Our decision to adopt a child was one long thought out by me and my husband. It should never be something that you jump into like perhaps the purchase of a new sofa. It’s more like bringing home a puppy and knowing that for the rest of this little pup’s life, you are his one and only; every decision you make will involve him, and provisions must be made for his health and well-being. Now I certainly don’t mean to imply children are like dogs, but for those who understand my analogy, a commitment is a commitment and when you are talking about a life, it’s a serious commitment.
Both of our family backgrounds had experience with mental health issues, so when looking to adopt a child we were open to any issues that may come up or have already been diagnosed. You have to confront the idea, whether adopting or if you give birth to a child or bring them into your family, mental health issues can become part of your life. You are adopting a child who has been through experiences in some cases where they have actually chosen to block those out of their mind. Things you may not have ever given thought to. And more importantly, neglect of the most serious level. Given this traumatic start in life, you have to embrace the idea that your child may have been left with mental health issues, be those genetic or from adjusting to an insane life. Also, keep in mind that the older the child, the more set in their ways.
We just celebrated as a family on Father’s Day that our son has been legally part of our family for 5 years!
I’d like to say it was a glorious day, but he’s a teenager so no explanation is needed here. When we met our son it was love at first sight for each of us, and we do talk about this now and then when things get weary to remind ourselves that the depth of that level of love only grows as each day passes. He was as focused as any adult that I have ever met if not more. He was and still is very vigilant in his environment be that at school or at the movies. Early on into our becoming a family, it was very clear that he had more than just some personality quirks. After much adjusting that involved his destruction of many things in our home and several returns to CBAT, we were placed with a knowledgeable pediatric psychiatrist. She was truly the godsend to our situation. She was able to diagnose him after several visits with an obvious adjustment disorder, anxiety and bi-polar. The process of coming up with the correct cocktail of medications to help him through his day was lengthy but in the end allowed him the ability to be in his environment and to enjoy life. Of course this cocktail must be adjusted still has he grows into the adult that he was meant to be.
We realize that some parents would severely disagree with medicating a child, but until you have been living 24/7 with someone with mental health issues, you are not able to see the benefit. This is not to say that he does not have to deal with adjusting to different circumstances or having zero anxiety because that would be a lie. But having this medication in his system levels him out and if you ask him, depending on the day, he might let you know that he appreciates what his medication does for him or he might tell you he knows it makes him different from other people. My point here is that prospective parents cannot and should not shut themselves off to the idea of adopting a child with mental health issues. In fact, the more you learn about mental health the more you are attuned to your everyday environment and can see that others deal with this, too. It is not something to run from, quite the contrary, embrace the differences that we all have and learn to help others and be understanding, we’re all fighting some battle or another.
Note: Our son was 9 when we met him and he will be turning 16 this August. Every day we are reminded of what an awesome person he is and how lucky we are to have such a nice kid that is all ours!