Our Therapist Called It … “Protective Factors”

What stops an adoptive mom who has lived,  no, – existed, year after year, day after day, and moment by moment in fear, exhaustion, depression, desperation…

  • from just pressing her foot to the floorboard firmly and driving off the nearest bridge,
  • from taking more – way more, perhaps all – of the prescription pills she takes for her PTSD… she developed loving on her adopted kids,
  • from just sitting alone in the car, hiding out from the nightmare that lies behind the closed-door to the house and the closed garage door to the unknowing world, escaping to the places the radio takes her with the car running…

Our therapist called them – those reasons that keep some hurting mommas from committing suicide – “PROTECTIVE FACTORS”.  I nodded and asked her again, “protective factors huh?  That term makes a lot of sense.”  Those two words rolled around the places in my head.

I thought my own recovery.  I thought about my personal PROTECTIVE FACTORS.  I have joked with my husband about how wonderful death seemed compared to the insanely tough adoption journey we are on.  We can joke about suicide because we each have a lot of protective factors.  I have dealt with depression.  I currently take prescription medication for this beast.  Year after year of tooting a horn on December 31st thinking, “this year can’t possibly be as horrific as this last year has been!”, and it being worse than horrific makes for one weary soul.  I specifically remember having this thought in 2015 going into 2016.  I thought the same way on Dec. 31, 2016.  On January 1st, 2018,  I had learned to NOT think in the same manner…  because my circumstances might not get better this year.  Hoping in a good year,  a good day etc.  has set me up for failure on many occasions.  Now I just roll with it and hope only in God.  If I have a good day or week.. BONUS.  But if I don’t have a good day… well, I have been camped out there for quite some time, so I know I am going to be okay.  Funny what repetitive CRAP will do for you!

So what are my personal protective factors?

#1  I have ZERO PROBLEMS ASKING FOR HELP AND SUPPORT.  The moment we took a hard left turn on BIPOLAR DRIVE, I called our adoption support specialist.  She put me in contact with a foster mom mentor.  And if my support system suggested something, I did it.  It certainly couldn’t hurt and might actually help.  As my symptoms related to mental illness worsened,  I went to a doctor for medication and a counselor for therapy.  My husband looked at me and said “You need to see a doctor!”  My response was, “Yeah,  I probably do.”

#2  I have MAINTAINED CONNECTIONS TO SUPPORT SYSTEMS.  I have gone to adoptive parenting classes to learn about how to handle my kids with RAD – Reactive Attachment Disorder.  I have stayed in contact with some of those friends on Facebook.  I have made amazing sisterhood relationships with moms of RAD kids.  That is a population of moms who understand each others bizarre life circumstances.  When you are attacked as a “nurturing enemy” because your child’s biological mom completely SUCKED at mommy-ing, you need to hear you aren’t crazy or alone.  RAD adoptive kids push away from really awesome adoptive moms because that kind of relationship had gone horribly wrong at birth.  No one answered their cries.  No one feed them.  The mom who was supposed to be there wasn’t.  So a child with RAD will fight like a Tasmanian devil before she ever lets you get emotionally close to her.  Sabotage,  manipulation, lying and deceit are hallmarks of a RAD kid.  [GET INTO A SUPPORT GROUP IN YOUR AREA OR FIND A GROUP ON FACEBOOK!  SUPPORT GROUPS ARE INVALUABLE.]

I also have support from my family, a few close friends, my church and God.  I know God well.  And He is my most important PROTECTIVE FACTOR.  He says I am loved, I am worthy,  I am special,  and I am safe in His arms.  Thank God! Literally!

