A few weeks ago, someone in my family yelled at me “you have an easy life! yes you do! compared to other people!“. It was said in a hurtful way to wound me. It was said by someone who has her own pain and decided that I was an easy target. It was said by someone who has only been responsible for taking care of herself while others took care of her shelter and food. It was said by someone who has never lived with Graham.
We met with the Clinical Team at the Regional Center to get help to continue our home-based behavioral program for Graham. From August 2015 to August 2016 we put together a team of 9 to target Graham’s aggression. We asked them all to leave behind the techniques they had used in the past with clients and to come on-board and do it our radical way instead. To do things in natural settings that would draw out his aggression so we could treat it. Avoidance of aggression has no place in this program. I needed Graham to begin to apply what I had been teaching him (boundaries, consequences, keeping others safe) with other people. From September 2016 to February 2017 his home-based program scaled down to 2 team members 1 day per week because our funding ran out.
Our temporary Regional Center Case Manager suggested that we meet with the Clinical Team in order to get things approved because our requests were “exceptions”, not standard requests. If the Clinical Team agreed with us, they could make recommendations on our behalf. We came prepared with our story – what it’s like to live with him, the specific techniques that we’re using to target his behavior, what progress he’s made, how the team had helped us in that, and why we need support to continue.
All of that was necessary for them to hear. But the thing that made the most impact was a video clip that I had brought of Graham attacking his dad. It’s hard to capture these moments because they are more rare these days but when I can, I grab my camera so that people have a better understanding. I can describe with words his level of intensity and the battle sounds he makes, but watching it on video leaves an impression that words can’t.
People were compassionate, teary, and they understood better what we were dealing with. Out of that meeting came our new team. A company who has brought a new service line (new to California) designed to support individuals who are at-risk for inpatient admission due to the severity of their problem behaviors. Assessment, building relationships with Graham began in March. They are fascinating to me, I’ve learned so much from the scientific end. They have been a joy to work with and allow me to throw out my crazy ideas and they implement them as part of his program.
3 days ago, Graham attacked me in a way that he hadn’t in I’d say over 2 1/2 years. Of all of his attacks, I’d rate this as the second worst attack. Second only to a similar attack where no one was home and I couldn’t get him off of me for 45 long and painful minutes. For now, I’ll just summarize this recent episode by saying that before hubby knew I was in trouble (he was outside of the house, unaware), Graham had me by my head and tried with all of his might and all of his adult hands/legs/feet to make my scalp bleed and knock me unconscious in his room, where the door was closed and no one could hear me scream for help.
The next day, I went to see a friend and had to briefly explain to her that I was walking funny because I had hurt my tailbone and how my head was hurt. No details, just a quick fyi. It’s those moments where you hope sharing a story would be met with something supportive or helpful or insightful or just even a regular old “girl, are you okay?!”. Instead, I was berated and made to feel so small. I felt the air in me deflate as she spoke. I know she was speaking out of concern for me, but her words came at me like daggers. In her response, I suddenly was the bad guy. I was already injured and still processing the day before, no energy left to respond, so I just told her I understood what she was saying. Inside, it was another reminder for me of how people are huge cheerleaders when I tell them our success stories but that I have no where safe to go to openly talk about the dark lows.
I thought to myself, “what if this was my profession where I was paid for helping families treat aggressive adults and making progress?”. Would she have said the same thing and in the same way if it were a career choice and I had a paycheck to go with it? What if I was a police officer or in the military in harm’s way because I wanted to keep people safe? Would she have used different words?
Do I have an easy life? Uncomplicated, undemanding, trouble-free? I doubt any of us do.
Words are really powerful. If we could all see each other’s wounded souls, I think we would all be more careful with the words we choose and how we say them to one another.