Transparency? More like a two-way mirror…

I’ve been a fool.

I have misguidedly opened my life up to “professionals” (and I use the term loosely), believing that to do so will assist in finding the best solution for Boo. (You can get a gist of the way things have panned out in a post on my other site here).

In short, I have undergone two extremely lengthy “assessments” having been advised that “complete transparency will be viewed upon favourably by the Court.” Failure to cooperate, I was informed, would probably be viewed in the same light as someone who answers “no comment” to all questions after they have been arrested. In other words, the court would automatically imply that I had something to hide, and the chances of Boo returning to my care would be out of the window.

So I agreed to answer their questions. Eight hours of questions in total with the Social Workers, and five hours in total with the Court-appointed Psychiatrist.

And I was transparent. Painfully transparent. They wanted to know everything about me – from birth to the present. They wanted to know about my childhood: how life was at home and school, and I talked about stuff I hadn’t thought about for years, including the ugly stuff I must have intentionally pushed way back into the depths of my subconscious for good reason. Yet here I was, talking about the long-forgotten/repressed ugly stuff to professionals who were obviously going to use the information to help us, right?

Wrong.

The Social Workers, well … I probably should have guessed that they had no vested interest in me per say. They handed me a six-page schedule that they had supplied to the Court prior to our first “session.” It described the line of questioning I would be receiving over the course of the assessment.

I wasn’t going to write it all out, but I think I will, to give you an idea of the depths they wanted to go:

  • Background information to include Alice’s own childhood
  • (Alice’s) Physical needs at various stages throughout childhood
  • Previous/present relationships
  • Education
  • Employment

Parenting Capabilities

  • Basic care
  • Ensuring safety
  • Emotional warmth
  • Stimulation
  • Guidance and boundaries

Child Development – To Include:

  • Physical health
  • Emotional, behavioural development, identity, and family dynamics
  • Social relationships

Parental Stresses and Mental Wellbeing

  • Describe any serious accidents or illnesses
  • Ever seen a Pychiatrist or Psychologist
  • Do you have any illnesses which you believe to be a barrier to providing “good enough parenting styles” to meet Boo’s needs
  • Have you had any emotional problems
  • Are you on any medication
  • Does any illness or injuries affect your ability to look after children
  • Do you require any special help or medical services because of injuries or mental health wellbeing

Parental Stress continued (!)

  • Do you think you are someone who suffers from stress
  • What kinds of things make you stressed
  • Does any group of people make you feel stressed
  • Do children make you feel stressed
  • Describe how you feel when you are stressed
  • Have you ever been to your GPs regarding stress
  • Have you been on any medication because of stress
  • Is there anything which helps to reduce your stress
  • Do you envisage parenting to be stressful

Family Functioning and Environment

  • Family functioning
  • Wider family
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Family social work interventions
  • Community resources
  • Support networks

Now, which area of my life do you think they were most interested in? Hmmm … could it be my mental health/stress issues?

Yet, when my son was beating the crap out of me on an almost daily basis for eight long months, despite all the attempts I made, begging them to intervene and help us, they had no interest in us. Their response at the time was, “We are child protection, not adult protection. Unless we believe Boo is at risk from you, we will not get involved.”

What a difference six months makes! Now they are very involved, and so concerned that my mental health difficulties would place my child at risk that I am now unlikely to ever get him back into my care.

And if the intensity of the assessment interviews wasn’t enough – on the last day at the end of the final interview (which, unsurprisingly, had been about my mental health and my recent lapses into crisis) the Social worker asked, “Does Boo know about any of the stuff we have discussed today?”  I said that he didn’t, and I had made a point of keeping much of this stuff away from him because I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share with a child.

Their response? They suggested that I might find a time to tell him about some of these issues we have discussed, because he will have a right to read the report once it is completed!

I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea that Boo will have access to these reports. Had I known there was any chance he will read about the ugly elements of my life, or about the struggles I have with my mental health and the things I have done when I reach crisis point, I would never have shared with the professionals.

It appears the transparency only goes one way after all.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold … Cloud with a Rainbow Lining

(If you’re here just for the photos, they’re further down the page. Make sure you click on them so you can see the full effects of the “rainbow”).

I went to Whitby last year. It was just a day-trip on a coach, but it was significant insofar as it was – and still is – the only time I took a trip for myself since Boo left our home. I went on my own, despite a bus full of people with the same destination … all with the intention of a day out by the seaside and perhaps a look around the ruins of the Abbey.

