How can you still love me?
Seth didn’t get a lot of unconditional love as a child. He spent many difficult years in the foster care system before he was finally adopted by his moms Jeannie and Denise. Now, he sits down with Jeannie to ask: How can you still love me after all the hard times we’ve gone through?
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Dr. Monica Band is the host of this show and consultant with the Jed Foundation. Chrystal Genesis is our supervising producer. Giulia Hjort is our producer and Rachel Lightner is our producer and audio engineer. Tess Novotny is our associate producer. Mixing and original music by Bobby Woody. Additional music by Andi Kristinsdottir. Additional mixing by Ivan Kuraev. Special thanks to Kelsey Henderson. Jackie Danziger is our VP of Narrative Content. Executive producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs.
This series was created with The Jed Foundation, a non-profit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults. Find ways to manage your emotional health, cope with challenges, and support the people in your life at jedfoundation.org.
This series is presented by Hopelab, a social innovation lab and impact investor supporting the mental health of adolescents, ages 10-25, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. Learn more at hopelab.org.
This series is also presented by the Stupski Foundation, returning resources to the communities it calls home in Hawaiʻi and the San Francisco Bay Area by 2029 to support just and resilient food, health, and higher education systems for all. Learn more at stupski.org.
This series is also presented by the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Learn more at luminafoundation.org.
This episode was made possible by support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to building brighter futures for all children, youth and young adults, and ensuring they have the family, community and opportunity they need to thrive. Learn more at aecf.org. Views expressed in this episode are solely those of the participants.
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Seth, Denise, Dr. Monica Band, Jeannie
Dr. Monica Band 00:01
This episode includes conversations about childhood trauma and violence. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself. And if you need to take a moment to pause while listening. We’ll be here when you’re ready.
I would describe my mom Jeannie as pure love.
I’m a mom, homeschool teacher, a, if it’s broke, I’ll fix it kinda gal. And we’re just all about family.
She does everything she can to make my life better. And to help me become a responsible adult.
We try and show him the light side the love side. Because Seth trying to separate himself from his past is a daily struggle.
With my biological family. I feel like most of it was just hail. I always felt like I was kind of independent from the get go.
When you’re in a situation where you’re constantly worried about your safety latke was until the time we got him at 11 years old. You don’t have time to worry about who loves you.
Fear of not being loved. Because I’ve experienced it so much that it’s like now that have is like I don’t know what to do with it. It’s kind of like waking up and our very realistic dream and trying to pinch yourself just figure out if it’s true or not.
Dr. Monica Band 02:28
How do we know when love is real? No, I’m not talking about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet’s tragic love or ISA Lawrence’s roller coaster relationship on insecure. Think more along the lines of that tattered blanket your grandmother knitted for you, or that late night pep talk with your sibling when you needed it the most. Growing up with that kind of familial love is how we begin to form secure attachments. Our little kid brains actually crave that feeling of security, consistency and support from the people around us. So what happens when that basic childhood need for love is not met? And how does it impact our ability to accept love later in life? Today we’re speaking with 17 year old Seth about just that, after being in and out of foster care placements throughout his childhood set finally experience consistent reliable love at the age of 11 when he was adopted by his mom’s Jeanne and Denise but it’s been really tough for Seth to fully receive and accept that love. It’s hard to adapt to change even when that change is incredibly positive. Over the years together, Seth has gotten support. He goes to therapy regularly and he was diagnosed with autism, which provided a deeper understanding of how he interacts with the world. But after everything, it’s still hard for Seth to believe the love he experiences today is real. So he’s sitting down with his mom Jeannie to ask.
I want you to know how you can love me after all I’ve been through.
Dr. Monica Band 04:00
This is I need to ask you something, a show where young people find answers and take the first step to strengthen the most important relationships in their lives. Together will bridge the gap between the things we’re afraid to say and the words we need to hear. I’m your host, Dr. Monica band. Before we get started, it’s important to mention that some conversations and emotions need time to breathe, which is why this episode was recorded over two sessions. So with that, let’s get started.
I feel like I’m more connected to nature than people honestly. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing but I have this biological and psychological connection with the country and I it’s the best place I can thrive in.
Dr. Monica Band 04:47
Seth’s mom’s Jeannie and Denise recently made a big move. They packed up their home from a large southern city and relocated to the family farm where Jeanne grew up in Mississippi.
Just so nice to be back where everything is quiet and calm. There’s no pizza delivery. But that’s okay.
And the sunsets are priceless. I mean, they’re so beautiful.
