Monday, January 14, 2013

First Anniversary Lists II: Attachment Disorders

An attachment disorder can be very isolating. Whether your experience is as a parent, as someone with an attachment disorder yourself, or in dealing with someone close to you, knowing others are in the same boat can help you feel less alone. Count us in on your AD boat, friend, and read on!

Here are some things I wish I had done and/or known earlier about Attachment Disorders:

Attachment Disorders

1. Get professional help. Healing attachment disorders is tricky and time-consuming and entails very specific directives rarely (if ever) arrived at through trial and error.

Most loving, engaged parents or caregivers will never come to therapeutic parenting by their own logic. Parenting an attachment disordered child can be counterintuitive and require you to do things that defy your culture and instincts in order to help your child heal. Caring closely/intimately for any person with this potentially debilitating disorder will entail similar adaptations.

2. Several readers came to FSM casually, only to suspect -- having learned more herein -- that they or a loved one might have an attachment disorder. While I am not a neurologist or psychiatrist (big disclaimer!), I am a pragmatist. I do hold that in some cases if a model of care works for you, professional diagnosis may be a secondary concern (disclaimer: of course, see #1!). 

3. Whether you are dealing with a child or an adult, a loved one or an unloved one, or yourself, know that disordered actions – however manipulative, cunning, cruel, sneaky, dishonest, controlling or aggressive -- come from deep pain and fear. If you are truly experiencing an attachment disorder, you will need this compassion in times to come.

4. In an attachment disordered context, therapeutic parenting means setting strong boundaries and following through on every. single. goshdang little thing in order to build feelings of safety and trust.  

We were able to see instant positive results in many areas when we shifted to this form of care. Tantrums, for example, have been a great field of progress for us (so long as I handle them as advised; every once in awhile I am all, “&&%$# it!” and then things can get ugly: once the tantrum train is in motion it is VERY hard to stop). Other aspects of our lives have progressed much more gradually, and some have seemingly not changed at all.

Take note of emotional and practical steps forward and remember them during difficult moments and times when being a boundary vigilante has you bushed.

5. That said, you will get tired. It will sometimes be hard to see your child’s (or another person’s, or your own)  heart through the oft-constant challenges and maneuvers. The more attached an attachment disordered person gets, the more they push – because they care, and are scared about that caring.

One thing that works for us is for me to get close to Z and really look at her, and into her eyes. Pausing that way, and letting the love rise to the surface – though not something I am always willing or able to do – almost always reminds me of the truth of our relationship. It reminds me that we should none of us be defined only by the manifestations of our pain.

Humor works, too. Actually being funny in those very special moments is Not Bloody Likely. So what about the absurd? “Oh yeah? You are going to tell me that you did not take this rotten food item that is hidden in your pillowcase? Well, I am going to tell you that I am going to Get in that SPACESHIP out there and fly to a planet where everybody wears pillowcases full of rotten food at all times. And if you Don’t wear your rottenfoodpillow you are very WEIRD. So I am out of here.”

Give yourself a break, and another chance. Same for others.

6. Get support. Find others who are faced with this unique challenge and lean on them for advice, mutual comfort, and commiseration, as well as for the sharing of hopes and progress.

You are not alone. Probably, you are doing your best.  Here’s to hope, love, humor, strength, patience and second (and third…) chances…

Next week: Anniversary List III.

Full Spectrum Mama

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