Some Buddhist writers I have read like to use an image of the sky and the clouds as a teaching metaphor. The clouds are our moods, ceaselessly coming and going. It doesn’t matter how dark and stormy or how light and fluffy the clouds are, the sky remains constant and blue behind it. It is a teaching which is supposed to give comfort in times of turmoil.
I get the idea and I think its nice. I just feel it’s the reverse for me. For me it’s the sky that’s the problem. My sky is black, and the clouds give me relief.
I’ve been doing a lot of research lately in the effort to find a therapist. Someone who can actually help me reverse the order of nature. It is, in fact, the research that is the cause of current lack of cloudiness. Having had no income since April and with the current government’s policies, little prospects, I was compelled to take the only thing that’s come my way. Unfortunately it happened to be about adoption. I thought I’d be alright. Really, I did. But I’m not, and I don’t know what to do anymore. On the positive side I can afford to replace my dangerously bald tyres and keep the Iron Paw in the style to which she has become accustomed. On the other hand, it’s all come back.
I’m having terrible dreams again. Self mutilation, exposure till death experiments. Fun stuff like that. I’m experiencing a kind of dissociation. I can watch TV, listen to people, do the work, run errands, all the while watching from other kind of vantage point. My body is here. I can feel it on the chair, the points of contact. My skin prickling and sweaty from the unending heat. But it’s like it’s also happening to someone else. Am I here? Am I real? Does anyone care? I scream at other drivers, I’m rude to waiters. I just want the entire world to get out of my way. I feel anxious in crowds.
I can count at least ten properly qualified therapists and quite a few other ones that I have seen since my undergraduate days. In short, I’ve been bouncing in and out of therapist’s offices all my adult life. All were good hearted, well intentioned people who did their best to help me. But not one has ever truly been able to get to the core. Here’s a clue why. If you type the word ‘adoption’ into the Australian Psychological Society’s website, you get zero hits. Despite three parliamentary enquiries and multiple apologies since 1997, the APS doesn’t appear to consider the experience of adoption as a problem. It’s a common phenomenon, the myth of the happy adoptive child. I think the profession owes me a refund, given the number of therapists I’ve educated…
The Australian Institute of Family Studies disagrees. Their study is the most recent, largest and most rigorous study undertaken yet in Australia. It found that more than two thirds of adoptees, regardless of how they perceived the quality of their relationship with their adoptive family, reported mental health problems. At least I know I am not alone in being unable to get the kind of properly trained, professional help that I need.
At the core, I believe, of the black sky problem is the fact that the first trauma happened at the very beginning. Adoptees have no pre trauma self. There is no before and after the event. There just is. All my well meaning therapists never got that. Some even attempted to run the chosen/lucky line on me. Don’t ever tell me I’m lucky. I could be unable to control my urge to punch you.
You see, now that I’ve met my biological mother, I rapidly came to understand that the government took me away from someone who was actually psychologically capable of being a good enough mother. But she wasn’t married. They gave me to a married couple who both came from less than well adjusted backgrounds. It was an unhappy and at times violent house. I have the broken bones and the scars to prove it. This is what they call complex trauma. If I’d been left with my biological mother, the first trauma of abandonment at birth would have been averted. Secondly, while you can never predict or control the future, it’s unlikely that under my biological mother’s care I would have felt so scared or lonely or flawed. She’s not perfect, of course. But most of her problems came from the experience of having no other options except to hand me over the government. She was, as she herself says, fine before that.
As I understand it, therapy for trauma victims in part relies on utilising memories of the pre trauma self. The soldier before he went to war. The rape victim before the attack. My mother, before the adoption. My adoptive mother, perhaps before the first baby died. They have somewhere memories of a self who is happier, freer, something-er. I don’t have those. Black sky is all I know, relieved by cloudiness. It doesn’t seem to matter how positive I can feel at times, it all comes back to black. The older I get, the less hope I have of it ever changing. I’ve invested thousands and thousands of dollars in trying to heal myself. I have no more ideas left. I’m tired and I feel broken beyond repair.