Tag Archives: Secondary Trauma

Trauma Whirlwinds

I am in the midst of a trauma related whirlwind the details of which are not mine to share.

This moment has clearly revealed Hope’s true vulnerabilities out in the world, and it’s requiring an enormous amount of emotional restraint from me.

I am a mess of sadness, heartbreak and unmitigated rage. That rage is not directed at Hope, but a third party who also has peeped my daughter’s vulnerabilities. It is taking everything in me not to round up my squad and take matters into my own hands. I also know that If I shared what is happening with Hope with some folks in my life, things would get very, very out of hand very, very, very fast.

And trust, I am so tempted to let that ish play out.

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But Hope needs me, and I am acutely aware of how much she needs me in this moment. She needs me as a mom. She needs me as a woman who has lived through some things. She needs me to just love her and reassure her that it’s going to be ok.

I am committed to keeping a 30K foot view of what is happening to my daughter. I can clearly see what is driving the behavior and what is driving the emotion and the need. I know that this mess is trying to fill a hole that has existed for a long, long time; I know this has everything to do with her life before me and the pieces of life that are still missing.

I know that there is nothing that I can really do or say to fill that hole; it’s primal. I get it. It’s also breaking my heart.

During the last day, I have tried to reason with her. I listen to her without judgment. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. The only way to do that is to keep my own emotions in check.

Via Giphy

Last night I had to take a late evening walk just to call a friend to let out my own emotions. There I was out with goofy Yappy walking the neighborhood in the dark, in the rain with a headlamp letting it all out, so I could come back with my own emotional mask on to reengage.

I’m glad I had that chance because I walked back into a whole ‘nother bucket of bs.

There is a silver lining in this moment; this moment could be so worse. It could be so much more devastating, but Hope was already questioning her feelings about her choices. She wanted to talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist about it but hasn’t been able to get an appointment. I’m encouraged that she was trying to figure out how to work through this mess on her own and in a healthy way. I’ve reached out to him to beg for an appointment and to give him a heads up on what’s happening. I need her to have that unbiased third party to help her.

Hope is a horrible liar; she also is horrible at keeping her own secrets, much less anyone else’s. She almost always tells me or AHT what’s up or creates a situation in which I find out (See stupid games from last month). She told me that her lies are more about wanting to avoid disappointing me than a fear of something like me putting her out.

On the one hand she trusts that I’m not going to threaten her physical wellbeing, but I do wonder if she thinks my expectations of her are too high? It’s got me wondering if expectations are too high for her? I need my own barometer check.

Ultimately, I know that we will get through this, but I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know what the collateral damage will be. I don’t know…what is around the corner.

I also know, that this could happen again and again.

Trauma stuff is hard.

Adoption stuff is hard.

There are very real wounds.

I know I am not capable of fully healing her; I can only support her, love her, be there for her in these moments. She is transitioning into adulthood, and I worry a bit about how much my protection can extend around her. Before it seemed like a nice little bubble, now it’s just this amorphous thing and I can’t control the environment for her. I know that is normal, that actually aspects of this is normal for kids her age. I also know that as a middle-aged woman, I’m still, *still* dealing with some bullshit from my own youth, and I didn’t any a fraction of the drama in my life that Hope’s had in hers. I worry about where that leaves her.

All I know is that I’m still her ride or die. I always will be, but whew…this phase of parenting is not easy.

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I’m a Mess Right Now

Before I even get into this post, I anticipate that it will be a hot mess of rants, rambles, emotional meltdowns and frustrations. It might resonate with your own hot mess of feelings. It might be just the thing you shouldn’t be reading if you are one of those cheery, obsessively positive people. So…gauge yourselves accordingly.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trauma during this pandemic.

I’ve also been thinking about coping.

I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of the former and not doing terribly well on the latter.

Two weeks ago tomorrow I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. For a week I dealt with irritating but mild symptoms. I was tired a lot, but unless there was a dramatic change in symptoms, I knew would be fine.

