Posts Tagged separation anxiety
I am truly unapologetic for writing another post inclusive of our new dog Blaze. The parallels between this guy’s anxious way of being in the world and that of many adoptees are so clear. There is the fear of trying new things (NO WAY is he pushing through that big chunk of plastic we call a doggie door; he has survived thus far without one thank you very much). There is the hyper vigilance (Where are my care-givers? Where are my care-givers? Where are my care-givers?), which is so often repeated in the literature as being characteristic of adoptees – along with the idea that while we do form ‘attachments’ to new adoptive care-providers, it is an ‘anxious attachment’ in that we do not see our true biology mirrored and reflected in subtle yet significant ways (and, we are freaked out about our last numero Uno vanishing into thin air!).
It’s an effort for Blaze to live large, free and unencumbered. Something always spooks him. He can’t feel reassured enough that his ‘primaries’ won’t bolt. Yesterday we left him for 6 hours – the longest stint alone in the house yet. And though his toilet needs had been cared for, he projected his pathology as a lovely Rorschach splotch on the living room floor.
Granted, I have never done that. But I feel his need to be safe and reassured.
According to Nancy Verrier‘s wonderfully enlightening books, one of the most common injurious dynamics set forth early in an adoptee/adoptive mom relationship is that of the grieving child exhibiting various unsavory behaviors and the new adoptive parent ‘reacting’ to this, taking it personally, being unconscious of the reality that their infant or toddler needs to process the harsh cutoff from biological mother that spooked him or her in a hard-plastic-doggie-door king of way, and then some .
It is up to the adoptive parents to stay present and give comfort when the adoptee is an infant. As the child gets older it is imperative that the separation trauma be openly explored and grieved, and that the adoptive parents do not get swept up into their own fears about ‘losing their children’ or their ego attachments to these beings as their personal possessions, as belonging to them now. My adoptive mother was still making comments such as “you got that trait from your father” after she knew that we knew we were adopted (which we did not know until we were in our forties). All of our lives she tried to snuff out reality by attributing both physical and personality attributes we possessed as being inherited from her, my adoptive dad, or another family member. These attempts to falsely stamp a child as your own flesh and blood resonate deeply with the adoptee as not just false but as unsound.
Another excellent session with “Kay” my ‘adoptee specialist’ therapist. She has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, as I reeled off a holy host of ‘stuff I am worried about and have looked at from every conceivable angle except, I fear, the one angle that will ultimately do me in’.
“Carol, do you have any sense of what the real issue is here? I believe it is trust. Can you trust yourself to be alright wherever you land? You will be – alright wherever you land. A certain benefit comes from looking ‘down the road’ and asking all the ‘what if’ questions – and you have an amazing capacity for it; but at some point a paralytic effect sets in and ‘trust and faith’ get lost in the shuffle. This is self abandonment. It is not a gesture of compassion to yourself.”
Something I appreciate immensely about Kay is a quality I can only articulate this morning after googling Thich Nhat Hanh quotes. “Compassion is a verb.” (One thing about the eastern mind: what appears to be simple is inevitably deep.) I believe when compassion is skillfully modeled one feels as if we are all in this together, all struggling to get past the same illusions. Kay never douses my stories with the kerosene of blame and ironically in that container I am better able to burn it up myself.
As anyone who has been through trauma can attest, transformation is easier said than done. Transforming the arrows of self-doubt, fear and mistrust into the flowers of acceptance and faith is a bit like tending a physical garden: a little attention every day, just a little, and soon it is a magnificent sanctuary. But no single day, no matter how labor-filled, can replace the effects of small daily efforts.
This past weekend I discovered a new disorder almost certainly related to my adopted status: succulation anxiety. It’s not a typo, it is a condition of extreme distress experienced when a lumbering, tool-wielding man compels a parting of the ways between me and my fleshy companions.
Every home owner must at some juncture have trees pruned, walls painted, pests eradicated and wooden parts replaced. These events are stressful enough for their cash outlay requirements and the fact that strangers are generally roaming around your personal space for extended time periods. But when you’ve doted for a year over a blooming aloe and the careless flop of a wood beam snaps off its head, believe me when I say a new syndrome is immaculately conceived in the DSM-IV Diagnoses and Codes manual.
What can you do? I beseeched Bob (we’ll call him) through tight quivering lips, “Bob could you please be careful around the succulents? Maybe move the planted pots that are in your way, step lightly around the rooted clumps?” Bob could not be more apologetic when I pointed out the amputee. And Bob did move the container gardens. And Bob scythed off several more flowering clusters in so doing.
Later in the evening after the executioner and his crew departed I took stock of my Senecio. Several formerly trailing mounds lay smashed on the flagstone. I lopped off the carnage and stumbled into the house. My partner Margie took one look at me, offered a sympathetic hug and retreated to her office.
I am bracing myself for part 2 of the trellis replacement project today. But at least I have a name for my condition. Somehow I always feel better knowing what my malady is.
Meet Blaze. He is the newest addition to our family. After 3 months without canine companionship, we have once again assumed the roles of alpha pack members for this little Flyweight, who is nothing like our former Cruiserweight Tucker.
Blaze has eaten about 3 cups of dog food in the four days he’s been with us. This is not enough to sustain an adequate sperm count in a ball-bearing boy who will be providing labradoodle stud service until he is 6 human years of age. If I leave the room, he leaves the room with me. Though he may appear to be dead asleep and even if I exit on tippy toes, Blaze hears and follows. My partner Margie walks him in the morning and he is stuck like glue to her until I walk him in the afternoon, when he begins his glue routine with me. We have never heard a real bark from our boy (I heard a weird high-pitched yelp at my mom’s board and care yesterday afternoon when a care giver unexpectedly flung open a closet door, but I’m not sure if it counts). Our tenant whom Blaze met on Sunday came home Monday night and Blaze came whimpering down the hall, crouching and cringing as if he’d seen Beelzebub!
You might think it a stretch to include a post about Blaze in an adoption blog. But this is Blaze’s third home in 2 years and he hasn’t the neocortex to integrate or mitigate the effects of multiple separations from his “next new pack” on his limbic system. (We human adoptees have done so much better.)
BLAZE HAS SEPARATION ANXIETY as sure as I am typing up this post.
So we will employ all the best that Cesar Millan has to offer. Did you know, for example, that if you have not established yourself as the alpha pack leader, your canine companion will most likely go nuts when you leave (e.g. chew, bark, pee, destroy) because in dog packs the alpha leaves, not the lower pack members. If your dog thinks he is alpha of your domestic pack, he will go crazy trying to make up for the fact that he cannot keep a watchful eye on his pack charges who just defected.
And so, we will deal with our abandonment issues as a pack here on 3rd street. I guess I skipped the phase where my appetite went south.