I’m with Seth, we’re sunset people. And we look out our front window across the cow pasture, as the sun is setting over the trees, and you can really see God’s creation and beauty every single day.
Dr. Monica Band 05:36
Would you share a little bit Jeannie for us? What was your deciding factor in moving back home?
My eldest brother suddenly died of a heart attack. And we just had this really strong urge. I need to be back with family. And Denise and I decided that things were getting pretty rough where we lived, we didn’t feel safe or sad, riding his bike around in the neighborhood, which I mean, you know, that’s, that’s not great here. You know, being being queer in the country is not great. But okay, let’s face it, we’re in South Mississippi, the heart of the Bible Belt. And, you know, all of the anti gay bills and stuff has just started really bad. But we are surrounded by friends and family. And so we kind of have our own little village that we feel extra safe here.
Dr. Monica Band 06:51
Finding your own little oasis of safety can be a struggle for many, especially for queer folks, and especially in the south, south felt that struggle, even from a young age.
I try my best to hide it because it would have been unacceptable. I didn’t not even be alive today, if I had came out that early in the foster system, that was in hyper religious homes a lot a lot. I mean, hyper religious, like very strict, very Christian. And I know, I know, deep down that being gay would be unacceptable. But after a while, I was like, I’m sick of this, I’m not gonna let that control me anymore. I’m going to be who I want to be. So I can’t came out to everybody in a speech and I told everybody, I’m gay. And I said it would pride in it. I never went back to how I did it again. And if everybody anybody asked me out, if I was gay, I was like, yeah, what’s it take?
Dr. Monica Band 07:45
How was it then, to finally move in, be a family with your moms, and have the ability to express yourself?
So had that fear inside me that what if I move into this home forever, and they don’t like the fact that I’m gay? I mean, what am I gonna do then? But after a while, I was like, It’s okay, so I don’t have to be scared anymore. So I was like a turtle coming out of its shell.
Dr. Monica Band 08:09
What was that like to witness? Mom?
It was really amazing to witness we do know, from, say, Seth’s background, that he was bullied a lot. Of course, we can’t be 100% Sure, but we do believe that he was probably kicked out of a couple of homes for being perceived as gay. The only thing that Denise and I wanted for Seth was to be able to be who he is to be sad. You know, we told him, baby, if you want to be a rodeo clown, be a rodeo clown. If you want to be a drag queen, be a drag queen. You know, we just want Seth to be comfortable in his own skin, no matter what skin that is. Because, I mean, we didn’t go out looking for a gay kid. But we prayed, Lord, you know if there’s a kid out there that we can help and show them a good model example of what a same sex couples relationship should be a healthy example. Then. Give us that child.
Dr. Monica Band 09:37
I want us to hold on to this image of Seth living his most authentic life, watching the sunset with his moms who love him unconditionally. Because to understand Seth story and the question he has for his mom, we need to talk about his past. Both of sets biological parents struggled with substance use disorder, and as a result, he often found himself in scary situations.
I was never really able to say my mom in like a regular way that kids usually can, because she was always dropping me off with strangers and stuff and going partying in or all kinds of things. And the towns I did get to say, or either like the cops were coming in, or my dad was abusing her. And it was just like, it was just bad either way.
Dr. Monica Band 10:25
Seth was five years old when he was removed from his home by the Office of Child Protective Services, and then placed in the foster care system.
I can’t really leave my mom out of the equation of why I got tooken away completely. But honestly, most of it was my father. And I felt like because of that he was kind of the one that kind of screwed up my life.
Dr. Monica Band 10:46
Okay, yeah, I’m hearing set, you share that you were trying to make sense, perhaps of a lot of things that really didn’t and don’t make sense as a kid to experience and there wasn’t anyone to really give you an explanation for what was going on or the consistency that you needed. And I’m going to shift a little bit here. When you entered the foster care system, can you give us an idea of what that was like for you?
It really didn’t feel much different know what I was already going through. My biological mom said it was like more defined, like dropping me off would be people I don’t even know. They said, This time, they will just like take you there and drop you off with Jabez and the law and you never see that person again. And then you’d have to basically after that it was all up to you to how if you’re gonna live or not really, or how you’re going to make it through this.
Dr. Monica Band 11:45
I guess I’m curious to know, how did you find yourself surviving and coping during those times?
A lot of it really had to do with a lot of the other kids I was around because they, they were the only ones that knew exactly what I was really going through because it happened a deal. And I kind of had to win on them. And then after a while I figured out I can always lean on because I’d have to like constantly make new friends because one of them might be transported to another foster home the very next day. So eventually, after persistence with leaning on those kids, I kind of figured out how to lean on it with just mush your instincts, they were telling me every little thing I need to do, or what is the best thing to do right now to avoid this or avoid this. So it was really just like a jungle kind of being like a little bug or ant in the jungle just trying to survive on your instincts alone and just hoping nothing bad goes happens.
I just wanted to say that. Seth had 12 placements and his six years of foster care.
Dr. Monica Band 12:52
Oh my gosh. Okay, thank you.
And that’s including residential facilities. Okay.
Dr. Monica Band 12:59
And how are those different for you, Seth? Thank you, Jeannie.
Honestly, no residential facilities were in some ways better than the foster home and I felt kind of relieved in a way not just not to be in a foster home. But then it was like don’t dunk on them. And then I realized that this sucks, too. In some ways, it was more structured like they had like, literally had like police railing around the place. Like if a kid tried to escape there get barbed with barbed wires. It was kind of like a more a nicer version of a prison.
Dr. Monica Band 13:35
Okay. Is there an experience, moment or memory that stands out to you? That maybe signifies your time during those years?
I think I would have to say the one that stands out the most is, oh, it’s kind of weird, but it was always getting my blood drawn or getting vaccinations and stuff because that was the very first thing they would do the minute you get get into a facility. So it was like the starting point of that in.
Dr. Monica Band 14:08
The starting point of the Doom. Thinking back to the metaphor he used about feeling like an ant in the jungle, relying on instincts to survive. It’s almost impossible to imagine the confusion and fear Seth must have felt Seth had almost given up hope of ever being rescued from the system. So when staff at the behavioral facility told him that there was interest in adopting him, he almost didn’t believe it.
All we ever wanted either one of us was to be a mom. And no amount of people pushing back on us was gonna stop us. Just as soon as it became legal for same sex couples to foster and adopt. We filled out our application To all the children that that we were looking at, we just kept going back to say, Oh, wow, there was so some connection of our hearts of our spirits to this child.
Dr. Monica Band 15:21
Thank you for sharing that this actually is a wonderful segue into one of the grounding questions that we wanted to sort of put on the table and use it as a catalyst to have some vulnerable conversation. So Seth, there was a question that you wanted to put out there for us to talk through and to also hopefully, get some answers from your mom about and what is that question, Seth?
I wanted to know how you can love me after all I’ve been through.
Dr. Monica Band 15:54
So I’m gonna have Jeannie answer that in a moment, but in order to understand the question, before we answer it, it’s important to know why that question is important and where it comes from for you. So, you know, Seth, I hear you say, after all I’ve been through, I felt and deeply understood, you have gone through a lot. And only as much as you’re willing and open to share. I would love to hear what you mean by that. When you ask your mom that question.
Well, I had a spell, what really spell it was a long time, but I was having bad, like behavioral issues, probably because of trauma and stuff. And, um, I felt like when I first came to live with my mom, for the first time, I brought some of that with me, and I still went out of it completely. So I would act on them for like, no reasons, a lot of the times. And I feel like that’s what kind of led on to that question, because I feel like some of it was, I mean, I know I can’t blame myself too much. But I do feel really guilty because of it. I feel like I’m blaming the past for it sometimes, and I’m not owning up to it myself.
Dr. Monica Band 17:09
There’s a lot there to unpack. You know, I’m hearing you say there were a lot of behavioral issues. I recognize that and I appreciate your honesty and reflection. Again, this is like if you’re willing, I’m kind of wondering what what behavioral issues are we talking about that are causing so much reflection and guilt for you? Is there something specific that comes up to mind?
There were two times now that physically abused my mom.
Dr. Monica Band 17:39
Now what were you feeling at the time?
Really irritated you are mad and I in what really at her it was because of something I did, and I was taking it out on her and I lost my temper too much. And it really hurt. Because it makes me feel like I’m no better than my dad. My biological dad, and I feel like crap turned into him. When I think back on it, and just don’t feel like I was even me feel like I was just possessed by a demon or something. I mean, no, no, I wasn’t. But it’s just like, How can I be so cruel and I’m such a loving person.
