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.

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.

Yet Another Story of Misattributed Parentage

Mark Overbay

Story thanks to the Right to Know people.

Every MPE (misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage) story has a starting point. The discovery comes entirely by surprise for many, whereas it confirms others’ long-held, conscious or subconscious, suspicions. If there truly is one, the typical story involves submitting a direct-to-consumer/recreational DNA test yourself or being contacted out of the blue by someone who has. Mine has a little of each with an added twist.

One afternoon, a friend of mine called me with what he described as “interesting news.” He told me that he and his older sister had taken DNA tests and found something unexpected. He informed me that both had discovered the man they thought their father wasn’t. Their research afterward led them to believe that my father was their BF (birth father). Additionally, they had reached out and somehow convinced my father to submit a DNA test. The results confirmed their research findings. “We,” he informed me, “are half-brothers.” He sent me a screenshot of the DNA evidence to prove it. Because I was already aware of two other half-siblings from my father, this news honestly wasn’t that surprising. I remember laughing with him about the strangeness of our new situation.

What my friend didn’t know, however, is that many years ago, I had also taken a DNA test from the same direct-to-consumer company, primarily because I was ethnicity curious (as both of my own parents were adopted – this was originally my own motivation). When I told him about this, he informed me that I wasn’t on his match list and followed with the question, “You are the adopted one, right?” “Adopted? I was not adopted.” I quickly replied. Confused, he told me that my father had told his sister I was adopted. He must have misunderstood. I was 58 years old and was confident that I wasn’t adopted. My birth certificate listed my father and mother. I had seen it many times. I called his sister to see where this part of the story originated. She repeated her brother’s claim that my father had told her I was adopted. Further, she explained, he had married my mother, knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child.

When I learned the adoption news, I was more than two hours from home and my laptop. I wasn’t laughing anymore. My head was now cloudy and confused. The drive home was a blur. “Could this be possible?” I asked myself, “Was I adopted?” Once I arrived, I quickly checked my DNA matches. Neither my father nor these two new “half-siblings” were there. As I surveyed my 80,000 + matches, none matched my surname. I found that it was 100% confident regarding the connections tied to my mother. However, most of my “close” matches were surnames utterly foreign to me.

It was true then; I had been “adopted” by my BCF (birth certificate father). But, unfortunately, my mother had taken her secret to the grave. My BCF had told a stranger rather than me. I found out I was an NPE from a friend who was a completely unrelated NPE (nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event). My friend was right about the adoption but wrong about the two of us. We were not related. In a nutshell, that’s how my story began.

Life does not prepare you for such moments. As abrupt and shocking as it was, this revelation explained so much. My physical appearance, personality, and temperament differed significantly from my father’s. I was athletic; he was not. We had little to nothing in common and even less to talk about. We have not spoken in many years. Those who knew both my father and me well commonly joked that I must be “the milkman’s child.” My wife has known my father for more than 30 years and never once thought we were related. I laughed these comments off, but I really couldn’t disagree. The differences were problematic to me. I knew enough about genetics to know that much of what defines our identity, the sense of who we are, is inherited. I feared that I would start to see undesirable attributes of my father revealing themselves in me one day.

The realization that I was adopted lifted an incalculable weight from my shoulders. The fear that I would someday become my father was a burden more significant than I had previously appreciated. Yet, strangely perhaps, as the reality set in, this genetic enlightenment was validating and liberating for me. The truth had freed me.

You can read the rest of his happy ending family reunion story here – Mark Overbay.

Parallel Universes

I only just learned about this book by David Bohl. I have not read it. He is an adoptee. I found an story he tells about being an adoptee and I share from that story today. He talks about the moment he learned shame in connection to his adoption, as well as the confusion and hurt that followed. A hurt that could not and should not be ignored, because ignoring it just fuels the fire of shame…and for him, alcoholism, until he found the origin story that helped him become whole. 

