Posts tagged ‘dissociative identity disorder’

Let Them See You in Me

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My youngest son, Angel, has not been the topic of much of my writing. For some reason, I shelter him and his Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is an insidious mental illness which developed because of severe, continued, horrific early childhood abuse. It has taken him many years of counseling to adjust to the fact that he has twelve personalities that don’t always work together or even know what each other is doing. Even though the special education system in our town has given Angel a first rate, accepting and supportive education, his teenage years have been a real challenge. Angel has a very angry part that spews hatred and vile threats which are too X rated to explain here. Friends who don’t know of his illness have called him to their defense in the middle of the night because Angel’s angry part would willingly and effectively threaten the bullies bothering them. His friends had also taken advantage of his innate kindness and willingness to help, and he found himself driving them everywhere until his gas tank (and our bank account) was empty. Friendships held little advantage for Angel.

And then he found a wonderful young man named Christopher! He and Christopher had been in elementary school together and just happened to reconnect. Christopher provided a friendship that asked for nothing in return, a new feeling for Angel. Christopher encouraged Angel to join the youth group at church. Pastor Joe, whom I had called to alert to Angel’s eccentricities, took a personal interest in befriending Angel. What a huge difference this has made in my youngest son! With a newfound feeling of acceptance for himself and his parts, Angel is beginning to make real friendships without having to hide his disability. Little by little he has discussed his condition with these two accepting individuals. And they still like him!

This morning I was driving home from church and a sense of great appreciation for Pastor Joe and Christopher filled my heart. While driving, I changed the radio station to K-LOVE, my favorite station, which, unfortunately, does not come in very well in my area. Through the static I could make out the songs, which were only background noise anyway because I was deep in thought. It dawned on me that Christopher and Pastor Joe were gifts from God, and that, through them, I could feel God’s deep caring for Angel. Such a thought warmed my heart with happiness and joy. And at that EXACT MINUTE, the radio station became perfectly clear and the song “Let Them See You In Me’ played. My jaw dropped at the timing. Coincidence that this radio station should suddenly come through loud and clear and play the exact song to match my thoughts????? For me, it was just one more confirmation that God is alive and well and lives through some wonderful people!

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To read all about Angel’s early years and diagnosis, 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

Lets Agree to Disagree…Mental Illness and Violence

I recently received a response from a blog colleague who’s beliefs are different than mine.  It is normal for people to have different views on things, and everyone’s views are welcome. This is my version of  agreeing to disagree…

Dear 5KWD, I wonder if you would have any insight on the following. After doing a smattering of research I learned that virtually every mass shooter on record was taking antidepressant psychiatric drugs when they “went off”. The news media and many posting here are examining the mental illness angle, but we know that depression, asbergers, etc, does not cause homicidal behavior. However, it seems very plausible to me that these FDA approved psychiatric drugs, which have known side effects, may be inducing this behavior. I think it’s the drugs, not the mental illness. This makes way more sense to me than the idea that sometimes formerly quiet, law-abiding people are randomly “going off” and shooting rooms full of children.  artandlifenotes.wordpress.com

 

I agree that every mass murderer may have been on antidepressants.  It would go along with my theory that they have underlying psychiatric conditions.  All of my adopted children are on psych meds.  My oldest daughter has attention deficit disorder.  Prior to medication, she couldn’t pay attention, she was flunking school, she couldn’t pay attention to read a book, and she developed sever anxiety over her inability to function “normally”.  Once on medication, (which includes an antidepressant,) she brought her grades up to straight A’s, attended college, and has a career in her chosen field.  I understand that some people would say that the side affects of medication would outweigh the benefits, she calls me from time to time to bring her medication to work because she forgot it, and she cannot concentrate to do her job. My middle son, who was born addicted to cocaine, has been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, but I personally like to give him just one:  his brain and wiring is screwed up due to his prenatal exposure to drugs.  As an infant he would flail about and injure himself, he rarely slept, wouldn’t eat, and climbed out of his crib by 9 months old. (He couldn’t walk, but he could climb!) He would run around destroying anything in his path.  Without psych meds, it would have been impossible for him to attend school because he surely would have climbed out the bus window!  My youngest son, who was severely abused in his early childhood, has Dissociative Identity Disorder, (previously called Multiple Personality) a condition in which a child withdraws within himself/herself when abused, sort of “blacks out”, so to speak, but another part of the brain still feels the affects of abuse.  That other part remains in his “psyche”.  Hidden.  Buried. Showing itself from time to time in an angry, violent outburst, often requiring hospitalization. Without psych meds, he would not be able to function as well as he does.  He would be encompassed by deep depression and obsessive thoughts.  My youngest daughter has severe attention deficit disorder, and cannot sit still or pay attention without medication. Similar to my youngest son, she was abused as a child. Her hidden demons come back in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, tearful, angry aggression, often on herself, but sometimes against others.  Without psych meds, she would not be able to function.  She still has PTSD and “episodes”, but they are far less frequent than when she was not on medication and it would be a daily thing.

