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. 

Folkeregister

I’ve been reading a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. My youngest sister is affected by a chronic and profound mental illness, likely paranoid schizophrenia based upon her expression of this challenging condition. Therefore, I want to understand this as much as possible.

So imagine my surprise at encountering the portion I will share with you in today’s blog. When I learned the identity of my dad’s father, I discovered he was a Danish immigrant, not yet a citizen though he would become one in the 1940s and he was married (not to my dad’s mother). With that discovery, I remain forever interested in anything to do with Denmark. I am fortunate as well to now have a direct link to a cousin in this family who lives in Denmark.

The Folkeregister, is a Danish registry containing detailed birth, family history, health records and circumstances of death for virtually every person in that country. Researchers used this resource in an attempt to separate the effects of genetic endowment from the tribulations of childhood.

Therefore, the researchers started their study looking at entire generations of people with mental problems, then cross-referenced their results with dozens of traits. To isolate inherited traits from environmentally induced ones, they focused on children adopted at birth and raised by families unrelated to the natural parents. They readily determined that children adopted from families of schizophrenic parents are more likely to become schizophrenic than children adopted from non-schizophrenic parents – no matter the circumstances of their upbringing.

But when researchers compared identical and fraternal twins who were separated at birth and raised in foster homes. they found the unexpected. The concordance for schizophrenia between identical twins is less than 50%. Identical twins have exactly the same genetic structure from conception. We would expect 100% concordance – if genes are the ONLY cause of schizophrenia. Clearly, genetic influence is powerful but other forces are involved. There are indications that ongoing genetic mutations create new genetic expressions of schizophrenia.

Not all psychotic ASCs (Altered States of Consciousness) reflect genetic abnormalities or primary brain disorders. What is inherited is a predisposition for idiosyncratic thinking and for developing psychotic ASCs when under stress. If genes do predispose some people to schizophrenia, what is the final trigger that pushes the person over that edge or boundary ? We know that family and social environments profoundly affect a growing brain, which changes throughout life. So the outcome of genetic predispositions to certain ASCs might be entirely different from family to family and culture to culture.

So both good news and cautionary expectations when one has this presented in their family line.

If You Can’t Do This, Why Can You Do This ?

It is well known that simply being adopted is a risk for mental illness impacts like depression, anxiety and suicide. What is less often discussed is whether or not people with a history of mental illness should adopt. Adoptees deserve the best possible care and that means anyone who has had a history of mental health illnesses shouldn’t be adopting. You can’t own a gun, if you suffer from mental health illnesses. You can’t work certain jobs. Your restricted from other things. So WHY should you be allowed to raise someone else’s children ?

Understandably, many adults with a history of psychiatric illness prefer to adopt rather than have biological children. They may have concerns about psychiatric destabilization during pregnancy or that they may pass some genetic factor onto their unborn child. Certainly, if they are currently under medication, there is a concern about the impact of that pharmaceutical on the unborn child.

Child adoption laws vary from state to state. Although some licensed adoption agencies sympathize with potential adoptive parents with a history of mental illness, the law usually considers the following factors:
• the potential adopter’s emotional ties to the child
• their parenting skills
• emotional needs of the child
• the potential adopter’s desire to maintain continuity of the child’s care
• permanence of the family unit of the proposed home
• the physical, moral, and mental fitness of the potential parent.

Interestingly, an adoptee put forth this perspective – my adopted mother has always been open about her struggles with mental health (and the therapy and meds she uses to manage them) which in turn made *me* feel safe in coming to her with my struggles and she supported me as I sought therapy and medication as well. Mental illness isn’t some character flaw, it’s no one’s fault, and it shouldn’t be an excluding factor in and of itself. Plenty of biological parents have these issues as well. As long as a person is taking care of their mental health, whether it’s therapy or medications, and isn’t dangerous to themselves or others, it’s no one’s business and it isn’t relevant.

And this one offers an even broader perspective –  I’m an adoptee, and an adoptive parent. I’m also a therapist. I also have a managed anxiety disorder. I think asking people to have their mental illness well managed is one thing — and requiring psychiatric approval (from their therapist or whomever is overseeing their care), and there’s certainly diagnosis’ that should be precluded (likely anything progressive or personality wise). But most people could fit in to a mental health diagnosis at one point or another in their life. How people manage that mental illness and cope with it is the bigger picture.

