In an effort to educate and bring awareness to the struggle of attachment issues, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and helping children heal from early childhood trauma, over the next months I’ll be sharing stories of families on my website.
For the sake of privacy I’ve changed names and all descriptive details, but let me assure you these are completely real. The first story is of Kathy and Noah, 11 years old. In Kathy’s own words, this is Living with RAD: I Would Not Wish This Life on Anyone.
Please read this with ultimate compassion.
If you are a family with a similar life situation and would like to contribute to this series, click here.
Living with RAD: I Still Love Him and I Would Not Wish This Life on Anyone
Our History with Our Son
Noah came to our family when he was two years old and we adopted him when he was five. The child of a family member, he is now our son.
When he was about 3 years old, I knew something was not right. He would have terrible fits, throwing items at me and screaming for hours.
We have tried traditional therapy, giving two choices (both of which I approve of), ADHD medication, and currently he is on Depakote, Celexa, and Seroquil, all with no positive result.
We’ve tried many types of parenting methods over the years, but none has worked. He constantly wants full control.
Noah has been diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), PTSD, and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Doctors have hinted that he might have a personality disorder as well.
A Day in Our Life
A typical day for our child with RAD includes rages that last for several hours.
I will either get a call from the school to come and get him or he will save it for home and rage for several hours at home after school.
After his second trip to acute care (for inpatient mental health crisis care) that became his favorite weapon. When he goes inpatient, that gets him out of immediate consequences and he knows it.
The only parenting strategy I can say has been successful with Noah is keeping everything on a tight lock down. We lock up all sharp utensils (including eating utensils). We remove all electrical cords before we go to bed so he can’t get into anything dangerous or watch TV in the middle of the night. He goes everywhere with us, except school. He is never left alone because it would not be safe. I’m not sure I would say locking everything down is a successful parenting strategy but it’s all we know to do.
Noah does not have friends. He does not like children who are younger than him and is not kind to them. He is not kind to animal.
Today, Noah is in a Residential Treatment Center. He lives at the center 24/7. This is a new for our family and we are all still adjusting to this change.
What I Wish People Understood About RAD
I wish people understood that I did not cause my son to act this way and we have done nothing but offer him love and support.
My son has burned all bridges when it comes to family and friends offering us help. I wish someone would offer to watch him so my husband and I could have a date night. Really though, it has to be two people because no one can be left alone with him.
I wish schools would not play in to his behavior.
I wish insurance recognized that this is a real mental health diagnosis – a pre-existing condition and not a new problem.
My husband and I both need therapy, too. We are depressed and isolated. This life has changed everything for us. It effects the whole family, not just the one with the original trauma.
How Noah’s Sister is Affected
Our second child was adopted as a baby before we received Noah’s diagnosis of RAD. I feel bad for her every day.
She’s growing up in chaos. She’s seeing his behaviors and mimicking them. Because I feared for her safety, she is currently living with my parents. Now that Noah is living in a RTC she will be coming back home in a few weeks.
Once I was delayed in returning my daughter’s phone call, and she called me in hysterics, frantic because she was afraid Noah had killed me. Before we hung up, she told me that she loves me and she doesn’t want me killed.
Needless to say, she will be starting therapy as soon as she gets home.
Looking to the Future
To be honest, when I look to the future for my son, unless there is a serious turn-around I see him dropping out of school and being hooked on drugs. Possibly killing someone.
My son is a pathological liar, master manipulator, and destroyer of anything you like. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions, self harms, attempts to kill me, and is emotionally and physically abusive.
I still want the best for him and I still love him. I fought like heck for him. If someone can get through to him, I see the vision of what I had for him when I brought him into my home. But not now.
But I want my husband, daughter, and me to all be safe.
Knowing what I know now, would I adopt again? That’s a loaded question. Knowing how bad it has gotten, knowing that I would have to figure out how to get all the help myself without anyone steering me in the right direction – no I would not adopt him all over again.
I love my son, but I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone.
For More Information About RAD
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+Signs of attachment disorder and what you need to watch for in your children
+4 types of attachment disorder - does your child fit one of these?
+Where to turn when family life isn't working