15th to 21st May is Mental Health Awareness Week 2023. This year the theme is Anxiety.
- Fight or Flight – feelings of anxiety are our body’s innate response to stress or perceived danger. Anxiety can feel like unease, worry, or apprehension. This ‘fight or flight’ mechanism helps us react quickly to potential threats.
- Physically, anxiety can show up in our bodies as a faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat, feeling lightheaded and dizzy, sweating, breathlessness, headaches, chest pains and loss of appetite.
- Psychologically, anxiety can manifest as feeling tense or nervous, being unable to relax, fear, worrying, sleep problems, feeling tearful, concentration, obsessive thoughts or intrusive traumatic memories.
- Anxiety can cover a wide spectrum – we can all feel a little anxious sometimes, for many reasons, but anxiety can become problematic if it persists for long periods of time, is overwhelming, or stops us from functioning in our daily lives.
And for us adoptees? Are we more prone to anxiety? I would say possibly, yes. We confront issues that the general population do not – we are faced with issues of identity, loss of genetic mirroring, our ancestry, our heritage. Some of us are displaced and removed from our culture, our country of origin, some of us discover late that we are adopted. Some of us are in harmful situations prior to adoption. Some of us face additional adversity in our adoptive families. We struggle to gain access to our birth and medical records/history, search and reunion is often problematic and fraught with complex emotions, and we can also be dealing with feelings of loss, grief, hopelessness, rejection to name but a few – and many of these issues and feelings can lead us to feel misunderstood, anxious, depressed and helpless.
There should be absolutely no shame in feeling any of the above. We are adoptees. We are SURVIVORS, and to claim and own any – even just one – of these issues and feelings is brave and courageous.
Help and support
If you have or are feeling any of the above issues and either you want to know more about anxiety, here is a link to the Mental Health Awareness Week website where you can find further information.
If you feel like you need further support, you can contact the Samaritans or seek out other specialist mental health bodies or charities. Your GP can also help you. (It is good to know that anxiety can sometimes be a catch-all diagnosis for other underlying issues that many adoptees can suffer from – symptoms can present in a similar fashion.)
What about us?
This brings me to share with you that here at AAM, we are trying to be more aware of our own mental health. As a group of 7, we have been working very closely and intensely for a solid year now, spending a great deal of time, effort and emotional energy in brainstorming, campaigning, educating and advocating. We hit the ground running last May with our hefty response document to the JCHR Forced Adoption inquiry and we literally have not stopped. I mean, not for a day.
And none of us noticed. We showed up every day, and frequently every night. Adrenaline and excitement for our cause fuelled us. Things have been going great. We have had lots of media interest, we have been making great connections, meeting adoptees like yourselves and all has been good. Extremely busy and intense, but good!
But only this past week, we took a pause for breath. And we realised that we are all exhausted – every one of us. Emotionally, physically, mentally. So we are taking a well earned break. We are putting our own mental health first. We will be spending come much needed time with our families – whatever that means for us. We are going to try to indulge in some self care, simple pleasures, walks in nature, sitting quietly in the garden with a cup of tea. And we encourage you all to do the same.
We will be back, we promise you that! But we need this break.
In the meantime, take good care of yourselves, rest well, recharge and reinvigorate and we will see you soon.
All the best
PS Existing events will go ahead, see some of you there!