How to recover ourselves after difficult child-induced trauma?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by scent of cedar, May 23, 2013.

  1. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    I was responding to a post this morning. I realized that the guilt/sick at heart/dark horror/anticipation feeling we all know so well is probably one of the symptoms of a post-traumatic stress reaction.

    Then, I realized I have been functioning about one quart low since difficult child came home last summer.

    Recurrent shocks / instantaneous "Fix it! Fix it now, before it gets worse!" responses. (Otherwise known as "Fixate! Fixate now...!")


    I am talking series here, ladies. REALITY TELEVISION.

    Hours and hours of it.

    When I am not watching television? I am calling on things difficult child hasn't taken care of. I.D. stuff, car accident stuff, food and money and lifestyle stuff.

    Here is a funny thing (sort of) that happened, yesterday. difficult child actually had the gall to tell me that it is embarrassing for her to have her mom calling and emailing people at the homeless center to watch for difficult child's I.D.


    And it never even occurred to me, until difficult child said something...that what I was doing was in any way inappropriate. difficult child has no I.D. and she needs one? No problemo. She needs to get into her storage unit (which we are paying for) and has lost both keys? NO PROBLEM THERE, EITHER.
    After talking to the storage people, the storage person's wife, and the locksmith? We realized there may be a key in the car difficult child and significant other crashed into a stone wall in March. AND I FOUND THE POLICE OFFICER WHO CAN STILL GET US INTO THE CAR.


    And here is the kicker: difficult child has access to phone and internet, now.

    There is not a reason in the world any of this should concern me.

    I just want poor little difficult child to have what she needs.

    Plus? I am going to her psychiatrist with her. Know why? To be sure he/she understands what a fine person difficult child was just a few short months ago.

    Oh, brother.

  2. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    I hear you!

    Just yesterday, husband asked me whether I thought he should go and talk to a few of the apartment complexes in town on behalf of difficult child. Why? Because he is pretty sure she is not applying for apartments.

    I asked him why difficult child's lack of effort created more responsibility for us? If she doesn't - why must we?
  3. JKF

    JKF Well-Known Member

    OMG Barbara! You just described me to a "T". I'm basically difficult child's secretary whether he knows it or not. It's ME who makes 99% of the calls to get things straight for him. Seriously - it's almost a full time job on TOP of my other full time jobs - graphic designer, wife, and mother! Uggggh!!!

    And I ask myself - WHY do I do all of this work for him? Is it beneficial to him? Shouldn't he be doing these things himself?

    I need to start letting him handle his own life or he'll never learn. I've started with stepping back from this latest situation and letting him deal full on with the consequences of his actions. I admit - I have made some calls on his behalf but he doesn't know that and he won't. It's more for my own peace of mind. I need to step back more and I'm working on that. He needs to start putting some effort into HIS life. I can't be the only one doing all of the work. I have a life of my own and I need to realize that I'm wasting it by trying to fix all of his troubles for him.

    So trust me - I totally get where you are coming from! Sending BIG hugs your way and lots of support!!!!
  4. Cedar - I still get the shakes like you do. Sometimes I feel like my body is vibrating from the inside out - it's strange.

    I think the trauma of difficult child exacerbates any other stress in my life. difficult child isn't causing me too much stress right now but any other stress starts the shaking up pretty quickly. I'd put that in the PTSD realm.

    I understand the wanting to help, fix things, make it right. But now that you've seen what you are doing and how enabling and yet disabling (to both her and you) it is you can change it.

    I watch a lot more tv now too. My housework has slid because of it. It's a mind numbing escape and I don't blame you for needing it and using it. I have read that tv is sometimes a great way for ADHD people to quiet their minds and turn them 'off' for a while. It's actually seen as a good thing.

    Of course there are other ways to deal with stress that are healthier like meditation, exercise, yoga, a hot bath. Maybe those would work better for you and make you feel more productive in the sense that you are caring for your health? Something for me to take note of as well. I need to get back into exercise.

    Daisy - You are so right. I have had several mental health professionals all tell me that I shouldn't be working harder for difficult child than he is working for himself. There is no point. It took me a while to get it but I do now. The last mental health nurse I talked to at our hospital was very gentle and understanding but made the point very clearly and I finally got it. It doesn't matter how hard I work for him, if he doesn't want help my work was wasted. If he does want help he'll work to get it for himself. Lightbulb!