I understand people have different opinions about psych meds, but in my family, without them, it would have been impossible for my children to live life “normally”. I know that there may be side affects, but the side affects are far less intrusive on their lives than their mental health issues. The doctor always goes over the possible side affects, and not a single child has ever indicated they bother them.

Regarding your concept of not believing the idea that sometimes formerly quiet, law-abiding people are randomly “going off” and shooting rooms full of children, again, I can only point to my own children.  Childhood abuse, even verbal abuse, and non-loving parents, can permanently harm a child’s developing psyche.  Permanently.  Even counseling and medication may not be able to fully quiet the demons hidden in a child’s brain.  My son, who is the sweetest, nicest, most generous boy, often displays his “angry part”, a part so vile and violent that it reminds me of Linda Blair in the Exorcist.  He is unrecognizable and so angry that violence surrounds him…sometimes resulting in a call to 911 for assistance with restraining and hospitalization.  For my daughter with PTSD, her episodes are more invasive.  The slight touch, smell, or thought can cause her to fall back into anger of abuse, and she dissociates and becomes violent.  She is not herself…well, that’s not true because even when she is having flashbacks she is herself, but the self as a young child being abused.  Regarding the randomness of violence, case in point:  she was recently arrested for “assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon” when he charged towards her to get her to stop flailing about and screaming.  (She ripped a board off the wall and tried to ward him off.) She is living in a restrictive, “locked” facility with staff trained in behavior modification and restraints, but her behavior has horrified and shocked them.  It is not her fault, she cannot control it, but she is very violent.  Other people looking at her would never think such a sweet, friendly child could harbor such demons.

I know many people not exposed to individuals who are mentally ill to the serious degree of my children would find it hard to believe they just “snapped”.  No one never knows if a person who appears to be “normal and quiet” is really “normal and quiet” underneath.  I believe wholeheartedly that one has to have a mental illness, even if undiagnosed, to be a mass murderer. I believe no one in his/her “right” mind could possibly do such a thing!  Of course, this is just my one biased opinion.  I can understand, though, that there are different sides to every story.  Let’s just “agree to disagree”!

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane by Linda Petersen.

The Apple Tree Message

Just so we don’t take life too casually and forget that Angel has dissociative identity disorder, every now and then something happens to snap us back into the realization that Angel has many “parts”, especially an “angry” part and at least 2 other parts that took all of the abuse as an infant and toddler .  The other parts do not know these parts, but they are aware the exist.  Every now and then the angry one does something to remind them, lest they forget the great sacrifice he made so they could generally lead a happy, successful life.  Last night was such a time.  Angel had brought home an artwork on a large poster board.  He had painstakingly drawn a huge apple tree, and cut out apples.  He had a beautiful happy sun in the corner of the picture, and apples representing Marie, Stephen, Francis, Dinora, me and my husband, his dog, and 9 apples to represent himself.  It was a happy picture of our family.  Proud of his artwork, he had it hanging on the wall in his bedroom.  This morning when he woke up, the sun and most of the apples had been “blacked out” with black charcoal, (where did he get THAT?)  The only thing left untouched were 3 of his, representing the 3 parts of which he is not generally aware!  If it weren’t true, it would be unbelievable.

To read more about Angel’s story, and the story of the rest of our amazing family, please purchase The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane from I-Books.  Thanks for the support!

