Monday, April 07, 2008

The bad and the ugly

I have not posted a lot about Kain lately. This is probably the most painful part of my life right now, and I have been hesitant to share it on a blog. But, I was talking via email with a mom with a similar child, and she felt so alone in the way she felt towards her do I. I think there's something to be said for sharing these kinds of stories. People need a realistic view of what it is to raise a child with these kinds of problems. We were not foolish enough to think we could take in a child that has been damaged for six years and feed him good meals and read him good stories and everything would be fixed. But I have to admit that if I really understood how hard it would be, I doubt I would have taken it on.

Kain is still being evaluated. He has been getting treatment for his ADHD, but it's not the whole story. They are looking at a possible diagnosis of bipolar disorder as well. Anyway, he is in one of his "down cycles" right now, whatever you want to call them...a fairly long one for him, we are almost at a week of it now. That's nothing shocking, it's something we deal with pretty regularly...the problem is that *I* am handling him particularly poorly this time around. I've never handled him wonderfully during these times. I am not the most, ah, docile personality in the world, and I'm not someone that handles a raging person well anyway. Couple that with pregnancy hormones and the fact that this has all happened over Jack's asthma flare-up and my gallbaldder issues,,,Jack got sick Thursday night and Friday afternoon I had my very first gallbladder attack and spent the night in the hospital dehydrated and having regular contractions,,, and my tolerance is a bit low, as in, Kain is lucky to be alive and unscarred at this point. I mean, he spent that whole time Friday that Jack was wheezing horribly and I was in terrible pain *whining* and throwing little fits about *everything*. When he's in these moods, it's like you can see him sitting there stewing, coming up with things to b***ch about, I got everything from, "How come you haven't fixed corn bread in so long?" to "When is Uncle John taking me to laser tag again?" and everything in between....not just questions mind you, but whining combined with fits of various sizes if there was not a satisfactory answer to follow...and this all combined with total disobedience and testing behavior. I just couldn't believe it, kept saying, "Kain, Jack was almost in the ER last night, ok? Do you see that he can't breathe? Do you see that I'm in horrible pain right now? Do you really expect me to go whip you up a batch of cornbread????!!!!"

The worst was Saturday evening, the day I got back from the hospital. I wasn't going to cook, obviously, so John made some frozen pizza for the kids. Kain proceeded to inhale most of an entire pizza in his usual fashion. He still sometimes eats so fast that he makes himself vomit...used to be a frequent problem but it's happening less unless it's something he really loves, like pizza. I told him to slow down, and he ignored me. Twice. So then I told him (in a very nice tone, I might add, that I was making supreme effort to produce, lol) that I wanted him to take a bite of pizza and set the slice down while he chewed and swallowed the bite that was in his mouth. He immediately went into a high rage, screaming (he's extremely loud, btw, ear-splitting), eyes bugging out of his head...if he'd had a gun I'd be dead. I took his plate and told him to go to his room and calm down, and he continued to rage and scream and fit for a while, then went into his room and carried on for a good half an hour. Jack, in the meantime, was terrified and crying too. I can only imagine what effect his fits will have on this baby when it gets here. I didn't handle it well. Even when his fit passed, he was pouty and very much playing the victim, something that *really* irritates me about him is that he doesn't ever accept responsibility for his behavior or seem to see that he did anything wrong. So, I was hateful to him all night. I just couldn't stand it anymore. I didn't spank him, something that I've tried in the past and don't do anymore because then he started flinching every time I came near him for anything...apparently brought up bad memories for him, whether he realizes where it comes from or not, he seems to have forgotten all that happened when he lived with his mom now...I realize that was a bad idea, but I've been desperate, and frankly no one has been forthcoming with any better ideas, so I have been up for trying *anything*. I let him come out and eat when he calmed down, and then I sent him to his room until bedtime because I just couldn't stand to be around him anymore. It wasn't a long time, maybe 20 minutes, the boys start getting ready for bed right after dinner and I wasn't in the mood for tackling baths, but he missed read aloud time and threw a fit about that. I just couldn't stand the whole "snuggle on the couch and read" thing, I was *so* angry at him. He was whining to come out for prayers too, so when we started prayers, he had been quiet for a bit and I told him he could come out for that if he wanted to, so he yells, "I'm not coming out for prayers unless you read to me!", so I said, fine, forget it, stay in your room, which triggered another fit. We ended up taking Jack upstairs to sleep in our bed to get him away from it all, which also ticked Kain off even more and set off another screaming fit, and I just shut his door and left him. He screamed and raged for two hours before he fell asleep.

