Adoption and attachment issues often go hand in hand. Some adoptees may have little to no problem bonding with their new families, while others may struggle to form secure relationships throughout their lives. I fall into the latter and was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, at a young age.
RAD can form when children are not able to attach to their caregivers during their first few years of life, usually a result of neglect or trauma. In response, people with RAD often display signs of isolation and withdrawal, are resistant to comfort, and can be emotionally distant.
As I have talked about in upside down pacifiers and moms, dads and ducks, I lacked the stability that was needed to form secure attachments when I was young. Because of this void, I struggled to initially connect with my adoptive family.
I didn’t know how to show any form of emotion that required vulnerability; I had learned how to keep those far beneath the surface. I longed for hugs, but I rarely accepted them. My reply to I love you’s were met with sarcastic comments, a form of pushing away the affirmation I so desperately needed.
I couldn’t really trust my parents. I could only trust myself, everyone else had let me down.
My mom and dad tried their best to bond with me. The would tickle or wrestle with me, trying to establish that touch was okay. I hated it. I knew they were trying to lay a foundation of trust, but it left me with the sense of feeling completely out of control. I had to practice hugging appropriately since I would often hug aggressively, my way of hiding the acknowledgment of actually needing affection. It was a long process requiring patience, repetition and encouragement.
Throughout the years, I have been able to attach more to friends and family, but RAD has never completely gone away. Relationships take a lot of work for me. I struggle to not push away and to let people in. The ones I do attach to, I hold onto tightly, and if they end up leaving, I am left feeling devastated.
Thankfully, I have gained a set of tools along the way that have helped me cope with my diagnosis. I have learned to let my guard down, let people in and let people go. I have learned to connect and form deep and meaningful relationships. I have learned to not let my past dictate my future.
Each of us have our struggles, but we can learn to succumb to them or learn how to cope with them and still be able to live full and healthy lives. Sometimes it’s easy. Other times it’s hard. But, perseverance and patience is key. One day that mountain will become a molehill and you’ll realize you are, and always have been, brave.