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Can you imagine total chaos? 26/01/2010

Posted by Sir Ralph in how it came about.
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I bet you can´t! Imagine a room, full of half eaten sandwiches, empty plastic packs of youghurt or quark, chocolate bar wrappings, tons of sheets of paper, cut and torn clothes…

This was the state in which Susan´s room was in. And this was not the work of a week or even days. Susan could create a mess like this in a matter of two hours.

But how did she do that? Where did she get all the things from? For months now, we have been locking the kitchen the copying paper has been locked away in my study, we supplied her with sweets of all kind for a case of emergency – and still, she found ways to access our supplies, partly stored in the fridge in the cellar. Shopping for the week has become an incalculable adventure, not knowing how much there would be left of anything.

The same, Susan is unwilling to put her clothes into the wardrobe or take worn clothes to the washing machine in the cellar. It was all spread out on the floor of her room.

And you better don´t criticise her behaviour, unless you are prepared to get an aggessive outbreak and slammed doors.

We ask ourselves constantly what might go on in her mind that makes her do the things she does. We know that because of neglect in her early years of childhood, she was storing food and drinks in her room. We know that cutting and tearing her clothes derives from her urge to destroy what she likes, and the same goes for enjoyable situations. But why does she tear sheets of paper and spread them out on the floor?

Many times, I helped her with tidying up her room, or at least part of it. As a result, one hour later, the state was as before. Some people say that her room was a sort of mirror of her inner self: chaotic, unstructured, messy.

We decided that we couldn´t go on with Susan like that, and bear her behaviour that was destroying our family. An immediate solution of the problem had to be found. This would definitely mean an admission in a mental institution where we could rely on a special trauma treatment. It would mean that we would be integrated in the therapeutical process, so that Susan could return to our family and would be able to go on with a trauma therapy to bring relief to us all.

There is no question of why we are doing all that. We´re in too deep. Can we really manage all that and find an acceptable solution?

The Turning Point 15/11/2009

Posted by Sir Ralph in Introduction.
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Sunday. Like most sundays with a nice breakfast at the kitchen table with Susan and Janet. The plan for next week had been done. We hoped for the weekend to be finished without stress and hecticness, after yesterday was calm. All the same, all was prepared. Susan´s clothes were mostly packed into boxes in order to prevent her to spread them out on the floor of her room or cut or tear them. It will have to happen next week. Only I didn´t know what really was going to happen. All my efforts had failed. There was literally no more chance to help her. I had called two mental institutions for children which are able to treat traumatised children. They couldn´t accept her firstly because of lack of capacity and second because we live outside the area for which they are responsible. The responsible institution only offers general therapeutic treatment; not a word about special trauma therapy. This, however, was out of question.

Another possibility would be to accommodate Susan in a housing group offering therapies and could assist Susan in becoming more confident and coping with her multiple traumas. Years of depth psychology treatment had not brought about any visible results. Susann is twelve and at the beginning of puberty. Still no chance. All local housing groups are lacking capacities. Furthermore, they don´t take me serious as a foster father; some institutions insist on an application by the youth welfare office in charge.

Then it all happened at once. We asked Susan to clear the table. “No, I won´t. Why me?” Another attempt to convince her. Then it was all happening. Susan was shouting and rampaging. “You are so mean, so nasty.” Then she fell silent, sitting at the table without listening. My wife Ruth and Janet, Susan´s sister, were trembling and weeping. My heart was beating. I knew all of Susan´s problems, her multiple personality, and I knew that half an hour later she would be the dearest, most affectionate girl. The time between her aggressive outbreaks, however, was decreasing constantly and was ruining our family. All explanations of Susan´s behaviour wouldn´t do any more. We felt left alone amongst all this chaos. Something had to happen.

After Susan had disappeared in her room, shouting and crying, slamming the door like mad, I took the chance to gather Ruth and Janet around the kitchen table. Janet was all in tears. “If she won´t go, I´ll go.”, she was wispering.

We knew that we had to take Janet´s intention very serious. Janet had concluded to take her life into her own hands and to cooperate with us. Since I had managed to convince the headmaster of one of the last comprehensive schools in the region with a very good reputation to accept her into the beginners´class, she showed commitment and changed to be most sensible and grown-up, maybe even a bit too much. Traumatised children tend to take their lives and fate into their own hands, and seem very much like an adult. This goes especially for children like Janet, who had to care for their siblings for years, when their parents were unable to care for them and neglected them.

Something had to happen now. We decided to part from Susan to make our own situation endurable. We consented to take Susan to the emergency ward of the local children´s home. We needed some relief to be able to cope and go on. So I called the children´s emergency hotline. This is a switchboard of the fire department who pass on the caller to the local authority emergency service. We talked to the official on duty, and he took up contact to the emergency unit of the children´s home. The person in charge called us back and we notitied her that we would arrive with Susan during the next two hours.

It was all up to us, now. Susan had calmed down, as expected. We invited her to join us at the kitchen table. I started to explain the situation very calmly.

“Susan, you know what has happened today, and that this cannot go on as it is. Janet is suffering from the situation, and so do Ruth and I, and you do, as well. What we need, first of all, is some distance from each other. So we have concluded that it is best for all of us to take you to the emergency unit of the children´s home.

She nodded her head in silence.

“We will now put together the things you need and set off after that.”

Nodding, the head bowed. Ruth and Janet exchanged expecting, curius glances. Nothing happened.

“So let´s begin.”

Ruth and Janet gathered together the packed clothes. Boxes were filled. Susan got together the things that are important to her, while I collected those things which are necessary like the passport, the health insurance card and her spray against asthma.

Then, Susan entered my office in the basement. “Can you print out some of the photos of our holidays, Dad? I would like to take them with me so much.”

I was fighting my tears while the printer was working. There was no way back. Still, was this the right decision? Had we tried hard enough? Why did we only get refusal instead of support from the authorities? On the other hand, we had to protect Janet. It was all so very sad.

Finally, we had managed. We loaded everything into the car and drove off. Janet had filled a pencilcase with pens and given it to Susan, together with some things for her to remember. The situation unwinded during the ride, just as if a heavy burden had been taken from all of us.

The lady in charge was very nice and understanding. Ruth, Janet and I explained the situation and Susan´s problems first.Then, Susan joined us after having inspected her new room. She now had to sign an application for being accepted in the institution. She did so without batting an eye. A short, cordial farewell, and we were off. The three of us.

The evening passed in haunting quietness. Nobody talked about the day. That day had changed it all. Legally spoken, we had done now what we always had tried to prevent. We had given Susan into the custody of the youth welfare office. We would notice only later, what that meant. We had to give Susan into the custody of professionals, hoping that she would get the assistance she needed. So from now on, we would only have only few influence on how decisions would be made in regard to Susan. We would be referred to that fact many times in future.