Tag Archives: mental health

Parenting Anxiety

When I started my doctoral work years ago, I freaked out. I had trouble sleeping. My stomach was in knots all the time. I was a bit of a mess. I had struggled with depression for years, but anxiety wasn’t something that I had directly dealt with even if it probably lurked in my background. The lifestyle change of working and going to school full time was hard; I was terrified of failing. I really had a hard time, but my doctor helped me get on top of it.

I thought once I ended my program, that the anxiety would subside, but of course, Hope came along and the roller coaster called parenting made sure that anxiety became a long-term companion in my life. Still I have managed.

Everyone’s issue with anxiety is different, so when Hope was formally diagnosed with anxiety a year ago, I realized just how different our experiences with this challenge were. Her diagnosis wasn’t really a shock, but it did give me some context to try to understand what she was experiencing.

My symptoms, which really had a major impact on my life initially, were not what I would call debilitating. Comparatively speaking, I can give myself a pep talk, hit up Pinterest and read some power memes, do some meditation and breathing exercises and a few other things and function.

Hope cannot. Those coping strategies do not work for her. She has more somatic symptoms, meaning she genuinely doesn’t feel physically well. There’s the extraordinary negative, depressive talk that the anxiety triggers that just drags her down. There’s the desire to practice an escapist form of self-care by diving into the K-dramas for hours or days. There’s the unwillingness and/or inability to get out of bed.

It’s just so heavy that it crushes her. It’s sad.

And it’s sometimes hard to parent, super hard.

You want to acknowledge your kid’s limitations. You want to be sensitive and meet them where they are. But you also want to push them to develop some resilience. You want them to “get over it.” You want them to put things behind them and get on with their day.

I find myself sometimes just closing my eyes and taking a big breath to calm my frustration, sadness, anger, anxiety and other emotions so that I can focus. It’s tough because at Hope’s age, her run of the mill teen problems are legit and really issues for her—even if I think many of them are absurd at best. For a teen, these are real problems and real problems for Hope tax her capacity in ways that I have never experienced before. A lot of the times, I just don’t understand. Most of the time I just don’t understand.

I often approach Hope’s mental health challenges as I do like religious faith—either you believe they are real or you don’t. But as a natural contrarian, I have pushed back on my own religious beliefs and understanding of faith, so you can just imagine how I struggle to process things that stop Hope in her tracks. Even though I intellectually understand all of the trauma and drama; I understand the diagnoses, and I get the symptoms, I admit I find myself more often than not thinking, “Oh good grief, here we go again. Can’t you just get over it already?????”

She can’t, and she can’t help that.

I am good about not saying this out loud, but I have no poker face and I’m pretty transparent—Hope already knows I’m thinking it. Sometimes she’ll even say, “I know you don’t believe me.”

I say, “No, I believe you.” I know she isn’t lying; I just can’t wrap my head around why she can’t function anyway.

Yeah, I know, I know, but I’m keeping it real here. It’s tough. I’m tough. I know that my inability to just accept my daughter’s mental health issues is harmful to our relationship. But I also know that sometimes, Hope is shadier than an oak tree. I’m always suspicious. I’m quick to pounce, “Aha!!!!” It doesn’t help, but the reality is that over 3+ years, we’ve typically got a 50/50 ratio of truly affected behavior, and sometimes Hope really is just trying to get over on me, so I feel my suspicions are justified.

I’m on the road again this week. I left before dawn today. Hope was to see herself off to school this morning, but she didn’t. I know this because her school stalked me to tell me that she wasn’t in school. She texted that she didn’t feel good.

And then she ghosted me.

In the 7 hours of silence, while I was touring a facility and taking meetings, I have stewed over this development. I have called; I have texted. I have pondered various scenarios—none of which include Hope having a fever, vomiting, PMS, cramps, or the plague.

By early evening, I started replaying the weekend, searching for Hope’s triggers. I remembered some things that transpired. Would they trigger somatic symptoms such that she would beg off school for the second time in 3 weeks? Yep. Did my absence make it easier to blow it off? Absolutely. Is this an offense that requires a consequence? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

How do I feel about this?

I feel a lot of things…annoyed, frustrated, curious (since she wouldn’t call/text me back). I hate admitting that empathy, compassion, sadness are not at the top of the list of things that I initially feel in these moments. I hate that it takes me a while to get there.

I eventually talked to my daughter today. I could tell she was nervous; she knew I was going to ask some tough questions about skipping school. I did, and she stalled in answering. I shifted gears and asked her about how she was feeling emotionally. Tell me about your stomach ache. Tell me about what’s on your mind. And we got to the place we needed to get to. I got it. I just reminded her about some of our house rules (tell me before the school tells me!); reminded her that I love her.

Will tomorrow be better? I don’t know. Will it be just as hard? Very likely, yes.

Does that make me anxious?

Yeah.

Advertisements

When They Don’t Believe Us

Earlier this month, I sent Hope for private comprehensive testing. I hoped to document a diagnosis that appeared in her disclosure documents, as well as to determine if there were any other conditions that needed to be addressed medically and behaviorally. This week, I met with the psychologist for the preliminary report.

