Burnout

I’m almost there. That icky burnout place. I can feel the exhaustion in my body; it’s feeling worn down, my stomach is doing weird things, my skin is getting little patchy red spots like it does when I’m stressed and no matter how much sleep I get I want more.

My mind is so full of todos and havetos that it only runs through boring lists endlessly and on repeat and it is so caught up in itself and all that needs to be done that it has been hard to focus on other people or things that matter or have an original thought or intelligent conversation. And I listen, but I’m not really listening to others when they talk to me because there is no brain power left to give them after my brain cycles through the endless todos.

I can feel the burnout coming and I know that it’s time to slow it all down, take a step back and do some reorganizing in my head and taking care of my body. It is not one thing that is making me feel like I’m on the road to burnout out, it’s been building since January – both personally and at work. A lot of lovely good things have been happening, but a lot of hard, challenging, intense things too. And that’s life, but I need a break. And I’m so happy I’m old enough, and been through it enough, to now recognize it before it gets to too far gone. There is no guilt, no shame, no anything attached to saying ‘whoa, get me off the crazy train for a few days’ anymore. It is what it is and it’s what needs to be done. I need to jump off the train for a bit. I feel lucky to be able to have learnt that lesson and I hope that everyone does too.

And the time to jump is coming very soon! I have a vacation time coming up from work that includes a trip away with Gord (first trip away from Jonathan for FOUR nights!) as well as a few days just at home. Away from work. Away from everybody. Except for me.

Some people need other people to charge their batteries. I need alone. And quiet. And puttering. Nothing I like more than a good couple days of this and that. Preferably with some sunshine, naps and junk food thrown in the mix for good measure. Alone. Did I mention I like to be alone? Me. All by myself. Shhhhhhhh…

As adopters we all know the importance of a break and self-care, although it’s not always possible to get away or take a break or recharge when it’s needed. And that’s only if you recognize that you do need it. I hope everyone can take a minute to themselves and check in to see where they are at. And if you need a break, short or long, that you somehow, someway make that happen.

For heavens sake people take care of yourself!

 

 

EMDR Update

It’s been about a month since we did EMDR with Jonathan. During the session I kept thinking “Really? This is it? Might as well wave a magic wand and dance naked in the rain on a full moon.”

But, the last few weeks have been veeeeryy interesting. Immediately, Jonathan would say and do things that I kept thinking “Hmm, interesting. Is that a coincidence or….?” He wasn’t calmer in any way, but he seemed more agreeable and assured…? Maybe that’s not the right word, but something was a bit different.

The most notable things were:
– The next day he repeated back everything she said to him (our hearts are stretchy to love lots of people, moving lots can be scary, he’s now safe etc.)
– When we talked about going to visit family for the weekend he told me “But I’m not going to live there, I’m not”. Where as before any place we visited, or new house we went to, he would ask if that was his new house.
– While visiting family (just 4 days after our first session) he refused to go sleep (he never does) and just kept saying “I don’t like sleeping”. We just laid together and I told him he didn’t have to sleep but he had to lay quietly. Eventually he slept but he repeated it in the morning too. And then never again. That was weird.
– He asked why we had to go see Tara (New Therapist Lady) and was open to talking about it.
– He has been having mostly ‘green’ days at school and last week was all green (green is the best kind of day). And, he comforted a friend who was upset without any prompting…yes I wrote about this in my last post you are not having dejavue, but showing real and true empathy is something I think worth repeating.
– He is decreasing the immediacy of asking what’s for dinner when I picked him up after work from when I walk in the door of his day home to half way home or almost home.
– He let the school, and me, put band aids on him when he fell at school and got a nasty cut on his hand. He has always refused this kind of grown up care just outright now allowing us to clean a cut or put band aids on cuts. Hmmmm, interesting….

