Her PTSD caused MY PTSD

I like to write breezy, optimistic posts.  I am generally a breezy, optimistic person.  However, I also write this blog for my own stress relief. so readers are going to have to bear with me for this one.

Marie had a bad day at school yesterday.  (Well, to say “bad day” is akin to saying wave when it was really a tsunami.)  Marie had been doing very well this past year and we had not an ambulance run for a post traumatic stress episode since last February!  She still had her moments of outbursts in school for which she was gently placed in “the quiet room”, but she had always managed to calm herself down without a need for restraining or other interventions.  However, springtime is the anniversary of her removal from her birth mom. Also, we had spent the past few months finally discussing the abuse that had happened 5 years ago, including going to the police station and filing a report. (A warrant for the arrest of one of the men who had abused her had been issued, but the man had fled the country.)

Although we had always known that Marie was abused, it was only recently that she has felt comfortable discussing the details.  Whether she only recently remembered them, or whether she only recently felt confident enough to tell is in question.  Her pediatrician recently referred us to a center which has a wonderful program for individuals with disabilities and children who have been sexually abused, but I had not contacted them yet as I was waiting for a copy of the police report, (a requirement for service.)  I fear my negligence at doing so right away contributed to Marie’s PTSD episode yesterday.

By the time I arrived at the school, she had been actively violent and dissociative for over an hour.  She was not being restrained, but was in the “quiet room”, not so quietly destroying it.  The staff watched from the doorway as she ripped tape off the blackboard (which had been taped with foam so as not to be harmful during a tantrum.)  She threw the tape, then pieces of the foam and the blackboard, at the doorway.  When she is like this, she has super human strength and could level any person with one swoop of her hand, which is why the staff was wisely standing in the doorway.  I stepped into the room to try to calm her, but she did not  recognize me. She came at me wild eyed, swinging and spitting.  (Think Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”) I retreated as her violence escalated, at which point 911 was called.  By the time the police, ambulance and firemen arrived she had wrapped the masking tape tightly around her wrists to stop her circulation and had gone over and ripped the radiator cover off the wall.  It took 8 men to subdue her, and several of them were kicked, bitten and punched. They had great concern because she was spitting at them, as blood borne pathogens are the scourge of all medical personnel.  (HIV?  Hepatitis?)  Even as I was warning them not to, they tried to put a mask on her face.  She has been through this before, and she is an expert at biting down on the mask, chewing on it and has at least one time, almost swallowed it. As she began to do so, they replaced it with a towel over her face.  They used towels to restrain her arms and legs which were swinging with great force in all directions.  She was then placed on the ambulance stretcher and whisked off to the ambulance.  All this time, she was screeching with a guttural sound that one would associate with the depths of hell.

They asked me to follow the ambulance to the hospital, which felt surreal, like a high speed video game. It’s a good thing I have nerves of steel because we drove at high speeds through the streets bypassing red lights.  At one red light, a car was in the middle of the road and the ambulance went around it on the left while I went around it on the right, just like you see on those high speed chases in movies. But it was me, a little old 55 year overweight mom, in the driver’s seat!  If it weren’t for such a serious situation, it almost would have been fun.

At the hospital, it was routine.  They knew her there.  First it was the transfer from the ambulance stretcher onto the emergency room stretcher. This move takes a great precision as the hospital restraints had to be transferred onto her arms and legs.   If this was not done quickly, an arm or a leg would become loose and would go flying for a swift, hard kick or hit. One worker did not duck and he was kicked on the side of the head. Once on the hospital stretcher, everyone backed away as the towel was removed from her face, and her spitting began anew.  The security guards donned masks with clear shields on them, making it look more like a science fiction  movie.  She was thrashing about, banging her head on the side of the stretcher.  They put a padding on the side, which she quickly grabbed onto with her mouth and began to bite through.

Fortunately, she was evaluated quickly due to the distress she was in.  She was given a shot of a tranquilizer, and her fighting and spitting quieted.  The wild look was gone from her eyes.  She calmed down, blinked and huge tears began to roll down her cheeks. She looked around and was confused as to where she was. Her eyes pleaded with me to ask the doctor unhook the restraints as she can only talk with her hands because she is deaf.  Because she was calm, they unhooked one hand so she was able to finger spell what she wanted.  She spelled out p-o-s-i-c-l-e! (She had obviously been to this emergency room several times before and she knew what they had to offer.)  She signed her throat hurt but she didn’t know why.  (Maybe from all the SCREAMING she had done for the last hour?)

