A Tad About RAD

What is your earliest memory? Is it something sweet like your mother teaching you to tie your shoes? Could it be your Father playing ball on a hot summer evening? Either way it probably is one That is wrapped up with love and care.

Children with RAD don’t have that privilege. You see, their memories go back to when they weren’t fed enough or when a man came into their room at night to do things to them that no child should ever know about. Sometimes it’s a memory of the smell of alcohol on the person responsible from them. Did you know that even trauma in-utero or a mother’s thoughts of ending her child’s life can cause a separation?

We say that children are resilient and to some extent that is true but what happens when a child doesn’t just “bounce back ” after a traumatic experience or abuse?

Here’s the truth. When neglect or separation from a birth mother happens it messes with the brain. When a child has a need and that need isn’t met it throws the child into survival mode. They must find ways to survive because in their mind the adult they trusted couldn’t protect them. Before I go any further I want to point out that when I’m writing I tend to share from an intentional trauma standpoint. Please note that biological children can have RAD too. It could come from chronic sickness,trauma during birth,or something totally out of their parents control. Unfortunately babies and little children can’t decipher the difference. So please note that not all children with RAD have been harmed by their biological parents.

When a child has had that bond separated (for whatever reason) they lose connection with their front part of their brain where logic and reason takes place.They literally get stuck in the back portion of the brain where flight,fight,and freeze takes place. At this point they are not reachable. They in a sense are in survival mode. Who’s going to hurt me? What can I do to keep them from loving me because love hurts. How can I be in control. How can I prove that my adult isn’t going to let me suffer? In a lot of ways in my opinion they become like an animal.

Imagine with me for a moment. You are a happy family with two children at home. Your family isn’t perfect but it is a loving environment and you think now is a great time to add to your family because of all the love you have. You go to whatever avenue available maybe its foster care or maybe an orphanage overseas. You meet your son or daughter for the first time and you fall in love. You know instantly this child is your own from the moment he/she looks up at you and says “I love you momma”. You get home and the first week is bliss. He/she seems to fit perfectly and is the missing puzzle piece to your family. Ah you can almost imagine the white picketed fence around your storybook home. Church family comes over to meet your new son/daughter. They feel invested because they have walked beside your family throughout the adoption process. They say “Oh your son/daughter is so charming!”

No sooner do the guests leave and the door shuts does the light switch of RAD turn on. It’s been on but hidden behind the superficially charming smile and impeccable manners. After all cute things don’t get hurt. The child might be starting to feel something. Something warm and fuzzy something that..could hurt them. So out of no where your child starts to be disrespectful,”accidentally” stepping on the cat, or is really clumsy and breaks things that are important to you. You find yourself walking on eggshells and making excuses to your other kids for the bad behavior. Finally enough is enough so you reach out to someone in your local church only to be greeted with accusations or pet answers. One friend might say “Just fill them up with more love.” The pastor might say “This is so normal! They are adjusting. In due time you’ll see how over concerned you are.” You feel lost and angry. The community that urged you to adopt is now turning their backs on you. The child that should be thankful for your love hates you. Your biological children don’t understand why this child gets all the attention. Your spouse gets a break at work or just plain doesn’t see the behavior. Things come crashing down one day when you are alone with your child. He/she has been raging for hours and you’re at a loss what to do. Then you hear “I’m going to kill you! I hate you!”

This is the reality of many families with children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. No two children with RAD are alike but they all must get a heart transplant and brain healing before they will ever be able to deal with their trauma and work on bonding with their family. We as the church and as communities can rally around these hero parents in several ways.

1. Be available to listen without judgement. You have no clue what it is to walking n the shoes of a parent fighting for their child’s life.

2. Read up on RAD. https://www.nextgenerationattachment.org/store Here’s an excellent no nonsense book that spells RAD out for you. It’s only 70 pages long and chalked full of information for you to be a supporter.

