Caroline Marie

caroline marie

caroline marie
northern city, United States
July 24
Temperamental Story Teller
posts will tell


APRIL 9, 2012 5:54PM

Where Do All the Bad Feelings Go?

Rate: 13 Flag

My daughter woke up as a two-year-old today.

She cried, screamed and wailed like only a toddler can. Her shrieks sounded like "waaaah, waaaaah."  At one point, she kept repeating "I'm hungry, I'm hungry" while her breakfast was right in front of her. I believe she repeated it for a solid fifteen or twenty minutes.  I think she might have forgotten how to feed herself.

I am trying to use words to describe the scene that went on this morning, but I don't think I can accurately convey how frightening this mental breakdown was to witness. You will have to trust me when I say that yes all 7th graders act like toddlers to some extent, but this is different. Terrifyingly different.

When this was happening I got on the phone with our mental health case worker. She could hear the wailing and the repeating of the same phrase over and over in the background. I had to decide if I should take my girl to the hospital. I decided to take her to school instead.

Sometimes I let her stay two-years-old and will talk, comfort and generally treat her as such. But other times, like today--the first day back to school after spring break--I push her into trying to function in the outside world. I rely on my instincts to tell me when to nurture and when to strengthen her "coping" muscle, or perhaps more accurately, when to create new grooves in her brain.

There are some people in my life who will criticize either choice I make. Fortunately, there are even more people in my life who support me and my parenting instincts.

The holistic integrative clinic that Penny goes to prescribed valium for her breakdowns, probably the same thing she would be given at the hospital. I have not yet picked up the prescription. I feel very uneasy about teaching Penny to take a chill pill when she feels too yucky. On the other hand, I am relieved to have this as an option when she gets too out of control.

Here's the thing. Penny has an unbearable (to her) amount of grief, rage and probably shame inside of her. It is a bottomless pit as evidenced by the fact that none of the following things have yet reduced their presence in her soul:

1)Giving her free range to scream, sob, hit, throw, stomp: get it out.

2)Nearly 6 years of talk therapy

3) Several alternative therapies, including biofeedback, therapeutic massage, etc

4) Medication.  This alleviates some of the behaviors and symptoms, but all the bad feelings are still there

5) Therapeutic parenting. 

I often ask myself: what is the goal here? Can she ever scream and wail long enough to empty the well? Can she ever learn to talk, use her coping skills to reason the feelings away? Can we empty the well or is the goal simply to subdue (medicate, etc.) for now? If she is at a point where she wants to hold onto the feelings and refuses to be healed-- is the goal to prop her up just long enough to get a basic education, get through adolesence, etc?

What am I trying to do? 

Until very recently I was quite naive. I honestly used to think that some of the above methods could heal a broken soul.

Penny's school got out 10 minutes ago. Will she just take the city bus as usual? Will she call me for a ride? Will she wander off aimlessly, like a toddler? I am sitting here on pins and needles. 


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
just don't try to convince me that all 7th graders act like this
Wow. A Penny for my thoughts.
Bad feelings never die. You can't scream them out. You just figure out the best way to deal with them (tell that to a child), and the last resort would be drugs I think, but I can imagine a bad memory like a nuclear reactor: even if it melts down it just falls deeper into the earth.

I know this is so easy to say and all I can really do is pray (God help you and her). At least you have found a way to cope. We're here. We're listening as best we can.

Thank you Ash for the prayers and understanding. love the nuclear reactor comparison.
Caroline--I have so little to contribute here, other than support. I think Ash is right though, the bad feelings are always there. Kind of like someone going through grief therapy--all the therapy in the world can't make the person who has died come back. What grief therapists are working toward is integration, integrating the loss into the person's daily life. Not healing, but some kind of different life that includes the impossibility of that loss.

My only contribution is my dog. We joke that he has PTSD, and it's really not a joke. He was a stray until 1 year old. We don't really know what happened, other than he lived on the street, survived by his wits, and came to us terrified of everything. He will probably always be fearful of new situations. He will probably always run away from any long-handled implement (stick, shovel, broom, flyswatter). He hates the garbage truck and the school bus. He throws up in the car from anxiety. He runs away from his food and water when we get near while he's eating, as if he's still saying, "It's OK! You can have my food. Just don't bite me." But little by little, he acts more like a dog. He wags his tail for walks. He hangs out with us. After two years with us, he actually barked in the house two days ago, because he was happy. He looked like he surprised even himself.

I know that Penny isn't a dog. But it's been so fascinating to watch this character continue to heal after a traumatic puppyhood--far into what I would consider his "adulthood." I don't know if "healing"--implying it's all better now--is a reasonable goal, but maybe some way to integrate her traumatic early years into adulthood.