I remember it well, because I spent a large portion of the day in silence, wandering through a small church half way up the hill towards the Abbey and taking photographs of the salt air-worn gravestones. It was peaceful, and quiet, and calming.  It was intended to be a day of solace: a chance for peaceful introspection, a chance to regroup, to regain some balance after six weeks of incessant worries about the place they had initially housed my son.

Two months had passed since the incident occurred that resulted in Boo being arrested and removed from my care. He had initially gone to stay with my brother and his family, but after two weeks, Social Services decided to place him under the care of the local authority. They had promised me that Boo would go to a caring foster family out of our immediate geographic area to give us both some space and reduce the risk of further assaults. Instead, they placed him in a children’s care home in the same town. It was a dreadful decision, for various reasons that I will discuss in future posts, yet they refused to relocate him despite all my protestations. Eventually, I had to go to the Head of Children’s Services and beg her to help my son and relocate him to a place of safety and full support.

I particularly remember my trip to Whitby, because my attempt to relax was interrupted periodically by phone calls from Boo’s Social Worker, evidently raw from having her tail chewed out by the big boss, and “promising” me (once again) that they were now searching the country for specially trained foster carers who would be able to take Boo into their home. (As it happened, that didn’t pan out the way they had promised me either … but that’s not the point of this post).

Following the phone calls from Boo’s Social Worker, I felt positive and spent the rest of the afternoon pottering around Whitby’s tiny “lanes” with all its quirky little shops (I entered another photo into the weekly challenge that I took in the lanes on my other blog site here) and finished with a fish and chip supper by the marina chatting to two elderly gentlemen about the “olden days”. As I waited for the coach, my attention was drawn to a single cloud in an otherwise blue sky. Rainbow cloud I took a few photos of it with a fixed lens, but then, as the coach pulled up, I remembered I had a telephoto lens in my bag and tried to take a closer view. Some people wondered why I was taking so many pictures of what seemed at first glance to just be a normal grey cloud wandering across the sun. But if we looked closely, there was a spectrum of colour around the edges of the cloud. It was difficult to capture through the camera, and I admit I’ve bumped up the saturation to get it looking more like it did to the naked eye. SONY DSC   As the cloud slowly moved across the sun, the colours changed and moved around the edge, as if there was a threshold through which the colours formed. This was the last picture I took before boarding the bus to go home, and by the time I found my seat, the colours were gone.

SONY DSC

I’ve never seen this phenomenon before around a cloud, and I’ve not seen it since – so I couldn’t help but feel it was meant for me to see for some reason. It seemed to offer me hope, just as rainbows always give me peace in my heart – however briefly they occur. © Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

Hmmm…

Well, not unexpectedly, I didn’t receive a response to the comment I left yesterday on that woman’s blog. Although I gather that her blog site is currently out of action because she is changing the format. Interestingly too, since her appearance on the radio show I talked about yesterday and the increased traffic her blog has received as a result, she has set up a Facebook page with a link to a donation site to raise money for her family.
More power to her if that’s the route she wants to take.

As you can gather, I’m very sceptical about any media input (or any level of subjective interviewing for that matter) where personal family matters are concerned. As it happens, I have my own axe to grind with the agencies who have interviewed my family for the purposes of producing court reports, and I will discuss these in the near future once (if) the bitterness wears off.

I’m adding the comment that I sent to this woman yesterday to my own blog, because I was well aware at the time of writing it how much it meant to me and how passionate I felt about what I was saying.  My son has done some pretty horrible things to me in the last year or two, and since reading a couple of lengthy reports written about him recently  –the kinds of reports that dig deep and gather information from all sources, such as school records, counselling notes, police records,  drug workers,  and  Boo himself –  I gather he has done some pretty horrible things to other people too.  In fact, according to these reports, he started doing some of the things when he was still in primary school ,  and he is only 13 now.  Despite this,  despite looks of disdain from other parents as I waited for him to come out of school, despite “friendly” advice from family members  saying I was too weak and needed to bring a bit of corporal punishment into his life, I have never found space in my head to demonise my son. Labels are dangerous things, especially the negative ones, and I know from my own experiences that being labelled often creates the self-fulfilling prophecy.

