Friday, May 4, 2012

Five for Friday: Five Things I Did to Get Through Post-Adoption Depression

I wrote the other day about my struggle with post-adoption depression. Today I'd like to share more about the specific things I did to cope:
1. I got meds
When I finally got myself out of bed that day, I made some phone calls. The first call was to my general practitioner. I had to answer the expected questions. Was I in danger of harming myself? No. Of harming others? No.
As low as I was, I knew I’d make it through because I’d formed a plan, and part of that planned involved the assistance of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Tom Cruise might not approve of my decision, but, well, luckily for me, Tom Cruise doesn't run my life. I knew it was the right call for me.
When adult caregivers are in the position of caring for children with challenging behaviors, a common approach is to medicate the child. This had been the strategy used with Ashley before she came to us. I took a different tact. I got myself on meds, and got her off them. Like a lot of foster children, Ashley was heavily medicated when she came to us. I’m sure there are some kids who really do need these medications, but Ashley wasn’t one of them. Within 6 months of her moving in with us, we had successfully weaned her off all of them, with positive behavioral results. I, however, would need a few more months before I was ready to start tapering.
2. I got myself to a therapist 
I thought I’d worked through all my issues before Ashley moved in with us. I really did. But Ashley’s trauma triggered something in me, and I found I had a whole new level to work through. I was fortunate to already have a relationship with a great therapist, though I hadn’t seen her in a while. I gave her a call and got myself right back in the office.

I found this therapist originally using Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist feature. I read through many profiles and then selected a few to contact. I picked the therapist I ended up using based primarily on her answers to several questions I asked her in our initial interaction. I scheduled a trial session before committing to an ongoing relationship, and she turned out to be a great match for me.

3.  I asked my parenting partner to step up
In my last post I explained how I turned to my husband that morning and asked him to deal with the morning routine because I wasn’t up to the task. That emergency measure was followed up later that day with more in-depth brainstorming. Ashley’s behaviors had been challenging for both of us, but because of our schedules, I had been with the girls a lot more than he had. I’d hit the wall, and he still had some reserves. So we explored ways to rearrange things such that our parenting responsibilities were more evenly distributed. In other words, we found ways for him to step up so that I could get a break.
4. I became an affirmations addict 
I have no problem admitting on a public forum that I took psychiatric medication, but I’m a little embarrassed about this one. I’d received a copy of Heather Forbes’ ­­­­Affirmations for Regulation CD series as part of a training I did with the Beyond Consequences Institute before Ashley moved in with us. The training itself was amazing, but when I saw the CD set, I thought, well, that’s a nice gesture, but I’m never going to use this. Sorry Heather, I’m just not an affirmations person. Ha! I wore that CD out! In the early months of Ashley’s time with us, I had that thing running on a continuous loop in the car. Any time the girls weren’t with me (especially when I was on the way to pick them up from school), I had it on. I also put in on my computer at work and would open it up for a quick fix between assignments (headphones on, of course).
I don’t listen to it anymore. I don’t even know where it is now. But in that time of crisis, it was a godsend!
5. I sat in a circle with other moms  
In Erica’s recent post she wrote about MotherWoman and the work that organization does to bring women together to support and listen to one another. It’s an invaluable service. I wasn’t affiliated with MotherWoman during my crisis, but I did have my own circle of women to turn to, a mothers group at my church that I had helped found with the assistance of the National Organization of Mothers' Centers, another group that gets the importance of providing a safe, nonjudgmental format for moms to come together and offer support to other moms. When I sat with my circle of moms, I knew I could say anything and they would just make space for it -- no judgment. I always walked out of our meetings feeling lighter.

In each one of these five situations, I was lucky -- lucky to have resources. It is my sincere hope that every mom who finds herself in the darkness of post-partum or post-adoption depression will find her way back to a place of joy and light. Often the first step is to reach out. For the rest of us, our job is to be a resource whenever possible, and to do whatever is in our power to ensure that resources are available to women when they need them.

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    1. Great tips!!! We're two years in and general life stuff plus parenting trauma has been wearing me out lately. I know I need to get myself in therapy because her trauma is totally stirring up my own. I've got some feelers out and hope to make a solid connection next week. Thanks for the reminder.

    2. How can you not claim the title of "real mother" after all you have been though to raise and nurture your adopted child. I comment you for your dedication and commitment.

    3. Great post. I have one adopted daughter too.

      Visiting from

    4. Thank you for writing about this! I found your posts through Postpartum Progress. This is such an important topic and talking about it will increase awareness, which will help so many parents!! I had post adoption anxiety and depression really bad after we adopted our 2nd. He was 16 months old. It got really, really bad. I wish I had the resources you list here; I found a therapist but lets just say he was minimally (minimally) helpful and simply wound up increasing my isolation, fear, and self loathing. Argh. It is what it is, and I can't change it now, but I sure would love to prevent it from happening to others! Or from getting so bad, and being so difficult to find help.
      I DID have an awesome partner though who certainly stepped up to the plate and took over many parenting responsibilities when I needed help. I am so grateful to have had that!
      Fortunatley I made it through, we had 2 other kids, and we're so far from how it was then as to be utterly unrecognizable.
      Anyways, I wanted to say thank you for writing about post adoption depression, and to say that you're not the only one! =)
      I have to bookmark your blog because it is so honest! It seems similar to my experiences and discoveries during the process. Thank you!


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