One woman wrote – I do not think mental health illness = abuse but I do think abuse= mental health illness. I think you must be mentally ill, if you are abusing children.

One woman admitted –  I had no idea how my depression would be exacerbated by raising a family — and a adoptive one at that. Rather than restrictions, I think that there should be a medical screening process to ensure health (was this part of it? I don’t recall). Let a doctor decide limitations if need be. And I believe that there should be a foster parent mental health class that really discusses what it takes, the triggers, pitfalls etc. My own mental health was the thing I was the least prepared for. That said, I am receiving LOTS of support as are my children. We are ok and sometimes thriving, despite world events. But it took a while for us to get here. And I’m divorcing as part of this, because my soon to be-ex wasn’t mentally healthy enough to do this. It’s a lot.

And there was this from personal experience – My adoptive mom had a medicine cabinet full for all her needs. Depression, anxiety, sleep, ADHD, a few for physical like thyroid and I’m not sure what else but know it was about a dozen pills a day. My adoptive mom should’ve never been allowed to adopt me. She’s a batshit crazy narcissist. She needed all of us kids to have meds too – so I was flying high being treated for ADHD despite not needing it. She was a nurse who worked for our family doctor, so getting us diagnosed with anything was quite simple. To clarify I don’t think her being a shit parent was due to her possibly having depression or anxiety, honestly I’m not sure she even had those types of issues but she had something that made her think she needed meds for everything and that we did too. She should’ve never been able to adopt me.

In disputing that abusing is a sign of mental illness, one commenter add this – Nancy Erickson, an attorney and consultant on domestic violence legal issues, researched this very topic some years ago. “I found that about half of abusers appeared to have no mental disorders. The other half had various mental disorders, including but not limited to psychopathy, narcissism, PTSD, depression and bipolar disorder.” However, she adds, “Domestic abuse is a behavior, not a symptom of a mental illness.” While there is certainly an overlap, it is not always a guarantee, and it’s dangerous to make that assumption.

Another one pointed out – not all mental health diagnosis’ are created equal and many are managed well with medications. Also many people have mental illness and have not been diagnosed. Would people be forced to get a psychological evaluation ? And often among couples one partner has no diagnosis’ and so, a child can still be parented well.

One adoptive parent wrote – I absolutely agree with the idea that hopeful adoptive parents should be held to higher standards. I’m not sure how that would play out with mental illness but I do think hopeful adoptive parents with mental illness should have clear treatment plans and a consistent history of following through with their treatment plans. They should also be able to demonstrate the length of time they have been in stable mental health.

Schizophrenic Identity

Lately, I’ve been reading a book with the title Healing the Split by John Nelson MD. The subtitle is “Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill”. It is a topic of interest to me. I’ve not read very far into the book and it is a lot of pages but it seems worth the time. I give it approx an hour a day but am taking notes, so I don’t go very far but do have lots of time to digest the content.

This caused me to think about how it might apply to adoptees. It cannot be anything but a bit odd to know you were born to someone else – not the parents who are raising you. And that you had a different name at birth but the people who are raising you changed your name. You have no knowledge of genetic relatives, no natural mirror of your self that most people have their whole lives and no family medical history of any quantity or quality to convey to your doctor.

It is known that adoptees in general suffer more mental health effects than the general population and given what I just outlined above, it can come as no surprise that an adoptee might. While genetics always contributes some vulnerabilities in any person, adoptees have slightly more mental health problems – such as depressive symptoms, bipolar disorder, higher neuroticism and loneliness. Researchers into the impacts have found a slightly elevated genetic risk of depression, schizophrenia and neuroticism among adoptees. Personally, I believe this could be the result of conflicted feelings in the gestating mother. Not that I am a scientist or expert in this field.

The adoption of children may be a fundamental method of building families for some couples. However, adoptees often face subsequent adaptive challenges associated with family stress at the time of birth and during the adoption process. How could it be otherwise ? The main factor in these effects is both environmental and genetic.