He says, I’ve been two people my entire life. I don’t have a dissociative personality disorder—I’m just a regular guy whose reality is that I am a relinquishee and adoptee, and a person in long-term recovery from alcoholism. In the past my perception was so warped I had to occupy a few Parallel Universes: worlds that collided with each other, but that were also able to contain a person made out of two people. Until I made those worlds connect and interlock, living a split existence almost killed me: I was terrified of confronting my reality; its darkness. 

He shares an old Cherokee fable called “Tale of Two Wolves.” A battle between two ‘wolves’ inside us. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?“ The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.” 

Bohl disagrees. He says, It is possible to free yourself from the bad wolf—such as the evil of trauma—but starving it won’t work. Your darkness is part of you. Even if you manage to starve the wolf, there will still be a skeleton left behind. A skeleton is not closure—there’s no such thing as closure: we only have context and from context comes wisdom. For me, starving the bad wolf would mean I’d ignore my past, my authentic self, which means I’d ignore reality and the fact that I am a human being who had been relinquished and traumatized by it. I would ignore the fact that I was also drinking myself to death.

He shares, When I was six years old, I told two friends that I was adopted. It was never a secret in my family, and it felt normal, although I understood that it made me unique. I’d look at my family members—most of them olive-skinned, dark-haired – and I’d look at myself in the mirror with my freckled face and red hair. But our difference didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother me until the day I confessed my adoption to two friends. Their shock was so palatable that I urged them to my house so that my mother would confirm the secret I just shared with them. At first, I thought their shock came from being impressed—as if I told them I could fly—but as my adoptive mother cheerfully explained that it was indeed true, I saw shadows of pity, even revulsion, cross my friends’ faces. In that moment I learned about shame. I needed to hide and never reveal my true self. Revealing true self was dangerous. 

The revelation of my adoption introduced capital-S Shame into my life—a thing so huge it overshadowed everything. The world became a giant microscope and I felt observed, scrutinized because I was different. I felt like a freak. As an adult, he became an alcoholic. He had ignored the fact that he had been relinquished. He didn’t want to know about his origins. For Bohl, once he confronted that reality, he could no longer drink in peace. It was the beginning of his recovery.

His story gives me pause. After my dad (an adoptee) died, my sister and I discovered a “confession” of sorts that he wrote for a religious retreat that he and my mom attended. It was about the time he was arrested for drunk driving and bargained with God to let him escape the worst impacts (loss of family and employment). Then, he admits that he broke his bargain, for the most part though he returned to church with my mom after their children had flown the nest to keep her company and I know from personal experience that he continued to go to church during the 4 months he lived after her death until he joined her there in whatever place the soul goes.

This story touches me not only because I discovered his DWI arrest but also because he never seemed interested in his origins. His adoptive parents were his parents and he wished to know no more than that. More’s the pity. He had a half-sister living only 90 miles from him when he died who could have told him about his mother. His father never knew he had a son. His father died in 1968 but they were so much alike – both loved fishing and the ocean – that they would have been great buddies had they known of one another. Was my father ashamed of having been given up and adopted ? I don’t know, he never expressed any feelings about it with me. When my mom, also an adoptee, wanted to search for her mother, he cautioned her against it, saying she might be opening up a can of worms. So, she confided in me but that is the only indication of my dad’s feelings about his adoption that I ever received.

Back to the interview with Bohl, which takes a heartbreaking turn – he says, I got sober at the age of 45 after a seizure that forced me to dig up the records of my birth—I had to know my medical history. And then there she was: Miss Karen Bender, who died at the age of 56. She was a red-headed coed, a flight attendant, a mother to three daughters and two sons—one, me, relinquished—and, eventually, a half-ghost drinking herself to death in a heap of old blankets in a rented storage. Her lonely heart gave out in a homeless shelter. She died alone, isolated like a sick animal, hiding from the world. Not wanting to bother anyone. No one around to see her final departure. Her shame. 

