Wow, it's been a year since I've written here. 2013 was a very, very difficult year. Closed a business, got very depressed, panic attacks came back after 10 years, started a new business - which is good, but very stressful financially- and you guessed it, went back to therapy.
When I showed up at my first therapy appointment, I was a hot mess. I was having panic attacks everywhere; sleeping, in the shower, while I was out running, riding in a car. I was about six weeks into a bad bout of agoraphobia, crying all the time, desperate for some medication and some serious healing. It took her about a month to get me leveled out so the panic attacks were no longer ruling my life, and then we started on the hard stuff.
I had chosen this therapist because, A.) she took our insurance and B.) she listed adoption issues in her list of specialties. I was a little nervous that her version of "adoption issues" would be more along the lines of "what a great gift you gave someone" which might inhibit her ability to help me overcome my issues. It turns out, I had nothing to fear. She has been compassionate, intelligent, unbiased and present with me for this whole process.
I have learned so much over the last eight months and I have done something I never thought possible. I have forgiven myself. For the last 34 years, I have been angry, depressed, guilt-ridden, bitter and pained beyond belief over the loss of my son. Couldn't see how it would ever be possible to forgive myself for doing something so heinous. Didn't clearly understand that my sons birth and his adoption was that line that changed everything in my life. How I felt about myself and my family. I felt like there were two voices in me as an adult. The one that was confident, smart, capable - talented even - and the one that secretly knew what a fuck-up she was. I couldn't let go of the seventeen year old, the girl that had done something so despicable as to give up her own son. I hated her, and therefore I could never, as an adult, fully embrace myself. No matter what good I have done in my life, I have always had that scared, messed up girl's voice in me, undermining it all.
This has been a long and arduous road. It was weeks and weeks and weeks of me just bawling in her office. Then I went weeks and weeks and weeks of bawling and anger. Then I went to weeks and weeks of talking, accepting and learning. I must say, there is something besides the therapy that has helped put that scared seventeen year old girl in perspective. My daughter is now the age I was when I gave birth to my son. There are days when she is so mature, making great decisions for her life and then there are days when she is driving straight into a brick wall with absolutely no clue how to avoid it. I've seen first hand that a seventeen year olds brain is not fully developed and that they are not always capable of doing the really difficult things, you know, like standing up to their parents and the adoption industry and saying they want to keep their baby when they have no education, job, money or family support. That the decisions my daughter makes for her life now will not be the same as the decision she makes five years from now. That she will make decisions now that she will regret and that this whole process is normal for a girl in her late teens. The "poor" decisions she makes now, should not define her for the rest of her adult life. That's where I got stuck. The decision to not raise my son was so brutally painful that emotionally, maybe even developmentally, I never really moved on.
I've learned that self forgiveness does not negate my accountability. I love my son deeply. I still feel sadness and regret that I didn't raise him. I just don't hate myself as much. As difficult as this journey was, ( and trust me, I still have a ways to go) I am so proud that I have gone through it. Not just for myself, although clearly there is a great personal benefit to all of this. I needed to heal so I can be there for my son, if he ever chooses to actually communicate with me. I need to be in a healthy place so that if he ever needs answers to questions or needs to unleash some of his anger in my direction I am capable of helping him. I need to heal for my daughter so that she can see that you can make huge, life altering mistakes and recover from them. I need to heal so that my children can develop a relationship that doesn't have a huge, dark cloud hanging over it. Maybe I even needed to heal so that other first mothers can see that it can be done. Maybe sharing this will give one person the hope that healing is possible so when she gets that phone call or letter she can stand and embrace it instead of running in shame.