Attachment disorders are the one thing I didn’t get, or at least that’s what I used to tell myself. I have always admitted I have problems. I’m not perfect, and depressed, disconnected, I will fully admit to those things. In my mind though, an attachment disorder has always been this extreme thing that would require serious counseling, maybe even hospitalization or another stay in the system. An attachment disorder is the little girl I worked with when I worked in a preschool who threw tantrums no one could control, a child who was already in intensive counseling at the grand old age of 3, not me.
As an adult though, a friend of mine mentioned to me that she has an attachment disorder that has been diagnosed, and she has been in therapy for years for it. My first reaction was no you don’t. I’ve done a lot of research (into the more extreme forms). There are two different types, and as long as I have been researching, I have been told that one type is better than the other. The disinhibited child is supposed to be more functional and more responsive to therapy, because they attach themselves to everyone.
So what about me? I would be classified as the inhibited type. My little bubble has burst. I joke with my friend thanks for telling me that I have no hope of any functional relationships. There is some truth to it though. I laugh, but it’s not all a joke. I’m not a psychopath, and I doubt I’ll be going into any homes for troubled kids (especially being an adult) any time soon. The bottom line though is I don’t care. I don’t care for people, I don’t attach to them with few exceptions, and in my head, I am better than those who are disinhibited. I guess it’s the extreme of making lemonade out of lemons. I take what I have and figure out how to make it seem better.
It’s a strange science. At this point, even with certain specialty centers, therapists and other professionals honestly don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to “fix” us, even when we are not full blown criminals. It leaves many asking, what is an attachment disorder?
Development of Attachment Disorders
Children learn to attach starting from birth. People like to say babies can’t remember anything, but that’s not true. They may not have clear vision or complete words. However, an infant can process a connection with the mother, and consequently, they can process the tearing of that bond. If that initial bond is kept intact, an infant can move on and develop other healthy bonds and relationships. When it is broken, some are affected in small ways and others in larger ways. It can be difficult to tell which way any child will go. The relationship with the mother is the most basic and primal of starts, and it is the one thing that can continue to affect people for the rest of their lives. Regardless of circumstances, when the primary caregiver/mother becomes unreliable, an infant learns that the world at large is an unfortunate, dangerous, and untrustworthy place where everybody is out for themselves. He learns to rely solely on himself, stops crying because cries will not draw attention or care, and one learns to not be too difficult, not be too needy, and otherwise avoid asking anybody for anything.
Consequently, for a child with RAD, the idea of simultaneously submitting to the authority of adoptive or other parents is terrifying. A teacher or other authority doesn’t necessarily care, and they automatically move on. However, should a parent of any kind move on, it would reinforce the idea that one was unworthy, trash. Any relationship in which the child is not in complete control is terrifying. There is no trust, no safe environment unless they hold complete control.
So what’s it like living with an attachment disorder?
I can only speak from personal experience, and I always just assumed this was part of being adopted, but not enough to amount to a disorder. As a small child, I didn’t cry, I didn’t throw tantrums, and when my mom left me with a babysitter for the first time, she cried. I waved goodbye and didn’t think twice about her leaving. My sisters both cried until she had to come home. My mom looked back on this with some amusement, mostly at the fact that she had been more upset than I was. Before I was old enough to truly express it, I was afraid to misbehave. Yes, my mom was a disciplinarian, but I had an unnatural fear in me that they would leave. I knew in my brain starting as early as 3 that if I was too bad, they would give me away, they would leave me and I would have nothing.
I was very attached to animals as a child and still prefer them to people today. Those are in fact the only real bonds I have made, and when my dog died, I was torn apart. When my aunt died, I didn’t think enough of it to have any desire to go to the funeral or otherwise
pay my respects.
When young, I had some bad habits, and even when I knew I was caught, I would lie about it. I would lie about stealing something as simple as a cookie, and I thought that if I covered my eyes, no one would be able to see that I was chewing gum. After all, I couldn’t see it. It was a false child-like logic yes, and my parents found it entertaining at the time, but even when older, I struggled. It wasn’t that I really needed anything I stole, and I had no reason to lie about some of the things I did. There was some fear in me that if I were to admit it, they would leave me, but at the same time I couldn’t stop.
I was never starving, but I would eat until I was extremely full. My mom was always worried about me being overweight, and she did certain things that would have made any child self conscious. I still remember a lady who worked at a clothing store telling my mom that her pregnant sister wore the size she wanted to get me. I remember being so embarrassed when my mom continued to insist I needed that size when it was clearly too big even trying it on. Still, I ate like at any time, I might not have the chance.
As a teen, I had some drug problems. At that point, my mom had started to complain that I wasn’t involved in the family. Like I said, this is not entirely the fault of living with an attachment disorder. My parents were nowhere near perfect, but at the same time, I am more aware of how hard it must have been. I’m more aware that it must have been hard to live with a child who showed no affection towards you. Even with all that went on between my parents and I through the years, I know many who have fought to rebuild relations with their parents over worse. I have no interest in doing so.
Attachment Disorder in Adulthood
As an adult, I have been described as
brutally honest. I do have a filter, but with the way I talk to people at times, most people don’t realize it. I lack the social consciousness that would keep most from saying certain things. Some people appreciate it while others take offense to virtually everything I say. I still see others as untrustworthy, and I don’t maintain close relationships, because I still know they will leave. I know in the back of my mind that for some reason, people forget about me eventually. This may be being left or it may be the attachment disorder, but I think of myself as someone’s trash, and it still hurts to hear it. I may see myself as unlovable, but that doesn’t mean I need it repeated.
I am obsessed with self reliance. I don’t feel that I can rely on anyone, and I sabotage even relationships that seem potentially positive. I leave and cut all ties over any small signs of trouble, and I have had multiple people tell me that I am closed off. I tend to try to leave people before they can leave me, especially when I can see they’re going somewhere else. I realize that a lot of people feel uncomfortable with the fact that they feel that I am not interested in investing in them. I am still there for my friends when they are friends, but I take things as significant betrayal. Either I slowly fade away, or I leave on very harsh terms and view them as a threat and someone who has once again let me down.
People my age are starting to go through the stages when they want kids, and I am watching my friends have and raise kids. I have no interest in it. Children disgust me, and I think I love my nephews. But I wouldn’t know what to do with my own, and in a big way, I believe I wouldn’t even know where to begin to know how to be a parent.
I can go over the semantics all day. At the end of the day though, the thing that really sums it up is this. I’m not afraid of being alone in or til the end. It’s simply a reality I live with.