I’d prefer not to specifically disclose her diagnoses, but I would say they are very common findings for foster kids and adoptees.

So, yeah, fun times.

Honestly it explained a lot of what we experience. I definitely intellectually understand why somethings I do work great and some things send us screeching towards disasters. I think I get it now.

I’m finding that most of the folks I talk to regularly are also adoptive or foster parents. At this time in my life, it’s just easier. I never have concerns about being judged. I don’t have fear about my daughter being judged. These relationships are invaluable to me; that said, they don’t completely fill the holes left by my pre-Hope life.

I do still have some friends whom I confide in and of course my family, but sometimes, I find myself being so cagey. My fear, defensiveness and over-sensitivity around feeling judged and being unable to articulate the depth of our issues holds me back from deeply confiding in folks. I am always worried about being able to fully overcome the syrupy sweet adoption narrative that bounces in the echo chamber, “You’ve been a family for two years, what could possibly be wrong?” Or, “Oh that’s not a *real* issue, my kid does that all the time (you just don’t know any better).”

My daughter’s issues are real.

My issues with my daughter’s issues are real.

It takes real effort and strategy to be my daughter’s mom and full-time case manager. It’s real. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s that some folks don’t believe our issues are real.

We hear a lot in the media about the need to destigmatize mental health disorders; I’ve concluded that they don’t mean all disorders. They don’t mean the stuff that actually leads to suicidal or homicidal ideation. They really mean, “let’s wait until you’re actually learning how to tie the noose before we scream, ‘See something, say something!!!”

Those efforts to destigmatize mental health disorders don’t talk about how we need to manage severe disorders in children. Those efforts certainly don’t speak of the challenges of managing neurocognitive disorders that are often along for the ride, making treatments difficult to tease into meaningful chunks for parents.

Those efforts don’t consider the reactions that parents get from friends, colleagues and family members who offer comforting bullshit like, “Oh I think that diagnosis is just an excuse for a kid to act up!” or “Gosh, they are just diagnosing everyone with *that* now; it’s trendy.”

It’s hard to maintain relationships when folks don’t believe science, aren’t willing to listen and insist on unwittingly shutting down conversations with folks who just need to talk about their ish.

As I was sitting talking with the psychologist, I was wondering beyond the “team” of professionals that keep me and Hope duct taped together, who would I share this information with. Not that I would tell a bunch of people, but I found that number of individuals within our closest circle with whom I would confide in hopes of getting support for ME was pretty small. Really, really small.

I’ve been burned too many times. My trust bank is low, and in real life, I often feel really alone when walking/talking/living outside of the foster/adoption community. I’m so blessed to have cultivated some great friendships within the community, but the revelation that sharing my struggles with some people with whom I have a long history and genuine affection isn’t worth my time because I already know it’s not going to end well…well that hurts.

And it just reminds me of loss. Just more loss.

I have been spending a lot more time in recent months working on diversity stuff, and I’m increasingly sensitized to the way that this journey has affected me in ways that make me other myself or make me feel othered. Being Hope’s mom is a beautiful, amazing thing. But it’s definitely not an easy thing, not at all. No parenting is easy, and for me, this journey isn’t either.

I’m the same person as before, but I’m not, I guess.

And folks who expected this journey to turn out differently are also the same people. I’m just seeing them differently, and sometimes it’s really disappointing. Sometimes, it just really hurts.

It would be nice to feel like I could share with people actually believing that my daughter’s mental health issues are a real thing that requires real attention in order to get her healthy and happy in a sustainable way. I don’t ever want to find myself in a situation side-eyeing folks because tragedy befell us and then folks wondered why I never shared.

I won’t be responsible for my response in that scenario.

So if you know someone with a kid who has mental health issues, please don’t be dismissive. There are so few safe outlets for support. Recognize that destigmatizing mental health disorders means supporting folks long before the drama becomes tragic. Listen, learn and believe that this stuff is real and that it is some hard ish to wrestle with and really, really hard to wrestle with in a meaningful way alone.

Please believe us and support us.


Unexpectedly Adopted

Discovering at age 40 that I was adopted as a newborn

Dmy Inspires

Changing The World, With My Story...

Learning to Mama

Never perfect, always learning.

Dadoptive

An adoptive father's story

Radical Discipleship

A Joint Project of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries and Word & World

The Boeskool

Jesus, Politics, and Bathroom Humor...

Erica Roman Blog

I write so that my healing may bring healing to others.

My Mind on Paper

The Inspired Writing of Kevin D. Hofmann

Mimi Robinson Online

One black woman's journey through infertility, adoption and now being a SAHM

My Wonderfully Unexpected Journey

When Life Grabbed Me By The Ears

Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

These are the adventures of one family in foster care and adoption.

imashleymi.wordpress.com/

finding the balance between being a mom and a marketing maven

Stephanie Rodda

Pondering Faith and Family

wearefamily

an adoption support community

Fighting for Answers

Tales From an Adoption Journey

Transracialeyes

Because of course race and culture matter.

%d bloggers like this: