Tag Archives: Adoption and Depression

Hopeful for Hope

Hope is extraordinary. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it.

Ok, so some days, are much (seriously, so much) better than others. I and everyone around her has noticed the good days versus the bad days more than usual in the last year.

These last four years for Hope have been stable. I’d like to say that they’ve been good, great even, but I know that that’s probably not true, and I’m guessing that the benchmark for good might be fuzzy. On the outside looking in, it’s been great, on the inside looking out, it’s been…more good than not; it’s also been super challenging for her and for me.

Hope’s life before was hard. There was a lot of upheaval and a lot of safety issues. There was also a lot of love in her previous life; I never doubted that. I might side eye a lot of stuff that I know about her past, but I never doubted that her family of origin loved her so very much. There were just a lot of problems and barriers to probably being the type of parents they wanted to be.  All that stuff made Hope scared, distrustful, headstrong, and survival focused. That stuff also left Hope with some real developmental challenges that linger and make life harder for her. That love shaped her, and it made Hope have hope about her future life. I cling to that probably as much as she does.

We seem to be at a bit of a fork in the road in this journey.

My daughter has to make some choices about the type of future she wants. I’m not talking about 5 or 10 years down the road; I’m talking about the next year. To me, the choice for her is obvious, but it’s not. It seems that those extraordinary survival qualities Hope developed in times of need make it hard for her to see the range of choices clearly. It makes what feels like should be an obvious choice not so obvious for my daughter. As a mom, it’s so hard to see the struggle she endures trying to find her way through this maze. The skills that served her so well for so long don’t work as well in this chapter of her life, and the time hasn’t been long enough yet for her new survival skills to evolve.

It’s like taking an Olympic swimmer and putting her on a stage with a concert violin and demanding that she play as though she’s been playing professionally her whole life. She hasn’t and so she won’t.

And yet, she muddles a rocky rendition of Chopsticks and calls it a day. Hope is extraordinary.

Sometimes I find it so incredibly hard to understand how Hope sees and maneuvers through her world. I see immense talent, tenacity, courage and street smarts in her. I have wondered how to help her leverage her skills to her benefit. I’ve tried all kinds of things, but neither of us have found the magic sauce yet. It takes time. With a major life event (finishing high school) looming, it feels like we’re behind schedule.

We’re not, but it feels like it.

As a mom, all this feels so weird, awkward even to guide her though this—it’s a bit of the blind leading the blind. I mean, I went through traditional life events, but with none of the history or life experiences that Hope has had. Sometimes my life experience feels irrelevant and ill-suited for any kind of possible comparison. I can only imagine how it feels to Hope to know how to live a life only to be thrust into another one where everything, EVERYTHING was different. I chose this life to mother and parent her; she didn’t choose anything about this life. I try to remember that as we muddle through together.

These next 4 months will have a major impact on my daughter’s life for the next year. I’m not sure what she will choose; I’m starting to question what the “right” choice is for her. I thought I knew, but I’m also realizing that she and I have different views and different sets of choices ahead of us over the next few months. Things aren’t as obvious as they appeared, I suppose.

As we talk about the choices, I try to assure her that I love her, accept her, still think she’s an extraordinary kid and I will support her no matter what. I hope that Hope believes me. I hope that she does what she thinks is best for herself and that it sets her up for success.

I’m hopeful, and prayerful, and anxious, and worried, and committed and still more hopeful.

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Over-Under Achievers

Hope is in serious danger of needing to repeat this school year. I’m not sure what set it all off, but this year has been an academic nightmare. And for me as an academic junkie who used to verbally spar with her teachers over whether they really should have deducted a half point for some academic infraction, Hope’s academic performance has caused more than a little heartburn.

Each week I receive a progress report summary on her academic standing. Those damn things are so upsetting this that I sometimes don’t open them. They make my stomach hurt; they give me headaches and stressed out neck pain. Education and achievement are a part of my core values system. It’s been hard to understand how Hope’s background shape her views on school. It’s been hard to accept that her version of trying doesn’t look anything like mine. It’s been incredibly maddening that I can’t seem to influence her choices at all.

Last week one of Hope’s teachers reached out really alarmed with all that’s going on with Hope and her class. Over the course of the next few days, I talked to the counselor, the social worker and the teacher. We all decided that we would meet next week to further discuss ways to support my daughter.

Realistically, I have zero faith that this team of amazing people can create something that will turn Hope’s intrinsic motivation “on.” It’s not on; I’m not sure if it’s been on at all for the last year. I think Hope would love to be a good student but being a bad student…well that just feels like what she’s worth.

Hope also does not accept that any of this is her fault. Nothing is ever her fault. She was late to school and missed the announcement of an assignment? That’s the teacher’s fault because she should have pulled her aside and made sure that she got it. Chased her down the hall if necessary.  She didn’t do her homework because the teachers skills are awful, and she didn’t understand the material.  Tutoring? She doesn’t need. Homework? Eh.

