By an Adopt4Life Member
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” – Lao Tzu
We often talk about the children’s adaptation after adoption, we invest so much in making sure they are well, secure, have their needs met… but what about us?
5 years ago, we had our first adoption; our son is wonderful, his smile is contagious. When we first met him, we realized he had a lot more special needs than we were told. However, his delightful personality made us fall in love with him, and we decided to commit to be his parents. We invested tons of energy, time (and money!) for his rehabilitation. He has improved in many ways and this is what led us to adopt again; two wonderful older children. With older children, especially knowing the trauma they have been through, we thought things were going to be difficult. Well… it wasn’t. In fact, we are still pinching ourselves as to why they have settled in our family so easily. They are calm, sweet, polite, well attached, and of course, as silly as most kids!
So, you may think now, what are you whining about? Well, I still had a really hard time adjusting to my new reality. I gave them so much of my energy, home-schooled them the first few months and went to tons of appointments. I was attending to their every need and was very concerned to be the mother they never had and deserved. Well, as months went by, my energy started to go down and my anxiety started to go up. I even had panic attacks. It was hard to understand since things were going so well with them. I felt so selfish for wanting time alone. I thought going back to work would help but it only made things worse. I hit a point where I felt as if my life was never going to be “normal” again. I was also tired of people’s questions towards our multi-racial family, tired of people judgmental comments, having to deal with professionals who don’t get it and I felt as if no one understood what my life felt like.
I hit a point where I knew I had to rest. I had lost my energy and slept for weeks and lost many of my interests. I couldn’t make sense of my thoughts. I felt like it was just a big pile of dirty laundry all tangled up and every time I tried to make sense of one thing, the rest of the pile just followed. I was so overwhelmed. When I decided that it was enough, I went to see a psychologist and was diagnosed with “adjustment disorder”. Basically, it’s a temporary state of not being able to cope with a stressful situation. Yet during that time, I felt as if my life was over and I was going to feel that way forever.
Jump forward to now, I’m doing so well. When I think about it, it seems ridiculous that I thought it was a permanent state. I had to make many decisions for my own well-being and that meant taking care of my needs better, like needing to rest, having time with my hubby and my friends, traveling and having a meaningful job. It also meant saying no to good things but I had to set limits for my own sake. And of course, getting treatment to help me cope but also to become a better person. I know now how much I needed this crisis to happen in my life, as painful as it was. I’m a lot more “in tune” with my emotions and have better boundaries to make sure my needs are also respected. I’ve learned a lot about myself and have come to terms with many unresolved issues (still a lot of stuff to work on).
Being a caregiver of children who have suffer trauma can be really challenging as we really want to share with them the best of us. However, if we want to keep doing that, we also need to take care of ourselves. For me, it was hard to reach out to others as I felt like nobody would “get it”. I’m glad some people were honest enough to tell me I really needed to take better care of myself… As much as I used to think I was the only one going through this, now, I’m sure many of you can somewhat relate to my story. If you feel this way, reach out to friends, family, peers, other adoptive parents or maybe a professional. You deserve to get better, you are not alone and yes, you can get better.
“No matter how much it hurts now, someday, you will look back and realized your struggles changed your life for the better.” – anonymous