I have been having many conversations with my [adoptive] mum recently about some very real problems that we are facing as a family. We are actually facing several problems but there is one that stands out and haunts us night and day.
One of our relatives faces a lot of challenges in their everyday life and this is having an unacceptable negative effect on others. This relative has always caused and/or attracted drama of some description (which is exhausting as I only like drama of the Lewis type) but the stakes are now extremely high.
In one of these conversations my mum voiced her upset: I just wanted to give a child a good life and I don’t know if I’ve made his life any better at all. I tried to reassure her that she had made a difference. I replied, completely honestly, that she had definitely made things better and that without her input his life would be significantly worse – who knows where we would be – and the situation now facing us and everyone else would also be far, far worse. I also pointed out that she had stayed true to her promise (I have no idea how – she’s a saint really) and was still involved, even though I think many people would understand it if she just completely wiped her hands of the situation. I think that many people would think she has done her bit; she can just let it all go now. But nope: she’s still there. And I can see that. And I thanked her.
But you see, this whole breaking-the-cycle thing is not something any of us can do on our own. My mum can’t do it. I can’t do it. A mental health professional can’t do it. And can it be done without the ability and willingness of those who seemingly want to perpetuate it? My life has long involved dealing with all sorts of (other people’s!) drama that puts EastEnders and Jeremy Kyle to shame. But the situation can in reality only be made less worse and by a whole collection of people acting together – and even then it’s hard because God things are complicated and hard.
We are adoptees, adopters, care leavers, birth family members and foster family members all trying to come to a solution. And you know what? Where are the barriers between us now?! The barriers are falling and our identities are dissolving and merging and changing. But there is a positive here – insofar as there is one – in that over the last couple of years a whole series of things (including this) has brought greater empathy and understanding all round and a shared sense of all of our experiences. We are now all changing places on the board and seeing it all anew.
But like anyone – whether that be a birth parent, an adopter, a care leaver, or anyone else – we can only do what we can with the resources we have. And ‘resources’ includes things such as mental and physical health as well as support networks, education, and income.
But some of our resources are impaired, including my own to some extent. I completely understand why one of the others, a care leaver, feels completely unable to get involved because to do so would necessitate engagement with social services. Back in the day their local authority made some utterly shocking decisions. In this particular care leaver’s case, I liken their reaction to the one you would get if you told an adult who had been abused by priests as a child (and this was covered up by the hierarchy) that in order to help they must let priests and the hierarchy back into their lives. I understand their reaction because I can also remember a time when the words Social Services or Social Worker made me feel sick to the core on an involuntary visceral level. But your own recovery has to come first: you cannot help anyone else if you yourself are drowning.
I just hope that our collective resources, and especially my own, will be enough.
But I must go now. But there is so much that I cannot even begin, let alone end. (I have not even begun).
I don’t know if all of this is the beginning or the end or the conclusion to what came before. Or maybe a bit in the middle of a never-ending cycle?
As I go to bed my mind un-exorcised, I am reminded of some lines from one of my favourite poems:
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.
Wordsworth, The Prelude