“Blue Bunny” is the word of the week.
This past week, in therapy, we talked about how quickly escalating emotions have become common place, particularly following therapy sessions for Ozzie. He can go from 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds over what the untrained eye might see as unimportant or trivial. With Ozzie out of the room I shared with Tina my struggles to properly parent these hyper-speed mood swings.
She explained that part of what we are dealing with, in addition to the other diagnoses, is classic PTSD. The trauma he has experienced is the cause of much of the behaviors we are dealing with. Angry outbursts are one of the symptoms.
She called Ozzie back into the room to share with us another tool to add to our “tool box”… and I eagerly agreed to give it a try since we have had such amazing success with all of our other homework.
(Have I mentioned how much I love this woman!)
She told us we need a safe word…a word that can be uttered by Ozzie or I (or any other member of the family) when emotions are starting to escalate and we need to push the pause button. It is, in essence, like calling a time out. Everyone stops the conversation, retreats, applies the coping tools we have been working on like the shoulder tapping and deep breathing, and when everyone is back at their baseline we come back together to try the conversation again.
It has been amazing!
We had multiple opportunities to put it to the test this week. Each time when things were just beginning to get heated (The key is to use the safe word as early in the escalation as possible) one of us would yell “Blue Bunny” and the conversation stopped.
Its effect is much like throwing a bucket of cold water on fighting dogs. It snaps the brain out of its current mode, makes you smile at the silliness of the word, and allows everyone to decompress and then try the conversation again.
You hit pause, rewind the tape, and press play again when both family members are ready.
While this has been hugely effective with my traumatized son I would imagine it would be a helpful tool to add to any parenting toolbox…or marital toolbox, for that matter.
Just imagine the look on your defiant 18 year old’s face if in the heat of the moment you yelled out,
” Pickled Platypus.” 🙂
It certainly derails the tantrum, if only for a while.
All of these coping tools we have been working on with Ozzie are in preparation for the EMDR work that his therapist will be beginning with him soon.
Here is a little summary of what EMDR is according to WebMD:
“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy. It’s growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD often occurs after experiences such as military combat, physical assault, rape, or car accidents.
At first glance, EMDR appears to approach psychological issues in an unusual way. It does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.
Your therapist will move his or her fingers back and forth in front of your face and ask you to follow these hand motions with your eyes. At the same time, the EMDR therapist will have you recall a disturbing event. This will include the emotions and body sensations that go along with it.
Gradually, the therapist will guide you to shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones. Some therapists use alternatives to finger movements, such as hand or toe tapping or musical tones.
People who use the technique argue that EMDR can weaken the effect of negative emotions. Before and after each EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask you to rate your level of distress. The hope is that your disturbing memories will become less disabling.
Although most research into EMDR has examined its use in people with PTSD, EMDR is also used to treat many other psychological problems.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has noted that EMDR is effective for treating symptoms of acute and chronic PTSD. According to the APA, EMDR may be particularly useful for people who have trouble talking about the traumatic events they’ve experienced.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have jointly issued clinical practice guidelines. These guidelines “strongly recommended” EDMR for the treatment of PTSD in both military and non-military populations.”
Ozzie’s therapist is hopeful that Ozzie will experience emotional healing as a result of EMDR work, but she has made it clear that the road to healing is a long one, a hard one, and the effects of opening those doors to the memories of his past trauma will affect the entire family as we help him cope with the emotional fallout.
It is a delicate dance…
opening the door to the past.
If you open it too wide, too quickly, Ozzie will shut down. Yet if we leave those doors firmly shut the pressure just builds until the force of those traumatic memories push the door open with explosive force. I would love to just lock the door to the past, throw away the key, and never open that door again, but for Ozzie to heal we must open that door and walk into a very dark, scary place to face the demons.
Oh, how I wish I could do it for him and let him remain untouched by the darkness,
but that is naïve…for he has already been consumed by a darkness that I will never fully understand and the only way to loosen the hold of the nightmares that consume him is to face those nightmares again by revisiting those memories.
I can not protect him from his past…for he has already been scarred. All I can do is walk with him on his crusade toward healing and promise him he will never have to face those demons alone again.
At the end of a hard therapy session he crawled into my lap and whispered, “no more.” The therapist, seeing we had gone to the limit, ended the session
and I just held him.
This was turning point in our relationship. Ozzie, who never shows me pure, emotion-driven, physical affection, initiated a hug. In the midst of overwhelming emotion he clung to me for comfort.
And that means he is bonding…
slowly, but surely, he is seeing me as his caretaker, his protector, his ally, his Momma.
We both left therapy completely drained.
This past Monday we also had our adoption support group for parents of traumatized kids. In this week’s session we talked about giving them a new internal voice. A voice to drowned out the voice of their past that whispers:
“You will always be a bad boy.”
“You can never be trusted.”
“They will get rid of you as soon as you are bad, so you might as well get it over with.”
“This is all your fault. If you had been good your father wouldn’t have hurt you.”
“You’re just stupid and worthless.”
“No one will ever love you.”
As we talked about the importance of affirmation, kindly correcting, looking for opportunities to say “yes” instead of always saying “no,” and looking for behaviors to praise more than you notice behaviors to correct, we also worked on a project for our kids. Every set of parents was given one mirror for each child they had.
Around the edge of each mirror we were told to write words that described that child. As Toby and I sat and worked on each mirror we gave much thought to the adjectives that best described the positive attributes of each child. It was a powerful exercise and we found ourselves reflecting on the blessing of each child and the special, God-given attributes, they bring to our family.
When we arrived home we sat the kids down and told them about the activity we did upstairs while they were meeting downstairs. We then gave them their mirrors. It was touching to see the impact our words had on them. When I asked the kids which word (That we used to describe them) meant the most to them it was fascinating to hear their answers,
and I believe reflective of the traits they value most in themselves.
Grace chose: Diligent
Molly chose: Generous
Rusty chose: Talented
Ozzie chose: Imaginative
Tyler chose: Strong
How we see ourselves, when we look in the mirror, is on point with the self talk we hear in our minds. I hope each time my children look into these mirrors they will read the words and be reminded of their great, infinite, divine worth.
Mirrors are powerful things and have great influence on how we see ourselves.
So we must remember to turn the one who holds the only mirror which is true, and clear, and NOT distorted. It is here we will see ourselves as He sees us and we will see those we love through His eyes. It is through our Savior that we see the divine beauty in ourselves and others.
As Lynn G. Robbins said:
“Heavenly Father sees our divine nature. We are His children. They way He sees us, because of His love for us, is perfect. The mirror which He holds constantly before us, if we would only raise our sight to look, is the one in which we should trust. Its image is always true and never distorted.”