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane BlogMy name is Lindsey Petersen and I am the proud mother of five wonderful, very interesting children. Four also happen to have disabilities, but these have not been overwhelming obstacles.My oldest son, Francis, is legally blind. In this blog  I recount several humorous stories of his upbringing, including his fear of skunks. (He was petrified he would step on a skunk he didn’t see and it would spray him! He HATED tomatoes and the thought of having to take a bath in tomato juice was horrifying to him!) He managed to graduate college and obtained a full scholarship to Cambridge University in England to obtain his Ph.D. He has since become Dr. Scooter, (his nickname from college, named after Scooter from the Muppet Babies). He has obtained his dream job at an unbelievable salary!My 25- year-old daughter, adopted from Guatemala, came to us profoundly deaf, but was “healed.” (Read all about it in my blog!) She obtained her college degree in International Business and also has a job in her field.  She lives nearby with her boyfriend, her 2 year old son, and her percolating baby to be born in July.My 18-year-old son has a long history of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a severe sensory integration disorder. It really doesn’t matter what his disability is diagnosed as, I only know he was born cocaine and heroin addicted to an alcoholic mother, and his nervous system is wired haphazardly! He has managed to utilize his obsessions with reptiles into a volunteer position at a reptile educational facility. He is the one standing in the doorway at the entrance to the facility holding the 6-foot long boa constrictor, or the alligator, or the large lizard. He is not good with people, but great with reptiles! He has also recently become trained as an “alligator wrangler” for their alligator shows. (Really!)My 15-year-old son was severely abused prior to coming to live with us at the age of four. He developed dissociative identity disorder, (multiple personality disorder.) Life with this disorder is every day life for him. He and his “peeps”, (his name for his personalities,) live an interesting, eventful and sometimes very frustrating life, (like when one studies for the social studies test and another one takes it and flunks!)My 13-year-old daughter who is profoundly deaf came to live with us at the age of seven when the police found her wandering the streets carrying her infant brother looking for food. She was supposed to be a short-term placement placed with us because I know sign language. (I’m sure many foster parents have heard this spiel about a short-term placement.) Six years later she is still with us, adopted at the age of ten. Her deafness is not a disability, but her post-traumatic stress from early abuse and her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have caused serious problems for her.

I am also the loving sister to a brother who is severely developmentally delayed, legally blind and deaf due to rubella syndrome. He also unfortunately developed schizophrenia when he was eighteen years old.

While my children’s lives may not normally be considered amusing situations, I try to look at them in an upbeat, positive, and sometimes humorous manner. I am a happy and optimistic person by nature, and to dwell on their problems would make me sad, a feeling not in my repertoire.

I began writing this blog in August because I was looking for a stress reliever. It is amazing how cathartic it is to vent one’s frustrations in writing! Also, I have had so many unique experiences and adventures that many acquaintances have suggested I write a book. I started writing the blog not so much with the thought of writing a book, but with the thought of putting down these events for posterity, so to speak, and to share my experiences with others. In the process, I’ve reduced my stress level and I have been encouraged by the more 20,000 people who have read the blog. I am sure our adventures and misadventures will continue. (My daughter who is deaf and has sensory issues and cannot stand tags in her clothes has entered junior high school, how is she going to be able to wearing a bra? My son with autism has started to notice girls. Unfortunately for him, girls are usually not very approachable when one is carrying a large snake! My son who has dissociative identity disorder, with the assistance of a specialized psychologist, is searching into the deep recesses of his mind to discover the abuse, which led to his disability.)

Thanks for joining me.  It’s nice to know someone “out there” is listening!

Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder

My 15 year old son, Angel, was diagnosed with ADHD, (inability to pay attention in class, his mind “wandered”, he couldn’t keep on the topic,) Reactive Attachment Disorder, (inability to bond with parents,) OCD (obsessed with certain rituals and items,) Conduct Disorder (uncontrollable behavior at times,) severe Depression, (where he would curl up in a ball in his bed and be unable to do anything,) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (violent reactions to certain memories or thoughts.)  These disorders, and a severe memory impairment, all turned out to be symptoms of another, more insidious disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder.)  All of his diagnosed symptoms were manifestations of different “parts” of his psyche, all developed in early childhood to allow him to survive horrific child abuse.  Angel considers himself a combination of his “parts”, a “we”.  It is normal for him, and we have lived with it every day since he has lived with us at the age of four.  He has received incredible special education services which enable him to spend most days in a regular 10th grade classroom, but also allow him to spend time in a resource room if he feels the need.  All assignments are written down for him and all homework is done before he leaves school.  (This solves the memory problem.) 

            Angel finds it helpful to write his feelings down sometimes, and I wanted to share with you 2 separate essays he wrote:

 

            “”Wah! Wah! Wah”went the baby as he cried.  People walked by and ignored him.  “Wah! Wah! Wah!” he cried some more.  All he could hear were big, angry footsteps coming closer and closer.  A woman poked her head in the crib.  “SHUT THE HELL UP!”  she screamed at the top of her lungs.  This scared the baby more and he cried more.  The woman started hitting the baby all over.  The crying baby woke up the man who was sleeping nearby.  “Shut that kid up!” he screamed.  The man got up and started to beat the baby.  The baby left consciousness and a stranger took over his brain.  The baby did not remember anything after that.”

