My son struggles with anxiety. I am not sure if it is attributable to his FAS or the complex trauma that he endured prior to joining our family. Regardless of the cause, it impacts his daily life and that of those around him. There is rarely a week that goes by that he doesn’t ask me to take him to the doctor for yet another ailment that he is convinced will eventually kill him. He is obsessed with his skin, convinced that the variations in pigment are a disorder of some sort. A recently noticed acne pimple on his face was “cancer, just like uncle Don had.”
He is obsessed with the cleanliness of the dishes and utensils that he eats off of. Many nights he will get up from the table to get a different fork or knife. His brother, who sets the table is frequently accused of sabotaging the cleanliness of his glass, fork etc. His rants regarding dirty utensils are usually enough to disrupt the dining experience for all of us. This morning, he dumped an entire bowl of cereal down the drain because he believed the bowl, taken straight from the dishwasher was dirty.
The irony of this situation is that he lives in a pigsty. There is more bacteria multiplying in his room than in most research labs. He is forever putting inedible objects in his mouth to satisfy his need to chew. He chews on dental floss, his sleeves and legos. He also rarely washes his hands prior to eating unless told to do so. My frequent reminders were always met with anger so I quit. Let him eat with garbage dripping from his fingers. It is no skin off of my back if he gets sick.
Most of our days are spent in the midst of trauma and drama. As a result, it isn’t often that I spend time reflecting on the circumstances in my son’s past that formed his personality and nervous system. I would like to think that if he had joined our family at an earlier age, he would have been spared some of his discomfort, however, from the stories I hear from other adoptive parents, it is unlikely to have made a difference.
The damage to this child began before his birth by a mother who could not control her need for cocaine and alcohol. Birth mom, was given too many opportunities to get her shit together, at my son’s expense. The first year of his life, critical to the development of trust was disrupted with multiple placements within the system. As a result, there is damage to his brain that cannot be undone. Seven and a half years within a loving ( he may disagree with my choice of words) structured and predictable environment have done little to reverse the damage.
Last evening, Patrick came outside after dinner to join his brother and I in the task of shoveling. He stated “I hate it when they yell at each other.” Through the process of adoption, E was spared from continued trauma at the hands of the system, the result of which has introduced trauma into our family. This is the often unspoken irony of special needs adoption.
But as Tom says “It is what we signed up for.” We have learned not to start the day without putting on our armor. Some days being calmer than others, and the armor is taken off, and for that we are thankful.