I Am Not Alone – Why ATN?

by:   Jane Samuel

jane

I found the blue rubber wristlet where I had left it – at the bottom of my tote bag. As a mom and daughter who floats through her days carrying her work with her from home to carpool to cross country meets to piano lessons to visits at the senior citizen home to grocery store and back home, I live with my life on my shoulder in my blue canvas bag emblazoned with the words “Adoption Support and Preservation”.  A free gift from a recent conference it has been my new catch all.  I keep my life in there.  My computer, my knitting (it releases serotonin you know), my To Do lists, permission slips that need signing, magazines for my elderly Dad.  You name it, it’s probably in there. All things pressing or I couldn’t live without.

Which brings me back to the little wristlet. Feeling a big off kilter lately I slipped the rubber bracelet on my left wrist. A little reminder of the support might help lift my mood a bit. I looked at the words printed there, “www.attachmentrauma.org, I am not alone.” So true I thought. So true.

I thought back to when our daughter, adopted from overseas at one year, had just turned four and we were in the midst of a move to Asia for my husband’s job. Life was amazing and hard, and our daughter was at the top of things that made it hard. We had just reached the point of admitting to ourselves that something was not right. Not new to this parenting gig, we knew what a developmentally appropriate four year old looked like. They could sit still, they could take simple instruction, and they could SLEEP.  All things that our daughter could not do, and then some.

On top of her diagnosis of sensory processing disorder – and therapies that came with that – we had a child who had begun to rage every other day, falling into a kicking, screaming tantrum.  “I miss my birthmother. I am not in the right family. I can’t stand this. Please throw me in the trash. Please kill me.”  Yes, at four years of age.  And we were living in a country that was – therapeutically at least – about where America was in the 1950’s in terms of its view on adoption and how to address the emotional issues that come with it!

I was, needless to say, undone. I remember one particular night my husband was trying to deal with a tantrum to give me some little break from this most precious, hellacious being we called our daughter. I stood there in the shower sobbing my heart out, my head leaning against the tile wall, feeling alone beyond belief. Feeling as – I now know – many, many parents of children with trauma and attachment issues feel.  Alone. And scared. Misunderstood. Blamed. Ostracized. Outwitted. Dumb. Depressed. Undone. Even done.

And then other parents experiencing the same or similar issues with their children came into my life. Through an online support group. Through ATN. Through word of mouth.  And I began to feel not so alone.  I began to have some answers to what was going on. To have some tools to try. A list of suggested books.  A conference to attend. A suggestion of a therapy that might help. A voice to tell me I was not nuts.  But most of all, understanding and support. I was not alone. We were not alone. And it felt so good.

It has been nine years since that bleak time in our lives – in the life of our precious daughter – and I am happy to say we are in so much better a place now because of the support and education we got. Indeed, I shudder to think of where we would be, where I as a mother would be, where our daughter would be.

As I gaze down at this Wildcat Blue (a convenient color if you happen to be in Kentucky) band encircling my wrist – and the organization that encircled us and took us in and helped us move from there to here – I know for sure, “I am not alone.”

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