Healing from Adoption Trauma and PTSD
In the first two parts of this article series, I defined trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and offered examples from my personal life to show that choosing adoption does not mean that a birth mother is guaranteed to suffer trauma.
Here’s what I want you to know: The perception of trauma is in the eye of the beholder. Every adoption situation is different. Every prospective birth mother has different relationship dynamics to consider. No adoption situation and the circumstances surrounding it are the same. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that adoption is a guaranteed trauma.
There are many different responses to trauma of all degrees. Some people may feel the effects of the trauma for a few days or weeks after the event but be able to recover rather quickly after. For others, the traumatic event may haunt them and develop into PTSD.
So, what can those suffering from the aftermath of trauma, especially in adoption, do to help themselves?
For Birth Mothers Dealing with Trauma and Mental Health
For any birth mother dealing with trauma surrounding their adoption, I encourage you to first and foremost speak with a mental health professional. Only a mental health professional will be able to accurately assess your level of emotional, mental, and physical pain. Make sure you find a mental health professional who you feel comfortable with, whom you can trust, and whom you can be honest with. It is only through complete transparency that a good mental health professional will be able to accurately diagnose you.
Once you have a diagnosis, treatment can begin, and you can start working toward leading to a life of fulfillment and joy.
How to Cope with Birth Mother Trauma
Here are a few tips for those suffering the effects of trauma and/or PTSD:
- Journal: I have found writing down my thoughts, feelings and emotions incredibly healing. Through my writing, I can identify what areas I am struggling in and what areas I am growing in, and have a safe place to dump my mental garbage. I recommend that you keep a journal in a safe place, so that no one can invade that privacy. Write everything that comes to mind on the paper before you in black and white, and use this as a tool for expelling those things which may be causing you stress.
- Create: Arts and crafts are not just for young children in school; they are helpful tools for as adults, as well. The thoughts in your head may take on an image you want to draw. The people you are grateful for may appreciate a gift you put time into. Your child may love a gift you made especially for them. Write a poem about your feelings. Draw a picture representative of your pain. Work on a craft to simplify your life. Whatever you do, start with something. You don’t even have to finish the project. Sometimes just getting started is enough to bring about some relief.
- Physical Expression: There tends to be a lot of built up energy in those dealing with trauma. It is not just our brains that suffer but our bodies, as well. There are many ways that you can find physical outlets to relieve anxiety from these physical memories. You can enroll in a dance class, participate in a sport, set aside time for daily stretches, or just take your dog for a walk. The point in physical expression is to let some of the physical anxiety be released from the body in a healthy way.
- Sensory Grounding: Grounding is a more holistic approach to dealing with trauma and the effects of PTSD. In grounding, a birth mother can learn to live in the present instead of obsessing over the past or the future. Sensory grounding means “checking your senses.” Do something to stimulate your senses: sight, touch, scent and sound. Aromatherapy is a great tool for sensory grounding. Choose a candle, essential oil, or something else that produces a scent that you enjoy and simply smell it. Pay attention to how the scent enters your body and how it makes your body feel. Take a few deep breaths to promote oxygen flow throughout the body, and you may find that you are able to relax some of the tension that has been building. You can also look at beautiful pictures, listen to nature or music, or just feel the ground you are walking on.
- Professional Interventions: There are many different forms of professional interventions available to those who are suffering the effects of trauma and PTSD. Therapy, case management, support groups, and many other specializations exist for those who need professional help dealing with their problems.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, get help immediately. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-8255.
My Words of Encouragement
If you are a birth mother suffering the effects of trauma or PTSD from choosing adoption, I want to share a word of encouragement with you:
Nothing will so much ensure that I continue to walk a path of healing more than the love that I have for my son. One day, my son may need his birth mother, and when that day comes, I will be ready. One day, I may decide to have other children of my own who will need me, and I want to be there for them. Today, my friends and family need me to be healthy and happy so that I can be there for them.
Most importantly, I desire a life that I find worth living, and I can only do that when I put in the hard work. The hardest work brings about the best results. So, never give up on yourself or the path of healing that you may be on. I am positive that you will have moments when you want to give up, but just remember: This too shall pass. You will get through it. I can say that because I have been through hell and back and come out the other side. It is always darkest before the dawn, so have faith that it will get better. It may not get easier in every way, but it will always get better.
Please, I beg you, do not be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s one friend, or a whole support group — if you need help, ask for it. You are worth it, even if you don’t feel like you are.
A Birth Mother’s Hope
There have been many times on my healing journey in which I have struggled to find a steady place of peace, but I have yet to give up. Now, I have the privilege and pleasure of helping other birth mothers, just by sharing my own personal story. With every struggle, I can write another chapter that can bring hope to someone else. If you ever feel alone, just remember:
If I can get through choosing adoption in the face of great obstacles, you can get through whatever it is that you are going through!
This article is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please speak with a medical professional if you have concerns regarding your mental health.
Read Part One of this article series: “Is Adoption a Trauma?”
Read Part Two of this article series: “Adoption and a PTSD Diagnosis.”
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption seven years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.