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Dear Special Ed. Teacher

Dear Special Education Teacher,

First, know that I appreciate you very much. I respect your strength and patience. I respect your commitment. I could not do your job, so I appreciate that you can do it, and that you want to do it.

But please, no matter how horrible my child is, DO NOT CALL ME TO VENT ABOUT HIM. Call your therapist. Use your professional support system. Use YOUR resources.

My son is 14, and he was diagnosed with a developmental disability when he was 12. His diagnosis was a result of a complete breakdown due to unrealistic expectations from society, family, and especially from his schools. Do you realize how many teachers and school staff come into contact with a child by the time he's 12 years old? Do you realize how many people have complained to me about my child, how many criticized my parenting, how many blamed me for his behavioral problems before, during and even after his diagnosis process?

Believe me, there were a lot of them. So many I've lost count of them, and of the emotional scars their condemnation left on me and on my son.

Also believe me that I know how challenging my son can sometimes be. I've been hit. I've been screamed at. I've been threatened. I've been called names. For every rough day my son has had in your classroom, he and I both have already survived the dozens if not hundreds that have passed.

So, let me share something really important with you:

When I stopped focusing on controlling his badness and started trying to figure out what makes him tick, both our lives changed for the better. Even though he couldn't tell when he was headed for a meltdown, I started identifying the triggers and signs and talking to him about them. He's a thinker. He's introspective. He absorbed the information and started tracking his own reactions. I learned when to back off, and found out that my son, once he has had time to sort things out, will come back to me and will hold himself accountable for his bad behavior.

What I'm saying is that instead of calling me to vent, you should try talking to my son. If you learn what makes him tick, you might just find that he's not that hard to work with after all.

And when you do need to call me to "get on the same page" (which I expect will happen given my son's particular issues) have a proactive attitude. Obviously something isn't working, and it may be something you're doing. If you want to be on the same page, you're going to have to be willing to consider you've been on the wrong one.

And one last thing:

Don't ever expect that by complaining about my son I will be shamed into doing things your way.

doors without doorknobs... a dream.

last night I dreamed I was in my old house, the one I lost because my ex decided he would not pay child support unless the state could catch him to garnish it. it was a violent dream, which I think had to do with a violent reaction to listening to my Prolonged Exposure Therapy recording for session eight (which I have not yet blogged, but I promise to get to it as soon as possible).

in the dream I was in my kitchen, and I could see outside my windows that young men were flowing over the fences into my yard in droves. they looked like gang members and moved like ninjas and really scared me. my kids were with me. my partner was with me. I told everyone to lock the doors and reached for the back door, but there was no knob or deadbolt like I remembered there being when we lived there. the door was solid, with no knob openings drilled into it, but it was the same door that I remember, painted white and scuffed at the bottom where a dog had scratched at it to be let out (I'd always looked forward to replacing that door before I lost the house).

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 7

the heart-racing stress reaction I had when listening to the recording of session six marked out what is called a "hot spot". as I listened to it every day, I realized that I was really angry that Scott had made me responsible for meeting his every emotional need.

after the event where he threw books at me and at our petite two-year-old daughter, Scott took out the trash. then for weeks he asked me every day what he ought to do. then every day he showed me what he did, whether it was putting dishes away or wiping off the table, apparently to gauge my approval rating of his efforts.

it was so exhausting. why did he need my feedback so badly? when I cleaned the toilet, I didn't ask anyone to look at it and praise me for the job. I'd probably cleaned toilets a thousand times during our marriage, all without a scrap of fanfare. fanfare would have seemed very strange for something as mundane as cleaning a toilet.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 6

for session six of Prolonged Exposure Therapy, I chose to focus on the final act of domestic violence by Scott (the man I was then married to) against me.

it was both more and less damaging than the previous event I'd focused on, the gas-lighting session by cult leaders that destroyed my ability to trust others and to make decisions on my own. it was more damaging because it brought me closer to accepting death as a solution to my pain than anything I'd previously encountered, even the verbal and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother.

it was less damaging only because my psyche was already so damaged that it couldn't have created in my heart any more of a sense of worthlessness than I already harbored against myself. it is possible that if Scott, along with the cult leaders, had not destroyed my soul so completely in that closed-door session a few years before, I would have found the strength to gather up my children and walk out the door after he attacked me.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 5

I think I'm learning to step out of numbness. I mentioned in my last post that I was angry. I explored that feeling in session five of my Prolonged Exposure Therapy, as I had thought about it quite a bit between sessions. I broke it down, distilled the cause of my anger to the least common denominator, and when everything else was gone the cult leaders stood alone in my mind's eye with one outstanding quality: greed.

I was angry. so, so angry.

I was so isolated, so alone. complete immersion in cultish culture was required. fear was cultivated by leaders, members were shamed into cult-approved behavior. interactions were controlled, friendships discouraged. we all lived in a group, emotionally isolated. we spoke in code; ex-members call it "wayspeak". it served to keep us culturally separate from our communities.

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