This Christmas

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I am reflecting on how life has changed. Many years ago I was in an abusive relationship. I left and started a new life with my oldest child somewhere else. I was a shadow of my former self. A hollow shell. I survived for my child, took out a large loan to fund the therapy I badly needed whilst others bought their first homes. I vowed I would never let anyone abuse me again.

I found love again, we had a child together, got married and many years later decided to adopt.

I love all my children. With the knowledge I have now it is painful to see the damage that was done to my oldest one, which still plays out now. I left, but their early experiences have left a mark. I struggle to come to terms with it, but even looking back now fail to see what more I could have done. I just wish life had been different.

My middle one is now permanently scarred from the self harm they are inflicting to cope with the daily trauma they are experiencing. They are gifted in so many ways, but fragile and I don't know what the future holds. I am desperately trying to meet their needs by splitting myself and somehow making things work for us as a family. They will leave education soon enough and probably go to uni if we make it there.

LO came to us just under the age of 2. For over four years all my focus and energy has had to go into them. Intensive psychotherapy, various other therapies later, NVR, they are still struggling massively and we are all traumatized as a family as a consequence.

But what I struggle most with is not the physical and verbal abuse, anticipating what may come next so I can prepare and keep myself safe. No, the worst thing is my child's one life-changing trauma trigger. It is laughter. In our house you can no longer show joy. We have learned to suppress giggles until they came no more. The rages that follow are too hard to bear. We tried to persevere to no avail. It is a massive trauma trigger. How can you live without laughter, without happiness?

Without even knowing, I have yielded to it, modified my behaviour. I have become an efficient unpaid therapist, mother. I have lost my love of everything I used to like, I no longer feel most of the time. I notice i have become a nag, humourless and critical of people and their ways. I have become intolerant of things being left, wallow in unfulfilled housewife syndrome.

I walk on In the hope that somehow I can crack this situation and things will get better. I no longer recognise myself. I feel no joy, I am putting on weight for the first time in my life despite eating less and less and working out more. I guess it is the cortisol and andrenaline doing their stuff.

I vowed never to let anyone abuse me again, not just for my sake but because of the damage it does to the children. My BCs are so much older than my AC, but definitely my middle one has lost their last few years of childhood to violence and trauma.

I thought if anyone would ever try and abuse me again I would walk away. Only I can't. You can walk away from an adult abuser. But not from a child. That would be abandonment.

I still want to make things better for all my children. I still want a life. All I have left is hope. And I must cling on to it for there is nothing else left.

Thank you for reading and merry Christmas.

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Parenting adopted kids is hard and does impact us their parents. It sounds to me as though you could have secondary trauma/blocked care.

I ended up with that after about 4 years, but I am much better now. For me, I've had to learn to prioritise self care which for me means eating healthily, exercise, time out with great friends, prayer....and bags of therapy....a trip to your GP can be a good place to start....

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a better 2018

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Sorry not much time to comment. Sending hugs. My personality has changed through a combination of work and living with traumatised children. It must be so hard not being able laugh in your own home.

I cannot help with an answer for the long term but do you have someone you can meet up with to have a laugh and a giggle or go to see a funny film.

Thinking of you love nomad x

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I do understand. Over the years their trauma seeps throughout the rest of us. I became a therapist, a nurse, an advocate, alongside trying to be a good mum. Having no birth children, this has been my only experience of being a parent. I also became a hard, tough person; someone I didn’t like. My darling Mum threw at me that my sense of fun and humour had been totally lost and she couldn’t remember the last time she heard me laugh. I had to sit and think about that and she was right.

A number of things happened which I’m not prepared to share but meant crisis time had arrived.

I’m now some years out the other side and have been rebuilding my life. It’s good again and, yes, I do laugh and my sense of humour resurfaced eventually. It had been buried under a mountain of secondary trauma.

The situation for me, for our family, became unsustainable. As individuals, we know when that point has been reached. I can’t tell you when you reach yours; only you will know that.

I send you Hope and my thoughts this Christmas Day.


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Sending you big hugs, Zora. We, too, have seen the trauma that our other children have suffered through one who was particularly traumatised.

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Until you mentioned it I hadn't thought about it but now that I do I can say that we (my DH and I) too, no longer laugh when our AD is present. Ever.

Even if DH and I smile at each other for any reason, however innocent or loving, in AD's presence then we get shouts of "why are you laughing for?" [Oh I do wish that we could crack that particular speech foible]. We are not allowed to laugh; we are not allowed to even smile. We are not allowed to enjoy anything, really. If we beak out and try then we get quite severe verbal abuse.

