Tag Archives: Adoption and Emotional Health

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.


Recent Reflections

The last week or so I realized that things had changed around Casa d’ABM. Things were…routine. Things were relatively smooth.

Hope and I have always been a loving family, even if it didn’t always seem very loving as we grappled with our challenges.

It’s been hard for both of us.

But I realized that something was really, really different and that upon reflecting, things had been different for like a good month.

I realized that our day to day life was very much what I envisioned when I started this journey.  I have this family that I adored. There was a healthy balance between goofing off and discipline.

Hope’s ability to demonstrate responsibility and initiative in some areas not only existed by really had dramatically improved.

She was affectionate.

We worked together.

We actually got back into the habit of eating together (Thank you Instant Pot).

We felt more attached.

Things just feel different; it’s difficult to explain.

But gosh, it’s so beautiful.

At a recent medical appointment, the doctor said to Hope, “You look…happy.”

She squinted and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”

She’d never said that before. Even if it’s temporary or fleeting…gosh that was a precious moment.

We are happy, and right now, right this moment, I’m living my dream.


Mood Swing Apps

I track our moods. I use apps. I like data. I want to see if there are patterns, if I’m gauging what I see and feel properly.

I use Mood Log to track Hope’s moods. It’s a simple app, with a clean interface. You can add emotions or behaviors and associate them with highs or lows as you desire. I try to log in the morning for consistency, though sometimes I’ll log big mood swings over the course of a day. It has helped in giving me some insights into how often her moods change…or rather how often I interpret a mood change.

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Hope’s Mood Log

I’ve been doing this for about two months now. I do look back at the week trends, but I only recently started looking at the trends over the two months. Hope’s weeks start low and the closer she gets to the weekend the better her overall moods are. I can see now in retrospect how stressed she must’ve been on Monday mornings going to school and how tough it must’ve been for her to rough it through the week.

It’s also become easier for me to just see regular ole teenage mood swings and those influenced by hormonal changes. Moving forward I’m hoping this will help me take a lot more things in stride.

I realized in order for me to do that, I needed to pay closer attention to my own moods. I use the app Pacifica to track mine. It is a little more dynamic that Mood Log.

My logs on Pacifica

My logs on Pacifica

I find I tend to rate myself more conservatively over time. For me to rate myself on the higher/good mood end I probably have to be ecstatic; really negative engagements with Hope during which we blew the roof off the house, will get dramatically lower rating.  Despite the extremes, I know my mood shift more than what I record. I find it interesting that I don’t seem as honest with myself as I do when I rating Hope. I’m not sure who I’m trying to impress.

At any rate, mood tracking helps me try to figure US out a bit more. I also share them with our therapists, who find them helpful in seeing what happens between visits.

Anyone else tracking moods? What are you using? Does it help?


Clouds of Sadness

The range of emotions felt at Casa d’ABM is pretty wide. I’ve always been pretty high strung, and I’ve written about my own struggle with depression in this space before. Living with a teenager is pretty tumultuous. The hormones…O.M.G. It’s amazing, really. I am convinced that I didn’t display the full range of crazy that I was feeling during my adolescence—not that I didn’t have the emotional swings, but that I didn’t act out.

Lots of people think my parents were strict; to some degree they were, but really they set high expectations and I had absurdly high expectations for myself. With the bar so high I was mindfully cautious about acting out.

I was a bit jealous of kids who didn’t seem to approach adolescence the same way. I wished I’d sneaked out more; went to more movies I wasn’t supposed to see. I did a fair amount of boozing my senior year, but still there was a hard limit on what I would do. Not a bad thing, but a self-control thing that gave me hang ups later in life.

So, now, years later, having a teenaged daughter who is a trauma survivor, is impulsive, at times angry, and seeming always sad…well it makes for an emotional roller coaster for all of us.

Except for Yappy—world’s happiest dog.

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So I guess that should say both of us.

This is an especially hard time of the year for Hope. Lots were crammed into the summer months of her young life. This year the memories seem to be crushing. We get treatment, therapy, but sometimes the sadness moves in faster than a weather cold front.

And if you know anything about weather, cold fronts, hitting warm air means storms. Sometimes really, really, crazy storms.

That happens here. The storms are a bit quieter now than when we first became a family, but they are no less disruptive or worrisome.

I try to remind myself that the frequent presence of emotional storm, complete with downpours, represent that this is a safe place. Hope is able to express her full range of emotions in our home. This is a safe place to work through it all; she can emote here.

But here’s the thing, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are real. It’s not just about loving Hope; it’s about demonstrating empathy (constantly); managing our life as a therapeutic case; navigating big and little decisions that may have triggering effects; always being anxious waiting for the other shoe to drop after stumbling over a trigger.

