Note: This series of posts illustrates the early childhood experiences contributing to attachment issues in adopted or biological children. While this story is fictional, the majority of children suffering from attachment issues will have experienced much of the trauma written about here. The childhood trauma, as well as behaviors depicted, are common in lessor or greater degrees to the majority of children treated at Zion Hills Academy.
“You should meet us tonight. I’ve got lots of new ways to torture you in our special way!”
Mariana’s phone was set up such that when she received a text, the first few lines flashed across the screen as a banner, even though there was a passcode set up in order to get into the phone. Carrie believed in establishing trust between the two of them. However, what Mariana was not aware of was the fact Carrie had installed an app which ran in the background and allowed her to see all of Mariana’s texts, web browsing history, and her location using the GPS.
Now, Carrie felt that she needed to start paying close attention once again. She didn’t want to be “THAT MOM”, but the situation called for creative parenting on many levels. Mariana wasn’t engaging in the usual pre-pubescent trickery, telling a few lies here and there regarding her whereabouts, ‘forgetting’ to get a permission slip signed or failing to give her mom a few meaningless details.
Reading through some of the more recent texts, the reality of what was going on right under her nose left Carrie feeling a mixture of fury and helplessness. She had truly been feeling that something was shifting in Mariana, their relationship was improving, but it turned out to all be an elaborate ruse. Mariana was so cold and manipulative without the inconvenience of a conscience or ever having to feel any remorse about anything - she tore through her life like a hurricane with utterly zero regard for any harm caused in her path.
The following weeks, months and years only brought more outbursts, unruly behavior, tantrums and in general a young woman who seemed to be filled with a rage that could never be quenched. As Dr. Hornbeck continued to unravel the mystery that was Mariana’s inner emotional landscape, she came to the conclusion that as a part of the RAD diagnosis, there was an additional condition at work - Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
The more information Carrie gave the doctor about the way Mariana would go into a rage at the smallest provocation, refuse to follow any rules imposed upon her, deliberately attempt to cause hurt and upset to those around her - the behavior very much fit the description of ODD.
After the holding therapy had been such a miserable failure, the team of Kyle, Carrie and Dr. Hornbeck were eager to try other types of therapy in the search for what would bring Mariana back to wholeness. In a nearby town, there was a ranch that offered equine therapy, which seemed like a promising new direction, and after all, what did they have to lose? EMDR therapy was another possibility, which used tactile stimulation to help the nervous system release trapped emotions and to lessen the power of traumatic events. Carrie wasn’t sure what it would take to start moving things in a consistently positive direction, but was willing to try almost anything.
Kyle of course continued to check in, and monitor the progress of the situation. In the beginning, knowing how full of determination and compassionate Carrie was - Kyle was hopeful. He felt that if anyone could get through to Mariana, she could. The last several visits though, Carrie was starting to look more and more exhausted and listless. The daily stress and concern was taking its toll - Kyle wasn’t sure how long this could all continue. Something had to give, and he very much hoped it would not be Carrie’s sanity.
Mariana walked the streets without any particular destination but knowing school was the last place she could stand being. Having to be around her classmates and teachers brought a rage and darkness to her emotions that was completely impossible to control or do anything about. The only time she had any peace from it all was in those moments of escape and self destruction.
There were so many secrets Carrie didn’t know about her, but it had to be that way. If she knew even half of it - just like everyone else in her life, Carrie would turn her back. When the emotional pain became especially unbearable and she was alone in her room, Mariana brought herself physical pain in any way she could. Whether it was a razor blade cutting deeply into her inner thighs (one of the only places she could hide such wounds) or a piece of hot metal warmed by a lighter branding innocent flesh, the rush of this sensation helped her forget. Even so, the darkness returned almost immediately.
Another way Mariana was able to forget came while she was engaged in sex. That, too, had its strong elements of pain and intensity. She had created a profile for herself on Tinder with a few fake pictures - and anyone who knows anything about Tinder realizes that the content of your profile is pretty meaningless. They’re there for one thing and one thing only - to hook up. So, it really wasn’t all that difficult to find participants that were more than willing to do whatever she asked.
Girls under 18 were one of the hottest commodities on the internet - and the fact she wasn’t having sex for money made it even easier - the men she met were more than happy to bring alcohol and cigarettes, in return for which Mariana was granted every sadistic and often dangerous request she could think of. More than once there were pregnancy scares, but somehow Mariana had escaped this particular consequence thus far.
She did not, however escape entirely - at 13, during a routine pelvic examination (Carrie insisted upon annual visits after finding out Mariana had become sexually active) it was discovered that she had HPV. Carrie was devastated - since the presence of this condition increased the chance significantly that Mariana would have cervical cancer one day, and then not be able to have children of her own. Unfortunately, this was not a concern that could take center stage.
On the morning of Mariana’s 14th birthday, Carrie awoke with a start, hearing the sound of running water, but something was not right. As she sleepily made her way toward the bathroom, Carrie realized the tub was overflowing onto the floor. She threw open the door to find Mariana in the bathtub having slit her wrists with a razor blade.
The water was starting to turn pink, and Mariana’s head had fallen to the side, nearly lifeless. Carrie turned off the water, scooped Mariana out and onto the floor, and grabbed a towel, putting pressure on her wrists. Once the bleeding was under control, she gathered Mariana in her arms and found her cell phone to call 911.
The ambulance arrived a few minutes later, did their work and left for the hospital. If there was anything positive to be said about this nightmare of a day, it was the fact that Mariana didn’t know to slice up instead of across her wrists as she had done. That fact alone may well have saved her life, but the road ahead would be filled with unbearable pain and resistance at every juncture.
Carrie drove to the hospital right behind the ambulance and waited anxiously to hear about Mariana’s condition. As she sat alone with her thoughts, Carrie realized that she was in over her head in many ways. Mariana would most likely have to be institutionalized for a period of time or even forever.
There was no way to know what might get through to her. One thing was clear though - Carrie could not do it alone. A major reevaluation of Mariana’s treatment would need to occur, and right now it all felt very bleak and sad. This child was engaged in a full-on war - but not in the way one might think. The person she was most at odds with was herself. The one getting hurt the worst in all of this was Mariana.
After finally getting some news on Mariana, that she was going to remain at the hospital a few more days for observation and also to be put on meds to help level out her mood swings, Carrie headed home. The hospital psychiatrist had recommended that she find find a long term residential facility that could provide the intensive treatment that Mariana needed.
Continue to Part 6