mobius     Adoption Healing...
Marking 30 years of helping those whose lives have been touched by adoption
PTSD.  In layman's terms, What is it and how does it relate to adoption?
by Joe Soll 조 살
, LCSW, DAPA

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs after you've seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of severe injury or  psychological or physical death.               

The loss of a mother or child is a severe  trauma causing PTSD

When a mother and child are separated by adoption, they both experience the death of their other.   The only difference between the experience of losing a mother or child to death or kidnapping or adoption is the way you are treated.  Mommy is here, mommy is gone. Baby is here, Baby is gone. That is a death.  That is a trauma. If there is a real death, one is usually treated with respect.  When it comes to a psychological death as in adoption loss, one rarely gets treated with respect.

In the words of Anna Freud, The horrors of war pale beside the loss of a mother.  I think that holds true for the loss of a baby.  So our adoption losses are a trauma of the highest order, causing PTSD

PTSD changes the body's response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves

Our adoption loss symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

"Reliving" or fear of reliving the event, which upsets our day to day living

This means constant fear of abandonment which can be an unconscious fear:
 
Background Sadness and despair
Panic attacks
Interpersonal relationship difficulties        
Lack of self-worth

The above means:

  Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again & again                
    Repeated upsetting memories of the event
    Repeated nightmares of the event
    Self blame or guilt for the traumatic event

  Strong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind you of the event                

2. Avoidance

    Emotional "numbing," or feeling as though you don't care about anything
   Feeling detached
    Difficulty trusting others
   For the moms, being unable to remember important aspects of the trauma

    Having a lack of interest in normal activities
    Showing and being less aware of your moods

    Avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event
   Thinking you are doomed and  have no future        


3. Arousal

    Difficulty concentrating
    Startling easily
    Having an exaggerated response to things that startle you
    Being  more aware of what's going on around you meaning being on the  alert for danger
    Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger
   Having trouble falling or staying asleep

    You might feel guilt about the event.  You might also have some of the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:

    Agitation or excitability

    Dizziness
    Fainting
    Feeling your heart beat in your chest
    Headaches


What can we do to heal?

My preferred method of doing this work is to work with our inner child.

We need to recognize that losing oneís mother or child at birth cannot happen again because we are adults.  We need to explain this to our inner child until he or she believes it.

We need to grieve the loss of our other just as we would grieve a real death.

We need to talk about our trauma as much as we can, at our own pace with those with whom we feel comfortable.

We need to respect our fears. Doing this work is usually terrifying, yet the more we do it, the less we will be terrified. Itís like  dipping your toein the water bit by bit, getting used to the pain, anger and sadness while knowing it canít happen again.

We must not watch the clock while doing this work. Our healing is like climbing a mountain of recovery.  Each personís path up their mountain is windy and full of dips and gullies and crevices that must be traversed to get to the top and get to the top we will!

Keeping in mind that we survived our trauma without support or help as young people and if we could do that alone, we can surely survive the healing with the caring  support of those around us as adults.    

We can do this!  And, as long as we do not give up, we can and we will Heal!!

"Injuries caused by separation of mother and child can, in time and with work, be dealt with effectively to the point where the loss will not interfere daily in our lives.  Instead, the pain might rear it's head a few times a year.  We may need to cry--get a hug and perhaps vent our anger--but the pain will pass more quickly each time."

In the words of  Anais Nin"And the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom"  

Let us Blossom!