Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Post Adoption Depression (PADS)

Hang on a minute, you have this new family, the child you longed for, fought for, convinced social workers you were capable of looking after and then wham suddenly you feel as miserable as hell. Tired, fraught, stressed out, not sleeping, irritable, feeling worthless, guilty for not being on top of the world and like, well, a pretty crappy parent. First of all, don't worry you are not alone. According to the McCarthy survey Post Adoption Depression can affect more than 60% of all adoptions.
I am not writing as an expert on Post Adoption Depression, for that go and see your GP or other professional but I can tell you about my own experience.

For my first adoption I coped pretty well but since adopting Boy last year I have at times felt like I am going a little bit insane and apparently it's pretty normal. For us lots of things happened within the first six months of adopting Boy. Girl started school, Boy had an operation (4 days before Christmas), we all got ill, my colds and coughs lasted for 2-3 months as I was so run down, Girl's behaviour went through the roof and PAS were called in and confirmed our worst suspicions that yes Girl has Attachment Disorder. All this took it's toll on my mental health. 
As I see it we feel overwhelmed by the reality of bringing our little ones home, creating and nurturing bonds that do not yet exist, dealing with the grief of seperation that our little ones are feeling, coping with behaviours and difficulties that stem from adoption and learning how to parent in probably a totally different style to what we are used to from our own experiences and that of our friends.
It's not easy to totally relax and just go with the flow because our kids quite often cannot accept that sort of style of parenting, every day is 110% effort, every day can be mentally exhausting. For instance the sort of things that have been buzzing through my head are why is my son so happy and different today? is it because Girl has been out all day? have I not been giving him enough attention? how do I balance their needs so Boy can be this relaxed more of the time? because the thing with adoption is that our kids do feel more insecure than other kids and are definitely more needy (even though to our friends and family they seem like any other kids) and we constantly have to be thinking about approaches to help them feel secure. 
Talking to friends and family is hard. Dare you suggest you may be experiencing problems with your kids and you are treated as neurotic, over-zealous, after all kids are kids, kids are resilient, kids forget. My pet hate is someone saying 'oh but all kids do that...', now when people say it I just think to myself (tongue firmly in cheek) 'OK I know why my daughter has this incessant need to find a toilet every single place we go but why does your child do that?' I do agree that all kids can do some pretty odd things but my daughter does a lot of odd things most of the time not just one or two things every now and again. 
Sometimes I wish I weren't so clued up, maybe I would relax more but I stress and worry every single day and it is taking it's toll. I want both of my kids to be well adjusted, happy and most of all to feel secure and safe which according to my daughter's behaviour maybe they don't, yet (see, optimistic that's good right?).
So all of this worry and stress has resulted in me getting depressed, feeling like I couldn't cope with everyday stuff, constantly tired - even after just waking in the morning, crying at the drop of a hat, irritable, restless, anxious and panicky. The key thing was I recognised that I was frankly not myself, that what I was feeling was not right and went to see my GP. I was prescribed anti-depressants but decided that was not for me, I went to counselling and got an hhhmer (total waste of time somebody just saying hhmm to me, I want positive suggestions not silly noises!).
The best advice I can offer is do not be worried about admitting you need help to whoever will listen (OK not random people on buses or the checkout girl at Asda!). Once I had sought help from my GP and admitted to family and friends that I was not coping things got easier, more support was offered which was badly needed, even though I did get a lot of support anyway its harder to ask for help than to accept what is offered.
Talking to my PASW helps because she understands what I am talking about, she helps me differentiate what is normal behaviour and what is attachment disorder related. Writing this blog helps because it puts my thoughts in order. Talking to other adopters helps. Finding the humour in a situation helps (I can usually find a wee bit somewhere if I try hard enough but I really have to coax myself to do that).
I do feel there should be more help and recognition for PADS, maybe I am missing some vital help somewhere (or my GP is) but I am having to recognise why I feel so low and mostly work it out for myself. I have to tell myself I am not a crap mum if I don't get it right all the time and I am learning to relax. I have gone from seriously depressed all the time to mood swings which I guess is a little better.
Tonight I feel pretty good, earlier today I felt unfathomably low but I think that's probably part and parcel of my depression.

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