I think God knew what he was doing when he called us to foster and adopt our two youngest kids. I fell in love with them before I knew all the little letters that would be strung after their name... Letters like MR, FAS, PTSD, RAD, ADHD...
I thought I was prepared for the RAD. Our foster care classes taught us about it, but we needed to learn more once our children came to our home and we were living with the reality of kids that were not attached. Within a month of placement our social worker referred us to an awesome therapist who helped us with attachment issues. And that's when I really started becoming a student of psychology. Of course, it wasn't in the formal sense. I'll probably never get a degree. But I found that the more I learned, the better I was able to raise my children. I learned to ask for help from our social worker and therapist, which is a big thing with my Midwestern, I can do it myself attitude. I learned more about fetal alcohol than most doctors by reading and studying. While learning about attachment, I learned about different personality disorders, and how that affected some of my interactions with people. In helping my son overcome his PTSD using techniques I learned in therapy and in reading, I learned to overcome my own fear of tornadoes. Because my daughter's academic ability was affected by fetal alcohol, I am learning new ways to teach her. I learned about autism spectrum after first spotting a book on our therapist's shelf, and then doing further research and reading. I learned how that was affecting our family, and my friends' families, and have become rather good at spotting it in others. I don't diagnose anyone, but I have suggested friends get their children tested to see if the problems were because of autism. It's pretty common here in Silicon Valley.
Through all of this, I have learned some pretty important things:
- I can't do it alone. Psychologists and therapists are there to help us and there is no shame in going to someone for help.
- There really are good therapists around who have a world view that is similar to mine.
- Learn all I can about how the mind works and what will help my children, family, and friends.
- There is no way I can keep avoiding people with mental illness or other psychological issues.
- God knew what he was doing when he gave us our children. They are a gift. All people are a gift.
So even though I am a reluctant student of psychology, I am learning more than I had ever thought possible. And in the learning, and the doing, I am becoming better at helping not only my own children, but those around me. I am not as overwhelmed when encountering others who have psychological troubles. And best of all, I have a greater compassion and patience for others who are struggling.