    *We are all very lucky to have this board for support. I am always grateful!
  5. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Oh Barbara, I completely understand. And the reality tv shows made me giggle. Around here, we call it Horrified Fascination Television (HFTV for short), and we actually PVR some of the shows. (Money Moron is my current favourite).

    husband is Mr. Fixit, whereas I tend to hang back let the Monsterz figure stuff out on their own. I've watched husband tie himself up in knots trying to fix things for difficult child, Step-D, even his older sister who is a full-blown difficult child in her own right. I realized this was a huge issue when I saw that husband was still tying difficult child's shoes for him. At SIXTEEN!

    Over the years we've worked on this. A LOT! I have taught husband my stock phrase: "You're resourceful. What do you think you should do about that?"

    It really helps a lot. Important: do not put the emphasis on the word "you" or your difficult child will hear it as blame.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Oh sure! I am MUCH better at not getting involved (which, really, is just going to jump back into the drama) ...but the "hyper-vigilant" thing? I don't see THAT switch shutting off anytime soon! I have to keep reminding myself that I am "off-duty" now. I can breathe - I can do something just for me. I don't have to wrap my life and my schedule around difficult child issues.

    I just remembered that I can buy nice things!

    How fun will that be? :)
  7. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Daisy, that hyper-vigilant thing does take a long time to fade. It does go eventually, but it comes back very easily when needed. One of the many battle-scars, I guess.
  8. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Did you see the first Spiderman movie (the one with Toby MaGuire - not the newest one) ? There is a scene in which Peter Parker argues that he needs more money because he has to buy a car and the wrestling promoter didn't pay him enough. The promoter responds with "I forgot the part where that's MY problem!"

    That's OUR stock phrase around here.
  9. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    We did that, too! And bought cars. (Which would be destroyed in the strangest ways. Like, windshields broken with sledge hammers. More than once. difficult child's last car (which we hadn't bought her) wound up with a smashed windshield, too.

    We paid fines, Driver's License fees, deposits.

    We moved difficult child into, and out of, apartments we (mostly, husband) found for her.

    We got her registered for school time and again.

    Paid for books and parking tickets.

    I do understand why we do it. As Recovering said to me in one post or another, we are responding in the ways, and are doing the things, all responsible parents do for their children. The difference is that a difficult child is a difficult child. When I really stop and get it that my difficult child is nearing 40 (!) I can hardly believe the depth of emotion I (we) experience when things are going badly for our adult child.

    So, it looks like we never lose those parenting instincts.

    husband is more level-headed than I am about such things. He suffers because I suffer when all I think about, worry about, fixate on, is difficult child.

    This is something Recovering also said to me: As much joy as we would take in their successes, all the joy every parent takes in their successful children...these things are turned into worry, for the parent of a difficult child child. (Paraphrase ~ I could never write as Recovering does. She wrote it in such a way that I did not feel judged. I felt supported. :O) Anyway, the point being that we are not abnormal. We aren't such clinging parents, such people without a life, that we have created the situations with our difficult children, that we have smothered them into codependence so we would have something to do.

    I wonder about that. About causing this somehow through micro-managing. COULD THERE BE ONE MORE THING, ANYTHING AT ALL, LEFT FOR ME TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT, I WONDER?!?

    We are who parents are supposed to be. Family should be supportive, should help one another when that is required, should celebrate each others triumphs and have each other's backs.

    And do you know that is just what our difficult child says when she wants something to this day?

    They twist, and echo back the values we raised them with.

    And it works, every time.

    My goodness.


    Which is something I think about sometimes, when I realize that, at 40, difficult child is as adult as she is going to get, and I am still rescuing.
  10. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    The damage caused by years of hyper-vigilance is remarkable. In reading everyone's responses, I would venture to say that most of us here on this board suffer in some part from this kind of stress. And, letting it go takes an enormous effort. After awhile, it simply becomes who you are and what you do. I've been surrounded by difficult child's my entire life and the rest of my life has been about getting over them and what they bring to you.

    Barbara, I did that insane rescuing last year, flying all over handling stuff while my difficult child was in jail, trying to get her car out of impound, paying for her registration, paying, paying, paying, giving, giving, giving, worrying, worrying, worrying.............until one day I just broke, sitting in the car with my SO after having driven from town to town, getting all the wrong advice from police and authorities as to how to actually retrieve her car..............while she sat in jail, doing nothing. I cried and cried and cried, I felt like I just broke. In that moment, I could feel what all of this had done to me. Little by little after that moment, I started stepping back, one little step at a time. Each time it was hard, another loss, another pang of guilt but with massive amounts of support from therapy, groups, this board, lots of acupuncture, yoga, meditation, friends and an enormous commitment to change and find peace......... I continued in that process.