It is known that psychiatric disorders, which includes depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are, to varying degrees, inheritable. The good news is that adoptees in a study reported being happy and satisfied with their lives. When compared to the general population, the study participants were more likely to be male, to smoke, have less education, attain a lower income, and to experience more stressful life events. 

Research found that genetic risk and adoption are both predictors of psychiatric problems. So, importantly both adoption and genetic risk contribute only a small amount to the individual differences in mental health. It does not surprise me that there are many factors that contribute to the development of mental health problems in any individual. It is also not surprising then that adopted children may face both special environmental and genetic risks which lead to adjustment problems and potentially mental illness. 

Validating The Hurt

The adoption group that I have been a part of for 3 years and has now closed to new content was often criticized for allowing the negative feelings and experiences of adoptees to be the primary and supported voice. It has been a space where an adoptee’s hurt is validated and not instantly turned into, “but what about your (adoptive parent’s) sacrifice?” that is found in most adoption oriented groups. In that regard, it was very unique.

When I first arrived there, because of how I grew up with two parents who were both adoptees, I considered adoption a normal situation and the outcomes to be nothing but good. I quickly got slammed and was totally set back by the responses but I stayed with it and I read books recommended there and I found books on my own and read those to and I learned the truth that adoption is a best the “second choice” and that keeping families intact – children with the parents who conceived them – was always going to be the best choice for everyone involved. The adoption industry doesn’t like that point of view but realize that their revenues depend on separating children from their parents. It really is that simple – follow the money – and the truth reveals itself.

Here is one adoptee’s voice –

I don’t know my mother and it kills me. Some days more than others. Pregnancy – all 80+ weeks plus a miscarriage – triggered me like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The first three months of their lives nearly killed me and my marriage.

I walk around not knowing who I am. I walk around knowing i was not loved in any healthy definition of that word. I walk around knowing I was not enough to redeem my adoptive parent’s wounds. I walk around living culture shock. I walk around knowing I don’t have a strong attachment to my parents.

You are asking me to tell you why the quality of the air I breathe is different from your air. It’s gonna take you some time to understand my air is fundamentally different.

In many ways, I do believe this is how my own mother felt. When she tried to re-connect with the woman who gave birth to her, my mom said – As a mother, I would want to know what became of my child. She wasn’t hoping for very much but she was driven by an emotional need to try. Her mother had already died by the time my mom was communicating with the Tennessee Dept of Children’s Services and learning that reality devastated her.

Christmas will arrive very soon, here is the perspective of another adoptee, Anne Heffron

I’ve been thinking about the comment a parent wrote here after reading my post about adoptees walking a tightrope, and, in order to answer, I decided to take on an authority I don’t have, and to speak universally when really I’m just speaking from my own experience. I thought about not replying because any answer I might give won’t be enough—it will be one paint splotch on a bare wall, but at least it will be a start, so here goes.

She compares the trauma of motherloss, the primal wound that Nancy Verrier writes about, to a car accident that has embedded jagged pieces of glass inside our bodies. Heffron asks, What if these pieces cut our muscles, internal organs and brain, causing messages of distress to travel from the vagus nerve both from the organs to the brain and from the brain to the organs? What if no one can see these glass fragments because no doctor has the right machine, the right kind of x-ray to find them? What if they are things that have to naturally work their way out of the body with the help of time and space and nutritional support and exercise and therapy and other friends who are adopted? What if this process takes decades? What if this process takes a lifetime?

What if the pain these pieces of glass cause the person to act in certain ways, ways that confuse those around them because, to the naked eye, nothing is wrong—the accident happened a long time ago and the person looks fine? What if the parents of this child they adopted believe their love can heal pain of which they can not see the source?

If a body is full of glass shards and the person cries out in pain and is told that everything is okay, that they are safe, loved, and if the person is asked why can’t they just accept the love and relax, then what happens?

The body gets tighter. The barriers between parent and child get thicker.

What if being relinquished and adopted is a body experience that takes time for the wounded person to sit with until the glass fragments finally, if they do at all (many people die with the glass still in their guts and hearts and minds), emerge?

This is what I think happened to me: when I was young, I felt the discomfort of the glass parts but I did not know they were there because I could not see inside my own guts and brain, and no one knew to tell me the story of my pain.