This approach to school triggers every bit of my anxiety. Part of it is just how I feel about education, but part of it is just how I can’t wrap my head around this kind of self-sabotage. I don’t get it. I see it happening. I get the pathology from a scientific and academic perspective, but lived experience?

This ish is cray.

Hope has the intellectual capacity to do well, in the traditional, classical sense. Even thought I feel some kinda way about testing, Hope’s PSAT score felt validating in a “see, I knew she had more capacity than she demonstrates in class” way. Hope is smart and where she has deficiencies, she’s balanced by a high curiosity and inquisitiveness.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’ve harnessed so many resources for Hope only to be met with a blank stare. I have no idea how to handle that. We are incredibly fortunate that our school district is just leaning in to providing more support, all kinds of support. Every fight I thought I’d have with them proved unnecessary—they have been more than happy to help.

And then they get met with blank stares too.

I asked AbsurdlyHotTherapist for recommendations. He sent me articles about ‘underachievers’ and told me to keep making Hope accountable for her choices and her mental health. The art therapist said the same.

My sense is that there’s a huge, dramatic decision that has to be made and will be followed by hell breaking loose. People will tell me that it will be ok in the long run; yeah, maybe, but this sucks so hard that that response brings no comfort. I’m not excited about any of this. I hate it all. I just wish Hope had the capacity and was willing to work with me and with the school to create something positive for herself and her life.