I turned the corner last weekend and physically felt great, despite still not having much of an appetite, all week. I dove back into work, which frankly is insane right now. Work has stressed me out, pissed me off, triggered so much anxiety, cursing and just full-blown emotional meltdowns that I just wash my face, put on my pjs and get in my bed shortly after I close my laptop. #depressionmuch?

And then, yesterday afternoon the sore throat returned. By 9pm I was coughing again and by 11pm my anxiety was in full bloom which only made me feel worse. I have no idea what this means other than abject terror about what’s next on this journey. I do know it probably means that my quarantine will get extended when I was so close to breaking free. I mean, I was just going to go to the Target, but still.

I’m a bit of a mess and overcome by constant waves of emotion.

Grief is a big one. I just keep cycling through the stages, sometimes even daily. Despite being externally low key these days, inside I’m at a level 10 just about 24/7. I’m probably tired from resisting the urge to populate every sentence I utter out loud with multiple f-bombs.

The quarantine has been especially challenging. I don’t always have the energy to connect outside of work hours with anyone—so no virtual happy hours these two weeks. Hope is hit or miss with her caretaking and engagement—she is ensconced in her room and only comes out for food or bio breaks. She will go to the store. She finally unpacked the rest of her college stuff from the car after I quietly, through gritted teeth raged that I’ve been asking her to do this for WEEKS. Yappy seems terrified to walk with her now. She grabs the leash and he runs to hide under the bed; I know there’s a story there. This has meant that despite my quarantine, I have had to suit up and take Yappy out ever so often to alleviate his anxiety and make sure he gets the opportunity to poop.

Cooking still falls to me.

Cleaning still falls to me.

I’m overwhelmed by everything and underwhelmed by the world’s response. I took off today because I was going to snap if I had to participate in one more Zoom call that should have been an email. I’m tired of expectations that I always be on camera. I’m tired that there isn’t a real, authentic acknowledgement that this ish is traumatic, and not just regular traumatic like “Do you remember where you were on 9-11?” No, this is like the year 2020 seems to be a never-ending cluster-f*ck…the whole gotdamn year. Yesterday I got up and took a walk (via YT video) because a series of back and forth emails in which I insisted that I could not help with a project (a boundary) resulted in a final passive aggressive email from my colleague. This was before 10am.

I’m over it.

I’m not motivated to do much of anything but find new cocktails to craft (I’ll be trying a Matcha Mule today). I bought yarn, I have downloaded patterns. I can’t even get myself to cast on stitches or to think about a project and I usually find knitting to be incredibly soothing. I have watched very little of the trending shows and movies everyone is writing about. I keep watching Law and Order, a couple of animal shows, and other stuff I’ve seen a million times. I just long to know what’s already coming—so I rewatch stuff I’ve already watched.

I’m a mess and I know it. I don’t even know how not to be a mess right now. I’m sad, mad, worried, sick, sick and tired, frustrated, confined, bored yet overextended at work and the thing that is seriously effing me up the most?

Some folks are trying to normalize this experience. This shit is not normal. And while I understand that it is the “new normal” and that normal as we once knew it is gone; I’m grieving *my* normal hard right now, so stop reframing this shit. I am not hearing it right now. STFU.

I’m beyond miserable, and there’s levels to my misery.

And then I feel guilty because, in the grand scheme of things I’m fine, Hope and Yappy are fine. My family is safe, sound and fine. There are so many people who are economically devastated in the midst of the mind f*ck this all is. I’m not experiencing that, thankfully, but I can’t even imagine having that burden too. It reminds me of the privilege I have despite everything.

So, yeah, just add woke guilt on top of the emotional dumpster fire that I am right now.

So this chilly Friday morning, I’m going to make me some coffee, put some Baileys in it, cut off several chunks of the bread I made yesterday, get in my favorite spot on the couch and sulk while watching L&O marathons on various channels and filling in with back episodes on Hulu for hours when I can’t find a broadcast episode. I will call my doctor to discuss the reappearance of symptoms and what it means for my quarantine, testing and over all health. I will snooze my work accounts—no I will not hop on your zoom for a few minutes. Let me lone!