3. Go online to watch Child or Rage or watch the movie The Boarder . Both give a realistic view point on RAD.

4. Send a card with encouragement or prayer to the mother of a child with RAD. You could also send flowers too!

5. DO NOT INTERACT with the children. They feed off of your pity. They know exactly what it does to their parents when they come up and hug you/show affection to you. Don’t be tricked.

6. Hug the mom and dad! Yes, I know it can be awkward, do it anyway. Do it in front of their children. This shows the child that you support their amazing parents.

7. Don’t ever contradict the parents in front of the child! Never as in ever! If you do then it gives the child room to doubt their parents capability.

8. Bring over a meal.

9. Offer to stay home with the kids while mom and dad go to church or on a date.

10. Respect the parents when they give you instructions about their child. They know their child more than you do. Often they are working with an attachment therapist and a team. Do not cause them doubt.

11. Here’s a bonus one. DO interact with the healthy siblings. They need healthy interactions and a support system too! Offer to take them somewhere fun or just hang out with them. Send them something to bring them a smile too!

After all, having one RAD kid is the equivalent to having five healthy kids. Don’t stand in the way of a child’s healing. Be the example of Christ and walk along side parents in this journey. These children are so worth the fight. There IS healing available but it is a slow process. It doesn’t just go away in a years time.After all there is no time limit on growing a heart. These moms and dads are surgeons,janitors,parents,super heroes,and Jesus to their kids. These parents are worth the fight too! Sign up to be a Warrior in the battle that is RAD. Don’t leave your brothers and sisters hanging out on the battlefield alone. With an army we can heal the broken hearted.

Much love,

Pilgrim Nicci

Diary Post: Trauma and Triumph at Pinwheel Farm.

Note from Pilgrim Nicci: This post is long and unedited. It was typed as it came to mind. If you are friends with the woman to which I speak I am not here to argue your friendship or connection. I am simply sharing my story. I couldn’t put all the details so I’m sorry if it doesn’t make sense.

I’m ready to share my trauma and triumph story. This isn’t for you the reader but rather for me. My story of “abuse” isn’t one of shocking news and it isn’t even a needle in the haystack of the abuse and trauma that my “abuser” had suffered yet it is a story I feel I must share. I won’t be offended if you choose not to continue reading and I won’t hold it against you if you fail to understand the pain and healing I went through. Because can we ever really understand someone else’s pain? We have no viable way to step into their shoes and walk that mile everyone is always talking about.

It all started with a dream,a goal,and an opportunity. I Nicci desperate for a life I had never lived and a desire to learn lead me to to start the search for a farm internship/apprenticeship. Now to give you a frame of reference I was 20 years old and had already started my anabaptist journey. I had met the ultra plain German Baptist of Jamesport, Missouri and I had already started to solidify some of my convictions. I found a number of opportunities to visit and work on local farms but not having a drivers license did prove to be an issue at most places( understandably). That was until I had a phone conversation with Pinwheel Farm. Oh I couldn’t believe the feeling I had after hanging up the phone with the farms owner. She had given me hope , inspiration ,and homework! She said “I’d like you to draw a vision board of what your farm would be and what you see when you close your eyes and dream of. Oh goody an opportunity to be creative! She spoke life into my hairbrained dream and not for a moment of our 45 minute conversation made me feel like I was ridiculous. So I got to work planning my dream..sadly that’s all it would be is a dream.

After hanging up the phone I started to research this woman and her farm. I came across her blog and it revealed that she too had visited Jamesport and was a covering Christian! Oh what more could I want than this farm practically delivered on a silver platter? Well just wait because there is more! She attended a local congregation of the German Baptist in her area!Seriously this MUST be of God! Now some time did go by as I explored my farm options and continued to communicate with her. About six months went by and I would go to church with her off and on over that time. Meanwhile God was working in my heart unbeknownst to me that He wanted me to be a teacher. As I faced the fact that my family was facing homelessness and this silver platter opportunity and the desire of teaching and learning I found myself inquiring more about moving in and working on the farm. She assured me I’d learn the skills to run my own farm and maybe one day could take it over and be the teacher “because ya know she wasn’t going to live forever and wanted to pass it on to someone she could count on.”. So before I knew it the seasons were changing not only in my life but on the farm as well. In February 2012 I moved in to “Farm House”.