My daughters, Kylee and Haylee, are helpful.  And by that, I mean that they are MEAN.  Like, if you don’t understand what happens to a developing young lady around the age of 15, fair warning folks, it gets ugly.  I have been told my chewing on a carrot makes my daughter want to die.  Also eating cereal is a justifiable reason for screaming death threats at me.  Don’t eat cereal in front of my  16-year-old daughter.  It is a bad idea.  My 19-year-old is at college and is quite blunt.  When she calls home,  she does NOT want to talk about how I am doing.  So when she asks, “So, how’s it going, Mom?”,  she doesn’t really care at the moment (because she isn’t here and can’t help –  she says) what my actual state of “how’s it going” is, she wants to exchange pleasantries and talk about her life.  But their meanness has been a protective factor.  They don’t let me fall to pieces and hold me.  Most of the time.  They tell me to suck it up.  Most of the time.  [Side note: You can not ‘suck up’ PTSD.  It is an injury that needs healing and often needs help.]  So their meanness pushes me to exercise great emotional fortitude and strength and use my coping skills.

My husband’s love, grace, acceptance, and time are the bandages to my brain injury.  Just like Jesus,  Kyle extends to me gifts that I don’t deserve.  He gives them freely and unconditionally.  Some “Christians” struggle to give what has been freely given to them.  Some Christians have loved me conditionally.  Some friends – who are Christians – have abandoned me when the crap hit the fan… (it is definitely shit that hits the fan but I don’t want to offend those judgmental ‘Christians’ previously mentioned.)  This has been true of my family members too.  Some people just can’t handle the messiness of my life.  And I totally get it.  Because I can not handle the messiness of my life.  But if you have a messy life,  I know how you hurt.  And I offer you love, grace, acceptance, time and my heart that I hope you can hear and feel as you read my blog.  Just like my hubbie.  He is awesome.

My 19-year-old son’s steadiness helps.  My son is like a golden retriever.  He is reliable.  He is protective.  He is available.  He is present.  He always has my back.  But this personality type isn’t without flaws.  He has extended himself as the strong, unbreakable man who is exhausted from always being the strong, I GOT THIS guy.  He struggles with stress but he doesn’t show that much.

Celebrate Recovery – a 12-step Christian support program – similar to AA but not just for addicts – has changed my life.  Celebrate Recovery is for anyone with hurts, habits, or hang-ups.  I got hurts.  So I am in like Flynn.  (Who’s Flynn?)  I do not have addictive behaviors.  Doesn’t make me better – just isn’t my struggle.  For me, alcohol costs a lot of fricking money.  So I don’t buy it.  Therefore, I have not developed an addition to alcohol.  But I 100% understand why people get addicted to drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, do risky things, etc.  THEY HURT.  IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE.  I have been hurt so deeply that I have come to identify with all sorts – the other hurting people, the crazy, the angry, the alcoholic, the anything to avoid this pain person.  When someone talks about the crazy lady at Wal-Mart walking around the store singing, my thoughts are:  “Hey don’t bash her.  That could SO EASILY BE ME!”

If you haven’t noticed the name of this blog – it is CRAZY IS MY COPING SKILL.  I use fun and finding humor to get through life.  I will wear a llama costume to my son’s soccer practice to make him laugh.  And others.  And me!  It is a win-win in my book.  So don’t be surprised if I rewire my riding lawn mower’s whole electrical system by watching a 14-year-old do it on YouTube (because rewiring a riding lawn mower will distract me from the stealing of everything my 13-year-old can get his hands on if not watched on a baby monitor).   And if I am going to rewire the whole thing,  I should pimp this metal ride out.  And paint the riding lawn mower camo green with bright pink polka dots.  And name her Patricia (AKA Patty – actually my 16-year-old looked at the mower and said HER name was Patricia).  Patricia the Polka Dotted Beast.  And to make the maiden voyage of Patricia the Polka Dotted Beast insanelier bizarre (and funnier in a twisted way),  she killed a rabbit.  I know INSANELIER is not a word but I am using it here.  The acre of grass around my home had grown while I rewired the mower.  And bunnies had been born.  The bunnies in my neighborhood,  known as Jupiter Farms,  are delivered in a tall clump of grass.  That described my whole yard when I started mowing.  I had actually already rescued another tiny bunny from the chicken wire under the shed that I tried to escape through.  As I gently tried to get him out of his predicament (he couldn’t get through the opening in the chicken wire),  he made a squeal like a pig.  Who knew a rabbit could squeal like that?  I feared a giant momma rabbit bounding up behind me and exercising motherly protection of her helpless babe by ferociously attacking me.  I am not making any of this story up.  This totally just happened.  Me and Patty were just cruising along when a small bunny exited the lawn mower’s blade deck stage right.  It wasn’t her fault.  She is a BEAST.  It wasn’t my fault.  I couldn’t see it and wouldn’t kill a bunny.  But life in the Farms has taught me the circle of life.  We have had chickens killed by predators and who knows whate else so often that the innocent death of said bunny did bother me enough to make some one else pick him up but also make me laugh at the irony of this convoluted story.  Yep  CRAZY IS MY COPING SKILL.  LAUGH OR DIE.  Also a protective factor because I choose to laugh.

