Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Living through a RAD rage

I started this last year.  To protect the identity, I used A & B  & C and so on as their names.  Never published it but knowing just how many go through RAD situations, I thought it was high time people understand how these things start and get out of control. And, how to somewhat bring it back into control.  Now, I have one RADish that rages openly.  Another one that is "self-raging."

I know I still owe everyone a general post on RAD.  And that will come.  For now though, I wanted to share with you what it's like to live through a RAD rage and how we deal with it.  As some of you are aware, I have two children who do have RAD.  Though told that by a psychiatrist and psychologist, I do not have the "official" dx on paper.  Don't ask why I didn't get it written down.  I honestly don't remember.  Guess I should go back.  My kids are classic textbook RAD.  You meet them in person, you'd never know just what we experience in this home.  Never.  You see the sweet charmer, the nice kid who instantly makes conversation.  You don't see the manipulation.  You don't see the lies.  You don't see the triangulation.  You don't see the aggression.  Ironically, they do not see all of this either when they're in the midst of a rage.  Now, for those new, RAD stands for reactive attachment disorder.   In my opinion, it is one of the worst things you can have come out of an adoption.  Again, that's my opinion.  It is a real reason why many disrupt an adoption.  I mean seriously, who expects their new adopted kid to lunge at them or spit at them or in some cases, try to kill them.  No one.  No one expects this.  No one asks for it.  I'm getting sidetracked.  I have started a RAD post.  Just never finished it.  But after tonight, I feel people need to understand how things can get to that point.  How out of reality these kids get.  How they see things.  It's not real.  Most would shake their heads why.

Okay, time to lay it all out there.  I've never done this before.  Never told of what happens during one of the RAD rages.  No one wants to talk about it in the adoption community.  People are afraid.  I don't quite get that b/c it is a mental illness.  It can't be helped.  However, those looking from the outside in, won't get it.  They won't understand it.  They will give you suggestions to parent differently.  They will tell you to disrupt.  They will tell you to give up.  I'm telling you you can't.  You can't give up the fight.  You can't give up on your kid.  That's why RAD parents keep going and going.  They keep fighting the good fight.  Hoping and praying that each time this happens, it will be the last time.  We went from a RAD rage literally everyday to one every once a year or two.  It was going so, so well.  Thought we had it under control.  Nope.  It was an illusion.  RAD is always there.  Always.  Lurking and waiting for the opportunity to come out.  Tonight was that opportunity.

I will start w/ what happened earlier this evening.  Actually, last night Warren and I discovered that someone had been watching inappropriate movies on Netflix.  Now, we don't have cable or satellite & up until a few months ago, didn't even have Netflix.  Everyone said it was great, had to try, yada, yada.  So, I did.  Liked it actually.  That was until we discovered last night.  now, we knew there were rated R movies and really no big deal.  However, we did NOT realize there were NR movies and that they really should belong in an adult section, not Netflix.  Just my opinion.  It was evident they watched these movies.  And for how long.  Despite them saying they turned it on, and off again.  Umm, NO.  Too much evidence in front of your face. 'A' proceeds to call me a liar.  At this point in time, 'B' is silent.  'A' starts mouthing off b/c I'm giving them blatant evidence and truth.  Showing them.  Didn't matter.  'A's mind was made up.  Told A to go to A's room.  Fine.  Continue it later on.  By this time in the evening, I was already having massive problems w/ all my kids.  Not going to lie.  Not all roses here and neither is it at anyone else's house that has kids like mine.  Boys were not listening at all.  Not one bit.  Girls were being disrespectful and lying about what they'd done.  Alyona was putting makeup on Nik.  You know, that kind of day.  None were doing homework.  Just was frustrated.  So, asked Warren kindly when he'd be home.  He asked if he had to come home.  Some days, you just know where it's headed around here.

