Anxiety & This Time of Life

My sister-in-law has been dealing with panic attacks for the past 10 months or so… they generally occur in connectiole on with driving and specifically when diving outside of her neighbourhood. She’s been getting professional support and medication and it’s been very helpful for her.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ve had it for years. Probably for my whole life – or at least I’ve probably lived with at least the seedling symptoms of it for as long as I can remember. The past couple of years have really brought my anxiety to the forefront in life. As I think about it (because with my anxiety I can’t NOT think about things) I’m pretty certain that the trigger for this season of heightened anxiety is the fact that my children live with (and daily deal with the consequences of) neglect and trauma in ways I can’t fix. There’s nothing I can DO about it. And that just plain old sucks.

That and I am the one who needs to be their source of emotional regulation. When they can’t self-regulate, they need to look to me to be their source of calmness. They need to look to me to see how to deal with anger, frustration, grief, sadness, annoyance, and any other BIG feeling which causes a rise in cortisol levels which they don’t know how to process.

So even when my capacity to handle stress for the day (due to fatigue, work stress, sickness, or whatever it is) is already just plain old DONE for the day, I’m still “on stage” for them. I’m always “on.” There’s really no rest from it until they’re asleep… which (considering they have sleep disorders isn’t always consistent or fantastic) is pretty draining. On call. Always on call.

It produces an extraordinarily high level of cortisol for me… and in this life stage of working (albeit 0.6 FTE), caring for our children, being active on 2 boards (1 NFP, 1 charity) and and 2 other committees (2 NFPs) in my spare time, and all the other general family and home/school responsibilities… I’ve got very little free time. Then again that’s pretty much the same for most of my friends. We seem to be all in similar seasons in life right now. Whether they’re home right now with babies and toddlers and just rushing around like crazy, working full time in senior management or high levels in their fields; or have involved PACs and balancing children in before/after school care and trying to shuttle them between sports and arts and everything else.

Ugh. It just leaves rare instances when we can actually get together. I’m lucky if I can actually see my close friends once every 6 months. Which is SERIOUSLY pathetic. Hubby and I? He’s out at least two nights a week. I’m out at a meeting at least one meeting every other week. Today I was freaking out because I’ve got a hole developing in my one pair of properly fitting pair of jeans. UGH. But when the heck can I go get more???

So anyhow I get these anxiety attacks. Or adrenaline attacks or I don’t know what. It’s like an adrenaline let-down after a major event but not after an event. Things can be going well and I can have finished a bunch of great things and then suddenly my heart is racing and my chest is all tight and I’m deep breathing in and blow breath out through long puffs… and I’m freaking out. I want to shake my hands out and roll my shoulders. I want to get out of my car and shake my arms out and jump up and down and then walk around in circles constantly murmuring “I’m ok. It’s ok. I’m ok. It’s ok.” It’s not a panic attack. The best I can describe it is like an anxiety attack made of of adrenaline… but my words are saying “I’m ok. It’s ok.” my brain is screaming “I’M FREAKING OUT!! I”M FREAKING OUT!!!!”

I don’t know. It’s not a panic attack. It’s like all the physical symptoms of my anxiety saved them up for after the stressful stuff happened and then I’m having a big adrenaline letdown.

And honestly, I bet you that if I actually got to get together with my girlfriends once a week and just go out for dinner and drinks and just have a gab and relax and re-charge my batteries it would reduce my cortisol levels. It would help me maintain some semblance of normal person me in all of this. Not just “Hi – I’m your personal self-regulation model and sponge” (who soaks up everything you feel and keeps on smiling) but never has a healthy way to get it out… blog for another day.

Man. That would be nice. A social life. They say it comes. just give it a few years. This is just “the busy years” they say. And the lonely years. And the drinking at home alone years. And the Netflix years. And the smutty romance novel years. 😉

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A Birthmother’s Love

Sometimes I get a little pissed off with memes and pictures floating around social media about adoption and a birthmother’s love and care for her child. Her care and intentionality in the plan… how amazing and selfless she is in thinking of another above herself.

Not that some or all of these character traits may not be true, but more so that in cases where children are removed by the Ministry (CPS, etc) it’s generally NOT because the birthmother is a kind and gracious, selfless person who has gone above and beyond. It’s generally because of a complex mix of societal, generational, and economic factors – combined with other potential complicating issues from abuse to addition to mental illness.

No one shoe fits all, but what I can say from OUR experience (as an adoptive family – adopting an “older child” sibling set, in Canada, from foster care) is the following:

1) Adoption is actually not about their birthmother. Adoption is about us a family unit, and about our kids. Removal, temporary/permanent custody, foster care, visits, termination of rights, etc., were the parts which actively involved her. The only thing about adoption that she was involved in was being informed and then us signing an openness agreement (morally binding – not legally binding)… but ADOPTION wasn’t and isn’t about her. She had no part in that. She had no part in that placement. Our sons’ Guardianship Worker (social worker who acts as their guardian on behalf of the Ministry/province) was the one who made the decision/recommendation for placement/adoption. Her rights were terminated two years before that.

2) My children feel rejected by their birthmother, not loved by her. It doesn’t matter what the social workers have said, what their foster families have said, what we have said, what she has said or done during visits, etc. The reality is that her behaviour and choices which got her into the position of having her parental rights terminated after two years of them being in temporary foster care are what speak to them of rejection. Those choices and behaviour say to them that she doesn’t care enough to put in the effort – to do what needed to be done to get them back home and to keep them there. It all feels like rejection and it has shaped their worldview and their senses of self. I say this past tense because it’s a reality we work with… it’s difficult to figure out how to explain abstract concepts to children whose minds are still at a point where they think in black and white. I think we’re doing a pretty decent job of it and we work together with our counsellor (who is an expert in working with adoptive families post-placement) but it’s not a surprise that rejection may likely be a lifelong struggle for our kids, as is common for many adoptees.

3) Every time I explain that we adopted our children there comes the second implied question about which type of adoption we experienced. Most people gravitate to thinking of local infant adoption, or to international adoption. When we say “children” or “sons” their minds tend to move toward international adoption, with the presumption that it’s unlikely that we adopted twin babies here in Canada. Therefore when their first question comes out “Oh! From where?” and my response is “From here.” they seem quite confused and reply “… but from where originally” and so I reply the name of the nearby city where the delivery hospital was where they were technically born.” They tend to still seem confused. This is the point where I need to intervene. “We adopted them through the foster care system.” “….Oh! Oh, good for you guys!” These sort of memes annoy me for the sheer surface-level factor that there’s so little known about the concept of adoption from foster care and that I can’t make a mirror meme; “Adoption isn’t about rejection of the child by the birthmother so much as it is about the psychological incapacity of the parent to provide minimal caregiving required by the parent for the child to reach the minimum potential required by an adult in today’s society… but she still loves you!” 

*sigh* Not going to get as many shares on Facebook is it? 😛

Time to go take my anxiety meds and my sleep meds and pretend that I’m a normal person whose brain turns off at normal times.