Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stepping Out

"Weeping Nude" painting by Edvard Munch, 1913

I have hesitated to post this.  
But, finally.  I am.
See that woman, in the painting?  That was me, minus the long thick tresses and youth.  
No longer.
But I was there.

This post is a stepping out.
I have hesitated, hemmed and hawed about writing this.  
I have a knot of fear in my gut doing it.
But I hope, maybe that if I do...then others will see that you can move on.  
Others will maybe realize that it is ok if they get snared.  
And so that I can be true.  To me.  To this record, my blog, my virtual journal.
So that it's "out there."

This post is about that dark secret: things can kinda fall apart for awhile after an adoption.
It can be to varying degrees, but it can also be a form of Post Adoption Depression.
Yup.
Been there. 
Done that.
It maybe wasn't only official Post Adoption Depression, but it was a huge squeezing tangle of that and just generally being overwhelmed by changes and hard differences. 
And it scared the life out of  me. 
It froze me.

And I feared to let anyone know that I was a mess, outside of a trusted two or three {and, oh bless you, you know who you are}....because no one really wants to be known as the big fat phony that they really are.  
Well.   
Hello to you all.
That would be me. 
Bit fat phony.
Hypocrite extraordinaire.
Me.
Writer of old blog posts extolling the truth and joy of adopting and love and the swift sure glide into same, if only you embrace it fully, unreservedly.  
I extolled the utter beauty of adoption.
I still do, if not more so...but for the first time after four previous adoptions, I had hit a wall.

Let me emphasize, tho I felt during all this like a fake, looking out from the mire of last summer...
now, I still hold to those writings.  
I did write all those. They were not, are not, lies.  Still.  
Even now, still, I believe them to be true...and I see them more clearly.

But I also know, from my own shocked broken self, found too many times on the bathroom floor weeping in gulping panic, that sometimes....those feelings are out of reach.
And that it doesn't even have much or anything to do with the particular child, it's just the, um, whole "muchness" of it.
Those feelings of confidence, love and surety are grasped for, mutely screamed for...and they are out of reach.  
And the sharp cold piercing icepick of fear and despair stabs just under your ribs and you gasp in shock.
And you weep.  
Or, more accurately, I wept.
Then.  Last summer. Yes, then.
I wept at night after dinner, after bedtime until I couldn't breath and my eyes were swollen shut. 
I woke looking like a bullfrog and could barely get out of bed.  
Only the pull of my toddler Gabey, prying open my eyes and telling me he wanted milk pulled me out into the world again...that and the clank and clamor of the early morning sounds of a house with many children.
The house won't wait for despair.  
The children can't understand, nor should they have to, the indigo binding cloths of bleak.
So you muddle along, faking it, trying to breathe even as you are a little bit frozen.
I tried the last fibers of poor Tom's patience and endurance to be sure; him befuddled by my gulping sobs and shaking head.
I tried to pray, and grasped for words, instead groaning soundlessly.
Finally, stumbling through the first weeks and month home, last summer,  yes then....Tom finally, gently, said with a sad hug "You are hurting you and her and them.  You are not finding your way. Call your doc. Get  help." 


It's kind of like having a colossal migraine (I get those)...you think you can keep muddling along, dropping things and shunning interaction because it hurts too much, physically, and finally someone says, um, "Look, for pity's sake, do what it takes to make this stop: lie down, turn off the light, drink some water, rest, take the med,...you'll feel a lot better and at least be able to get through the rest of the day."
Tom said that to me, in essence, but this time not about a migraine.
Shocked that he said it out loud, I did.  
I got help.  
And it humiliates me to type this, even as I know it shouldn't.  
The getting help doesn't humiliate me.
But the shock and confusion of finding myself overcome on the floor...yeah, those are not my proudest moments. 
But I am vain. 
I am full of pride.
But I am a phony.  And I know it.
So, I brace now for the embarrassment; but truthfully I have long ago flogged myself for it.

But here is the key, and why I am stepping out: IT HELPED.
It helped.
I thought that I was just a failure.  
I failed at my own words.
I failed at loving well.
I failed at persevering.
I failed at mom-ing. 
But getting some help, by which I mean admitting I was a mess, not making it.  
By which I mean, talking with close friends, family.
By which I mean, stepping forward blindly, soundlessly maybe, but trying to trust in prayer (because yeah this was kind of a spiritual crisis too).
By which I  mean, giving myself permission to be a mess and not a supermom.
By which I  mean, zoloft, for a few months...well it helped. 
IT ALL HELPED.
I stopped crying at night on my bathroom floor.
I calmed and was able to be present for my kids again, fully. 
I looked to the wider picture.


