Saturday, September 10, 2011

Perspective: The Trigger Behind the Instability

I was talking to my sisters this week, and Sister pointed out that Daughter hasn't truly been stable for years. There have been brief stretches when she was doing better, but overall, it's been several very challenging years. She asked me when was the last time she was truly stable. I began to think.

In the spring of 2007, Daughter was doing well. She'd graduated from high school the previous year (which had triggered some challenging times), and was now settling into her new routine at the workshop with friends. She expressed a desire to make contact with her birth mother. I had always told her that when she was an adult and I thought she could handle it, I'd help her establish contact. Therapist and I had a long conversation about Daughter's desire. Both of us had concerns about the impact that contact would have on Daughter, but she was doing so well we didn't have any reason to delay it any longer.

Daughter had been referring to her birth parents by their first names for years. They had failed to keep her safe, therefore they didn't deserve the title of parents. Parents keep their children safe. So she wrote a letter to J. I showed her some of the material I had saved about her birth family, and we went through it together. J responded. Her response looked like it could have been written by a young child.

Daughter wanted to talk to her, so we called her. They talked for a few minutes, then Daughter handed me the phone. I was talking to J when Daughter came out of the bathroom, sobbing. I quickly ended the call. I held Daughter as she sobbed in my arms. "She didn't sound like a 49 year old woman. She sounded like a child."

"That's part of the reason she couldn't keep you safe. In many ways she was like a child."

One of the reasons Daughter had wanted to talk to J was so that J could answer her questions. Why had she allowed the abuse to happen? Had she known Daughter was being molested? Why hadn't she kept her safe? I had cautioned her from the beginning that J may not be able to give her the answers she was seeking, but she had been determined.

Over the next few days I watched Daughter deteriorate. Finally she couldn't talk about her feelings. She drew pictures: very graphic pictures of deep pain and her own death. We were waiting for an appointment with a new psychiatrist (hers had died). We called up to the hospital where the new psychiatrist practiced. They didn't have an adult psych unit. We had her admitted locally, with the request that she not see a particular psychiatrist.

That hospitalization was a disaster. The entire story is long and complicated, but she was treated by the psychiatrist we requested she not see. A number of things happened that were powerful triggers for her PTSD. Within ten days of discharge, I was having her admitted to a different hospital, one that was further away, and at the request of my insurance company writing a letter to the state licensing board about the first hospital.

She ended up being hospitalized 3 times that summer, and has averaged at least one hospitalization a year since that time. It's now been well over a year since she's been hospitalized, the longest she has stayed out of the hospital since the summer of 2007. I probably could/possibly should have hospitalized her this past month, but I didn't.

This time around she went around me to establish contact with Birth Brother. Once again she is in a spot of deep pain. Once again she is struggling.

I realize that for many adoptive children, contact with the birth family is healing. For Daughter, it has been disastrous. I find myself wondering what would have happened if she hadn't talk to J in the summer of 2007. Maybe we would still be in the same place. I think I remember reading someplace that schizophrenia often appears in young adults. (Her current diagnosis is schizo-affective disorder). But I also remember her late psychiatrist telling me that her problem was PTSD. He pointed out her psychotic episodes were related to the early trauma.

I can't turn back the clock. She hasn't talked to J since that initial, disastrous contact. I can't control her contact with BB, though she says she is going to back off now. I can't erase, though, what has already been done. I do think I'll mention to the team, though, that she may need some help working through the issues her contact with birth family raised. We can't turn back the clock, but maybe we can help Daughter process what's happened since.

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