Slamming her head into the floor over and over with hysterical crying, the helper in the toddler room frantically looked for me to come get her. It was only minutes beforehand that I had dropped her off to the class before entering the sanctuary for church.
I had not thought of what repercussions there would be just by dropping my daughter off to her Sunday school classroom at church. When I saw her banging her head as I entered the room, it dawned on me that she thought I had abandoned her into another orphanage and would never come back. She didn’t know how to articulate how she was feeling and hitting her head consistently on the hard floor was the only way she could say that she was upset.
At 27 months old, she had not yet learned a language and was walking for the first time. Being in an orphanage for all your life with the only interaction you have is once a day for diaper changing, her attachment disorder had already begun. I really didn’t know how much it would be a part of her, even up to her teen years.
During the developing stages of infancy, having little touch, no socialization and deplorable conditions can leave a lifetime of damage.
As my daughter grew and learned, one thing remained constant. Fear. Fear of me not coming home. Fear of me dying. Fear of me not loving her anymore. If I didn’t come home at a certain time, she would be in tears saying that she thought I was in an accident. Every day her question would be, “Are you going to die?” This built up anxiety only added depression right along with it.
No matter how much I affirmed to her that I would never leave and that I loved her immensely and would never abandon her, it didn’t sink in. Time would have to show her along with different coping skills assignments that I would give her. Integrating her into new areas or new things would be taken slowly and meticulously to allow her to build up self-esteem and courage. Meeting new people would often be difficult for her because she was fearful of being kidnapped and taken away from our family. I would often inform people ahead of time that she would be shy and not responsive when spoken to. Today I can say she has improved immensely and socially as a teen and works well with other people.
Years ago, friends use to comment that it wasn’t healthy for her to be with me constantly. They thought I was doing her a disservice. The problem was, they didn’t understand the psychological trauma that was brought on by being in an orphanage. Not every child has this happen to them, but a majority do suffer this type of behavior of pain and hurt.
Pre-teens at that time would make fun of her. They would ask her why she would even think about hanging out with her mom. Of course she would give a lot of excuses saying I was fun to hang out with, but internally she desired, as well as myself, to learn how to move on into independence. However, she didn’t even know how to do that. And so the cycle continued which brought on more fear of not having a normal life like others.
Sleepovers were difficult to do along with camp trips that some of her friends were excited about. Now that she is older, she is learning more to be self-reliant. Along with that independence are feelings that most teens feel, like getting a first time job – anxiety.
Attachment disorder, fear, abandonment and rejection are issues that many adoptees from orphanages and foster children go through. However, our constant and unconditional love along with counseling can help heal that deep anguish that they carry and show them that they are more powerful than they believe.
Today, my daughter is stretching her wings and becoming more vocal like asking for and paying for something at the counter or retrieving a store worker for help. She has even ventured in staying home for an hour or two while we are out.
These may be simple things to us, but for her, these are milestones. Any teen who has fear can rise above it, but it can only happen with the help of the Lord, support from family and a willingness to take a step of faith in overcoming that fear.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)