Prenatal Mental Illness Influences

Today is my youngest sister’s birthday but we are estranged due to her hostility towards me which cause is her mental illness.  I read about this book in a recent Time magazine.  It is listed as one of the 10 best nonfiction books for 2019.  I bought it so that I might understand what has happened to my youngest sister better.  This may seem like an odd topic for this blog but actually it is highly relevant.

I’ve only started reading the first essay but I was struck by this statistic – People diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to be born in the winter than in the summer – perhaps due to maternal infection during pregnancy.  I have previously written about intergenerational transmission of trauma.  There is a high likelihood of that in my family with both parents being adoptees.

Biological features may mark a susceptibility to already established disorders as well as what types of stressors are most likely to transform those susceptibilities into illness.  I suspect that my sister was always vulnerable.  Something happened to her at some point that caused a marked downturn in her mental health from which she has not yet and may never re-emerge.  She spent some time homeless, which is itself a stressor and I believe caused some of her delusions as she attempted to justify her unconventional lifestyle.

My sister also gave up her only child for adoption.  Adoption was a natural condition in our family even though I now know it is not natural by any stretch of the imagination.  Still, it was her choice from the moment she was aware she was pregnant.  I’ve often wondered now that I know more about mother/child separations if this has been an additional stressor.

She speaks of a subsequent pregnancy that was murdered within her.  I doubt that one also took place but one never knows with her.  One of the ways I have coped with her odd mental functioning is to simply listen without judging the validity of what she tells me because I believe some truth always lies within the stories but the interpretation of the meaning of those stories is off in some manner.

In a review of the book I am reading, I saw this question –

Is there some inner self that lies beyond the reaches of mental illness, a consciousness that disease makes invisible but leaves intact ?

Because I do believe in an eternal consciousness that is ever evolving through a variety of physical lifetime experiences, I do believe there is a witness who knows all of the whys and wherefores.

Family That Isn’t

Ohana is a Hawaiian word which refers to a person’s extended family, which can include friends and other important social groups.  In the case of adoption, “family” is a complicated concept.  Growing up, because both of my parents were adoptees, I knew that my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins – while perfect stand-ins for the real thing – were not actually related to me.

I was reading about one adoptee’s experience of having an older brother who was also adopted.  She says, “Even though we grew up in the same household with the same parents, I’ve always had difficulty thinking of him as my brother. He’s my family and I love him, but family is such a weird thing for adoptees. My brother and I are so different. So far apart in personality, thoughts, interests and goals. We didn’t have a single thing in common.”

And I reflected on my mom’s relationship with her brother who was also a Georgia Tann baby and I could see the truth of this.  They were never close as near as I could tell, though she did date one of his neighborhood friends in high school.  She once drove over this young man’s foot getting into the car when she knocked it out of park.  On a date with him, she met my dad at a party – and although she went to the party with this guy – she left with my dad.  It is hard to think of my mom as a teenager but I guess she was about as wild as the three daughters she later birthed.  LOL

Having learned who all 4 of my original grandparents were has totally changed who I think of as my “grandparents”.  Oh, I still appreciate the people who raised my parents and they were influential in my own life growing up.  I still love 2 of my “adoptive” aunts dearly, having become close to them all over again when my parents died.  And cousins are still in my life from those relationships.

However, I am keen now to slowly, without too much pressure, create these new relationships with an aunt and some cousins who represent most of my grandparents, though my paternal grandfather seems to have fathered no more children after my dad.  DNA and the matching sites – 23 and Me as well as Ancestry – make possible finding one’s relations that many states who still maintain sealed adoption records seek to block.  It is a new day and thanking all that is good that it is so.

No image can describe what of our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, remains. ~ Rumi

And yet, it does matter that they are there within us always.

Why Go Looking ?

Someone once asked me, if the adoptive family was a good one, what’s the issue ?

People not affected by adoption often struggle to understand what would motivate an adoptee to go searching for their original family.  If one knows where they came from, it can be hard to relate to not knowing.

An adoptee that grows up in a loving, supportive family, will be strong enough to search for who they came from.  If their adoptive family was a very good one, they might even expect that they would not like what their search found once they arrive there.

Maybe it would help to understand that this kind of experience was never intended to replace the adoptive family the adoptee grew up in. Yet any adoptee will feel that they have a few “missing” pieces. It is only natural.  And once a puzzle has been revealed, completing it makes sense.


I Am Not An Accident

I had a very deep realization yesterday.  My earliest conception may have been viewed as an “accident”, an unintended consequence of my parents going too far in youthful hormonal impulse.

And on a very deep level, I felt what many adoptees probably feel as well – as though we weren’t mean to be and it is hard and deep and an important healing I believe.

When I counted the months back from my birth to the date of my parents’ wedding anniversary, I knew the truth and it troubled me.  I have always thought what troubled me was my mom’s “good girl” lectures but I understand in maturity, she wanted to spare me her young experience while yet a student in high school.

I was angry with her at first and didn’t want her to touch me.  Eventually, I forgave her because I loved her, not because the reality didn’t remain a troubling paradox for me.

I know I’m not a mistake and I do know my life has purpose – my life has many purposes actually.  I’ve become a mother 3 times.  I’ve been there to handle my parents’ estate after they died.  I’ve been the one to uncover our original grandparents after my adopted parents died knowing next to nothing themselves.

And I have a “voice” and courageously (or foolishly, depending on whatever external judgement of my own voluntary behaviors) and I use it to promote and defend issues that are important to me because if not me, then who ?  Yes, someone else might come along . . . but if everyone were to hide their own truths, what would that accomplish ?

We are all important to wholeness and I know that my ancestors suffered emotional and mental anguish, in order for my parents to be raised by the people who adopted them and in the place where they grew up, which enabled them to meet and my own self to be born.

No Where To Go Away From Grief

My grief fills rooms. It takes up space and it sucks out the air.
It leaves no room for anyone else. Grief is possessive.
It doesn’t let me go anywhere without it.
Grief is a force and I am swept up in it.

I have to be very strong. I have to keep it together.
The other side of my grief is this little girl who lost her mother,
I could just fall apart if I touch that pain.

~ Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman

So my grandmother Lizzie Lou ran away to Memphis. Once she had physically separated from her family, and achieved the psychological and emotional stability she needed to mourn without fear of abandonment or collapse, she could face her grief head-on.

But who does she attract romantically ? A man consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, heavy with child in her womb, and then his teenage son. It is no wonder, he felt a deja vu when Lizzie Lou got pregnant and was due to deliver the same month his deceased wife had been due to deliver.

No wonder he freaked out and wanted her to remain safely with her father . . .

At least this is how I’ve tried to make sense of what happened between my mother’s parents.