We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

~~~Paul Laurence Dunbar

I used to have this poem hanging in my office as a reminder to visitors that sometimes we hide our feelings to just get through. As a diversity professional, I am constantly, intentionally exposing myself to emotional ish in order to help people move to the next level of inclusion. Consequently, I wear a mask.

A lot.

This poem kept me up really late one night this week. I couldn’t get it off my mind because of something Hope said to me. Essentially, my daughter wears a mask.

She wears a mask to get through every day, and it exhausts her.

Hope is an amazing young woman, and there are days when I simply marvel at her. There are other days when I see the turmoil on her face, but the reality is that on most days, she’s really, really good at hiding it.

Having been a long-time depression sufferer, my own mask is worn as much as to protect me as it is to motivate me. My own intrinsic motivation wills me to get through things and wills me to just fake it and it will get better.

I recognize that most people wear their masks for everyone else’s benefit. Who wants to be around a person who is wearing their suffering? The self-protection mechanism is such that if you desperately want to be around people, you just try to keep it together and conform so that they won’t be put off by you. You drag out your mask and hide all the ish behind it.

I feel like Hope and I are in a battle for her life right now. I see her; I see her working so hard to keep it together. I see her fighting so hard to get to a place that doesn’t hurt so much. She does take her mask off with me; sometimes not all the way, but enough for me to know what’s lurking underneath.

On the one hand, I’m so relieved that Hope trusts me enough to lower her defenses, her shields, but on the real…I feel helpless. I feel like I’m doing everything I can, everything I can think of to help shepherd her to a healthier place, but it isn’t helping the way we need it to.

That helplessness has got me feeling like I must wear a mask too. I mean, who goes around sharing that their kid is just struggling to keep it together, which means that you’re struggling to keep it together too. Who wants to see your eyes after you’ve sat in the bathroom sobbing and urgently praying for 10 minutes because you know the path this could all go down? Who do you trust, besides other parents walking in these shoes, with this kinda thing because most folks Just. Don’t. Get. It.

So, you both put on your oxygen masks in the morning and try to make it through another day.

I try to model authenticity for Hope. I try to use ‘good’ communication skills; I try to ask for what I need. I coach her to take care of herself. I encourage her to emote, to build solid friendships so that she has some peer support. I email the health professionals and the guidance counselors, even after Hope and I have decided on a course of action. I need allies to step into the gap to help her help herself.

This week has been a huge turning point for me. I have fought the good fight on trying to make sure that the homework has been done and that school stuff was a priority. School is such a core value for me; it’s social currency, especially for black folks. But, I’m done. It’s just not worth it. Hope doesn’t need the extra pressure, and neither do I. I’m fighting for my kid’s survival. School, while still important, can’t be central to that paradigm. Healing must be the sole focus. It has to be; our future depends on it.

And so, we’ll start this week differently. We’ll go back to basics. I’ll prioritize quality time. I’ll focus on more family care, not just self-care. I’ll ask about school, but not about the work. I’ll find another doctor who can help me chase down the right pharma-combo for her. I’ll lower my mask so I can always have a clear view of Hope and her mask.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end for Hope’s mask.


The House is Quiet

The house is quiet tonight. Hope has been asleep since I got home from work. I kind of anticipated that; things around here are becoming increasingly predictable.

Saturday, I did my best to get my own emotional train back on the tracks. Sunday was devoted to doing what I do best and what really brings me out of the darkness: problem-solving. As I got up yesterday morning, I resolved to help Hope put together a success plan for the day and the week. I resolved to develop a boss-level meal plan for the week. I thought I might get through some of the accident related paperwork since I finally hired an attorney this week (I could write a whole post on how awful that experience was, how personal injury lawyers have earned their ambulance chasing cred and how I just figured that the slime factor was what made them good at what they do, but well, that’s the gist of it). I thought I would organize my things to do list at work so well that I would be able to blow throw the week with a lot less emotional labor than last week.

I had such big hopes and dreams. I knew there was a high probability that the most important ones (about Hope) would end in emotional drama, but I just wanted to believe I could will it to go smoothly for one day.

Yeah, my will ain’t that strong.

I focused on researching ADHD and trauma friendly study strategies. I watched a lot of videos, read some articles and came up with a plan. Hope woke up already anxious about all she had to accomplish for school in one day. #11thgradeishard I pitched my plan to help her get organized with a few changes to the way she did things. I came prepared for resistance and didn’t meet much. I helped her create a plan for the day. I told her that I would check her planner during the week to see how she’s coming along. We made an agreement; we shook on it, we smiled.

I headed off to conquer the rest of my things to do, already feeling like I was climbing out of my hole of depression and anxiety. Those were some good moments, couple of hours even…and things went to hell.

Despite finding success in the new approach to time management for a couple of tasks, Hope decided that her approach was better suited to achieve overall success. We’ve been using her approach for a couple of years now, and I have far more gray hair to show for it and well academic performance would suggest that a different approach is worth considering. Sunday slid away with very little productivity, but increasing levels of anxiety, you know, just to balance things out. By day’s end, all the homework had not been completed and I was considering biting my nails.

