Never Their Fault

Sometimes it hurts my caring heart so much to learn the stories of adoptees, especially the ones with clueless adoptive parents who never comprehend their own accountability in the mental health of their adopted child.

This morning I was reading a story about a man who was adopted as an infant and now as a grown man with wife and children is in long term residential treatment following his second suicide attempt. His adoptive parents accept no responsibility and prefer to blame his spouse for this man’s issues – unresolved trauma, low self-esteem, deep abandonment issues, anxious attachment, and other specific but undiagnosed mental health disorders which have included serial infidelity. The adoptive parents lied to him about his being adopted, lied about having his paperwork, lied about keeping it from him and made his biological reunion about their feelings of betrayal. Even so, his wife continues to love and support him and does her best to understand.

Another adoptee with similar adoptive parents notes – the adoptive parents insist that the adoption has nothing to do with anything, it’s all just the adoptee’s bad choices. Even when this one discovered their biological parents and that they had been coerced into surrendering their child to adoption (more common than people with no adoption in their background might believe), these kinds of adoptive parents will tell the adoptee that their biological parents didn’t want them. These kinds of adoptive parents have absolutely no idea how to take accountability. How to apologize. How to admit they weren’t perfect, and simply say sorry. They aren’t capable. Some adoptive parents were told that they never had to tell anybody about their own struggles with infertility. That it was acceptable to lie to their adoptee and the child would never know the truth to be troubled by it. It doesn’t work. Having been made aware of so many of these kinds of stories I am easily able to see the damage too often done. 

There is a kind of therapy that can be helpful to some adoptees developed by Peggy Pace and known as Lifespan Integration Therapy. This kind of therapy is known to clear trauma memory and the defenses against early trauma throughout the body-mind the trauma even when the emotional memories are pre-verbal and is not explicitly remembered. This method has been used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders. It has also been used to heal Dissociative Identity Disorder bringing more coherence to fragmented self systems eventually resulting in a unified wholeness.

A powerful realization can improve one’s overall quality of life, even when one will never completely understand what was done to them. Releasing these memory experiences means no longer holding on to the stress, burdens and overwhelming sense of the wrong done and for which the person was not directly responsible. When one is no longer forced to constantly recall the unpleasant feelings that have caused shame, guilt and anger, choosing to release the core cause as a reality that cannot be changed. Choosing instead to recognize the wisdom contained within the experiences. This effort can allow a person to release any attachment to the feelings associated with what happened and know that it is something that can ever be totally changed. The only thing that can be changed is how one feels about it.

One cannot expect to bring something wonderful into their experience until they have the internal space. That space can be created, by releasing what can never serve them, which can then move the person into a happier future. This is not a denial of wrongs committed against them but a gentle kind of the acceptance of reality.

Thankfully A Happy Ending

Story thanks to NPR – it can still happen that a child is abducted.

Police at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport say they’ve found the family of an infant girl who turned up with a woman at one of the airport’s light rail stations.

Authorities said the girl, believed to be about 10 months old, was found about 9 p.m. Sunday with a woman at the airport. Police said they believe the pair arrived via a Blue Line light rail train. Police described the woman as “a person in crisis” but did not offer any further details.

“Investigators do not believe that the woman is a relative or guardian of the child,” said a crime alert from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The woman apparently did not offer any information, either about the child’s family or identity. Police said they didn’t have any reports of missing or abducted children that matched the girl’s description.

But a Tuesday night alert from airport police and the BCA, which included pictures of the child wrapped in a blanket and held by an unidentified adult, apparently helped. Authorities reported early Wednesday the girl had been identified, and her mother located safe.

“Thanks to all who shared the alert and provided info that helped investigators identify the child and locate her relatives,” the BCA reported.

Never The Priority

From an Adoptee:

Do other adoptees feel as though they have never been a priority ? I struggle to explain it. Often it feels like I am just in the background of the lives of the people I love. Sometimes it feels like I am a tool they use to make their lives better. It rarely feels like people choose to be in my life for me. I can’t be the only one.

And she is NOT.

From another adoptee –  I feel like a ghost, an echo, invisible. It’s as if I am tolerated, even enjoyed sometimes, but not sought out or after. It is hard to explain.

And another – My whole life is basically me being used in one way or another. Even my closest friends mostly only call me when there’s a problem for me to solve. I guess that’s what I get for learning how to be the problem solver, because I learned early that I have only myself to rely on, while others have loving family to support them.

Yet another – Totally get that feeling. I’m in my 30s and still struggling. Except the way I’ve always felt with my family, my in laws, and definitely my biological family is the black sheep of every family. I really don’t feel like I belong anywhere.

And this – Only after I found out I was adopted did I start feeling like this. I question so many aspects of my life thanks to my adoptive mother and her controlling ways, I got so sick and tired of people defending her, saying she did it because she didn’t want to hurt me. As much as I hate to speak ill of the dead and given how much I loved her, (she died when I was 11, I didn’t learn the truth until I was 17) I can’t help but resent her and sometimes hate her because I feel like I was some sort of possession or weapon to be used against my biological mother. It’s a long and painful story to be honest, my family is pretty damn toxic, maybe I’ll be able to put it all into words one day, but right now…I just feel too much anger and resentment to be able to do so.

Another example –  I never felt like I wasn’t a priority to my adoptive parents with to their own biological children, I wasn’t accepted. I’m older now and it’s even more apparent the last 15 years. My adoptive parents adopted 5 kids in total and their biological children didn’t want anything to do with any of us. Always shunned us out. Even now, they never want us around their kids etc. It’s sad. I think they were jealous in some way. But I always felt like I did something wrong or I wasn’t good enough. Rejection trauma hurts.

This response is all too common (my mom was like that and passed it down to us girls) – I think my insecure attachment led to this. I am such a people pleaser and I tend to hide my emotions, so I’m not ‘a burden’. I’m deep down scared that if I act in or feel a way that others don’t approve of, people with leave me. With therapy, it’s gotten a lot better but my first instinct will probably always be to fawn. Another agreed – I think part of it is my people pleasing nature, I let people walk all over me and put my own stuff aside.

As the child of two adoptee parents, who now knows what my parents didn’t, who our original families were, this has been my experience too and on some level I understand – I don’t share life history with these people, it feels more like an accident of my parents’ birth – “I am a part of 4 different families. After finding my biologicals, I still don’t “fit” anywhere. It’s not at all a negative reunion story, I just don’t fully belong,” and that includes my adoptive relations. It has been the surprising downside of learning our truth.

Another adoptee perspective – I rarely even prioritize myself. I find more value in those around me than myself and feel I’m wasting time when I focus on me. I end up thinking that’s probably how others view me too. I’m also not sure what being a priority would look/feel like… I question if I’d recognize it or accept it, even if it were happening.

It is so universal, the wounds are deep and it never seems to get better – Even when I can look at how someone is treating me and can logically tell that I’m valued and a priority, I still don’t feel it. For me I think that it comes from feeling like an outsider in my family, I’m always waiting for the rejection.

I feel like I have to be super helpful just to get recognition that I’m a good person. It’s screwed up. I don’t feel good enough or worthy, even though I know I am… I still do these things to feel noticed and wanted.

Finally this admission – I am a reunited adoptee, very much integrated into my birth family. I was raised the youngest of four adopted children in a family that contentiously broke up when I was three. I was left out so many times in adopted family and am now having the experience of feeling excluded from something in my birth family. It has totally triggered my abandonment issues. The fact that I generally feel left out and am often alone, in general, with friends and family. Once again, I turn to forgiving others for not being who I wanted them to be and forgiving myself for wanting them to be people they are not. It’s tiring though. 

ADHD And Struggling

Design and Illustrations by Maya Chastain

I found much of this discussion helpful and so I am sharing it for today’s blog.

