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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Adoptees & The Shame of the Past

Troubled-Teen2Sashenka will be turning 15 later this week. Fifteen going on three. She seems arrested, retarded in her emotional development, constantly depressed.

Is it a type of survivor’s guilt, that she now has a great life, while orphanage playmates were left behind? Or, could it be angst over her birth-day itself, that she was born rather than aborted in Mother Russia? After all, no one there seemed very happy about taking care of her nor providing for her. She was neglected and traumatized and was now coming to terms with it.

Or not coming to terms with it. She withdrew more and more. Every day was a TroubledTeenseemingly bad day, either with aches and pains, not sleeping well, mysterious stomach aches, you name it. She could be very cheerful, just not around the family.

I decide to chat with her. I observe her all morning, lips turning down, sour look on her face. If anyone ever made a lighthearted joke, she sits there, stone cold. She speaks in a monotone, never an emotion, never a feeling for others. I pull her aside and we sit on nearby couches.

th“Okay, Sashenka,” I start. “We love you and are here for you. What’s the deal?”

“What?” she wonders as though nothing in the world were wrong.

“Why are you always so sour? So depressed? Never an emotion. Never a feeling of joy? Do you really hate it here?” I ask gently.

She pauses before answering through semi-sealed lips, “No,” comes the monotone as she stares in the opposite direction.

“Hey, I’m over here,” I remind her. “For you to be looking away, snarling an answer— that’s not necessary. I’m here to help. What’s up?”

“Don’t know.”

“I can imagine you don’t. That’s why we’re here to talk. Are you on drugs?”Teen

The sheer ridiculousness of this question might get her to think. She has no contact with anyone but babushkas or squeaky-clean kids in religious settings, but I’ve heard it all.


“Okay, well, we solved that. So why would you want to act like you’re drugged out of it? You understand that your birthmother had a lot of problems, that she drank non-stop—.”

teen3“I hate her. I wish she’s dead!” she spit out, still without much emotion, almost like a robot.

This was a first.

“What has she done to you? I could probably tell you more about her than you know. She’s a troubled soul, okay? It has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with her,” I encourage. “So why would you want to behave like her— depressed, out-of-control of your own emotions, unable to move forward?”

That shocked her.

“Remember when God led Israel out of Egypt? They kept looking back to the good foodtroubled-teen4 there. I mean, it was better than the desert. But they were slaves-! And still they wanted to go back sometimes…. Do you ever want to go back to Russia?” I wonder.

“I hate Russia!”

“Alright, you’re entitled to your opinion. No problem, but the whole country is not horrible. My family is from Russia and they didn’t all have good memories, either. It’s natural to hate those who have harmed you, yet it doesn’t bother them in the least and actually only holds you back.

troubled_teen_5“It’s kind of like my friend who was just fired from her job, after not doing anything wrong. How could this happen? It stings. It means she’s not being valued all of a sudden. Eventually, she’ll get over it and find another job, she won’t stay stuck in this moment. So why are you allowing someone else to keep you stuck?” I probe.

She stares ahead. Our chat is more like a monologue, me raising issues that she’d rather not discuss. So I don’t force her, I just open the can of worms.

And little by little she opens up and spills a few worms of her own. She tells me of

Three Points Center - Adopted teen girl with behavioral health issues

horrible thoughts she has. Violent, raging thoughts. She imagines cars crashing and birds dying bloody, horrible deaths.

I speak soothingly, telling her that there’s nothing she could ever tell us that would shock either us or God. (Lord, forgive me if that’s borderline lying.) We talk about refusing to dwell on bad thoughts and instead, reprogramming and renewing the mind with good thoughts.

“I can’t think of one good thing,” she admits.

profileWhile not entirely true, I understand the feeling. She’s been in a negative spiral for a long time and feels that it’s easier to not even try to be pleasant. So I try to show her how hard she’s trying, over and over, to reject others before they can reject her, to squash her feelings and pretend to be an automaton because her feelings must not matter. I tell her that she’s a strong young lady, however she’s simply believing a lie that she’s weak, so weak that she must put on the tough-guy exterior and meditate on horrific images to reinforce the sense of evil all around her.

It’s sad. I suggest a gratitude diary, maybe just three things each day that meant something positive to her: a favorite food, the feel of sunshine, the nuzzle of a dog.

We’ve talked for almost an hour and I wonder how much headway we’ve made. For

Trinity Teen Solutions - Christian Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens

now, I have to run to another appointment, so I let her know that we can continue this any time. Meanwhile, she’s got God on her side, her family on her side, and girl power on her side. She can do this.

I go and sit on her couch, we pray together with my arm around her. Afterwards, she goes to wash her face as a few tears have started the cleansing process. For the rest of the day, she looks at me when I speak to her, and she seems engaged with others. It’s a start.

She’s banishing the shame of the past. It’s a very good start.


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