I remember that day distinctly. A group of fourish people were out working and Working they kept on doing as I timidly approached the group.

I took note of Ben my new housemate. He was a lean guy with a serious look about him but friendly eyes. I’d later find out he was 25 and a devout catholic with a chatty streak. This would make for an enjoyable cohabitation for the remaining eight months or so. I’d be lying if I said a small ( or large) crush didn’t form over that spring/summer/fall but I knew all along I hadn’t a chance. That’s A-Ok he is married now with two children and I just got a text from him last month. I still pray for him and his beautiful wife Hannah.

Anyway enough about him. I jumped right into working on a task I had no clue what to do but it seemed simple enough. We went on to work for several hours before it was lunch time. By far the fattest person around the table I was eager for my fill of the offering. Natalya asked me “So what kind of meat do you eat?” I replied “Oh you know..just the normal kind beef,chicken,pork but I don’t really like pork just bacon.” The tension in the room was like many authors and story tellers would say was so thick you could slice it. Apparently the farm had to offer lamb/mutton/and some venison if Ben would part with his prized kill. “Ohhh hmm well I’m gonna have to learn to like it.”

So far in the story there has been positive experiences and honestly a large portion of my stay with Pinwheel farm was in fact a beautiful story of hard work and spiritual growth. I would find who I was as a person and the necessary steps to following Jesus while in the middle of the raging storm that Satan was brewing. I’d also be as fit as I had ever been learning the value of working from sun up to sun down and genuinely growing to love the smell of hard earned sweat. I liked losing weight while still eating what I wanted. I longed for my pillow at night not out of lazy routine but because I was truly and completely exhausted. Oh those are some of the best memories. Ben and I found ourselves in a good working partnership when the owner was away at her full time job as a bus driver. Oh the adventure it was! It is tempting to leave the story there and rest in the happy learning moments of a girl becoming a woman. Yet there would be no healing or purpose in that.

Things went from storybook dream life to a suffocating nightmare on the day the well broke in the White Farm House. It wasn’t our lack of water for several months that made the situation uncomfortable. Trust me I can handle no water,electricity,or whatever else because I’ve lived it with my family’s various financial struggles. What was the straw that broke the camels back was when the owner purposely got fired from her job. By this point in the game I had put two and two together that’s his woman wasn’t what met the eye. Her iconic rainbow head covering and victim complex had started to show forth way before this happened but nothing an six or so hour day of separation couldn’t handle. Well now gone was my freedom to learn and grow in an organic ( no pun intended) way among the permaculture farm and wooly sheep. The water pump issue caused her to realize Ben and I had become friends ( literally just friends. She assumed we never talked beyond work) and she nearly insisted I move into her tiny house with her. Her jealously became apparent as she confided over time her bisexuality that she struggled with. Her hugs got more frequent and her demands more bazaar.

I slowly became the only person on the farm with an outside income. I was working part time at the local Dollar General. This put me in the awkward position of being the only person to be cooking/buying basic needs. Which for a while was fun. Slowly though it turned into her demanding that I serve her. I’d literally be required to cook and dish up her plate, then when she was done remove her plate,and wash it. This went on for a long time. Then came where I was not to leave the farm without permission to do deliveries via the bus and to walk to Dollar General or church events. Ben was welcome to come and go as he pleased. Working along side her became a living hell. If I couldn’t identify a certain type of grass on the top of my head I was given a book to study at great length. I was literally required to read nothing else unless it was the grass book. I would pick up a shovel to get to work and I’d be told I wasn’t paying attention and had grabbed the wrong one. I’d be belittled for my words I used in conversation and picked apart for my growing modesty decisions. One day on the day I was to have a sewing for my pending baptism her jealousy reached an all time high. I got home and she yelled at me that if the farm lost money it was all my fault being wasn’t home in time to load the sheep into the truck. I had previously made sure I was allowed to attend my sewing. Slowly and mysteriously sheep started to die and we the farm laborers got blamed even though we told her the desperate situation of her flock she insisted that we read the book she gave us and to figure it out.