The original comment –

My 17 year old son adopted from foster care at 15, after 8 years in care. 2 failed adoptive placements before and he was living in residential treatment for 15 months before he transitioned to my home. He’s been with me for 2 years in total. He has not had contact with any biological family in 5+ years and did not have consistent care givers for the first 7 years of his life. He expresses hate towards his biological family and will not discuss with me.

He’s dealing with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Although I believe the depression is very long term, today is the first day he has ever said it out loud. He had actively denied it previously. I also deal with depression and the sentiment he described of feeling like nothing even matters is something I’m very familiar with. He’s been let down so many times and I often tell him he’s had a very normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. He is so afraid to hope. He is in weekly therapy and working with psychiatrist. I feel like tonight him acknowledging his depression was a really big step forward. I am trying to help him navigate depression and be more hopeful. He is incredibly intelligent and capable and could really pursue so many opportunities and be well supported in whatever he chooses. He’s sabotaging himself instead. He is an older teenager navigating the transition to adulthood. Thank you for sharing any thoughts.

Response from an Adoptee with Depression and ADHD –

Just to translate some of what you’re saying here and how it may come across. You may not say these things out loud but “could really pursue so many opportunities and be well supported” tells me you probably imply these things:

“You could do so much more if you’d just apply yourself.”

*I’m never going to be good enough*

“Why are you struggling with something this basic”

*I’m stupid and can’t do basic things*

“You self-sabotage a lot”

*Push past burnout and ignore self-care*

My support network lets me move at my own pace. Also learning that I can’t brute force my way past ADHD by being “Intelligent” has helped.

No one really figures shit out until their 20s. Heck – I didn’t figure out anything until my 30s. Gen Z just has more pressure because you can’t live off the salary from an entry level job anymore.

The original commenter replied –

I definitely think this is something I’m struggling with and I appreciate your translation. I think what’s hard for me is that he is 17 but in many way operating as someone much younger. However he has the expectation the he be treated like every other 17 year old. We are fighting regularly because I won’t let him get a driver’s permit or I set structures around bedtime and Internet and he wants freedom. I’m very comfortable trying to meet him where he is and help him grow at whatever rate he grows. But he wants adult freedom and responsibility – he’s simply not ready for and it feels negligent on my part to just give him that because of his age. So I’m trying to help him set meaningful goals for himself, so that he can work towards the things he says he wants but it seems that his depression is a major barrier to working towards those goals.

I’m not rushing him to figure it out or trying to prescribe specific goals. I’m trying to support him in doing what he says he wants to do and having the freedom he wants to have. As a single parent, I’d love for him to have a driver’s license, just as much as he wants it. But how do I help him be ready for that, when the depression he’s experiencing seems to suck any motivation to do the work ?

Response from an Adoptee with Depression and ADHD –

Why can’t he have a learner’s, if you don’t mind me asking ?

People with ADHD (and often undiagnosed co-morbidities) struggle with being infantilized.

You’re talking about controlling bed time when ADHD can come with delayed circadian rhythm and insomnia.

Yes – ADHD often means you have issues keeping up with organizational skills, goal management, emotional regulation and peer relationships. That doesn’t mean you treat that person like a young child. In an environment where controlled exploration is allowed, you develop coping skills.

ADHD – ESPECIALLY as a teenager – means you’re fighting yourself for control of a brain that seems constantly against you. Emotions are hard to regulate. Your rewards system is fucked. Object permanence is a myth. Time is an abstract concept I’ve yet to grasp.

How can you expect a 17 year old to be motivated to control things that are hard and wield an intangible reward like “opportunities,” if he can’t have any control over what’s in front of him that matters.

“Opportunities” offers no tangible reward. My ADHD/PTSD/Depression brain looks at basic chores and goes, “I don’t get why that matters.”

I’m an adult. With therapy and support, I’ve found ways around that. But I also found it after I started having my own boundaries and stopped infantilizing myself.

Meaningful goals don’t work with ADHD. They just put things behind a glass wall you’ll never break. You get frustrated and give up easier.

