While most people know that Postpartum Depression (PPD) is common, it’s not well known that Post Adoption Depression (PAD) occurs with the same frequency. I have first hand experience with it because I suffered from Post Adoption Depression for several months. Just as with PPD, PAD has nothing to do with not loving the child or not wanting to be a mother. It’s the result of the complex physical, emotional, and mental demands of motherhood.

It must have surprised people who knew how much I wanted to be a mom that I was feeling so depressed after realizing my dream, although I was also very isolated during those months so many people never knew. You don’t post on Facebook, “I’m so depressed I can’t see a future anymore.” Well, some people do, but I didn’t want to be one of “those” people.

My depression was triggered by many things. It was a challenge to hit the parenting road full throttle with a traumatized toddler with special needs. It was physically draining – from the jet lag, suddenly carrying around a 23 pound child all the time, and the sleepless nights. It was emotionally draining. I am an emotional person, it’s part of what I have to give to the world. I’m highly sensitive and empathetic and to experience the raw trauma of my beloved child was traumatizing to me. I’m not done with that yet. Maybe won’t be ever. God and I can talk that over face-to-face one day. It was also mentally draining. I’m the most introverted type of introvert. Alone time is what feeds me and I was suddenly never alone. Jason works long hours and it was all on me. Also, the learning curve for navigating his special needs, both from adoption and cerebral palsy was steep. And lonely.

In fact loneliness was a major theme of those months. Our social worker labeled us “pioneers”. I tried to suck some courage from that label, but it was cold comfort. I have no close friends or family who have adopted internationally. I have no close friends or family who have adopted a toddler. I have no close friends or family whose child has cerebral palsy. I also suddenly dropped out of my social circles. For months I barely saw anyone. It was just too difficult to make the effort and  friends and family didn’t know when it would be a bother to reach out to us and when it would be welcome so my phone stayed silent.

On top of it all was a crushing sense that I was disappointing everyone. Our friends and family were so excited to meet Nathan, but we needed to keep Nathan very close to home, protecting his tender heart and working hard on attachment while also making up for lost time with his therapies. This made people angry and they let us know. I do not like to make people angry – in fact it makes me physically ill to be in conflict with people – but I had to choose between doing what was right and doing what would make people happy.

Add it all up and you have a full-blown case of Post Adoption Depression.

Jason and I decided to seek professional help last fall. I found a counselor and spent some time working through all of these factors.

It turned out that the last one – disappointing people – was the crux of the matter. When I began to focus on what my actual responsibilities were vs. my perceived responsibilities, the depression began to lift. {You can read more of my thoughts on disappointment that I posted a few weeks ago.} I was also able to verbalize in that safe place some of the grief I feel about his rough start in life. It was the catharsis I needed.

I knew I was getting better on New Year’s Eve when I felt my usual excitement about the coming year and all its possibilities. Life felt livable and vibrant again. The challenges didn’t go away, but my hope came back.

My goal in sharing my story is to help you not feel so alone if you too are suffering from PAD. And if you do know someone who has adopted, be prepared to reach out. Your loved one needs you, but may not be in a place to ask for help.

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