Since being back from Santorini, my near breakdown experience of physically and mentally exhausting myself to get this new house in order has paid off greatly.
I know my children very well, and though they love going on holiday, they always know it is temporary and by the end are longing for their home comforts; knowing what that “home” looks like in a complete picture and not a broken, cluttered and incomplete image was essential to them being able to have that focus. In the end, it made our transition to home life much easier. Santorini was our cut off, everything up until then was chaos (including our travel there and back), but then in getting home, to a nicely cleaned and unpacked, well ordered place created calmness and tranquillity.
And that was essential for them to feel upon our return being able to tune straight in to restored calmness upon a return home from a stressful journey says everything our children need to know about being part of a family, having a stable home and feeling safe. Messages that are so hard to instil upon children who have suffered such things as early childhood trauma, being pushed through a foster system, losing family members, not knowing a permanently stable and safe & loving environment. Yes, even when you are several years into an adoptive placement, it is hard for the children to accept that you will be there forever. So now, several weeks after being home from Santorini, let me share with you on why I feel so much joy.
As Caitlin’s developments are both the thing that happened soonest, and the least complex, I shall share her story first.
For both children, night time has always been a period where anxiety is high; due to their past experiences, it is hard for both children to seek help, support or comfort during the night. The prospect of seeking that help is far too scary for them to imagine. Remember back when you were young and had had a nightmare, and you were too scared to do anything but lie under your blanket and hide and ignore reality, we’ve all been there at some point I’m sure (hell, I know adults who still get like this at times). For these two this is amplified by negative experiences at night time. So even just needing the toilet, or being thirsty, you know… our most simple basic needs… yep even these are equal to that nightmare that triggers your primal fight or flight response.
Unfortunately, a consequence of this is that, for those who have not been taught sufficient healthy ways to deal with emotions and how to regulate emotion, it is very hard to do something healthy as a response. For Caitlin, this meant she would completely withdraw, and start self harming. I don’t mean like headbutting something – although this has been known in lesser anxious situations, I mean literally clawing at her legs, drawing blood, and yet still continuing to do so. Until the point of us coming in to check on her and finding her in this situation, or even worse her waiting until morning to show her she’s covered in blood. On the odd occasion she’d get so desperate for the toilet, that the fear of her wetting herself overpowered her fear of calling us/getting our attention that she would cry and have a panic attack.
Then with the increase of anxiety about school, about home life, she was unable to separate from me, particularly at night time, were she would literally have to be touching me in order to get any kind of rest at all. And now, she is happy to go to bed ahead of me. Sometimes in her own room, sometimes on a metal framed camp bed next to me in my room, sometimes waiting in my place for me. But she also gets out of bed anywhere up to 10 times a night to seek comfort, go to the toilet or check that we still exist. I hear parents of birth children who’ve led sheltered lives across the globes say “wowee, it’s annoying as hell isn’t it?”… yeah it could be, I can see that. But each time I can’t help but get overwhelmed by how much of an amazing development this is. I can’t help but smile and embrace it. How can you not be happy about your child feeling safe and happy enough to be an annoying pain in the toosh?