I love the app “Time Hop”. I enjoy pulling it up each morning and looking at the posts and photos from that same day throughout the last 7 or so years. Occasionally they bring a tear to my eye but more often than not, I smile. The memories are so precious… even the ones that hurt.
But something happened a couple days ago. My “Time Hop” from a year ago abruptly went silent. No posts. No pictures. No memories. Just sudden stillness. And I remembered. My open book was slammed shut exactly one year ago. For five days. Five days in mental health facility.
You read that correctly.
Don’t let anyone try to convince you that there is no such thing as post-adoption depression. Or that dealing with a traumatized child will not in turn traumatize you as well.
Love alone does not conquer all.
But here’s what does: Love with a heavy dose of Grace, Knowledge, Mindfulness and Eff-ing Hard Work. And God.
Last September I reached the limits of my own strength. I could no longer “pull myself up by my bootstraps.” In fact, I didn’t even want to. I've had such dark moments of doubt that I've questioned whether I could ever believe again.
I had a small child in my home that did not speak. Not English. Not Mandarin. Not Cantonese. No words except those spoken as an echo. He also did not cry. Not when he hurt himself. Not when he was sad. No. He did not speak. He did not cry.
All the time.
He was terrified, distressed, fighting for survival. For him every moment was fight, flight or freeze. All too often it was fight. Pulling out fist full after fist full of my hair. Spitting in my face. Scratching me. Biting me. Kicking me. Head butting me. Hitting me.
For hours at a time.
It seemed that nothing could calm this poor child. And as odd as it sounds, while I was the recipient of all the rage, I was also the recipient of all of his need and attention. I could not leave him for a moment. He clung to me incessantly. Always touching me, grabbing me, pulling me. He would not let me speak to anyone else… not my husband, my children, my friends without first doing everything he could to distract me and then, if that failed, yanking my head toward him and screaming at the top of his lungs so I couldn’t hear the other person.
I knew this was the effect of trauma. I knew he was in terrible pain. I knew that every woman who had ever been in charge of his care had abandoned him. I knew that he had been abused. I knew that he had spent the majority of his life fighting to live.
I also was quite aware that I had willingly signed up for this. This did not make it any easier.
I hid. Or I escaped. As often as I could. I began to either recoil or burst into tears at the mere touch of another person. A simple hand on my arm could send me into uncontrollable sobbing or on the other extreme, feel as if I had been burned. I began to isolate myself. From everyone. I was embarrassed. I was scared. I was lonely. I was hurting. I was, in my eyes, the Queen of Inadequacy. And I was failing at everything.
So… how did all this change? How did I get to today?
1. I got help. Counseling. Treatment. Support. With people who were trauma-informed. (VERY important)
2. I was given grace by those who loved me and cared for me.
3. I learned. I studied. I educated myself on the effects of trauma on children and the residual effects on those who care for them. I found resources and was able to equip myself with the tools I needed to navigate this time of healing for both me and for my son.
4. I stopped hiding.
I’m still learning. I’m still working hard. This is not easy. But as Glennon Doyle Melton says, “We can do hard things.” (http://www.momastery.com) I believe it.
Anything written or developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis (Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development)
People of the Second Chance http://www.potsc.org