Dr. Monica Band 18:17
Seth calling himself crawl really got to me. And it got me thinking about the names we call ourselves when we’re not able to see the bigger picture. As a trauma therapist, I wouldn’t categorize these incidents as physical abuse like Seth does. Abuse is when one person regularly misuses their power over another person to manipulate and control them. What Seth is describing is an impulsive response of lashing out when he didn’t learn any other coping skills to self regulate. I certainly don’t want to excuse any hurt he admits he’s caused Janie. But let’s not forget that trauma influences and complicates how we regulate our emotions. Still, so I feel so much guilt for his actions. After the break, we’ll hear genies response to this question and how he can tap into his past experiences to find strength.
When Denise and I, adopted you, Seth, we promised you one thing. And I hope you remember this. I told you that there was one thing you could always count on. And that is that there is nothing that you could ever do. Or say to make your mom and I not love you. And the 26th of this month we will celebrate our fifth adoption anniversary. And I just hope that so and you can look back and say you know what, Mama, you told me the truth. This has been a tough day. To take a child who has been so hurt is so neglected. And then teach them like you would teach your child from birth. I’m telling you adoption is not it’s not ever what you think it’s gonna be. It’s 10 times harder than you think it’s gonna be. But it’s 100 times more rewarding. I’m sorry, I apologize. I control my emotions.
Dr. Monica Band 24:29
There’s nothing you need to apologize for everything you’re feeling is valid and important. And I think even more important for Seth to experience how powerful those words are for you and how much you really mean them. Yeah, I see Seth nodding his head.
How could we love you? How can we not baby we fell in love with you from a video. We knew that you were the one, we do it.
Dr. Monica Band 25:02
Jeannie, I’m going to have us pause there for a moment that what you’ve shared breathe. Let that sink in for Seth, thank you for all that information and validation there, too. I saw Seth, I saw maybe, did you wipe your eyes a little bit there? What was going on for you when you did that?
Well, honestly, if I was mom, the first time I abused her, I would have thrown that child out completely. And basically not level me anymore. So it just surprised me that she can be stronger than me. And she can still love me after me doing something so bad like that.
Dr. Monica Band 25:44
When I hear you say that, it makes me feel that you’re very hard on yourself. As you said, if you were to put yourself in your mom’s shoes, you may have reacted in a different way. But you know, your mom’s a different person than you. And when we’re feeling like we can’t be as forgiving. We can rely on people for that kind of grace to so I’m going to pause there and maybe just focus internally on you in a moment because I think this is part of the question, in a way. Is it hard to forgive yourself, Seth, for some of the things that you have said or done?
It is, sometimes I think I’m never gonna be able to do it. She says I gotta forgive myself, but I just can’t do it for some reason. You can’t
Dr. Monica Band 26:29
forgive yourself for some reason. Can I ask you something? I’m curious to know whether it was at the residential place you were or with your biological family? Or in foster care? How did you previously experience and receive love?
That were my biological mom? It was a total opposite. It was like an archetype of what a mom shouldn’t be. I mean, I know she loved me in her own way. But it just wasn’t. She didn’t really give it to me completely like a mom she would she would just kind of spread it here and there. Just I guess because she feels guilty because she was she’s not with me half the time.
Dr. Monica Band 27:19
Do you ever remember your biological mom saying certain perhaps good intention comforting things to you as she was?
She would always shuttling you she’ll be back at like this certain calm, but she she always went over it past that time, sometimes days sometimes.
Dr. Monica Band 27:38
And what did that do for you?
It hurt me really, that it made me feel rejected and pissed off. And I used to just kind of had a realization, I used to, um, pull pull her hair on purpose, because I was mad at her every time she came back, and I’ll yank her hair aggressively trying to hurt her, trying to make her feel the pain that I was feeling.
Dr. Monica Band 28:03
I’m grateful that you voiced that I heard you just have that realization that in that frustration, and in that pain, I didn’t have any other way to express it other than to try to get that across in a physical way with my biological mom. So I’m going to take that moment as I just summarized it and relay it back to the question and some of the behaviors you regret having with Jeanne, right to say, Mom, I have been in these moments, where I’ve experienced a lot of big emotions. And while it’s not an excuse to call his pain or hurt, because that’s not how you’re certainly raising me, but I, I don’t know what to do with them sometimes. And I find myself getting physical. And I know you don’t want to do that to your mom. So this is a moment where I’m going to take a pause and breather. Thank you, Seth, you’re doing such a great job. And you know, there’s different types of love. There’s love you get from your family, there’s love that you may experience from your friends or community or were there other people in your life outside of your biological family that you felt loved or cared for? And of course, it’s okay, if the answer is no, I just want to make sure we’re seeing who your community was.
A lot of it was not my mom, but my biological family that was related to my mom, because I know my grandparents actually took me in for a while after my mom couldn’t lay actually right brace me for a little while.
