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…

Advertisements

Insane Epiphany

August 7, 2012


 

I have been very troubled by my friendship with Wolf lately, and it seems to have gone through some difficult times that neither of us really want at this time.  I was recently asked by Wolf when I thought things began to go downhill, or why, as there had to be some other explanation than we had gotten better at communicating with each other.  I had no answer for him, and it was a question that had been bothering me for quite some time, actually.  As I was discussing some passing thoughts with another friend recently, a thought hit me like a ton of bricks.  It seemed so insane at the time, yet it seems to at least be the most plausible explanation of things between us.  I honestly have no clue when, or if, I will share these thoughts with Wolf, as the very notion of this theory will be seen as unwanted, and goes against everything he, especially, holds as his “values” at this point in his life.

 

Wolf and I got very close about this time last year for various reasons, and grew even closer throughout the beginning stages of his DUI, and what I thought were, the final stages of finalizing my divorce.  Sometime around Thanksgiving was when I saw some small things that gave me pause to question as to why it felt like I couldn’t be “me” anymore around him, and even more so as Christmas drew near.  The final nail in the coffin was placed sometime around New Year’s, or shortly after, as I felt completely awkward, suddenly scared to be relaxed around him.  I felt like I was beginning to second guess things I said to him, feeling criticized and guilty of being/feeling so much more critical of Wolf.  I began to see some changes within Wolf that were absolutely wonderful to see, also gave me a feeling of Wolf not being a safe person in my life.  That left me feeling very anxious, and several insecurities came to the surface that I hadn’t felt in a very long time with him, or any other male friend in a very long time.  I began to take criticisms personally and decided to take some time to do some soul-searching, yet I could not pin point why I felt so uneasy around him.  I began to see a side of him that seemed to mistrust me for reasons I could not begin to know or understand.

 

I have attributed a lot of these changes to the fact that Wolf is on probation, and has been completely sober from the “things” that got him into trouble, and the DUI.  This was the first time in a long time that he had to face his life, let alone a woman whom he loves and cares about deeply, totally and utterly sober.  While that is possibly/probably a huge reason for this unease between us, I believe an underlying problem existed that was exacerbated by the sobriety, as well as his own search for serenity and dealing with his own feelings and demons.  It was this underlying problem that I have continually come back to enough times to seriously consider it one reason that is not favorable or wanted by Wolf whatsoever.  I would hardly hesitate to say that Wolf would deem my theory of the true “problem” as detestable.

 

Wolf has told me repeatedly that he is not fond of my psycho-analyzing the struggles and frustrations between us, though I had to admit a harsh truth to him: that if I didn’t psycho-analyze the things we were constantly saying are frustrating us about our friendship, then I wouldn’t have been able to logically, and emotionally, believe that these things were partially due to him being sober, and that I would be able to be patient with him.  I had to be honest and tell him that if it weren’t for that, I would have told him to just leave my life for a while, as I had become so frustrated that I just wanted him to leave me alone all together.  Psycho-analyzing helped put my volatile emotions aside, which would have been reactive, and put some logic of emotions (which can be/are illogical) into the mix to come to have the compassionate emotions that show I truly do love him unconditionally, and become more proactive instead.

 

The “sobriety” excuse worked for a while, although I still could not grasp why we had so many emotional frustrations, and why I always seemed to be the one to “blame” for these emotional dramatic conversations happening.  I could not see how I was creating drama, and I even looked to other male friends for guidance in how I was acting, or talking, or writing things that could be seen as dramatic, overly emotional or needy.

 

None of the men that have counseled me had any possible answers for me that helped put this dramatic and cryptic problem into perspective, or any logic that I could be compassionate with.  They did, however, make statements to the fact that they could see or understand why I might be confused.  Some men agreed with my assessments that, if looked upon it in one perspective, could come across as me being completely arrogant.  Some men simply saw things as me unintentionally being a “safety net” or basically “the tested and true fallback” that would step in, in some cases, as the last resort Wolf knew he could count on.  I had wanted to refute these suggestions, as these only seemed to portray Wolf as someone who has only been manipulating me for all the 5 years I have known him, and I did not want to see him that way.

 

I did, however, begin to believe how other men were viewing the situation between Wolf and I, and after hearing other things Wolf professed about himself and “men in general”, I began to become quite cynical about what is reality when it comes to anything a man says to me, or any woman for that matter.  I became so jaded that I could not seem to begin to figure out what to believe, or which way my heart and soul were leaning as the truth.  I began to know without a doubt, I wanted nothing to do with men or a relationship of any sort, as all men seemed to be just using me with a goal of having sex with me, or trying to just be agreeable with me trying to spare themselves of any “drama” that always seems to ensue with women.

 

I have recently become fascinated with the psychological theory of “projection,” as I have run across it before in counseling sessions off and on throughout the years, as well as in self-help books and soul-searching that I have done for a while now.  I have also run across this phenomenon with people I care about, in terms of me being guilty of projecting, as well as others being guilty of it.  It is something that has torn apart some of the relationships that I thought could last through time, and not something that was easy to admit to when guilty of perpetrating this type of transgression.  It is usually seen as one form of passive-aggressive conflict.  One of the best ways I have heard describing projection is this: “Projection is the opposite defense mechanism to identification.  We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts we really have.”