She was calm and her restraints were completely removed.  A psychiatrist was to evaluate her, and I asked for a sign language interpreter. Five hours later she was evaluated.  She proceeded to tell the doctor that in school she has a hard time controlling her anger inside and when she gets angry over the least little thing she cannot control the anger and she explodes.  He asked why she was so angry and she thought about it a minute before she proceeded to tell him the story of how she was angry at her birth mom because she let men have sex with her, and she was angry at the men for hurting her.  This was the interpreter’s first time on the job, and she expertly interpreted all of the sordid details.  When Emily had finished with the story and the doctor left the room, the interpreter stepped outside the room.  She was clearly shaken, trying to hold back tears.  “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to do this!” she said.  I reassured her that we use an interpreter often and this is the first time this difficult subject has come up.  Next time maybe she’ll interpret for a wedding or a school play, definitely something less difficult.

Because PTSD can happen at any time, it is unpredictable.  The doctor did not recommend hospitalization.  (Marie LOVES when she is hospitalized…all the popsicles she can eat, doesn’t have to go to school or do chores, and everyone dotes on her because she is so adorable.  What’s not to like?)  We did discuss getting her into counseling with the center for abuse, and a referral was made.  Because there are no counselors or social workers in our area trained in American Sign Language, Marie will have to have an interpreter for counseling sessions, not the preferable manner, but for now it is the only way.

Marie was in good spirits when we left the hospital.  She was skipping and smiling.  She had no memory of what had happened before she came to the hospital, and I was glad of that.  I have that memory, though, and I get flashbacks of the screaming and the cold, wild eyes.  Her PTSD has caused my PTSD!


Comments on: "Her PTSD caused MY PTSD" (30)

  1. There is a special spot in heaven waiting for parents like you some day. What a tragic life this child has had. Thank God she found you – or you found her.

    I’m glad you are able to write it all. Writing it down must help you so much. I helps me, and I do not have to deal with such traumatic circumstances with my children. Nowhere near it. Even two of my grandchildren, who are a source of pain to the rest of the family, have no such problems. I will hold Marie in my heart.

  2. I’m so sorry Marie and you had to go through that. I’m especially sorry this world has people like her bio mother and those men in it! Makes me sick. Prayiing for God’s healing in Marie’s life.

  3. I can’t even imagine the horror that little girl has experienced in her life, and thank God she has you and your husband, who can see beyond the “symptoms” of what she has gone through. So many people talk about wanting to make a difference, and you do every day.

  4. You are an amazing parent.
    And the power of emotions being contagious is never lost on me.

  5. I am fighting tears as I respond to this. So much for this little girl to deal with…and for YOU as her new adopted mom. Her dissociativeness protects her, but you are stuck with the reality of what happened. I feel, too, for that interpreter. Bravo to her for sticking it out.

  6. I have no idea how you manage to cope. And yes, of course you needed a laugh today. I am happy that I could supply it. Thanks for the visit.

  7. I can only repeat what everyon else has written — I don’t know how you do what you do. I raised my own four children who were/are as normal as anyone can get and while they had their problems from time to time there was never anything even remotely similar to what you have written about! I’m glad I could help give you a smile/laugh. Thanks for visiting. There is no doubt a very special place in heaven for those who do what you do. Thank you.


  8. I accidentally (or not) found your blog via Laurie Buchanan’s Speaking From the Heart blog about Funny Bones, and just wanted to take a moment to say that I’m in awe of your willingness to accept responsibility for the lives of these beautiful children, and as a survivor myself of PTSD, I recognize that the journey is difficult not only for the person in question, but for those around them. What a beautiful way you have with words, and thanks for sharing this glimpse into a day in the life of Maria and Mom. Peace to your generous soul.

  9. I can’t imagine what that young girl has faced previously. Thanks for sharing this story and the supportive role that you play.

  10. You tell a good story. Your description of the workers involved in Marie’s episode is thorough and compassionate. I choked up over the poor neophyte interpreter.

