Book Excerpt: Love Never Quits by Gina Heumann
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Title: LOVE NEVER QUITS: SURVIVING & THRIVING AFTER INFERTILITY, ADOPTION, AND REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER
Author: Gina Heumann
Publisher: MadLand Press
Pages: 246
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

WHACK… At three in the morning Gina was sound asleep, yet somehow she was smacked in the head. She looked over at her husband, thinking perhaps he accidentally rolled over and flopped his arm on top of her, but he was sleeping soundly and facing the opposite direction. She turned to the other side and glaring back at her was her eight-year-old child.

“Did you just hit me?”

“Yes, and I’d do it again.”

“Whyyyy?”

“Because you took away my video games.”

“That was EIGHT HOURS AGO. And you’re still mad about it?”

“I wish I could kill you.”

This is the true story of the hell one family lived through parenting a child with reactive attachment disorder, a severe diagnosis related to children who experienced early-childhood trauma.

This inspirational story covers over a decade of daily struggles until they finally found resolution and made it to the other side. The family remained intact, and this once challenging son is now achieving things never thought possible.

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Book Excerpt:

So let’s talk about this diagnosis that we now suspect: Reactive Attachment Disorder. RAD is a fairly controversial diagnosis as far as psychological afflictions are concerned, but one that is extremely serious. Although this is not a diagnosis that is solely reserved for adoptees, it is by far more prevalent in children who had some sort of disrupted attachment. The Institute of Attachment and Child Development defines Reactive Attachment Disorder as “a disorder in which children’s brains and development get disrupted by trauma they endured before the age of 3. They are unable to trust others and attach in relationships.” Since adoption is a result of a disrupted attachment, it is most common in children who are adoptees, foster kids, and step children, but it can also occur in biological children who’s primary caregiver was hospitalized, in prison, deployed, or had some other traumatic event that separated them, even for a short time. Not all adopted children have RAD. And not all children who suffer from RAD are adopted.

Symptoms of RAD include: severe anger, lack of empathy, inability to give or receive affection, lack of cause and effect thinking, minimal eye contact, lying, stealing, “mad peeing” (urinating all over the house when angry or bedwetting into the teen years), indiscriminate affection with strangers, inappropriately demanding, preoccupation with fire, blood, and gore, hoarding food, abnormal eating patterns, learning lags, and lack of impulse control. These can be more serious in some patients than others, of course, but over the years, Maddox suffered from most of these. In extreme cases, symptoms can include verbal, physical, psychological and emotional abuse of the mother (yes), self-harm or threats to others (yes), and hurting or killing pets (thank god, no). As hard as things were for us, I read this list and know it could have been a lot worse.

RAD was in the news recently as one of the descriptors of Nikolas Cruz, the school shooter at Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Internet support groups for parents dealing with Reactive Attachment Disorder were a buzz with comments like “that could be my kid someday.” Honestly there was a time I thought the same thing. And of course, the comments about the school shooter were focused on the parents: “why didn’t they spend more time with him?,” “they should have given him more hugs/love,” “why wasn’t he in therapy?,” “he needed more discipline,” “a good spanking would have whipped him into shape”… judgments, judgments, judgments. I was so accustomed to judgments from other parents, strangers, and even my own family. Relatives gave us books on “Love and Logic,” gave Maddox timeouts that only made him angrier, and yelled at me for my lack of mothering skills. No sticker chart was going to resolve this issue.

In the heat of a rage, a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder seems to be afraid of nothing. Maddox didn’t respond to typical parental requests, bribes, or threats. If we would yell, he would yell back, louder and meaner. “Go to your room” was never met with compliance, and running away from home was an ongoing issue.

But underneath it all is a powerful sense of fear. Fear of never being loved or accepted. Fear of not making friends. Fear of not fitting in with normal society. As a mother, I feared he might grow up to be the next school shooter.

Starting even before he was born, his birth mother, desperately poor and managing a special-needs child at the age of 17, was sending stress hormones to his brain in the womb, setting him up for a lifetime of anxiety.

After his birth, he went directly to a foster home, where he was neglected. Mistrust of adults and caregivers was ingrained in his brain, and anger was his primary emotion.

It is hard to believe that the first six months of life can have such a profound impact on a child and make it so difficult to lead a normal life without serious intervention and extreme love and care.

Being a RAD parent is one of the hardest and loneliest jobs on earth, and that’s true without even counting all the judgment.

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  • Hyba Writing

    I had no idea such a condition existed! A fascinating excerpt, and I can really understand the concern that parents of children with RAD can have for the development and growth of that child. Thanks for sharing!