Nothing changed on the outside of that picture.
The hards were still hard.
The lack of communication and slow building of bonds were still there.
But, with help, I stopped only seeing the disconnects.
I breathed.
I slowed. 
I stopped crying. 
I was able to look further, by which I mean, beyond my own panic.

So, did I fail?
Um, yeah.
And I do still.  Every. Day.
That's not new, that's not even new with this adoption...old old news, that one.
But again, I know I can live with it. 
I knew it before, but then, couldn't see past it.

I really think, it was a good jolt of Post Adoption Depression (and let me say the acronym, "PADS" is simply dreadful..maybe that's apropos...hmmm).
It's real.
It's kind of a post stress syndrome thing.   
Maybe lot of it, for me,  might have been unmet, unrealistic expectations.
Maybe it was an impatient, controlling thing.
Maybe, I don't know...
It might very well be a "failed superwoman" thing.  
Because I can very easily get the "big head" and think I can take it on, as a mom.  
Well, now I know better, to be sure.
A lot of it was a spiritual "trust" issue, cause apparently I am really bad at that.
Ouch, and "surprise!"
I've been humbled to the utmost (well, maybe NOW upon posting I have..ahem)
I will NEVER think I am "all that" as a mom, ever again.  
Not that I did so much...but maybe a little, and maybe a lot more than I ever will again. 

Anyhow, that first month last summer....it did me in.  
Kicked my right back on my fanny.  Or the bathroom floor, whatever...you get the idea.  
Yes, I was sicker than ever in my life (can you say 'swine flu in Africa?" I can!).   
That surely didn't help a bit.
But also, this adoption was just somehow so different than any one before.  
Just like every birth is different, and every child is different, so, of course, every adoption is different.  Doh.  
Like I didn't know.  
But.  I didn't KNOW....because I hadn't lived it to this degree. Or lived this one, maybe. 
I could go on.  You don't want to hear more.  

But hear this:
I gave up Zoloft for Lent.
Yup.  I know, goofy maybe.  
But OH so hard...scary mostly.  
I feared falling under that dark shroud again.  I feared it.  
But I didn't.  

And now, NOW, it is EASTER! 
{Yes, it is STILL Easter! The season of Easter, I mean...Isn't that just the coolest thing?}
And with Easter comes the light.
So, I'm posting about this. 
I kinda think I must.
Because it is the gift of Easter - we are given back our very selves.
I've been given back my very self
It was time for me to move forward, all these facets (the friends, the bolstering support, the prayer and prayers on my behalf, and too the brief stint on zoloft) helped me walk out of it, that dark spot.

I am back to the me of me, out in the light.  I've stepped out.  
And it's bright here.  
It's also still the old standard me moody and louder and has the same ol' land mines, but they are familiar turf.  The hards are still hard.  But they don't make me crumple.  They might make me tired and cranky or loud too.  But I can withstand them.  Before, last summer, I could not.  Now, with this time, I can.  And do.
 (This is my fake "I am mama, hear me roar" pose! 
Too goofy this shot, but perfect for this post where I'm already at my worst.)

But for any of you out there in the blogoverse, if you have adopted and feel like you are under a stuffy shroud of hard and can't breath...stop beating yourself up, think about help.
You're not alone, even Melissa Fay Greene has written about this, multiple times, go check.
There are many kinds of help to pull you up from the panic: time, friends, talk, prayer, and yeah, maybe a med for a few months.
Maybe the most important help is to know it happens, to any one of us.
So, give yourself a break.
Help; different shapes and forms and ways.
It can help. 
It's ok.  You are not alone.  
You might feel like you have to hide, that you're alone...it's isolating in a horrible way.
But you're not.
You're not alone.
Remember, been there, done that. 
And it will pass.  It can pass. 
Read that again, it can pass.  
Life isn't gonna be what it was.  
It's going to be different. 
But it's going to be richer, not necessarily easier, but still oh so good.  

Not everything now is perfect or all adjusted or a dreamy soft focus portrait here in my newly grown family. 
It's not gonna be.
And, truthfully, it wasn't even close before.  
But, I want to step out.  I don't want to be a hypocrite or phony even if you rightly want to call me so.
  

 I am just me, in this forum: this mom full of scars and cracks, bad hair and sweet tooth but trying her best.
Not holding her breath anymore. 
Step and exhale.....

26 comments:

Monique in TX said...

I don't think you're a phony! I think you are brave. Brave for welcoming adopted children into your home. Brave for traveling halfway around the world to do it. Brave for facing your problems and getting help. Brave for stepping out away from the meds after they've done their work. Brave enough to put into words what other people are suffering. Hold your head high--you are amazing.

