Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dear Sugar: PTSD in Adoption, Round #2

Dear Sugar,

This week, we're journeying through PTSD, in relation to adoption, as a parent-by-adoption.  Today, I'd like you to meet B.  

B is in her mid-thirties and is parenting multiple children, all adopted.  She's married and is a SAHM.   

Rachel:  What is your adoption of Adoption PTSD?

B:  Adoption PTSD is when a single or series of traumatic events during an adoption process creates crippling issues such as depression and anxiety.

Rachel:  What was your adoption experience?  

B:  We adopted all of our children, but one of our adoptions was particularly difficult.   It was a really long match, and we were already parenting.  Because of this, not only were we experiencing tremendous stress, but so were our children.  As much as we tried to shield them from the ups and downs, they were always around when we were making phone calls, having pop-up conversations, and cautiously-optimistically preparing for a possible placement.   The stress of trying to control what our kids saw and heard added to the overall stress of the adoption. 

We had an overwhelming and increasing amount of communication with the expectant parents (prior to placement).  They were demanding, made off-the-charts requests of us, and I’m positive that one of them was/is bi-polar.  It was a roller coaster from the day we were matched until months after the placement.   There were a handful of times I was very tempted to walk away.  

I ended up going on anxiety medication because of the daily panic attacks I was having.   The situation was so unpredictable and upsetting.  

I know you're probably thinking, why didn't we just abandon the match?  More than one person advised us to walk away, even one of our adoption professionals, because he felt bad for us and in his experience, he knew this probably wouldn't result in a placement.  

We didn’t hold on out of desperation for a baby (we already have children and were OK with the outcome of any match), but because we felt that God told us to “hang on” and “wait and see.”  It was only by our faith that we stayed. 

Rachel:  What makes you think you experienced Adoption PTSD?  What were your symptoms? 

B:  After the placement happened, I assumed my anxiety would vanish.  It didn’t.   The communication with the birth parents continued to be incredibly difficult for many months after placement.  Bio dad wanted one thing, while bio mom wanted another.  We felt like we (and our child) were in a game of tug-of-war.   I continued to experience breathlessness, fatigue, fear, confusion, anger, and moments of wanting to just give up.  I felt like I was being pecked at ALL THE TIME.  That's the best way to describe it.  Like a chicken was just using its beak to peck, peck, peck, peck, on my soul.  Constantly.  

The worst part?  I wasn’t free to be my baby’s mother.  Instead, I was caught between a “rock and a hard place”:  wanting to enjoy my new baby while trying to appease those who couldn’t be appeased.  

Rachel:  How did you heal/get treated?  What helped you? 

B:  Anti anxiety-medications helped.  But what was most difficult and most necessary, putting up very firm boundaries with the birth parents, was what helped the most.  The truth was, I was being too permissive.   Unfortunately, it was harming myself and my family.  I couldn’t take away all the stress of the situation, but I could prevent SOME of it.   I only wish I would have been firmer earlier on.    

Rachel:  How has Adoption PTSD changed you?  Do you feel your traumatic experience did any “permanent damage”? 

B:  I have more empathy than ever for those who have experienced trauma.  I know that trauma comes in different forms.  Something that’s traumatic for one person may not look traumatic to another.  But there is power in naming your problem.   That’s half the battle.  The second half is treatment. 
Rachel:  Did the experience do “permanent damage”?  

B:  I don’t know.  We’re only a year out from the placement.  I finally feel like myself again.  But the thing with trauma (just like grief) is that it comes back.  It’s a cycle.   We just learn tools to deal with it.

Rachel:  What advice do you have for someone who thinks they’re experiencing Adoption PTSD?   

B:  Get help  See a therapist.   Join an adoption support group.   Openly speak of your struggles, because there’s nothing to be ashamed of.   Keep doing the things you love to do, things that bring you peace and joy.   And even though you don’t think it’s possible in the moment, Adoption PTSD is a teacher.   Because of your experience, you will be stronger and be able to help others.  

Also, it's OK to admit you are having a hard time.  Just because I was chosen to parent my child, just because I am very thankful to be a mom, just because I'm strong, it doesn't mean my PTSD isn't real.  It doesn't mean the gratefulness of being chosen can magically trump PTSD.   They can exist, the PTSD and the joy, simultaneously.   

***My disclaimer:  I'm not a mental health professional.  I'm using my platform to amplify the voices of women who believe that their adoption experiences have resulted in mental health issues.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated and published upon approval. Your thoughts and questions are also welcome via e-mail at whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com.