what I want you to know: hope and healing for attachment disorders - an interview with an adopted child and her mom

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face.  If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Marty.

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It has been so interesting to watch my daughter S transform and then watch her new brother M doing all the stick poking she used to do. (And occasionally reverts back to when she is under stress). She can now see how frustrating it is for the rest of the family to deal with the constant disrespect, playing dumb, blatant "orphan child" syndrome that is a part of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It is also enlightening to me because I ask her to help me understand his mind. Here is a part of the conversation with my "changed RAD child" about what it was like for her living with RAD.

Steph and Mom

Why did you not want to do things mommy's way?
S:  I thought you did everything your way, always bossing me around, telling me what to do all the time. You were always winning. I didn't want a good relationship then because I thought you would leave someday and abandon me or something would happen to you. So if I pushed you away I wouldn't get hurt again.

What was I winning?
S:  Me giving in on chores, getting in an argument and you always winning. You won if I didn't get what I wanted. I got the consequences when you won. I thought you wanted to make my life as miserable as possible.

What did it look like when you won?
S: I never really won.

You never got your own way?
S:  Not to me in my own way. Winning was proving you wrong. I was never contented with what I got. Even when I thought I won I was not content.

Why did you sabotage the good stuff, family time, fun time?
S:  The good stuff made me feel like I was too close to everyone. I felt the need sometimes to undo the little bond that we had. I would give in once in a while and I would feel uncomfortable. I would notice I was becoming part of the family and I would tear it all up again.

What changed?
S:  I got tired of day after day ruining relationships and the family. I looked ahead and pictured what my future would be like if I kept on going like this. When I was old enough to drive or get married. It wouldn't be a happy future. The turning point was when I realized if I want a better future I'm going to have to change, to turn around. Whatever I did I still couldn't change my birth mother's mind. I couldn't change her decision to give me up. I couldn't be a better baby. It wasn't my fault she gave me up. It would be her decision to change her choices, not mine to change her. It was not my battle to fight with her. I let go of her and B and my birth dad.

Do you still look at it as me winning?
S:  No. I look at it as you helping me through what I did wrong, helping me see how I need to change my decisions.

What is the best thing about our relationship now?
S:  We get to be mother and daughter, a good healthy relationship. We have fun all the time. It doesn't have to be about spending money or going out. It can be something little, like reading a book together or just talking and being together.

What is your biggest battle now?
S:  Believing I'm not pretty and feeling like I'm not feeling or being treated like a 13-year-old.  I want to feel like I'm not a 5-year-old anymore.

How will you win that battle?
S:  By thinking positive thoughts, reading a couple of Bible verses that say God created me in a beautiful way, Believing God thinks I'm beautiful no matter what I look like. Being respectful, responsible and fun to be around.

This is what keeps me going on. In the darkest moments with S, the rages, the disrespect, the "dumb" child and sabotage, I still had hope. Only my strength of will and desire for M to change as S has transformed keep me going. This insight into the RAD brain helps me to understand mentally even if I can't relate emotionally. I know all this stuff, but when it comes to the daily living of this life I cling to the transformed child I see every day. God is good.




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