You need to give him simple goals he can succeed at to build self confidence.

Don’t make freedom a “reward”. It breeds resentment. Work with him to set personal boundaries and schedules. Those won’t look like what works for a neurotypical.

I like “How to ADHD” for life hacks. I also really recommend Domestic Blisters but she’s more aimed at 20 somethings. Catieosaurus is great. She does talk about sexual health on occasion but nothing a 17 year old with Google hasn’t seen.

Family Separations

My husband told me about this story several days ago. Of course, I do care. It is abominable what the US border policies have done in separating children from their natural parents. You can read the transcript at this LINK> NPR Investigation reveals how government bureaucracy failed to stop family separations with Ari Shapiro talking to The Atlantic immigration reporter Caitlin Dickerson. The Atlantic also has the story, though I am not a subscriber and have used up all of my “free” article allowance. You can access that at this LINK> The Secret History of Family Separation or under this headline – “We Need To Take Away Children: The Secret History Of The U.S. Government’s Family Separation Policy.”

The Trump administration was known for immigration policies that were chaotic and extreme, yet even by that standard, family separation was in its own category. Kids as young as infants were removed from their parents at the border, more than 5,500 children total. Hundreds are still not reunited. Caitlin Dickerson chronicled those policies in real time, first for The New York Times and now for The Atlantic. And her latest cover story for The Atlantic is an exhaustive investigation into how the family separation policy came about.

Caitlin Dickerson says, “The Trump administration . . . was very focused on trying to curtail immigration, both illegal immigration, as well as asylum seeking. The reason this exhaustive an account was necessary was because it’s the most extreme implementation of consequences. And some families, hundreds of them, still have not been reunited today.” She goes on to say, “. . . hawks, like Stephen Miller, were going to push for these really aggressive policies. But it’s actually the bureaucrats, the career experts who went along with zero tolerance and family separations who are really important. They told me they were very concerned about separating families, but they stayed quiet. And when I asked why, they said, well, it wasn’t strategic to speak up in these meetings or, you know, I couldn’t alienate myself before Stephen Miller, given how much power he had in the administration. They figured someone else would intervene, and because of that, this policy was put into place.”

Dickerson goes on to say that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen  wishes she had not signed the memo authorizing family separations. She didn’t have good information when she made this decision. Career immigration officials said we have systems and processes in place to ensure it’s going to be implemented smoothly. And that wasn’t true. Based on their advice, she made that decision.

Sadly, there is still the desire by some former Trump administration officials to see this policy implemented again in the future. The separation trauma is immensely destructive for the kids who were in the very early stages of development and this is going to be a lifelong story for them.

I did some research and found two other articles – LINK> PolitiFact noted in February 2021 that the Biden administration had rescinded the Trump-era policy that led to systematic family separations and that he had established a task force to reunite families that were separated under the Trump administration.

However, a LINK> Vera.org piece noted – Children Are Still Being Separated from Their Families at the Border. This one is dated June 23, 2022 written by Erica Bryant. She makes the point that – “A better system would place Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) officials at the border to immediately evaluate family relationships. This should be done in trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate settings, rather than in jail-like holding centers. Medical and mental health services that children might need should also be available on site. If ORR confirms the family relationship and rules out risks of trafficking and other immediate dangers to the child, children should be released with their relatives immediately.”

Pregnancy Is Triggering

I have often seen adoptees mention how becoming pregnant or becoming a mother had surprising effects on their emotions and experiences. Here’s one story for today –