I made a hard decision to give away our tickets to tonight’s Katy Perry concert. It wasn’t decision about punishment; it was a decision about protecting my emotional health and weekly capacity levels. Knowing that we were already behind on school work meant it was already going to be a rough week. A break in the routine meant that another night would be loss in potential productivity. I thought about the morning meltdowns of last week with crying and late trips to school and leaving work to go pick Hope up because she just tapped out by noon. I didn’t know if I could do another week like that so soon.

So, I gave away the tickets to just take the concert out of the equation.

And a darkness fell over the household, and nothing improved. This morning Hope overslept, and apparently came home from school and just went to bed.

And me? I took Yappy to the park (our happy place). Fixed myself a healthy dinner, poured a glass of Malbec and realized that I couldn’t do any of the work I brought home from the office. Today is just a wrap.

Seriously

This is what depression and anxiety looks like for us.

For the second day my daughter is overwhelmed and ground to a halt, and the one thing I rely on to pull myself out of the darkness felt like an epic fail. Oh and we didn’t see Katy Perry in concert. I’m not mad, I’m just sad that it’s so hard to find our groove.

I have never ever hated school, never. On the roughest days of going to school, there was still something I loved about the academic stimulation. I love that I found a career in education, my work is incredibly fulfilling. But seeing school through Hope’s eyes is incredibly painful. It’s so many things that are hard about it that it feels like it’s too many to list. One of the hardest things is seeing the wheels spin on the school bus and feeling like we’ll never make the progress we fight so hard for. The other hard thing? Feeling like I can’t do enough to help Hope acquire some educational privilege to help her journey through this life as a black woman. There seems to be nothing I can do to make this easier for her, nothing.

It hurts because I want so much for her, but also because so much of my personal identity is wrapped up on being a fixer. I’m constantly reminded on this journey that I can’t *fix* Hope’s life. It’s feels really barren, useless. And while I intellectually know that that isn’t quite the reality, that’s the thing about depression. It will spin its own narrative that isn’t based in any kind of reality.

And so, the house is quiet. I have no idea if we will bounce back to our version of normal tomorrow. I know it’s late on Monday and I’m already over this week. I know that there are key dates on the immediate horizon that are major triggers for Hope. All I can do is take a deep breath, try to get enough rest, exercise and healthy food and keep pressing forward with my daughter.

I actually wish the house wasn’t this quiet.


Emotional Confessions

Author’s Note:

I wrote this post at the start of the week after an emotionally taxing weekend. I wasn’t showing myself much grace; I wasn’t giving myself space to just breathe.

I’m on the upswing now with a lot of support and love from my village.

I sat on this post, changing the post schedule repeatedly. It was too raw; it was just too much.  I felt ashamed about my meltdown. I felt embarrassed about whining about how hard this journey is…a journey I chose. As I begin to feel better, I realized that I needed to just go ahead and put it out there, hoping that giving it air and light would validate the raw feelings of other folks who are struggling.

So…here it is. I hope my transparency makes someone who also feels these feelings know they aren’t alone.


As a parent, I would like to think that my good characteristics outweigh the bad. I hope so. I hope that one day, when I’m really and truly called to account for my many, many flaws, that the good stuff will get me through the pearly gates.

I have a terrible temper, seriously it’s awful. It makes me shake it’s so awful. I sometimes have a hard time controlling it. My preferred weapon is words. I will grind you right down; my anger makes me want to make you small with words.

I have the capacity to be really, really mean. I know this; I’m not proud of it, but I know this.

I’m passive aggressive, though through the years I’m managed to abandon a lot of those behaviors, but please know that they are still there.

I’m selfish, incredibly selfish. I like what I like and I don’t want to compromise or give it up or whatever. I often think about what I had to give up to be a parent, and I feel some kind of way about all of it.

My natural state is to be super blunt without care for feelings. I am a good Southern woman, though, appropriately brought up to mind my tongue most of the time. I try to mind my manners and demonstrate tactfulness, so the bluntness often appears dulled.

I am very comfortable with conflict. I don’t necessarily like it, but I am very comfortable with it and sometimes will trigger it just so I can use my word weapons and “win.” Why? Because winning makes me feel better about myself and sometimes I really just want to feel better about myself and sadly, winning a conflict, no matter how ridiculous, is the quickest way to achieve that.

At 44 as much as I try to continue to evolve, especially as I parent, I know that my personality is locked in. I am who I am. My dissertation was all about resistance to change; yeah, I am. I’m totally resistant to change. I hate change. I hate thinking about it. I hate the need to be flexible even though I promote it and have to practice it for everyone’s well-being. I don’t want to.

I liked the old me and I’m not so sure that I like the parenting me. Actually, I’m sure I don’t, which just makes me feel awful. I love my daughter, but I’m not a huge fan of this parenting thing.

As I think about these flaws, I wonder what the hell made me want to be a parent. Seriously, talk about the most-long term triggering activity one could sign up for. I mean…seriously, parenting…while it brings out the best in me; it also brings out the absolute worst in me. I spend countless hours biting my cheeks trying to hold my own dragons in check.

Hope knows that biting my cheek is my anger/anxiety tell. She learned that early on. She also knows I have a wicked temper. She’s been subjected to the brunt of it a couple of times. She knows that I have the capacity to destroy her. It’s the truth, and it’s a truth that shames me. emotionally.

Our mutual knowledge of this fact terrifies me. I try so hard to build her up knowing that a horrible bout of anger and frustration could bring it all crumbling down. Knowing that kills me; the guilt…is…crushing.

