Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stuck with super glue

Stuck with super glue is a phrase commonly heard around my house.  This phrase has helped to calm anxiety, helped to lessen stress, helped to bring in to focus the here and now versus the then. It is a phrase we have spent two years working on and today it makes life much easier. Today we can drop off at school without tears, we can enter a new situation and hold hands, not be in mommy’s arms. Today he knows that mommy comes back to “get me” every time, because we are stuck with super glue. It is often the stretchy kind of super glue that lets him be in one place (school, friends house) and me be in another ( work, running errands) without him being panicked or hyper vigilant to the when or, worse in his mind, if I am coming back to get him. 

Two years ago I called my pediatrician after several weeks (okay honesty, months) of rough nights. Rough nights sometimes meant 2 hours of sleep followed by 4-5 hours of wired wide awake because he was afraid to go back to sleep, or it meant night terrors that led to him trying to physically hurt himself or me. He was two, almost three and had been with me, in my house for almost two years, the night he had a night terror so bad he left bruises across my upper arms and chest. He was fighting so hard in pure terror. It was primal fight or flight response and I knew that the sweet little boy I saw during the light of day needed help to fight the darkness of night. So my pediatrician gave me the information for a lovely lady named Donna Potter at CCFH. The day that Donna called and talked to me, I wanted to cry. Here was someone who believed that my little boy could have significant trauma pre-adoption that we needed to deal with now and she said magical words...” we can help and I think you need to see Rebecca Hubbard for CPP therapy.” I had no idea what CPP therapy was, but I was happy to go try anything that would help, that would allow him and I to sleep. 

A few weeks later we went in for our initial evaluation at CCFH. I talked to someone for a while and then we were introduced to Ms Rebecca.  Little Man did not seem to want much to do but play with the toys there that day, but a relationship with Ms Rebecca was started and healing began. We started once a week visits in 2011 just before Thanksgiving. The first time we were in her office Little Man was falling over everything, not able to control his body. He didn’t have any regulation of emotions or his body, so we set goals and started the work.  Some weeks were harder than others, but it didn’t take long to realize that while he was just a “baby” when he came home the trauma of loss had left a huge mark on his heart. 

I believed we had attached and even actually attached pretty securely, boy was I wrong. Even six months in to the therapy I could see how attachment was changing and how much deeper it could be. He started to talk about things and I realized my reality needed to change. I had adopted an infant, the books prepare you for trauma and hardships (sort of, at least they allude to there being some) when you adopt older. But very few mention how much the body remembers of trauma in a young child. Little Man held feelings of loss, abandonment, fear and the triggers were everywhere. Leaving him at school in the morning, entering a place where it was loud, lots of people and busy, telling him to wait because I was cooking dinner and he didn’t need a snack right that minute. Any of it, all of it could send him spiraling and neither of us knew why. But we were learning with Ms Rebecca and we were both getting better. I was stressing less and listening more to him, to his body language and mostly to his sleep patterns.  Sleep has been his dead give away always. When he trusts, when he is secure then he sleeps, when one or more of those is missing sleep and dark are not our friends. 

I am not sure when the phrase “stuck with super glue” came in to our therapy conversations, but it was pretty early on in the process. Little Man explained pretty early on that “I should have been in Africa earlier.” It became a daily conversation as we drove to school, it was a daily comment when I picked him up, it was a nightly routine to be “stuck” together for a while on the couch watching a show or in the rocking chair reading a book or even sometimes sitting on his bed as he went to sleep. We talked about how super glue sticks things together strong and that sometimes our super glue has to be stretchy so he can be one place and I can be another, but we will always “snap” back together. 

As therapy progressed it became less about me reminding him we had super glue, but more him commenting in moments of need about the super glue, almost as if checking to make sure I remembered that we were “stuck” together. Today we talk about there being super glue on our hands and that we can go to the mall or some place crowded and just hold hands as a reminder that we are together, that I am not going anywhere and that I will keep him safe.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments of hard, times that he gets triggered where fear and panic override any logic. But they are less and less, and more importantly we deal with those moments in the moment and they cause less “damage.” We recover faster. Sleep is still my “thermometer” to how calm his brain is each day. Most times it is better. Right now we are in a rough patch, but I know why and while I can’t remove the why, I can help him process it and reassure the what. Right now we remember and discuss super glue everyday and most nights. 

Little Man has control, as much as a not quite 5 year old can, of his emotions and physical movements of his body. There are things he choses not to control and we continue to work on those, But Ms Rebecca and CPP have “stuck” us together forever and he knows it, not just in words, but the body memory knows it. Through games, role plays, daily reinforcement  and weekly time with Ms Rebecca, his body memory is remembering new. 

So we celebrate how far we have come. We celebrate the work he has done. We celebrate that super glue “stretches” so we can go apart and come back together each and every time. 
2 years ago as we started therapy

Recently having fun as we look at our cotton candy tongues
Finished with therapy!