Warren gets home.  Tries to calmly talk to them.  Then 'B' kicks it up.  B starts trying to manipulate the situation.  And of course, it's all my fault.  Many RAD children will focus their anger on the ones who originally abandoned them.  For 'B', that was 'B's birth mother.  So, I then become the target any time 'B' rages.  I am referred to as "that woman."  That is what 'B' calls me during a rage.  Face gets all red.  Expletives run out of 'B's mouth like water going over a waterfall.  'B' stops, 'B' tantrums, etc.  'B' lashes out at whoever is around.  'B' called Bojan "you one-legged boy you."  Slams doors.  Threatens to kill.  The whole nine yards.  It is as if someone else is living in 'B's body.  'B' tells us that they hate this family & will make sure we never adopt again.  'B' is lashing out.  You have to separate yourself from this situation.  When a rage is happening,  you can not be that child's parent.  You must go into protection mode of keeping them & yourself safe.  This is not a tantrum people. It's not.  I want people to understand that.  Their eyes actually dilate when they're in a rage.

What set B off was B's getting caught up in their lies and their not being able to manipulate the situation in their favor.  Now, being we have a "situation" going on right now, I took out the camera & video recorded the entire event.  I sure did.  Many RAD parents I know get falsely accused.  Trust me, we know how easy that would be.  So, to protect ourselves & the other kids, we videotaped the episode.  It was by far one of B's worst rages to date.  B kicked out the screen and jumped out the window.  Stomped & screamed all over the yard.  When this happens, we all make sure we follow B but at a distance.  C was w/ me following, Warren was one way & I think D another direction.  Kind of like herding.  But, being that B is not of sound mind, you have to steer B away from any tools or anything that can be hurled at someone.  Seriously.  B knocked over the grill.  Luckily, no damage to that.  B bruised their legs all up trying to jump out the window & running into things in the dark.  When B's in this state, B can't feel a thing.  B is numb.  Numb to the physical pain and numb to the mental pain.  B broke my camera when they grabbed it out of my hand and threw it on the floor.  B tried to escape inside to the downstairs bathroom.  Ripped the shower curtain(new one of course) and broke the shower curtain rod screwed into the wall.

Oh, do I ever remember this rage.  I started this post and was so emotional, I never finished it.  B eventually calmed down.  Living through a RAD rage is no easy feat.  You are physically, emotionally, and mentally drained.  It is hard to describe the feeling.  Now, when one of our RADishes rages, there is certain protocol all the other kids know to follow. Safety steps.  B had gotten good at knowing when a rage may be coming on & would remove them self from the house and go to the hammock.  This night that this happened though, there was no going away, no stopping it.  It had to come out unfortunately. I think it lasted two or three hours.  I don't remember.  Maybe I don't want to remember is more like it.  Once B calmed down, then we could talk.  RADishes will rarely apologize for their behavior.  They don't see it as wrong.  We have to show them it was wrong. they have to learn it was wrong and that we still care and love them no matter what they do.  See, kids w/ RAD are so used to no one caring in their lives & pushing everyone away, that this idea that someone loves them unconditionally, is almost too much for their brains to handle.  I don't say all this lightly.  Remember, this was a post that I mulled over even sharing.  However, in the long run, I think it is important for other adoptive parents to really understand the emotional side of RAD and how much pent up anger some of these children seem to have toward their  birth parents or whoever allowed them to be hurt.  RAD does not simply go away.  And, parents of RAD children have to be extra careful as these kids can twist anything around.  They are master liars.  Though, I must say, we can always ,always tell when our two RADishes are lying.  Always.

Some people think we are way too strict with our kids.  We have to be. There is no middle ground if you are living with a child affected by RAD.  No chances to be wishy washy.  None.  The kids will take advantage of that.  I do not say all these things to be mean but to let others know this is not easy.  It has taken us years to learn how to better serve our kids effected with this disorder.  Years.  We were told years ago when one of them was 5yo to disrupt the adoption.  Told this by multiple professionals.  That their RAD is so bad that they are doomed to be a sociopath.  Umm, no.  I healed C on my own.  I did.  Had to take matters into my own hands as no one else was willing to take their case.  Yes, it was that bad.  Regressed my child and they have continue to do well. 

I started this post on and off.  I wasn't sure whether to share what it's really like. I wasn't sure folks in the adoption community could understand it.  Truly, unless  you live w/ RAD, you have NO IDEA.  The stories I heard on one of my very private groups (with kids w/ RAD, you must know where to trust folks), were heart wrenching at times.  But, there is always another parent there who "gets it."  RAD is something you really can not prepare for.  I don't care how many adoption classes you take or books you read.  It is not the same as living it 24/7.  It has taken us years and I mean years to get to the point we are now.  So many times we wanted to give up.  So many times we felt defeated.  But now, success stories i feel. I can't divulge who they are or what they are doing as I want identities protected.  Honestly, you couldn't tell who this is if you met all my kids. 

