Narrow Range of Emotions

During all of our quality time this past weekend, I asked Hope how she was feeling emotionally these days. I got the standard issue response, “Same.”

Every time I ask Hope how she’s doing/feeling, she lets me know that nothing has really changed. The only thing emotionally that seems to have changed much over the last year or so is that Hope can actually talk about her emotions and what they feel like and what the impact they have on her looks like. I’m proud of this evolution even if she says it hasn’t had any impact on managing her emotions.

Hope says she has a very narrow range of emotions: anger ←and →sadness. She’s said that she just plays the appropriate emotions on the outside for everyone else’s benefit.

My daughter is a marvelous actress.

I scrolled through some of my favorite pictures of her on my phone—surprise pics from good gifts or a great musical performance.

“These reactions aren’t real?”

Hope tried her best to explain that a small part of her feels the emotions, but really, she just amps the reaction that she knows folks want to see. She feels sadness and anger all the time.

Then I was sad and angry, and a wee bit hurt that all those great moments we’ve had are a little tarnished because she had to fake the appropriate response.

I was sad that despite finding a home with lots of loves and 1st world comforts she’s still so sad and angry, and angry that so many people hurt her and still control her ability to live a fulfilled life.

My daughter can’t live authentically because she’s so broken that she can’t feel the full range of emotions available to her. That’s a doozy.

Trauma is such a bitch.

It’s hard enough learning to connect your body and mind through emotions and learning to harness everything, especially as a teenager. But when everything is so disconnected? I found myself really wondering how she processes other people’s emotions? Does she read them correctly? I mean, I guess she does since she tries to respond accordingly. But I have to figure that this emotional stuff is connected with her social challenges.

I believe in time, Hope will enjoy a widened emotional range; I’m hopeful.

I’m wildly emotional. We watched A Dog’s Purpose this weekend and I cried all through the dang thing. I was hugging Yappy and about the go get The Furry One’s ashes to sit with them. I laughed hard during Despicable Me 3, and I was shocked that the South Park movie was more vulgar than I remembered. My heart felt shaky from missing my 6 month old nephew when pictures of his first time in a pool came via text. Worry furrowed my brow when I heard my mom wasn’t feeling well. Empathy spilled out when I heard about Sister M’s dog being terrified of fireworks on July 4th. I felt it all. I am a big emoter, and sometimes it annoys Hope.

With such a narrow emotional range, my wide range has caused Hope to call me overdramatic on more than one occasion.

I asked Hope was AbsurdlyHotTherapist helping her explore ways to help her allow herself to feel more. I already knew the answer: there’s so much rage that has to be dealt with first that prying open the emotional landmine is secondary. She did say that going to talk about it was really helpful in letting off some steam each appointment. I’m glad.

It often feels like there is so much to juggle with Hope’s recovery. The facets feel countless, and the need to shift coping strategies is never-ending. Some mornings I lay there looking at the ceiling fan wondering what will be expected of me in parenting my daughter that day. I whisper a prayer to keep the drama to a minimum.

Beyond making sure she feeling physically safe, it’s hard prioritizing what to deal with. It’s also hard to control my own range of emotional responses. It’s hard to admit that I wish I emoted less so that I could focus on strategic management of Hope’s healing—but I’m guessing that would make me a less effective mom to her. She needs my emotion—not only as a reminder of my love but as a model for expressing emotion.

It’s all so complicated and painful.

I just hope that one day Hope will be able to smile genuine smiles; laugh real laughs, sleep with the light off, feel confident, know she’s loved and can return love in a healthy way. Until then I’ll keep playing whack-a-mole trying to help her, and just relish those moments when she appears to be authentic in her emotional expression.

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2017. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

7 responses to “Narrow Range of Emotions

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    Is there any chance she is too afraid is admit she feels more than just angry and sad? I know that N struggles with this as well which is what made me wonder. Hugs to you both, it will come with time I am sure, she has made so much progress already.

  • TAO

    Horses…they are miracle workers for kids from hard places – is there any way this is a possibility this summer?

    I was lucky to get to go ride at a family friends – it started when I was 10ish???. I’d go every Sunday and ride most of the day with Betty, the horses owner. Not talking much, just ambling along on their many acres, I can’t tell you how much it helped me when I needed it most.

    If not horses, volunteering to socialize with the animals at a shelter? Something about animals helps…

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Yeah, since summer school has fallen through I’ve got to find something else for her to do fast. Hopefully doing some volunteering at the shelter is a possibility. She’s never ridden before and while I have a friend with horses getting to those stables isn’t the easiest. But animals are always a game changer. I wish that she and Yappy were close, but her “sibling” rivalry with him is pretty strong.

      • TAO

        I hope volunteering might be possible. Something about animals creates a special joy inside me, I know you get it… Hugs, with you, she’ll continue to grow.

  • Snarl Furillo

    In addition to giving Hope positive experiences that she enjoys now, you are also building a foundation of love and security for the future. Having good memories to look back on as an adult is a precious gift. I have memories of times when I was depressed, anxious, upset, etc, as a teen, and I don’t think about them too much now, but the positive relationships I had with my parents during them informs how safe and secure I feel now.

    Someday that will be the case for Hope, too. It’s not she’ll think, “oh, I was secretly happy that day and didn’t know it,” but that she’ll be able to place her memories in a broader context that will be valuable to her.

  • HerdingChickens

    Heather T Forbes always says there are only 2 emotions. Love and fear. Sometimes I think our kids carry that fear throughout their lives. Trauma sucks!

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