He ends his story with this – she was a tragic wolf. But instead of starving the memory of her, I dug deeper and it helped me to become a survivor whose heart started to heal once I got context and clarity about where I came from and who I was. And even then, I sometimes still felt like an outsider. Yet I wanted to live the kind of life that didn’t depend on adapting. I understood reality and the two wolves that informed it. I had my own family, I was learning my origins. There was darkness in my past but there was also healing that stemmed from it. There was joy, too, and freedom— I was connecting with people in genuine way; no longer through the haze of shame and unhealthy coping mechanisms.  The Reality that I found triumphs over Shame, its capital S getting smaller and smaller as I now live as a man who is whole. 

David Bohl was adopted at birth by a prosperous family. Throughout his earlier years, he tried to keep up a good front and surpass the expectations of his adoptive parents, as he tried desperately to fit in. Bohl was raised with no religious teachings. David later struggled with traditional recovery fellowships; and so, instead sought out secular supports, where he finally fit in. This support allowed him to learn the stark facts about mental health and addiction, as well as the monumental issues many “reliquishees” need to overcome to find peace and the quality of life they deserve. Today, David is an independent addiction consultant

Confusing Lust As Love

A less common definition for Lust is a passionate desire for “x”.

A woman in my all things adoption group wrote – To love someone is sometimes a decision you make every day. Between posts from Second Chance Adoptions and adoptive parents in other groups, I’m seeing a lack of unconditional love in adoptive families. How many times have we seen from hopeful adoptive parents “I’m in love with a child I haven’t met yet.” That’s not love, it’s lust. Some people are seriously confused about what it means to “love.”

Another woman notes something I have long know is true of how most people do define love.

Most people sadly place conditions on their love. I love you as long as you love me. I love you as long as you do what I say. I love you as long as you never upset me. I love you but only if you never struggle. I love you until you say you hate me. I love you until you say I’m not your real parent. I love you until you decide to go live with your biological mom. And the ultimate one, “I love you as long as it’s convenient and beneficial for me.”

I am an unconditionally loving person. I can love even the worst scoundrel on some level. But I agree with this remark – unconditionally loving someone, doesn’t mean, I have to do things for him or her that hurt me or my family. This is where I have sadly had to arrive with my youngest sister, who traumatizes me and leaves me obsessed if I have too much interaction with her. I do love her. I wish her well in the most obvious definition of that word but I have to also care about myself and my other family members.

Another woman defined it this way – Real, true unconditional love has no conditions. True unconditional love comes with respect, compassion and understanding. True unconditional love says that no matter how something may make me feel or how it may make my life harder, if you need it, I will do it for you because I love you.

I think the operative word there is “need”. Sometimes what someone needs is very hard for us to do but we do it anyway. Like when I had to ask the court to determine my sister’s competency to manage her own affairs. That was all that was required, that I ask it be looked at. Of course, she didn’t appreciate it but with our parents both dying, it was something she needed and a family member had to ask for it. Then it was the judge, the social worker and the psychologist who made the determine how much assistance she should have. I am glad that wasn’t a determination I had to make. I do value freedom and self-determination and I never wanted those taken from my sister and for the most part, the judge has left her free except in the overall management of her finances. She is still able to spend her budgeted allowance any way she choses.

Another woman stated her honest opinion – Oh, I hate that shit! “We’re so heartbroken that the biological mom decided to keep her baby. We were already in love with her.” Like, baby isn’t even born yet but don’t tell me you wouldn’t take absolutely ANY baby.

To which, another affirmed – Right. They’d just move on to the next. It doesn’t matter what baby, as long as it’s a baby.

Then there is the “I chose you” facade so many adoptive parents perpetrate –

My adoptive mom used to tell me that they got to pick me and that biological parents just get the kid they’re given. It’s bs. They didn’t pick me! They took the first baby available. They would have taken the next baby in line if I’d been given to someone else.

Which comment elicited sympathy – I can’t even begin to imagine how it feels to know that. I’m sure most domestic infant adoption adoptees know that, and I’m sure y’all just wish your adoptive parent would at least be honest.

