Sunday 15 May 2016

A good weekend

Remember my post, The Adoption Marathon, comparing adoption life to training for a marathon? Well, if we were training then this weekend would be an 'easy run'.

Daddy and I decided a while back to have a rare night out last Friday, so we called on my Mum to babysit.  Before Missy joined us, we went out once to a wonderful local restaurant, ooh at least four years ago. As we had good memories of it, we decided to return.  Missy was fine about it, no negative behaviours, no separation anxiety.  So we had a lovely evening.

On the way there I text Missy's friend's mum about picking up said friend on the way to a Brownie activity day on Saturday.  Friend's mum replied, thanked me for the offer and in return invited Missy to have a sleepover with friend after the Brownie activity.

We ummed and ahhed, whilst in the pub, for a few minutes.  Would it be too much for her after a full day, was it too short notice, would she be ok generally?  We decided that as she'd been to her friend's house a few times and she had been away from us for two nights during the past year, that it would be ok and I accepted the kind offer from friend's mum.

On Saturday morning when Missy got up, I reminded her we needed to pack waterproof coat, trainers, and lunch for Brownies plus toothbrush and PJs.  She looked at me quizzically and then asked "Am I staying at Es?" followed by a very loud "Yes!!"   Her excitement level just shot up and she dived out of bed to get everything ready.

The rest of the day was lovely and quiet.  We went shopping with my Mum and had a lovely coffee and cake.  I got on with some course work and in the evening, rather than going out again, OH and I treated ourselves to steak and chips with a yummy dessert.  We then settled down to watch Eurovision.  Friend's mum text to say everything was fine and I replied saying Missy could call us anytime if she was worried, but that call never came.

This morning, we had a leisurely wake up and cuppa in bed.  I managed some more work before Missy was dropped back about 10am.  She'd had a wonderful time, was good as gold (always is away from the house) and she and her friend didn't stop talking.  Missy says they were up til 3am but I'm more inclined to believe friend's Mum who said it was more like 9.30pm - LOL.

I won't lie, I did enjoy the peace and quiet but I think Daddy and I also missed our little girl too.

Thursday 5 May 2016

This week I .......

The theme for this week's  Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO is  This week I ......

So, with that in mind, this week I ........... feel motivated!!

Woohoo!! First time in a few years that I feel like I do at the moment.

The reason?  Well, I've been thinking for a while about working.  Logistically I cannot do what I did just before we adopted, partly because it meant seeing clients in my house.  No, no, no.

I looked for quite a while for part time jobs, but nothing was forthcoming.  I looked for part time jobs in schools, so I could work term time only, but nothing.   I need to work part time because Missy's separation anxiety is such that me not being around til later in the day will do no good for family relations.  We still need to work lots on attachment and so I need to be around after school as much as I can.

So there I was, during the Easter holidays, generally surfing around the internet when I had a lightbulb moment. What I could do was so obvious - do what I used to do once but freelance. And for confidentiality reasons I'm not going to say what that is though, sorry.  If you're really interested you'll have to DM me  :-)

Since then I've done some research, I'm getting myself up to date with businessy/worky stuff, I've almost finished my website and have two possible clients.  I'm been using my brain cells and it feels good.  Doing it this way means being around for Missy, being able to mange my own time so if I need to #takecare then I can take time out and it means I can feel useful again, my confidence and my identity (which disappeared a while back) will start to grow again.

And the sun's out. Bonus!

In other news, Missy started play therapy.  We saw the same lady a few years ago and it helped somewhat so I'm hoping for a little movement in the positive direction this time.  I have a feeling it won't do much for Missy's stubbornness and need for control, but it's a start.  The therapist certainly does a good keeping Missy's control in check during the session.  I think the life story work will be the most useful.

We took Missy to her second gig to see ELO.  Absolutely brilliant.  Even though she fell asleep for 15 minutes half way through, I think she actually enjoyed it, particularly when Mr Blue Sky came on.  Daddy and I loved every single minute.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

The Adoption Marathon

Every morning on Chris Evans' on Radio 2 he has someone come in to give their two minute Pause for Thought.  Yesterday, the theme was a marathon, coming a couple of days after the London Marathon.

The speaker talked about how many aspects of life could also be seen as a marathon: teaching his daughter to ride her bike, his wife in labour, seeing his son through their teenage years.   Life with Missy is on my list.

I've trained for and completed four marathons so I speak from experience.  I was in awe of the runners on Sunday as we cheered them on down The Embankment, Missy shouting encouragement at the top of her voice, really enjoying herself.  Listening to the Pause for Thought also got me thinking how life with Missy is also a marathon for us.

