Thursday, September 8, 2011

Taken Away

During the past year, I've heard many versions of "well all people go through things" and "all children have special circumstances."
Yes. People do.


But, just imagine.

Imagine not having a primary language*.
Imagine not being able to express your thoughts into words- even to yourself.

Imagine if all the food you really like was taken away. Even familiar foods are different. Not in great ways.
I often imagine it to be similar to the time a restaurant in Barcelona put honey in my burrito. Inedible. To me.

Imagine if people laughed and you didn't know why. You bellowed out a good one to join in and people looked at you strange.

People walked at an impossibly fast pace. Spoke at an impossibly fast rate. Ate at an impossibly fast pace. Hurried you along constantly.

Imagine if you were scared. More scared than you've ever been. People wanted from you. Hugs, smiles, laughs. Usually you were unsure of what or how.

All games were different. You got yelled at for things like simply getting in line.

Imagine if this came after you were hurt. A few times. Abandoned. Left. Given away. Stressed.
Imagine if this affected you, your brain**, so severely that intense emotions were triggered quickly.
Sometimes the emotions were so intense they shut you down. Completely.

Imagine if you didn't know where you were going next or when. To the store, to a new school, to a new mom, to a new home or to a new country.

Maybe it would be easier, if you weren't trapped in your brain without words. In any language. Because the language of the family, friends and strangers around you kept changing as the family, friends and strangers kept changing. As soon as you've started to get a loose grasp of one language, the people and the language change. So do the rules. Maybe it would be easier if you had the same mommy to hold and cuddle you during it. Maybe it would be easier if you could just eat your favorite food, prepared the way you like it. Maybe it would be easier if...everything and everyone you ever knew wasn't taken away from you including many of your thoughts. Maybe it would be easier if you weren't so scared. So emotional. So lost.


All people go through things. All children have different challenges.

*Older adopted children spoke more English than L1 within 6 months of adoption (Masters, 2000). Expressive L1 is mostly gone after 3-6 months, comprehension by 1 year (Gindis, 1999), yet after only 3-6 months a new language is very basic. Aster is a genius and is quite creative in expressing herself in English- but, her thoughts are WAY more sophisticated than her words are in any language. She is very frustrated that she can't translate because she can't "hear" her old languages. She also dreams in English, a language she's been exposed to for only 4 months.
**Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) Stress Axis, abnormal HPA regulation = poor cognitive abilities, emotional functioning, memory (specifically targeting hippocampus- short to long term storage), growth stunting (Mason & Narad, 2005). A difficult time regulating hyper responsive stress hormone system is similar to post traumatic stress (Glennen, 2009). Length of time spent in orphanages correlated with abnormal HPA response 6 years after adoption (Gunnar, et al 2001).


Cindy said...

Thank you for this post. (((hugs))) to your sweet daughter.

jana Kunz said...

Your daughter is so lucky she has someone as smart and understanding as you. ((( HUGS )))

Sharon said...

Breaks my heart over and over for not just my daughter, but all of the children who are working through this.

Thanks for posting this.

Katie said...

Great post!

Aimee said...

My daughter came to the USA at 8ish with no primary language. Her original Sidama was lost as she tried to learn Amharic. She didn't have enough even to be conversational when she came to the USA and had to learn English. Very hard. Very. She learned quickly if I could associate an action with a word. Deeper words with more ocnnotiation and emotion took awhile. But with came stories and perspectives and wisdom that I, at many years her senior, cannot fathom. Also with them came great relief for her as she was finally able to truly share.

Selam to your family as you take this journey.