In my 38th year, I found myself in my gynecologist office pleading for an anti-depressant.
I was living in São Paulo, Brazil.
And she was a Brazilian physician of German heritage. She served upper class Brazilians and expats. She was a brief, smart, firm, lacking bedside manner doctor. She was not the warm fuzzy type, but she was a woman and she spoke English.
I dreaded uttering a word about my stress. I preferred to slip in and out of my yearly check ups barely noticed. I would never need her intimate attention in a birthing room so up to this visit I had kept it simple.
But this visit was different.
I had to push through the discomfort and confess my state of unhappiness.
We were nearly a year into our adoption of two Brazilian children ages 4 and 6 at this time.
Only one year earlier I had felt invincible.
Early in our marriage we were inspired to adopt. We had given up on the desire after having three biological daughters. The desire was reawakened after living in São Paulo. In 2003 we took the plunge and after a short time into the transition I felt like I was drowning.
It was a bold family move, ladened with risk.
From the outside, our adoption process looked like a seamless transition. But inside the walls of our home, it looked very different. I was smoothing the surface and quietly dealing with the symptoms of their Early Childhood Trauma
I was a licensed and degreed Social Worker in the state of Minnesota. I felt equipped for the task. I had this. But the barefaced truth is that nothing can prepare you for the adoption of two children who have experienced Early Childhood Trauma.
I would be on my knees begging for mercy.
I would cry buckets of tears on said knees.
I would not know how to connect with my adopted daughter for years.
I would want to run away.
I would want my old life back.
I would almost give up on my marriage.
I would feel angst over cheating my older daughters out of who I thought was the original me.
From my point of suffering I felt sharply ill-equipped.
Thus I found myself flat on my back, loosely covered in my medical dressing robe, legs spread eagle style, private parts exposed and me desperately asking this doctor for relief in the form of a pill.
Her response became one of the reasons I adore Brazil!
A wise woman, she looked into my eyes and bluntly said, “Go on vacation. You need a time out. Be mindful and take care of yourself, eat healthy, exercise and enjoy your sex life.”
That was it?
I walked out of that office slumped over, tearful and feeling further defeated.
I was living in Brazil with no prescription in hand and only her advise as a possible solution.
So I decided to give it a try.
In taking her advice, I grew to understand that this doctor had given me one of the greatest blessings of my adult life. She had profoundly impacted me by planting the seed that would save and transform my life as a mother, a wife and as a woman, from the inside out.
In response to the “prognosis”…
I corralled friends and parceled out our five children and first went away with my husband. Brazilians know partner “time outs” are essential. My Brazilian friends call them “fucking weekends.”
By the way, you know who you are if you stepped in and cared for our children and I will forever hold you in my heart and affections.
Feeling success after only a short get a way with my husband, I started my practice called ‘24s’.
I would check me, myself and I into a nearby hotel or head to the beach and take a 24 hour time out from mothering responsibilities.
It was miraculous!
Talk about a return on investment.
Time out saved my life.
They provided the distance and space between myself and my situation, which has allowed me to:
Reconnect with myself
My perspective opened and expanded having the time to put my daily stressors on hold and process from the inside out if only for brief periods of time.
To this day, I continually call upon the advice of this Brazilian doctor and take advantage of my “24s”. I come back a calmer, happier and more focused version of myself every single time.
“Time Out” is not just for children, and it’s certainly not just for me. Adults especially need time out. For those who feel strung out, rung out, locked down and out, time out is your antidote.
P.S. Contrary to the predominant medical model in the United States, there are effective solutions beyond pharmacology. One of the gifts of our adoption was the discovery of my personal power over my physical, mental and emotional health. It’s one of the reasons I’m a believer in holistic medicine and coaching because I have experienced their profound benefits. I encourage you to become a student of yourself. Be curious about physical symptoms and your emotions as both provide a compass pointing toward a healthy you.