Daily, especially bad days like one I had recently, I wonder if I was the best home for Hope. I think she could have done better. I wonder was this route right for me? Could I have led a child-free, but happy and fulfilled life? There are days when I wonder if I’m just making things worse for her, in spite of the permanence she desperately needed—is this really what was best for her?. I wonder a lot of things.

It’s taken me years and a lot of therapy to face my own deep seated flaws and I had a “conventional, normal” upbringing. Will the glare of adoption ever dull and allow me to just be a regular old parent? My flaws, while still bad, don’t seem so drastically horrid, under the softer lighting of parenting with no adjectives.

I’m struggling with my own identity as me and not ABM or Hope’s mom. I’ve been so consumed with trying desperately for Hope to be successful that my own personal goals and successes have fallen by the wayside. I’ve had two major work publications come out in the last two months. I barely acknowledged them even though they are the culmination of years of work. I have withdrawn from friends because I’m “busy” making sure geometry homework is done, chemistry quizzes are taken and A Brave New World gets read. I spend an absurd amount of time monitoring the general comings and goings of online behavior because…distractions are bad and ADHD teen life is stupid.

I’m going through the motions just trying to keep my own dragons at bay while I tend to Hope’s dragons.

I’m tired, so very tired, and I suspect falling back into my old chilly friend, depression. I’m sure that my self-care game is weak right now, which allows the time and space for my flaws to step to the forefront.

Hope and I remain hopeful, but right now it doesn’t feel like hope bears out. She insists that the world is against her and finds the tiniest evidence that fits her world view and magnifies it into a universal conspiracy against her. I keep hoping that overnight her limitations will disappear leaving me with expectations that are routinely unmet making me frustrated, angry and disappointed in me, her and the world in general.

We are doing everything we are supposed to be doing. I am marshaling every external resource I can. On the outside, we are doing it, but behind these doors, we struggle. We struggle day in and day out. We struggle with our individual flaws, our individual limitations, our shared problems, and ranges of emotions that are just…overwhelming and exhausting. Some days, we struggle just to stay alive. And it’s rarely seen under the carefully worded and curated social media posts. It’s rarely shared because the glare of judgment is likely to just sear a hole through me.

And I’m afraid. As much as my own self-criticism and loathing bring me down and the fear of external judgment paralyzes me; I’m most afraid of Hope’s view of me. I am terrified of what she must think of me. I know she loves me, and I’m sure there’s a healthy amount of “I hate you!” because she’s a teen girl, but critically, I fear her perception of me as her adoptive mother.

I’m afraid as I listen to adoptees talk about what works and what doesn’t that Hope will one day tell the world about all of my shortcomings as her mother. Will Hope be hypercritical of me? Will she spend these latter years of adolescence thinking that I was a failure as her mother? Will she be on social media talking about me badly? Will she write lists enumerating all the things I should’ve, would’ve, could’ve done despite what feels like the sacrifice of the very core of my being and the need and desire to suppress everything I ever thought or thought I knew about parenting to parent her the best I could?

I’m mindful of the pain I caused my own mother as I often wrote about her in the beginning of this journey and my disappointment and anger towards her for how she “treated me” in the early months of my journey with Hope. It wasn’t pretty, and it should’ve been private, but it wasn’t.  Will Hope look back on these years with righteous anger about all I did wrong when I was trying desperately to hold on and do right by her? How will she see me? How will she see us? I already know that I live in the shadows and shoes of those who came before me and that there are romantic notions that I will never be who they were or could have been. I acknowledge that but I do wonder, five, ten years from now, will Hope know how hard I tried to give her the love and life that she deserved?

Parenting is so very hard and it magnifies all of your flaws. Parenting a kid from a hard place with a ton of her own baggage…it’s another level of crazy.

Ultimately, my confession is that I have no idea what the hell I’m doing and I’m desperate not to screw up. I feel like every personal flaw is on front street and out of control right now. I feel like I can’t get anything right and that I can’t motivate, coax, drag, pull, prod, cheer, nudge or pray Hope into the success she deserves. I’m back to wanting more for her than she wants for herself, and worse, I love her so much that I now own that failure, and I know somewhere, somehow that she and others probably think I own that self-hate too.

It’s just too much.


Failure and Forgiveness

Recently I was coaching another new parent through a rough moment with her new kiddo. I told her it was normal to feel some resentment about how much her life has changed and how hard her new life was trying to parent a kid with a traumatic history. It’s normal to reminisce about how good and easy life was before, and to feel angry and guilty for going down this raggedy path. It’s normal. Other parents told me, and I know it to be true.

She asked me if I had forgiven myself for doing this to myself, for making my life hard and sometimes miserable.

Sigh. Well…

I told her that I had come to realize that forgiveness isn’t an event; it’s a process. I told this new parent that I have to work hard to forgive myself every single day, and even sometimes a few times a day. I found myself sharing that concept with my fellow blogger, MyPerfectBreakdown, less than 24 hours later.

Sometimes I also have to work hard to forgive Hope for just being Hope.

And some days I fail at forgiving either of us at all.

I failed this week.

For the last few months I’ve been planning to slip back into my pre-Hope life by planning a vacation for us on Martha’s Vineyard. I splurged on a rental for a week. I smiled when I thought about how much I loved the quaint little shops, how I would fix myself a fun cocktail and sun myself on the porch or at the beach or at a pier. I was so excited.

