I had begun to research Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) many months ago, in an attempt to make sense of some of the psychological troubling things going on in my life that were making me feel as if I was going insane, which, in turn, left a few to actually believe I was psychotic and unsafe/unstable as a person, what I learned has been both freeing as well as troubling, as it still is difficult to navigate the emotions that come from this disorder in children.

I am shamed to admit that I believe both of my children suffered from this after looking at the symptoms (only 1 of many available symptoms lists) and reflecting on the life I led during some of their most formative years in an abusive marriage.  I feel guilty that they may suffer from this disorder, or at least have to a degree while some was simply due to their ages, when I know I was working 2 jobs from the time my youngest was about 2 until she was 8, plus in that time I was in the process of trying to divorce and had begun to live part-time outside of the marital home in another city for 4 days a week.  I abandoned my children when they needed me the most and I left them in an abusive situation that I felt I had no real way out of other than to work as much I was (and then begin a home based business where I traveled a lot and even when I was home, was quite often busy with the business aspect, and not there for them emotionally when they needed me to be).  I vowed to stop being so involved in my side business and strictly stick to my full time job (which involved me working 6 to 7 days a week for approximately 5 months or so out of the year), when I knew I was determined to end my marriage, and especially after the final incident between my ex-husband and I ended up with him in jail for domestic assault and a CPS investigation occurred.  I knew I needed to stay at home and focus more on my children, and the guilt of knowing I allowed them to be in a very unhealthy situation drove my motivation in many ways, even though I never really wanted to end my side business since it was something I truly enjoyed and was quite successful with it.

I can look back on things now and see why my children throughout the years had many issues with me being an active parent; I had been in many ways, but once I began working 2 jobs to support the household bills (just to make ends meet), I had left them into the care of my ex-husband who had his own troubles with depression, anger, and poor coping skills when it came to stress.  I wish I had other options, though it was either that I worked 2 jobs, or we would lose our house due to not being able to pay the mortgage (let alone other basic needs), and while I’ve gotten over being bitter about that situation, it definitely was a huge part in how my children have struggled for the last almost 3 years since the domestic assault incident to have connected with me and are now not showing as many symptoms of RAD with continued therapy for each of them, as well as continued effort on my part to enhance my parenting skills.

The very difficult part in this is the isolation I felt in the thoughts of this disorder/other psychological problems as being a very realistic thing happening with hope to overcome, not simply just affecting my own children but also feeling another child I cared for and was close to for a little over 2 years had/has the same disorder that could be overcome with support from various sources.  My children’s father has not been very supportive of therapy efforts for our children over many years (he has been against any form of psychological therapy other than to suggest I seek it out for myself only), though especially within the last almost 3 years, however, he has begun to be less critical of my efforts to have our children continue different forms of therapy.  It also felt like denial and a lack of support in what I felt were potential problems from the father of the other child, though there was nothing I could really do, since it wasn’t my child.  I have never truly felt supported when it came to my own children’s problems, let alone someone else’s child’s problems, and as much as I love the other child that is not mine and tried every thing I could to be there as a loving and supportive parental model for them, the more I did that is suggested to control the disorder, the more chaos and fighting happened that culminated in 2 people (at a minimum, as others were involved, but not on a daily basis) leaving a relationship, a home, my children, and me.  The more I researched this, the “parental figure” that is not the biological mother/father of the child, will usually get the brunt end of the disorder, and unless the biological child’s parent is supportive of the other parental figure, then more chaos and fighting will tend to occur and it tends to be a large factor (if not the largest factor) in many relationships ending.  My children did their fair share of acting out in ways that made it very difficult to co-parent effectively with their biological and non-biological parental figures involved, and I can look back on quite a few things and see that while, at the time, I thought of even a worse scenario than RAD, it definitely fit and explains a lot of the conflict that happened.  Logically knowing all of the information I do up to now makes it a bit easier to put into practice some good general parenting skills, it certainly does not help the feelings I have of being a complete and utter failure as a mother, let alone a woman worthy of a relationship, or coming to grips with some of the very critical remarks about me as a person and parent that I’ve heard over the years (including more than just the last 2 years).

It was heartbreaking to have a child, whom I went to great lengths to show love and affection to as well as make them feel as if they were one of my own even though they were not, no longer in my life, let alone the knowledge of my part in making things worse for everyone involved.  In some ways, though, I know having the father leave me/the relationship and detaching was for the best, especially when it appeared, from my side at least (probable biased/irrational thinking) that led to some resentment, that children could talk about me/others in my family poorly without reproach or confrontation, yet when I reached out to friends for support of the situation that I felt like I was getting totally lost in, I was criticized for “talking shit” and “blaming”. I felt like some sort of double standard that was difficult for me to accept, so I know, logically, that what happened with ending things/the situation as we had known it for a while was for the best of all of us.

I not only saw and admitted to what my own children did, I admitted to times I acted in a way that was more irrational and emotionally reactive instead of the more calm and rational person I have tried to become over the years, and still want to become.  I felt dismissed and I didn’t feel validated, which ended up leading me to act much more emotionally than I wish I would have and know I can control better.  I know I can do better; I want to continue to grow in how to not be as emotional when it comes to handling difficult situations that are triggers to the side of me that deals with stress, so I can become better at being proactive instead of reactive.  It takes practice…something I’ve been determined to consciously be more active in doing each day in some small way or another.

