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.

Valentine’s Day for Adoptees

Searching for a topic for a day like this related to adoptees, I found this Huffington Post blog – Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Adoptees’ Worst Fear Will Likely Come True – by Ben Acheson. The image I chose seemed to fit the sentiments of some adoptees that I have encountered. The subtitle of Ben’s essay notes – What if Valentine’s Day, or relationships in general, were a stark reminder of the most painful and distressing events that you ever experienced? What if they triggered a trauma so terrifically challenging that it forever altered your approach to life? Welcome to Valentine’s Day, and relationships, for adoptees.

Ultimately, Valentine’s Day is about relationships, or the lack thereof. It may evoke unpleasant memories of lost loves, but the nostalgia is normally forgotten by the time the flowers wither and the chocolates disappear. Or does it ?

Take a moment to balk at such a provocative, nonsensical claim; that saving a child through adoption could lead to a life of relationship problems. It is ungrateful and even accusatory to altruistic adopters. It is insulting to those battling depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological issues associated with adoption.

The development of intimate relationships can be a major challenge for adoptees. Their first and most important relationship was irreparably destroyed. The person supposed to love them most disappeared inexplicably. Then they were passed to strangers and expected to pretend that nothing happened.

The impact of that severed relationship is colossal. It permanently alters everything they were destined for. It alters how they attach to people. It causes bonding problems. It leaves them angry, sad and helpless. It interferes with emotional development and instils a persistent fear of abandonment within them.

This fear impacts future relationships. Many adoptees fear that what happened once might happen again. They fear that each new relationship, like the very first one, will not last. If their own mother abandoned them, then why won’t others?

It affects their ability to trust. Their trust in adults was shattered when they were most vulnerable. The idea that their mother loved them so deeply that she gave them away is a confusing paradox. Connection, intimacy and love are forever intertwined with rejection, loneliness and abandonment. Being unable to remember the traumatic events only compounds the problem.

Adoptees are sensitive to criticism and have difficulty expressing long-suppressed emotions. They have hair-triggers and lack impulse control, frequently overreacting to minor stresses. They can be manipulative, intimidating, combative and argumentative. Total absence of control over childhood decisions gives them an unrelenting need for control in adulthood. A counterphobic reaction of ‘reject before being rejected’ is a classic sign of stunted emotional development and unresolved trauma. That is not to say that adoptees do not want intimacy. They often want to ‘give everything’. They yearn for a close, trusting connection. They want to let someone ‘in’, but the openness and vulnerability is petrifying. Letting someone ‘in’ also opens the door to rejection.

Even if partners recognize that deep, sensitive wounds exist, they tire of walking on eggshells. The emotional rollercoaster is exhausting. They become sick of the ‘parent-role’ they often assume. Even if the adoptee matures and gains insight into their behavior, the damage may have been done. Partners may reach the breaking point and leave. But who is to say that failed relationships cannot be a blessing in disguise? For adoptees, the important lesson might be that you sometimes need to fail in order to truly succeed.

Sometimes It Works Beautifully

Today was Baby A’s birthday. After our celebration at home we picked up her mom in Branson and took her to dinner. We wanted her to be able to be with her beautiful daughter on her birthday. Baby A wasn’t the only one celebrating today. Her mom was celebrating 1 year of sobriety! (She gave permission to post this story so that she can inspire others that they too can overcome adversity.)

We were so honored that B invited us to her meeting to get her one year coin. We got to hear her tell the story of her journey, and I was so proud that she was able to hold Baby A while accepting her coin and announcing to those attending that Baby A would be moving home next Saturday.

Our girls enjoyed getting to know B, and I think there will definitely be a continued friendship between all of us. Through our foster care journey we have had parents look at us as the enemy instead of part of the team. Foster care shouldn’t have to be foster parents vs biological parents. We chose this path for the children to have a safe place to land until the parents are in a better place, or to offer a permanent home for those that need it. We want the parents to succeed. We want to be their support, to be there when they need us, and to celebrate their successes.

Fortunately B accepted us and realized that as much as we love Baby A, and as much as we will miss her, we are on B’s side. She is a wonderful mom, and it’s obvious that Baby A is her princess. I cried tears of joy and pride for B tonight. There will be plenty of tears shed in the future as we adjust to life with one less child in our home, but Baby A will be where she needs to be – with her mommy who loves her so much. We want to always be that support system for them, and hope to always have them in our lives. We love you, B, and will always be here for both of you.

The Adoptee’s Hero’s Journey

I’ve been aware of Joseph Campbell’s concept known as The Hero’s Journey for a long time and have seen it referenced in a variety of situations. As I was reading yet another perspective on this, an insight came to me. An adoptee’s search for their original parents (and if successful, even a reunion) is actually a kind of Hero’s Journey. Duh.

The hero’s journey is one of separation, initiation and return. It is a healing descent into the underworld (the unknown outcome) to recover something missing or lost, to restore a vital balance.

Its theme is that when faced with a kind of death struggle against titanic supernatural forces, the self can be triumphant. The self is reborn into a higher level of consciousness, maintaining access to the lower lever when appropriate. Because this lower level is transcended, a more powerful self can operate upon it in a way that appears magical to those still below.

So from my perspective, the titanic supernatural forces are the standard adoption narrative. When one comes out of the adoption fog (a belief in the story that separating mothers from their babies is somehow better for the baby than allowing the mother to raise her own child, bonded to her in the womb and wanting only her love), the woke person somehow touched by adoption somewhere in their life (not necessarily an adoptee themselves, as in my case), finds it is no longer possible to go back to the old perspective. It is possible however to go back to or continue to have an appreciation of the family one acquired by adoption, even though it would be unrealistic to expect those person’s acquired as “relatives” due to adoption to understand the new, higher level of understanding one has gained during their own journey.

“A more powerful self can operate upon it in a way that appears magical to those still below,” or even to someone such as myself, who accomplished identifying my own 4 original grandparents in only one year’s time and making new family genetic connections to an aunt and some cousins. Sometimes, I can hardly believe I did this. My own parents lived almost 80 years without accomplishing that for themselves (though my mom gave it a good, hard try). My parents died clueless and knowing what I know now, more’s the pity that they were robbed of the knowledge. I can only hope there is an afterlife and that both of my parents have reunited with their own natural parents there.

For me, a little success and the encouragement to go further from family and friends certainly helped to motivate me to stay on a determined course that did succeed.

You can read more about The Hero’s (or Heroine’s) Journey in this link.

What Happens When

A woman throws her baby away in a dumpster. That is what happened to the man above when he was only hours old. His mother was a drug addict. She said she couldn’t stand looking at him for whatever reason she felt that way.

When he was discovered, the police called child services who immediately put him into foster care. His foster parents took in more than 100 foster kids during their lives. He one, of only two, they ever adopted. They were nearing 70 when he came into their lives. Adopting a newborn baby wasn’t part of their plans. However, they didn’t want to leave him in the foster care system.

The poor little boy growing up in a small town where everyone knows everything was bullied in his public school days and called Dumpster Baby. He was 10 years old when his adoptive father told him his origins story. He thought: did somebody really throw me away? Am I trash or a person? It bothered him for a long time but he did overcome it. He had the love of an adoptive mother and father to assist him.

This is the kind of case where adoption makes sense to me. However, his life with these elderly adoptive parents wasn’t all roses and sunshine. His father wasn’t physically able to throw a football around, so he became fascinated with technology. He read encyclopedias cover to cover. He admits, “We grew up in an impoverished environment. We went to thrift stores; we went dumpster diving. In 1989, when I was eight, my father bought me a secondhand Macintosh, for $24 from a flea market. It didn’t work, so I opened it up and noticed some capacitors were burst. My father was a maintenance worker and had a soldering gun. I took parts from the clock radio to put in the computer. After about 50 attempts, I got it to work.”

This $24 gift and a father with some tools changed this man’s life. He goes on to say, “After that, computers were my escape. I was still being bullied and didn’t have any friends. That computer became my best friend. I was in an education program called Children Are Our Future; the director saw a gift in me and let me work in the computer lab. I’d replace hard drives and add RAM. She encouraged me to start my own business repairing computers.”

“At 12, I got my first job, working after school at the city hall as a computer technician. I helped develop an internet service protocol to tie all of the city agencies together. I pushed myself to the limit. I learned everything I could about Windows. By 14, I’d started writing code; after that, I remember sitting at a computer for two days in a row without even being hungry. I loved it.”

He is inventive and developed a tracking software for elderly people with dementia (because he had to do that find his adoptive father when he would wander off. He passed away in 2014). H also developed a meter to monitor glucose levels in diabetics via Bluetooth. Those are just 2 of over 80 custom software programs he has written. Today at 31 years old, he is the CEO of Figgers Communication. He also created the Figgers Foundation to help children in foster care all around the world. For example, this Christmas they’re buying 25,000 bicycles to give away.

He credits his adoptive parents for showing him compassion and the power of having good people around you.

You Can Just Adopt

The world already has enough people.  More and more, deciding to remain childless is an option people are choosing deliberately.  My husband and I don’t even know whether our sons will ever marry and/or have any children.  There will never be pressure from us in that regard.

The decision to have children occurs within a pronatalist social context.  When I was a senior in high school in 1972, I knew I was going to continue getting advanced education, work full time, get married and have children.  No wonder I failed.  Some women may excel at the SuperWoman effort but I did not.  I never got a degree, I ended up divorced and financially unable to provide for my child.  But I have had to work at some kind of revenue producing effort all of my life.

Why do those that cannot have their own children think that domestic infant adoption is another way to build their family?  I suppose because it has been promoted as a good thing and socially acceptable for decades now – at least as far back as the 1930s.

Our culture views parenting as an essential part of achieving fulfillment, happiness, and meaning in life, and as a marker of successful adulthood.  When my husband told me that he wanted to be a father afterall (after 10 years of being grateful I had been there and done that and no pressure on him), I was a bit shocked and it was not an easy path for us.  I am still grateful medical science had a way to make it possible, even if it involved some non-traditional sacrifice on my part.  Having children did deepen and expand upon our relationship as a couple, making us a family.  As we are aging without any other family nearby, we are grateful our children may be there for us.

Remaining childless by choice (AKA childfree) is still an outlying path, a move that raises questions and is met with prejudice and even moral outrage. This is particularly true for women, whose gender identity and social value have long been tied to fertility and motherhood. Thus, women who decide to not have children are commonly viewed unfavorably.

Though I now see the problems and emotional fallout of adopting children, I also do recognize that a mature person can love any child genuinely.  It is not necessarily a selfish motive or ego stoking decision.  Children are easy to love for most well balanced and emotionally healthy persons.  Sadly, there are people who are not that and should not have children.  Personally, I respect any mature person who knows themselves well enough to know they shouldn’t take on the responsibility of raising a child.  There should be no negative perceptions from anyone else towards those who make such a choice.

Love Isn’t Always On Time

Since I believe reality is never wrong, I know that my parents conception, birth, adoption, marriage, parenting was all just as it was meant to be.  No one escapes this Life without wounds and some are more wounded than others but we were not promised a rose garden when we agreed to spend some time incarnated upon this planet.

So the romantic relationships and/or marriages that conceived my parents were not wrong.  I do believe my grandparents all loved one another.  The Great Depression and a lack of social safety nets certainly played it’s role in separating my grandparents and in separating their children from them.

In learning about my true, genetic roots, one of my joys has been to discover that every one of my grandparents eventually found a lasting love with someone else.  Every one of them remarried and stayed married until death.

So in a bizarre paradoxical way, I accept that all the sadness and grief were somehow necessary for me to be conceived.  It was also necessary for the souls of my grandparents to learn and grow into better people who could find love and stay married after their early failures.

Love.  It is what we are here to do.

Becoming Whole Again

Much of what I write here came as an unexpected side effect of discovering who my original grandparents were.  Both of my parents were adoptees and both of them died without knowing what I know now.

The journey began because my cousin informed me she had received her father’s adoption file from the state of Tennessee.  This came as a huge surprise to me.  Back in the early 1990s, my mom tried and failed to get her own.  I had hoped, since she had died, it might become available to me but that is not how sealed records work generally – and I have bumped up against them in 3 states – Virginia, Arizona and California.

What made Tennessee different was the Georgia Tann scandal.  There would have been criminal charges lodged against her if she had not died before that could happen.  The movers and shakers of Memphis political life were all too happy to let the wrong-doing die with Miss Tann.

The story had such potency, that it erupted on the public’s imagination in the early 1990s on 60 Minutes and Oprah.  A movie was made by Hallmark featuring Mary Tyler Moore as a convincing Georgia Tann.  Reunions of adoptees with their original parents started being seen on television and my mom wanted that for herself.  It was not to be.  No one told her that less than 10 years after her own efforts were denied, it would have been possible.

It was surprising to me how the dominoes began falling so easily, so that in less than one year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were and made contact with some surviving descendants.  Only a few years ago, I would never have predicted such a result.

It didn’t end there however.  From that new wholeness, I also began to understand deeply the impacts of separating young children or infants from their mothers and original families, how this causes a deep traumatic wound in the adoptee and how even the most well-meaning of adoptive parents (my adoptive grandparents were totally that and good people in general) can not make up for what has happened to the victims of the process.

And from all that, has come this blog.  No doubt I still have more to say as soon as tomorrow.