I run or exercise really hard when I am triggered.  PROTECTIVE FACTOR.  It completes the cycle of the FIGHT – FLIGHT – OR FREEZE MODE.   The chemicals dumped into my brain during a triggered response are there to protect me.  The survival mode kicks in and involves cortisol and adrenaline.  Until the chemicals are exercised out and I feel safe again,  I will be stuck struggling with PTSD symptoms:

  • countless intrusive thoughts
  • blood pressure elevated
  • sweating or feeling hot and flushed
  • manic thinking and talking
  • escape plan making
  • desiring to hide, run, fight…
  • shaking feeling all over – esp. teeth and hands
  • feeling like a bomb is strapped to my lower back
  • or feeling like a gun is pressed to the back of the base of my head.

I listen to the Bible on an app that reads the word of God to me.  The app is called Daily Audio Bible and it is free.  Lord knows I can’t read His word when scared to death.  I listen to my Spotify called Encouragement in Sadmess.  That was totally an accident in typing and M instead of an N but I think sadmess fits better than sadness in my situation.

I write also.  I scribble more often in a journal or notebook than on this blog.  I write sloppy and furious to record the things my brain does these days.  It is partly humorous.  It is partly sad.  But I want to record what I am going through.  I think that if I can tell one person that they are not alone, it will be worth the effort.

We adopted hoping to help.  I now write hoping to help.  And as another side note:  We are doing everything we can to help our adopted and biological kids.  It has meant that some of our kids do not live at home sometimes.  We all deserve to feel safe.  When that safety is destroyed,  I have learned to put up HEALTHY BOUNDARIES.   Our adopted kids will always be a part of our family if they choose.  But we may choose to have them live elsewhere to protect our safety foremost – and sanity secondly.

-Which is a losing battle I fear.  [sarcasm mixed with truth]  Sanity straddles a fine line between crazy and coping.  I blur the line sometimes!

SO I LIVE BY GETTING HELP AND SUPPORT, STAYING CONNECTED TO SUPPORT, KEEPING AN AGENDA, TEACHING KIDS IN CHINA ONLINE, BEING SILLY AND COPING”

1 day at a time-

WITH  2 years in recovery from hurts-

and 3 years of ‘every-flippin’ day” HELL-

and 7 years of our adoption journey-

and 13 years of trouble-free parenthood-

and 25 years of marriage-

and 30 years of BELONGING to Him.. Committed our lives to Jesus-

and 46 years of HIS BEST in my life!

 

[and our family therapist Crystal’s guidance…court ordered when our daughter went into state custody so she could get the help she needs and we could be safe from her out of control behaviors. She has given us many very helpful tools like EVEN THOUGH… THINKING while TAPPING,  HULA HOOPING,  BOX BREATHING,  and GUIDED MEDITATION.  Thanks Crystal.  We weren’t excited to have court ordered counseling by a highly dysfunctional Department of Children and Families.  We do love you and your therapy!  Flow!]

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