 

There have been countless times that I have been on the receiving end of someone’s projections, normally criticizing some aspect of my emotions that are blown out of proportion.  This is usually after I was able to truly analyze my own feelings and see if I truly was acting and feeling things that people claimed I was.  I have spent so much time analyzing the negative things people say about me so I can either correct, or balance out, character flaws of mine.  It’s not that I actually “care” about what other people think of me, as in that their approval of me and my actions are not heavily tied to my self-worth or self-esteem.  It is more that I want to be the best person that I can be.  Therefore, if I can work on a flaw to help keep it from negatively affecting my relationships, I will take what others say as to how they view me and try to make amends if needed, especially when I allow the character flaws to affect my relationships with others in a negative way.

 

During some recent discussions while these confusing and troubling times with Wolf have come about, the thought of projection has occasionally entered my mind, so I have tried very hard to analyze my own insecurities and decide whether I have projected any self-criticisms or unpleasant feelings about myself onto Wolf.  I have found that there are a couple of instances of projecting, which I have tried to make amends for, and have seemed to be heavily revolving around abandonment insecurities, such as the one of me having feelings of abandoning people I care about.  However, when discussing something with my best friend this evening, I had to seriously look at the possibility that the problems I have with Wolf are truly revolving around him projecting things onto me.  This seems to be more so than the other way around, and even more than the fact I am a sentimental and hopeless romantic that can fall prey to my mind by reading too much into things.

 

At this point in time, I truly believe whole heartedly that problems between Wolf and myself began when my divorce had been denied, as we both felt dejected and frustrated that I could not get what I wanted.  I know I projected some of my frustrations onto Wolf and became more critical of him.  I also believe Wolf projected his own frustrations onto me, including feelings he seemed to have about wanting or even needing a relationship with me, and his fears that I am, in fact, just using him and have no intention of getting a divorce.  The projections started out small, though I believe that once we both realized that we were comfortable considering ourselves a “couple” and in a relationship, the label of me being married was then used to put up boundaries that were not present even just a few months, let alone a few weeks, prior.  We both fought for self-preservation and prevention of hurt, though it seems we ended up creating more hurt than ever intended.

 

My divorce being denied, along with my stubborn way of not taking Wolf’s suggestions to get myself away from my husband, must have crushed Wolf in many ways.  Sometimes I think he had every right to be frustrated that I had not taken his suggestions.  Even though they were valid suggestions, they just went too much against my core ethics and morals of how I wish to live my life.  I don’t like not taking other people’s advice which is meant help me, as then it can lead to people not believing you actually want to hear their thoughts, but that you just want validation of what you are already doing.  That isn’t what I meant at all, and even I felt as if there was nothing left I could do other than to just be patient and do things in a slow and methodical way, conforming to what was being requested until things could be finalized.

 

As I look back on things, I see many things that lead me to believe that Wolf is projecting his own uncomfortable feelings of wanting a relationship with me that is deeper than “just friends”, and projecting some of his uncomfortable feelings of what happens in a relationship, onto me.  All of a sudden, I was “acting too much like a girlfriend”, though he could not give me specifics for me to work on so I wasn’t making him that uncomfortable as he pulled further away slowly.  This began by him criticizing all the “negative drama” in my life that revolved around my divorce and struggles with my mother and her health and well-being.  Then it turned into me somehow acting like I was expecting or wanting an exclusive and serious relationship, even though I said nothing of the sort, and felt that the hurt feelings I had were hurt on a purely friend level, let alone what a casual girlfriend would feel.  Then it became that he didn’t want to share things about his life and feelings, as he did not want to let people get too close to him, and he felt it was not worth sharing.  If I asked for anything other than topical discussions, I was seen as being basically nosy.

 

After these “issues”, it became that when I wanted to spend time with him when I still felt he was my best friend and safest confidante, especially if one-on-one so I could share some sensitive information with him, I was again asking for too much.  He started to compare me to his best male friend as justification about why asking for his time alone was a seriously emotional transgression, bordering on pure jealousy.  Then it became that almost anything I spoke of from my heart, be it positive or negative, which is what he asked me to do, I became the enemy and was being “cryptic” and “dramatic”.  When I asked to speak to him during a few dark times, he became annoyed with me speaking to him about nothing but “negative drama,” and claimed I was too needy, especially compared to him.  Then it was…well, I have so many examples that I might speak of in another post.

 

I think this all boils down to him avoiding the reality of his feelings about me.  He has spent more time avoiding things emotional, and it seems to be that he is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t actually have the feelings he has deep in his heart.  He seems to be projecting and finding faults in things I say and do that are blown out of proportion, trying to divert the core issue of him getting emotionally attached to me.  It also seems that some of his long-held professions of never letting a woman get him worked up ever again, in addition to his professions of never wanting a serious relationship, are being challenged.  His projections have been pushing me away, though I want to be there for him, no matter what.

 

I am sure I will have more to say about this another time, though for now, I think it is best to meditate a bit, and see if any other answers can be found to when and why Wolf and I began to have so many frustrating conflicts.  I am not sure yet if I will share this insane epiphany with Wolf, if at all, though it seems to be insane enough to actually make sense of a very illogical and confusing time.