What I have I learned in living with RAD?  find someone who gets it.  Find someone you can trust and vent to.  Find a way to help your child.  Some case will not end like ours.  Some must disrupt the adoption due to safety concerns for their families.  It's hard in the moment to know what is right or wrong when dealing with a RADish.  Each child is different and their traumatic pasts are individual as they are.  The horrors one of mine suffered as a kid you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy.  It takes years to make up for all those lost years of being mistreated, abandoned, unloved, uncared for.  As parents of a RAD child,we have much to learn and much to understand.  You develop a new kind of patience and state of mind as a RAD parent.  And as they get older, your parenting has to adjust even more.  It's a crazy life.  But, when you see the successes, you see the glimmers of hope, you finally find time to breath and smile a bit.  

I hope I wrote this so that others understand it. I hope people understand a little more of how we must parent some of ours.  Trust and empathy are learned over time.  It takes years.  years.  RAD kids typically lack that empathy component and I think out of everything, that was the hardest for us to understand as human beings.  How someone could be void of empathy.  Just want to know that others who are suffering in silence with their RADish, it's okay.   It sucks, it does.  But it's going to be okay.  Reach out to folks.  Join a group.  Find support, it's vital.  Let the healing begin.  It will take all your inner strength to parent a child with RAD. 

Again, I wrote this not to scare folks but to try to help others in the adoption community to understand why it is so hard for some parents new to adoption  to listen to all the happy endings.  They are just living day to day and most of the time minute to minute when they have a child with RAD.  Even as I'm sitting here today, I'm still trying to decide whether or not to hit publish as it is such a hot topic in the adoption world. And this is pure RAD we're talking about. Not attachment issues or bonding issues but full blown RAD.  believe me, there's a difference.  And if you have a child w/ RAD, if you go to a therapist, it must, must be one who specializes in this.  There is a list out there.  Someone not trained in RAD can actually do more harm than good.  You learn a lot over the years with this disorder.  I want you all to know that this was clearly a difficult post to write.  In addition, these are strictly my opinions.  I am not a professional of any kind nor do I claim to be.  If this topic gets too heated for folks, I will just simply take it down.  however, I feel it needs to be out there.  When I was dealing w/ RAD, I was scared to death.  There was nothing out there and I mean nothing.  Started to think I was crazy.  Adoption community needs to get behind RAD parents to help them heal the kids and not put them down (the parents, not the kids) for how they parent.  I think I'll call this a post.  Feel free to comment as I'm sure I'll get a few just for putting this out in the open.  You can not discuss adoption I feel though w/ out addressing the RAD that can occur. 


  1. Great post. I am fortunate my daughter does not have RAD but have seen it in another adopted girl and I was overwhelmed by it and honestly pray for her and her mother. It is important that people need to hear the honest truth of possible situations that can occur w adoptions.

  2. I have to with RAD, one 26 years old, and one six. RAD needs to be talked about in the adoption community and there need to be resources for these kids. Good post.

  3. Great post. Your descriptions are very helpful but you owe no one an explanation or justification for how you have to handle your family. You live there. You're the mom. Period.

  4. Great post, Stephanie. And, honestly, I cannot figure out which of your kids this would be. You kept it so that that child was not exposed. I do want to ask a question or 2. When a child is raging, what steps do you take to protect the smaller, more vulnerable children? Are they put in a safe place away from the angry behaviors? Also, are there certain people who you know will be safe when you are trying to "herd" the child? I would think that having too many people following that child around would just infuriate them even more. Do you & W sit down and talk to your children about how to deal with a rage and teach them how to stay safe and for the older kids, how to be helpful?
    Keep writing about this. It IS important for those who may be adopting. I also want to say that RAD doesn't occur in only post institutionalized children. It can occur in any child who's been hurt in their past. The KEY thing, and you wrote it here is to LOVE them through it! To NOT give up on them. (Although I DO believe that there are times when a child must be re-homed/disrupted.) When it comes to endangering the lives of other children, sadly that decision has to be made.
    I think you and Warren do a great job with the children you've been blessed to call your own! Hugs ~ Jo

  5. Can you please give some examples of when and how you were able to show your RADish kids how their behavior was wrong?