sex….she just wanted to know whom she should marry! And just like that she dismissed my answer with a wave of her hand and went back to watching the movie….

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To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

The Girl who said she was a Boy

Marie, who is profoundly deaf, came to live with us at the age of 7 years old.  At first she appeared to be your typical “tom boy”, but then she began to exhibit symptoms of being something more…symptoms of being an actual boy.  Quite simply, she TOLD me she was a boy.  She would only wear boy clothes, (including boy’s underwear.)  She refused to use the Ladies Rest Room so we found the family and unisex restrooms if she had to go to the bathroom in public.  She begged me to let her get her hair cut short, but her birth mother’s rights had not yet been terminated and she would not give permission for Marie to get a haircut, so Marie would pull it up in a pony tail on top of her head and wear a baseball cap everywhere.  She looked like a boy and she acted like a boy.  She did not want me to tell people she was my foster daughter, insisting I tell them she was my foster son.  Swimming at the public pool was problematic because they did not allow t-shirts.  Because she wore boys bathing trunks, she always wore a shirt.  The lifeguards always told her she couldn’t swim unless she took her t-shirt off.  I obtained a letter from her doctor indicating due to her “disability” she needed to wear her t-shirt while swimming.  I still had to argue with each new lifeguard that there was a letter on file which indicated she was allowed to wear a t-shirt as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Because Marie was deaf, most people did not know the extent of her insistence that she was a boy.  She did not hear me introduce her as my foster daughter, and the use of male/female language did not reach her ears, so in some ways it was easier to deal with socially.  She knew she was a “boy”, she looked like a boy, so she assumed everyone thought she was a boy.  Somehow the fact that her name was Marie was feminine escaped her, but that was because as a seven year old who was deaf, I doubt she knew the context of male/female names.  Difficulties did arise when relatives and friends gave her “girl” presents or try to give her “girl” clothes.  She would look at them as though they were crazy.  Didn’t they KNOW she was a BOY!!!

I accepted Marie for who she was.  She was allowed to behave in the manner in which she was comfortable, and if the only problem was finding a unisex bathroom, then we were lucky.

At her ten year old visit with her family practitioner, she blurted out to him that she was a boy and that she did not have the right part. She begged him to “sew a penis” on her.  He was very comforting and reassuring, and said she was fine the way she was for now and when she was older she could make that decision.  He told her that things might change in the meantime.  She begged and cried and said she didn’t want to wait, but he said she was too young to make that decision.

Marie continued to insist she was a boy, and when she was adopted she was allowed to get a short haircut.  She was very adorable, boy or girl, with short cropped blonde hair and gorgeous big blue eyes.

By the time she was eleven, Marie had become accustomed to our family and she felt supported and accepted.  She also felt safe.  She and I had started to bond, (something which she was reluctant to do because she had promised her birth mom she would not love me.)  I bought a book for girls on puberty, “The Care and Keeping of You”.  Knowing she thought she was a boy, I was cautious in bringing this subject up.  Reading this book, however, had an amazing effect on her.  She was excited.  She was thrilled.  We read if from cover to cover until the cover was worn out.  She would bring it out to show anyone who visited, (male of female.)  We had to go to the store to buy sanitary napkins, and she insisted on buying 10 packages “just in case”.  She asked many questions and I answered them as straightforward as I could.  She shyly admitted to me that she was happy to be a girl.  She told me she only SAID she was a boy because men “hurt girls” and she didn’t want to be hurt any more. She said “the men” never hurt her brother, so she decided if she was a boy she was safe. Marie did not realize the huge significance of this admission.  She had finally lived with us long enough so she felt safe to become the girl she really was.


 

 

Link to my book

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

 

The Ups and Downs of Multiple Personality Disorder

Angel developed dissociative identity disorder during his early childhood.  The abuse he endured was so horrific that when he was being abused, a separate personality was born so that he would not have to feel the abuse.  Some are good, some are bad.  Some are female (?), some are male.  Some have aged with him, and at least 2 are still babies.  This is not something I could invent.  I am not making a big deal out of it.  “It” just is a fact of every day life that we try to live with!

Today, Angel was at a friend’s party.  He has one personality that is friendly, game show host upbeat, polite, thoughtful of others and the type of person who others adore.  Andy indicated he used this personality every time he went to a new foster home in the hope that that family would not reject him.  Unfortunately, this personality cannot maintain him for long periods of time, as other, more dangerous, personalities invarianly emerged.  None of the foster families could handle this “quirk”, this change from, dare I even say it, Angel to Devil.  Of course, it had not been diagnosed until he was in 3rd grade, so none of the families could have know what really caused his “severe mood swings”.