With that in mind, this was the comment/mini-novel I wrote in response to myfamilymyvillage’s appearance on a radio show entitled “Bad Baby”:

Hello from across the seas again.

It’s interesting to see your massive rise in popularity since your interview on the radio, and I am glad that this has potentially increased public awareness of the difficulties that a child with Conduct Disorder displays and causes others to experience around them. I think you made a comment in one of your posts prior to the airing of the show that I may be one of the few people who can understand what you are going through because my son also has this disorder, so opening up the public awareness can only be a good thing.

I had an opportunity earlier today, finally, to listen to the interview you did on the radio.

I can totally understand why you would agree to take part in such an interview. In the past, I was invited to be on one of our British shows about troubled children (It was a spin-off with Jo Frost from “Supernanny” fame), and it was so tempting.

However, in my case, despite feeling like I was running out of ideas and the programme offering a chance for professional input and follow-up assistance, I eventually turned the show down, and I’ll tell you why.

Granted, my case was different, in that this would have involved actual television cameras filming my son’s behaviour then broadcasting on a regular terrestrial channel – so one of my fears was the impact the cameras would have on my son.

Would he really act “naturally”? I didn’t think he would. He was nine at the time, and I feel he may have tried to be “good” – because, despite his lack of empathy, my son is astute enough to know that his behaviour is unacceptable from a social standpoint, and he isn’t keen for “outsiders” to know how he acts in the house around me.

On the other hand, he could have completely acted his “natural” self. In which case, I felt that the fallout from people potentially recognising us and treating him differently, particularly at school and in his social circles, would have been unfair to him.

However, my biggest issue was in the potential for the show to manipulate the situation for their own agenda. The media thrives on hype and shock-value. Despite any way we may have presented ourselves, they had the technology to edit and manipulate the scenes to present my son at his worst. And I wouldn’t run the risk of portraying him that way.

With that in mind, I have to say that your small segment on that radio did come across as shocking. Is that really how you intended it to pan out? It gave an eerily sinister portrayal of your son – complete with little clips of scary music in the background.

I listened to the segment with sadness and disappointment as the narrator, fortified by short soundbites of your voice that could have been clipped from any part of your taped interview, presented your son as some “Damien” child, and you and the rest of the family as unsuspecting victims.

Don’t get me wrong – I GET that he does not act in ways that are socially acceptable AND dangerous at times AND harmful and scary. My son does too and it is a nightmare to maintain ‘normal’ maternal instincts.

But, I feel it was a distorted portrayal.

As I told you before, I have read your blog almost from the beginning, and I remember your post about the day he broke your nose, because I commented on it (March 7th “Psych Hospital Part Two”).

The show gave the impression that he broke your nose simply because you were trying to give him a hug. But that is not the whole picture as you explained in your blog … The show made no mention of the changes in meds at that time, nor the fact that your husband had just left and he wanted you get up. Nor does it specify that the “hug” you were trying to give was actually an attempt to restrain him as he tried to get you out of bed. I see little comparison between that “snuggle” which in your own words you admit to being a type of trickery to restrain him from leaving the bed, and the type of “snuggle” he asks you for when he is calm.

The show also said you and your husband “tried even tone of voice when he acts up.” The implication was that this is how you always deal with him, but you have admitted in many posts that you have (understandably) yelled at him, joined in “smackfests between him and his brother,” grabbed him, pulled his feet from under him, and today the vinegar trick.

 I know you don’t want to hear this, and I will be astounded if this comment ever gets published on your blog – but that show did not portray the full context of your family dynamics, based on what you write in your blog.

I have NO soapbox. I have NOT dealt with my own child in appropriate ways – I have been inconsistent in setting boundaries, in discipline, in displaying love and affection, and in the life decisions I have made that have had some massive impacts on his psyche.

But my son is NOT a monster. He is struggling with a illness that is bigger than him, causing him to act in ways that are misguided and often harmful and dangerous. That has a lot to do with him … but it also has a lot to do with ME … and I own that.

Similarly, YOUR son is NOT a monster – but that show (and at this point I point the finger at them, not you) portrayed him as one, with no mitigating context whatsoever.

That may have been out of your control – I don’t know what they edited out (or in). But while you now appear to be seeking further shows to appear on, I hope you will seriously consider the picture they are painting, and ensure that you are completely objective if your eldest is to receive the help he desperately needs.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

Only in the eyes of the media …

midwich cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos -MGM (1960)

 

THE MEDIA LOVES A GOOD TANTRUM.