I feel more shame and guilt than I do resentment; my own children appear to have suffered from this disorder, which is guilt inducing in so many ways even though none were officially diagnosed (that I am aware of).  Unfortunately, the shame of being seen as a “bad” parent and avoiding reality made it a difficult thing for me to accept, so I strive to keep working each day on trying to understand the intricacies of some psychological reasons for others’ actions/reactions so it will be easier to forgive and let go of things that ended up invading my dreams and brought me to a psychotic point (not just with parenting and goes as far back as pain I’ve dealt with since a child). I know it’s best for me to accept reality for what it is with my children and continue to learn better parenting skills for their sake, as well as anyone else that enters my life in an intimate relationship of any sort (regardless of it being male or female, platonic or romantic), as I do not wish to make the same mistakes I did before…I never want anyone to suffer the way we all did again…children or adults.

I wish I would have learned about this disorder 3 or more years ago…not only within the last year…as maybe I could have handled things better and not ended up abandoning my own children for so long, let alone another child that really needed a supportive mother figure to not abandon her/shut her out of their life again.

There is so much guilt, heartache, and such a deep sense of loss, on so many levels, and some days, the pain hits out of nowhere, and I feel as if I’ve taken 2 steps forward, then 1 step back.  I know I just need to keep moving forward and learn from all of this…

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I cannot seem to get his words out of my head for very long, before some new circumstance or discussion drags the bones from the grave and I repeat the process all over again; optimism, criticism, avoidance, pain, anger, sorrow, apologetic, guilt, and forgiveness, as well as denial thrown in to cause more confusion.

The first thing that hit me very hard was an emotional night around each other, discussing things that were painful, and I asked about his potential new love interest that had been a topic of discussion off and on for the previous year or so.  I thought his facial expression belied a profession of nothing had gone on other than “hanging out”, though the possibility of an intimate encounter had been offered, yet I let it pass without pressing further.  I just had a feeling that he wasn’t being totally honest with me, which is something I have emphatically stated as something I needed in my life multiple times over the years, but especially within the last 2 or 3, certainly.

Then there wasn’t much said until I sent a joke to lighten the mood that had been brewing horribly for a while, and it ended up actually being a reality, when it wasn’t intended to be. That might have been my manipulative tactic back due to some statements I had felt were guilt inducing and manipulative he stated previously within the previous weeks that I did not deal with at the time, including asking about me taking our children on his custody time in a way that, if I said no, would possibly come across or used in a way to state that I was saying no because I didn’t care about our children or some other form of twisting reality, and I wasn’t going to continue that game. I’m not sure if that was really the reason, though due to the emotions I had openly shared to him in one way or another, I can see how it was, even though it was not meant to be anything other than sharing my honest thoughts about the current situation.

Then there was the next day where my brain had seemed to soften it’s bitterly cold grip of my heart, feeling that maybe some of his resentment towards me had begun to melt just a little bit and just a bit safer to be who I really am as a person towards him.  Another joke to lighten an emotional statement of appreciation for something other than his icy demeanor, as of late, and the door seemed to open just a little bit more, even if only a centimeter or two.  I made the mistake of grabbing onto that just enough to let other things affect me just a bit too much.

I then received an unexpected message when he knew I was finally out socializing for the first time in weeks, taking a break from working non-stop on things around me that seemed to be reminders of the ghost I seemed to be surrounded by, even though the presence wasn’t of someone dead.  I did not do it to hurt him, as far as changing things and cleaning things that had been neglected for many years, though it was for other reasons, one of which included purging some resentment I had that was originally brought about by the guilt he laid on me for so long.  His message was one that seemed sincere and he genuinely was reaching out to me.  Then his jealousy came through, yet again, and I received another manipulative message that he wished he had such a large social circle to engage with and flirted suggestively that I could return home to get attention from him.  I should have ignored it, though I didn’t, and commented that having a large social circle really wasn’t what it seemed like it would be cracked up to be.  I used an analogy that I’d rather run around with 4 quarters in my pocket, rather than 100 pennies, as if these represented the number of friends that give me, metaphorically speaking, the same amount of attention in the end.

The next day he contacted me again, asking a question that baited me into answering whether or not I made it home at all the night before, or whether I had stayed somewhere else and couldn’t answer his question honestly.  I admitted that I had not gotten home yet when I answered him, and he sounded dejected and said he didn’t figure on the fact that I might not be back home the previous night. I know his reactions of disappointment hit me when, a few hours later, I found myself sending him a picture of a neat picture of a flaming skull, the background was red, the skull faded with the background so all you really see are the black voids of a skull, and yellow hued flames dancing on it.  His statement, after an admission of the picture being very cool, was one which he would consider, if I said it now as he did, as manipulative and guilt inducing.

“It’s too bad that’s how you see me sometimes…”

I knew it was manipulation, though I thought I would play along in a way, just to keep some peace even though I knew I was enabling and playing the codependent part again. He fails to remember, or doesn’t accept as the case may be, the reality that he is just as manipulative as me, and we have this abusive habit that I am desperately trying to break free from.  I’m tired of the habit…

I am ready to change this part of me, because it is too unhealthy for not only me, but our children as well, and I cannot teach them how to be healthy if I continue down a path of holding onto such unhealthy habits, which will be passed down to them.  I choose to learn how to do things differently, because I will not be a slave to any label, when I know that I don’t like how I am as a person because of that label.  I do not have to be “too independent” or “too set in my ways” or “too codependent” or “too emotional” or “too serious” or “too anything” if I choose to not be one extreme or the other and strive for balance and maintaining health, instead of throwing it away because I would rather live in the comfort of not trying, because of the fear of failure or not doing something perfectly.