The long process of healing

For the past couple of days, my days have been mostly filled with the continuing job of helping two girls work through their past abuse and trauma. Some days it feels as though it is never ending, and that we will never reach a point where they are not significantly impacted by their past. I often feel like part therapist, part private detective, part cheerleader, and part referee... all at the same time. I also have decided that it is my lot in life to help my children heal by spending countless hours picking up approximately 1 million Legos. No wonder by the time evening rolls around I'm not much good for anything except staring at the computer, watching an episode of Speechless, and reading a good mystery.

But in all of the yuck that the past two days has brought, we have also seen some hopeful positive behavior as well.

H. continues to allow herself to express emotion. Recently this hasn't always been coming out in pleasant ways, and it takes some work to get her to being able to think about and verbalize what she is feeling, but it's coming. Of course, she just turned 15, so that could also play a part of it. She is definitely not the preternaturally happy, Stepford child any more, and that is very good news. You have to be able to allow yourself to feel the emotions inside of you before you can deal with them. Stuffing them and smiling all the time is never terribly healthy. In some ways it feels as though we are helping her learn what each of these emotions feels like and are giving her names for those feelings she has shut down for so long as well as giving her scripts as to what to do with them.

R. is making inch-by-inch progress, which definitely swings widely back and forth between functioning and non-functioning multiple times during a day. She did have a pretty good day for the second half of it. (The first half was, um, shall we say, loud.) The biggest thing was that she finally agreed to go upstairs and play on the floor with everyone building with blocks and Legos. We have been working on her being able to do this for a year at least. She came to us so very disassociated that it is how she spent a good part of her day. Her favorite activity was one she could do sitting at a table and just do over and over and over and over, for literally hours if I didn't intervene. Slowly I added to the list of activities which I could only allow her to do very occasionally and for very limited amounts of time because I have become so concerned about her inability to stay in the present. I often felt like the ogre mother, because they are activities she enjoys, yet they are also activities which she can use to aid her disassociation. Her list of options that she wanted and was willing to do was getting shorter and shorter.

I don't know what it was about today, but when I suggested she go upstairs and build a house, she actually went. Not only did she go upstairs, she did so without shrieking and she actually built something. Even better, G. and L. were able to play with her (bless them), and not only was she doing something that she couldn't disassociate while doing, but she was engaged with other children.

The good news doesn't stop there, because we also had a couple of real conversations. These are very rare, as R. is usually content just to follow people silently around, stand far too close right behind them, and if she says anything it is merely to parrot single nouns. (That's not annoying at all. [sarcasm emoticon should be inserted here.]) A real conversation, even if brief is a very welcome change. And these were conversations not only about what I was doing (laundry), but some emotional processing as well. (Why we do things here that she didn't do in China. How I took a plane to get her. How China is a long way away and you have to sleep on the plane. Why does Mommy love her? That sort of thing. Kind of heavy stuff for someone who usually communicates by single English nouns and a handful of Chinese verbs.)

My last bit of good news is that we have seen R. start to try to experiment in moving her body in different ways. She can now do a high kneel, with fairly decent posture, without any help and without shrieking as though we are pulling off her fingernails. We have also seen her be a little more adventurous in how she moves, trying different things which go beyond the sitting, standing, lying down trio that she would not venture away from for over a year. I am convinced that the ability and willingness to be more in touch with her body is directly correlated to both her emotional and cognitive gains.

I know that this healing process is a three stop forward, two and 9/10's steps back progress, so I won't be surprised if we are back to the status quo tomorrow. But we have seen positive things, which gives me hope that the potential is in there.


Dawn Baggett said…
Love your detailed posting and can so relate to the two steps forward and then back part.

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