Shows like “Supernanny” and “The House of Tiny Tearaways” thrive on screaming toddlers, the louder the better, and preferably involving kicking, swearing, throwing hard objects, and smashing the family china.

Recently, “Dr Phil” aired a show in America about an eight-year-old out-of-control child, complete with glaring promotion video announcing, “My Head-Butting, Punching, Kicking, Bruising, Biting, Knife-Wielding 8-Year-Old!!” If you didn’t see it, there’s a link to it here. Granted the child has issues, and major ones at that, but the video goes to great lengths to portray the child as the devil incarnate.

There’s a woman in America who writes a blog that I’ve mentioned before called myfamilymyvillage. She is a prolific writer and sometimes adds more than one post a day documenting her day-to-day struggles with her own eight-year-old son who has been diagnosed amongst other things with conduct disorder. I follow her blog, sometimes with almost obsessional interest, because, I suppose I’m trying to find clues about where things might be falling apart for her. I do the same with my own life and my own struggles with my own son – as if by picking our lives apart to some microscopic extent, I might find the answer and everything will be okay.

However, just the other day, the above-mentioned woman allowed the media into her life by conducting an interview for a radio programme in America called “This American Life.” The episode itself is titled “Bad Baby” and includes three or four segments devoted to stories about troubled children. You can listen to the podcast here. I finally had a chance to listen to the broadcast this evening and paid particular attention to the prologue which focused on this woman’s story. Considering the proliferation of her blog writing, and having studied mass communication at college and how it can manipulate an audience through editing, I was particularly interested in how a 10-minute segment would portray her son’s condition.

I was incredibly disappointed and shocked to listen to the segment. In my opinion, this woman’s child was portrayed as little short of a sadistic, manipulative, cold and evil predator. Obviously ten minutes wasn’t long enough to include context or any mitigating factors, nor was there any discussion of any times when this eight-year-old boy may have made her smile or laugh or loving towards him. Yet they are mentioned in her blog. I was moved by the programme, less by the shock value message it sent out about this child than by the intense sadness I felt for this child. It was as if his mother had thrown in the towel, and with it any future chance for redemption.

This was the very reason that I have never allowed my own situation with my son to go public in the media despite being approached in previous years to do a show. In her defence, I am aware, painfully aware, how frustrating it is to be a mother to child with conduct disorder. It is frightening at times. More so once you start to recognise the sinister nature of the behaviours, the lack of empathy, the constant manipulation, the lack of remorse for injuries caused, and the lack of emotional connection between action and harm. But I still feel wholeheartedly that it is my job to protect my child; so to allow the media to portray him in a negative light, in my opinion, would ultimately do more harm than good.

In addition, the short segment of the programme in which this woman spoke gave the impression that her child’s negative behaviour was completely unconnected to anything she or other family members did themselves. The narrator offers a brief overview of how she and her husband attempt to placate their eldest child when he “acts up”. There is talk of “using an even tone of voice” and withdrawing rewards as if these are their “go-to” methods used most frequently, if not exclusively. But she openly admits in many of her blog posts that she has lost control of herself: shouts, physically restrains him, manhandles him, and she even mentions a time when she joined in a “slap fest” between him and his younger brother.  I won’t judge her for her actions. God knows I’ve been at the end of my rope on more than one occasion myself. But at least I own my mistakes. Perhaps too much. Few people who know me or listen to me could say that I don’t take full responsibility for the way my son behaves. If anything, I have to be convinced to the nth degree to see that some things he does are outside my control.

So in my world, despite everything, I won’t be appearing on Jeremy Kyle or Oprah or Radio 4 any time soon.

And Supernanny will have to wait.

Oh, and for the record, I posted a very lengthy comment to one of her recent posts here. I will be astonished if she responds kindly to it, or even publishes it for that matter. If not, I’ll put it in my next post.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

 

Losing touch with reality …

I know people have, quite rightly, observed that there’s nothing I can do to change the past, but I can’t help it.

I feel I am losing sense of reality whenever I mull over the way things have gone so far. I sit here, even now, at this very moment, with an inkling that this has all been one bad dream. Perhaps if I go back to sleep, I’ll wake up at an earlier time when things were still salvageable and persuade “professionals” to help us – a bit like a “restore point” on the computer. Or that, if I will it hard enough, then I will wake up and find that there really is no Conduct Disorder, or that there never was any violence in the household, or that I am not suffering a mental breakdown, or that I still have my job, my finances are fine, and life is just ordinarily comfortable.