It is exhausting for both of us. Hope can sleep for hours and hours sometimes. I know that part of it is that her young body is run down and exhausted from fighting her own fight/flight response to life. I know the other part is just coping with the overwhelming sadness that she lives with.

On the weekends I am eager to resume my old life of running errands, hitting the gym, spending the afternoons and evenings doing something fun. I end up running the errands that I have to in order to keep the house running; taking Yappy to the dog park and waiting to see if I can help Hope get herself together. By evenings, I’m emotionally done and I don’t even feel like I’ve done anything.

We might’ve tried a new restaurant or rented but didn’t watch the Redbox movie I picked up in hopes of having some fun family time.

The reality is that a happy house is a rare scene around these parts. It’s about trying to survive and fighting to push the clouds of sadness away.

I hear that the hormonal part will settle down in another year or two; I hope so. Self-care helps with my ability to cope, but living with this level of stress is tough. It is exhausting. It is depressing.

So we both end up sharing her trauma. It ends up being cloudy and sad for both of us. I look forward to a day when it won’t be so overwhelming for Hope, that the depression she feels won’t consume her life, when so many things won’t be triggering.  When that happens for Hope, it know it will happen for me too.


Too Much

 

Sometimes this mothering thing is just too damn much.

There is a lot of shame around saying that. So many women are unable to have biological children and some hoops to clear for fostering and adopting can be tough. Saying that mothering can involve misery feels rather taboo.

I’m actually not supposed to say that, right? Because I wanted to be a mother. I’m not supposed to not love every effing minute of it, right?

And yet, this week I’m pretty miserable.

As the holidays approach, expectations seem to rise. My dear Hope seems to struggle as we get further in the school year, but her pride prevents any kind of help from cracking her protective casing. Yappy has developed separation anxiety. Work is…well, busy is an understatement.

The mental energy and gymnastics to parent a traumatized kiddo while being on top of things in the other areas of my life has driven me back to white knuckling it and popping anxiety meds reserved for….

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Well, this is that time.

I melted down this week. I hadn’t had one of my meltdowns in some time, and when I crumble it’s like…

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The exhaustion and frustration and anger were and are just so real and too much. I hit my limit, my hard limit. And somewhere along the way I took all the things that Hope won’t/can’t do personally. No good can ever come from that, and yet it is a rabbit hole that I fall into ever so often. Hurts like hell to to fall into and climb to get out of.

I am struggling with parenting. It requires me to toss out 99% of everything I learned from my parents. If my parents gave me a list, I got that list done because they told me to do it and not doing the list would be considered disrespectful and disobedient.That combination didn’t go over well with them.

I give Hope a list and it will be balled up on the floor in minutes. And I can’t reconcile that with the narcissism that is simple teendom and the narcissism that is trauma teendom. My reserves are so low at the moment that it quite seriously causes me lots of anxiety as I attempt to keep my anger and frustration in check.

I’m singed

Last night I failed.

So, I lost my ish…royally.

I didn’t yell at her. I just yelled at the universe on the other side of the house. It was all just too much. The truth is that it’s always too much. Parenting my daughter is really is about how much I can I manage me; it’s clear I can only do so much in managing her. This control freak has nearly no control, and it’s driving me nuts.

After about 30 minutes, I went to talk to Hope, only to find her packing. The dresser drawers had been emptied, and she was working on the closet. She screamed at me that I could just put her back in the system so that I could get my life back and not be miserable anymore.

Oy, Great, now both of us feel like ish.

We talked after I quietly unpacked all her stuff. I reminded her that families fight, but no one is supposed to leave. I’m entitled to my feelings just like she is, and sometimes my feelings boil over and those feelingd aren’t fair to anyone around me either.

These last two years have been hard. Really hard. They’ve been traumatic in ways I never imagined. We’ve been through the ringer. But we’re still here, even when it feels like it’s all too much, and last night it really was too damn much.

I apologized for scaring her, but I didn’t apologize for my feelings. They are real. They are mine, and I’m entitled to feel some kind of way. I honor her feelings.

It’s hard have so few folks around for whom I can drop the veil, reveal my true feelings and have them honored as true and authentic.

So on top of everything else, I’m realizing that I’m lonely too.

Single parenting is both awesome and sucky at the same time.

This week, I’m just surfing until Friday because it really does feel like too much.

 


It’s Ok

The last couple of years have been an immense journey. I’ve learned so much; I’m sure knowledge is just spilling out of my ears. Each day, week, moment and month bring new lessons about myself, about Hope, about our life together, about parenting and well, about a bunch of other stuff.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of befriending a number of other adoptive parents. We share our struggles. We cry together. We whisper on the phone while hiding from our kids and slurping wine on a stool in our showers with the curtain drawn. We’ve problem solved. We’ve pep talked. We’ve planned trips together.

