A Sad Reality

Adoptees are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than non-adoptees are. Why is that ? Maybe because being adopted is not all unicorns and rainbows.

So today comes this sad story.

I work in animal rescue because I couldn’t handle working for the Department of Children and Families. It’s a corrupt system.

Today I took a phone call that really got to me and started a small debate between others in the office at the time.

The caller said a 26 year old adoptee had killed herself and left four cats behind. One cat was found dead with her. One cat a friend took and the other two the rescue I work in is taking. We learned these animals were without food for sometime. Meaning no one had checked up on her.

I was told the adoptive mom was a bad alcoholic, adoptive father is a prominent well known doctor. That the 26 year old suffered years of mental health issues. I told the caller we would take in the two two cats no questions asked and no surrender fee. When the caller asked me why… I responded that as an adoptee myself….

My heart breaks for any adoptee who was this upset and hurting to take her own life in front of pets who she saved and loved. I said most adoptees have trauma and pain and it seldom gets better even with the best therapy! She thanked me and I’ll meet the lady Friday with the two cats.

When I got off the phone the two other people in the office told me I cannot generalize adoptive people that way. That many adoptive people are happy! I’m like no… I’m an adoptee and while my life on the outside may look perfect and my own children are …. I cry daily and have struggled my entire life. In my teens, I wanted to die! So I told them unless they were an adoptee nothing that they could tell me would change my view!

The truth is that the lived experience of many adoptees makes those who have not experienced it, uncomfortable.

October 30th is Adoptee Remembrance Day.

Who’s Real ?

It’s a conundrum, a confusing and difficult problem or question. I understand it personally. When I finally learned who my original grandparents were and met relatives who were genetically and biologically related to me, my adoptive family receded into the background.

As a child, I had grandparents who adopted my parents when they were young. They are the only grandparents I knew growing up and going through old family letters from the early 1980s that I need to finally let go of, I see how they were my personal cheerleaders as I left one kind of life I had been living and began the long and slow process of making a different kind of life for myself. I am grateful for their love and concern.

I have aunts who became more significant again in my own life after my parents died. I am grateful for their love and support.

Those of us impacted by adoption often struggle to describe our relationships with two sets of relatives. Sometimes the word “real” is used to describe those that family DNA type websites would consider as being accurately related to us. It gets cumbersome to try and define “real” from “acquired”.

The topic came up yet again in my all things adoption group. I thought this was a good response – “Everyone is real. It’s kind of a given.” Direct and to the point. Even so, it can be confusing to people who don’t know your personal family history.

We aren’t exactly playing along with our adoptive relatives but for an adoptee, the person is often too well aware that their name and their birth certificate have been falsified to change their identity – from the one they were born with to being in effect the possession of the people who adopted them. This was often done to prevent the original parents and the adoptees from ever finding each other, though with the tools available today (inexpensive DNA testing and matching websites) reunions are taking place constantly.

One adoptee admits – I had a hard time with “real” as a kid growing up. When people found out that I was adopted I was always asked, “Do you know your real parents?” “Do you have any real brothers or sisters?” “Do your adoptive parents have any real kids?” People seemed to use that word in place of biological and to my kid-brain, it felt like I was somehow less of a person because I wasn’t my adopters “real” kid.

Add to this that adoptees often honestly do feel that they don’t belong in the family they are being raised within. And quite honestly, that feeling is accurate, even though it is their reality.

Why Do I Care ?

I was searching my heart for a topic for today’s blog. I’ve been reading a book and recently the topic was treating Borderlines. I once knew someone slightly who lost her children and described her diagnosis with that as the reason. I didn’t think too much about it at the time but due to my reading, I understand her personality better now. I also know that adoptees often suffer from a wide range of mental health issues. So I googled Adoptees and Borderline Personality Traits.

I am going to link this sad article for you because there is so much there. I actually care and have learned a lot more to care about since uncovering my adoptee (both mom and dad) parents origins and adoption stories. While I will be forever grateful I didn’t end up adopted (because it is a minor miracle I did not), I care about all things adoption and an extension of that has been caring about foster care youth and often, foster care does lead to adoption. That is the background of the story I will link for you here.