Those long slow runs that need to be done each week, slowly increasing in mileage up to about 20 miles, are tough.  You run slow, much slower than race pace, in wind, snow, rain, sun.  Every plod gets you nearer to the start of the main race but every plod, for me, is flipping hard.  It hurts, it's draining, I have no energy left after several hours out there.   I'm feeling a bit like that now as Missy hurls yet another "you're not my proper mummy!" at me (reminds of Zoe & Kat in Eastenders).

When training for a marathon, the idea is to do two to three other runs during the week, each at a different pace.   One of these runs is called a tempo run, running faster at a pace you can keep up for 4-6 miles, faster than you would run a marathon. They are fairly comfortable runs (if you're feeling generally ok), but you are using up lactic acid as you get to a point where you can't sustain that pace.  I get to that point with Missy. We have a good run of positive behaviour (it may be days, but it may hours) but then something triggers Missy and, bam! off she goes and if I've used up all my energy then I find it harder to parent therapeutically.

Another type of training run which can help build speed in the legs is called a 'fartlek' (yes, really).  You run fast for, say, a minute or between two lamposts/roads whatever you want, then you slow it right down for a few minutes, then you go fast again.  Up and down, calm and angry, fast and slow, delightful and, well, not delightful.   It's hard to keep up, not knowing her next move.

Often we have days which are like a 'easy' run, sometimes known as a recovery run.  Easy, comfortable, not too far, slower than marathon pace.  Sometimes in Missyland we have several days together where it's easy, where we can get our breath back and recover.

Our whole life feels like we're in training but I'm not sure where the end is.  Sometimes we run uphill and sometimes we run downhill.  I do know that the experience of taking part in and the finish of a marathon is exhilarating and emotional and I'm glad I did all the training to get to the point.  I also know and am proud of the fact that I have never given up during a race, no matter how tough it is. I feel the same with Missy.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Hello, it's been a while

Well, hello, it's been a while (I'm sure that's a song isn't it?).

The last few months have been rocky ones.   It all ramped up before Christmas, which usually goes ok here, but not last Christmas.   For some reason, Missy had a lot more thoughts about death, she got exhausted by lack of routine and we had too many transitations over the holiday.   And then her anxiety level just continued to rise and rise, which also means her opposition rises and rises.  Its made the previous three years look easy.

In February Missy had a very strange couple of days, very dark and quite scary, lots of regression, didn't want to eat.  If she had a diagnosis of bipolar then this would have been a depressive episode.  
To cut a long story short, things have got worse for Missy in the anxiety stakes.  An illness in the family is probably at the top of the anxiety tree, and it magnifies all her other anxieties, which comes out as fear, intense anger and opposition. Things that Missy sailed through before, or maybe with a few worries, are now unsettling her a lot.  We are back to outlining on a calendar everything she is doing with all the timings etc - although she still asks for clarification over and over.   I've cancelled a few things this holiday and I've seen anxiety written all over her face several times.

Our lovely GP referred us back to CAMHS who this time were understanding and very supportive.  We now have some support in place for Missy and also for Daddy and me.  I've made it clear that the support Missy is getting can only be a starter and I'm sure she will need more as the time goes on.  I hope she doesn't but I suspect she will.

Strangely, with all this going on, I actually feel ok.  I think all the gardening and using the SAD lamp a lot during the winter months really helped, plus the various courses/conferences I attended last November, not to mention the support of other adopters.  To say I'm relieved the longer days are here is an understatement.  I do get exasperated by the behaviour and my therapeutic parenting has been non-existent at times but I can just about cope with it.

School have been brilliant as usual but the wonderful Head has just left so I'm hoping the new one starting in September will be as co-operative.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

A poem

I've just read this wonderful poem by an adoptee posted on The Adoption Social and wanted to share it with you.

When Things Are Not Fair by Charley Hart, aged 9.
I’m enraged when things are not fair
I get cross with maths and annoyed with tests
I’m enraged when things are not fair
I get displeased when I’m bored
And I get frustrated when I have to do spelling
And you don’t want to see me enraged!  "

Such thoughtful writing from Charley.  I can feel her rage in those few words.  I'm going to show it to Missy tonight as it sums up her too.  

Monday 7 December 2015

Proud Parent

I am so incredibly proud of Missy today.

She's started piano lessons at school this term and today was the annual piano concert in front of the whole school and parents of the children playing. Missy has done really well in her lessons and I was sure that, if she overcame her nerves, then she'd be fine. This morning before school she was very nervous, understandly, so, for the first time, I gave her Rescue Remedy drops. I had some too.