 

 

            “Angel is a fifteen year old boy who has a rare disability.  His disability is called Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID for short.  A lot of times, he does things and does not remember doing them.  Most of the time he has no knowledge of what a certain part did or said.  It is basically like having octuplets  in your head.  People ask the wrong octuplet a question and he doesn’t know the answer, so he has to ask inside to see who knows the answer or who remembers.  This effects him in a lot of ways.  The most important way is with academics.  Most of his parts are smart in different subjects, but the right one has to go to the right class.  If a part goes who doesn’t know the answers, then Angel will flunk the whole test even though one part knows the answers good.  This is the most frustrating thing about living with parts!  Other than that, it is most of the time good because Angel is never lonely in his brain.  He has some funny parts that keep him laughing.  He has a baby part that they all give a lot of love to because he wasn’t loved when he was a baby. He also has an angry part that they don’t know.  This part scares them, so they try to pretend he doesn’t exist.”

             This may seem extraordinary, but it is just an ordinary part of Angel’s life.  No big deal…

Stress Busters…

Thoughts on things I do to reduce stress and remain sane while raising 5 children with disabilities:

Ø    I buy each person in my family their own brand of socks.  That way, matching them and giving them to the proper person is easy. Also, if the dryer eats a sock, there is always another one to match the spare.

Ø    My children have always had a 9:00 pm bedtime.  They don’t need to actually go to bed, but they need to stay in their rooms and read, watch television, chat on their cell phones or whatever.  This gives my husband and me a couple of hours of “quiet time” and also calms the children down before they fall asleep.

Ø    Every evening, during this time, I try to take a bubble bath.  I have a nice, icy glass of Diet Coke, read a magazine, (I have to much going on in my brain to read a book and remember it from night to night,) and wash with strongly scented body wash.  The scent really cheers me up!  If I feel really decadent, I will light scented candles.

Ø    I work.  I love my job. I get to talk to adults about current events and it gives me a solid foundation to “carry on” otherwise.

Ø    I schedule doctor, dentist and counseling appointments in the late afternoon, evening or on a Saturday so I do not have to take time out of work.   There are plenty of doctors, dentists and counselors who have evening and weekend hours.

Ø    I find places to take the kids where they can have fun, but that fun is contained.  They love the local dog park where they can cuddle and play with neighborhood dogs.  We go to a small local beach where they pick shells, catch sand crabs, and sometimes even go in the water.  We often go to movies such as “Shrek”, “Ice Age”, “Madagascar”  “Up” and so forth.  There is plenty of adult humor in these movies and I am generally the one laughing the loudest.  We go to a clay studio where the children get to make and paint a piece of clay. (My daughter has done so many wonderful dishes that she will have a whole collection for when she sets up housekeeping!)  We regularly visit the neighborhood pool where the children love to swim and the ice rink where they love to skate.  These are both great self-contained areas where the children can be as active as they want and I can sit on the sidelines and wave.

Ø    I find places to eat where the kids can play and I can visit with a friend.  I do not have much extra time for a social life, so meeting friends for dinner is important.  We regularly eat at a restaurant that has a pool table and air hockey for the kids to play while I get to sit and chat.  Being with friends regenerates my batteries.

Ø    As I am often in the emergency room with one or other of my children, I have a “hospital bag” packed, not unlike the bag packed by expectant mothers.  In it I have several magazines for myself and my child,  several dollars in change for the soda machine, and a deck of playing cards to play with my child during the long waits for treatment.  I also bring an extra dose of any medication they are on.  Heaven help everyone if his/her Ritalin or Concerta  wears off while waiting in the hospital. I learned to do this after several hospital rooms were in danger of being destroyed and my child was placed in restraints because they could not control themselves.  (I, too, think the oxygen hoses, the emergency buttons and the many containers of medical supplies are interesting, but I am physically able to refrain from playing with them and throwing them around the examining room! My children not so much…)

Ø    I get plenty of sleep.  If I don’t get enough sleep I am too crabby to face the day!  I am also “low maintenance” in that I dress comfortably not stylishly, I wear minimal make-up, and I have an easy hairstyle.  I may not be the most elegant mom around, but I can get ready for anything in ten minutes!

Ø    I am a “relaxed housekeeper”, to put it mildly.  My house is generally picked up, but heavier housework is not “my thing”.  I would much rather be off at the dog park with my children than sitting home washing the floor.  I do not think that when I die I will say “Oh, I wish I’d kept a cleaner house.”

O I listen to books on CD in the car.  It takes my mind off of things and I can be entertained.

O     I eat.  Yes, eating is bad for you, but I eat things like Cheerios and string cheese. They keep my mouth and hands busy and satisfies my craving to stuff something in my mouth!

