I’m a type 1 diabetic. My body doesn’t make any insulin, so I use a glucose meter, an insulin pump, and a continuous glucose monitor to manage my disease. Diabetics are at risk for seemingly a bazillion complications including kidney failure, blindness, amputation of limbs, sexual dysfunction, certain kinds of cancer, and many, many more. Diabetics are also at a higher risk of developing depression due to blood sugar swings and the burden of having a disease that requires 24/7 management. There are the pressures of being a DIP (diabetic in public): the questions and assumptions made by loved ones and strangers.
In the diabetes community, there is something called Diabetes Burnout. This is when the diabetic has simply had enough of the social pressures, the daily management, the medical appointments, and the disease’s side effects. In response, the person becomes frustrated and stops taking management seriously. He or she might fall into depression, stop testing blood sugar, skip medical appointments, stop exercising, and eat without regard to the food’s impact on blood sugar.
Likewise, adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents may experience Adoption Burnout. Sometimes the paperwork, the social worker visits, the struggles of their adoptee, waiting to be matched, financial struggles, and other circumstances and situations cause the parents or parents-to-be to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and confused. They may feel as though they are stuck in a valley with no way to climb out.
When this happens, and it happens to many of us who have been part of the adoption community for several years, there are some things you can do:
Read to gain encouragement, education, and advice.
There are many wonderful books, blogs, and articles on adoption journey and adoptive parenting topics. For Post-Adoption Depression, I highly recommend The Post-Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforeseen Challenges of Adoption. For the challenges in open adoption, there’s The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole. When dealing with resistant relatives, try In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know About Adoption. My own book, Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children, offers practical advice for those adopting transracially. Here at Adoption.NET, we offer articles on a variety of topics, written by different triad members, adoption experts, and experienced adoptive parents.
Reconnect with your village.
Let your adoption support system know you are struggling, what you are struggling with, and then be open to receiving input and guidance for those who have “been there, done that.” If you have yet to join an adoption support group, now is a great time to get connected. Ask your local adoption professional for suggestions on in-person groups, or join an online community.
Take a break.
Sometimes parents need to take the opposite approach to getting more involved in the adoption community. It is okay to step back and take a break. This might mean reading books by a favorite fiction author rather than another book on adoption. It might mean not logging on to Facebook for a few weeks. Schedule a night out with friends, take a day trip to a favorite place, or curl up with your spouse and watch movies. It’s sometimes helpful to commit to a certain time frame for your break.
Take up something new.
Adoption and its many facets can become all-consuming. You need to replace one behavior with another. If, for example, you find yourself obsessively looking at the adoption profiles of other waiting families, trying to see who has been placed or matched and who hasn’t, try instead filling that time with something more positive and uplifting. Take a class, join an organization, volunteer, or commit to a new hobby. What have you always wanted to learn more about? What personal skills do you wish to develop? What volunteering activities are personally rewarding to you?
Enjoy your current family.
Whether your current family is you and a partner, you and a pet, or a full house (spouse, pets, and kids), neglecting these to focus on adoption isn’t healthy or productive. Meeting the needs of others can bring about fulfillment and joy. Staying present and connected is essential to being the best family possible for the child who is to join your family via adoption. Great ways to stay connected include eating dinner as a family, visiting a place everyone enjoys such as the zoo, going on a mini vacation or having a staycation, or playing games. Another option is to allow family members to take turns selecting a family activity.
When was the last time you did something for you? What brings you joy and relaxation? Self-care is essential to personal health. Make a list of your favorite activities and things and post this list somewhere visible. Then daily, do one thing off your list. For example, my top three things that bring me personal joy are drinking tea, standing in the sunshine, and exercising. I have noticed that when I do not do at least one of these things each day, I feel grouchy, lost, and disconnected from myself. Keep in mind, these need not be expensive or time consuming or important to others. This is about you and your needs. Take up healthy, happy actions that bring about personal fulfillment.