It is incredibly difficult for me to accept the reality of not having my son around.

It’s impossible for me to move on without him.

Today is Mother’s Day.

I decided to give myself a treat anyway, and ventured out to the local cinema on my own to see a screening of the National Theatre’s production of War Horse. I  know I’m running the risk of sounding more than a little insane, but at times I found myself believing he was sitting there next to me. I had one of those big drinks that came with two straws and I only drank out of one because I convinced myself the other straw was “his.” We “shared” popcorn. And I bought mint-flavoured Matchmakers because he prefers them to the orange ones. I watched the show as if he was with me, imagining the questions he’d be asking or the comments he’d make at varying points in the show. I even went to McDonalds after I left the cinema, even though I dislike the place myself, because that’s what we would have done if he’d been with me.

SONY DSCAm I insane?  Possibly.

Do I miss my son?  Terribly.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

It’s official …

I had a court hearing today at which the “official” Psychiatric report was presented and my son’s “official” condition was announced. The information did not reach me easily, and it still hurts.

It is nothing that I didn’t know already … but it still hurts.

I formed this “sister blog” to try to make sense of it all. But try as I might, the words do not come easily either, and I am still procrastinating with introductory crap. Try as I do to write more, I become entangled in the words and they stick in my throat and paralyse my fingers and blur my eyes with tears. I typed at my laptop as I sat in the Court this morning, but I know I am trying too hard.

I want to be savvy, and profound, and quick-witted, and sharp-tongued, and clever.

But cleverness doesn’t feel appropriate when you are presented with “official” findings spouting clever phrases of their own, such as, “…shows behaviours consistent with a diagnosis of Socialised Conduct Disorder … high risk of progressing to adult Antisocial Personality Disorder … no known effective treatment …Boo and Alice have a dysfunctional relationship … most likely he blames his mother for the state he finds himself in … wouldn’t advise a return to Alice’s care.”

43 pages of cleverness that blurred into the words, “You failed your son, Alice. You were given one mission in life – just one – and you failed.

Massively.”

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

Shhh…

 

shhh

It is generally accepted that even the most reasonably priced, lower-shelf novel follows the five stages of story writing : 1. exposition, 2. rising action, 3. climax, 4. falling action,5.  resolution. As I have said before, my approach to this blog will probably read like a supermarket story too, although at the time of writing, I cannot confidently predict the resolution part as it feels that we are still very much in limbo, but hopefully a suitable one will emerge in time. Certainly parts 2 and 3 have been visited and revisited many times over.

I realise that this venture is another attempt on my part to make sense of the world around me and the less-travelled road I have taken, and I want to give myself permission to have “moments” when I can speak my mind without overtly dragging anyone down. I want to tell our story without making it so personal that people feel worried they may be recognised, embarrassed, implicated, identified.

I want to be openly anonymous.

Or anonymously open?

Anyway …

There are already some people who read this that know me as “Alice” from my other blog, “Alice Through the Macro Lens.” I have always tried to maintain a level of anonymity – mainly because some of my blog posts are quite personal, occasionally deep, rarely profound, and a bit too raw for me to be comfortably placing myself in the public eye. I haven’t been entirely successful at the covert thing, as you’ll see by a recent post on ATTML (click here if you want to read it). Those people now know I know they know about me … and quite frankly, since bleeding me dry for every drop of information I could ever give them, there’s little I could add on here that would come as a surprise to them – and nothing that would make a lick of difference to any future outcomes.

But, for the most part, I would hope than even my not-so-fail-safe attempt at anonymity will protect the innocent.

So, chances are, my name isn’t really Alice … unless of course I’m double-bluffing. Similarly, for comfort’s sake, I realise I should give my son a pseudoname rather than saying “my son” all the time. When I thought about renaming him, a particular song kept rolling round in my head, probably because it was chosen as one of Ricky Wilson’s songs in Tracks of my Years on Radio 2 yesterday morning and it gave me a chuckle. So, apologies for any misrepresentations to Johnny Cash, but from now on my son will be known as “a boy named Boo.” (Even I wouldn’t be so cruel as to name him Sue!)

PS: Anyone/anyplace else that crops up in passing will also remain similarly camouflaged.