His “game show host personality” (as he calls it) was at the party today.  He lasted 6 hours before he called me to pick him up.  While I was at the party picking him up, 5 different people came over to me to tell me what a joy he is!  That he is the best kid around!  That he is so polite and helpful!  And I thought to myself, “If they only knew…”

Once in the car, Angel’s smile vanished and a look of sheer anger appeared.  He held his head an announced that his “parts” (which is what he calls “them”) were fighting.  He cannot let one part out for so long without the rest fighting, he had explained a few years ago.  It was excruciating for him to be so nice all day, he said.  I knew the anger he displayed could be dangerous, and I encouraged him to come home and take a nap, which he did.  He crawls into a fetal position and falls asleep.  In the middle of the night, the “part” that is so emotionally needy will wake up and scour the kitchen for food.  He will engulf anything edible, trying to feed his heart.  Sometimes when he falls back asleep with his stomach full, he will fall asleep and his infant self will come out.  Sometimes this self is so young that it does not yet know how to use the toilet, or it gags on regular cereal. (As an infant, it can only eat oatmeal.)

Angel knows about 10 of his parts.  He knows there are several “mad” ones that he does not know.  These are the  parts that were abused, and if they become known to Angel, then the memories of the abuse would come flooding back.  So they remain hidden as Angel could not psychologically survive the memories at this age.  Slowly they have become known to him, and some of the angry parts have joined the rest of the parts he knows.  Through them, he remembers foster mothers who left him lying on his back, crying for hours.  (In reality, when he came to live with us at the age of 3 he had a flat back of his head from lying so long.)  He remembers them coming in and yelling at him to shut up and not helping him.  He had 4 foster moms reject him, and it physically damaged his young brain.  The angry parts he does not know do bad things to him.  They resent the fact that he is living a nice life and they had to endure the abuse.  They have done things like destroy his homework, steal his cell phone, laptop computer, Ipod and other precious items.  (We’ve never found these items, and once he is conscious that they are gone, the trash has been taken away, so we had nothing to search.) Once, after his second computer  disappeared, I thought I had outsmarted the angry ones.  I locked his computer on a cord to his bedstand.  “There!” I thought.  Let’s see THAT disappear!”  It stayed fine for a week or two.  Then, one morning I woke up to Angel screaming.  “Someone” had stomped on his computer, breaking the keyboard and snapping the screen off.

Angel has been in therapy since the 4th grade, and he has made considerable progress.  Previously, he would study for a test in school and I’d test him on the way to school and he would know the material 100%.  A half hour later he would take the test and in handwriting of a 1st grader, he would flunk it wrong answers.  Through therapy, his parts have learned to cooperate.  Now only the “smart ones” go to school.

Angle has been to Baltimore and counseled by the leading expert in Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dr. Joy Silberg.  He knows the goal of his therapy is integration of all of his parts.  He has indicated he does not want that, that he would be lonely without them to keep him company.  It looks, however, that it will be a long time before he is completely familiar with those angry parts.  They are still protecting him because they are holding the memories of his abuse!

Her PTSD caused MY PTSD

I like to write breezy, optimistic posts.  I am generally a breezy, optimistic person.  However, I also write this blog for my own stress relief. so readers are going to have to bear with me for this one.

Marie had a bad day at school yesterday.  (Well, to say “bad day” is akin to saying wave when it was really a tsunami.)  Marie had been doing very well this past year and we had not an ambulance run for a post traumatic stress episode since last February!  She still had her moments of outbursts in school for which she was gently placed in “the quiet room”, but she had always managed to calm herself down without a need for restraining or other interventions.  However, springtime is the anniversary of her removal from her birth mom. Also, we had spent the past few months finally discussing the abuse that had happened 5 years ago, including going to the police station and filing a report. (A warrant for the arrest of one of the men who had abused her had been issued, but the man had fled the country.)

Although we had always known that Marie was abused, it was only recently that she has felt comfortable discussing the details.  Whether she only recently remembered them, or whether she only recently felt confident enough to tell is in question.  Her pediatrician recently referred us to a center which has a wonderful program for individuals with disabilities and children who have been sexually abused, but I had not contacted them yet as I was waiting for a copy of the police report, (a requirement for service.)  I fear my negligence at doing so right away contributed to Marie’s PTSD episode yesterday.

