Over the past few weeks I have come across several heartfelt, and incredibly amazing and courageous blog posts talking about struggling with trust, privacy and security issues, support networks and some truly incredible adopters who have had the bravery to open up about the impact parenting their children (and everything that comes in conjunction with this) has had on their own mental health.
I am in awe of their bravery! Especially because in each post that I have read, I have not only been able to empathise with the author, but because each one of them has stirred up emotions and memories that on a daily basis I am fighting to try to supress. Some would say “if they affect you so much, why would you continue to read these posts?”
The posts and the authors are not the problem – my secondary trauma and my fear of being overwhelmed by my emotions is the problem (I actually find reading the posts quite comforting, despite the emotions it brings to the surface – for a few short moments I do not feel so isolated).
I am not sure where I am going with this post – I started out thinking about how for every story/post that had been shared, there was an element of it I could identify with. But as I am sat here writing this 2 words keep rearing their ugly heads – Fear and Trust, and the shame of my own awareness of the implications and how much impact I have allowed these 2 little words to have on my family’s happiness.
I never imagined that I would allow this word to engulf and manipulate my life as much as it has over the past few years. It is certainly not something I planned and I definitely do not want to be trapped in this endless cycle of fear and anxiety.
Did I bring it on myself?
Almost definitely! I made the choices I did and now I am living with the consequences of those choices.
Do I deserve to feel like this?
At the moment I cannot answer this honestly. No of course I don’t deserve to feel like this and nor should anyone else, but if I hadn’t been so naive, trusting and open with certain people, my already vulnerable self-esteem wouldn’t have taken such a huge battering – so maybe Yes! I do deserve it.
Being the other word that dominates our household and my interactions with professionals, friends, family etc.
So why have these 2 words become such huge barriers in our home and our lives?
When we started the adoption process I made a conscious decision to not allow the walls I had built up around myself to get in the way of being open and honest with our SW and any professionals involved in the adoption process – I lapped up the spiel about not suffering in silence if our children’s early history was having an impact in anyway (school, home, personal, etc.) and as Bumble and I had a wonderful SW (Shamrock) who we got on really well with. I fell into the trap and have paid the price ever since.
Knowing your children for some time before they move in with you cannot only be a blessing but also a curse – looking back over the years we only had a very brief ‘honeymoon’ period (especially with Beeswax). We hit the ground running the moment the boys moved in and found ourselves having to wade through all that this meant and, like many parents, we made mistakes or misinterpreted situations. And that is how we I ended up trapped in this negative mind-set which stops me doing what I really need to do.
Until Beeswax, along with Buzzbee moved in, I don’t think anyone other than their foster carer really had a clue as to the true impact both their early years history had had on Waxy. On paper we were everything he wanted, but for him the reality was far more terrifying and he needed to take any and as many measures as he could to prevent himself from ever getting too close to either of us.
Before I go any further I am not about to turn this into a “it’s all Beeswax’s fault” diatribe – Yes, his trauma and actions were the catalyst that brought about several of the issues, but he is a vulnerable child and we are adults and should have had more common sense.
Splitting was and still is his favourite weapon of attack and 9/10 professionals and busy bodies (of whom I really should say ‘their heart was in the right place and they were only looking out for him’) fell into his trap. My crime was pointing this out to them in an attempt to prevent some of the conflict that Bumble and I were witnessing. The reward for this was that I was treated as if I was the problem and he was a ‘poor, innocent young boy whose mother was cold and overly controlling towards him’.
So my first mistake – believing that the professionals understood the impact of working/parenting a child with a traumatic and complex attachment history.
My second was believing that when people are telling you “you are doing an incredible job” that they are being honest with you and not telling you what they think you want to hear to keep you quiet.
When things got difficult, we did what we thought was the right thing to do and spoke to Shamrock and Clover (boys’ SW) about our concerns – hey, that is what they drummed into us during our preparation after all.
To our knowledge, both SWs were supporting us and understood where we were coming from. From where Bumble and I were sitting they were backing us all the way and truly understood how hard we were trying to do what was best for both boys.
Let me skip several months forward and to the point where my world was turned upside down and my own personal history plus my relationship with Beeswax was thrown to the wolves. All the supposed support we believed we had was a big, fat lie.
The truth was:
- People I trusted and considered to be close friends (along with professionals)were making allegations left right and centre about my parenting and my mental health.
- A new SW had come into our lives and had put 2+2 together and come up with “Honey is an unfit mother”. (In the cold light of day – years later, I can see how with everything that was being presented to her, she really thought she was acting in the best interests of the boys. The problem I had was she never attempted to understand the heart-breaking situation we found ourselves in or at least allow us the courtesy of addressing some of her (and others’) concerns with us. She simply just blamed it all on me and my inability to cope with my traumatised eldest son who was physically and mentally attacking both Buzzbee and I on a daily hourly basis (that sounds so bitter and self-pitying, but it is how I truly felt then and do now).
- And then there was the fact that we found out that the one professional I thought I could trust had been keeping secrets from us (Ok maybe that is not fair to Shamrock. She was in an impossible position and deep down I have to believe that she wasn’t allowed to tell us what was going on). Yes, I feel she let us down and now, despite her still being involved in our lives, I find it very hard not to find myself being very guarded when talking to her.
And this was simply the tip of the iceberg.
Was I wrong to believe that by confiding in people I thought I could trust that they would support us and not condemn us? Sadly I do regret ever opening up and allow others to know how – tired, anxious, low, tearful, overwhelmed I had become. I should have done what I had done for so many years before and kept my wall firmly up and weathered the storm.
Did we fight them tooth and nail to change their perceptions? Hell yeah!
Did we change their minds? Well, when it comes to the social workers, I would say we did, and I suppose the fact that they finally backed off and allowed us to formally adopt the boys is evidence of this! I am not sure I can confidently say this in respect to school staff or members of our village community.
Should I have done things differently in the first place to prevent this happening? Ok unless I had a crystal ball, I have to say “how could I possibly ever answer that?”
Do I think that I am now letting my mistrust of professionals prevent me from fighting for my boys needs as hard as I would have before the ‘bombshell’ hit? Definitely! There is always that voice at the back of my mind saying “be careful what you tell them”, “It’s not worth the heartache – I can weather the storm” (and so many more unhelpful internal dialogues).
Do I think that I am letting myself and everyone else down by being so defensive and trying to hide away from my own emotions? Well, reading this back it sounds quite ridiculous that I have allowed myself for so long now to be ruled by the fear of honesty. So I guess the answer is YES! But the truth is, even today (as I contemplate deleting this post before it is even uploaded) the fear of opening up to someone again is preventing me from getting the emotional support I know I need to get if I am ever to be able to move past this point, forgive myself and put it to bed once and for all, rather than ‘going through the motions’ and attempting to ‘fake it until I make it’.
And, I will eventually make it!!!!!!