Bag of Rocks

Cimion (our oldest son-14 years old) is struggling with a lot of emotional baggage. I don't want to get into specific details here but his inability to control his anger is leading him down a path that the rest of us are unwilling to follow. When we adopted him three years ago, we knew he had issues to deal with and we have done more to help him than we even thought we had in us.

Someone e-mailed this to me (thank you T) and I wanted to share it here because it gives insight to what he, and others like him, deal with everyday.

A Bag of Rocks
When you carry a bag of rocks around, day in and day out, you will inevitably become tired. No matter how far you walk, how hard you work, how much you try, you are still tired. Even sleep is ineffective, because you are sleeping with your bag of rocks, and when you wake in the morning you continue throughout the day carrying the bag of rocks.

Some people would ask, "Why not just let go of the bag of rocks? Stop carrying it around with you, just put them down. Can't you see that would make it easier?" But, you see, I am afraid that if I let go of the rocks there will be nothing left. The rocks are all that I have, all that I have carried with me throughout my life, all that I trust. Certainly, carrying these rocks around makes me tired. But being tired is familiar, and safe. Would you let go of all that you have in the world, if you were not certain that by doing so you would gain more?

And yet (the irony is) we cannot have the certainty of more, until we let go of what we have. As long as I am carrying this bag of rocks, my arms are much too full for me to accept anything else. Even when you offer me a bag of feathers I don't dare to take it, for how can I trust that the load you are offering me is truly a load of feathers without opening the bag? Others have offered feathers, but given lead. How can I know that the bag you offer is not heavier than my current burden unless I let go of my bag of rocks, freeing my hands to open your bag? And I cannot let go of my bag, for if I put it down it might be taken from me. Or, even worse, I may find that my arms ace far too much for me to pick up the bag again, and then I would have nothing.

Can you understand why I would despair? You ask me to give up all that I believe that I have, all that I believe that I am, and yet I cannot. The fear of having nothing--of being nothing--is far too great. You want me to give up my hatred, my anger, and my pain (but most of all my pain, for the hatred and anger are mere masks for the grief and fear I hold inside). It will make me better, you say. And yet, how can I trust you, without first giving up all that I am holding on to? And how can I give up all that I am holding, if I do not trust you? Can you not see the confusion I am living with, the overwhelming fear that controls my actions? Can you not see why I push you away? Why I cause harm to myself, and to you? Can you not see why I am afraid?

Please understand, I don't want it to be this way. I do want more, I really do. Perhaps you may have noticied how hard I try, before the despair seems too much to bear, before I give in. If only I could give up these rocks, I would have peace. I would be happy. I want to belive it, but I can't. So I continue walking, dragging my bag of rocks, and wishing for something I can never have.

I wrote this just over a year ago, as an attempt to explain to my therapist why I was holding on to so many of my destructive behaviors so stubbornly. I finally found the courage to let go of the bag and try something new--and yet at times I still go back to that bag of rocks, because it is so familiar and safe, and the new ways are still uncomfortable and scary. I am considering adding more to this piece--as I no longer feel the hopelessness I ended on a year ago. In
the meantime, I hope perhaps the piece can help parents of RADs (reactive attachement disorder) understand why it is so difficult for their children to trust, and why they may fight so hard against what you can clearly see is best for them.

I'm going to share this on my adoption board as well because I think it's such an important reminder to parents of hurting children to remember it's not about us and even though it's hard, we can not take it personally.


Lora said...

We also have a foster son we are in the process of adopting who was diagnosed with RAD and reading this really did help. Thanks for sharing.

chris said...

hi, I was a foster care social worker for many years and saw many children like your son. The only time I saw these children 'cured' was when they had been in a loving stable home for several years. Yes, therapy helps and sometimes even meds, but what really does the trick is fierce, tenacious love. I say tenacious because it seems like these kids are saying, 'I dare you to love me, warts and all!!' Bless you all. Chris