And. Then. We. Got. Here.

And. It. Has. Been. Miserable.

It’s an old house, with lots of character and full of history. It’s been in the same African American family for close to a hundred years.

But none of that matters because Hope only sees an old house that has creaks and crevices with bugs. She has complained nonstop. She has dragged her feet and did nothing yesterday that would advance her movement with any swiftness. It actually took her 7 hours to get ready to go anywhere yesterday…I mean I know we are on vacation but her shoes weren’t even tied when she *finally* emerged. I had had 7 hours on a slow boil. And there’s the bug thing. I know she can’t help being afraid of bugs. I know. But dammit if the fallout post bug sighting doesn’t piss me off. I mean, it’s really dramatic and while I know there is a genuine physiological component, I think she amplifies things for even more attention. It is really, really extra.

And day one of my fantasy vacation ended with me flinging myself across my bed and sobbing loudly for 20 minutes, all the while wishing I had left her with somebody…anybody back home.

Yesterday I didn’t forgive myself for this life change. It’s hard and I’m struggling with her. I love Hope maddeningly but I don’t like this life very much right now.

The truth is that I’ve been kinda miserable for months; there have been punctuations of happy in there, but really, life sucks more than it doesn’t.

And Hope knows it. That makes me sad that she knows how miserable I feel. She often will comment that she messes everything up when I get upset. She doesn’t, but she seems *so* unaware and/or incapable of doing anything different so we always end up back to the same struggle.

I’m so tired. I’ve spent a fortune for this week and on top of everything else I feel fat. I just want to relax and enjoy some quality time without the drama.

But I bought the drama with me, and I kinda regret it.

So tomorrow, I will try again, to forgive myself for making my life so hard, for still having expectations that can’t or won’t be met, for being angry with Hope for all sorts of things that she can and can’t control, for not fixing myself that much needed rum and coke today, and for the guilt that I pile on top of all the other tough emotions that I feel thanks to this adoption journey.

I’ll try again today and tomorrow, and the day after that because I know that I have to chase forgiveness down and essentially make it my beeotch, every day.

I hope today is better.


Fighting Depression

I’ve really struggled the last few months. It’s easy to look for external triggers for the struggle.

Spring blossomed and things that fly…well they started flying again, triggering Hope’s bug phobia. The schedule was crazy. We initiated a medication change for her that we were getting used to. Her anxiety was running high because of a general fear about high school. We’ve been dealing with a lengthy resolution to a criminal case in which Hope was a victim. Work has been insane, and I’m being heavily pursued for a new gig in another state. Yappy had puppy school every week at 8pm.

All the external stuff was really, really extra, and I spent a lot of time focused on it all because it all demanded my attention.

Oh and then I was just generally upset by the constant issues and images of Black folk trying to live and being impeded from doing so.

On a Monday a few weeks ago, I found myself crying and I couldn’t stop. I mean I just could not stop crying.

I was sad.

I was in a state of despair.

I wanted to just lay in the bed; getting up felt like it took all of the energy I had.

I found joy in nothing.

I was always irritable and snappy, and Hope was increasingly reacting to my bad moods which just made our relationship that much more strained.

I felt like a dark cloud was just hanging over me.

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I finally made an appointment with my internist, who sat back in his chair and let me cry and sob for 15 minutes. Then, he handed me his handkerchief and started talking about the need for medication to help me get myself together.

I was anxious and depressed—not just sad, but clinically sad. Somewhere along the way I fell off a cliff and was just free falling, and I didn’t realize it.

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via giphy

 

Depression is an effed up thing. I have struggled with it off and on for years. Usually I can see it coming, this time I didn’t. It makes me sad because it’s another sign that I haven’t done my best at self-care, but more concerning is that my depression had a chilling effect on Hope. I regret that. Not in a way that I’m beating myself up over, but I still regret it because it’s another little thing I need to bounce back from.

Resiliency is still an issue for me.

Parenting is a tough business. Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is…especially tough. Sometimes it feels like you’re just looking for puzzle pieces in the dark. You need the pieces to help put the kid back together, but you’re looking for them with no flashlight.

 

It’s kind of easy for the dark to consume you when you don’t even have a flashlight.

Beating back the darkness is actually the most important thing right now; actually it is more important than getting the parenting thing just right. Fighting the darkness is essential to both my and Hope’s survival.

It’s been a few weeks since I hit that low spot. I’m feeling much better now. I’m on the mend, on the upswing, if you will. Pharmaceutical help is a beautiful thing. It’s unfortunate that dealing with mental and emotional issues is a taboo thing in communities of color. If you need help, get it. I could sit around and do that “strong Black woman” thing, but Hope and I would both continue to suffer. I think getting help is a better demonstration of strength.

So that’s what’s up. I tripped and fell into a bit of a hole. I am fighting depression. But I’m climbing out and stepping back into the sunlight. And it feels good.


The First Year

The last month or so has been really challenging for me. Certainly I was struggling with self-care, but it’s more than that. I realized over the last month that Hope and I were entering a new phase, and I am having trouble adjusting to our realities.

I remember reading, what seems like an eternity ago, how you go through the honeymoon phase, the rough phase, a smoothing out phase and then, potentially rougher phases.

I think we’ve hit a rougher phase. And I think we’re both just roughing it.