I’m 28 weeks pregnant and just need some support, anything you have to say will help. When I think about explaining the different ways families are created I get pretty upset inside. Introducing adoption and what that entails seems like a huge battle and I’m not understanding why, I grew up knowing I was adopted before I even knew what adoption meant. Is it possible I have a fear of passing on adoption trauma to my child ? Also my adoptive dad called me and explained he just hadn’t thought about me being adopted and what it must feel like to be going through this pregnancy, now at 28 weeks. As much as I value the validation, it almost felt like a blow, like “oh thanks, glad you are able to forget about it, while I sit here and it seems to be ruling my train of thoughts lately.” Then there is my adoptive mom, and well, she’s just too old to have any good conversation about it, but she’s been very defensive lately anytime adoption comes up. I’ll tell ya, I knew pregnancy would bring a lot to the surface, but I did not expect to not be able to articulate my thoughts and feelings. Even when I’m writing In my journal, I feel blank, and tired. Definitely not handling it in the most positive way, most of the time, and I’m finding my self stuffing down my feelings. Almost reverting back to ?

One comment – One thing i hear a lot of people say as they are doing the “normal” selfless mom thing, taking care of baby and all that (good nutrition, getting stable, etc), is that they are feeling so hurt, that they could do this for their kid but their moms didn’t “get it together” for them, when they were babies. Experiencing triggers around one’s own pregnancy is super common.

Another one shares – One night when my son was about 2 3 weeks old, he was inconsolable. I looked down at his face and realized when I was his age, I was crying in a crib, alone. That realization was devastating.

And this – I hear you and feel your stress. Breathe deeply and try to relax. Sure you are thinking about what adoption meant to your life and how it affected so many things, many more than you ever realized because now you have a small, vulnerable and completely dependent on you human being growing inside you. At various points of the day, you will try to forget all of this, but then you will be reminded by your work-in-progress with a kick or rollover… and guess what: all of the emotions will become even stronger as you get closer to due date. The worries and so much more. Be kind to you and let yourself cry, if you need to — once you meet your baby, this stuff will stay just below the surface (most likely) but you will also have a biological person who needs you and adores you and you won’t understand how anyone could ever willingly give such a precious beauty away to someone else to keep. Don’t stuff down your feelings – don’t be too hard on yourself (your hormones are doing enough of that crap – you don’t need to assist them!).

More – Being pregnant and having my daughter brought up a lot of feelings like this too. Finally understanding how messed up and abusive my family was, especially my mom. Realizing that I couldn’t imagine treating my daughter the way I was treated. Everything felt so fresh and raw, and I was experiencing triggers left and right, having breakdowns all the time. Therapy and meds helped a lot, but I know those things aren’t accessible and/or helpful for everyone. I might suggest doing some kind of mindfulness exercises, when you find yourself sinking into those feelings, affirmations about the choices you’re making and how they’re different from the things you experienced. Other than that, I don’t really have advice, just solidarity. Everybody talks about how having a child makes them appreciate their own parents so much more, but nobody ever tells you how it can bring your childhood trauma to the surface. I’m sorry you’re part of that second group. I’m sure you will be a wonderful mama.

Another from experience – My pregnancies undid all my pro-adoption programming. I thought a lot about the importance of genes, bonding, familial traits, and family lineages. Pregnancy is an emotional time, even more so with the additional layers of adoption. Take care of yourself and give yourself permission to process your feelings. 

Clearly, though every person is different and every adoptee has had different kinds of experiences, the stories are many and on some level rather universal. HUGS if you are an adoptee and pregnant or have recently given birth.

You Don’t Owe Them

Today’s perspective – Now that I am an adult, I have decided to NOT have a relationship with my adoptive parents. How do you deal with people that say I ”owe” them a relationship with myself and my kids? “After all they’ve done for you…” is the one I get the most. How would you respond to this?

You owe them nothing. You didn’t ask to be born, and you certainly didn’t ask them to adopt you. That is conditional “love.” I would answer that with, “Goodbye. Do not ever contact me nor my family again.”

Letting Go of Expectations is Liberating

Today I offer you a not uncommon adoptee challenge –

For so many of us, birthdays suck. And I’m realizing it doesn’t get easier with age. So many complicated emotions. For me this is the day I was born and the day I was separated from my birth mom. I‘m not resentful for the choice she made, she’s a wonderful human.

