Do you hate yourself?

I dropped Yelena at school at 9:22 this morning. Yesterday I dropped her off at 9:05. School starts at 8:35. All the way there she was moaning in the car "Mrs. Bryce is going to kill me, Mrs. Bryce is going to kill me." In mock horror, I said:  "Is she really going to take a gun out and shoot you?" She said "No, she's just going to yell at me."  Because of her sensory issues, I think that Yelena feels that yelling at her is the same as killing her. I don't think I am able to imagine what it must feel like for her to have someone raise their voice and to speak harshly to her. Because I do not have sensory issues, I have no idea really how she perceives the world but I do know that she perceives it very differently than the way I perceive it. When she was younger, any change in our tone of voice that indicated we might be slightly less than pleased with her behavior, sent her into a crying fit that would last for hours. "Don't yell at me! Don't yell at me!" Any suggestion that her behavior needs to be modified usually results in her feeling like we are rejecting her.

She loves being able to buy lunch at school instead of taking something homemade. So we have a deal that if she is late to school then the next day she can't buy lunch. She took a lunch from home this morning and she will on Monday as well. We have defined being late by whether or not the crossing guard is still on the corner. If he is already gone then she is late.

She has asked me a several times in the last few days if I hate myself. The first time she asked I said that No, I didn't hate myself and I asked if she hated herself? She said no and I probed farther and asked if any other child had said anything to her at school about hating themselves. She said no and I left it at that.

This morning when she asked me if I hated myself I decided to take a different tack with her and said "No, I don't hate myself but there are certainly things that I don't really like about myself that I wish were different.  Do you hate yourself?. And then she said "Yes, I do hate myself." I asked if she could tell me why and she said no, it was private. I asked if there was anyone she could talk to about it and she said that she wanted to talk to the guidance counselor at school about it. So I said, "Well, for example, I wish I was thinner and I wish that I had a job." Yelena has a tremendous amount of compassion for other people and is very sympathetic when any one says things like that to her. She said, "Well, you are losing weight and you could look in the newspaper for a job.

Then I told her that I wish that I didn't get so angry sometimes and she started talking about how I can get  so angry at Daddy for small things that she doesn't think are important and I said "Yes, that's right. I need to work on that. Are there any things that you don't like about yourself?" Then she said that what she didn't like about herself was that Aunt Connie died and that nothing was any fun anymore without her.

My sister-in-law passed away last February after a long and valiant battle with metastasized breast cancer and Yelena loved her very dearly and had always felt as special bond with her. I have talked to her about how Connie is still with her and that she can always talk to her in her heart and that Connie is a spirit some where watching over her and helping her and will always be with her. I also pointed out that now we have Eliza in the family (my nephew got married last September to a wonderful woman who is a teacher and is also developing a special bond with Yelena) and that she made every thing we did with her a lot of fun.

When Yelena is sad or troubled she often brings up (most recently) her Aunt and says that her death is the cause of all her sorrows. Before Connie died, she used to talk about her grandparents death as being the thing that was bothering her. My parents died a long time ago and she never met them but she has seen pictures of them and heard stories about them. Tom's parents were both alive and we took her to visit his family shortly after we brought her home. Tom's mother was blind and bed ridden when Yelena met her and she passed away shortly afterwards. We have pictures of Yelena as a baby sitting with her and we have told her stories about our visit and how Grandma touched her face so that she could "see" her with her hands and how very much she loved her. Tom's Dad passed away when Yelena was 8 so she has more memories of him and photographs.

The next thing that Yelena said that she hated about herself was that Lucky and Toffie had died. We had two wheaten terriers that passed away recently. Lucky was 14-1/2 years old, unable to use his back legs and incontinent when we had to put him down in the late summer of 2009 right before we drove one of the boys to college in Pennsylvania for his first year. Toffie was 6 months younger than Lucky and very sad after he died but seemed to be fine for awhile and then she had what must have been a stroke about four months later and we had to put her to sleep as well.

Yelena has been inconsolable about the dogs. We got her a Siberian cat (hypo-allergenic - more or less) for Christmas last year and the cat immediately bonded with Tom and runs away when she see Yelena or myself. For her birthday this year, we got her two more Siberians and she finally has an animal that tolerates her picking her up and carrying her around. Yelena is gentle with animals but wants them to do what she wants so she can be a bit heavy handed and demanding of them.

Anything that is emotionally troublesome to Yelena will evoke a conversation about what she perceives to be the great losses in her life: the death of Aunt Connie, her grandparents or the dogs. I am sure that all of this has to do with her primary issues around attachment, abandonment and rejection. I think that when she feels strong emotions like hurt, anger, confusion, frustration, fear, it all just goes into the general mix and she reacts as if she is being abandoned and rejected. Maybe at some point I will be able to say that more eloquently but that's where I am with it at the moment.

I asked Yelena again if there was anything else that she hated about herself and she said that when friends come over and they fight that it really bothers her. This has been a problem. When Yelena is at other peoples houses she is usually very well behaved and a pleasure to be around. When another child comes to our house to play, Yelena can get very territorial. She also can be very demanding that everyone does what she wants to do and it frequently can end up in a fight between the children.  I told her that we can work on that and that when other kids come over to play that it is the right thing to do to let them play whatever they want because when they leave the she can do whatever it is she wants to do. When she has friends over to play (which is not that frequent) she should follow their lead and make sure they have fun so they will want to come back and play again. When they are gone and she is alone then she can do what she wants. Usually this is about watching TV. I think that Yelena has a very low frustration level and when things become too overwhelming, she retreats to watching TV because it is easy for her to do. Social situations are hard and take a lot out of her.

I asked if there was anyone she had a fight with recently and she talked about her friends from the Academy. Yelena goes to a social skills group once a week and the girls in that group have become her main friends. She has one friend at her regular school and a few others. She said that she never fights with Mimi but does with her sister. I said that Mimi's sister was older when she was adopted and remembered more about the country she came from so it was a harder adjustment for her and Yelena needed to be more patient with her.