Today will be for self-care in the form of tv watching, wallowing, carb loading, cannabis consumption and trying to get my mind right. I might even order takeout on a *Friday* (Thursday is takeout day at Casa d’ABM).

How are y’all?


Thoughts on Guns in School

In short, no. Just no.

I am a former gun owner. Yep, for friends and family, this will likely come as a bit of a surprise.

When I was in my 20s, I purchased a firearm. I took classes on how to properly fire it. I got it to help me feel safe after I very briefly dated a guy who turned out to be a stinking nut job.

After going out with him twice, he proceeded to stalk me. He sent letters, followed me, watched me. He called me nonstop. He sent flowers to my office every day for weeks at a time; I had to tell security repeatedly to refuse the deliveries.

After a couple of months, I called the police. They were dismissive, said he was probably a nice guy who was just clearly taken with me. I requested a temporary restraining order. He started back up shortly after it expired. More months went by and I took the police the letters, an affidavit from the office security, recordings from my answering machine. They finally pressed charges. He eventually did 30 days in jail. Got out, stalked me again. 30 more days.

I eventually purchased a 9mm because I didn’t think the cops were doing enough to keep me safe. I wanted to be prepared if things escalated. After more than a year, I moved when my lease expired and changed my phone number; he moved on and probably started stalking someone else. A year or two later, I legally sold my gun. I didn’t believe it was still a necessary part of my safety routine. I no longer needed it, and I divested myself of it.

I never really intended to own a gun and do not have any plans to buy another.

I don’t have an animus towards people who do. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why a sane someone outside of a war zone would want an assault rifle. Even in my What Would ABM Do in a Zombie Apocalypse dreams an AR probably would not make my list. I just don’t think we should have them.

But that’s me, and for whatever reason apparently, they figure prominently in other people’s lives beyond the zombie apocalypse.

Hearing about the Parkland shooting two weeks ago made my heart sink. I spilled tears thinking about all the death and trauma. I also spilled some tears for the shooter; knowing he was an adopted kid who had lost both parents and seemed to be lost made me think about how close my own daughter could come to disaster—either as a victim or a perpetrator. Trauma is a beotch.

Now, a couple of weeks later, the post-traumatic discourse about guns is in full swing. Do we get rid of all the guns? Do we get more guns and arm everyone? Do we just keep troubled, sick people from having guns? Shouldn’t the teachers have guns?

Sigh.

I’m an educator. My sister is an educator. My uncle was an educator. I know educators.

Education is amazing, inspiring work. Teaching kids and adults stuff is life-affirming. You get to watch minds grow. You get to see minds opening, skills developing and opportunities created.

I’m lucky. I exist outside of the actual ivory tower; I live in an organization where I’m well compensated. I don’t have to deal with the daily rigors of classroom life. I don’t need to personally buy supplies or call parents. I am a different kind of educator, and I’m routinely grateful for that since I still get the joys of seeing all the cool stuff with minimal exposure to the icky stuff.

I can’t imagine carrying a gun into a classroom. I just can’t. Clearly, I understand that there are people who would, but no. I can’t.

I also do not want Hope to be in a school where teachers are armed. No. Hard no.

I don’t think that armed faculty mitigates the risk of an armed gunmen entering the school, and if it does, show me the data because to date, I haven’t seen anything but hypothetical conjecture.

I don’t want Hope around guns, gunmen or teachers with guns. Just no.

I don’t want an arms race in education. Haven’t we seen what happens with nuclear weaponry and proliferation at the global level? You get a weapon, then your neighbor feels like they need to get a weapon to protect themselves from you. Then everyone gets more weapons. It only escalates and then we’re all more afraid that one leader who isn’t wrapped too tight gets pissy on Twitter, and the whole neighborhood is all dead.

Do we want that for our kids?

