Today my daughter turned 13.
I’ve been struggling in the past week and a half leading up to this day. When she left after a visit last week, I felt depleted, empty, and overwhelmingly anxious. I did finally schedule a therapy appointment for this coming Friday, but not before suffering through a nearly all day panic attack.
The flashbacks are the worst during this time frame. I’ll just be sitting or standing or walking, watching TV or working or cooking, and suddenly I’m in a hospital room. Or I’m driving away from New Jersey. Or I’m in the clinic office. Or I’m alone, on Level III bed rest, in my basement apartment. Or I’m in the ambulance. I can hear the words that others say, what the doctors are saying over my head as I fight for my life yet again. I can feel the cold, damp air. I can smell the antiseptic smells of the hospital.
I have a strong, photographic memory about most things. I can remember what I wore on the first day of school every year of my life. But this is a very different experience. When I want to recall something in my past, I willingly go there and rifle through memories and pick out the one I’m looking for at the time. When it comes to the flashbacks, they come uninvited, unprompted. They take my breath away, quite literally. They’ve actually gotten stronger over the past few years.
A friend of mine used the word trauma to describe what I experience, and I immediately shut down.
I recognize there’s a lot of trauma in adoption, especially for adoptees. So why did I balk?
I have the best case scenario. I have a positive, on-going relationship with my daughter. I’m great friends with my daughter’s mom. We have nearly-monthly visits, save for occasional misses due to life. My sons not only know their sister but they love her. I am surrounded by loving, compassionate friends who show up at my house when I need them, who check on me, who want to be present with me in the good times and the bad.
I’m a mental health advocate. I have helped mothers who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders understand that PTSD is a real, treatable illness. I assure them that PTSD isn’t just reserved for our Veterans, that their trauma is real.
I chose this, right? That’s what some of my haters and trolls have reminded me of over the years. I chose this. I could have parented. I could have done a million things differently. Right?
Yes, I could have.
But I’m working really hard on understanding that I did the best I could at the time with the information and resources available to me at that time. I swear I’m working on believing it, internalizing it. It’s really, really hard.
Today, a beloved woman I am so lucky to know and call a friend shared this as part of her 24 days of poetry.
Number 13. I'm doing a love/art/poetry advent challenge. Please let me know you do all 24 challenges. Leave a comment every day and I'll do a drawing for a free custom poem and other gifts. Regram anything this month for extra chances. Let's spread some love. ?????????#poetsadvent #poetryisnotdead #spilledink #instapoets #december #love #asseenincolumbus #writersofig #loveadvent #dailytype #poem #poetry #truth #life #lettering #gooddeeds
For something you’ve been carrying around.
Say it out loud
into the air.
I laughed out loud when I read it. Today, of all days. My daughter’s 13th birthday on the 13th of December; her golden birthday. I’d love to forgive myself. People keep telling me to forgive myself, asking me to forgive myself, pushing me to forgive myself.
I just don’t even know how. It’s been my goal in therapy for years. I’m maybe like two steps closer to figuring it out, but barely. I don’t know what forgiving myself looks like, let alone how to get there.
Maybe that’s because there’s more trauma involved than I think. I don’t know yet.
But I do know this: 13 years ago I gave birth to my daughter. I loved her from the very moment I knew she existed and I have spent every moment since loving her all the more. If I had to relive all of this—every single moment of sadness and depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and emptiness—I would. Would I change things, if I could? Yes. But if I had to relive it all just to have what I have with her now, I’d do it. I would do anything to have my daughter in my life. And I have.
I’m the mother of a teenager. I’m figuring it out as I go, the same as we all do. I am lucky to have her, and I hope she feels lucky to have me.