And two of the most interesting (I think):
One night between after school and his shower he was a mess – I couldn’t even look at Gord without him squawking, banging the table at dinner, interrupting etc. I sat him down before his shower, just the two of us, and asked what was going on. We had some cuddles and did some breathing and talked about how sometimes he gets nervous or scared and it’s hard even though he lives here forever and mom and dad love him etc. and he hugged me and said it was scary moving to all those houses. A week earlier when I asked if it was scary he answered “No, I was brave!”
And…
One night we are talking before bed about first mom and dad and I told him it was ok if he loved them because his heart was big and stretchy enough to love anybody he wanted to. He told me that he didn’t love them. I asked why and he told me “I don’t know them”. Makes sense to me! I think that’s pretty good logic for a 6-year-old.

Was some of those things coincidences? Maybe. Am I looking for positive outcomes and I’m paying attention to tiny changes or comments more than I usually would? For sure.
But there are more than just a couple (and more little changes in behaviour or comments than I have listed have occurred) to be coincidences, I think. We go back again to see our lovely New Therapist Lady in a week or so and I am looking forward to more voodoo, singing to the trauma gods, spinning three times around a fire while citing passages backwards…or you know, something like that.

Rock and Roll

Current things I’m loving about Jonathan:

On the swing going really high he says “mummy my tummy is laughing!”

The way he’s learning to fill other people’s buckets. Genuinely wanting and trying to fill them.

We have a thing: The ASL sign for “forever” is close to the “rock and roll” hand. My brain got all mixed  up one night so now instead of saying/signing “I love you (or you stay here) FOREVER!!!” (something we say often) we say/sign “I love you FOREVER….rock and roll!” A little hair shakin’ also helps get the effect.

How proud and excited he is to tell me when I pick him up after school that he’s had a ‘green’ day (green is the best kind of day).

How he likes to sit and watch movies now and can usually watch a whole one if he can wiggle about a bit and chew something.

How he’s generally a pretty darn helpful and happy guy when it comes to everyday tasks.

He writes all the words he know all the time. All 6 of them. And he’s so proud of himself. (And he has 15 sight words he now knows! I love watching him learn to read, there is something magically about it).

When it’s just the two of us at the table eating he automatically starts signing and talks way less. It’s another one of our things.

How he finds words everywhere and if he knows the words he gets really excited

When I tell him “stop growing!” and he tells me he has to grow up so he can go meet Paw Patrol.

That at school another student was upset and he sat with her and rubbed her back telling her it was ok and showed real and true empathy for no other reason except it was a nice thing to do FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!!

How he always wants to help and learn, learn learn learn…he recently learned how to clean a toilet and make a sandwich and crack eggs like a pro. Not too shabby for 6!

How he loves the kitties as much as I do.

How he told me he wanted to try by himself to wash up in the shower and he was so proud when he did it and I told him he did great.

How when I cleaned out his room yesterday and gave him some choices (and some not) of what to keep he was almost ok with it and let some things go (victory!!!).

That he was as excited as I was that he now has TWO new babysitters:)

New Therapist Lady

At the same time that we hit the compliant truckin’ along wall, a therapist friend met a therapist who works in adoption. Now fancy that.

A few weeks later, I’m in new therapist’s office and there’s an immediate connection. I like her. I like her a lot. She gets it. She makes sense. She makes Jonathan make sense. She’s good with him. She doesn’t just tell me “you’re doing great!” like some others have. (It’s nice and all to be complimented once in a while on how great you’re doing and all, but I’m generally sitting in somebody’s office because things aren’t great and I don’t need confidence, I need help). She is speaking my language and telling actual strategies and things I can do to create some change and forward movement in attachment with Jonathan.

New therapist lady had actual practical, concrete, strategies that I began to use immediately. She talked about brain stuff, filling in holes, anxiety and heart rates. She explained things in a way that made sense. I wanted to hug her. But I didn’t. Because I do still want her to think I’m great even if I don’t want her to tell me and if I hugged her she may not think I’m great and perhaps suggest I need therapy. Which I don’t have time for. Instead I blog.