    If I could learn how to be that rescuer, that codependent, that hovering parent, I could UN-learn it, that was my philosophy. I could little by little unhook myself from the negative parts of the connection with my difficult child that didn't work for either one of us. I could untangle the massive knot that had developed over years of my taking responsibility for my daughter's choices and her life. In every way, it's been the most difficult thing I've ever had to do, because for me, it goes against my very nature, so I've had to learn tools I never would have learned if it weren't for my difficult child.

    It's been a process, I do think you can learn a new way of living and it requires that we see our own behaviors first. Like you are doing Barbara, noticing how it overtakes you, puts you in that drive to fix it which leaves reason and sanity behind and puts us in a powerful and extremely toxic vortex which literally takes us over. Getting out of that vortex is the first step. Learning to NOT go in it in the first place is the second step. Learning to step back and feel what you feel and not react is the third step. That one is tough, because now we have to sit in our own fears and guilt and anxieties. Yikes. It's almost easier to fix them! Then it feels like it's practice to keep stepping back and focusing on ourselves. Learning to take the focus off of 'them' and put it on us is quite the process, let me tell you. And, doing that in a loving way, a compassionate way, not an angry, get out of my life, way, is also filled with mine fields.

    I am noticing now how worry is a habit, trying to avert catastrophes had become my life's work. I am resigning from that job, it is clearly time to retire now. Every day I continue to choose love and joy and peace over worry and fear and guilt. It's working too, little by little, it really is working. So, there is hope. Keep it up.
  11. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Here is what I know about the housework thing: back when all this started happening with difficult child (years ago, when she was an adolescent), husband and I both just stopped doing anything but routine maintenance. Prior to that, we were so happy with our little family, with our house and the garden and all the little things that make a home. The way the sun shone into the dining room at breakfast, the way the grass looked, watered and freshly mowed. You know what I mean. After a while, we understood that we had come to believe that, no matter how beautifully we had believed we were doing, raising our family and making our way in the must somehow have been a fraud. We must have been wrong, gone wrong somewhere. And that our child was acting out, was the one suffering for it. (This actually dovetailed nicely with what family on both sides believed, given their responses to difficult child and their questions to and about, us.)

    That feeling lasted for a long time, actually.

    We eventually sold that house.

    And to this day, that house that we built when our children were young, that house that we thought was filled with love and good, healthy things ~ lots of family, lots of pets, lots of food and vacations and music ~ our memories of that house, and of those times, are haunted. Darkened.

    It wasn't until it happened again, just recently with difficult child, that we understood, just a little, that maybe, just maybe...our child had always had problems.

    That maybe all those things we had come to believe about ourselves, as parents and as people, needed to be re-evaluated.

    You and your family deserve to take joy in your lives. You deserve to take joy in and to celebrate, your beautiful home, your beautiful family, your incredible mate, the unmitigated wonder of what you have created, against all odds.

    So now? The first thing I do in the morning is put everything in order. I get onto husband about letting things go, about not having the heart to do what he planned to do, before this happened to us again. We are slower to do those good things for ourselves, now. Sometimes, we sort of snap out of it and make plans that, in another time, would have been a celebration of who we are, of the life we have chosen to create. The end result always tastes a little dusty. It's that same old "how can I enjoy all that I have when my child is in trouble and has nothing" scenario.

    Until I read that piece about housework?

    I thought we were the only ones.

  12. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    You are right, Recovering. It is about surviving intact. About making our ways through something so sad without becoming unhealthy. About accepting what is. Not judging it; not condemning our children or ourselves. Not even fighting it, anymore. Very difficult, to do that.

    OK. Me and my movie analogies. Does anyone remember "Apocalypse Now" (There is a question mark in there somewhere. I can't seem to punctuate correctly, today.) Anyway. Remember the scene where the Sheen boy's father confronts Marlon Brando? And it's so horrifying, because it is what it is?

    I'm going to have to watch that movie again. Doesn't the Sheen (Martin, right? Martin Sheen?) let the Marlon Brando character live?

    Because the whole situation is so crazy that he understands the Brando character's motivation/adaptation?

  13. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    The first thing I thought of when you mentioned the movie Apocalypse Now, is that 1. Martin Sheen had a nervous breakdown making that movie, perhaps even a heart attack, it was so stressful (and he was quite young at the time)....... And, 2. Francis Ford Copola had his own kind of breakdown directing it. The casualties that stress spits out is insidious and monumental.
  14. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    I think one of the hardest things for me to accept (if not the hardest thing) it that this is they way my difficult child IS - that at age 35 his personality is set. Unless of course he wants to change, which he shows zero signs of.