Dr. Monica Band 29:35
How was that for you?
It was great. They really really loved me. I mean, I wish they were still with me but their dad now and still kind of mad because I didn’t get to say the proper goodbye to my grandpa because I was in a stupid facility. My aunt tells me he still he’s he loved me even up to that moment. But I mean, I mean, it’s still not gonna take away that guilt of not having the proper good […]
Dr. Monica Band 30:01
A lot of people have come in and out of your life, haven’t they?
I kind of feel like a vampire sort of like I’m immortal. And I just see everybody around me that and I’m still here.
Dr. Monica Band 30:14
What is it like to live that way?
it’s horrible. And sometimes I really think hard about it. And I’m kind of asked myself, What if I was the one that died? I mean, how would they feel? I mean, would it be better if I died? So I don’t have to go through the pain of seeing that.
Dr. Monica Band 30:33
It’s sometimes natural to think about life after death, especially when people around us have passed themselves. But to your point, I think maybe what I’m hearing is that you’re experiencing all this pain, sometimes your mind wanders to dark places about whether or not you’re cared for. And if your absence would matter, is that what you’re referring to?
You know, Seth has had a difficult time trying to learn emotions, that other people get mirrored, you know, he did not have all of the, the essential stuff with his bio mom. And he’s had a hard time understanding all of the different emotions, as I can fully see that any any child in his position would. And the only way that he has known before we adopted him to express any emotion was anger, and darkness. I can’t imagine that being me. He is an amazing kid, for just be unable to function in everyday life, with the things that he’s gone through. And he’s a very hard worker, when it comes to putting things from therapy into practice. And you know what, it’s a process. And there’s no time limit on that process. Because as long as Denise and I draw breath, we will be here to support him, and help him move forward into becoming a wonderful adult.
Dr. Monica Band 32:34
Jeanne, that is so powerful. I know you were sharing that as if you were talking to me. Could you say that to Seth, just for us? That reassurance?
Yes, baby, we are never leaving you. We are never going to let those dark feelings take you over. They ever. And we know about the guilt. And we understand about the darkness and the depression. And loss not always going to be easy. But that’s what families are far, you will never ever be alone in any fight.
Dr. Monica Band 33:17
I’m gonna interject here, because there’s something just so amazing about hearing you reassure Seth, about the perspective you have in modeling, modeling a balanced outlook on life. And, Seth, I’m sure it’s not the first or the last time, your mom’s will remind you how much they love you. And I want to acknowledge there’s a part of you that may have a hard time believing that, right? There’s just that part of you that says, Yeah, but I’ve experienced that loss. And I’ve experienced people leaving and I’ve experienced and seen and witnessed a lot of hurt and violence, and it’s hard to believe in those moments. And that’s where I think these things can be hard to shake. I think even your mom was saying I acknowledge the depression and guilt are there I see them. We’re just talking about making them whispers and really balancing the perspective but and that’s what I would love for you as well, Seth, but I guess I’m curious to know, with such great perspective there that your mom gave you. Why is that hard to believe sometimes for yourself?
I guess because I feel like sometimes I can’t love my mom’s a lot but sometimes a flower I can’t equal that love to how much they love me. I’m not saying that. I don’t love them as much as they love me, but I wish I could just be as persistent with it as they are. And sometimes I feel really guilty Because like just a few minutes ago, I felt kind of guilty. Because I mean, all because hey, was yak or all of that. But I mean, it’s just so powerful thing that here that it’s taken me a little bit to mostly process.
Dr. Monica Band 35:13
Of course, of course, maybe the guilt is saying you should respond a certain way, but I don’t I didn’t hear your mom pressure you into saying you have to match any sort of response or or that she expects you to love her in a specific way, did you?
I kind of thought it was kind of an unspoken thing that she kind of wanted me to do it without really saying it. And I also just feel like I should do it.
Dr. Monica Band 35:40
What do you say to that? Mom?
We never doubt your love, darling. That’s that’s what you need to know. We never doubt that you love us. When you have a hard time, and you’re not having the best behavior today, then we don’t think that says he’s acting out, Hey, don’t love us. We don’t think that darlin, we’re always assured of your love. So you don’t have to worry about that.
So I needed to hear that.
Dr. Monica Band 36:16
You know, I keep the question you asked Seth, which is, as I said, our kind of grounding point into opening up this conversation. You know, from my perspective, and I think we’ve established has a lot to do with how guilt gets in the way of really absorbing the love that is so, you know, apparent to me, certainly. And I think there’s a part of you that knows it’s very apparent to you. But the guilt says almost, you’re not worthy of that you could be doing more you could be doing this differently.
