Flat

It’s been a month a half since my daughter moved out. We still haven’t seen her yet. Hopefully this weekend. We initially have stayed away until recently to try to give her time to adjust but her dad will go see her for a hour or so Saturday and hopefully it will go well. We have no idea. Will she be happy to see us? Sad when we leave? Will she be upset when we come because she thinks she is going back home? I have no idea what to expect. Her dad is going to see her alone the first time for practical reasons, our older boys are working and we don’t want to take all the smaller kids, and also because we don’t know how she will do and she is more likely to have a positive interaction with him than me. It would also be hard for me to see her interact positively to her caregiver and then negatively with me, which is likely based on past experiences. It wears on me emotionally to be rejected all the time, if I’m being honest. While I want more than anything for her to attach well to her caregiver, it just magnifies her dislike of me, which is hard. I so wish I could understand what goes on in her head. The truth is she just can’t handle family dynamics and that is sad.

So many people have asked how she is doing. She’s doing as well as we could have expected. Her episodes have become much less frequent and less intense when she does have them, which is what we hoped for. She still has a degenerative neurological condition which basically means her brain is loosing control of her body and it will get worse over time. The doctors have said that she will eventually need a nursing home because her needs will become so great from loss of functioning but no one seems to know how long it will be till that happens. So, we had hoped that we would see her symptoms lessen with this move and we have. The doctors thought she was basically having panic attacks because of stress and that seems to be true for the most part. It was happening almost daily just before leaving from school to come home and now that hasn’t happened at school at all. I think it was because she was anticipating coming home and didn’t want to, which again is sad. On an emotional level you assume kids need families and love and most of them do, but for some it’s so full of pain from the past that it stresses them more than it helps. It makes no sense but it seems to be the case with Kaki. She seems happier to be with a caregiver than to be with a family. She rejects the thing she needs most. Don’t we all?

It’s been weird adjusting to her being gone but I won’t say it’s been difficult. There is more peace in our house without the constant stress of her behavior and physical issues. There’s no worrying if I will need to take her to the ER each day or wondering what is really going on with her and how to help. We are free to make plans and do things with the boys that we couldn’t do with her because of physical limitations. And the constant emotional strain of our complicated relationship is gone.

I was watching Say Yes to the Dress the other day and there was this family who had both adopted and bio kids. The two adopted kids were adopted as older kids and one of them was getting married. They seemed well adjusted now as adults but the mom admitted they had been through some rough years as a family because of the trauma these kids endured before joining their family. That’s a nice way of putting it and everyone watching thought “oh how wonderful this family is and good for them for making it through that and they are just perfect now”. That’s not what I heard and saw. Normally when the bride comes out in the dress the mom cries and they just know it’s the one. That’s the “normal” scenario. Not this time. I watched the mom carefully and while she was happy there was no emotion particularly. You know why? I do. Because as moms who love complicated children we have learned that expressing emotion is dangerous. It leads to more intense and complicated emotions and, usually, then to angry outbursts. With Kaki I discovered really quickly that if I gave her positive emotions like hugging or too much positive attention it would go well for a minute and then she would begin to hit me. She just couldn’t handle it. I learned how to be emotionally flat with her. Nothing positive, nothing negative and that is how we survive. This mom has learned the same. While I know she was feeling happy for her daughter it is muted, because she has learned to mute her feelings. Feelings are dangerous for people who have been deeply hurt.

This is true of so many people, not just kids from foster care or who have come from trauma. So many of us have experienced things that made us come to the conclusion that feelings are dangerous so we should just stuff them down and not feel anything. Numbness is much safer. Its true, it is. If you are numb you cannot feel the good things but more importantly you cannot feel the bad things. If you pretend you don’t have “bad” feelings like anger or sadness, then you don’t have to deal with whatever is causing those feelings. It’s much safer not to go down that road. Until…. Until you realize you feel nothing. You cannot appreciate the positive things in life. You don’t feel happy or excited because you don’t allow yourself too. It’s no way to live. I’ve discovered this is to some extent how we have been living these past six years in a state of emotional numbness. We now find ourselves in a completely different place and it’s disorienting. How will we move forward? We cannot continue in these old patterns because we realize they aren’t healthy, but how to we change? I’m not sure yet, we are working on it. It will take time to figure it all out. We are grieving what was and heading toward new beginnings. It’s terrifying and exciting at the same time. I feel more margin in my life to even think about these things than I have in years, which is great, but also scary. I don’t know what the future holds but we will take one step at a time and deal with the scares of what we have been through so we don’t carry them into tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Flat

  1. Ruth, Your writing is so insightful. You have the courage to reveal the longings of your soul. I have learned over many years that some of the survival techniques I had to use in my childhood do not work and can be very hurtful later. Recognizing them and taking steps to change them was the beginning of healing process. This, for me, was not a one time thing but a continual process even today. I admire so many things about you and the witness you have to help others to heal as well. With God’s help, our helping others to heal is the truly good thing that comes from our suffering. I love you.

  2. I’m so glad you’re fine some peace as you adjust to a new normal. I’m sure the “what could’ve been” thoughts come up, but rest assured you did what was best for all concerned.
    The emotional numbness you talk about reminded me of my first 2 weeks post-concussion. I felt nothing. No emotion. Things that once would’ve provoked anger, sadness or happinessno longer had that effect. However, when my emotions came back it was like missile fire in my heart & head. I pray you don’t have such a violent resurgence of emotions, but if you do, I can offer these suggestions…
    1) Go to a quiet place to just focus on your breathing. One breath after the next.
    2) Read the Word, start a Bible reading or listen to an enlightening podcast.
    If it weren’t for these two practices, I have no idea what I would’ve done.
    Continued love and prayers 💕

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