Lest you think Kain is always like this, those of you less familiar with him, he's not. He'll have weeks at a time where he is quite sweet and mostly cooperative, and when he does misbehave he at least fairly contrite, or fakes it pretty well anyway, frankly it's hard to tell because he can be manipulative too. But then we have weeks like this, weeks where, frankly, if his mom showed up with crack pipe in one hand and child beating boyfriend in the other and wanted to take him, I'd give her a big hug and kiss, push him out, and lock the door behind him. Sunday was more of the same, though to a lesser extent than the "big event" the night before. He went to his Dad's last night (THANK YOU GOD), so we'll see what's waiting for me when he returns.

It's killing me. Literally. I am *so stressed out* and feel like I can't make anyone understand how stressful this is on our family. I feel like we are just floundering here. The only ones who *really* know are my parents, only because they actually raised him for 6 months before he came here and he was the same way for them. For others, he can be pretty good for short periods. He always behaves at his dad's. Of course, his dad has his favorite "drug", constant video games. When he was living with my parents, his dad was there too, and he was hateful for his dad then too. Whomever is raising him, it seems, gets the worse, regardless. But with the ADHD meds, he can control himself in classes and practices and around others pretty well. But Adderall doesn't cover the damage at home, the rage that comes out when he's in familiar territory. Most people just tell us how much better he seems. And he is, most of the time.

Anyway, that's enough I guess. I'm just venting. In a few days this mood of his will pass, and things will be relatively ok again, until the next one. Mostly I'm disappointed that our hopes have changed so much. I hoped we would be able to make Kain ok, to undo some of the damage here, but I'm less and less sure of that as time goes now. Now I feel like we'll be lucky to raise him safely to adulthood without driving the rest of us insane. It makes me sad. I want to love this child, I really do. I do, in the sense that I have chosen to love him, and I do strongly believe that love is a decision. We have decided to love him. But no one in this house really *likes* him, really *wants* him. I feel so badly about that, I wish we felt differently. I *want* to want him here. He *needs* to be wanted. And I pretend to want him here, we all do. But he's not a likeable child, and I'm having a lot of difficulty bonding with him. And I feel like we can't give him what he needs, and frankly I don't know if anyone can anymore. I don't think he has an attachment disorder, I really don't. I've read the symptoms, his are not that severe. In fact, I read about those cases and feel pretty lucky, like it could be a lot worse. I mean, he's not hanging the cats or setting the house on fire, kwim? And, like I said, we have weeks that are pretty calm and easy, though I have my doubts even then that his affections are sincere during those times. He doesn't seem to have true affection for anyone, really. He seems to adore his father, loves to go over there. But if his dad got rid of the video games, I wonder if Kain would care if he ever went over there again? Because he is *very* much attached to *things* games, computers, his favorite toys, favorite foods, often irrationally, like he'll become ridiculously attached to a stick he found out in the yard, that kind of thing.

The hardest part for me is that I feel like such a failure. I feel like if I was *really* a good enough mother, if I prayed harder, if I was more patient, more loving, didn't lose my temper so much, wasn't so angry with him all the time, that he would be better. I feel like I fail and sin every day, because what kind of horrible person can't see Christ in an 8yo little boy? That night, on Saturday, I sat in the living room listening to him rage and scream and just cried and cried. At times like that I think, what difference does it make if he's here? He might as well be in a foster home. He seems to have plateaued, he's not getting any better anymore, he hasn't truly attached to us and he's quit improving. He seems to sometimes when his mood is better, but like I said, I often feel manipulated by him and wonder if anything like that is sincere. My mom is worried that he will destroy us and told me to consider just giving him back to his father. She said she doesn't think he's going to turn out normally no matter who raises him, and he's going to destroy us in the process. But I can't in good conscience give him to my brother. My brother can't even keep himself fed and housed. Every other month he is jobless and homeless for heaven's sake. And even when things are relatively stable for him, he's not a fit parent. He's lazy and his life is always a mess. Just looking at those two sad girls his girlfriend is raising is enough to make me scream. He'll never make sure he has his meds, gets to his appointments, has what he needs for school, that kind of thing. My brother just....exists. No responsibility at all. And I struggle mightily with anger towards my brother, for these things and more...he consistently avoids even taking Kain once a week, with one lame excuse after another, he refuses to do even the smallest thing for his son. If he would just willingly take him every week and not consistently act like it was something he was trying to get out of half the time, it would help. Frankly, I wonder if it would be less damaging to Kain if he just went away instead of repeatedly hurting him over and over.