If they had been able to tell me the story of my pain, I might have fought them, hated them for speaking, for putting me in a forever prison of different than. Being different than your friends, particularly when you are young, is its own death sentence. So I don’t have an answer for you here. I don’t know what good all the information you have gathered about the side effects of relinquishment actually does when it comes right down to it. I mean, it’s not nothing, but, it’s clearly not enough.

My answer in brief is to be love but to know that when you decided to adopt, you entered a different universe. The rules you grew up with, rules for living, may well no longer work in this new life you now inhabit. For example, you just can’t hug a burned person the same way you do everyone else.

I think many people adopt babies for the same reason people adopt kittens: they want something soft to protect and love that will love them back. What if you think of an adoptee more like a porcupine? A porcupine doesn’t choose to have quills. It just has them, and this changes the way you can touch it. Hoping that one day the quills will disappear and soft fur will emerge is useless and harmful. What if adopting a child does not guarantee you will receive love back in the same measure you give it (or, I have to say, at all)? Would you still travel this road?

We like our stories to have happy endings, and we force most of our experiences through the funnel of “and then everything was okay,” and I’m here to tell you that I’m doing the best I can in this life with the body and mind I was given: one full of glass shards, and it’s a lot of work to try to keep up with those who weren’t in an accident. I know the ending is supposed to be happy, and so I’m trying. When you look at me with your lipid eyes, wondering why I don’t open to you, I won’t tell you it’s because I can’t. I won’t tell you it’s because I am in so much pain I can’t even process your questions. I won’t tell you because I know you won’t understand. I won’t tell you because maybe I don’t understand myself. I won’t tell you because you are asking a porcupine why it doesn’t purr, and this blindness makes me fear that either you or I are crazy, and this fear makes real communication feel impossible

A Common Enough Story

I’m having a really hard time with my feelings.  I am in a reunion with my son who was given up for adoption.  Here is a recap of my story.
I was 15 years old when I had him.  My parents forced me to give him up for adoption, after a visit to an abortion clinic told us it was too late.  My parents pulled me out of school.  I was basically hidden away until I gave birth to him.
I was so happy when I was pregnant with him but I had nowhere else to go.  I was terrified of making my parents angry.  So, I cried and cried after leaving the hospital without him. All these years and I continued to think about him every day, but never about his adopted parents. I had to grieve for him at such a young age.  I was never in therapy, was never asked how I was feeling about it all.  I was just expected to act like it never happened (how is that even possible?).  I was always searching for him.  Then the miracle, he found me in May.
We have spoken every single day since reconnecting.  I struggle with my own emotions when he talks about his adoptive mom.  Of course, it is natural that he does and probably natural that it is hard for me to hear it.  On his own initiative, he started referring to her in our conversations as his “parent”. I never asked him to do that. I did admit to him that this was something I personally had to work through and that I would never want him to be uncomfortable talking about anything with me.
Truth is, it’s not getting easier. It’s getting harder. Today he asked my opinion about something.  After I told him my answer, he came back with, “well my parent….”.  Honestly, it broke me.  It isn’t unexpected that her view might be the opposite of mine.  And, honestly, it wasn’t even in anything important.  I am ashamed because I feel like I’m completely upset over nothing really.  I now realize that these incidences make me feel those feelings I felt when I surrendered him – like I have been discarded.
It probably isn’t surprising that he views me as a friend. He doesn’t seem like an emotional person.  At the age of 23, he still lives at home, has never really had a job, his adoptive parents coddle him (in my opinion) because they pay for everything, and he isn’t going to school.
I want to handle myself in these situations better. It really is so hard for me to control my emotions. I don’t want to make this sad story only about myself.  And I really don’t want to project my feelings towards his adoptive parents onto him. I feel like I need help.  I don’t want to hurt him or his feelings. I need to know how to accept the fact that just being in his life now is really a blessing.  Whatever that is going to be like.
How can I respond or communicate better with my son?
I thought this advice was from experience and practical –
I am an adoptee and an original mom (meaning she gave up a child for adoption). He’s been raised. That’s over. Stop trying to compete with his adoptive parents and simply be his friend. In time that friendship may grow into a true mother /son relationship.  Give it time.  Adoptees often have trust issues, abandonment issues, identity issues, etc. so please don’t add to anything he is already struggling with. Work through your issues as an original mom separately – not through your relationship with him. (I don’t even want to touch upon my own issues because it’s still terrifying for me too).  I do understand.

