A note to my own friends and family about how I need RAD empathy during the holidays. Feel free to share with yours if you need RAD empathy, too.
I Need You Now More Than Ever… I Need RAD Empathy
I may not appear to deserve it. In fact, it may be true that I don’t deserve your empathy. You see, I’m not the same person I was. I know that; I hate that. I am more cynical than I used to be. I am less patient and less forgiving. And during this season of holidays, I feel like the offspring of an illicit romance between Scrooge and the Grinch. (I know, I know… That’s messed up.) I wish I could tell you that I would be empathetic toward you, if our roles were reversed. But in honesty, I don’t know if I would. I don’t know if I could have given you RAD empathy. The disorder that plagues my children (Reactive Attachment Disorder, or, RAD) is so bizarre that I don’t know if I would believe you. I wouldn’t think you were lying, per se. But I might think you were paranoid and crazy. So… I can relate to how you must feel about me. But I need you now more than ever. I need a strange type of empathy from you. I need RAD Empathy.
This is so hard on my children. And it’s hard on me. Please try to understand. Please show me RAD empathy; even if it doesn’t make sense.
The best professionals that work with children who have the same challenges as mine, teach me that I need to be brutally consistent with my children, but that I should never be brutal. It is such a fine line that sometimes I only notice it long after I am on the other side. But they teach me that due to the inconsistency of care for my children when they were infants, their brains learned that such terrible treatment was normal and even if it went away for a while, the horror would return. In fact, my children cannot even fathom the concept of consistency. No matter how much love I show them, they think I will eventually go away or send them away. Sometimes they are so afraid of the separation hanging in front of them that they try to sabotage our relationship to just get it over with. This is so hard on my children and it’s hard on me. Please try to understand. Please show me RAD empathy; even if it doesn’t make sense.
A little bit of RAD empathy from you would make a place of safety for me and my feelings; and I need to tell you, I don’t have many of those places anymore.
Of course you see my children as charming and I always come off looking like a demon. OK, maybe that’s exaggerating. I tend to do that now; over-playing my hand, trying to get people to accept the fact that Reactive Attachment Disorder is a real thing; that it is a real, real hard thing. But I usually do come off looking badly and unworthy of RAD empathy. My children see it as a matter of survival… they need to prepare you to take them when (they believe) I will abandon them. This is why they come off as so charming. And truthfully, with no exaggeration, when you take their side in their presence, (Disagree with me all you want when they aren’t present!) they believe that you are sympathetic enough to take them when I fail them. At that point my life becomes a living hell even more difficult. (Sorry. I really am trying to stop exaggerating.) You see, once they believe they have you lined up as a safety net, they try even harder to end their relationship with me. Can you imagine something so twisted? I couldn’t believe it myself until I lived it. A little bit of RAD empathy from you would make a place of safety for me and my feelings; and I need to tell you, I don’t have many of those places anymore.
You can’t fix it. I can’t fix it and the professionals can’t fix it, except at a glacial pace. If you can accept that, and love me in spite of how my parenting “comes off,” I know you can give me the RAD empathy I need.
I know you have opinions. I know you think that if I modified how I relate and interact with my children that my life and their lives could be so much easier; so much better. I know you want to help. Please trust me. I have tried the conventional, tried and true methods for working with children. No one believes in methods like that more than I do, when children have come from loving places. But often, when children have experienced horrible trauma it causes their brains to process things abnormally. These abnormalities change the way I need to parent them. I don’t want you to try to fix it. You can’t fix it. I can’t fix it and the professionals can’t fix it, except at a glacial pace. If you can accept that, and love me in spite of how my parenting “comes off,” I know you can give me the RAD empathy I need.
As I load them into the car and leave the family party early, to save the party for my family, to save my children from their own unrealistic fears, and to save the vestiges of my sanity, please remember that I need RAD empathy.
Please understand that the holidays are tough for my kids for a myriad of reasons. And that makes it hard for me. This time of year, that used to bring me only happiness and goodwill now brings hostility, stress and discord to my home. That is so hard! I want to go back in time, to when I could feel the way I used to feel during this season. But such feelings of family bliss feel like danger to my children. Their unusually-developed brains warn them that if they attach too firmly to people, that their pain will be unbearable when the relationship fails. This season of happiness, goodwill and family togetherness gets my children defensive while they try to drive away those feelings, they think, for their own good. So I sometimes know that they won’t stop until they win because they believe their mental, emotional and psychological safety depends on eradicating feelings of love and bliss. At that point, as I load them into the car and leave the family party early, to save the party for my family, to save my children from their own unrealistic fears, and to save the vestiges of my sanity, please remember that I need RAD empathy.
Though my frustration probably manifests itself as hate and anger, deep inside I am trying to show my children RAD empathy when I remove them from an environment that terrifies them, even when it shouldn’t.
Know that I would love to stay. Know that I want to feel the holiday spirit more than ever. But I have learned by heartbreaking experience; feelings of extreme family togetherness terrify my children. That leaves me with only two alternatives. I can take them away and alleviate those fears before others think their behaviors merit such a reaction. Or, I can wait until my children’s behavior escalates, to destroy the feelings of everyone there, while they ironically try to protect themselves from something as positive and needed as family attachment and togetherness. Though my frustration probably manifests itself as hate and anger, deep inside I am trying to show my children RAD empathy when I remove them from an environment that terrifies them, even when it shouldn’t.
Know that I understand if you can’t relate. Know that I love you even if you feel like I don’t deserve your love anymore. And since having Reactive Attachment Disorder in my home has taught me to speak out whether it offends or not, I will apply that principle to the season. Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy New Year. Happy Holidays. Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward men.
Please don’t feel like you need to ask, to share. 🙂 Few things make me happier than your belief that my writings might help someone else. I love to see the likes, the comments, and especially, the shares. 🙂 Oh, and in case you’re interested, I almost always accept Friend Requests from other RAD Parents. Due to the way Facebook and the blog are set up, in the blog, on comments, I can tag you in them if we’re friends, but the program won’t let me tag you if we’re not. Here’s the link to my personal page: https://www.facebook.com/john.m.simmons2
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them.
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