I wish I could really reach him. I wish I could know what he really thinks, what he really feels and what goes on inside his head. I wish I could reach in there and fix things and make him feel loved and happy and content. I wish I could hunt down his mother and make her see how much she has damaged this child. I wish I could make my brother see how much he continues to damage him, and me, and make him actually give a damn about that.

Ok, ok, long enough...stuff to gallstone attack made me realize I have got to start getting stuff done around here before this baby comes, no matter what! If you've read all of this, God love you. It's good to vent.


Jennie C. said...

Hi. I've been reading here for, oh, a week now. :-) All of three posts, so I don't really know you, of course, though I hope to someday. I'm truly sorry Kain is such a challenge, and I can only imagine how hard that is to live with. I know I'd manage heroic patience for all of a week if I had to deal with a child like that, and then, I'd no doubt be feeling like you. How long has Kain been with you? You are his aunt? That in itself is a heroic sacrifice, raising another's child. I had a few other thoughts as I read, but I don't really know you, so I shall keep those to myself! Still, you have my prayers and my support.

Mary Nappi said...

Bless you!

The whole reason I started reading your blog was because I was so impressed with what you are doing for Kain.

I used to teach pre-schoolers with autism. I know about having to choose to love a child, because you cannot find anything loveable about them.

Are you still homeschooling Kain? I suggest you send him back to school. You need a break from him. The only thing that kept me from doing something I regret to my students on some of those really bad days is the knowledge that, at the end of the day, I got to put them on the bus. I know from talking to their parents, that the knowledge of the bus coming the next day was always a sanity saver for them.

I fully understand that this kind of stress could tear your family apart. I know the stress is hard on you and your kids, but think about what you are teaching them. By continuing to love Kain, you will teach them unconditional love in its truest form. Just for including Kain as a member of your family, God will pour His grace on all of you.

I have to imagine the ingratitude you get must drive you insane, the ingratitude from both your brother and Kain. Don't you just want to scream at them, "don't you know what I am giving up for you?".

Please try to remember that Kain cannot help how he is. He has been mistreated since birth, if I understand correctly. That kind of neglect totally rewires your brain. He may not be able to love you in the way he wants to. He probably doesn't trust you or your love. He may never.

I have struggled with depression at times in my life, particularly when I was a teenager, right after my grandmother died. I remember, at that time, that even I didn't like how I was acting and even I hated the way I whined and pouted and was constantly negative and hateful to those who cared for me. Then I would feel so sorry for myself that my mom would get upset with me or that no one at school would hang out with me anymore. I hated who I was and how I acted, but try as I did I couldn't seem to stop myself. I wonder if Kain feels the same way.

Terimisu said...

I love you Mel and I will keep you and Kain in my prayers.

Literacy-chic said...

I've popped over here from time to time after reading your comments at Entropy's. I've wondered about the homeschooling mom of a nephew thing--now I understand. And while I can't understand the level of stress and difficulty you are experiencing, I can imagine that it is much, much worse than what I have gone through with my brother, who is 13 and who has (I believe) undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. Which doesn't make him violent, just difficult to relate to on any kind of normal level. In fact, he's very sweet (if quite a bit argumentative). But he seems so *different* that it's easy to take for granted that he has feelings like the rest of us--he just registers them differently--and I know I for one have sometimes uttered uncharitable things in exasperation over some of his repetitive, fixated behaviors. And it was worse for my husband and son. He lived with us for almost 2 months in November and December after my sister became fed up with having him and my mom couldn't return from New Orleans to get him because of money. I love him, but it is tough, and it stressed us out. So I understand, and I appreciate the frustration (to a much lesser degree), but also the generosity of your impulse to care for this child. I'm sure that just your stability is a blessing to him, and that he would be much worse off if not in your care. May God give you the strength you need as the caring person you are.

