I’ve only recently started to think about those early days of the adoption of our two kids. Five years on I have the brain space to revisit the initial days, months, even year. Looking back I am wondering if, maybe, I had post adoption depression.
Did I have post adoption depression?
Like postnatal depression, the transition to motherhood can elicit a range of emotional and physical responses. Shock, a lack of interest in the things you like doing, constant exhaustion, sleep issues, feeling worthless, helpless, burdened by guilt…not feeling happy.
The first few days
Bringing home our adopted children I experienced the joy of walking through the door with our kids. But that joy turned to shock.
- I was raw. Becoming a mum overnight to two older kids is tough. But I wasn’t prepared for my own reaction
- The bonding was a struggle, I had to work at it
- I had to deal with the feelings of rejection because my children did not, at first, want to bond with me. They always sat on Daddy’s lap, fought to hold Daddy’s hand
- I remember each time King of the Mountains tried to help, make a suggestion, give advice I felt inadequate, a failure
- I snapped, shouted, occasionally roared
- My life had no control
- I discovered a new level of exhaustion I never knew existed
- Parenting seemed to be a grind, unrelenting
- On top of that, we had to deal with kids who had experienced loss, trauma and abuse
- Where was the fun? Why wasn’t I walking through fields of buttercups and daisies?
- And, I didn’t get the weekends off!
I saw life through a different lens because my husband’s experience seemed so different. The kids loved him, he got the fun and the laughter. After six months, I remember saying to King of the Mountains, I have had one good day, one day with no tantrums, screaming, hitting, punching, scratching.
Everyone kept saying: “Just try and relax, you might enjoy it.” Not what I wanted to hear.
I don’t know if I did, nothing was formally diagnosed but it is possible I may have had post adoption depression.
The symptoms of post adoption depression
According to Adoption Together signs that you might be experiencing post adoption depression include:·
· Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy
· Difficulty with concentrating or making decisions
· Fatigue or loss of energy
· Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
· Significant weight change
· Excessive guilt
· Feeling powerless
· Feeling worthless
· Sense of hopelessness
· Suicidal thoughts
How did things start to change?
It took time.
For me, over the course of a year, life started to get better as I grew more confident, and I started to realise I could cope.
- Patience. I couldn’t rush this, building a family takes time
- The children and I were caught in our own emotional maelstrom. Through my GP I got a referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)
- My adoption agency TACT ran the Adoption Changes course
- Place2Be offered in-school art therapy for my kids and one-to-one support for me
- Self-care for the first few months, I bookended my week with a yoga class and a massage
- I carried on running. Running is my Prozac
- Date nights. Essential. Booking a babysitter, having a night out (we still do this)
- Making friends with other mums who had adopted
- Finding other mummy friends. I joined the school PTA and threw myself into summer and Christmas fairs, school discos, reception tea parties (I’m a mean face-painter). This helped nurture a new set of mummy friends
What would I do differently?
- Ask for help sooner
- Take ownership of my feelings
- Don’t wait for others to validate how I feel
If you think you have post adoption depression what should you do?
- That transition to motherhood is tough
- It’s tough parenting children who have experienced trauma and abuse
- Adopting kids will churn up a whole lot of feelings, and throw your world upside down and inside out
Don’t suffer in silence thinking you have to cope ask for support.
Post adoption support resources
Adoption UK forums – there are a lot of threads about Post Adoption Depression
It’s Good to Talk – The BACUP website where you can a qualified counsellors or psychotherapists (UK only)
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