O I do not take things too seriously.  Shit happens.  Move on.

Ø    I write this blog.  Writing has always been an interest of mine, and by writing this blog, I am able to take some of life’s daily stressors and bang them out on the poor computer keyboard.  Thanks for reading this and giving me an excuse to write!!!!!

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…

Pain is In the Eye of the Beholder…Part 1

(Because this post is too long,  I am going to split it into 2 parts, one now and one in a few days. I don’t want anyone out there reading to get bored, you know!  If you want to be sure to read the second part, please click on “E-mail Subscription” on the side of this post and put in your e-mail.  Then, the 2nd part will be delivered right to your front door, like a newspaper!)

I happen to be blessed (?) with two sons who do not feel pain normally.  It took me a while to figure this out.  I  knew when I took them to the playground when they were three, four and five years old, they would run around, fall, trip and bang into things as much as the other kiddos did, but they never came up to me crying, like the others did to their moms.  I actually thought how lucky I was that they weren’t “whiney” like the other little ones, whom I considered to be “wimpy”.  As the boys have aged and accidents have happened, I have learned that the fact that they never came crying to me over little hurts and bruises was a sign that they did not FEEL the little hurts and bruises!

Steven, who was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, has always had “wiring” that is abnormal.  He has had a lot of diagnosis; ADHD, OCD, ODD, BPD, autism, Asperger’s, and sensory integration deficit, but to me it all boils down to the fact that his nervous system/brain developed in the embryonic fog of a drug addicted, alcoholic birth mother.  Like many children diagnosed with autism, he has severe sensory integration deficit.  When he was younger, he would throw himself on the floor, cry and bang his head if there were a tag on his shirt or if the seam in his sock were crooked. Light touch actually HURT him.  I remember taking him in the grocery store with him sitting in the baby seat when he was about 2 years old.  If I absent-mindedly gently rubbed his little arm, he would scream and yell “STOP HURTING ME!” (to which I would slink away hoping no one in the store heard or noticed…)

Steven cannot tolerate being touched gently, but he loves deep, hard hugs, BEAR hugs.  These feel good to him.  This “wiring problem” (as I affectionately call it,) impairs his ability to realize if he is hurt.  The best example of this was one summer day when we were cleaning out the freezer.  It was one of those old fashioned freezers where frost had built up all around the inside.  After I scraped it out, we took the slush outside and thought it would be fun to make snowballs out of it.  There we stood in the front lawn, throwing snowballs at each other in the 80 degree heat!  Steven got hit in the eye with one, but quickly brushed it aside and threw another one back. We had great fun, playing until the “snow” had melted.

The next morning, Steven woke up and his eye was bright red and swollen.  He did not complain of any pain, but I still  I quickly called an eye doctor whisked him off for an exam.  While at the counter registering, the receptionist asked me how it happened.  I told her he got hit in they eye with a snowball.  She stared at me for a long time, so I gave her the cleaning out the fridge story.  Again in the examining room, the assistant asked me how it happened.  Snowball again.  She wrote it in his chart.  “Hit in eye with snowball.”  It was August, and it was pretty funny.  When the doctor examined his eye, he was incredulous that Steven was not shrieking in pain.  It seems that a piece of ice had scratched off pieces of his cornea!  It is supposedly very painful, but did not faze Steven in the least.  He was sent home with cream to put in his eye every several hours and he healed up fine.

Angel, on the other hand, does not feel pain because he has Dissociative Identity Disorder.  In layman’s terms, this disorder developed because he was so badly abused as an infant and toddler that in order to protect himself, his brain split off into “parts”, with one “part” absorbing the pain of the abuse to keep the other “parts” safe. This was a coping mechanism he developed in order to survive.  (Of course, when he was younger, we were unaware of this diagnosis.)  One day, when he was about four years old, I went to pick him up at pre-school.  The teacher told me he had been pushed off the top of the jungle gym by another child and that he may have hurt his hand because he was holding it a little funny.  He was not crying and did not complain of any pain, but I decided to zip him over to the emergency room anyway to have it checked out. He smiled at the doctor who examined him, and seemed to enjoy the attention.  When the doctor examined his hand, it was obvious that the problem was not his hand, it was his entire shoulder and arm.  They did an xray, and we learned he had broken his shoulder!  Again, the doctor questioned how he could possibly not be screaming in paid, and especially how he could have managed to spend the day in preschool!  At the time, I did not know how it was possible either!

These are just 2 instances where Steven and Angel were hurt and did not acknowledge the pain, but I was able to witness this phenomena several more times, episodes which I will share with you in Pain is All Relative, Part 2!

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