Next week new therapist lady is  going to do some EMDR work with Jonathan. I would never even think of trying this because it sounds hokey to me but, my therapist friend who just got trained in EMDR (which is how she met new therapist lady) had it done on herself and BAM! years of trauma dealt with (not completely but in in many ways). She couldn’t believe it herself. It really does seem too good to be true, but there are lots of studies out there, I trust my therapist friend and new therapist lady gave me tons of examples of how she’s used it with kids. If you want to read more about it you can click here. I shall keep you posted on how things go !

For now though, we are doing a few everyday things and are immediately seeing some push-back, which I take as a positive sign of it being effective. Man alive, I forgot how asking for help usually results in a LOT of extra work. Good thing Gord and I booked our first vacation (4 whole days) away in May! We’ll need it!

What You See

Now that we are out of the shock and awe phase of being new adopters and have a bit of clear space in our heads (most days), we can really see some patterns emerging with Jonathan. I’ve been watching and observing and wondering the last few months about the intention behind the things he does and really been able to see common ‘trauma’ patterns in his everyday actions.

On the outside he seems like a pretty typical kid – a happy healthy boy who is learning his way in the world, is active, asks lots of questions, wants to know how things work and loves to play. I see that too, but, there’s also underlying behaviour and patterns that I see. I know when he licks the back of his hand, quickly and almost secretly, or starts scratching at his forearms that he’s feeling worried and insecure. I know when I’m talking to him and he looks at me with one eye scrunched half shut that he’s scared or nervous he’s getting in trouble. And there are other small behaviours that unless you know his past, unless you know trauma, that you probably wouldn’t notice either.

What you see is probably just a typical 6 year old who gets excited over new and novel things. A new toy – best day ever, a new book – score, new game on his ipad – it’s like Christmas day. And in five minutes you may see a boy who appears to care less about his new things, you might even think he’s ungrateful, selfish, spoiled.

But what you may not know is that Jonathan was severely neglected for the first couple years of his life. And so what I see is a boy who moved so much and had a constant supply of ‘new to him’ toys at new foster homes that new wore off very quickly. I see a kid who had a parade of new people coming into his life who gave him new presents for being in his new place (us included), that new and novel sets off some kind of weird signal to his brain and he knows that it’s meaningless.

Very rarely is a new toy or book or game played with after the initial excitement of a few minutes wears off. My dad visited in the fall and brought a little wooden truck that they put together and played with for about an hour.  Two weeks later I hadn’t see it at all, until I found it in it’s box, in his suitcase under his bed.

What you probably see is our little rocket boy and think he is very sweet kind boy who loves his mama when he constantly throughout the day tells, shouts, signs, whispers and would send smoke signals if we let him have the matches “mummy, I love you”.

But what you may not know is that our boy had lived in 6 foster homes by the age of four and when he came to us at four and half years old, he didn’t know how to give a kiss (he’d come at you with his mouth wide open if you asked for a kiss which was cute and all but…) and he didn’t know how respond when we told him ‘I love you’. Because I do know this, what I see is a boy who now knows what love and family is and is afraid of loosing it so he needs constant reassurance that it is there. All the time. Every day. 492 times a day. And if he doesn’t get that reassurance then his anxiety increases and then his behaviour escalates and then he says it more and we enter the vicious-cycle-drive-you-crazy-if–I-hear-I-love-you-one-more-time-I-might-loose-it-zone.

What you probably see when you look at Jonathan is an amazing eater. You may see a boy who loves food and is not picky like many 6 year olds. He’ll eat sushi, salad, any fruit or vegetable, fish, meat, home cooked, take out, fast food and his new favorite – oysters. You name it, he’s all over it. You probably think we are so lucky to have such a great eater.

But what you may not know is that Jonathan spent the first couple years of his life with no consistency, no being held or rocked to sleep, no tickles and giggles and ooohs and awwws, no hearing a sound in the world, no communication and some brightly coloured koolaide in his bottle (at least that’s what it looks like from some pictures we have). So, what I see is a boy who didn’t get consistent, nutritious, good food, many times a day. Every day. I see a boy who asks what’s for dinner after breakfast because he needs reassurance that there will indeed be dinner. I see a boy who will eat and eat and eat because somewhere deep in neuroconnection land there is still something telling him that this may be the last so pack it in while you can kid. At any given meal he will eat more than his dad if we don’t control his food. While I am so grateful to have a kid that is not picky and that is adventurous in food, like most adopted families we gots food issues.

