Friday, December 9, 2011


Yesterday Ilya celebrated his seventeenth birthday....though both he and we feel like he is fifteen.  In any case, we splurged and got him a TV for his room so he can play xbox.  I am not a "TV-in-the-room" kind of person, but Ilya never asks for anythingNever.  In all his years with us, this is the only thing he has ever said he really wanted.  He never complains, never begs, never even requests certain foods over others (with the one exception that he detests pizza - it makes him gag and he can't eat it).  He wouldn't even specify a special birthday dinner.  So, obviously, he had to get his TV. 

We had a plain old stir-fry for dinner, but I purchased (time not being sufficient to make) a very nice cake. 

Just as Ilya was putting plates on the table for the cake, and making a little joke (which he so rarely, does - evident of his happy mood) of putting the entire cake on his plate.....I hear glass breaking in the kitchen, a glass falling into the sink.  Innocently stupid me; I hadn't even noticed that the presentation of this cake was pulling a trigger.  Sergei said, "That doesn't sound good."   And it wasn't good. It wasn't an accident.  It was the beginning of a couple of hours of really, really bad energy.

The first thing that I noticed, after obliviously attributing the shattered glass sound to an accident, was Anastasia going into the living room and  pouring a Diet Coke on the carpet.  Then she began to grab the various things in the room, pillows, books, etc.,  and throw them all over.  Of course I left the table and went in there and did all I could do to defuse the bomb.

I'm not particularly astute or bright.   I could tell this was birthday-related, and figured it was also probably a delayed reaction to reading all her paperwork from Russia.  This is something she decided in therapy that she had to do, and her therapist agreed that Anastasia had the right to know everything there was to know.  [By the grace of God her paperwork was not as bad as it might have been....lots of repetition, refrains almost - "mother known to be of bad reputation"  "public drunkenness" "immoral lifestyle"  "left without foodstuffs, or furniture"  "not taken to the doctor to get inoculations or check ups" "not sent to kindergarten or given any education"  "left to beg".   After reading it she commented to me about her mother not "visiting or showing any interest in" her baby brother, but apart from that there wasn't much that Anastasia didn't already know and actually remember.  However, I should have known there was a time bomb there.

She didn't know what to say, I guess.  So, she had to show me what she felt.  She grabbed the papers out of her notebook and tore them up and threw them around the living room.  I made a few miss-steps because I recall at one point her threatening me if I said "anything bad about my mother!"  But, later she expressed her anger that Ilya was cared for, Ilya was fed, but she wasn't, and got angry at me for suggesting that her mother did the best she could..... [no winning in this game] 

At one point, she ran through the house grabbing photos of herself and  tearing them up.  Then she ran to the desk where a big envelope of all the kids photos are kept, and she did tear up one of Lydia; somehow I got them and hid them while she was doing that.   She grabbed my arms and held me (I really didn't try to get away....just to look into her eyes and listen).  Eventually (after at least an hour of hard work on my part coping with her anger and violence) she burst into tears and expressed her anger and grief. 

Of course, feeling that Ilya was more fortunate than she was to begin with, taken to live with grandma and fed, seeing him presented with a birthday cake was way.too.much.   It was interesting that for the first time her threats of retribution went past the poor souls who adopted her, to include going to Russia to find her family and make all their lives a "living hell".  (About this time, I was envisioning buying her the ticket, frankly.)

One great difficulty that hangs over our child-management  is that husband is a behaviorist and we never agree on how to handle Anastasia in these fits.  Because his methods haven't worked, and mine often seem to (albeit delayed), he pretty much leaves me to it.  But, if he had his way, would deal with the behavior (regardless of origin) and would put her in "time out" [like we have a padded room to hold her???].  This is what he says, anyway.  He would give her punishments for this kind of behavior. I can't imagine what punishments we could give her, honestly.  All she does for any sort of escape is watch TV.  She is in bad shape at the moment, with no social life.  She shows little interest in eating.  But my husband has some idea that she "enjoys" this stuff (I think she is in hell during it, myself).  In any case, he wants her to PAY. 

To be fair,  in most of my reading - even Karyn Purvis, there is some expectation that after the meltdown is over, the child will be expected to do some sort of reparation.  While this seems reasonable, I have not had any luck with it.  The next day can come; she can be more or less regulated again, but the moment I begin to touch on what occurred,  I can see that she is filled with shame for what she did, and the shame threatens to throw her back where she was and launch a repeat.....  She seems more able to re-visit the ugly place than do any sort of "re-do" or "reparation".