Stephanie said...

It is not hypocrisy to be walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death -- especially if you keep walking and sheltering the people you have with you.

Our attitudes and emotions matter, of course, but if we do our work regardless of them, then we are doing our work regardless of them, right? Scared to apologize, eager to apologize, apologizing is still apologizing. Hate working out, love working out, doing it is still exercise.

Saints don't get to the beatific vision by way of the flower-scented vistas, after all. Saints are the ones that kept going, even in that miserable Valley.

And thanks for saying you've been there too. It's shocking to be in such a horrid place, and it's easy to think screwing up got you there - whether it's post-adoption, post-birthing, post-graduation, or post-anything else that's wonderful. What a privilege to watch you work this hard. Thank you for inspiring us.

Diane and family:) said...

Older child adoption, completing and moving into new home and m e n o p a u s e:( while parenting four other children and my daughter who had just joined our family and spoke no English. Knocked me onto my knees on many a night....my refuge was my closet, I will say, that even though it was so painful and I felt so far from God....upon review and each and every new mercy and morning, I, now, realize He was closer than ever, ever before!! I think your post is extremely beautiful!

What strikes me as being most similar to my journey, is your daughter's beautiful smiles! My Jadyn, never realized how hard my days were, well, because sadly she just loved having a Mommy, grumpy, happy, laughing, yelling, all of those on any given day was me:( she had HER Mommy...she smiles and continues to smile just as wide and brilliant as your Marta's amazing smile! Our daughter's remind me of how loving and giving God is, so...so...so patient and accepting of us, yet, lovingly reminding us of who He created us to be and who He wants us to love and love well...God and Jadyn, as well as the rest of my family, have been so Merciful and patient with me, thus my journey through Saint Maria Faustina's Diary was brought to me at just the needed time...um, no surprise to God:)!!

We are loved, and, even though at times we felt we could not or were not measuring up, I believe we saw a mirror of God's Love in our older adopted children....the babies are "new" and for you and I as Mama's we kinda/sorta knew what the road might look like...you had children prior to Marta already at home...I, too, had four children prior to bringing home our five year old....your Marta is so much older than five, and, I'm sure your challenges have been many and varied from my daughter who was five upon arriving from China to HOME....Your Marta is precious, she is beautiful, and, so are you!!

Thank you for sharing, today, as I read, I thought, hhmmmm, God continues to heal and lead me, reading your words shares with me that other Mommy's have walked the road I have been on.....it is JOY to walk beside you!!

graceling said...

Thanks for posting this. I think there is such a stigma about post adoption depression... (and post-partum depression, too, but to a lesser extent) because parents who have adopted realize that we have been granted a wonderful gift- but we can't seem to "react" the way we know we "should."

I struggled after Abigail was born- I thought I would be better with bringing Anna home (less hormones and all) but the truth is, I still found it overwhelming. I had no idea what I was doing. And I didn't know how to admit that without sounding like I regretted the adoption or resented Anna (which I didn't.)

I think this post should be required reading for those considering adoption. Because to have you write about your journey has not only helped me understand myself better, but has put into words the feelings that sometimes cannot be articulated.

Jen said...

What a post! You outdid yourself. Great, honest, and humbling post. You did good:) I think that all the literature out there addresses what the child is going through and neglects to mention the changes in the parents. This does just that. You address the "c-section of adoption"....but you don't get the discharge papers telling you no heavy lifting, no driving, etc. Your post gives the discharge papers.

Nora said...

I am so glad you posted this! Depression, especially normal healthy, reactive depression is commoner than the common cold and much more effectively treatable. The more folks will spread that word around, the fewer folks will suffer out of shame or fear of seeking treatment.

Tara said...

thank you for this post, i have been there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you are not alone!!!!!!!

Zoe said...

I know who I'm going to contact if I'm really struggling after the kids come home! You are no phony... just a real woman who's braver, wiser and lovelier than she thinks. The fact that you shared this shows that you've entered a new place... so perfect for the Easter season.

OneThankfulMom said...

I appreciate your raw honesty. There is so little to be said for pride and keeping our failures to ourselves. Not that I advocate airing every ugly detail of our lives, but when we have the opportunity to help others by sharing our suffering, I believe we encourage one another. We can learn so much when we are honest.