You might see a boy who is just being a kid – one who likes to keep all kinds of things that seem meaningless – bits of paper, string, fliers, random objects, garbage, bits and pieces of this and that. You may think he is very clever and imaginative to create stories and be able to play with nothing but a scrap of paper, a domino and a bread tab.

But what you may not know is that all of his worldly belongings fit in one box and one suitcase and one garbage bag when he moved in with us. And so what I see is a boy who had nothing and lost everything in his short life and so he holds onto it all. Every scrap, every bead, random card, receipt, community newsletter, craft from school, tags from new clothes etc. gets stashed away into every nook and cranny of his room.

A few days before Christmas I did a major toy/room clean up to make room for what was about to be unwrapped and threw out a whole garbage bag of paper and bits. And his room isn’t that big or even that messy. It was all stashed away in boxes and drawers and containers and bags.

There are more little trauma quirks and patterns emerging all the time and we are doing our best to calm anxieties, create safety, consistency and make sure he knows he is loved. And maybe over time these little quirks will lessen, his self regulation will increase and his confidence in himself and his place in this family will be stronger.

If you are lucky enough to have met Jonathan though, what you probably do know is that he is a smart, funny, clever, curious, helpful, polite, giving, sharing, sweet and loving, willing to try most anything adventurous boy. And I know that too.

Not So Little Anymore

The few weeks I’ve been noticing how Jonathan isn’t so little anymore.

He has grown up in so many ways in the two years since he came to us. His chubby cheeks have disappeared, he’s taller, he’s so heavy I can barely lift him (but I still do because I love it:)  He’s also calmer (that could be a combo mix of meds and maturity…?) and overall happier. He listens so much more, he’s less aggressive, and more independent, although he’ll still ask for help with things I know he can do but he just wants my attention and I’m mostly happy to give it.

His speech, oh my word his speech. I’ve spent a lot of time lately watching videos of him two years ago and ones of him recently. In the videos he’s singing or telling a story and 2 years ago it was incomprehensible, if you weren’t there you wouldn’t know what he was talking about. I remember having to interpret constantly for friends what he was saying. Now, that doesn’t happen. You can understand 90% of what he is saying.

The other night while tucking him into bed he said to me “mummy, why did i scratch you?” First, where the heck did that come from? And second, the last time he got to the point of restraining and he scratched me was 7 months ago. So much growth in so many ways.

These past couple weeks there’s a tiny voice that says “maybe we could do it again…” But I think that’s more the missing the preschool years (my favourite) and reflecting on how far he’s come, how far we’ve all come. But I know we won’t adopt again, it’s a looong hard journey that is not in our cards. For now I will just try to enjoy this new phase and period of relative calmness, and workout harder so I can pick him up a little bit longer:)

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(Fall 2012 and Fall 2014 – where did my little chubby cheeked boy go?!)

100 Seconds

We knocked on the blue door not knowing what to expect, only knowing that we were nervous and excited and the journey was ending and beginning all at the same time.

The door opened and there was the cutest little boy you ever did see and his foster mom to greet us.

Immediately in the front hall she flipped to a photo of Gord (in the album we had given her the week before to start prepping him about us), and pointed at the photo and then to Gord and said “who’s that?” I think she prompted him ‘Daddy’ and he repeated it, but I honestly can’t remember exactly because I knew what was coming next.

Flip to another page, point at the photo. Point to me. “Who’s that?”

He looked at me.

“Muh-me” he said

I had waited so long.

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***Congratulations to The Adoption Social on your 100th Weekly Adoption Shout Out! I was so lucky to find you at the start of this crazy journey called adoption and I can never thank you enough for creating such a supportive and comforting space to share this amazing experience with.