I’m blessed to have these folks in my life.

I was thinking during a call this week about something I usually tell folks in the midst of crisis; it’s something that they tell me too.

It’s going to be ok.

We rarely know how it’s going to be ok, but we just know that somehow, hopefully, it will be ok.

And it usually ends up being ok.

Sometimes we all just need to know that our struggles are ok; they just are. So, this post is an open letter to parents of all stripes, but especially my fellow APs, foster parents and parents that are roughing it.

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It’s ok to be mad.

It’s ok to not understand what the heck is going on in your house.

It’s ok, to have that glass of wine in the evening (unless there’s a medical/emotional reason not to).

It is ok to occasionally drink wine from a tumbler.

It’s ok to plan and practice self-care.

It’s ok to believe that eating tater tots and lucky charms with wine in your bedroom counts as self-care.

It’s ok to be tired, nay, exhausted.

It’s ok to be annoyed by all the activities.

It’s ok to foster the puppy’s affection for you because you need some unconditional love too.

It’s ok to go shopping alone so you don’t have to share.

It’s ok to feel like maybe you can’t do parenting.

It’s ok to feel ambivalent about parenting all together.

It’s ok to totally give up on parenting and then change your mind 15 minutes later.

It’s ok to cry.

It’s ok to cry daily.

It’s ok to ask your doctor if there’s something that might help you stop crying all the time.

It’s ok to call in sick after the kids have gone to school that you can have a mental health day.

It’s ok to think parenting books are full of it.

It’s ok for your foster care/adoption halo to be tarnished or missing because it fell of the pedestal you got put on.

It’s ok to feel sorry/not sorry about pulling away from friends and family who don’t understand why your family would be experiencing challenges.

It’s ok to find new friends who “get” what you’re experiencing.

It’s ok to mourn the loss of those previous relationships even if you think those people sometimes acted like buttheads.

It’s ok to cry for your child.

It’s ok to cry for everything they’ve loss.

It’s ok to cry for every reason why adoption ended up being their path.

It’s ok to cry for every reason why adoption ended up being your path.

It’s ok to cry because it comes with challenges that you feel ill equipped to manage.

It’s ok to go back to your doctor for a medication adjustment for all the crying.

It’s ok when you make unpopular decisions that are right for your family, even if they are hard for you.

It’s ok to momentarily admit that the challenges seem so insurmountable that you consider just turning back and giving up.

It’s ok to not celebrate the fact that you trudged on and worked through it because you simply don’t have time to get yourself a cupcake for doing what you were going to do anyway.

It’s ok to be mad at God for even allowing the need for you to be in this kid’s life like this.

It’s ok to be mad at God because it’s so hard.

It’s ok to recognize that anger masks sadness.

It’s ok to be mad when the people around you who are verbally supportive aren’t really supportive.

It’s ok to hate lip service and its best friend hypocrisy.

It’s ok to leave spaces that aren’t healthy or safe or supportive of and for your family, and this includes churches and other family members.

It’s ok to get help for secondary trauma.

It’s ok to get help for coping with everything.

It’s ok if you find one day that you go to therapy alone just to have a safe place to cry and vent and *then* you go to family therapy or trot your kids to their appointments.

It’s ok if your version of therapy is occasionally eating a double chocolate iced donut in your tub with the shower curtain pulled closed—alone.

It’s ok to wonder if you’ll get your life back.

It’s ok to think about the need to forgive yourself for inviting unique challenges into your life.

It’s ok to recognize that your family’s triumphs look different.

It’s ok, more than ok, to celebrate all of your family’s triumphs whether anyone else believes they are noteworthy or not.

It’s ok to beg off the comparisons against “normal” families.

It’s ok to sigh and roll your eyes a lot in your head because people say dumb ish.

It’s ok to be pissed when you are subjected to foster care and adoption related microaggressions.

It’s ok to be happy with a C, when your child worked so hard and was below grade level when he came to live with you.

It’s ok to be frustrated about all sorts of foster/adoptive kid things like hoarding, executive function, night terrors, defiance, RAD and feel like you can’t breathe a word of it to your friends because they just wouldn’t understand.

It’s ok to lean into an online community of similarly situated parents who “get your struggle.”

It’s ok, despite what your tell your kids about online relationships, to know that *your* online folks are great cheerleaders and, over time, friends.

It’s ok to feel like it will take forever to find your parenting “tribe.”

It’s ok to mourn with like-minded folks, to celebrate with them, to ask for advice, to just shoot the breeze.

It’s ok to see the world differently once you become a parent, and to be both happy and disappointed.