Am I doing something wrong, or is she too far gone?  Or is my husband right?  As regards this, I'm at a loss.

What I usually do is try and help her get through the fit via acceptance and curiosity, then the boil breaks, so to speak; she crumples in tears and grief and neediness and reveals the heart of the pain she is feeling.  She is vulnerable; I try and give her comfort and a feeling of safety.  That is the end. 

Seems to me on some level, like she's suffered herself going through all that anger to the place of honesty and vulnerability. The process was its own punishment.  I just can't really see why other "punishment" is necessary.....though reparation seems like a "nice" idea.  I just can't see it happening, as it would require going back to that feeling of seeing herself as a nasty, bad, destructive person, from a place of more relative peace. 

Also I forgive easily, and my forgiveness involves forgetting.  Real forgetting.  Maybe I don't want to "go back there" any more than she does....because I always feel as though she has moved forward, fought a demon, and is in a new place. 

By the way, if you want to feel sorry for me.....when it was all over and, shaking and worn, I shuffled into the kitchen to get a piece of cake.....due to miscalculation, it..... was.... all.... gone.  


Mike and Christie said...

Annie, I'm so sorry for all of your pain; added to that, not being on the same page with how to handle it is so very difficult. :(

I do kind of question the sanity of the therapist who would think she was ready for reading all that. But that is just me. Yes, she has the "right" when she is ready.... but she will also have the "right" do drive but if she is emotionally 3, that might not be such a good idea. :)

As far as punishment, or consequences.... no. But constructive reparation YES!
She honestly broke into tears and shared her shame, anger and frustration. That is GOOD!
Teaching her to use other ways to react when she is overwhelmed is key.
If she broke the glasses, take her to the store and pick out new glasses to drink from. Have her help pick them out and put them away. If she poured coke on the carpet, ask her to help you clean it so it doesn't stain. But don't ask in a condemning way, just hey, can you help me? We need to get this cleaned out. And then talking when it happens. After she has broken down in tears and shared her shame, and is in a quiet mood, that may be the right time to do this, reassuring her she is safe and you don't mind helping her.

She may or may not have a window of tolerance open enough for that. Begin with what she can handle... and when she sees she won't be rejected.... work a little at a time until she can understand the connection between destruction and repair. Of course she is so fortunate that you easily forgive and forget.... many children do not have this.

Compensation for damage done is not a punishment. It is the responsible thing to do. It will help her take responsibility for when she is older. It may NOT be a deterrant, as when somebody is in full meltdown mode, they do not weigh the cost. Thinking goes out the window. Teaching them to make thinking a HABIT BEFORE they get to full meltdown is what happens during calm times.

Obviously I am not living your life and there is much you know that I do not.... I pray for you that things will get better and that she will truly heal.

beemommy said...

I would wonder that not making her accountable for her actions might by default lead to more and more melt downs. Yes, she is seriously hurting. Yes, she experienced awful things that no one should experience. But, having limits in place and consistency provides children, especially our children of trauma, with security. At some point, the world is going to tell our kids,"Okay, so sorry you went through that but you can't just go around creating chaos. You have to learn to process and find ways to deal with the anger." Also, what about her brother? His special day and she destroyed his party with her actions. That's gotta be hard for him to swallow and the quiet ones need to be heard as well.

kate said...

Poor, Illya.

I do think reparation is important. I don't think it has to be blatantly spelled out or talked about at all. (She'll know why. Talking about why just puts you in an argument.) But, the chance to repair damage is important. It's an act of contrition. ;>

How would she do with cleaning the carpet and making a cake for Illya that you all could enjoy together?
(There are so many things to repair, like the photos and glasses, that I wouldn't try to do them all. I'd just pick a couple. And do them together.)

I also think that while it may send her back to that painful place and create another behavioral crisis, that each crisis will be lessened. It's like an increasing spiral, with the painful point at 12:00. When you first start going around the spiral, you hit that sore place often. But, the more you continue around the spiral, the longer it gets between painful moments. (Does that make sense?) So, in trying to prevent her from pain, making her stop walking the spiral, you may be lengthening the time it takes for her to get all the way through it.

Just thoughts! You're the one living this. You'll know.

And I'm sorry you didn't get any cake.

Cléo said...

