I have to remind myself to offer my credentials occasionally to those readers who may wonder why I write the way I do. Though I have a Master’s degree in Psychology (and have let my counseling license lapse); it is not this that I feel is the best source for my understanding of foster care and adoption issues. My 6 years working in a residential treatment center help some. I’m not a foster, kinship nor adoptive parent. What I am is a child of chronic trauma.
It is very strange to see that in writing. (I usually share this tidbit at family camp.) My childhood was a strange mix of poverty, violence and great fun. I was lucky to be born cute, white, and smart. There is white privilege on my side; the assumed competence of the attractive on my side; and the decent problem-solving skills that my intellect afforded me.
On the surface, I looked pretty good. By high school, I had learned to stretch a crummy wardrobe pretty far. I wasn’t a great student but smart enough to eke by anyway. I lacked the self-discipline necessary to really make the most of my gifts. I found people who were patient with how broke I was and invited me out for the Wednesday special at the local Mexican food restaurant anyway (endless free chips and salsa for me). By throwing myself into extra-curriculars that didn’t cost anything (no sports, no cheer, no trips) I found a way to “fit in”. Income from part-time jobs was resented by everyone in the family, particularly my mother. I was too young to comprehend how hard it was for her to make ends meet.
Few knew that my mom and dad were alcoholics. No one told me that knew my sister was an addict at 13. The shame was enough to keep my mouth shut. I was sure everyone else enjoyed their sitcom-perfect families.
I share this only to say don’t judge a book by its cover. I sucked my thumb until I was 16. I wet the bed until I was 15. I picked out the terminally ill kitten to save at the pound (she died within days, having never seen a vet). I made Cs and Ds in P.E. until a friend figured out to offer me her gym-suit as we passed each other in the hall. I missed a lot of school when I got depressed from worrying about my mother, my sisters and my future.
Later, others would come to call me a survivor. I struggled with survivor guilt until everyone in my immediate family passed away.
Even now I struggle with feeling like a fraud and unconscious emotional eating. For me, dissociation looked like intellectualization and mild OCD assured my academic success. Still, I was lousy at picking husbands but determined to quit (at 2) while I was ahead rather than approach my mother’s record of 5. I’m great in a crisis but when it passes, I crumble for a while.
Why share all of these painful self-revelations? In the off chance that the children in your home might look a bit like me, might struggle with the same demons and that you will be better prepared for those moments for having read this.
- Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar.
- Our Friday night Happy Hours continue. Some nights find me and a single other participant; others find a conversation among 4 to 6 people. The topics range from silly colloquialisms that add color to self-expression to what hobbies have us in their grip to what life has thrown in our path over the past few days or years. If you ever find yourself awake and wanting a bit of grown-up novelty, consider joining us (check your email for the unchanging link).
- Though pressures are easing, this pandemic continues for those of us who understand what is at stake. Others seem to struggle to grasp that. While we await vaccines for our kids, you are in my thoughts. Reach out if you need an ear: email@example.com.
- I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://www.pcaaz.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/B21-Insightful-Caregiving-Intimacy.pdf and at https://www.neurosequential.com/covid-19-resources.
Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.