My daughter, who has always displayed some signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder since we adopted her 10 years ago, has now decided she’d rather starve than be around me or Tom. Since December 29, she stayed in her room all day, every day, no food, no drink, no interaction with anyone unless Tom and I both leave the house. Then she interacts briefly with our oldest, eats, and runs back to her room before we walk in the door.

When I confronted her about it, she said it was because she wanted “quiet,” and that Tom and I are always mad at her. When I asked her what she meant by that, she said that we always get mad because she doesn’t clean her room, doesn’t feed the dogs (two of her three chores), and we want her to ask for help ad we get upset when she doesn’t ask.

Then she proceeded to tell me she wants to run away from home because I won’t take her to the salon for hair extensions.

For the past decade, we’ve discussed with her, over and over, that she only gets in trouble for two things:

  • Lying
  • Refusing to ask for help when she needs it

One big bone of contention between us the past year has been her hair. As a black child in a mostly white town, she hates her curly hair. She wants it straight, or she wants it braided with extensions. I’ve taken her to black salons, and I’ve learned how to cornrow, how to blow her hair straight, etc. But…she doesn’t want my help. And I’ve stopped taking her to the salon because, once her hair is done, she refuses to ask for help taking care of it – yet hasn’t learned how to care for it because she refuses help in learning how – and I won’t pay that kind of money for a 14 year old to get a hairstyle that will be toast in a day and a half because it’s not taken care of.

She won’t ask for help, from anyone. Even at school we have issues with the teachers tying to get her to ask for help. It’s pathological.

So – we’ve found a therapist for her. She’s going once a week. She had a year of cognitive behavioral therapy when she was 8, and after a year of weekly sessions, the therapist told us – no joke – that she was a “lost cause” and there was nothing she could do for us. Can you believe that?

But…we’re going to try it again. I’m sure some family therapy will be involved as well. Something has got to work. Since we’ve had the time to focus on her – which she, of course, hates – we’re realizing just how bad her refusal to ask for help is. She was content when we were focused on Tim at home – we couldn’t get on her for being a recluse. I just hope it’s not too late.

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  • Anonymous January 4, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    charissa, i am here and i hear you, will think about something productive to write, just wanted to let you know, i am listening

  • Chrisa January 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks. As usual, I'm just ranting. I wish there was a fix. Sometimes – and I can't believe I'm posting this, I wish it was cancer or diabetes. At least that's understood and there's a clear path to treatment. But unlike Tim's case, where there is a biological reason for it, Dianna's issues are because SOMEONE DID THIS TO HER, which frustrates and infuriates me.

  • KSorl January 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    It really sucks when there are intangible causes outside our control that affect kids. You aren't alone in your struggles. Many children fostered or adopted after age 2 have severe disorders from what someone else has done. That's true crime – negatively impacting the life of a child. Hang in there Chrisa and feel free to vent to me anytime!

  • Catherine Ryan January 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Sounds like two things – the usual teen desire to be independant and a reaction to more attention from Mom & Dad. She sounds like she is accustomed to taking care of herself. Or at least thinks that way. I guess I want to say do not panic. You are taking the right steps with seeing a therapist. My first reaction is this is a temper tantrum to see how much she can get away with and possibly disrupting your life. Not sure of the answers but I am sure you will find them. Hang in there.

  • Hersheyswt January 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Chrisa: I support you. Your post reminds me of just how much courage it takes to love another human being so wholly and totally, and I love the courage in you for that. Definitely follow your heart: the doctors can be crazy, and better yet – the doctors are human, and sometimes they give up instead of pushing forward.

  • Chrisa January 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Hey Cath: While I appreciate your thoughts, please understand, this is not new behavior for Di. She has had many of the symptoms of a reactive attachment disorder since the age of 3.5 when we adopted her. They're just irritating me more right now. 🙂

  • Marcy January 6, 2010 at 1:36 am

    A good friend of mine does her hair in locks if your daughter wants more options. It's beautiful and seems easier to care for than a lot of other styles.
    I know the hair is secondary, but I don't have anything to say about the rest!