I am realizing that so much of Hope’s challenges are largely invisible. Sure, she has some physical scars, but the emotional, psycho-socio scars…they are so hard to tease out sometimes. It’s easy to forget they are there sometimes until denying their existence is simply impossible.

Nearly 18 months of love, therapy, medical help, stability, routine, hard fighting, and it’s finally safe enough for Hope’s deeper issues to show themselves.

That’s a huge win to celebrate on the anniversary of our finalization, even if it doesn’t feel celebration worthy.

It’s kind of like opening the closet and finding one of the lighter Stephen King stories.

And interestingly, I feel more alone than ever in my on ground life, save for my most amazing couple of lifelines. You see a year after finalization and nearly 18 months after placement we couldn’t possibly have problems, right? Nope, no problems here.

I just lie and say we’re doing great, perpetuating the myth that post-adoptive families don’t struggle.

I was doing some reading this week about parental expectations, ahead of the recent episode of Add Water and Stir; the articles I covered explored adoptive parents’ emotional health. General findings were that APs with misaligned parenting expectations were at greater risk for depression, lower resilience, more challenges in bonding, and an extensive list of other depressing ailments, which all in turn trigger more challenging behaviors from adoptees. And the cycle continues.

Just awesome.

Oh and did I mention that most of these studies were done two years post placement and/or finalization? Hope and I are only 1 year out and these last two months have me feeling like I’m clawing my way through life.

Sigh.

Now I know those studies don’t *have* to apply to me and Hope, but I am increasingly aware that my expectations of parenting and of Hope are just…just off.

I thought they’d be more realistic after our first year together.

They are better than they were, but I’m thinking they aren’t as low as they should be.

Yesterday was my and Hope’s “gotcha” anniversary. It’s beautiful, but it’s also bittersweet. We kept things fairly low key with manis, pedis and brow taming, dinner and dessert on Friday and dress shopping today for the 8th grade dance yesterday.

Shopping for the dress was such a nightmare that she asked to stop shopping, and I silently cried on the way home. Oh and we left the mall with no dress and Hope debating whether she should even go to the dance because she is ugly with no friends and no style and it will probably be awful anyway. No one wins.

Lately I’m crying almost as much as I was right after the initial placement. I’m feeling not very attached. I’m not even wanting to hang with her as much. I’m just having trouble dealing to our normal right now.

Yeah, this is our normal, and it kinda sucks. My kid doesn’t have many friends; she runs them away. She doesn’t get invited to anything; she differentiates the group she hangs with from school as just being that rather than true friends. But the kids at the new church? One couple hour block of hang time, and they are friends. I hope they become friends, but it concerns me that she thinks they are already friends.

I had and have so many hopes and dreams for us, together and separately, but I think they may just be too much. I’m trying to let go some of those hopes and dreams because I am not sure Hope will course correct, whether I can get her there (wherever there actually is), that I can be emotionally ok with not meeting milestones when they are supposed to be met, that I’m terrified about what the future holds.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so pessimistic about the future, even if I do believe we will make progress. It all makes me so very sad. Really it’s grief.

I’m disappointed that commemorating our first finalization anniversary turned into something that brought in the gray clouds. I’m hopeful that the coming weeks will bring more sunshine. I’m hopeful that the coming year brings more progress.


Weekend of Respite

As planned I booked the sitter and a hotel room less than 5 miles from the house and fled for some much needed respite this weekend. In fact by 8:30pm each night, I was sitting in my jammies, swigging wine from a bottle in my room, contemplating my bedtime.

I slept about 10 hours the first night. I walked 3 miles the next morning while shopping. I slept 3 hours this afternoon—like back in the bed, under the covers, knocked out napping. I hit the elliptical for 45 minutes that evening. I ate carry out from Whole Paycheck [Foods], and, yes, drank wine straight from the bottle.

Gosh I needed that. I called Grammy the first evening and when she heard I napped she exclaimed, “That’s not even in your nature? You don’t nap.”

Yeah, I know. I’m exhausted.

I’ve noticed a few things while on this mini getaway.

I eat horribly when I’m stressed and exhausted. No wonder I’m at my highest weight ever. Ugh! I actually listened to my twisted mind tell myself I deserved a bunch of fatty foods (tasted good though). Today I started the Couch to 5K program. Let’s go.

My carpal tunnel has progressed to the point where I need to seriously consider surgery. How did I ignore the weakening of my hand? I mean, it’s really, really bad! Calling my doc this week.

I am really tired, like really tired. Must go to bed earlier.

The moment I get away from Hope, I actually miss her. Not enough to run home, mind you, but I do miss her, and I miss Yappy too.

I miss her but I know she was fine. I know because she texted me like 18 times and called me once. She was irritated because I could not resolve her minor problem, and she sat in silence on the phone furious when she realized that I was not going to hurry home to find the key for the bike lock. Nope, Hope, not gonna do it.

I was proud of myself that I did not buy her anything while out shopping. Admittedly, I saw a bunch of stuff I wanted to scoop up for her. I mean, the 8th grade prom is coming up! But nope didn’t buy her one thing.

I took care of me this weekend. I need to do this more often. I really do.

I see how parents get so run down; parenting, working, and running a household is exhausting. I like to think I keep up with a lot of stuff, but I forget all kinds of things—like Hope’s sports physical this past week. It didn’t make the master calendar and thus in my mind did not exist.

Cooking, cleaning, running errands, paying bills, packing lunches, emailing teachers, figuring out birth family stuff, figuring out adoption stuff, therapy appointments, medication management appointments, puppy school, band concerts, and oh yeah, my job!

