I thought since taking on our little poppets that we had been pushed to the very edges of everything we are as a family. We have been through some really tough stuff as we have worked with our little ones to make steps toward healing, much of which, has been documented in my writings here. I never thought for a minute that fostering was going to be easy and that it wouldn’t change us as a family as well as impact the individuals we are. However, nothing really prepared me for the reality that there are people in the world who, for whatever reason and agenda, decided to launch an attack on our entire family that threatened everything we have worked so hard to acheieve.
The details of this attack are irrelevant and not the point of my writing. As is usual for me, when slammed by something, my reaction is usually shock, sadness, anger, confusion and a number of other emotions. As the dust clears I then find myself processing and seeking to find some reasoning behind events. This is who I am, I have never been any different. I have a belief that things happen in my life for a purpose, that in every experience I can learn, grow and change. This latest challenge is no exception.
Over the last 10 months I have worked through much of what is going on in our lives by blogging. Part of the reason I began blogging was as a form of therapy to process and make sense of a life that has been turned upside down by someone else’s trauma. Over the last 2 1/4 years we, as a family have been on an extremely steep learning curve. We have become reasonably well informed about Reactive Attachment disorder, trauma behaviours, brain development and how early trauma impacts development. I think I had a reasonably good ‘head knowledge’ but I’ve come to understand through recent events that I needed to attain a ‘heart’ knowledge.
Although our family as an entire unit has been under attack, it is me personally that the sharpest arrows of this attack were aimed. So, I could allow those arrows to penetrate and rip apart my very inner core OR I could process and seek to use these arrows as another learning experience. I now have an even deeper, more empathic understanding of what my little people live with every single day. That is what I am wanting to share with you now and hopefully it will shed even more light on what trauma does to the brain….here goes.
For the last month I have been living with this ever present in my life. I am not sleeping well as my brain is on high alert. My dreams are vivid, scary at times and are a way that my brain is coping with what is going on. Last night I dreamt that our youngest poppet was standing by the edge of some water and a ‘crocodile’ type creature leapt out and swallowed her whole, I awoke in a lather of sweat, crying and gradually came too enough to realise it was just a dream and that she was still soundly sleeping upstairs. As I venture through my day I am not restful and I am feeling unsafe. I am constantly ‘on guard’ unable to know if I am truly safe or if another attack is imminent. Here is the parallel, 2 1/4 years ago our little ones were hardly sleeping, they would wake every morning looking like they had wrestled a crocodile all night long. They eventually felt safe enough to talk to us about their dreams…vivid and scary dreams. They were on constant high alert as they felt unsafe wherever they went and would wonder all day long if their attackers knew where they lived or went to school, and if they would just appear and snatch them away.
I am now unsure who I can trust. I have never felt like this before in my life. I have always had the ability to discern people and work them out fairly quickly. I have a small group of close female friends who I can openly chat to and confide in….now I find myself in a position of not knowing who to trust. There is a small part of me that doesn’t want to talk to people at all as I am afraid of betrayal. Here is the parallel our little ones have an exceptionally hard time trusting anyone. Any person they have put trust in has turned on them and ultimately caused pain for them. From Day 1 we have reminded them that we are people they can trust, we will not hurt them, we will love them and we will keep them safe. Miss 7 recently told me that it is really hard to trust because it’s scary…it’s scary because it means she needs to allow vulnerability into her life. When you have been abused it is much easier to trust nobody, only trust yourself….at least you can depend on you! But in order to bring healing in both my life and theirs we need to learn to trust, not all people mean to bring you harm.
Fear is linked to trust but fear can also stand alone. I have been taken right to the edge and stared fear in the face over this attack. Someone has maliciously tried to rip our family apart, destroy our family unit. Miss 21 commented that such a callous person has no understanding of the depth of love we have for our little ones. In her words ‘ these are my sisters mum, they clearly didn’t realise that their actions would affect our entire family’. Here is the parallel our little ones live in a constant state of fear. They are fearful that if they let themselves really become relaxed here and ‘fall in love’ with their family all of that may be ripped away from them, abused children do not believe that they deserve a happy ending.
The repercussions and consequences of this attack are completely out of my hands. There have been discussions that I have not been a part of, ultimate decisions that are not mine to be made….my fate completely, out of my control. I feel like a plane on auto pilot, I am no longer at the steering wheel. Here is the parallel control is a huge deal for abused children. Anytime they have handed over control to bigger people it’s generally spelt disaster, so they try to control everything, constantly. To relinquish any control means I have to trust you and as explored above trust is scary, risky and means vulnerability.
This one has aroused great feelings of anger in me. Anger that someone I trusted would and could be so personally hurtful with such malicious intent. However, for me, the anger passed really quickly. What replaced my anger was sadness, sadness for this person. Sadness that the burdens they carry are so enormous. I have written several times on this blog about the anger we endure from our poppets, anger that although taken out on us, has nothing to do with us and things we have done to them….and there is the parallel.
This is something that cuts deep deep down inside of us. No matter how vulnerable we become with others we will find it very hard to deal with shame. Shame for me has been that feeling inside that I am no good, I am a terrible person, I am an unfit mother, I am nothing, no-one! I am useless, because I am such a horrible person there is no way anyone could ever love me. No matter how many times a day I tell myself that ‘it’s all lies’, I cannot shake this feeling of shame’. Here is the parallel my little ones carry deep shame. Negative messages were sent to their brains really early on – you’re not loved, you’re worth nothing, I don’t care about you, you are no good, it is your fault that you are abused, you are nothing, no-one!
So, through the pain that has been inflicted upon our family we are gradually coming up for air. The difference that I have over my little people is that I am older. I have a stable base on which I can depend. When my brain pulls up with ‘you’re no good’ my faith and heart tell me that I know differently….mind you, this has been an immense battle to actually believe it….some days have been better than others, some days I’m emotionally stronger. My faith as a Christian tells me that I’m worthy because I have a saviour who loves me so much that He died for me….no-one can ever take that away. My faith has brought me to a point where I have forgiven my attacker and pray for them daily. My days are not so punctuated by the events of the past month as time is the greatest healer of all. Here is the parallel we are working really hard to build a stable base for our little ones, a base where they will experience, for the first time in their lives, a love which is unconditional, a love that values and cherishes because they are who they are – not because of anything they do. We are working really hard with their brains to rewire and set up new pathways that allow them to trust, love and express every single emotion without fear. We are working really hard to teach them how to live without fear and shame and to ignore the voices that tell them they are nothing. We are working toward a new kind of normal and that takes time.
Today, right at this moment, I can say that although this has been one of the toughest battles of my life I am thankful that through all that has happened I have been given the privilege of a much deeper understanding of what happens for my little ones. I have not had to endure anything like they have and would never claim to fully understand the depth of their trauma and the lifelong impact…but I now know some of those feelings that they battle daily.
So if the process of our family being under attack has made us just a little more empathic and compassionate then surely that is a great thing.