A famous missionary book is “Where There is No Doctor”. Later a couple more came out to complete the set of self-help handbooks for workers in the developing world. “Where There is No Dentist” so your teeth don’t fall out of your head. “Where There is No Animal Doctor”, let’s not forget about Sparky! (sidenote: shoulda been “Where There is No Veterinarian”, but whatevs.) And finally “Where There is No Psychiatrist”. Why not Psychologist? I always get those two mixed up. I’m just crazy like that. (ba dum bum – ching!)
Confession: I haven’t read ANY of them. (gasp!)
Granted, we live in a metropolitan area. In the highly unlikely chance that we ever go rural, I’ll get ’em all and cram. Oh yes. Since there have not been any weather reports predicting a snow storm in hell, I will continue to rely on the professionals in our lovely city. We have doctors, dentists, vets, and both of those P word dudes.
I trust my Spanish for explaining symptoms to a doctor. We have about a half a dozen dentists in our church, so that is covered. When our dog was having seizures as a puppy we were able to communicate just fine with the vet and he got us the meds our poodle needed. Shep is fine, so that worked out. Now, when it comes to psychiatrists and psychologists, I start to squirm.
I have never been to see either one of those for a consultation. I’ve had friends who work in both of those fields. I think they do fine work. I think they are important. Okay, I did have a psychological evaluation during the adoption proceedings. So I have met with a shrink once. Evidently she liked my drawings of a family of animals and a kid in the rain, and she found my answers to “what do you see here” satisfactory enough to allow me to have her stamp of approval as a capable mother. But on my own initiative to deal with an unresolved issue – nada.
That’s not to say I don’t need to. Oh, there have been plenty of times when I was sure I was losing my mind. I could have benefited from one at a few specific times in my life, I think. But here is why I have never sought out help from a Bolivian professional in these fields: I don’t trust my Spanish to really speak authentically and therapeutically about heart issues. Now that there’s Skype I suppose if I really wanted to invest the finances into sessions with an English speaking therapist I could make that happen.
In the meanwhile I tend to my mental health through:
- Talking with trusted friends
- Informative and instructional reading
- Prayer and other spiritual disciplines
- Regular “exhaling” activities like: jogging, photography, blogging, trekking, travel, etc.
- Frequent dates
- Handwritten journaling
- Asking for support and help from friends and family when I feel I need it
- Staying connected to people who will speak up if they see me heading to cooky town (aka: accountability… but that is such a mathematical word, blech)
So, we are an adoptive family. Thus, it is a tough line to walk when almost EVERY book, article, and blog on adoption emphasizes the importance of dealing with every issue with the help of professional therapists. From eating habits to bonding to attachment to you-name-it the pattern stays the same: here is some advice, here are some anecdotes, now go seek professional help. I get it. I really do understand. I do. But that has just not been the reality for us.
This causes me to rely even more heavily on the strategies I have placed in my life when I come to a rough patch. Since we stepped foot in the adoption world there have been some pretty rough patches. To assign a comparative percentage of rough to smooth in our adoption journey would be depressing and require too much mathematical thought. Math, blech. So we keep walking, right? Right.
Yesterday evening I experienced something truly miraculous with Kaitlynn. A connection was made between her and me that surprised me. I am so grateful for all my friends and family who listen, pray, and advise me as I learn how to be Kaitlynn’s mama. Dozens of people at specific times have provided just the word or time or grace I have needed to get through that day or that hour or that minute. I can never say thank you enough. I truly believe that this amazing support system is meant to receive all the credit for this connection that happened last night.
I say miraculous because this is the kind of connection that I have been waiting for, hoping for. One of my favorite parts of being a mama is having real talks with my kids. Each phase of parenthood has their perks – but when they reach the age of being able to have a proper conversation with me I am thrilled. Kaitlynn’s first language is now English. She will be 6 years old in December. I see now how key this element is in our relationship. We have had a few conversations where she expressed non-mimicked thoughts, those have been great. But what happened last night went deeper.
For the first time, of her own volition, she began to share with me stories of her life before she became a Washington kid. She was very emotional. She sat beside me on the couch and spoke very low with a sincerity I have not seen before. Story after story came pouring out. I listened so hard, trying to remember every detail so I could write it all down. I knew this was important.
After I put her to bed I rushed to get my pen and notebook to record our talk. I was so excited! Yet I knew that a portion of what she shared was fantasy. That made me curious. I whittled down my online search in order to find a clinical article to help me understand what just happened between us. My search landed on a very well written and very specific piece entitled “Birthparent Romances and Identity Formation in Adopted Children“. Fascinating. Spot on. Highly informative. For her age and her development level this behavior of telling stories mixed with fact and fiction is completely appropriate. Beyond that, it is a healthy step in her personal identity formation path.
What excites me the most is the connection she and I made. We connected. Thank God. Really, thank you all who helped us get to this important point. I am just so very grateful and happy.