As part of National Adoption Week we are sharing post from those who have overcome an obstacle in their path to adoption. Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries tells us about adopting when you suffer from depression…
One day in 2001 I sat and stared at my front door and knew, just knew that on that day it would not be possible to pass through it. To open the door and walk beyond it was not going to happen just as the ten minute walk to work, to sit behind my desk on the third floor of an office block, was not going to happen either. What followed brought my diagnosis of depression. I’d actually been suffering a lot longer, I just hadn’t realised, trying ever so hard to conceal and ignore the very obvious indicators.
Like many things, once I knew what was wrong with me, I was depressed; I could start doing something about it. I was signed off work; I took anti-depressants and started seeing a psychotherapist. Things didn’t change overnight but my life did changed dramatically from then on, my whole out look on life altered, it took time but eventually I did get better.
I do however believe that depression is something I always live with, it does reoccur and I always need to be managing it and caring for myself to avoid it reoccurring, something I’ve done with varying success over the years.
When my husband and I decided to apply to adopt ,four years later, I was worried sick that my mental health would be the main factor to go against us. I was sure that the stigma of mental health, thoughts that I may be weak, unstable, inconsistent and self involved, would be the shared thoughts of those making the decision on my fate. However we went ahead and attended a prep course.
We had a diverse mix of those wishing to adopt on our prep course and this immediately opened my eyes to the obstacles that many felt stood between them and adoption. Older couples, single parents, same sex couples and those with their own birth children; everyone wondering if something about them would be considered a deal breaker. The course did help very much to reassure me that we had every chance; however I also knew we needed to think more about how we were going to cope.
When I began to reflect on how I was coping with living with depression, I realised just how far I’d come since those dark first months of my diagnosis. I now exercised regularly, knowing how important that was to my wellbeing, and considered my diet and healthy eating another way of sustaining a positive mind. My psychotherapy had also brought a greater self awareness to my emotions; I now knew the physiological signs and thought patterns that may be moving me towards depression. With this knowledge I was often able to head off further deterioration.
During our assessment sharing these thoughts with our social worker further helped me to see the possible strengths these aspects of my life offered.
By knowing and understanding my own emotions, I started to see how I might be able to help a child with their own emotional instability.
Discussing living with depression was a big part of our assessment and also something I know our referees were asked to comment on, however I can completely see the necessity for this. The Social worker needed evidence that I had strategies and a support network in place, in case my depression did reoccur.
We went on to adopt a sibling group, two boys aged two and three. It would be untrue to say that parenting my children has not been affected by my depression; there are days when I have found it exceptionally tough. Now the boys are older they know that mummy suffers with depression and that sometimes this means she needs to rest to make herself feel better. I am very open with them as I see this as the best way to be, I know sometimes they don’t like how it makes me feel, but knowing there is an explanation is important. I make it very clear that it is not their fault that I feel down and always say that I hope to improve by the next day, which I often do.
In lots of ways I wish they never had to see me feeling so low and sad, however we are a family living with an illness, as many families do, and we deal with it the best way we can.
On the positive side I know that my understanding of emotions has been really useful when supporting my boys. I am very open and confident in discussing emotions and feelings, and ours is a home where saying how you’re feeling is the norm. My ten year old has an extensive understanding of his emotions and a great descriptive vocabulary for describing them, more so than a lot of grown men I know!
I am very mindful that mental illness can be a problem for children who have been through care; it is more common in those who have had a difficult start. I think the fact that my children see me living my life with this illness, managing it and still achieving many things, running a marathon, supporting lots of activities in our local community as well as, and most importantly, providing a loving home for them, is also significant for their future. It’s great for them to know that people live with barriers in their lives, obstacles of many descriptions, and they can be overcome.
If you would like to find out more about National Adoption Week please visit this Website http://nationaladoptionweek.org.uk/