Her jealousy and anger would only grow worse as the time approached my baptism and would only Continue to grow until the day I finally decided to flee her constraints. Not only was this woman trying to control me physically to the farm but mentally she had gotten into my head as her wicked messed up worldview masked in a Christian approach threatened my soul. My heart cried out to my Savior. Day in and day out was a mental pressure that I wasn’t good enough. Never did I receive pay for my work on the farm and in fact I lost money by being there. I did receive “free room” but then she started saying I owed her money for living there and I was more work than what I valued the farm. As she spiraled in her own poverty from lack of a job and as the animals kept dying she was more than willing to take advantage of a young woman who had no way of escape…until I did.

Not long after I was baptized did things grow intolerable with her threats and accusations. I finally called some sisters from my church and asked for their help. I packed up what I could,said goodbye the farm and sheep thinking that was the last of my manipulation. It wasn’t.

She called me and we had a several hour long conversation. It was one of those conversations where you say everything you ever needed or wanted to say to the person and there is nothing they can do to you because they are miles away and you are safe. You see, I lived for months in constant fear of her own mental state as she spiraled out of touch with reality. I feared as she forced me to call the cops on the neighbors who did nothing wrong. I feared as she would come over unannounced at night or early in the morning. I feared as she began talking in weird circles I couldn’t keep up with. I feared but I didn’t have to fear anymore..or so I thought. There in the driveway of the sister’s home I was being sheltered in I was blunt and honest but tried to be kind. We left things on friendly terms…or so I thought.

After a day or two the kind hearted sister I stayed with suggested we go over and help the farmer with all the things the farmer said I had “left unfinished”. We went and did some work and talked but I needed to head into work. Little did I know that the sister in some small way believed the farmer about my neglectfulness. As I write this I am beginning to realize I have some unresolved hurt in that situation. This sister stayed with Natalya and talked with her until my shift was complete that day. I don’t blame this sister. It was a confusing situation.

Life went on as I settled into the community I had just been adopted into. When the deacon and his wife came up to me informing me that this farm owner was trying to make it so I could not commune in a few weeks. I was embarrassed and devastated. I cry as that memory comes flooding back. Their faces as they explained the situation to me. They were loving and kind but I could tell that they hardly knew what to believe. Ultimately they said not to pay any attention to her desperate pleas because she was not a sister in Christ but she was just trying to pull me away from my strong decision. <==not exact words but what I heard.

All throughout this messy time this woman treated it as if there had been a breakup between romantic partners. She wanted to sit down with *her ministers and go to counseling and handle things like a married couple who didn’t see eye to eye. I truly believe for whatever reason that this woman had an unhealthy no ungodly attachment to me. I don’t know why and I certainly never egged it on but this I am sure of.

All in all God worked the eight months of crazy roller coaster rides into a beautiful love story as He courted me as I walked in raging a storm. He never left my side not even when I was so emotionally drained that I threw a tomato cage at her and Ben. He picked up my broken pieces and began to purify them in the hot heat on a “sustainable farm” in the middle of July. It would be a process that wouldn’t take shape even after my vows to my beloved were long behind me and a new adventure would be under foot. I don’t regret the time I spent at Pinwheel Farm yet I wouldn’t suggest that type of growing on anyone. My pain has taken YEARS to overcome and even to this day I panic little when in Lawrence as the memories come raging back. I nervously look around at church events for fear she might be present. I have long gone forgiven her but there are times I feel resentment creeping in and I must forgive again. And even in that fear that settles down deep into the pit of my stomach I long to apologize to her but then I remind myself she is the one that has caused trauma and no amount of brainwashing and distorted memories can change that fact.