Annie, I stand in awe of your patience and love for those traumatised children. I 'feel' the same way, reading about the whole situation and think you've got a pretty clear view. Punishment would do absolutely no good! (ever, in my opinion) I love Kate's suggestions for reparing, though. Sending prayers for you!

Last Mom said...

We do "repair the energy". Her meltdowns totally suck they energy out of her Dad and I. Watching movies with him often helps to repair his energy. Often, just the fact that she opened up and talked honestly about her feelings in the end helps repair mine. Sometimes she polishes our stainless steel garbage can, cleans something or washes my hair to give back energy. If she breaks or messes something up, we try to get her to clean it up. It's often overwhelming for her and puts her right back in that place, though. My husband was like yours in the beginning, but has come around to my way of thinking most of the time. It's hard not to want her to pay for her behavior sometimes, though.

Hevel said...

Poor Ilya. Poor you (and not only because of the cake). And poor Anastasia.

I have been learning a lot from you, though your challenges are far greater than ours, I learn. Thank you for being honest in your blogging.

And I totally agree with Christie on everything she said about emotional maturity and the punishment topic as well. Behaviouralism might work for children without past trauma. I don't know. It doesn't work for my kids, and I doubt it would ever work for Anastasia.

Annie said...

Christie and Kate, you made me remember a time when one of our Religious Education students was blamed for putting soap in one of the fish tanks in the school. There was no way of proving it, but he MIGHT have done it, and in some ways had reason to, as he'd been treated badly there. I was supposed to "handle" this and was at a loss, until the Holy Spirit (I presume) prodded me to do just the sort of think Christie suggested. This boy often hung around my office and helped out, so that day I explained in despair what a terrible thing someone had done and asked him if he could, please, help me by cleaning out the tank. I'd always treated him to love and care, so of course he said "yes" and only when he was doing it, did I realize how perfect that was - either way.

In the end she crumpled, and shared with me how her body ached all over, and then she stood in front of the mirror and picked at her face. I don't believe she has any acne at all, but normal imperfections, but she picks at them until they bleed. I didn't say anything about that but brushed her hair, once the tangles were out in a rhythm. Then she palpably relaxed and I talked to her about picking at her face, she nearly wept - "I have to do something with my hands, and they ache from writing!" True, she copies between 20-30 pages a day. I suggested crocheting and she laughed, then I suggested she mess with her nails. I went to the store to get her something to eat - something she liked, but not something she demanded when mad....and then gave her motrin for her back and nails to put on. My poor little girl; she was a wreck.

And, as for my mean husband, today he suggested getting another cake - this time with no chocolate - something Anastasia would like.

Fortunately, Ilya is so pragmatic. I don't think his feelings were too hurt. He was glowing over the TV. How I love that boy.

Mike and Christie said...

Annie, this may sound totally bizarre, but does your sweetie like puzzles?

I wonder if starting her on easy jigsaw puzzles (100 to 150 pieces) and working on them with her, would be a great object lesson (as you talk through the puzzle) about shattered pieces being put back together to make a beautiful picture! I thought about her flower incident. Maybe she needs to put things TOGETHER instead of take them apart. :)
I could see so many lessons taught over a soda and a puzzle, in simple conversation.
Pieces don't make sense and then they all come together and make a beautiful picture.

MamaPoRuski said...

I think you can start the reparation again now that she is getting counseling. She can at least clean the carpet from the Coke. Even with a severely physically disabled daughter with PTSD we find something she can do, even if it's owing an apology. Z tends to revert to self-abasement when he gets into trouble, and that disturbs me more than O's outbursts, however, he is required to apologize too, for him I separate I have found using "My son" in my sentences makes a difference rather than "you". Odd how each has a way that the message gets through! Don't give up, I think you will find it with Anastasia soon!
Happy Birthday Ilya

missy579 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MyGirlElena said...

I know you don't want anyone to feel sorry for you, but I do. I feel sorry for you, Anastasia, your husband and your other children. They are paying the price of Anastasia's traumatic early life too! I thank God that I am not living through that, so I really have no idea what to suggest. But I suppose that, along with the psychological repair she should be held accountable. As somebody already mentioned, society does not care about you're hardships. Everyone is expected to behave a certain way and if not, there will be consequences. Now the correct way to enforce that w/o adding to the stress of the situation is beyond me. I think today, my heart goes out to Ilya the most. Especially if he's a boy who never asks for anything. At least he should enjoy a drama-free birthday and should have his mom there as he blows out the candles on his cake.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...