By the time I arrived at the school, she had been actively violent and dissociative for over an hour.  She was not being restrained, but was in the “quiet room”, not so quietly destroying it.  The staff watched from the doorway as she ripped tape off the blackboard (which had been taped with foam so as not to be harmful during a tantrum.)  She threw the tape, then pieces of the foam and the blackboard, at the doorway.  When she is like this, she has super human strength and could level any person with one swoop of her hand, which is why the staff was wisely standing in the doorway.  I stepped into the room to try to calm her, but she did not  recognize me. She came at me wild eyed, swinging and spitting.  (Think Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”) I retreated as her violence escalated, at which point 911 was called.  By the time the police, ambulance and firemen arrived she had wrapped the masking tape tightly around her wrists to stop her circulation and had gone over and ripped the radiator cover off the wall.  It took 8 men to subdue her, and several of them were kicked, bitten and punched. They had great concern because she was spitting at them, as blood borne pathogens are the scourge of all medical personnel.  (HIV?  Hepatitis?)  Even as I was warning them not to, they tried to put a mask on her face.  She has been through this before, and she is an expert at biting down on the mask, chewing on it and has at least one time, almost swallowed it. As she began to do so, they replaced it with a towel over her face.  They used towels to restrain her arms and legs which were swinging with great force in all directions.  She was then placed on the ambulance stretcher and whisked off to the ambulance.  All this time, she was screeching with a guttural sound that one would associate with the depths of hell.

They asked me to follow the ambulance to the hospital, which felt surreal, like a high speed video game. It’s a good thing I have nerves of steel because we drove at high speeds through the streets bypassing red lights.  At one red light, a car was in the middle of the road and the ambulance went around it on the left while I went around it on the right, just like you see on those high speed chases in movies. But it was me, a little old 55 year overweight mom, in the driver’s seat!  If it weren’t for such a serious situation, it almost would have been fun.

At the hospital, it was routine.  They knew her there.  First it was the transfer from the ambulance stretcher onto the emergency room stretcher. This move takes a great precision as the hospital restraints had to be transferred onto her arms and legs.   If this was not done quickly, an arm or a leg would become loose and would go flying for a swift, hard kick or hit. One worker did not duck and he was kicked on the side of the head. Once on the hospital stretcher, everyone backed away as the towel was removed from her face, and her spitting began anew.  The security guards donned masks with clear shields on them, making it look more like a science fiction  movie.  She was thrashing about, banging her head on the side of the stretcher.  They put a padding on the side, which she quickly grabbed onto with her mouth and began to bite through.

Fortunately, she was evaluated quickly due to the distress she was in.  She was given a shot of a tranquilizer, and her fighting and spitting quieted.  The wild look was gone from her eyes.  She calmed down, blinked and huge tears began to roll down her cheeks. She looked around and was confused as to where she was. Her eyes pleaded with me to ask the doctor unhook the restraints as she can only talk with her hands because she is deaf.  Because she was calm, they unhooked one hand so she was able to finger spell what she wanted.  She spelled out p-o-s-i-c-l-e! (She had obviously been to this emergency room several times before and she knew what they had to offer.)  She signed her throat hurt but she didn’t know why.  (Maybe from all the SCREAMING she had done for the last hour?)

She was calm and her restraints were completely removed.  A psychiatrist was to evaluate her, and I asked for a sign language interpreter. Five hours later she was evaluated.  She proceeded to tell the doctor that in school she has a hard time controlling her anger inside and when she gets angry over the least little thing she cannot control the anger and she explodes.  He asked why she was so angry and she thought about it a minute before she proceeded to tell him the story of how she was angry at her birth mom because she let men have sex with her, and she was angry at the men for hurting her.  This was the interpreter’s first time on the job, and she expertly interpreted all of the sordid details.  When Emily had finished with the story and the doctor left the room, the interpreter stepped outside the room.  She was clearly shaken, trying to hold back tears.  “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to do this!” she said.  I reassured her that we use an interpreter often and this is the first time this difficult subject has come up.  Next time maybe she’ll interpret for a wedding or a school play, definitely something less difficult.

Because PTSD can happen at any time, it is unpredictable.  The doctor did not recommend hospitalization.  (Marie LOVES when she is hospitalized…all the popsicles she can eat, doesn’t have to go to school or do chores, and everyone dotes on her because she is so adorable.  What’s not to like?)  We did discuss getting her into counseling with the center for abuse, and a referral was made.  Because there are no counselors or social workers in our area trained in American Sign Language, Marie will have to have an interpreter for counseling sessions, not the preferable manner, but for now it is the only way.

Marie was in good spirits when we left the hospital.  She was skipping and smiling.  She had no memory of what had happened before she came to the hospital, and I was glad of that.  I have that memory, though, and I get flashbacks of the screaming and the cold, wild eyes.  Her PTSD has caused my PTSD!

Pain is in the Eye of the Beholder…Part 2

(I apologize in advance for this post not being in my usual upbeat prose, but the topic is a serious one.  Please feel free to click away…)

I mentioned in Part 1 that 2 of my sons have a high pain threshold, for two very different reasons.  Steven does not feel pain because his “electrical wiring” is messed up as he was born to an alcoholic birth mom who also used heroin and cocaine.  He has a severe sensory integration deficit where, basically, light touch hurts and pain doesn’t seem register in his brain.  It has made for an interesting childhood.