    I hope you and Marie were able to relax and recover over the weekend.

  11. Ana Badra said:

    At moments like these, when you or a loved one is in danger, it’s amazing how strong a human can be.

    Poor Maire, I hope she feels ok, and I glad to hear news about the warrant for the arrest of that man.

    You’re really special, your kids are so lucky to have you!

  12. I just wanted to comment on how much I admire what you are doing. Those children are so lucky to have you.

  13. Your kids are lucky to have you.


  14. I am sorry for the horrible day… and I can only imagine the stress (PTSD) you had from it all…

  15. I just read thru the last 4-5 post and my lord you are a wonderous woman with some beautiful children. How lucky you all are to have found each other.

    I’ll be back for more. 😉

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Its appreciated more than you know.

  16. Because I Said So said:

    Good Lord, you are one amazing woman! Your family makes mine seem normal and I don’t mean that in a bad way, normal is not all it is cracked up to be, lol. How do you find the strength, energy to do what you do?

  17. iwonderbee said:

    I had tears in my eyes as I read this. My heart goes out to Marie – no child should ever ever have to endure the abuse she went through. I will keep her and you in prayer.

  18. Kirsten Lesko said:

    What an angel you are. And poor Marie. This blog is unbelievable.

  19. Marie is my reality check! Is it good not remembering the screaming episode? Just a thought. I am going to continue reading backwards 🙂

  20. My wife is DID. My situation is not yours, but if anyone ever restrained my girls (her insiders) I’d go ballistic. The worst possible thing (in my very ignorant opinion knowing only my wife’s insiders) they can do is physically restrain her. Keep her safe from self injury, but do NOT bind her. Her insiders must be terrified when they do that. I hurt for them so badly.

    • 5kidswdisabilities said:

      I certainly agree that restraint is the absolute last resort and done only to keep her from getting hurt. If there were a way to give her a shot of whatever it is they gave her in the hospital to calm her right down, that would be my first alternative. However, they cannot do that in school, and she is so violent that it is dangerous to go anywhere near her. I would love to find an alternative. You’ve just given me a great idea, though. I think I will request that they put in a padded quiet room where there would be nothing she could hurt herself on….

      • Dear

        As I reread your blog, I wanted to respond to the pain I hear. First I am NOT a professional. However, I AM the “daddy” to my wife’s insiders and have brought “my girls” (her insiders) through trigger episodes, though admittedly none as you described.

        Secondly, I want to reassure you that you did nothing wrong. From what you wrote, the “professionals” from the hospital have already cast the die so to speak. However, the following quote is from the ISSTD guidelines off of their website:

        “The use of “voluntary” physical restraints to control a violent alternate identity while working through trauma is no longer considered an appropriate intervention.”

        In other words, the professionals who are dealing with your daughter are NOT acting according to professional guidelines.

        Let me paint a picture for you of what I believe is happening. You are NOT a participant in The Exorcist movie. What is happening is your daughter has an insider that is being triggered by some event. Most likely this insider holds the memories of her past sexual abuse. The only thing this insider knows is she is scared, she is alone, and big men hurt her. When she comes out, because of the ineptitude of the local professionals, they are reconfirming her terror and thus she is frantic and terrified.

        You need to develop a plan with a professional so that the next time your daughter’s insider is triggered, she is dealt with significantly differently. Unless the insider is suicidal, the worst thing you can do is have this insider physically restrained. That reconfirms her terror that “big men hurt me.” You need to find someone who physically is able to withstand the “fury” of this insider, not allowing himself or herself to be harmed, but calming this insider down as she vents her terror. Because she is deaf, this person needs to learn the signs for “It is ok. You are safe. You are not alone. No one is going to hurt you,” and whatever other phrases would help calm this insider down and ground her in the present. They need to understand how to deal with an insider! Because your daughter’s insider has been repeatedly retraumatized by local authorities I would suggest 1) you find new “professionals” to help who understand how to properly work with a triggered insider, and 2) expect it to take multiple times to connect with this now deeply traumatized insider.

        Personally I think a nonprofessional could connect better with the insider than a professional because of the “ethics” concerns that a professional has to contend with. They are not allowed excessive physical contact and when my girls are traumatized, they WANT their daddy (me) to hold them and comfort them, just like any other normal little girl.