Good luck.
I really can't even imagine what it means to negotiate a life with a child who has intense special needs. And I won't congratulate you on your heroism for adopting her -- because I know that's not why you did it, and because heroism is a DRAG in real life. I'm just wishing you the best as you work your way through. The teen years are tough for any kid, with everything magnified (I wouldn't repeat my 7th-8th grade years for a zillion dollars, and I was a "standard" teen.) She may yet emerge as the better version of herself, and continue on that path.
I don't have any wonderful advice I'm afraid but I am here as a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen. I wish I had more to offer...
Everything Bell said. If I could send you strength I would give you all I have.r
rated, I wish I had something to share. Maybe we become desensitized to the bad feelings after time.
I'm a big fan of going with your instincts, seeking help when necessary and even resorting to meds if you can see that they work. Nothing wrong with letting her know all of the above. The more she can own her bad feelings, the more strength she might build to conquer then. I feel your pain, and hers.
So many people who've commented have shared such wise thoughts and comforting words. I can only echo them, but like many of them have said, I wish I could do more. Your motherly instincts here came out in full force and I feel like it's one of the first times I've read a post by you where there seems to be that confidence. You are strong enough to get through this, and you are so good for Penny. I wish both of you luck.
caroline marie, i'm so glad you mailed this to me. here's my take for whatever it's worth. I adopted at birth a child who was happy until age five. After that, all went downhill for a variety of reasons. She won't do therapy nor meditation. She did however have a respite for four years in high school, but then colleges have been hard for her and she is very hard on me. i know directly those meltdowns and though Penny no doubt has a harder road now, i totally believe in you and in herself. unlike most of the comments i do believe with the right kind of therapy like cognitive thinking therapy or whatever you find or stumble upon in the years ahead, such deep pain can be healed to a serious degee. If i didn't believe in that, based on my 20 years as a psychologist, then how did i see so many adults in so much pain become more at ease.

Also i think life is about context. Like her current school and after the break she regesses and terrifies you but there is a reason, even if it seems like it was always this bad, i believe from reading you carefully that there have been and will be better times. I don't know how it will happen but i take myself here as one who was wounded very early by a destructive mom, that at my core is that pain but over the years i did learn to not wallow but did evolve into a real person. Of course there is that core but it only sometimes dictates my actions and my mood. So I know directly that the wounds are woven into a larger self if one had support and o my god, do you ever have a wonderful 'menu' of support, most of all yourself.

My dd always threw her bad feelings at me (verbally or non) and I ate them which was awful but i so love your boundaries and trying difference approaches as you intuit what is best in any one episode.

I am writing this from my last hour in India, and it had been for me a hell of a hard ride here, so I feel more in touch with my wounds today and lately. So yes, in a way, they surface even at old ages, but there are always always tricks of the trade. Once Penny integrates the good around her and for her, i believe she will surprise you and herself one day and become the best Penny she can be.

That said, how you cope is truly amazing to me. I think even with my dd, she shows the worse face to me, and a better face to others less intimate. I think this is a goal for Penny and all special kids, to allow time for them to get it --the good internalized--and never give up.

Love to you, my sister in struggle. I'm so with you in your adventure in parenting, which yes is sometimes terrifying but not always not every minute. We await the next update. Do you keep a notebook to see any patterns of when she toddlers -out and when/how/in what situations, your daughter can rise a tiny bit above the toddler? I think i did and i went to so many therapists about her and incremental is i think one word. Downs and tiny ups and keeping track. I think of who my kid would have been without my endless vigilance and i know i have made a huge difference... so over to you, your Penny of now?
No, not all 7th graders act like this. Her needs are so huge it must feel like peering over into the Grand Canyon when she takes a turn like this.

Follow your instincts. You know her best at this point. I'm sorry that you both must experience and re-experience these feelings.
My daughters issues, though not as severe, tend to get triggered by the oddest things, sometimes a taste or smell, that will trigger a memory and take her into anxiety. I think the only thing we can do is give them time and love and start erasing the groove of one pattern and replacing the groove with a healthier pattern. I know it gets old because progress is hard to measure, but I'm told that it won't look like a linear progression but one the ebbs and flows with the waves being less frequent and less severe. How did you convince her to go to school?
Nope. All 7th graders don't act like this. It's just that the way they do act is probably making the way your daughter acts even more difficult for her to control. The one and only tantrum my daughter ever had, and it was a doozy that came right out of nowhere, was when she was in middle school. I can only remember that I wanted her to go somewhere urgently, somewhere she really had to go...and she went stark raving mad. Not...just angry, but screaming, hair pulling, foot kicking, maniacally mad. And then she collapsed in a kind of stupor, and I literally carried her to the car, where she lay on the back seat moaning a little bit, the whole time I was driving.

I do not, for some probably really scary reason, remember how the rest of the trip went. But I remembered that my very best bestie had a child who did that all the time, even more violently--especially on school mornings. We'd seen her beat her father black and blue once, at an amusement park where the police ran to his aid, not at all amused themselves. As she grew up, she did this to the police who came to try to get her to go to school a few times. Then...her mother and father both gave up.

They are still asking, even now that she's over 20 years old, the same questions you are. I hear them every few months, from my exhausted sistah soul...and I want to hold her in my arms and say, "I don't have the answers. But I love you soooo much. If that helps..."

I hear you, is what I'm saying. But I cannot and won't even try to imagine...