Reading adopters’ tweets and blogs, I am struck by how resilient adopters need to be. Problems such as inappropriate, insufficient, or incorrect medical diagnoses, well-meaning but utterly useless schools, and child on parent violence are regular, if not daily, occurrences for many of the adopters we follow online or know in ‘real life’. On top of this, they may also have to battle with secondary trauma as their children try to rebuild their shaky foundations. After a while, this must grind you down and affect your mental health.
We have found the adoptive process very challenging. I have a history of mental illness and still have my ups and downs. This was discussed, in detail, during the initial stages and at approval panel. The local authority needed to be sure that adoption wouldn’t break me nor would my mental mishaps break a small person in my care. While I appreciate that adoption isn’t easy or straightforward our experiences have still been unusual and particularly trying. After registering interest and hearing about the new streamlined process, we pictured a straight line to having a child placed with us. Instead it has been a twisty-turvy maze, sometimes even going back on ourselves. But the finish line – or should that be the start line? – is now in sight. At every review or panel, we have been commended for our resilience. That is not me blowing my own trumpet; I wouldn’t usually even admit that I had a trumpet. Rather, I want to highlight how adopters (even prospective adopters like ourselves) must take care of their mental health, because it is constantly challenged. And they also need other people checking they’re OK too.
I know it’s typical that only people with problems or extraordinary situations will share their experiences. Even if that is the case, there are a lot of adopters out there needing support. Even if it’s just a hug and a cuppa. I am especially mindful of single adopters. My wife is my rock and I would not be here today without her. We are a team and have only been able to persevere as a team. When I’ve felt low or despondent and considered withdrawing from the whole process, she has encouraged me. When she’s felt frazzled and fed up, I’ve given her a wee lift. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be for someone who is alone and faces an onslaught of physical and verbal violence each day to keep going. For these people self-care can be seen as indulgent because there are a million and one other things that need doing but it is essential. I always remember the analogy of an aeroplane crashing: you need to secure your own mask before you can help anyone else. This isn’t me telling them what they probably already know, or at least that’s not what I intended: it’s a plea that once Mental Health Awareness Day is over and no longer the trending hashtag on Twitter don’t forget about the people who might need you to ask if everything is alright and maybe just listen.