Processing Dancing with a Porcupine Part 6
Today is my last post on the book Dancing with a Porcupine by Jennie Owens. There was (and still is) a lot to process, as you can tell. Reading and rereading this book allowed me to work through some things within our adoptions. Please know that I would never change our choice to bring our children home through the miracle of adoption. Also, note that it has been challenging. Yet, they are worth it. My children are well-loved beyond measure, and they were meant to be a part of my family. God has a plan to prosper us, not harm us, and allowing these children in our lives has grown us.
Feelings of Adult Adoption Trauma
“I learned early on that most people could not handle the intensity of my emotions or knowing what I was really going through, so I softened things as I spoke. How do you share feeling tortured, hopeless, and in despair when someone asks in passing ‘How are you?’ … Had I been honest, I don’t even know if words could adequately describe what I felt. Raw. Vulnerable. Grieving. Wounded. Lifeless.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. Speak that up for the people in the back. The feelings Jennie Owens describes are real. The need to water down our words is also real. The fact is that when I tried to talk to others, I lost friends and churches, and then later, there were threats and accusations. What is the point in being vulnerable when all you are going to do is face intense judgment? I found myself shutting down from everyone, including family.
“Sanitized Stories We Tell”
“Years later, I read a blog post by Sarah Bessey called ‘Sanitized Stories We Tell.’ She summed up how I felt interacting with most people: ‘It makes me wonder how much pressure we feel to sanitize our stories so that they don’t make people uncomfortable, how we anecdote our experience with the lightness or the healing or birth or new life alone in order to make it acceptable. We simplify and sanitize and so we miss the healing we could have if we only spoke the whole truth.”
Uhm, wow. First, that blog post by Sarah Bessey is powerful. The post on her PTSD from her bizarre childbirth was so eloquently written. I can tell you that I do sanitize my stories of adoption and adoption trauma. I do not want to move people away from adoption. There are so many kids in need. Every child deserves a home, but on the flip side, every home needs to be equipped to deal with adoption trauma, so they don’t fall into the same path as I have or as Jennie Owens did. My goal is to start sharing my story while protecting my kids. I don’t only want to share my story. I want to find viable solutions. What’s the point of just talking if you don’t provide some tangible things that people can do?
Quote from Elizabeth Brown
In her book “Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People,” Elizabeth Brown states, “To stop the longing for what does not exist in screwed-up relationships, or to heal from relationships that are beginning to skew, one must untangle from the emotions that swirl around or off a particular relationship. That process is called detachment. It basically means that you separate emotionally from the person around which your emotions swirl, in order to work on yourself, live your own life, feel your own feelings, and solve your own problems…Detachment is allowing others to be who they are, rather than who you believe they should be.” According to Melody Beattie’s book “Codependent No More,” she says that “detaching does not mean we don’t care. It means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy.”
This. This right here is what I have to work on doing. I’m so hyperfocused on trying to change my kids and fixing all of everyone’s problems that I have lost myself. I have no clue about myself because I always want to help others and give my children the best life they can have. Jennie Owens states, “part of detaching was accepting your reality… I was not accepting my reality. I was trying to force it to fit my dreams, which wasn’t working. I wasn’t happy, and the kids weren’t happy with me trying to fix them all the time. I wanted to be happy despite my difficult situation and was determined to figure it out.”
Learning How to Survive
“I had to let go of trying to make their lives turn out perfectly. The need to let go was both frustrating and freeing. I wanted my children to do well. Sometimes I worked so hard to force them to make good choices that I damaged my relationship with them, creating more frustration within myself. In the end, my children were responsible for the choices they made. They had to decide how they wanted their lives to look and choose to move that direction. Letting go of control was hard because I had to allow my children to fail much more than I had previously been willing. Feeling angry toward my kids was an indication that I was working harder on a problem than they were.”
Good grief. This woman has crawled into my brain. She has lived in my house, had her feet under my table, and walked a thousand miles in my shoes. Do I do these things because things happened to me that were out of my control when I was younger (and older)? Is that why I want to fix everything and help them make the right decisions? I don’t want them to be tortured by their thoughts like I am. They deserve better but then again, so do I. “…I was allowing my children’s issues to set the course of my life, allowing them to dictate who I was going to be.”
Working Through My Trauma
Working through my trauma is something I do with my therapist. We pick something, and then we try and tackle it. I must say that it is hard to work on past trauma with a lot of acute trauma. There are always fires that have to be handled. In Daniel Siegel’s book “Parenting from the Inside Out,” he states, “parents must resolve their past trauma to do the therapeutic parenting needed to help a child heal.”
Furthermore, Mark Rosen, in “Thank you for Being Such a Pain,” states, “It is natural to focus on the apparent cause of our distress. But this is a distraction. Our real focus should be on ourselves. We need to look at our feelings and our responses to difficult people’s behaviors. We need to ask ourselves why we are reacting so strongly… I find it useful to think of the difficult people in my life as being skilled tennis opponents or tough professors. I don’t like what they do, I don’t like how I feel, but I recognize that they provide me with an unmatched opportunity to improve myself, one that is available nowhere else.”
I often think about why certain behaviors so trigger me. At some point, I will have to start writing things down and matching my triggers with emotions. From there, I can take that information and work through it with my therapist, I can do it on my own, or I can pray for the Lord to reveal what He wants me to see.
I Am a Good Parent
Jennie Owens slowly reminds me that I am a good parent. I have given my life to all my children, and I have chosen to treat them well, regardless of how they treated me. Now, I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes. Many things I’ve done, said, or thought about are shameful. Yet, I stayed. I’m still here and constant. “That was love, no matter how I felt.”
That statement is empowering. God hasn’t given up on my children. He loves them. Also, thankfully, He hasn’t given up on me. He does give you more than you can handle. If you could take it all, you wouldn’t need a Savior.
Jennie states that she was “reminded that I was parenting on an Olympic level, and Olympians needed to care for their bodies to succeed. With high-stress levels, I had to undo the negative impact by caring for my body at a much higher level than others.”
We must practice some self-care. That means finding things that bring you joy. Allowing yourself to feel love, show love, and be loved. It is also going to the doctor and using your words. Don’t sanitize it. That does not help you in any way possible. Seek counsel from a therapist, friend, family, spouse, or pastor. Drink that coke. Take that walk. Go for a swim. Buy yourself flowers. Love yourself.
“I discovered that counselors, doctors, nurses, and others who interact with traumatized people are the ones who typically suffer from compassion fatigue. While not a formal diagnosis in the DSM, compassion fatigue describes helpers who experience isolation, apathy, sadness, fatigue, and other symptoms from being immersed in trauma without adequate self-care. Some use the term interchangeably with burnout, vicarious traumatization, or secondary traumatic stress.”
I will leave you with this final quote, “God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.”