Drugs and mental illness has fractured our family. It started when my mom’s mental illness became too much for my dad, and he left. I was six at the time. We still saw him every other weekend, and some time a little longer, but he no longer lived with us. He couldn’t handle my mom’s illness. My mom has bipolar and abuses prescription drugs like Xanax. Our mom slept a lot and then would go shopping like crazy and spend money on shoes we didn’t have. This left us kids unprotected.
Since I have taken over the care of Carter, a lot of things have happened to our already fragile family. I wanted my dad’s blessing before I went and filed for emergent temporary custody. He agreed saying that Mary had plenty of chances, and that Carter shouldn’t have to live the way he was. I was the only one living in state, my brother is in the military and isn’t around. My mom and step dad live out of state, as does my dad and step mom.
After I got custody of Carter, it became like it was me against Mary. In my mind, that was never the case. I understood and still understand why Mary might feel this way. However, my own family got to “stay out of it”, and they “didn’t want to choose sides”. It was super hard and frustrating for me. I took on a lot, and I had no support. It has been so hard on my already fragile relationship with my family. If I’m being honest, my family can be pretty toxic at times. That being said, they did agree that I was doing the right thing keeping Carter.
My family also didn’t want to celebrate when we got KLG, because they were torn. They felt like it was sad for Mary so by coming it was hurting her. Truth is it wasn’t about Mary, it was about Carter’s stability.
My family did support the notion of KLG though. They thought it was best, especially because Carter had been with me so long. However, when Adoption came into the conversation they were not so happy. Carter wanted the adoption, I’m not saying that I am not happy with it. The truth is the adoption is and was for Carter and his sense of stability. They don’t see or experience Carter the way I do. All of a sudden it was like this was all my idea and I was pushing Carter into adoption. That wasn’t the case, and it hurts that some of my family believe that. They don’t understand because they don’t live it. For Carter, he is old enough to understand that with KLG, Mary could still get him back. Even though I reassured him that it was super unlikely, it wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to know that he would be staying with me forever. He wanted me to legally be his mother. I don’t expect anyone to understand it.
Carter has been through a lot of trauma, a lot of trauma. He has nightmares, and sleepwalks. He has unresolved issues with his mother and father. Everything we do is still tied to Mary even when she is not there. He has behavioral issues, for example recently he started making himself throw up because he thought he “looked” fat. When we were in therapy talking about it, we asked him where he learned how to do that from. Carter then explained how Mary taught him how to do it when he was young. She would tell him to go to school, and make himself throw up so the school would call her at work and she could leave. To say I was annoyed at this, would be an understatement. These are not things I have communicated to my family. They don’t ask, and I know they really don’t want to know. They have no idea the extent to which Carter was abused, and neglected. They know some things of course, but they don’t know most of it. My father got to see Carter’s sleep walking first hand last summer, when we went for a long period of time to visit them. My dad didn’t think much of it, and I guess most people wouldn’t.
Some of Carter’s stuff is normal teenage growing pains. However, it is exacerbated by the trauma he has experienced. I find that when he is really acting out, me going to him and offering to run him a bubble bath, helps to calm him down. He loves bubble baths, and letting him do that now helps him to relive those childhood moments. I remember the first time I did it, when I asked him he asked for extra bubbles. He then played in the bath for over a half hour with the bubbles. He called me in to show me what he was doing, and he was just so happy. He was upset because of something he was triggered by, and then I offered him a bubble bath it seemed to change the script of his behavior.
If I’m being honest, most days I don’t know what I’m doing. I am doing the best I can, and Carter is in therapy. We are doing all the things. I love Carter, and will do anything I can for him.
Am I glad we got the adoption? Yes of course, but it wasn’t the path I wanted. When Carter first mentioned wanting me to adopt him, he’d only been with me for 5 months. In my mind, I thought for sure Mary would get it together and get him back. I never thought it would come down to adoption. Even in the beginning when DCPP said that it’d be 6 months a to a year before Mary got him back if she ever did, I thought for sure it wouldn’t take that long. Yet now she hasn’t even seen him in over two years, and that is all her choice.
It has been a really hard week on Carter; and me too. Mary has seemed like she was going to set up therapeutic visits with Carter and then the place told me she hasn’t been returning their calls or emails. I reached out to Mary and she reached back telling me to keep Carter and to loose her number. Carter has been very upset and anxious about possibly visiting with Mary. He was even more upset this week when his therapist and I told him that she wasn’t going to do it. Another broken promise, it breaks my heart. Carter said he was fine when we told him, but that night he had a bad nightmare. Then he ended up coming to me and asking to lay with me and he just cried for a while and I just rubbed his back. Those moments when he is so upset like that, just breaks my heart.
The hardest part of Carter is his trauma, his pain, I can’t take it away from him. I can’t make it better, I just have to sit in it with him, and love him. I have to constantly reassure him that I love him, and that I’m not judging him. I have to know when to give him space and when to give him that hug he really needs. I don’t always get it right, but I do the best I can. We always talk about it after and we both own anything we need to own. It can feel so personal at times, when he is upset and lashing out. It can feel like I’m failing him, and like I’m doing it all wrong. The truth is I’m not doing it all right, yeah sometimes I get it wrong but that’s life I’m human. I still show up, and if I make a mistake I apologize and own it.
So my family who doesn’t see all those things, doesn’t really know what’s going on. They don’t understand. I don’t even totally understand and I’m here everyday doing it. What I do know is that I wish they would just support us. Not judge me, or accuse me, but love and support us. My fractured family just isn’t capable of that. I’m lucky that I have a good church community. They are good to us both. I am so thankful for them and the support they have given us. God is so good to us.