I used to be quite funny - not in a "ha ha" way but, yes, I used to be able to meet people (known or unknown) and make them laugh a bit or at least break the ice when others couldn't; make people feel at ease. Now I don't meet anyone unless I have to, especially people that I don't know. Because I have forgotten how to laugh. I was at a cafe today with my little doggie and this lovely couple started talking to me (about dogs) and I realised that I could answer their questions but I couldn't sustain a conversation - I've forgotten how.

With DS we laugh all the time but it is really either him laughing because we (DH and I whilst AD is elsewhere) are laughing or him just laughing and we either join in or roll our eyes (which makes him laugh more). But this seems more natural. Laughing with DS is cool - he sort of gets when things are funny; he gets when Mummy has done something silly or when he has (mostly). But I can feel the effect of AD seeping into this experience. I wonder if one day I will have forgotten entirely what laughter is ...

I don't think that this really covers what you were saying but the feeling of blocking from laughter resonated with me so felt the need to comment.

Ironically, Radio 4's Today programme had a packet on Laughter Sessions earlier today; I wanted to be, but wasn't, totally convinced.


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Hello Zora and a Happy Christmas to you. We have lived in similar situations to yours and when the time came when we could no longer safely see blossom, we attended psychotherapy together, mr pt and I in shared sessions. Our eldest son moved out (badly) about 9 months into therapy and we have survived and limped onwards. Our bc is doing relatively well but we are all scarred from the older AC leaking trauma. Anyway. Partridge managed a night and day here over Christmas and more to the point, so did we manage him. I still find him very hard to be near for any length of time but I do love him to bits. But there’s hope. We manage what we can with what we’ve got. Decided this is ok and indeed progress.

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Hi Zora

What you have written is very moving and very profound. I think it deserves a wider audience and/or to be expanded into an article for Adoption Today (or something that reaches non adopters).

We are fortunate in many ways with our adoption experience. There are things we can do with our AS that many adopter can't do. We can laugh and often do. Sometimes it is black humour (out of earshot of him!) Sometimes it is something which should really make us weep. A recent example would be when I discovered something he had written and he had mispelled 'sheet' (as in sheet of paper) as 'sh*t'. I shouldnt be laughing at his spelling mistakes. He is almost a teenager. What is to become of him?? Who would he be if his mother hadn't drunk in pregnancy? There are other contributing factors to his developmental delay and extremely complex needs.

In some ways we, and he, are fortunate that he has 'additional needs' because special needs education and organisations such as Mencap are where some of the support for him and us comes from and will into adulthood I am guessing/hoping. It doesn't help though that he 'presents well' and many people, including teachers, don't realise how vulnerable he is.

I have got off the point rather! One thing he doesn't cope with well though is being laughed at (as in teased in an affectionate way). Sometimes he can but sometimes he goes into a rage.

If I had the time and energy I would put my time into campaigning/awareness of how birth children suffer from adoption. Without wanting to sound bitter or cynical (I don't think I am either of those things) I would not advise anyone with birth children to adopt. Yes it can work for some familes and in some ways we are a success story, but the cost has been too high for our youngest BC.

I do not for one moment think that adoption has been the only reason she is suffering now but it has not helped and has contributed. Also makes it harder to help her. And recently it was heartbreakng to hear her tell a social worker that when she went to college last year she was worried about leaving me alone with her younger brother (they had both been home educated up to that point). I already knew she felt that way but it was our 'normal'. Found myself looking for a house with annexe potential on Rightmove. So she can have our support but some privacy too. Dont think it will happen though.

I think I am okish myself as I don't work outside the home so get some time to recharge and have recently started going to a personal trainer twice a week (local lady has a gym in converted garage not as posh as it may sound! and very good value). I am concerned about DH though. Yes he has a fulfilling job which he enjoys but relaxing at home is difficult (though not impossible thankfully).

Sorry if I have gone on too long!

Love to all

Larsti x

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Thank you All for taking the trouble to reply over Christmas, I really appreciate it. It is rather sad that our situation does not seem unique. It reminded me of something I had completely forgotten about.

Our first personal contact with a social worker at our first information evening did not go "well", but we did not understand, did not get it. She seemed to me a hard-nosed, dare I say cold individual who was interviewing us police style. When we revealed that we already had birth children she said something profound. Her words were: I would never, ever place children with families who already have children. The children we place are so complex, they cannot be placed alongside other children. It would be a rare thing indeed if we could match you, do we won't take you on.

She did not advise to go to another LA/VA. She did not try and persuade us to enjoy our children and maybe add some condescending remarks. Her message was stark and clear.

