You can improve your understanding of PADS and other post-adoption issues that may occur by reading published materials and attending any seminars offered by your agency, social worker or local support groups. In addition, you can plan now for built-in protection and support structures. You might also consider protective parenting measures, caregivers or babysitters for children and professional help resources. I struggled with feelings of loneliness and failure during my depression. In my research and discussion with other parents, I found loneliness to be a common theme for parents with PADS. You can protect yourself by educating family and friends on PADS in advance.
Validating the Issues
If you find yourself struggling after placement of your child, you may wonder how you will know if you need to seek professional help. The following exercises may help you determine if you need professional services.
Journaling is a simple act that has amazing diagnostic and therapeutic attributes. Set aside some time each day, often the beginning or end of the day is best, and write. Write about the day, your emotions, your thoughts, your physical state, your appetite and more. Just write. You may write a little or pages and pages of what is mostly nonsense to you. Do not self-edit as you write. Do not be afraid that others will see what you are writing and judge you. The point of this journaling is to get on paper a reflection of your life right now. Then, each day read what you wrote the day before. One day removed, you may “see” some of your challenges, why you feel the way you do, what situations cause you anxiety, fear, grief, anger or other emotions. Through journaling, you may be able to recognize areas where you can “self-help” and modify your life and actions. You may realize you are struggling with depression and need to seek help from others. Journaling will also help you with the more quantitative assessment provided in the next exercise.
Today, no recognized and tested diagnostic tools exist for PADS specifically. Most authorities rely on one or more general or post-partum depression tools when discussing PADS assessment. The PostPartum Depression Screening Scale by Beck and Gable is one of the more current and recognized tools. A clinician with experience to interpret findings and provide assistance administers these assessments.
When interviewing adoptive parents for “Post-Adoption Blues,” the parents reported feelings in six of the seven areas identified by the PPDS scale. As a rough personal assessment, if you are experiencing five or more of these issues five out of seven days of the week for two or more weeks, you may suffer from PADs:
- Sleeping or eating disturbances
- Anxiety or insecurity
- Emotional changes or mood swings
- Guilt or shame
- Mental confusion
- Suicidal thoughts
- Loss of self
PADS does not come in a “one size fits all” model. As in all of life, we have unique experiences, stresses, requirements and needs. We may change job situations, struggle with health issues, grieve lost loved ones, juggle older children’s schedules and needs — today almost all of us live lives that are too busy and stressed. While the name post-adoption depression indicates that we suffer perhaps only because of an adoption, this is not necessarily true. My second daughter did not cause my struggles, instead I had my own Molotov cocktail of a high-stress job, the regressive and jealous behavior of my first daughter, the absence of daytime help for most of the first three months and my own dreams about how well I would juggle all this — be super mom, wife and business professional all in one. Ironically, following the attachment advice of providing all care for my daughters exacerbated my circumstances as I desperately tried to deal with the emotional struggles of my first daughter during the adjustment of having a sibling while furtively providing care to my second daughter in a way that would not escalate the situation.