Management of Collateral Damage 2

A commonly heard suggestion when faced with post adoption surrender trauma is “get therapy”. Many of us who have done this, or attempted to, know the value (or not) of taking such an action. I shared on my Facebook recently that I sought therapy for myself less than year after my daughter was born and surrendered. I was struggling with a desire to kill myself, experiencing nightmares and hallucinations. I used to find myself in the middle of the night sleep walking looking for a baby that I heard crying. So very cliche but sadly true in my case. I most often woke under the small bistro table I had in my studio apartment with my table cloth wrapped around me as a blanket. Exhausted, frightened of my own feelings and struggling, I sought the help of psychiatrist. His name was Dr. Bush. Following a lengthy free consult, during which he regularly turned his head this way and that while grimacing strangely, he informed me that he could not treat me. He matter of factly stated that he could not understand why I was having a problem and frankly thought I should be “grateful that someone adopted the child born to a woman like me”. He suggested I was seeking attention and that I should just “get over it” and “get on with my life”. He stated that if I insisted on my “seeking attention” he could refer me to a student he was mentoring. His name was Stan.

I saw Stan for a few weeks. He was nice enough in that I believe he was sincerely trying to understand, wanted to help, but he had no frame for my experience. Like Dr. Bush before him he was conditioned to believe adoption was a good thing. He could not grasp why I was not happy to be rid of my child and able to go on with my life. He focused on my parents, my alchoholic father, my social anxiety. These topics were all very valid but were not, at that time, the root cause of my difficulties. I wanted to, needed to, talk about my daughter and what had happened to me and her. He wanted me to move on and go elsewhere. Eventually I did – without him.

The general consensus with my adoptee friends and first mothers is that the majority of psycho therapists have no skill at treating adoption trauma. Like my friends Dr. Bush and Stan, most therapists we have encountered have ingested massive quantities of Adoption is A Good Thing flavored Koolaid. As such, they struggle with helping us deal with our grief and trauma. After nearly 20 years I did find one excellent therapist. Why did it take so long? What can be done to help mothers find qualified therapists? Is therapy the answer? How about the fact that many therapy professionals specializing in adoption matters are also impacted by adoption being either an adoptive parent, adoptee or in some cases a first parent? Is being a member of the triad a help or a hinderance when it comes to treating clients with adoption issues? As a client, do you prefer to have a therapist that has first hand experience? Or do you worry they may have a bias?

Personally, I found myself uncomfortable with the idea that my therapist might be a member of the triad. I realized, eventually, that what I needed was a therapist highly skilled with grief and trauma therapy.

How about you? If you were treated by a psychotherapist, how did it go? Were they knowledgeable in adoption? Grief? Trauma? Were they a member of the triad?

Most importantly, what suggestions do you have for current or future psychotherapists in their treatment of adoption traumatized individuals?

Let’s Talk Management of Collateral Damage

We have talked about collateral damage and how to mitigate it pre surrender. Now let us move to management of collateral damage. Consider this scenario, one that is all too real for many of us:

Mother was sent away to give birth alone. She received little or no options counseling. Her only info on adoption was provided by the agency that stood to profit from the sale of her child.  Informed consent was limited to an explanation of the final and irrevocable surrender to adoption. She was told she would “get over it”, have other children and move on with her life.  Post surrender she experiences something vastly different.  Immediately she suffers from nightmares, anxiety and depression. She finds it hard to be around children or see images of children.   Relationships are difficult for her to maintain.  She finds herself drawn to men that abuse her and is unable to keep a regular job due to her anxiety and depression.  Her relationships with family and friends at home are strained.  All refuse to discuss her child.  Her own mother gets angry at her when she brings up the subject. All she wants is her child back.

Where does she go for help and support?  What would you tell her to do?  What has worked for you in attempting to “heal” from the loss of your child to adoption?  Please be specific.    For example, instead of “get therapy” please share what type of therapy you recommend (or not).


Let’s Talk Collateral Damage : Pot Luck

Today’s final post on Collateral Damage is a pot luck post. You tell me anything I may have overlooked in relation to the impact adoption surrender had on your life.

It can be anything from your relationships to family and friends, your children, your health, your marriage, you emotional well being.

Next week we will talk about ways to mitigate the damage. Mitigation is the the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. If we know surrendering mothers might experience some of these challenges, what can we do to reduce the severity of them post surrender? I realize the obvious mitigation is to avoid surrender completely and preserve the family. However, in the cases where this cannot happen, what can we offer to those expectant mothers prior to surrender?

Finally, managing the damage post surrender. The adoption surrender has already happened. Mother is in throes of post traumatic stress disorder. What improvements need to be made to help mothers manage this? These are all topics for next week.

For today, share your pot luck damage.

Have a great Friday.