I think it has to do with expectations that birthdays are supposed to be happy. I never want to be the center of attention but if someone overlooks me, or my feelings, I get super sad. It feels like a rejection thing. I might prefer celebrating my adoption day… but that would be difficult to explain.. to people who could never comprehend.

I’m sick of crying every single birthday (and having to hide it) and faking it for the rest of the day. I’m (hopefully) going to have at least 50 more of these and I don’t want to look back hating every single one and dreading the next. Therapy is great (I’ve had awesome therapists for over 7 years) but certain topics like these don’t feel solvable in therapy. I wish I could talk to others that understand from life experience.

An inspirational message from Agape that I listened to yesterday focused on Expectations and how to make peace with them. You can watch the July 3rd 9am Service HERE (fast forward to the 37 minute point, if you want to only listen to her message).

Coping With Reality

Mental health issues cause a lot of the removals of children from their parents. It is true that families lose their children to Child Protective Services because they are struggling with mental health and poverty.

We do have a mental health crisis in America. Many therapists only serve the 4Ws- Wealthy Worried White Women. Some people can’t access mental health care at all. Other people are ridiculed for needing mental health care, and so they won’t get help because they are embarrassed. Reaching out for help needs to become more acceptable in every day life. We need more mental health supports to address these issues, regardless of age, race, sexual oriented, socio-economic status or rural/urban location.

One person admitted – I was told I must not have financial issues if I can afford to smoke. That isn’t true. I can’t afford actual mental healthcare. Yes, my nicotine calms me down. Is it healthy? No. Do I want to stop? Yes. Don’t judge poor people for having addictions to cope with life. If they drove a Lexus, it would just be mommy wine culture that helped them cope.

One truthful response –  it’s easier to point out and shame someone else’s addiction, rather than deal with your own more socially acceptable addiction.

Changing Identity

Difference 100% Mindset

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
~ C S Lewis

How Changing My Self-Identification Saved My Life

Growing up adopted by a white American family and living in a predominantly white community was difficult for me because I never felt like I fit in, or belonged. I faced racism and bullying pretty much as long as I can remember. I was led to believe I was ugly, unwanted, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness. I was like a chameleon almost my entire life, an expert at not standing out, not making any waves, always shying away from confrontation and always making up stories about who I was. I was a master at being “unseen.” Until I hit a roadblock about 5 years ago. I began to experience inner turmoil, depression, anxiety – all results of my identity crisis.

I felt stuck mentally, and physically, I was immobilized. I was unable to go to work, be social with friends and family, and I wasn’t able to take care of things like food shopping, laundry, or any sort of self care. The only thing I could handle doing was going to therapy so that’s what I did. Obviously, I wanted to find a way to feel unstuck and begin to get my life back together. But I knew that because I didn’t know my whole story, I had made one up in my own head.

This story I was telling myself was that I was unlovable, unworthy of happiness, and broken. That was the old story I kept playing over and over in my mind. That story wasn’t completely accurate, it wasn’t empowering, it does not serve me in any useful way now, and it definitely did not have to stop me from living my best life. In order to get my life back and be the person I wanted to be, I had to become really self aware of why my old self identity was holding me back in life.

My old identity was someone who was broken, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness.

The person I wanted to be was free, confident, healthy, happy, lovable, successful…and a badass!

So what was the secret to making my transformation? It was 100% mindset.

I had to literally imagine my old self was dying in order for me to allow the change to happen. I didn’t wait until I got my dream job, got my social life back, or find someone to love me to be happy. The actions and behaviors I took were as if I was already that person I always wanted to be. I learned to take small steps, enjoy my journey, be grateful, and be happy along the way. I visualized my new self every single day. I am confident. I am healthy. I am loved. I am happy. I am worthy. I am a mf badass!!

I am sharing my story with you because someone out there may resonate with it. If that’s you, then just remember you can do it because YOU ARE WORTH IT!! Have an amazing day and remember, you have the power to change your identity anytime you want, starting now. Thank you for reading this and letting me be completely honest and vulnerable.