In To The Arms of a Stranger

20160905_135446-2On October 4th it will be six years since we brought our daughter Winnie Whirlwind home. In many ways time has flown by, but in terms of some of her behaviour, despite huge amounts of therapeutic input in various forms, time has stood still. Winnie will still, literally, throw herself in to the arms of strangers.

We have tried everything and have had an amazing amount of support from CAMHs and other professionals, which is still ongoing, but to no avail. Her overwhelming, overpowering desire for attention means she just can’t help herself.

Every time we go out and about, to the park, to a party, to a shop, to a café, pretty much anywhere we might encounter ‘new people’, we have to run through the following spiel: “Do not talk to anyone you don’t know, do not touch people, do not kiss people, do not try to hold their hands, stroke them or sit on anyone’s lap. Stick with the people you know!” If we don’t Winnie will immediately make a bee-line for the nearest ‘fresh blood’ in the room, preferably a man, although anyone will do, and switch on the charm.

On the bus she will throw coy glances and little smiles at men sitting opposite her. The type that I’m sure many of us have used in our misspent youth’s to attract the attention of an attractive person standing on the other side of the nightclub. It is frightening! She is only eight years old. What will she be like when she is fourteen?

She knows it is wrong, but she doesn’t understand why and probably never will. If we are watching she manages to control her urge to seek attention from strangers. But as soon as our backs are turned, even just for a second, she will start making her moves and working her magic. I know there are deeply routed psychological reasons for this, caused by trauma, but it is very difficult to watch your child throw themselves at other people without a backward glance.

Winnie summed it up in her own words yesterday when we left her with a professional child carer for the first time. Until now we have only ever left her with very close friends or family members. The child carer had visited us the week before to spend time with Winnie and get the low-down on her behaviour, but to all intents and purposes she was a stranger. I thought this might worry Winnie a bit. I couldn’t be more wrong! I should have know that in fact she was extremely excited by the prospect (you can always hope). “I don’t mind who looks after me,” she said. And that is exactly it. She doesn’t. As despite all our efforts her attachments are still very shallow and probably always will be.

Unfortunately Winnie’s learning difficulties mean she doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to process anything that has happened to her. She probably won’t ever be able to understand, or come to terms with it. At eight years old she still doesn’t understand the concept of family. The professionals are beginning to come to the consensus of opinion that she never will be able to process anything. This is something we were warned could be the case six years ago.

This is probably how she will always be.

Winnie may never be able to keep herself safe, which means she may never be able to live independently.

And that is the most heartbreaking bit about it. Winnie will probably never have the life she wants because she cannot manager her own behaviour and no amount of therapy or love will change that.

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