Lisa

The Albertsons said...

yes. friend. YES. been there, done that, too. my depression has come in different forms... one after the death of my best friend... another was post-partum ... after leah.
you are not a phony for showing your joy and love. that was all there, too, just buried at times, right? just buried. writing about your joy and love helped to uncover it, if only for that moment. Everything you are and write is truth. Just different parts of your truth. don't ever call yourself phony. you are genuine, and maybe you were guarding certain parts of your truth, and that's okay. That's totally okay. you have to grasp it and name it and own it before you can share it. And you've done the hard work now, you've identified what was going on in your soul. and now you are ready to share.
don't be afraid. you are brave. you are honest. you are going to write a very big book :).
i love you.
becca

The Googeg's said...

We spend so much time preparing for our kids to come home. Filling out paperwork.. preparing rooms. It is an adrenalin rush all the time and then BOOM! They are here. Real people with loud emotions and sometimes pushy behavior. It can be like the elevator dropped. Thank you for your honesty. I have started to drop my veil too -- parenting is hard and messy -- but worth every tear we have mopped the bathroom floor with -- (I've been there too!)
DEB

casskarj said...

Living it. Changing it. It sucks. It shocks. It is real. Thank you for reminding each of us that we are not alone and this is a real issue. I appreciate the words you can put to the feelings I could not examine only months ago! Thanks.

Wolfemom said...

I love you! It's comforting knowing others are walking this mine field unaware of where the mines are.

Colleen said...

You are an incredibly brave mama! I have been down this road minus the adoptions. Thank you for making it ok to need and get help!

Lori S said...

I could've read this before my adoption and still not have believed that it would be me. But, as you know, it is. I think it is so important to talk about it so that we're not alone and others know that they're not alone or different or bad.
I love you and thank you for helping me even while you were struggling! True sign of an amazing person!

Anonymous said...

Never once did I sense a fake in you -The beauty of 'both/and'. It simply was not the right timing for you to share certain things until now. You are an inspiration in so many ways. Even as strangers, their is a bond so many of us share in the sisterhood of motherhood. God bless you!

Erin said...

I love this post. You talked about depression without being depressing. A lot of people can't do that. I'm glad you didn't blog all your fear and grief - instead you wrote what you knew was true despite emotions. And now, from a better place, you can tell us that story. Thanks.

Catholic Chicks said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :)

Paula said...

This is me, too. I have taken antidepressants for maybe 15 years and I thought it would be a great idea to wean myself off of them int time for our adoption... not so smart. I started them again right after we got home, but I was still a huge mess. It's hard. But still wonderful. I felt like a failure too. But God does great things. Thanks for sharing.

Dixie in Nevada said...

I think you are amazing!!! Thank you for showing your humaness to the rest of us. So many of us have such high expectations of ourselves and if we just have enough faith all will go right. Well it does go right...but sometimes not exactly as we planned. Because God needs to teach us or those we love something important. Something that will help us to be with him some day. Bless you...Christ's wounds bring him into humanity, those scars are the outward sign of love...I think we all must be able to show our scars for the sake of "love". Bless you dearie.

April said...

Thanks so much for sharing your heart. It took me a long time to share many of the same feelings that you had because I felt great shame in feeling like I could not "handle" the responsibility of parenting our newly adopted child.
Every day I put a smile on my face while I cried inside. When I finally shared my story the response was overwhelming and I realized how many of us share in our grief, frustration and overwhelmed-ness (not a word:) that can come with adoption.

Thanks again for sharing!

McNew Family said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences honestly! I just found your blog and am anxious to follow you now!

Robin said...

Thank you, sweet friend, for "stepping out" and sharing that the darkness can be a very real part of adoption. I can finally say, through the help of meds too, that I am starting to come out of the darkness. Only God's grace is sustaining me now...and sweet friends like you, sharing our pain and our "bad spots" has helped me come out of denial and face the Dark Forest. Much love!

Julie said...

Wow. I totally missed this post. Thank you for your honesty. I'm glad you are feeling better. Depression, in all forms, sucks. You are going to help many by posting this.

Anonymous said...

Your timing really is perfect, in the Orthodox church we call this time between Easter and Pentecost the Bright season. I thank you for your post. As women and mothers we feel such pressure to be perfect, to make the world safe and whole for our children. Growing our families through adoption just adds to the pressure. Mothers who have come to adoption after years of infertility may already be suffering from the expectations imposed on us by society. Mothers who are adding to their family worry what will happen when a new child enters. And I think most of us feel that in some way we need to advocate for adoption and if we even hint at unhappiness we worry that we will cause the whole system to fail. It's a lot of pressure! And yes, too often we feel like we are the only ones. So thank you, thank you for being honest, thank you for being you!

Nicole said...

BRAVO! Loved this post!

:-)
-Nicole
www.bakerssweets.blogspot.com