        But don’t give up hope! It took me over a year to reconnect with my wife’s defender. In fact, I was her traumatizer for 20 years because neither my wife nor I understood that she was dissociating while we were being intimate. But with time, perseverance and a lot of tears (on my part) I was able to drain the hatred out of her, and now she is one of “my girls” and a delightful one at that who is moving toward healing. If you can find someone who is able to withstand the “storm” when your daughter’s insider is triggered, and weather out that storm until they can connect and communicate that she is safe now, this insider WILL respond.

        Blessings to you.

    • Sam, I read what you wrote here…both posts…but the setup only allows me to reply to your first post. The first thing I thought of when I read the original post was that this little girl is most likely a multiple. I was not in a good place to even begin to broach that subject. I am glad that you were able to give this mom a perspective that I was unable to…and some solid counsel.

      One more thought to consider…your wife is NOT a disorder. I know it may sound nitpicky to some, but I think part of healing is to separate who we are from the disorder(s) we have. She is not DID…she HAS DID. There is a huge difference. Again…maybe nitpicking…but I know it is a significant difference for me. Maybe it does not matter with her.

      • Yes, I never think of her as a “disorder.” In fact, it’s been the most sane part of our marriage now that I understand what is going on. Sorry if I made it seem any other way. But I appreciate you pointing that out so that others don’t get the wrong idea!

  21. I, too, am fighting tears. Your poor little girl! It breaks my heart to think about what she has gone through. What a big heart you have to deal with the aftermath and help her to come into her own. ((Hugs))

  22. Linda in New Mexico said:

    As I have posted to you in the past, my grandson is Autistic. He has an only recently recognized sexual abuse in his short 5 year past. We will not know who until her is able, if ever, to tell us. But he too has PTSD. I ache for him because he isn’t able to integrate his feelings afterwards and after reading Sam’s and One Survivors post…I now wonder if he doesn’t have DID. He is in therapy, thank goodness, and his counselor and the oversite Phychiatrist are wonderful but delving into the abuse is in and of itself painful for him and has prolonged his episodes. I know I need to be patient and let the process play out and intend to but it does not make it any easier to watch. I ache for him.
    I am in such awe of you. You are a wonder. I so enjoy reading your blog and observing how I should be as a participant in a special someone’s life. Thanks.

  23. UGH. People who abused children with disabilities will go to a special place in hell. (I could describe what will happen to them in hell, but I will stop myself.) I don’t understand how they can do something so terrible to such innocent people.

  24. My heart goes out to you as I am also an adoptive mother of a wonderfully courageous , now 18 year old, who is diagnosed Dissociativ Identity Disorder with PTSD. Please follow the information on the ISSTD, plus information internet search of Dr. Richard. P. Kluft, and read all you can of living with DID. Holy Gray’s Blog on the http://www.healthyplace.com, author of Dissocuiative Living is another excellent source of informaiton.

    I am sorry I do not have much time to reply, as I would like, but I came across your blog during my preparation of materail for our local children’s hospiltal emergency department manager on DID with PTSD in the emergency department when an episdoe is not presenting, but rather normal medical issues. Your child need a special protocol at the hospital she is using. Another point I need to make; please seek a theapist with experience in treating trauma and DID, or your child will not come out of the hell she lived … an she deserves to. She is not the fault of any of this … she is a survivor!

    I homeschooled my daughter from grade 7 to 11 through the years of hell, she is now attending a small private school for children with differences. She will be continuing on to university to study psychology with a goal to treat youth from trauma.

    Continue to be her support, be flexable, never let her see you doubt her. Co-conscious states allow for her to hear what peoples are saying whether she is totally aware of this or not. This will come out with propler therapy.

    I am currently educating myself to join the professinal world of DID treatment providers. Through my daughter I found my mission in life. You will too!

    Gotta go … no time to spell check or proof read! Deadline to catch!

    Sherry, Canada

  25. Wow, what a very difficult time that was for both you and your daughter! I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go through all of that. May God bless you both and strengthen you in your battle for her good health. I can’t understand how a birth mother could be so unfeeling as to allow her child to suffer what your adopted daughter suffered. It is beyond disgusting and disturbing.

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