Today, my thirteen-year-old daughter, Emma (not her real name), was diagnosed officially with reactive attachment disorder (RAD). Prior diagnoses are PTSD, ADHD, ODD, OCD, personality disorder, and anxiety. In November, she was hospitalized for saying she was going to kill herself. She had to stay in the facility for two weeks until she was “self-aware."
I am my daughter's fourth mom. Her biological mom and dad had drug issues and her mom had schizophrenia. She and her siblings were taken away when she was a baby. Her foster mom sat her in a high chair all day in front of the TV. She was removed from that foster home because of abuse. My husband and his ex-wife adopted Emma when she was three. My husband's ex is an alcoholic and didn't nurture her adopted daughter. She was verbally abusive and no longer has a relationship with her. I have been in her life for three years. I love her and treat her as if I gave birth to her. Life with her has been challenging and sometimes exhausting.
Emma pushes me and her sisters away and has no close friends. She’s never invited anyone to our house. She's manipulative and a pathological liar. She digs her heals in big time when she’s caught. She has a nasty attitude when she's moody. I swear she looks possessed at times.
The last couple weeks seemed like she was finally letting her guard down with me. We were doing great. Then, just like every time she starts improving, she sabotages herself. Her teachers told us her foul language is a problem. During her IEP meeting, we agreed that, if she were to swear in front of a teacher and cuss again, she would wear a uniform to school. Her school doesn’t wear uniforms. This is the only thing that works with her. So a week later she told the teaching assistant to F-off. She was suspended from school.
My husband told Emma she'd be wearing her uniform when she returned to school. She said, "I don't care." Because it’s cold, we adjusted her uniform to beige pants, a polo shirt, and a cardigan. It was not the usual skirt, so it was no big deal for her. When my husband said he was buying her a plaid skirt, she broke down crying. She said, "I'm sorry." We didn't give in.
The following day our daughter went to school and confided in the lunch lady. She said my husband is abusive, she’s afraid to go home, and that she plans to run away. Needless to say, we got a phone call from the school. I explained she is being manipulative and my husband is the nicest man alive. Because of their history with her, I think they believed us. It’s been a week and Child Protective Service (CPS) hasn’t shown up. Yet.
Saturday, we had a family meeting to inform the kids that one of them put our family in danger of being split up, that CPS could come. We wanted Emma to see that her actions affect everyone around her. Five of our six kids cried. She just zoned out and played with her lips. My husband cried as he told her he’s never felt so stabbed in the back by someone he loves. Her real brother asked her how she could be so selfish. He remembers foster care and it was horrible. He was beaten with a belt and locked in his room all day. He said, "Our foster parents didn’t love us but they (my husband and I) love us." She had no reaction. We chose to ignore her and not let her consume all our energy.
Monday, Emma tried to manipulate her teacher into calling us to talk us out of making her wear a uniform. Her teacher knew what she was doing and instead informed me of the conversation. That night Emma came back from confirmation class at church and told me she doesn’t believe in God. Every Sunday she turns the switch on when we get to church. She looks like the most pissed off person with an attitude. She has a victim mentality and cannot see blessings in front of her.
Last night, at dinner, Emma was awful. She refused to answer my husband when he spoke to her. She rolled her eyes a lot and ignored him. My husband asked her, "Why are you treating me like this?" She said, "Because you can’t do anything. You made a promise to the judge you’ll take care of me forever when you adopted me." He asked her, "Do you want to be here?" She said, "No, but I have nowhere else to go."
We live comfortably and Emma has no idea what hard is. When she’s not in one of her pissy moods, she can light up a room, but she's an attention hog and takes over every situation.
Today, when we went to her therapist's office, Emma showed everyone her true colors. She refused to acknowledge her therapist at all so her therapist asked me to fill her in. I told her everything Emma had done including trying to get my husband in trouble. My daughter was so annoyed, she sat as close to the wall as she possibly could. Her therapist decided to call her superior in. The new therapist said, "I'm sorry, but we shouldn't be talking in front of your daughter." She asked to speak to Emma alone in another room. As she left the room, Emma looked back at me and smiled as if she'd won. The counselor said, "Don't worry, my superior will see right through her. She's told me that your daughter has RAD and needs intensive counseling. I'm not sure we can do that here."
When the senior therapist came back into the room, I said, "I can't do this anymore. Emma consumes our entire family. We have six kids and five of them aren't getting the attention they deserve. I have no idea what's going on in their lives and I feel like such a horrible parent. My second wedding anniversary is coming up and I totally didn't realize it." I started crying. Somebody finally believed me. The senior therapist is going to get Emma intensive counseling and set us up with in-home family counseling. A peer group will come and take Emma out of the house for three hours a week to give us a break.
After the appointment, Emma was in her total bitch mode. I dropped her off at school and the rest of the day I've been emotionally drained. I've cried like I lost somebody. I have little hope for Emma's future. I don't know what to do.
Click on link: Information about RAD (Mayo Clinic)