Lisa said...

It is difficult enough when a child to whom you have given birth is a challenge, but what you have done- taking in another's child who is such a challenge, is nothing short of heroic. I will continue to keep you and your family in my prayers. I hope that for all of your sakes that Kain gets the help he needs (whether that is new meds, therapy, etc.) to make your life and that of your husband and children a bit easier than it is now. God bless you!

Nancy C. Brown said...

Dear Mel,
Know that I am praying for you, and all these others here, too. God knows all about this, and He's working on it, too. You are not alone. You are not the only one who will help fix Kain, God has a plan that involves you, but not you alone. Part of it is letting others into the situation, like your bravery in posting this.

I hesitate to suggest this, but perhaps family therapy would help: not so much for Kain, but for you. You need a place where all these feelings can come out and be safe so that you don't have to curl up on the couch at home and cry. A place where others understand and can give you little suggestions.

One thing that comes to mind, because this is my own situation, is that you may be treating Kain a little to...well, lightly, for want of a better word. My daughter almost died at birth. I spoil her because every day I think, she could have died. I know that parents who have premies have this problem, too. We don't discipline enough, because we feel they've been through so much already.

Once I recognized this in myself, I tried harder to have higher expectations of my daughter. Now, I tell her I expect her to control her temper. I expect her to bite her tongue and not smart mouth me back when I ask her to set the table, etc.

It's very hard. Our children are precious, but sometimes we treat them as if they were too precious. Have you ever heard (this is from Dr. Ray Guarendi, if you don't have his tapes, get them) the way to get your child to appreciate their stuff more is to give them less? Sometimes I think the way to get our kids to love us more is to expect more of them.

Anyway, take what of this speaks to you, leave the rest. I'm with you and praying for you and Kain and everyone. Peace be with you.

Anonymous said...

Love and prayers for you!

mel said...

Thanks so much for all the comments. Kain is "coming out" of this, for now...yesterday was quite a bit better, hopefully the turn continues for a while...

Jennie- Thanks so much, Kain's been with us for a year and a half now. He's actually come a long way since then,,,but we are kind of bogged down in these mood swings now that some of the other problems are being worked on.

Mary- I loved what you said about your experiences with depression as a teenager. He truly doesn't seem to be able to help it, even though he seems aware of it. That's the saddest part to me. He'll say, "I hope today is better," in this sad voice, like he already knows it's not going to be. He just seems completely controlled by these moods. I do think about sending him back to school...all the time. lol. We still might. When he's doing well, I think homeschooling is good for him, it will help him feel more attached in our family, etc., and I worry about his tendency to pick out the troublemakers in any given group to make friends with. But when we are butting heads constantly for a while like this, I wonder if we are doing our relationship more harm than good. Then I think, sheesh, who wants to sit and try to get him to do homework at the end of the day too? See,,,back and forth. :)

Teri- Thanks girl. I love you too. :)

mel said...

catching up on comments still...I was interrupted by a 3yo who wanted to "help" me type. :)

Lit chic- Thank you, I hope, I really do, that we are making some kind of long term change do hear success stories and hope that maybe he will be one of them. That's wonderful of you to take care of your brother.

Lisa- Thank you, we are getting ready to start a couple of new therapies, and I hope maybe something will make some kind of difference. Really, over the last year, I think a lot of it has just been getting some maturity. They first diagnosed him with an "emotional age" of a I guess frequent tantrums and whininess would be more appropriate when you look at it that way. :) Hopefully he will catch up quickly

Nancy- I love Dr. Ray! I don't have his tapes. I do try to catch his show on the radio but miss it quite a bit. I'll look into getting his tapes though, he's great. I agree that we need some therapy as a family. It's been hard on everyone. One of the therapies I mentioned above is a different behavioral therapist, and I'm hoping she will meet with us too, at least some of the time, so I can say, "What exactly should I do when he does xyz?"

Charlotte- Thank you darlin! :)

Entropy said...

Mel, I'm late reading this but I am praying for you. You really are doing a wonderful thing for Kain. He has stability he's never had before. He has the example that family comes through for one another no matter what and that's going to make a difference. It will.

I wish we lived closer so I could be of more help but I don't live so far away that I can't help at all. If you need anything (I'll take your kids for a day), call me.