That’s exactly how I feel or what thoughts come in my head that describes it. Exactly.
Dr. Monica Band 36:59
And what is that like to hear that recite different one as someone else recites it back to you than it being in your head? How is that to hear?
It’s kind of like being out of my body and hearing my hair myself and seeing an outsider’s point of view on what I’m thinking and maybe how I’m acting and what I’m saying. I thought it was gonna hurt me more just to hear it again. But really, it’s just getting more clarity in it. And it’s kind of like a reassurance that I mean, it’s not really, truly who I am inside. It’s because of what I’ve been through.
Dr. Monica Band 37:30
Seth witnessed and experienced a lot of violence growing up in his household which put him in constant survival mode. This made him reactive to anyone who wanted to get close. After already feeling tossed aside and unlovable through his foster care experiences, his critical voices piling on the so called evidence as to why he doesn’t deserve his mom’s love. There is a wounded part of him that feels inherently unworthy of it. But in reprocessing Seth’s experiences it really seems like he’s beginning to see his guilt for what it is. Coming up, we check in with Seth and Jeannie one week later.
I’m really excited. And also, I was just thinking like, right before we got on how grateful I am for like all our family, and I’m just feeling grateful this morning.
Dr. Monica Band 40:41
I’d love to hear that that really warms my heart. Jeanne, how about you? How are you doing this morning? How are you showing up?
I’m good this morning. I’m like, Seth, I’m feeling blessed and, and up and ready to get at them.
Dr. Monica Band 40:54
Awesome. Awesome. I love this energy. And I’m so curious to know, you know, after our conversation, we cover quite a bit, how was it for you to come back together and experience, you know, each other post conversation?
I mean, like, right after we got off the Zoom call, I felt more connected to mom and I felt more comfortable around her. And I didn’t feel like I had all those luck. Bonds weighing me down.
Dr. Monica Band 41:21
I mean, I can even hear how that can even physically feel lighter to.
I remember saying, oh, I needed that.
Dr. Monica Band 41:30
I’m really glad to hear that. Jeanne, how about yourself? And hearing Seth, first, share some of the changes there post conversation how he’s feeling later? Did you notice that?
I did notice that. And I came away feeling that maybe for the first time he really heard me, tell him how much I loved him?
Dr. Monica Band 41:56
Well, Genie, you’re reading my mind because I actually wanted to go back to something I had noticed myself, which is putting myself in SAS shoes, I’m hearing my mom say to me, I love you. There’s nothing you can do. You could get angry or upset, or heck even hurt me. But I recognize if I step outside of that, that’s not us. That’s not who you really are. And I was left with a question and an observation myself, which is that there’s a part of you that feels like you can’t truly believe it all the time. So what do you think gets in the way of really accepting that your mom’s love you unconditionally. Fear, fear of what?
Fear of not being loved. Because I’ve experienced it so much that it’s like now that have is like I don’t know what to do with it. It’s kind of like waking up in our very realistic dream and trying to pinch yourself just to figure out if it’s true or not. There’s this voice is telling me it’s not true. But then when I’m feeling that it is true, there’s this voice telling me that it’s not true to. So it’s like that voice is always there.
Dr. Monica Band 43:16
Tell me what that voice says. When I say like, they can’t love you. It’s not true. Because why? Why is that not true?
Because there have been loved before. Okay. And it’s like, I’m in the present moment, physically, but really deep inside emotionally, I’m still stuck in the past.
Dr. Monica Band 43:39
Something you said Seth earlier, and I want to get genious take on this. At the beginning. When I we were talking through this, you were saying? I don’t know what to do with it. At it being the unconditional love sometimes I don’t know what to do with it. Jeanne, this question is for you. But is there anything he has to do with it?
There is nothing he has to do with it other than just let it sink in. You know that it’s there, that it’s real, that it’s not going away. It’s all about time and security. I mean, he is such the different boy than he was five years ago. He feels so much more secure. And there are so many sides, marks. And I know that that and really realize that when they’re happening, but we see.
Dr. Monica Band 44:34
Could you give me an example of what you’re seeing or what you would identify as a mark and it’d be helpful for me, but I think to your points and Seth may not realize that he’s achieving them. It might be good to hear it. So what are those marks?