It’s ok to look forward to work travel as an opportunity to peek back at your old life.

It’s ok to look forward to the end of a trip because you miss your family and can’t wait to get home to your personal brand of crazy.

It’s ok to feel disillusioned by all the boogeymen in the world that take the shapes of gun violence, police brutality, racism, sexism, homophobia…and the list goes on.

It’s ok to listen to adoptees, to hear their voices.

It’s ok to allow the adoptee voice to shape how you approach meeting your kids’ needs and how you decide to help them shape their life experiences.

It’s ok to believe that adoptees have something incredibly meaningful to contribute to foster care and adoption conversations.

It’s ok to believe that everyone’s feelings in the adoption triad are legit and not be threatened by that.

It’s ok to feel joy in parenting.

It’s ok to see how much everyone in your family evolves and changes.

It’s ok to celebrate every little and big achievement.

It’s ok.

It’s ok, really, to just try your best, to be…ok.


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.


Baby Fat

I have baby weight.

Ok well, with Hope being now 14 and 5’8” I suppose it’s not baby weight. To be fair, it’s more like adoption/dissertation weight.

I’ve never been a skinny chick. About 5 years ago my internist actually said that I have a large bone frame (I’m legit big boned!) and I nearly wept with joy. I put on about 15lbs while I was doing my EdD and I’ve since gained about another 10 since Hope’s arrival in 2014.

This is the heaviest I have ever been in my life, and I don’t like it. I try not to beat myself up about it too much, especially since I have a checked history with disordered eating. But still, this body thing has not been good for my psyche.

A couple of months ago I went shopping for some new work clothes and was horrified that I’d gone up two sizes and the new size wasn’t even all that flattering. I ended up buying two wash and wear dresses at J. Crew that didn’t look like tents despite my having to purchase them with more than one X on the size label. The whole experience was really depressing, and that’s no exaggeration given my recent post on the subject.

This week I’m on the road to visit a prospective employer. They’ve been relentlessly recruiting me for a couple of months, and despite my repeated pleas of disinterest, I’m flying out to do a site visit. (SIDE NOTE: Friends/Colleagues who are reading this, seriously, I do not have plans to leave the current gig. If I was serious about a move I wouldn’t be writing about it *wink.*)

Yesterday I set out to purchase a new business suit. I stepped up my workout routine the last two months with yoga, a plank challenge and cardio. I psyched myself up to go to the “Women’s” section of Macy’s to find a pant suit that would make me feel good because it actually fit. I told myself not to be concerned with the numerical size, but just focus on fit and feel.

What I did not tell myself was to leave Hope at home.

I’m still eager to have the shopping experience with my daughter that moms and daughters long to have: Sifting through racks looking at clothing, playfully bickering and then picking out stuff. I mean, it’s happened, kinda, but Hope really doesn’t like clothing shopping despite having the long lean body that I might be willing to lose a lower arm for. Her recent growth spurt had her going from a size 8 to a size 4, and her legs go on for days. Oh and she could live off of chips, ramen and those nasty vienna sausages that come in the can. #thatmetabolismtho

Ick.

Anyhoo, Hope tagged along on my trip to Macy’s where she proceeded to do the following:

  • Play in the clothing racks like she was 5 years old.
  • Repeatedly yell out my slacks size from 7 racks over in an effort to *help* me find something to wear.
  • Yelled out how all of the clothes in the “Women’s” section looked like granny clothes.
  • Kept asking if I was going to buy her something. #nodammit #shoppingformeonly

Eventually I snatched her up in the dressing room and explained that she was kinda killing my shopping vibe since I wasn’t feeling really good about myself. Oh and dang it, this shopping trip was not about her!!!

She had no clue. She said she hadn’t had a chance to play in the racks as a child, and she thought she was being helpful. From her perspective, *we* were having a great time. From my perspective I wanted to take my fat curvy self home to eat another piece of Hope’s birthday cake with extra icing. #emotionaleater

Sigh.

In the end, I did get back in the right head space. I got a nice black suit that will meet my needs. The slacks are little big so I’ll have them tailored sometime in the next couple of weeks. #vanitysizing I feel good about my purchase, and after our chat, Hope ended up being more helpful than hurtful. She tried and I was grateful.

My lesson yesterday was realizing that Hope doesn’t seem me as a chunky girl. I’m just mom, and I transcend size. She can’t understand why I would be concerned about my size or her yelling it across the department store. She’s always mystified that I workout and that I actually enjoy it or that I eat so many fruits and vegetables. I think she actually thinks I might be modeling a relatively healthy life and decent body image to her.

Imagine that.

I guess Hope can teach me a thing or two sometimes.

Still, she bet not run through them dang racks again. #nomaam


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.

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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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.


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