Mental Health

Parenting, Trauma Recovery, & Mother’s Day 

I’m really struggling with parenting my youngest daughter. If you’ve been following along, you already know the story: She’s 8 and experiences High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Within the past couple of months, her behavior at school and at home has been increasing with episodes of violence and other extreme behavior. She has attributed some of the violence to a . . . being, if you will, that she has given a name to and calls her “dark side.” I see, saw, this as typical childhood behavior, when a child chooses to do something they know they shouldn’t but do anyway and blame on an imaginary being.

She had a psychiatric evaluation last week, to confirm, medically, that the autism is a thing . . . the educational identification and identification through Developmental Disability Services is not sufficient in order for her to receive in-home therapies she needs which are covered by medicaid. Anyway, the evaluator is concerned that this being my daughter’s attributing the violence to is a sign of early onset psychosis. Risperdal is being recommended to address both the behaviors and the potential psychosis. It never occurred to me that “Moonlight” might be more than a typical childhood phase. Silly me.

You may think to yourself that what I’m about to share is expected behavior in how many children may react to their mothers/parents, especially during adolescence. That may be true. However, with the autism spectrum issues, three things are massively escalated: intensity, frequency, and duration. Plus it’s behavior that typically doesn’t start until 14-16 years of age in my own experiences as a kid and with her, now adult, siblings.

Multiple times a day we go through a litany of behaviors, on repeat:

  • Piercing, top of the lung screaming. No words, just a nearly glass shattering, ear ringing screaming.
  • Verbal abuse: I hate you. I wish you were dead/in heaven. I wish I never had a mom like you. You’re fat. I wish I didn’t have a mom with white hair. Basically, anything she thinks will get a reaction and will hurt my feelings.
  • Hitting, kicking, head butting. Now, she’s also using one of her main toys to attack me with.
  • Oppositional Defiant behavior: ie. “lalalala” whenever I start speaking. Doing the very thing she’s been told not to do, then running and laughing when I move to give her the consequences, are just a couple of examples.

Intellectually, I know that these things are informed by and related to the autism, or, at the very least, the autism affects her ability to self-regulate, causing the frequency, duration, and intensity of these behaviors.

However, all of these things trigger enough anger in me, that it’s just this side of being rage. I often have feelings of resentment towards her. I don’t like feeling this way about my child, whom I love dearly. It’s pretty messed up, if you ask me.

I discussed this with my therapist when I saw her a couple of weeks ago and I plan on discussing it when I see her again today. It turns out this is actually common among parents, especially those of the same gender as their children, who have experienced childhood trauma: physical, sexual, and/or mental/emotional abuse. Neglect on either physical or emotional levels is also a source of childhood trauma.

It seems that this resentment I feel is “normal,” even if it isn’t acceptable. She gets to have the life I couldn’t have when I was her age.

My stepfather began sexually molesting me when I was 8 years old. I don’t remember my mother being physically present, much less mentally or emotionally present. I don’t know how many times we had moved from one city or state to another. My stepfather was my second before the time I was 6 years old. I never had my birth father involved in my life as a child.

My daughter may have her problems, but, being sexually molested and not having a relationship with her dad isn’t one of them. She’s been in the same school since kindergarten and attended the same Head Start and Early Head Start programs before that. I’ve lived in this apartment for almost 7 years. Even though I have my emotional and mental health issues and struggle with being present in those ways, I’ve always made sure to be present as much as possible. She nursed until she was almost 3 years old and, because of the autism factors, still co-sleeps with us. She requires me to hold her throughout the night.

This isn’t to say that she hasn’t experienced her own trauma. She has. It’s just been in a different context and more as a witness than experiencing it firsthand – other than the interactions where we both feel that I’ve turned into “monster mommy,” with the yelling and mean face and physically forcing her to do things like take a shower, brush her teeth, and use the bathroom.