    He had never turned on me before and this girlfriend really influences him in a bad way. She had send me texts that I only cared for easy child and I had so much and did not help my difficult child son. Her idea of me helping is me sending a check each month. Not totally blaming her, it takes two, but he is a follower and she is not a stable person either.

    My stress was causing health problems and I was sleeping a lot, too tired to enjoy my hobbies. It doesn't come over night BUT once you finally come to terms with, and accept, all of our 'helping' has not turned their lives around it starts to be easier and you will find peace. Once my son was certain I could not be conned or guilted into 'helping' until he started helping himself he became angry and went NC.

    At first NC was more stress and scary after the family was angry about some of his posts on FB. No one knows where he is and there is no way to contact him. But, it gave me a chance to really step away and I forced myself to go back to the gym. Now, 6 months later, I will never get back into jumping through hoops for him. He has to find his own way. There is a lot of support out there for them, people that are trained and can't be manipulated as we can.

    in my opinion we are too close to the problem and let emotions take over. It still hurts, but I have the right to a life too.
  15. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member




  16. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    hahahahahah, no kidding, they have no idea...........
  17. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I know I've posted this here before, so forgive me if I'm repetitive, but this phrase from my therapist helped me above all, when I was in my worst "rescuing" mode:

    "You're working harder than she is."

    It just summed it up perfectly for me. Why should I spend my time and effort (and sometimes money) researching options for my difficult child, when she's spending little to no effort? Why should I expend more energy worrying about my difficult child's situation than she is? She wasn't worried about it.. what's the point of me worrying? Whenever I fall into those old patterns, my therapist will say, "you're doing it again. Working harder than she is." I've learned to say it to myself, as well. It helps immensely, and that little phrase has stopped me from enabling many, many times. I practially had it written on a virtual post-it-note in my head at one point. Eventually, I got it. I'm not working for them any more. Not my job.

    I still have PTSD reactions to certain situations. I probably always will. That moment I hear the latest difficult child escapade and my brain and heart go into the endless "what if" cycle of thinking (obsessing, really). It happens less frequently these days, though, and is shorter-lived. I recognize it for what it is, and am able to kick myself in the butt to stop it. If I don't, my therapist does.

    Thereapy, practice, and time are what I credit with getting me to this point. As RE says, it's a process. It doesn't happen quickly. It's taken me years. You have to forgive yourself for failing along the way. But as I said in an earlier post, each time I react the RIGHT way, it's a win for me -- and that feels good. I like feeling good (after appropriate boundaries/reactions) better than I like feeling bad (after enabling and panicked reactions). :)
  18. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Nicely put CiV, thanks.
  19. nerfherder

    nerfherder Active Member

    It will sound a bit odd to say, but I envy y'all. You "get" to step back, once you choose to. Kiddo can't function on her own no matter how much I wish it. If she could, I'd like to think she'd want to.

    Weekend before last, she broke a window in her space in the midst of a tantrum. I replaced it yesterday with plexiglas (expensive stuff.) The floor on her side of the cottage has the tiles lifting off because of her heavy-handed (and footed, and arsed...) way of moving her body, and she's not heavy - about 120 lbs at 5'3". She breaks stuff, not even because she's trying to break stuff, but because of her broken proprioceptive awareness. I have a hose hydrant (rural thing, picture a hose bib on a 3 or 4 foot standing pipe) that I have to dig up and re-glue because she's so bad at knowing how much physical effort to put into something. Everytime she uses it to water the livestock there's a huge puddle at its base from making the joint loose. When I built her bed, I screwed the frame to the wall (instead of legs against the wall. Took about two months and one day she goes to bed, her bed's at a 30* angle when I get there, she didn't notice to say "My bed is broken." I had to rebuild it with extra legs because she sits so heavy she ripped the joins right out of the wall.

    Everytime she manages to steal food or take ANYTHING without asking and I am notified, it's like that knife in the gut. Two days ago Blacksmith noticed someone's been taking his medicinal breathing teabags - expensive stuff - and while I noticed none in our trash, she's also slick enough to hide some of the trash so I'll find it eventually. So I have to now, when we get in the main house in the morning, take everything she might get into out of the common room and keep it in the kitchen with me while I'm doing the breakfast routine.

    Yes, personal space organization suffers. I have to keep anything important locked or she'll get into it. If I have a form lying around she'll try and fill it out. She'll fill out permission slips for school trips that have nothing to do with her. She'll fill out order forms and who knows what else. It just never ends. I don't know how I'm going to be the first few weeks after she moves out, but I doubt it'll be entirely rational.
  20. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    When is she moving, Nerf?

    And where is she going?

    You are right. A situation like your daughter's would be heart-breaking, would be all-consuming.

    Gentle hugs, Nerf.