If you’ve been a long time reader of this blog, then you have probably heard me talk about the child in our home who struggles the most with the lingering effects of her past. I tried to be as vague as possible about it since, as she was going through it, her behaviors were beyond her control. She absolutely couldn’t stop the way she was reacting to the day-to-day in the world around her. How would I describe the way she reacted, to every little thing? Volatile. That’s the word I would choose. The girl was a constant powder keg, ready to explode.
We tried therapy, like the regular, sit down with a therapist weekly and tell them your feelings, kind of therapy. We tried it for almost two years. I could see it not working. I could see why it wasn’t working. Because how do you talk about feelings that you don’t understand yourself, ones that you can’t even name? Are you angry? Yes, I appear to be, because I just slapped my mom across the face and spat at her. Why are you angry? Heck if I know. For kids who have lived through hell, their emotional intelligence is pretty much non-existent.
Our Bubbly could see she was angry, but she had no clue why. None at all.
The first FOUR therapists had no idea what to make of it. Their advice? Drug her. She absolutely needs antipsychotic medications. But, she’s 6 years old. Really? That sounds scary to me. Well, do you want to continue to live this way, with the slapping, and the spitting and the raging? God, no. Then, you need meds. They had no experience with children with trauma, and I was reading everything I could get my hands on about children and anti-psychotics. It sounded…not good. So, I dug my heels in. I refused the meds. So we struggled, and struggled, and struggled.
Then one day I was explaining my plight to Dolly’s Birth-to-Three Physical Therapist, who herself is an adoptive mom of a child who came through hell, and she told me about a small therapy practice, in a suburb just outside of the larger city we live in. The specialize in attachment-related trauma. You have GOT to be kidding me! Where has this been all my life?!? Our insurance wouldn’t cover it, so FPD and I committed to paying out of pocket for just three months. If she made no strides in three months, we would ditch it and re-evaluate.
Y’all, she made HUGE strides. Just by having someone who understood that she couldn’t analyze anger that she didn’t KNOW to be anger, that she couldn’t figure out WHY she felt this way over things she barely remembered happening to her, things that had left wounds that had healed over, but were still there, just below the surface, waiting to open up again. They started from square one, talking about how it is absolutely okay for her NOT to understand why she slaps, screams, rages, and spits. It’s okay.
She spent the first month sobbing through every visit.
I think it was sobs of relief.
Because, finally, finally, someone got it.
About three months in, the therapist recommended Neurofeedback to us. I raised an eyebrow and thought ‘she’s peddling snake oil. This is going to cost us an arm and a leg and it sounds like crap.’ She insisted I just meet with the Neurofeedback provider in their practice. Just talk, see what she says, and if I still thought it was crap, then we could discuss something else. I researched (and you can too, right here) and found out this wasn’t a new idea. There were scholarly articles back to the early 1990s discussing the effects this therapy had for Vietnam-era vets who just couldn’t shake their combat PTSD. Wow. Really?
So, I met with the Neurofeedback provider. She made this sound good. Then, I had FPD, who was also a skeptic, start taking Bubbly to her sessions. He actually takes her weekly now, and he is fascinated by it. Fascinated. In true FPD form, he asks questions like “If I have normal brain chemistry and you hook me up to that, could you really mess with me? I mean, could you make me a human rage monster?” The provider laughed, looked at him and said “I could totally mess you up.” Take away lesson, brain waves are some powerful business.
The result, after three months of doing this weekly… a happier, healthier Bubbly. A Bubbly who we are now able to talk down. That’s right, the rage still oozes to the surface, but we talk about it, like we would with an 8-year-old who is still learning to be emotionally intelligent. The hitting, kicking, slapping and spitting, well y’all it has all but stopped. If we skip neurofeedback, or she’s particularly stressed out, we may have an incident. But, they are now few and far between, and not 30+ instances per day like there were when she arrived 5 years ago. How long will we have to do this? The protocol is a YEAR of weekly sessions and then we will slowly taper her down to maintenance sessions. Slowly.
Is this costing us an arm and a leg? Yes. Is she worth it? Heck yes. This little girl was able to leave the house without us this holiday break to go and bake cookies with FPD’s mom, and to ring bells for the Salvation Army with her teacher. She was excited, but she was socially appropriate. Bubbly is bubbly. We love that about her. She brings joy wherever she goes. She has a million watt smile, talks incessantly, and is ridiculously smart beyond her years. We want for her all the things she deserves from life. She is a truly amazing kid.
I’m breaking my code of silence about our older kids, and their struggles, because our struggle is so common when it comes to adopted children. Adoption is rooted in loss, sometimes that loss comes with, or because of, abuse. This has worked for us. Each child is different, but the brain, it can heal too. And, I absolutely do believe in medication. So please, don’t think I don’t. We have another child who is actively, with meds, being treated for ADD. Sometimes, I think people truly believe it is their only option. All I want you to take away from this is that it’s not. Sometimes, two modalities can be used together.
While I was hesitant to put a child as young as Bubbly on anti-psychotic meds, should this have failed, I would have. We couldn’t continue to live the way we were. I am an Advanced Practice Nurse. I believe that there is true validity to the idea that your brain has a chemistry, some conditions alter it, and some drugs help with that. I now also believe there are things people can do, along with medications, to help their brain chemistry. If this would help our girl, without meds at such a young age, then I was willing to try it.
It helped. It may help your child too.
–FullPlateMom, who kind of likes her snake oil.