We have the RAD monster fully active again at our house, and we intend to tackle it full force! Joshie has definitely had a setback, and we are beginning therapy again with our first visit on Friday. I attempted to do so a few weeks back, prior to "FluFest '09" and was thwarted in my efforts as we all had to regain our health. But the past couple of weeks were firm reminders of the fact that my dear son is wandering around with a hurting soul, and we need to do our best to help him.
Much of what we are seeing is revisiting what he was like at about 3 or 4 years old. While the night terrors have subsided, that may be only because we now have an air mattress on the floor of our bedroom and have reassured him he can continue to sleep in our room every night for as long as he feels a need to. Yea, I know other parents would flip out over that and send him quickly back to his room, but we feel it is absolutely the right thing to do to reassure him that we are nearby and he is safe. When he was younger and finally allowed himself to sleep in our bed and wasn't as repulsed by human touch as he initially was, we slowly saw great change in him which we attributed in part to co-sleeping and the security that provided him. As the night terrors have diminished we once again feel it is the right move and as far as I am concerned he can stay there for months if that is what is needed. There is nothing as gut wrenching as having your 6 year old son scream out in the middle of the night "Don't take me back, I don't want to go!" or "Mommy, don't leave me!!" as he sobs with his eyes wide open, seeing no one but the terror of the moment in his dream.
For me though it is the daytime behaviors that are the hardest to see resurface. Let me share with you what Infant Reactive Attachment Disorder looks like in a child as they mature and perhaps regress a bit...
1) Right now Joshua needs to know where I am every single moment. He spends much of his time feeling very uncomfortable if I am out of sight. For example, as I work in our guest bedroom/office and he is in another area of the house, he will come and quietly stick his head in the door at least 7 or 8 times in a 45 minute period...pulling away from activities with his brothers to go check on me and make sure I am still there. He has nothing to say, he wants nothing, he just needs to know I am still there.
2) I am followed every where, he is so insecure right now that unless he is with others such as Dominick or our very closest friends, he will follow me to the bathroom, around the outside of our home, out to the car. If our entire family is in the backyard hanging out and I happen to wander to the front porch to water the plants, I will soon find him right there beside me.
3) If we try to leave him in a certain location with his brothers, for example at the toy aisle at Target and I am going to be the next aisle over...totally within earshot...he will dissolve into tears. He HAS to go with me.
4) I have noticed lately that he is still very genuinely affectionate...but if I lean in for a kiss he will turn his face away, then catch himself sometimes and turn back to me. It is automatic, not something he is even very aware of, but it is one of the subtle things that are huge red flags to me.
5) His personality is a bit more subdued, he is not quite as joyful as he usually is, although not actually depressed acting.
6) I don't know if this is going hand in hand, but his eating patterns have changed as well, he is not eating as much as he normally is, declining to eat some of his normally desired foods.
Thankfully, we are having no other forms of acting out, no anger, no temper. Much of this is huge regression from where we were even 6 months ago, and it is hard for me to see.
Sadness, insecurity, fear...those are the things we are seeing...and it breaks my heart.
I know intellectually we are likely going to be revisiting this many times over his childhood, but I hate that he is walking around feeling so uncomfortable and uncertain inside. I want my son to be emotionally healthy and strong, to be able to feel confident as he walks through the world.
I can't fix this, I desperately want to and yet I can't.
He is older now, he is better able to verbalize his feelings, he is also extremely intelligent. All of this may work in our favor as we delve into things once again. He is not a non-verbal infant who is terribly disturbed and hurting. I remind myself that we made it through once, and we can make it through again...that we are actually much further along than we were years ago. Why then does this bother me so?
But when his instinct is to turn away from me, it still hurts. When he turns back, it feels a little better...but it is as if I am someone whom he still fears will let him down, will abandon him, will once again hurt him. And in spite of it, he still loves me deeply as do I love him.
I think of what might happen were I to meet with an early demise. How would that tear him up? How would that destroy all that we have worked so hard to accomplish? This wonderful, sweet, tender child of mine who has been through so much...I live daily with the secret and often unvoiced fear that something would happen to me and Josh's deepest held nightmare would come true. I pray often that God would lay a protective hand over me, not to keep me here for my own desires but to save my son who might not live through it either. I hate having those thoughts so often, yet I admit it is very true.
So once again we will begin to slowly work to draw Joshie out, to bring his fears into the light and address his insecurities. Maybe I will get my happy little guy back, maybe I will soon have back the direct eye contact that I miss, maybe eventually he won't have to catch himself subtly turning away.
I love this child so very, very much...he is just about the sweetest soul I have ever met. It is hard for anyone not to love Joshie, now if we can only find a way to let him feel that love and rest in it securely.
He is lucky, he has a caring and nurturing family, brothers who adore him, a best buddy who is just as sweet and kind as he is, other adults in his life who contribute so much. It is what has brought him this far and I have to trust it will eventually bring him all the way. God will continue to work through all those around Josh, will use their arms to hug him and hold him, to help him gain all that was lost 6 years ago when he was abandoned and handed from one set of disinterested arms to another in institutional care. He is really a child of many others, not just our child, their love pours into him. He is also a child of God, and as we continue to build that spiritual connection perhaps he will one day be able to find solace and comfort in that when those insecure moments creep up on him.
When I think of all Josh has to help him achieve emotional stability, of all those rooting for him and in his corner cheering him on, it is hard not to think of all those children who suffer such fears who have no one to continue to hang in there with them, no one to even begin to help them find a way to happiness and feeling whole. Foster kids who have been tossed about at the whim of a system they have no control over, children in orphanages all over the world who feel unloved...and remain so in "real life", children who aren't even "lucky enough" to be in an orphanage who survive life on the streets and back alleys.
Why, oh why, does anyone...from the littlest child to the eldest senior citizen in a nursing home...have to feel unloved in a world full of so many people? Why??? Perhaps it is my experiences with Josh that have brought sharply into focus those in my circle who are lonely at moments, who I can imagine having solitary times where they too question why they feel abandoned regardless of their station in life. I honestly try hard to see to it that anyone I know of who might feel uncared for even for a moment would know that they are not alone, that I care, that there is someone who will happily provide a hug, will stop and listen to them and be truly interested in what they have to say, who will think of them when we are apart. I have some tremendous friendships in my life, I have amazing people who surround me who are just the absolute best, and they deserve MY best. Joshie has made me ever more aware of the quiet pain of others, I am thankful to have my eyes opened but wish it weren't at the expense of my son.