October 30, 2006

Demonic Posession or Normal Toddler Behavior?

Here are the things I know are true:
1) Anna is a very sweet and loving girl, with a wide grasp of understanding for certain things (books, songs, phrases). She has giggle fits that would charm the stars from the sky, and she has the ability to be deeply concerned about small harms (For example, asking her tamborine in a sad voice after she's thrown it, "Oh, you okay? You sad? Did you bonk the head? Oh, poor toy.")

2) I am a good mother. I work with her, every day, to get through the bad spots. I don't raise my voice all the time, I negotiate, I explain, I sympathize and I comfort. I know she's frustrated, I know she's not being malicious. I do the best I can, every day, every moment, so when I crack, while it makes me feel AWFUL, I know that it's just a part of the process and it's time to get back up after my cry and start again. Being a parent is an ACTIVE job, you can't just sit there and think it'll all be fine. It's draining and emotionally wearing and, (oh, I hope!!), worth it in the end.

3) After she has huge blow up and I have a huge blow up, she's usually better for the day, like steam releasing pressure.

4) When I lose my temper it escalates her temper and makes everything worse for everyone.

Here are the things I am doing already:

1) Pseudo-time out: this is a sit out time that takes place, instantaenously, whenever and whereever she crosses the line. I say, loudly and firmly, "No hitting!" (or whatever she was doing), and put her down away from me, sitting and alone. She usually stays there for a minute, pouting, then forgets about it. If the offense is very severe, I'll say, "no hitting" several times and put her alone, and very firmly, in her crib. She'll cry it out and then be fine.

2) Whenever Anna starts in with her massive frustration fits, I try to talk her down and distract. This works about half the time. If it works, we're all happier, if it doesn't, she ends up in a supervised time out.

3) Not yelling. I try so hard all day not to yell. Today, no dice, but most days, we're okay. Anna is already so sensitive to sounds and environment, yelling just SUPER-startles here and makes EVERYTHING worse.

4) Losing the thrown object. She started using one of her favorite toys as a weapon the other day, hitting everything in sight with it, so Dolly went buh-bye in a public way.

Here's where I'm lost as lost could be...:

It breaks my heart. That's the honest truth. It breaks my heart that my little girl, my sweet little girl who I am so completely in love with, has this vast and awful alternate personality of violent and bratty behavior. This afternoon, after a full morning of the up-down splits that she does, where she's fine and happy and pleasant and then INSTANTLY violent, screaming and awful and then INSTANTLY happy, etc, I just cracked. She said she wanted lunch, but when I gave it to her she screamed, "POPSCICLE!" and threw her bowl of food. I scooped her up, mess and all, ran her upstairs, plopped her in her crib, said (yelled), "No throwing food!" and then went down to the living room and had a good cry.

Because the split personality thing is getting more pronounced, not less. I'm working with her, I'm finding new reserves of patience I never knew I had, and it's getting worse. Poor Kurt is so blown away that he wants to discuss it with her pediatrician. One thing we do have, in some sort of mental "it's not your fault" corner, is her diagnosis of dissociaton of maturation, where it clearly states that nearly all the kids with this gross motor delay that Anna went through, were SEVERELY frustrated and prone to massive fits of temper.

I just don't know what to do anymore. Nothing I try with her seems to make any effective headway. Yes, she doesn't hit me so much anymore... but she hits herself every time she gets mad. What do I do, take away her hands for 5 minutes? Kurt desperately wants someone to TELL us what to do, and I am fine with talking it over with her pediatrician, especially concerning her diagnosis, but I also think this is a behavioral issue, not a medical one, and he's not going to find the answers he's looking for in a doctor's office.

We set up the pack n' play on the main level so I don't have to drag her up the stairs all the time for time outs, and we're switching to REAL time outs, not just sit whereever you are ones. I try to do things with her to keep her stimulated and burn off that excess energy and we go on walks every day so she can run around, but even that backfires because as soon as I STOP the activity she loves, even if she's exhausted or it's been hours, she throws a massive fit and we're right back where we started.

So, what now? Therapy? Exorcism? I know it sounds like a joke, and I'm mostly kidding, but listening to her this afternoon when I put her in her crib did make me think of the Exorcist movie. She was talking to herself, like there were two Anna's- the good, sweet concerned Anna, and the Anna who screamed and beat the wall and shook the crib and tried to bring down the house. They were having a conversation.