Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Learning how to love and be loved after foster care

It's 5 something in the morning and I'm still awake; thinking.  It's just one of those nights that I can't turn my brain off.  I'm feeling pretty self reflective at the moment.  I'm not sobbing as I write this blog post like I usually do with my more melodramatic posts; I'm just thinking.  As someone said in an earlier post the common denominator in all my failed relationships is me.  I've actually said this over and over again in my life and therapy sessions.  Usually those I talk about it with try to reassure me that there is nothing wrong with me.  It's them, not me.  The foster parents just weren't right.  My therapist says that it's not my limitations that my foster parents' didn't keep me, but their limitations.  This is what I should want to hear, right?  The problem is I just don't believe it.  I'm glad someone else pointed out that it cannot possibly be their limitations and it has to be mine.  It's not mathematically possible.  I mean there were dozens of them and only one of me, so clearly the problem lies in me.  My Lifebook tells me that there was a total of 42 foster placements in my life.  It's hard to keep track of how many were shelters, hospitals, group homes, etc... I'm sure I've gotten the number wrong a few times which ends up making people doubt my story, but honestly everything kind of blends together now.  I'm not always sure what happened where or when. Anyway, the point is, a fair amount of those homes were foster homes with the potential for a forever family, but I never got one.  I entered foster care as an infant and bounced between my mom and foster care for years.  I wonder if I would still be as bad at relationships if I had been adopted as an infant or never entered the system.  How much of my problems are purely me, my chemistry, my brain, my genes, and how much of it is foster care?

When I became adoptable I was 8 years old.  I was in special education until about fourth grade, but I was still a smart kid.  I was a funny kid.  I was white, blue eyes, female, musical.  I looked great on paper and there were a few families that wanted to adopt me, or at least said they wanted to adopt me.  So why didn't they keep me?  What made them change their minds?

I was going through some books of mine since my very cheap target bookcase collapsed.  In the pile of books I found my copy of The Horse Whisperer.  On the front page of the book my former foster mom wrote: "My dearest XXXX, I could not love you anymore if you were my own flesh and blood.  XOXO CC."  I met her when I was 12 years old and mute, but she didn't become my foster parent until I was 15.  Did she write that because it was true or for some other reason?  Was it my my inability to feel love, my excessive need to feel love, or her inability to keep loving me that ended her desire to be my family?  I truly don't know.

I wonder if maybe the amount of things I had that were "good" about me actually hindered me.  Maybe people expected me to be a better person that I was capable of being because of the good things I had going for me.  Maybe I just wasn't able to live up to the expectations?  I was good at a lot of things as a child except for the one thing I needed and wanted the most--Family.  I've just never been able to do it right, even today despite my long relationship with my girlfriend whom I love, but sometimes I feel a bit like a project to her, like she's with me because she wants to save me.  Maybe that's what happens too.  Maybe people start out wanting to save me and then give up once they realize I can't be saved.

Now I just expect people to leave, to reject me once they know me.  Sometimes I feel this complete lack of desire to connect with another person especially if I like them--I don't even want to try to get to know them.  Other times I have this overwhelming need for someone to like me, love me, want me--even if I don't really like them that much.  It's natural to want others to like you, want you and love you, but I don't seem to be able to really find a balance with that need.  With me every emotion is pretty intense.  I don't just feel things a little bit.  If I have a feelings it's a big one or none at all.  I am either flooded with intense feelings or they are extremely muted or even lacking.  The same is true with relationships.

Sometimes my desire for someone to like me and want me is a bit extreme.  It doesn't happen often but when it does the other person ends up running away and never looks back.  And even then, I can't let it go without an explanation.  I want them to tell me why they don't want me.  I do this both online and in real life.  I've done this recently with someone I met through blogging.  I just felt so much empathy and then that intense desire to connect with them that I scared them away and ruined any chance of any kind of relationship.  I desperately want to know why my relationship with K is the way it's is now because I honestly have no idea what I did.  I have my theories but I want a concrete answer; Something I can fix.  Maybe part of the problem is I don't even really know who I am or who I want to be.  If I have no idea who I am or who I want to be, how do I find the people that want me?

There are a million "what ifs" and "whys" about my time in foster care that I'll never get an answer to, but the desire for those answers remains strong and constant in my life.  Why didn't anyone keep me?  Why wasn't I ever good enough?  Why didn't anyone ever love me enough?  Why do people still leave me?  What did I do wrong with all those relationships?  I obsess over these questions a lot.  It's probably not healthy, but I think about it every single day.  What is wrong with me?  Maybe I think an answer to that question will give me this magical cure to all my problems.  I know that's not true, but how do I find a way to accept that I never got a family and that I probably never will?  How do I find a way to live with that loss when the desire for a family is still so overwhelming?

I have always had this deep need to really connect with other people but it's always been the hardest thing for me.  I just don't understand people.  People terrify me and fascinate me.  I feel like some kind of martian on a foreign planet with foreign beings trying to learn the ways of the land but failing miserably.  I feel different, alone, defective and I don't know how to fix that.  Can therapy change that for me?  Drugs?  Time?  Was I just born this way?  Is it just who I am?  Did foster care make me this way?  How do I live without these answers?  How do I find a way to live without that family I so desperately need?  How do I learn to love and be loved after foster care?