Sure. I mean, there are, gosh, there’s gobs of them like, here’s an extreme example. Okay. When Seth first came to live with us, he insisted on why watching me make everything that he put in his mouth. Because he really he thought we were going to poison him. And it’s just such a an insecurity, you know, that’s like so frightened that you feel like you cannot trust somebody not to poison you with the food, then you are truly think that you can only depend on yourself. Absolutely. And, and now, even though that’s just like a small example of of a little thing, you know, but, but now it’s like I see him doing things that show me he secure.
Dr. Monica Band 45:48
Seth, you’re hearing your mom, share her observations of how she is watching those insecurities melt off of you. And they come in the form of trust. When it comes to this idea of security. I want to shift a slightly as you’ve grown, and you have been able to rely on the support of your mom’s, you’ve learned a lot more about yourself and about your mental health to sad, I’m curious to know, how has your mental health journey been when it comes to understanding your diagnoses or receiving treatment for them or therapy, just what comes to mind when I asked you that?
I’m always feeling different than other kids. Like mentally, I started off just, it was just feelings of indifference. And then it started getting more intense as I got older. And then eventually it was at the point where I didn’t feel like anybody else, which is a good thing. But it was also kind of scary because you get taught when you’re like up here that you have to like be like this person and be like that person or you have to at least have some similarities with them. So when I totally detached from all the similarities, it was like, I don’t really I’m not familiar with this. And then it went on until my mom’s adopted me. And then I got diagnosed with autism and it felt like justice. Honestly, it made a lot of a lot more sense of why I was doing these things and thinking these things and it made me less frustrated with myself. I’m still honestly figuring out some little kinks in quotes to being autistic to this day. I think it’s kind of like a lot dinosaur fossils are many years gone keep discovering these new things. But it’s not so scary anymore feels my I actually felt proud of being autistic.
Dr. Monica Band 47:45
There is something so moving about hearing Seth claim his identities and say this is who I am, and I am proud of it. Seth has received a lot of diagnoses in his life as a young person. And one of the ways he notices these diagnoses show up isn’t his fluctuations in mood.
And lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to accept the lows a lot better than I usually can. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been doing it in therapy or are just talking about it more but my days recently been like mostly has honestly and I’m able to hold on to the house longer, and it feels amazing.
And we use a lot of positive affirmations in our house. We just try to let him know he’s not alone in those lows, and, and even just letting him know, Hey, son, we’re here, and it’s gonna get better. And just hang up, just grab the dog’s tail and hold on for the ride. It’s gonna be okay. But
Dr. Monica Band 48:51
I can hear the positive affirmations seeping in already and you know, reminding Yusef that these things come. But you’re not alone in experiencing them. And even if people around you can’t know exactly what you’re going through, there are people who are sure going to make sure nothing bad happens to you. So I’m hearing your mom say we use some positive affirmations. I can see how that and other things that your moms do can be helpful. I’d love to know if they’re helpful for you because they don’t want to assume and if there’s something that could be even more helpful that maybe we need to know that we don’t yet.
I mean, it might not feel like it in a moment. But if I look at it overall, they’re helpful in something that we could do probably better I guess would be maybe because you know they’re in life. There’s always something exciting like that’s gonna happen next. So maybe they can remind me of that when I’m feeling low. Like maybe whatever vacation we’re going on own, or what event we’re gonna do are just some sort of next thing that’s coming up. That’s excited. And that could really trigger a lot positive emotions me. And it could be noticed in myself that when I think about the future and the exciting events it really like I can’t help but to feel excited.
Sure, but maybe we can do that. I will mark that down. Absolutely. Thanks.
Dr. Monica Band 50:27
How does that feel to hear your mom say, Yep,
we got that feels good. It feels reassuring.=
Dr. Monica Band 50:32
I am so happy to hear that. And I’m glad you’re experiencing that right now. You know, I’m going to I realize where we’re at kind of on a mini roller coaster right now, right? We’re feeling really, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling really good. But we’re going to, we’re going to kind of hit a bump, a little bump and come back up. And so, uh, your mom was talking about how you have been diagnosed with PTSD, because you have experienced a lot of trauma, right? We’re just gonna say it flatly or plainly. However, there is a concept that is less talked about, but equally important, which is post traumatic growth. And so when we talk about the idea of growing and moving from trauma, one thing that we find is that because folks who have experienced that kind of complex trauma in their lives, they actually can dig almost to the depths a little deeper into, you know, other questions and skills and ways of resilience that other people who haven’t experienced said things, of course, I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone, but because you’ve experienced such things. There are just aspects and depths of life, and knowledge and feelings that you have access to use to your advantage and create a more rich tapestry of resilience. Right? Of course.