Steven has more stitches in him than Frankenstein, and we have been to our local emergency room so often that they have a cubicle reserved for us.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that the latter part of that statement is exaggerated!)  An active boy, he would often fall off of his bike and get right back on without any acknowledgement of an injury.  The only way I would know would be when he would come home at night and a portion of his clothes, a sleeve or a pants leg, would be covered in blood.  Upon inspection, I would find the culprit: a long gash requiring stitches. Due to the lateness of the hour, all of the walk-in clinics would be closed, so off we would go to the emergency room.  (His last gash was from under his knee down to his ankle.)  The ironic thing is, because of Steven’s sensory integration deficit whereby light touch hurts, he would scream in agonizing pain when they would put the Novocain needle in.  A few times they allowed him to choose to have the stitches done without Novocain. On occasion, they have had to sedate him in order to put the Novocain in.  Steven has also broken a bone in his foot and his hand, noticed only when he was walking or using his hand oddly. Through his school program, he has volunteered for several years at a reptile education center.  He has been bit several times by the snakes. but would keep on doing his job, wrapping his arm or hand in a towel so the blood wouldn’t get their tanks all dirty.  As a young adult, he has learned to manage this unique quality of his, and he has not been injured in well over a year.  (Knock on wood.)  Of course, he has also become much more sedate…preferring video games and tv over BMX bike jumps! His wild days of adventurous antics are diminishing, along with his injuries.

Angel, who is fifteen years old now, has a very different and complicated reason why he does not feel pain.  He was abused so badly as an infant and toddler that he developed Dissociative Identity Disorder.  When he was being abused, he would develop an alternate personality which would not feel the pain.  Even though he is safe from harm now, the abused personality continues to do his job and protect him from pain.  The best example of this is the fact that Angel has had persistent problems with ear infections, but they could only be diagnosed by a doctor because he would never acknowledge the pain so we didn’t know they were infected.  One morning when I went to wake him up, his pillow was covered with blood.  When he sat up, blood was dripping out of his ear.  I called the ear doctor who saw him immediately.  Although Angel was about ten when this happened, and he  jumped happily up into the exam chair like a toddler, swinging his legs back and forth while he sat.  “Hi, Doc!” he said excitedly.  “Can I play with your thingy there that listens to hearts?” he asked as he reached for the stethoscope.  The doctor explained he needed to use the device to look in his ear. “Cool” Angel said.  “If you look in there can you see all the way to the other side of my head?” he joked, while he giggled.  The doctor looked in his ear and pushed his stool back in amazement.  He informed me that Angel had a fractured ear drum from what looked to be an extremely bad ear infection.  The doctor looked at Angel and back at me.  He said it was unbelievable.  Not only is an ear infection painful, but an ear drum ruptured as much as his was would cause excruciating pain. He said he had grown men crying like babies when they came in with an injury like this. And there was Angel, grinning and swinging his legs back and forth in the examination chair, just like a happy toddler, (one of Angel’s personalities.)  On the way out of the office,  he even asked if he could get a sticker, and he chose the Sesame Street ones!  The doctor just shook his head in amazement!

The major downside to Angel’s situation, besides the obvious problem that it is difficult to determine if he is injured, is that a part of him DOES feel the pain. Because he does not acknowledge it generally, it goes untreated and the part that does feel the pain does so unnecessarily.  This may be very hard to understand, and possibly unbelievable, but the fact is, the part that feels the pain is very resentful that the “others” are safe and seem to lead a happy life.  After many years of counseling and better understanding his condition, Angel and I see the interactions between his “selves”.  The funny part is, his painful self will actually sabotage the other parts if they are doing something good or if they own something of value. Through counseling, he has been able to be very successful in school.  (His “smart parts” attend, and they would get a lot of attention for their good work.) As if jealous, several class projects were found broken in a heap on the floor the morning he was to have turned them in, and research papers would find themselves mysteriously erased from the computer.  Angel also had two laptop computers “stolen” in the middle of the  night from his bedroom. He wouldn’t tell me for a week or so, so I couldn’t search for them.  We could never figure out where they went!  He was sure someone was sneaking into his bedroom at night, but I suspected his part that had been abused was throwing them away.  We were never able to prove it because the garbage had days ago gone for its final journey to the dump.  I finally bought a lock and locked the laptop onto the desk.  A few days later, the laptop wasn’t stolen, but the keyboard was smashed to pieces!  Angel was also the proud owner of an IPhone that kept disappearing.  For days, even weeks, we couldn’t find it.  Then, it would pop up under the base of a living room lamp, in the bottom kitchen drawer under the towels, and once even IN a sock in the BOTTOM of the sock pile. Angel does not remember ever doing anything with his phone of this nature, but he does have a problem with memory lapses.  For a long time, even though he is fully aware that he has “parts”, he has denied the existence of this vengeful part because he could not imagine himself doing anything detrimental to his prized technology.  A few too many times of having his phone disappear, though, has convinced him that this part is lurking in the background…

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