Dark Enough: When Adoptive Families Struggle

The subject of the story is Rebecca who was removed by Child Protective Services (CPS) from her natural mother when she was 6 years old. CPS did initially try a kinship placement with Rebecca’s maternal grandmother but a few months, it became clear that their grandmother was unable to meet the children’s needs. There were 3 girls. Rebecca went through multiple foster care placements but eventually was reunited with her 15 month old sister Alina, when Rebecca was 7, in that separate foster home. The 3 girls had been sent to separate homes after their stay with the grandmother. Rebecca and Alina were then placed in a foster to adopt situation.

Rebecca’s adjustment has been difficult, to put it mildly. By the middle of eighth grade, her adoptive parents began to suspect that Rebecca was afflicted by Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Though both RAD and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder were both ruled out, her adoptive mom felt frustrated and defeated. Everyone was telling her this child was normal when she knew something was terribly wrong. CPS referred them to a psychiatrist who found symptoms of PTSD, major depression and anxiety, as well as poor coping skills for stress – and one surprise (which based on behaviors was not surprising at all) – Rebecca displayed an attachment disorder specific to father figures. Rebecca was able to develop an attachment to her maternal grandmother and to her adoptive mother but had severe difficulties with the adoptive father.

Rebecca’s new attachment therapist Cheri diagnosed her with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD is not curable, but it can be understood and managed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, BPD sufferers have an unstable self-image and their actions display that uncertainty about how they see themselves. Unsure of their worth, they will go to extreme lengths to avoid real or imagined abandonment. They also feel victimized by the world and have great difficulty taking responsibility for their actions. Therefore, by the very nature of the disorder, BPD sufferers are blind to their role in the troubles surrounding them.

The article is worth reading in full.

Emotional Toll

In the all things adoption group I belong to, adoptee voices are considered privileged. They are the ones who know what being adopted feels like. Sometimes adoptive parents or hopeful prospective adoptive parents come into the group. They struggle with the anger and pain that adoptees in the group express. There are also former foster youth who share their experiences and current foster care parents or hopeful to become foster parents come into the group as well.

Adoptees often express the emotional toll of trying to share their lived experiences with these other group members. Some who are not adoptees cannot take what they are reading and leave or become angry and disbelieving – surely they are the exception ?

If you ever encounter a “woke” adoptee (adoptees often express how it feels to have emerged from what they call the adoption fog when they believed the unicorns and rainbows version of adoption that the industry puts forth in pursuit of the profits they make facilitating adoptions), believe them when they express their struggles with feelings of abandonment, rejection, not belonging in the family they’ve been adopted into. Though most birth parents welcome a reunion with their “lost” child, not all of them do. These are more than sad for the adoptee experiences being abandoned and rejected all over again.

Feelings Of Rejection

Feelings of rejection may be one of the most common impacts for any person who was adopted. Today’s story breaks my heart . . .

It’s never going to stop. These feelings of rejection are going to be part of my life forever. I have worked so hard in therapy these past 5 years to learn all the coping skills and most of the time they have worked.

Today, not so much. I am sitting here with tears running down my face for the stupidest reasons. The irrational thoughts of rejection in my head triggered by conversations that anyone else would consider completely normal, logical and with no ill intent. I can type that, I can say it out loud, but my brain cannot stop these feelings of being rejected. It’s a freight train out of control.

This is the life adoption created for me and no amount of therapy or positive reunion or being the administer of a group that allows me to speak freely is going to change the fact that a simple statement telling me not to come to my adoptive brother’s on Christmas Eve in the middle of Covid but learning that all my nieces and nephews and my adoptive mother will be there, set’s off a chain reaction of feeling personal rejection.

We are in a pandemic, my adoptive mom goes there weekly anyway, my nieces and nephews are their children. It makes logical sense they would/could be there. Yet the second my adoptive mom told me she was going there and I told her we were not asked to come, I instantly had to put on my sunglasses and hide my eyes. Hide the tears that were forming quickly.