I should start by saying, it's always annoying to me when someone says... have you tried .....

However, have you tried agreeing with her about some of these things? It is NOT fair that her brother was cared for and she wasn't. It's NOT fair that she went hungry and had to sleep in a bed her mother was having business in. Her mother may have done the best she could but NO, it was NOT enough. Keep it in the realm of events that happened, it's not fair that happened, as opposed to it's not fair SHE did that.
I think, from what you have written before, that A already knew the things that were written in the report.
As for reparations, if it makes things worse it may not be a good thing. But could she be convinced to take charge of a birthday do-over?
Well, just some thoughts to take or leave.
BTW, love that pic you used!

Annie said...

Christie, I like that idea! I was actually thinking of getting a puzzle that we could have out over Christmas and do.....

Can't hurt (worst that could happen is that we'll be picking up puzzle pieces from obscure corners of the house for the next ten years).

I actually called Julie, the therapist, and (relief') she thought I handled it just right. She doesn't think Anastasia is up to reparation yet. I do think I may do something very low-key, though. I liked the idea of having her help me select some new glasses. Doing, no talking.

Other Mother said...

Annie, your words are so vivid it took me right back to times with my son. I actually think you are handling it just right. I was always advised to insist on reparation, the thought being that the child could see that what they destroyed could be fixed. However, it never worked out that way in practice. It just gave the issue more energy to flare. I love Christie's suggestion of a puzzle and also your decision to take her glass shopping. The doing with an element of fun really works, in my humble opinion.

Also, thank you so much for posting the picture of my book. That was great. I ended up giving away over 700 copies of the book--a very good thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree that by not imposing a consequence, you are encouraging her to continue to "melt-down". But my opinion isn't as important as this:

When she goes out into the "real world" she is going to meet a world full of consequences. What happens when she pitches a fit at her job? With friends? God forbid- with her kids? I have experience with an adopted family member with similar issues. This is a terrible sounding analogy, but it is the best to describe the reality. Damaged kids are a lot like abused dogs (no offense to the dignity of the children meant at all.) An abused animal may or may never learn to trust again, but for it's OWN SAKE, it needs rigid cause-and -effect unpleasant consequences to force a change in it's behavior. If it is allowed to misbehave and run around biting people, it is likely to lose it's life. Now obviously, our children are not dogs. But you understand the analogy. Anastasia can't live with you forever. She has to make it in a much bigger, less tolerant place. Imposing consequences, even punishments, might hurt you and not "get-to-the-root" of the problem, but that is a process which may take her entire lifetime. Meanwhile, for her sake, she has to learn to control herself. Also, for the sake of your other children.

Sarah said...

bless you Annie! and your whole family! I hope she can find the healing she needs.

Annie said...

Dear Anon.... Oh, I get where you are coming from.....and what you say applies very well, to some "spoiled" kids, who were loved too much but never given boundaries. Anasasia is far from being spoiled,in that sense, and when not tormented by these demons she knows very well how to behave appropriately and tries to do so. She does not feel justified or happy after these fits - she hates herself.

When at the heart of the person is a deep sense of themselves as "bad" and "shameful" they interpret outside "consequences" and "punishments" as simply more proof of that.

Children who were loved as infants interpret punishments as intended for their own good, because they believe they are loved - and they long to be "whole" and "connected" and to accept the punishment so they can once more be back in harmony with their parents or teachers.

And, too, Anastasia was not just "being bad"; she was working trough the pain she experienced in therapy. She was expressing "this is how I feel about myself". She was not having a selfish fit; she was out of her own control, feeling a pain that hurts like hell.

As I write this, I can see that this "melt down" was almost the emotional parallel of a mammoth fit of vomiting. Vomiting gets the poison out. And, once over, you feel better - but you certainly didn't enjoy the experience. It is hideously uncomfortable and you feel disgusted with yourself.

My goal (and that of her therapist) is to heal her from the inside out, an to do that the poison that was poored in her as an infant has to come out. And, as time has gone on since that night, I feel actually gladder and gladder that she was working through those things.

Oh! It is stepping out in faith. But, I really believe that if she can't rid her soul of the filth that she experienced as an infant and young child, it won't matter much whether she is "behaving" nicely in public or not; she'll be a tormented human being.