I found this a good analogy – As I told an ex once, “You weren’t in love with me, just with the *idea* of someone to fit the role you envisioned.” I know it is possible to become deeply attached to what someone represents, without unconditionally loving that person. 

Better To Have Been Aborted

It may surprise a reader to know this, but many adoptees actually wish they would have been aborted.  That is how painful it is to be given up for adoption and doubly painful if the adopting parents prove to further damage an already damaged soul.

I am pro-Choice and pro-life.  Not pro-Life like most of those are.  They are only pro-Birth, truth be told.  They are not willing to fund adequate financial support to struggling mothers so that they can keep and raise their children.

The world has enough people already.  We do NOT need to be fruitful and multiply any more.  In fact, we have not needed to do that for a very long time.  The population explosion first occurred on a small scale and with a relatively moderate intensity in Europe and America, more or less between 1750 and 1950.  Enough is enough.  If a couple wants to have children and is willing to fully support raising them, I’m all for it.  Otherwise, trust women to make the best decision and stop stressing over the babies you imagine they have killed.

I fully understand what it feels like for a child to be born into this world unwanted and unprepared for. My maternal grandmother never had any other children because of the shame and guilt she felt at having surrendered a child for adoption. She died too young and I fear what happened to separate her from my mom haunted her for her entire life.

I am a woman who chose to have an abortion. The timing was wrong, the father was wrong to make any kind of commitment and the pregnancy was not developing normally.  I am grateful I could go to a clean clinic, where I received counseling and good treatment.  It still haunted me.  I had a child before the abortion who I am forever glad I kept (even though some circumstances at the time of her conception suggested I should not have – I knew she would be just fine and she was/is).  I am a woman who went on to have two very wanted sons when I entered into a marriage to a good man who wanted to be a good father and he is.

The Better Option

There is such a thing as privilege.  It is a privilege to have enough wealth that if you can’t have a child naturally, you are able to adopt someone else’s.  Is wealth a better option than keeping a family intact ?  There are cases where a child is going to need a safer environment but no child needs to have their identity erased and cultural heritage hidden from them.

It is weird to grow up with all these relatives and then reach an age in advanced maturity when one knows who their true genetic relatives are.  Both of my parents were adopted.  That means the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were never really my relations.  It is a very weird feeling to know that with certainty now.

Of course, I acknowledge that there were these couples who provided for and raised my parents.  They were the people I knew as grandparents growing up and they were without a doubt influential in my life.  Now that I know who the real ones were, they are who I think of when I think of who my grandparents were, even though I never had the privilege of knowing them in life.

One of the expectations is that an adoptee is supposed to be grateful and acknowledge all the sacrifices their adoptive parents made to raise them.  On the adoptees part there is this lifelong requirement to live up to the expectations of the adoptive parent.  I know that my mom felt this and I know that she felt like she had failed to equal those expectations.

All parents expect something from their children but most children are quite free to ignore those parental expectations.  An adoptee often fears being returned to a no-family state if they don’t live up to the expectations of the people who purchased their very lives.

It may be hard to read but it is a real thing for those who’s roots have been cut off from underneath them.

Equal Citizenship ?

Adoptees are less free than other citizens of the United States.  Most citizens take for granted the right to know who they were born as.  Adoptees have their birth names taken from them to be replaced by the name their adoptive parents want them to have.

Most citizens have their original birth certificates.  Adoptees are given a falsified birth certificate making it appear that their adoptive parents actually gave birth to them.  With some, even the location of their birth is changed to make it more difficult for them to learn about their true origins.

All adoptees endure a form of culture clash – for some more extreme than for others.  Some adoptees are affected by ethnic, socioeconomic or regional differences than what they would have experienced if they had remained in the families they were born into.

Our society is adoption-focused.  It is NOT adoptee focused.  In other words – the focus is on the people who want children instead of on the children themselves.