I desperately want to avoid being irrational, but the chain reaction starts. My husband’s phone dings and I wonder who is texting him. I have no reason to be concerned, yet I can’t help it in this moment. My adoptive mom mentions my out of state niece sent a big batch of cookies to my adoptive brother. I sit and wonder why him and not me.

Cookies…..text messages…..keeping distance during a pandemic…..anyone would consider all that innocuous. I should too. There are real issues going on in this world. There are people that don’t have family, there are people that are struggling. I try hard to get it in check, to move past it. Then I walk my adoptive mom to the door and she says “Don’t worry so much about things. You worry too much” and the tears start up again.

I’ve been told this all my life and I want to scream back at her and say do you think I WANT to be like this? To let these inconsequential things set me off at 55 years old, stupid shit that should be irrelevant? I don’t, because in this moment, my brain cannot make my mouth do that. The risk is too great. I just weakly smile and walk away.

They will never understand. Not my adoptive family, not my natural family. They will never understand that I CANNOT control this. Our brains are not wired like everyone else’s and this is the result. Me…..crying over a gathering during covid, cookies and text messages…..SIGH….tell me again how much adoption rocks. I could not hate myself more right now, for not being able to avoid this spiral over nonsense.

Normal, Not Cured

Today’s story comes from a woman who was in foster care as a youth.

I live a perfectly regular life. I have a career, kids, a loving husband. I go on vacations, I read, I cook, I attend PTA meetings. I go to parties, concerts, weddings. I don’t talk about my foster care experiences that you may have seen were bad in real life. Very few know I was a foster kid. Heck, you might take your kid in to see me and wouldn’t know my foster care experiences. I’m just a normal person in real life.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I still struggle. I still attend therapy to cope with my experiences so many of which were negative. I still have nightmares and triggers. I’m not cured. My trauma is with me for life. I’ve learned how to cope and can wake up without it being the first thing on my mind. I know myself well enough to know when I’m triggered. I’ve learned how to put on a fake smile to hide my pain.

So please remember this, stop putting former foster youth and adoptees in a box and pitting them against each other. You want to believe all of the negative perspectives from former foster youth and adoptees are only online and the ones who had positive good experiences aren’t online but out there enjoying life. No, all of them are just living their life.

There are many adoptees and former foster youth who aren’t online and they’re struggling in real life. Many former foster youth in real life are trying to heal and many are fighting for a better system. Your own foster or adopted child might be struggling right now. You might not know because you want to believe they don’t hurt. All of the good adoptees and former foster youth are out living life and the negative ones are online in your mind. This is simply not true. You just want to believe it’s true.

Also, please stop putting individual experiences in the negative or positive box. If a former foster youth or adoptee says their experiences were negative or positive – that’s their right – it is their lived experience. You don’t get the right to define someone else’s experience.

If anything we all need to listen to the difficult, uncomfortable bad stories, more than the good. The bad story is what may have gotten you a child to raise in the first place. The bad stories are much more common than you want to believe. Sadly, the overwhelming evidence is that the bad stuff is way too common.

Words Of Encouragement

Life changes, never forget that it can.

It is perfectly acceptable to wish for better days to come.

There is nothing wrong with wishing for better income, more stability, and an ability to give MORE.

Years from now, you may realize something startling –

Your wish came true.

You will realize that those “better days” that you once could only dream of are now your reality.

It can be so easy to feel discouraged and just want to give up. Keep your hopes for better alive. Dreams can come true.  I know.  I’ve seen my own come true in amazing ways.

I remember one Christmas with my daughter when she was just a toddler. I bought the tiniest tree. I painted little wooden ornaments. I bought her a little bra and underwear set, patent leather shoes and lacy socks and one of those children’s microphones she could sing through. We didn’t have much but we did have a Christmas. Life is full of ups and downs. Change is constant and can be a source of hope when nothing seems hopeful at all.

HUGS of encouragement for you, who in a season that can feel so discouraging and depressing for a lot of people, must somehow carry on.  You are never truly alone in difficult moments.  Others are struggling and some are overcoming those same kinds of struggle.