I swear I don’t know how it all gets done because this isn’t even close to being an exhaustive (ironic) list. I often think it probably isn’t that much easier with a partner, but it seems like it certainly would help.

It’s hard to believe I did a better job of having respite last year than I have done this year. I can only say it’s the curse of being post-finalization and having some belief that things are “fine” now.

They aren’t.

Weekly, when I’m mindful, I see the evidence of Hope’s challenges, and although we have come a long way; there is so much further we must go.

I’m going to have to take a better care of myself if I’m going to help her face her challenges.

Two broken wheels on a bike never makes sense.

So, I’m hoping to really care for myself this summer. I’m going to try.


Recognizing Progress

So, this past weekend I hit the wall. Hard. A dirty food container sent me careening off the cliff of parental crazy.

Totally lost my ish. Parenting swagger went right out the window. It was terrible. And I kinda felt bad about it; note that I only said “kinda.” I did not totally feel bad about it.

I have been incredibly patient with a bunch of crazy ish that Hope and I have endured lately. I kinda knew there was risk of me totally going off. It was epic, kinda like the New Year’s meltdown during which I damaged my vocal cords so badly I could hardly talk for a week.

At one point Hope threw her reliable taunt, her trump card: “I wish I never moved here,” Girl, whatever. I replied “I love you but some days I wish that too.” #boom #didIsaythatoutloud #notmyinsidevoice

Credit: giphy.com

Credit: giphy.com

Yeah, that’s how we got down on Saturday. Ugh. I did yell this time, not as much though. #improvement And I took 2 hours to cool off before going to talk to her calmly about the issues. Then I left the house for another two hours to go do some shopping and run errands.

This was not how I planned to spend my weekend. I’m pretty sure it is not how Hope intended to spend her weekend either. I prepped dinner and well, what’s the rule? Don’t go to bed angry? #thatscute

Yeah, eff that. Saturday I realized I gave all I had to give; there was nothing left in the tank but reptilian brain functionality. In other words I was only capable of being pissed. Instead of yelling I just went into Elsa mode.

Um, yeah, she had to be

Um, yeah, she had to be “color corrected.”
Credit is embedded.

Minimal speaking and the provision of basic necessities. I signed progress reports, prepared meals, visited a new church (including acting like Hope actually belonged to me, which was a serious effort in grace and charity, since I *literally* wanted to drop her off at the local Goodwill).

Sunday was still frigid.

Monday, I was still frosty, and Hope was running so late that she didn’t have time for breakfast so she picked up the lunch I prepped for her and we said nothing more than good bye, have a good day. I cooked burgers for dinner and hid my nose in the latest US Weekly while poor Hope tried several times to initiate conversation.

“Would you like to see my new band T-shirt?” Nope. “Sure.” Looks at shirt, nods.

“Ms. D says I’m distracted in math because I and sitting next to [her crush du jour].” “So change seats if you know this is a problem.”

“(Very dramatically) I’m sooooooo tired. I mean, I’m exhausted. I think my head feels hot.” “You should go to bed early; SOL testing starts tomorrow.”

And she did. In bed at 8pm. Not sure if she cried, but I know she was sad and the slightly recovering parts of my scattered mind thought to console her and warm my heart. But my reptilian brain convinced me I was fine and she was fine. I made sure her alarm was set, and I fetched myself a glass of pinot and the remote to watch Love and Hip Hop: ATL.

I ain’t checking for Hope.

And as other brain functions return, I know I should feel some kind of way about that, but don’t bother guilting me about icing my daughter out. As I sit here 4 days later, I still am having a difficult time turning on the functional systems necessary to be warmer. I simply do not have the capacity for more than minimal interaction or base level care-taking.

I am empty.

I remind myself a lot of Hope when she first moved in and was so overwhelmed. I simply cannot tolerate more. The thought of attempting a meaningful conversation has me reaching for the Ativan to stave off a panic attack.

I begged the sitter service for a sitter for this weekend. They found me one. So I’m booking me a hotel, and I’m flying the coop for two nights. I did not even invite Elihu because I don’t want to consider another human being’s needs for these two nights.

So, while I’m down for the count, I get a call from a new parent with my agency. She’s a little more than 3 weeks in. She’s still at the stage where you’re counting the days, minutes, seconds. She’s still at the stage (for us singles at least) where you take your calls in the furthest bathroom in the house, in the shower, kind of whispering because you are convinced that your new child has super power hearing and the punishment of finding out that you are talking about her is too great to even consider.

She’s sleep deprived, teary and just deep, deep in the throes of a new child figuring out how to function in her new surroundings with the rudimentary skills she has.

We talked for an hour, about all kinds of stuff. I pulled out my best parenting swagger guidance. I pep rallied. I encouraged her to adopt my devious/creative parenting philosophies. #getgullywithit

I admitted that nearly 18 months after placement I wasn’t white knuckling it this week. I had actually dropped off the face of the cliff.

Admitting it was liberating for me, even if it is an uneasy admission that all’s not well in the kingdom. Time heals; it really does. But this ish is really hard. Teen issues are hard. Adoption issues are hard. These jokers together, overlapped and conflating is sheer madness.

But, I’m not hiding in my shower anymore. #PraisetheHolyHomeboy #wonthedoit And I know that there is life over the edge. I’ll be ok. Hope will be ok. We’ve actually survived way worse. Hell, we’ve survived nearly 18 months. Sometimes the Holy Homeboy sends you someone who mirrors your previous struggle just to remind you of how far you’ve progressed in that struggle.

This hiccup will pass. Of course it will pass with me in a hotel with luxurious bedding and room service while binge watching Vikings this weekend. I love Hope but I still need to get away from her for a few days. I think I’ll also treat myself to some new jammies, luxe of course!


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