Wow, that’s powerful. That’s exactly exactly how it feel. I mean, I feel like I can dig a lot deeper into things and most people can and I can do that in a way that’s to my advantage. And I’m in that’s funny that you mentioned that, because I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and figuring out what, what kind of word there is for that, like, what is it? Why do I Why can I do this, but you just put it all in one lock sentence for me.
Dr. Monica Band 52:24
I’m glad to hear that. I’m really glad to hear that. You know, Seth, I’m glad you’re already in your own time thinking about these things. Because I try to tell people who I work with who’ve experienced trauma that sure, for example, you’ve had to learn to be very or hyper independent, and not rely on anyone, because heck you couldn’t in the past, but you’ve used that now to your advantage. Because look at the ways in which you’re able to do things and figure things out yourself. So I share these things with you to say they’re not all bad and shameful. Rather, they can inadvertently kind of be your superpower when they’re not coming from a place of survival, rather a place of thriving. Right. Right. Great. All right, my friends, we’re winding down. I guess that’s my thought for you. As you know, we started with a question, which is, why does my mom still love me after everything we’ve gone through and that I’ve done? Do you feel like your question has been answered? For sure. I see you really shaking your head? Really hard? Yes, yes. Okay, Genie, how about you? What are you going to take away from this conversation? What was illuminating for you that you’re going to leave with.
I’m coming away with the knowledge of how much guilt that self holds. And I’m gonna hold that close to me, and examine that so that I can try to recognize it when I see it. So, son, nothing you can do. Nothing you can say, will ever stop this love. Because it took 25 and a half years worth of fights. I knew that you were COVID. And I had to weigh down. And now that you’re here, I’m not letting you go for nothing. And I’m going to be proud of you. And I’m gonna love you. And I’m gonna take care of you until I draw my last breath.
Yeah, I love you too. And the feeling’s mutual. I’m not going to try to let make you let me go and and I’m not going to go and I’m just always gonna be here as long as I possibly can. Until I drop my last breath to.
That’s all I wan’t baby. I just want you.
Dr. Monica Band 54:59
We started This episode with Seth asking, Why do you still love me after everything I’ve gone through? In learning more about Seth, I’m recognizing that this question may have actually been his self doubt that part of him that said you’re unlovable and needed convincing otherwise, despite how often his mom’s told him and showed him their love, guilt always seemed to be blocking his ability to truly believe it. It makes sense why it took some time for him to believe it for himself. His childhood experiences forced him to grow up really fast and rely on his instincts. That survival mentality presented as a kind of love resistant suit of armor, protecting him against potential harm. The few close relationships he had were fleeting, and the thought of letting someone in after everyone else had left was understandably scary. Like many survivors of trauma, Seth demonstrates the remarkable refusing to let his past define his future. He’s not broken or damaged for what he’s gone through. And walking on eggshells or treating someone with kid gloves can actually do more harm. feeding into the stigma that they’re fragile, says confidence in his survival instincts and his deep gratitude for his mom’s love speaks to the positives he’s taken from his traumatic experiences. And now he can put a name to that sense of pride he has in his survival. And that transformation it inspired, post traumatic growth. That growth is proof that sometimes our toughest challenges and past experiences can actually be a source of unimaginable strength. Thank you so much to Seth and Jeannie for your time, vulnerability and inspiration. This is I need to ask you something. And I’m your host, Dr. Monica Band. See you next week.
There’s more I NEED TO ASK YOU SOMETHING with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content. There’s so many things we talk about and we’re barely scratching the surface. Tune in to learn more about what it means to be a perfectionist, to be conflict avoidant. And how to ask for help. I NEED TO ASK YOU SOMETHING is a Lemonada Media original. I’m Dr. Monica Band, the host of this show and a consultant with the Jed foundation. Crystal Genesis is our supervising producer. Giulia Hjort is our producer, and Rachel Lightner is our producer and audio engineer. Tess Novotny is our associate producer. Mixing and Original Music by Bobby Woody, additional mixing by Ivan Kuraev. Special thanks to Kelsey Henderson and the members of our youth focus group. Maria Perry, […] Erica Familia, Kofi Green and Cloud Ben. Jackie Danziger is our VP of narrative content. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. This show was created in partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. This series is presented by HOPE Lab with, Stupski Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Visit I needtoaskyousomething.org or use the link in the show notes for resources related to today’s episode. Follow I need to ask you something wherever you get your podcasts or listen at free on Amazon music with your Prime membership