Sat waiting, she looked cool as a cucumber. Of the 10 students, she was first to play and she played beautifully!  

A tear rolled down my cheek - I can't tell you how proud I am of her. I wanted to shout out to everyone there just how amazing she is, and why this was such as big thing for a little girl who often thinks she is not worth anything. 

Well done my gorgeous girl.

Thursday 3 December 2015

I'm a bit workshopped out

I'm a bit workshopped and conferenced out. I've been to four in as many weeks. First a workshop about empathy, then the AUK conference with Bryan Post, then a day with Dr Renee Marks (expert in trauma and dissociation) and last week an introduction to Non Violent Resistance (NVR).

Following all this, our home is a picture of loveliness, calm, respect, no tantrums, nothing being thrown and no answering back.  


HA! AS IF ............. !!!!

I'll be honest though. I do feel calmer in myself and am filled with more hope than I have done in a while.  

I've already blogged about AUK here, so I'll briefly talk about Dr Renee Marks and NVR.

Dr Renee Marks is the founder of Integrate Families, the National Centre of Trauma & Dissociation. I'd heard about Dr Marks from another adopter and was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to sit amongst over 100 adopters, foster carers, SWs and other professionals to hear her talk about emotional regulation for children with complex trauma.  Her day was split into sections; talking about the brain and how trauma changes it, talking about emotional regulation in adults (put your oxygen mask on first), about trauma based behaviours in school and at home and finally she gave us some tools and techniques to promote emotional regulation in our children.

I came away feeling inspired.  Some of it I had heard  or read before but Dr Marks explains it all in such an uncomplicated way so there was definitely stuff I 'got' this time.  Like Bryan Post, she believes that parents/carers must take responsibility and it's up to us to use her tools several times daily to help our children.  In a relationship, the child can calm down.

Amongst the many 'aha' and 'ahh ok' moments I had, a question to her about Theraplay stuck out.  Whilst she is a supporter of Theraplay and indeed uses many of the techniques in her clinic, she felt there was a limit to using it as Theraplay cannot process trauma. Interesting.  

One technique that Dr Marks uses a lot is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).  Apparently it's a therapy used a lot in helping to process all types of trauma, including secondary trauma.  I've just read a bit about it and I can see a few similarities to Emotional Freedom Technique (or Tapping as some people call it) which I used to do so I think I'll get tapping again and look further into EMDR too.

If you get the chance to hear Dr Marks talk, go for it.

So, NVR.  I'd heard about NVR from a non-adopter who found huge benefits for her family. Having researched it I felt it was appropriate for us although to be honest wasn't entirely sure what it entailed. Turns out we do a few of the techniques anyway, go us!  So the day, run by PAC UK was an introduction day; the full length course is 4 days long. However if you're considering it, I would say that I learnt a lot in just one day.

Very basically NVR is about having 'parental presence' and de-escalation without the need for shouting, yelling, pointing fingers, consequences etc.  Once again, the theme of building relationships and parents/carers taking responsibility was evident.

We got on to the subject of violence which for many is non-negotiable. The message was that we have to break the taboo and bring on board a support network of 3-4 people. These supporters will have different roles but all will know about the violence. It may be a teacher/key worker, a friend, a parent, a Brownie leader, a GP, SW, another adopter, whoever you feel you can trust and give you the required support. One may gently mention that they know about 'hitting mummy' and express their worry for mummy and child, wrapped in either side with positive comments. A shit-sandwich the trainer explained. Several parents questioned shame but the trainer said that it was important that the child knows violence will not be tolerated. Another supporter may be a friend who can come round fairly quickly and just be there for you (and child if they do like and trust this friend).  Friend just being there will help de-escalate the situation.   So one of my support group is going to be Missy's pastoral care worker and it turns out that Missy already tells her when she's hit me and they talk through it.  This is a positive step for Missy. 

I don't feel I need to go on the full course just yet and would highly recommend you attending if you find yourself shouting, yelling and exhausted. Ask your LA to pay as mine did.

Having read through all my course notes before writing this blog, I realise there was A LOT of useful content that came my way over the last few weeks, some of which I'd forgotten already.  I need to go through it, make some concise notes and details on what Daddy and I need to be doing each day to help Missy (and ourselves).  

In other news, Daddy and I got engaged.  Yay!  Only taken 10 years.    In more other news, I took Missy to her first pop concert last week (on a school night!) and she absolutely loved it (well, most of it)  Believe it or not she is a big Nik Kershaw fan.  
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