We are fortunate to live in a decent area with good schools. Hope doesn’t have any metal detectors; there’s no ‘wanding’ to go to school events. Kids get to be kids. Yes, there are worries, there are fears. The day after the Parkland shooting, there was a shooting threat at her school. It scared me. It scared her. My work with people convinces me that having armed teachers wouldn’t have prevented the fake threat, much less a real one.

I am locked in some ongoing drama with a couple of Hope’s teachers and counselors at the moment. They are passionate about their work. They care about my daughter and her classmates. I think they would do what they could to keep them safe if necessary. I still don’t think they should be armed.

I do not expect Hope’s teacher to die saving her. I also do not expect them to shoot someone to save her. I expect them to teach her.

English.

History.

Physics.

Anatomy

Algebra.

Band.

That’s it. That what they are paid to do.

If they need tissues and hand sanitizer, I’ll buy tissues and hand sanitizer. If they need some extra notebooks, pens, and markers for kids whose families don’t have the ability to provide them, I am eager to help out. I advocate for higher pay; I know they are woefully underpaid and hardly get bathroom breaks to boot.

I will not lobby for them to have guns in the classroom. I won’t do that. I don’t believe that is the appropriate response to trauma. I don’t meet Hope’s trauma with more of it. I won’t do it at home and I will not advocate for it at her school.

No.

I will advocate for schools to embrace and infuse their teaching with trauma responsive techniques and tools for student management. I will advocate for more student service resources to help identify struggling kids who may be at greater risk for violence. I will advocate for more programs and resources for people who find themselves young, but of legal age, without family or resources, but with lots of emotional trouble and turmoil and at greater risk for violence because the pain is unbearable.

Hurt people, hurt people.

We don’t give hurt people guns—before or after they are hurt.

So no, I don’t want to see guns in Hope’s school.

Nope.


Rested & Ready

Normally, on MLK weekend I plan some edutainment activities, but I was just struggling with my emotional responses to my daughter so much recently that I couldn’t get it together enough to plan anything. So, on the one hand I feel like I failed in my aspirational goal of being a social justice mom, but really, I got something else right this weekend.

I took care of me.

After raging like a hurricane, and giving off caustic energy for several days, I was exhausted. So, I rested. I did my workouts, planned my meals and crawled into my bed with a good book, my heated blanket and Yappy. I just tuned everything out (including Hope, other than making sure she was alive and fed) and relaxed.

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I aspire to Yappy’s self-care commitment.

I breathed.

I made tea. I online shopped and ordered myself an obscene number of new spring dresses.

I luxuriated in solitude and exhaled.

And then I was able to think about how to get us back on track. Hope is an amazing kid, and amazing kids do dumb stuff sometimes, it’s just what they do. Heck, I did it too back in the day. Of course some of Hope’s dumb stuff is informed by a history of messy stuff.

I decided I would speak my peace to Hope and put this episode behind us, though she still has some consequence time to pull during the next week.

In speaking to Hope I had to remind both of us that anger is usually informed by hurt, deep hurt. It’s easier to be pissed than it is to be sad. I was sad that she broke the rules. I was sad that she violated my trust. I was sad that she self-sabotaged. I was sad that she seemed unable to take responsibility for her behaviors. I was sad and that made me mad.

And then I hugged her and reminded her that I loved her and that I have feelings that I struggle with too. And we turned the corner emotionally, ventured out to a new international store (I bought all kinds of goodies!), went shopping, and worked out.

I’m rounding out the holiday weekend by dying my hair—a new midlife crisis habit I’m enjoying. My hair is more gray than black now and about 4 months ago, I got it in my brain that after 10 years of avoiding dye like the plague, I would dye my hair fantastically bright colors. Because my gray is resistant to color and I choose semi-permanent color, I could enjoy temporary bursts of color without long term commitment. #perfect I started with a soft pink in October and followed with a bright purple. Tonight, I dyed it teal. It will have faded some by the time my annual conference rolls around in 5 weeks, but it will still be blue and the non-conformist in me is delighted about that. #notoconformity #mylifemytermsmyhair

I hated how I felt emotionally last week…really hated it. I’m proof that when you can choose to change your mood. It’s normal for all of that emotion to build up. Therapeutic parenting is….draining. I love my daughter, and I personally don’t have any other style of parenting to compare it too other than observation of others parenting, but I gotta say, I don’t enjoy therapeutic parenting much. #realtalk #truth

It’s essential for us and especially so for my Hope, who needs more connection and more safety than your average kid. And well, there’s hardly anything I won’t do for her; I’m committed to therapeutic parenting.

