“ ‘I just can’t attach.’ I said as a I sat across from the therapist that I was paying $150 an hour to “fix” all my problems.
‘It doesn’t matter what I do. I’ve tried and it’s been 7 months and nothing is getting better. He rejects my love, and I have no idea what to do.’ The words poured out of my mouth as tears fell from my eyes.
It’s been the hardest journey I’ve ever been on and I’ve been living it all in the darkness of my own home, never once sharing with anyone other than my immediate family. The deep feelings of sorrow and grief I’ve dealt with since saying yes to this sweet child have overwhelmed me and now here I am, sitting across from a woman who I can’t afford as she tries to diagnose all my problems.
I never thought it could get this bad. I really didn’t. When we decided to bring a broken child into our home I never knew how much transparency it would bring out in me. Things from my past, traumas I’ve dealt with in other parts of my life, difficulties and struggles I never even knew I had revealed themselves in ways I couldn’t even imagine. So after 7 months here is where I had finally landed, an office with a professional who was supposed to help me work through all the regrets and less than perfect choices I had made in life.
As I sat and disclosed all that had been happening in my home over the past 7 months I wept, and wept, and wept. I wept because I felt like I had failed. To be honest I did fail, despite convincing from my therapist that I had not. How could I blame an innocent child for the overwhelming anxiety that had ended me up on one of the strongest anti-anxiety medications in the entire pharmaceutical industry? How could I act as if I hadn’t made anger driven choices as I yelled because a baby threw down their bottle or didn’t eat their cheerios? How could I move on from the anger and resentment that had built up so much that now it was about to explode? Disrupting the placement wasn’t an option at the time. The child was about to be reunified and I knew I just had a few more months to hold onto before it would all be over. But even then it felt impossible.
Now I look back and realize it was impossible. I shouldn’t have waited 7 months to get help. The anxiety that overwhelmed me to the point I couldn’t function was a true tell sign that something serious was going on with my mental stability and it needed to be fixed right away. I was going through severe Post Placement Anxiety. No this isn’t a medical diagnosis like Post-Partum Depression, or Postadoption Depression. It’s something that no one in the foster care world discloses. It’s the severe feeling of depression or anxiety or psychosis because your life has changed exponentially but no one understands it. You didn’t accept a child into your family forever, you didn’t birth a baby and your hormones are going crazy. No, you accepted a child, a stranger, into your family with the intent on them leaving, knowing full well ahead of time the struggles you would face. Why should people be sympathetic? Why should people understand? I mean didn’t we all ‘sign up for this?’
These are the things that finally landed me not only in a therapist’s office but a psychiatrist’s office. My diagnosis wasn’t PPD or Postadoption depression, no, I didn’t qualify for those things. I was labeled with Generalized Anxiety, written a script, and sent to find a therapist that specializes in foster care. You know how hard it is to find a therapist that specializes in foster care? It’s impossible. So after months of researching, and attempting a total of 5 different therapists with no luck, here I finally was, paying $150 out of pocket, trying my hardest to make peace with the decision that had brought me to my knees in angst and pain more times than not….foster care.
That therapist did the best she could but ultimately the anxiety persisted, that sweet child stayed for a total of 13 months before ending in a disruption, and my psychiatrist and I still see each other on a bi-weekly basis, still trying to work out the right medications and dosages, which have yet to be found.
It’s taken me 2 years to share these dark and deeply personal parts of my heart. Today, as as I sit here and type this, I’m struggling HARD with the anxiety that takes over. Medication has helped some, prayer has helped at times, oils, remedies, sleep, personal time, and any other things you can think of have helped only a bit. So I’ve had to learn how to manage the anxiety while also raising 3 tiny humans, none of which ever deserve to have me be the mom I was before I got help. I’ve learned to recognize my triggers. I have a plan with my husband in times when I just can’t handle the explosion that’s about to occur within me, and my children even know when ‘mommy is out of order.’ All of these things are ways I cope but I want to let you know it doesn’t mean every day is a good day. There are bad days, days where my voice is raised and my heart is pounding. It’s a process, and each day is just part of that process.
Foster care has brought out the best and worst in me, but through it all it has helped me see myself for the person I really am. It has helped me see my children in ways I never would’ve imagined, and it has helped me recognize and sympathize when that overwhelming fear or panic or anxiety is rising in my own foster children. Because of anxiety, I know what it’s like to feel alone. I know what it’s like to cry for no reason and to feel sad and worried, all at the same time. When children walk through our door with nothing, being ripped from their families, and losing everything they’ve ever known, I can sympathize with how they feel because I’ve felt the same way when my anxiety has been at it’s worst. Because of this I’m thankful, thankful that although anxiety has been one of the worst things I’ve ever had to deal with, it’s allowed me to understand the deep and personal parts of a child’s heart who has lost everything.”