'Retrauma', dissociative personality and other such nightmares - experienced adopters only please...

(7 Posts)

I have no idea where to start or how to explain adequately what's going on here at the moment but DD (nearly 14) went on camp for 10 days and appears during that times to have (according to our very good, trusted therapist) to have 'retraumatised' herself by sharing the details of her abuse story with her new friends. The child we sent to camp was blossoming into a confident independent young woman and we seemed to be in a good place as a family. We just enjoyed a fab family holiday and life felt great. The child who arrived home seems to be in 'emotional free fall' and is an anxious fearful mess. She is permanently only seconds or a bad thought away from being frightened of everything, is behaving in ways that almost look like panic attacks (though in reality are different) and is suddenly scared of the world.

I am finding it so emotionally overwhelming trying to make sense of what's happening and having to support, manage and externally regulate her all the time. We already had acknowledged that we live in a kind of permanent state of secondary trauma anyway, but this is just making it so much worse.

She had this sort of this reaction to 'life' 5 years ago just before DS2 was born but she was much younger then. Even so the memory of that dreadful period of about three weeks is also haunting me and making me even more aware than usual that she is not 'just a normal teenager' - something that is very hard for our friends who are parents of 'normal teens' find very hard to grasp, especially as they don't see or have to deal with a fourteen year old having a 20 minute 'panic tantrum' because she thinks she going to wet or poo herself in the car shock (she didn't do either).

Our therapist is convinced that DD has a dissociative personality as a result of her early life trauma and poor attachments. She already has RAD to an extent but I really thought we were winning and growing in love and confidence as a family. This period - and others like it over the years - make me feel hopeless and a bit useless. Plus her 'emotional free fall' is beginning to ripple out and affect not only me but her brothers to (5 and 8) who are witnessing her panicking and controlling behaviour and our handling of that.

I think I'm posting because I just want to share, but if anyone adopters have any words of wisdom or support I'd be so grateful. Thanks in advance. MPD

MPD no words of wisdom I am afraid but just wanted to say thinking of you and praying it will all be ok and start to get back to the normal she had before camp. Is there any way of using the experience she had at camp to help her work through it all with the therapist. Was it sharing her experiences that brought it all back or brought it to the surface, or made it seem more traumatic to her? Did the other girls say anything that could have added to her fears? I have no idea what but I can easily imagine that hearing something alarming the teenage girls would easily have said stuff about how they would feel or react in the situation either then or now and this might have influenced her. Just a guess really, I don't have any experience of this.

Anyway, I wish you all the best help you may be able to get to work out these problems. I hope your boys are coping and will be able to come through this OK. I am sure you are talking to them about it all and explaining in age appropriate ways. I also hope the love you all have as a family will help to hold you all together through this very troubling time.

Lilka Wed 28-Aug-13 15:18:29

I'm sorry this is happening MPD. I know exactly how hard dissociation can be, it's one of DD2's challenges. You have all my support from over here and I will keep you all in my thoughts

DD2 also has a dissociative personality, and whilst things did get better some after she had therapy, she still dissociates occasionally (thankfully not frequently) and I guess she may always at certain times to some extent, but I remain hopeful she can improve further. It's very PTSD related for her, there are certain trigers (some predictable that I know about, others not so) that can make her dissociate, and meltdown in a blank panic and she will often have amnesia afterwards and not remember the total meltdown at all.

I wonder what prompted your DD to share with her friends? Has she done anything like that in the past?

How much does the therapy you do touch on her past? I know some children can't cope as well as others with talking about it but the biggest improvement my DD2 had with her dissociation was after she did EMDR therapy, which was all about going through her past memories and trying to get her brain to process them properly so they became more like bad memories and not retraumatising flashbacks which panicked her. It won't work with a child who can't open up enough to share their experiences, or a child who is constantly trying to manipulate or lie to professionals, but I wonder because your DD seems willing to share her past, whether that kind of therapy might help her?

For us, sadly the only thing that helps when DD2 is going through an anxious period (eg. transitions, big routine changes, anniversaries etc) where her anxieties are making her very clingy and want control (and dissocatie more frequently) and are really interfering with life, is just to 'lockdown'. Small calm world without too much sensory input from anywhere. Very predictable routine which barely changes. Lots of talk about being safe. That doesn't cure anything but it minimises until we can ride it out

The other thing that has lessened not so much the dissocative episodes, but has definitely lessened her agitation and general anxieties, and also her aggression is medication - she takes Risperidone right now, and I'm glad she's on it, it's a significant improvement in her day to day functioning. However her anxieties are always there, she isn't normally a confident and non-anxious person who has bad blips.

With the controlling behaviour, there's two main approaches, you can remove as much choice from her as you can, or give her lots of choices over small things. I guess by now you know what works better for your DD, and whether she responds better to having no choice or lots of little choices where appropriate.

I have to say that the fact your DD has become generally so confident and independent is a testimony to your amazing parenting. You are doing a fantastic job and whilst you can't wave a wand and make this go away, you really have made such a huge difference in her life, so try to never let yourself believe you are a useless parent

I hope this period ends soon and you can get back on track again

NanaNina Wed 28-Aug-13 17:43:36

Lilka you are a legend!

Your post is so helpful and I'm sure MissPolly will think so too. I just wish that bloody idiot Gove who is about to privatise adoption, had any notion at all of what you adoptive parents have to go through with these traumatised children. He refers to the Adoption Market and a conglomerate of private companies are very interested and would you believe it is called "It's All About Me" Call me a cynic but I think that means it's all about the profits that this company will make, because the govt will throw money at it. and then of course there will be rich pickings for the shareholders.

Parsnipcake Wed 28-Aug-13 18:14:29

Not an adopter but long term foster carer ( 10 years) of very similar child. - overnights away from us are a real trigger for major relapse/ controlling/ hyper vigilance, to the point I discourage them now even though they provide a much needed break. One thing I have found helpful is to create a safe space/ sanctuary in her room, which she can take with her when she stays out overnight - its just some battery fairy lights, a small rug and some scented reeds. I also find a mindfulness or relaxation exercise - there are some great apps if she has smartphone or iPod touch, done regularly can help her reground. We often do it together, as it helps me too.
Retraumatising is tough but in my own quite severe secondary trauma, I have found that learning helpful techniques can reduce it and the ability to manage it can give an emotional boost too, so as horrible as it is, it can have an ultimately positive bit too. The reality is that trauma is not really fixable. If its not causing problems that is great, but it can always resurface - like an emotional malaria I guess.

Thales care - sorry for gabbling!

MPD so sorry I only just noticed your thread said ... "experienced adopters only please..." I am not yet an adopter. Sorry.

fasparent Wed 28-Aug-13 20:44:14

Just started too experience similar with our dd age 12, Her db broke his arm last week fell off his scooter he has CP and communication problem's , had difficulty explaining he was hurt. This experience has started flashbacks into the abuse she witnessed as a young child., is very weepy and withdrawn wishing things has happened too her rather than her siblings. This opens issues with contact now , she was too young too understand is now having too deal with Post Traumatic Stress.
Its all new at the moment only started last week, we will be seeking advice from professionals.

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