We did not understand, how could we? We mistook her comments as an isolated opinion and felt "this would be the wrong agency for us anyway" and let's try somewhere more sympathetic. I can now see she was a dedicated individual, with years of experience who was trying to protect us and the children whom she was expected to place. Someone who was carrying on regardless, like we do, despite the trauma it was inflicting on her. There was much more to this conversation, sadly too long to write it down here. The agency we ended up with were much more upbeat, wanting to help people fulfill their dreams as much a finding the right families for their children. Hm.

Larsti, I would love to do some campaigning too. Sadly, I would need someone to pay me to do it, so the chances are slim. I love writing and was a linguist in my previous life. Even though predictive text and small mobile screens trip me up at times, I do not think I have quite forgotten all my skills. - You are right, birth children do suffer, but the sad thing is, people setting out have so much enthusiasm, and in a way do not want to understand because they simply cannot imagine the unimaginable.

We thought we were prepared because we did not subscribe to the 'love will fix it all' mantra. BUT we did believe that with the right therapy and support, things would be manageable. This is not always the case. Be it lack of funds, access to the right therapy or a child who has been damaged so badly they simply cannot live in a family, there are far too many children and their families who are being failed.

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Zora - that is so beautifully written and so true.

I remember a very experienced friend and long term foster carer trying to talk us out of adoption, but our ears were closed and we dismissed him as an old cynic - in reality he was the voice of reason in the midst of a crowd of naïve excited friends....

I have been trying to do some campaigning - but its hard work and at the moment there is little to show for it. I am particularly pushing for change in Scotland since in our experience the support here is even weaker than in England and several government policies act against adopters. However the Children's Minister said on the radio that it was all fine in Scotland and how wonderful their policies are...I wrote but the responses I got are appalling - no understanding and patronising - I am continuing to push. I also have a new opportunity in the New Year as a journalist in interested in publishing our story (its "Helens" story on the AUK stories page)....I hope that may make a difference, but whether it will reach the ears of those who need to hear, I'm not sure.

Our only saving grace is that we didn't have birth children - although we did take a sibling group and they continued to retraumatise each other and when as a teen, the eldest went into melt down, the younger ones were badly affected.

It has affected both myself and DH - I realised after reading your post that much of our joy and laughter has gone, but we are now rebuilding and taking care of ourselves - and I am encouraged by Madrid's post on this.

((Hugs)) to all and prayers for a new, different and better future for adoption.

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Zora, I read your post a few days ago and have been thinking of you since. No one can prepare us for how adoption can turn our lives upside down like this, but I do think there is a difference between being trapped in an abusive relationship with an adult which from my own experience tapped into something desperate in me, and having chosen to adopt and then inspite of giving it more than your all, being treated abusively. What I'm trying to say is that are an exceptional, strong person to keep enduring and giving but it's horrible to feel how diminishing the role of adopted mum is in other ways. I hope you can find some moments in the new year to reconnect with things that give you the joy which you so clearly deserve.

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Bop, I am interested that a journalist may publish your story. Quite a few years ago I was interviewed by a journalist from a quality newspaper in Scotland. They wanted to write about my story. The journalist spent several hours with me. However the article was never published. The editor deemed it to be too shocking!


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Our LO is just seven. She has also struggled when we laugh. Just a few weeks ago she said "I don't like it when people laugh because I don't know what kind of laughing it is. There are lots of different kinds of laughing." I was actually amazed at her ability to articulate this (her older sister could never put her feelings into words like this). I am hopeless when put on the spot, my mind always goes blank, but I was able to say that one clue to whether or not it is mean laughter is knowing whether or not it is a mean person who is doing the laughing, and we were able to discuss my oldest BS who was due home for Christmas. She adores him and struggles the most when he is laughing at something she has said, but I pointed out that he is never mean but is always kind to her. For the first time ever, following this conversation, she coped really well every time he laughed and didn't once run off in a strop shouting 'he's being rude to me'. This has really encouraged me, that such an entrenched behaviour could be affected by such a brief conversation. I am not pretending the issue is cracked now, but we are at least making progress. Reading your post, I am guessing your LO is a similar age, maybe a bit younger. Maybe they are having similar thoughts but are unable to articulate them?? There is almost certainly lots more going on, but maybe laughter will be able to return for you at some point. My heart goes out to you, I know from our experiences with our older AD, that living with someone who is traumatised is traumatising for everyone else, as you soak up their feelings whether you want to or not. (((Hugs))) and hope that 2018 will bring some positive changes.

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