However, she’s experiencing the stability and safety of a childhood that was never possible for me. Additionally, many of the things she says to me are the same or similar to things I said to my mother weeks before she turned guardianship of me over to her brother, went back to Houston, and committed suicide. Intellectually, I know and understand that it was her undiagnosed and untreated mental illness(es) which led to her suicide. However, that doesn’t stop my subconscious from rising up every time my daughter says and does the things she does and remind me of how horribly I treated my mother.

These are the things this mother is dealing with this Mother’s Day.

 

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23 thoughts on “Parenting, Trauma Recovery, & Mother’s Day ”

  1. I cannot imagine coping with this day in and day out. I’m so sorry for both of you.

    My youngest granddaughter has OCD and was always attacking her mother and blaming her for everything bad, and my daughter was a fantastic mother. There seemed to be no reason for the verbal and sometimes physical attacks except that my granddaughter had these huge, painful fears and emotions that she couldn’t handle.

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    1. Big feelings are big feelings no matter the cause, source, or age. We all act out when overwhelmed by them – either because we don’t have healthy coping skills or because the feelings get so big & overwhelming that they override the skills we have.

      OCD is debilitating for many adults. I can’t begin to imagine how it would be for a child.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My heart always goes out to parents of children on the autism spectrum. Parenting is hard, but being a parent of an autistic child is even harder. You are not alone and you can do this! It’s so amazing that you can provide a better childhood for your children then you had growing up.

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  3. Oh wow, how this touched my heart. I had a traumatic childhood too, and it has affected SO MANY aspects of my daily life, including how I mother my children, and how I feel about being their mother. I have times when I resent them too, because they’re “normal” children who are sometimes self-centered or ungrateful. They’ll ask for something specific for dinner, and I’ll make it, and then they don’t want it, and it enrages me because I grew up lucky if there was a box of plain noodles in the house. And then I feel horrible … they just come at it with a different series of circumstances, specifically because I have worked so hard to ensure that they never live the way I did.

    Still, it haunts me, and it doesn’t help that I have PTSD, my oldest has ADHD/ODD, and my youngest has ADHD/OCD. I spend a lot of time frustrated and overwhelmed, and it just makes everything seem more extreme.

    You aren’t alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing part of your story. I hope that reading mine was helpful in knowing that you, also, are not alone. It’s challenging parenting children with special needs, more so when you’re also dealing with recovery from trauma. We’ll get there and get them there to the best of our abilities.

      Blessings

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I understand. My son has autism and has his own challenges. It can be difficult, but I just try to find ways to help him out. I’m so sorry what happened to you as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My friends little girl had Autism and is non verbal. It is so hard to watch her struggle to get her point across with out words. It can be challenging when she has meltdowns. Now she is 7 and is getting so strong.

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    1. That is hard. I can only imagine the impact of non-verbal. My girl is quite verbal, but, she continually wants me to guess what her version of sign language means. (((HUGS))) to your friend.

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  6. I cannot even begin to grasp the feelings that you feel mama. As a mama though, what I can offer you is support and an ear to listen if you ever need someone to talk to. I know it’s rough but just know that this is an obstacle in your way and you will overcome this, as will your daughter. Things are rough right now, but won’t be always. ❤

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  7. Hugs to you, mommy. Take it one day at a time. For me, what I experienced was a reversal of roles when my mom suddenly fell ill with Major Depressive disorder. She is fine now, but for a while I was functioning as the mom and her my child. It was hard, but through patience and prayers we were able to pass it.

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  8. What a vulnerable post. I know Mothers Day is supposed to be about mother worship, praises, grace and flowers but it just may not be a beautiful for everyone. I am sorry to hear about your daughters dark episodes, try getting her to listen to soothing music and even some cheerful guided meditation. I am happy you are seeking counseling but definitely I am sure you will need some for your past and present. And lastly sorry to hear about your mom and her mental illness that lead to her end of life. This is why talking to a professional is extremely important trauma doesnt just go away…

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