My husband and I delved into the world of adoption like most parents; blinders on and only thinking of having our newest family member in our arms. We trudged through all of the standard trainings which really prepared us for nothing and filled out our mountain of paperwork. Before we knew it, we were packing our bags. We traveled with our 3, 5, and 7 year-olds to adopt our 1 year-old and that experience was something that words could never describe. It was a time of family and culture, a time of bonding and attachment. A time that I will cherish forever.
A few weeks after we were home, the jet lag finally wore off, but I still felt like I was in a fog. Every second of the day, I was just trying to survive. But, surely, that was normal, right? After all, I had 4 children under 8, and my days were spent being everything to everyone. The days and months went by and I soon started realizing my normal self was lost.
Although I am an introvert, I regularly enjoy the company of friends and family. These days though, I just hunker down. I hunker down because life is difficult and it’s so much easier to remain a hermit than try to explain everything.
It’s not bad, it’s just overwhelming. Like waking up feeling like I can’t breathe. Or going to sleep with my blood boiling. Anger and rage and anxiety and just feeling, off. The truth is I am suffering from Post Adoption Depression, also known as PADS. It hits much like Postpartum Depression but it’s just so much lesser known. So much so that it took me finding an online adoption forum to figure out what it was. And, you know what? I’m not alone. But, it sure did feel like I was.
Now, before I really get going, I would like to clarify and make this crystal clear that this isn’t about love. I love my family. I cherish them. I enjoy their presence. I love them. This is about a true internal struggle, something that no amount of love can overcome. A night of good sleep or a date night will do nothing for this. Much like postpartum depression, it’s not something that will be “cured” by drinking some magical water.
In my first months home, I couldn’t find any information about PAD. Not a single blog post or mention, nothing. And that, my friends, is isolating. I thought I was alone in my struggles. I just wanted to be by myself. To curl up and watch Gilmore Girls for hours on end. I thought these were merely normal struggles associated with the post adoption adjustment period. But, then, at the perfect moment I discovered that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t a bad parent. What I have is real. It is really a thing. An actual diagnosis. Something that validated everything that I knew in my heart. And that is freeing.
So, I know that one day, I will be back to my normal self. Through time, medication, dedication and lots of love, I will return. But, this road isn’t easy. I am worn and weary. I am sad because this is hard. I have never, ever struggled with depression and that is why I was so blindsided by all of this. Just completely and utterly in shock that this could actually happen to me. But it did.
And maybe it will happen to you? Maybe to a friend? The road to adoption is stressful, long and incredibly isolating. Few experience what you experience. Few know the heartache of looking in your child’s eyes and wondering who gave them those perfectly brown eyes. Few know the truly hard, rigorous work that it takes to bring a child from a hard place into your family. Few know the number of sleepless nights, not because your baby is hungry or sick, but because they are traumatized, grieving and sad. Few experience the heartache of leaving part of your heart in their birth country, a piece of your soul forever living somewhere else. That empty feeling of knowing you have a connection to the other side of the world but not knowing who it is with. Few know what it feels like to have a child so terrified that they literally follow you all day long, room to room, every second of the day, their little eyes tracking your every movement.
And, all of these things are so incredibly amazing but hard. With that hardness comes real struggles. The struggle to know that every tiny success should be joyfully celebrated but knowing that there is still a whole mountain to climb.
And, I say this not to discourage adoption. I say this not to scare you. I say this to normalize Post Adoption Depression. To let you know that you aren’t alone. That there is a community out there of people who know exactly how you feel. People who feel your pain and sorrow, your sadness and anxiety. You aren’t crazy and you surely aren’t alone. To know that these feelings won’t just disappear at the wave of a magic wand because, trust me, I tried that. To know that it is okay to seek help and it’s okay to admit that you aren’t okay.
Perhaps you are suffering from post adoption depression but you just don’t know it. Maybe you know someone on the long road to adoption and you can reach out to them. Maybe you have a friend who has been home for a while but you haven’t seen them. You could drop some coffee off at their door, or send them a note to let them know that you are thinking about them.
Because, my friends, we aren’t alone. And it is that community that we need. People who understand the struggle. People who see that this is more than just the normal post adoption issues.
So today, if you are struggling, I want to reach out my hand to you. I want to offer you a warm embrace. I want to validate your feelings and let you know that you aren’t crazy. I want to walk alongside you. To travel this path together. I encourage you to seek help. To admit that you can’t do it alone and to know that that is okay. Then I will wrap my arms around you and we can cry together. Feel together. And together we will hop back on this crazy ride and face it head on.
— Guest post by Erin, moderator on the PADS FB Support group