I’m ready to face another week and so is Hope. Tomorrow we will work out in the evening and chatter about our day, all while hoping that the anticipated snow misses us so we can keep the regulated good times rolling.

I am rested and ready. I’m thinking that is good enough on the edutainment front for this holiday.


Clouds of Sadness

The range of emotions felt at Casa d’ABM is pretty wide. I’ve always been pretty high strung, and I’ve written about my own struggle with depression in this space before. Living with a teenager is pretty tumultuous. The hormones…O.M.G. It’s amazing, really. I am convinced that I didn’t display the full range of crazy that I was feeling during my adolescence—not that I didn’t have the emotional swings, but that I didn’t act out.

Lots of people think my parents were strict; to some degree they were, but really they set high expectations and I had absurdly high expectations for myself. With the bar so high I was mindfully cautious about acting out.

I was a bit jealous of kids who didn’t seem to approach adolescence the same way. I wished I’d sneaked out more; went to more movies I wasn’t supposed to see. I did a fair amount of boozing my senior year, but still there was a hard limit on what I would do. Not a bad thing, but a self-control thing that gave me hang ups later in life.

So, now, years later, having a teenaged daughter who is a trauma survivor, is impulsive, at times angry, and seeming always sad…well it makes for an emotional roller coaster for all of us.

Except for Yappy—world’s happiest dog.

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So I guess that should say both of us.

This is an especially hard time of the year for Hope. Lots were crammed into the summer months of her young life. This year the memories seem to be crushing. We get treatment, therapy, but sometimes the sadness moves in faster than a weather cold front.

And if you know anything about weather, cold fronts, hitting warm air means storms. Sometimes really, really, crazy storms.

That happens here. The storms are a bit quieter now than when we first became a family, but they are no less disruptive or worrisome.

I try to remind myself that the frequent presence of emotional storm, complete with downpours, represent that this is a safe place. Hope is able to express her full range of emotions in our home. This is a safe place to work through it all; she can emote here.

But here’s the thing, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are real. It’s not just about loving Hope; it’s about demonstrating empathy (constantly); managing our life as a therapeutic case; navigating big and little decisions that may have triggering effects; always being anxious waiting for the other shoe to drop after stumbling over a trigger.

It is exhausting for both of us. Hope can sleep for hours and hours sometimes. I know that part of it is that her young body is run down and exhausted from fighting her own fight/flight response to life. I know the other part is just coping with the overwhelming sadness that she lives with.

On the weekends I am eager to resume my old life of running errands, hitting the gym, spending the afternoons and evenings doing something fun. I end up running the errands that I have to in order to keep the house running; taking Yappy to the dog park and waiting to see if I can help Hope get herself together. By evenings, I’m emotionally done and I don’t even feel like I’ve done anything.

We might’ve tried a new restaurant or rented but didn’t watch the Redbox movie I picked up in hopes of having some fun family time.

The reality is that a happy house is a rare scene around these parts. It’s about trying to survive and fighting to push the clouds of sadness away.

I hear that the hormonal part will settle down in another year or two; I hope so. Self-care helps with my ability to cope, but living with this level of stress is tough. It is exhausting. It is depressing.

So we both end up sharing her trauma. It ends up being cloudy and sad for both of us. I look forward to a day when it won’t be so overwhelming for Hope, that the depression she feels won’t consume her life, when so many things won’t be triggering.  When that happens for Hope, it know it will happen for me too.


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