What is C-PTSD ?

Most of us have heard of PTSD but until this morning, I didn’t know there was a more severe version called Complex-PTSD.

Most people who have looked at adoption very closely already know that trauma is an aspect of having been surrendered to adoption for most adoptees.  I’ve become so steeped in it that I can recognize effects now in statements made by an adoptee that to them a vague issues they still don’t know the source of.  This lack of awareness occurs most often in teenagers and young adults.  Most mature adoptees have worked through many of these and may have had some counseling or therapy to help them uncover the underlying emotions and possible sources of these.

Complex PTSD, however, is specific to severe, repetitive trauma that typically happens in childhood – most often abuse.  On the surface, both PTSD and C-PTSD both come as the result of something deeply traumatic, they cause flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia, and they can make people live in fear even when they are safe.

The very heart of C-PTSD – what causes it, how it manifests internally, the lifelong effects (including medically), and its ability to reshape a person’s entire outlook on life – is what makes it considerably different.

PTSD typically results from “short-lived trauma”, or traumas of time-limited duration. Complex PTSD stems from chronic, long-term exposure to trauma in which a victim has limited belief it will ever end or cannot foresee a time that it might. This can include: child abuse, long-term domestic violence, being held in captivity, living in crisis conditions/a war zone, child exploitation, human trafficking, and more.

The causal factors are not all that separates PTSD from C-PTSD. How their symptoms manifest can tell you even more. PTSD is weighted heaviest in the post-traumatic symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, hyperarousal/startle response, paranoia, bursts of emotion, etc.

C-PTSD includes all the symptoms of PTSD as well as a change in self-concept. How one sees themselves, their perpetrator, their morals and values, their faith in others or a god. This can overhaul a survivor’s entire world view as they try to make sense of their trauma and still maintain a belief that they, and the world around them, could still be good or safe.

When an adult experiences a traumatic event, they have more tools to understand what is happening to them, their place as a victim of that trauma, and know they should seek support even if they don’t want to. Children don’t possess most of these skills, or even the ability to separate themselves from another’s unconscionable actions. The psychological and developmental implications of that become complexly woven and spun into who that child believes themselves to be — creating a messy web of core beliefs much harder to untangle than the flashbacks, nightmares and other post-traumatic symptoms that come later.

The effects are usually deeply interpersonal within that child’s caregiving system. Separate from both the traumatic events and the perpetrator, there is often an added component of neglect, hot-and-cold affections from a primary caregiver, or outright invalidation of the trauma, if a child does try to speak up. These disorganized attachments and mixed messages from those who are supposed to provide love, comfort and safety – all in the periphery of extreme trauma – can create unique struggles.

Credit for this blog and for the beginning of my education in this new concept goes to Beauty After Bruises.

Taking Off Rose Colored Glasses

Today’s story –

Four years ago, my husband and I became foster parents. Our first “placement” (geeeze I hate that term), turned into an adoption. Our son, now 4 1/2, will be meeting his biological mom for the first time in December when she is released from prison. We have constant contact with her via phone calls and emails, as well as visits with grandparents every few months. My question is, what can we be doing to make her transition home easier-for her, and for him? He calls her by name, and knows that she is his tummy momma who grew him and gave him life and love, but he really hasn’t asked many questions beyond that. I’d love to have some feedback, so we can do our very best to navigate this the best way possible. I am far from a perfect parent, but this is obviously something that I don’t want to mess up.

PS – until recently, I viewed foster care and adoption through rose colored glasses, but that is no longer the case. My eyes and my heart are now open to the hard parts of adoption. 

Immediately was this response – as a birth mom. Drop the tummy momma crap. We are humans, we weren’t incubators.

The woman understood immediately and said – Thank you all so much for your honesty. “Tummy mommy” will stop immediately. You’re so right, that’s an awful way to refer to her.   I am doing my best to dig deep, not for me, for them. I don’t want to mess this up with any of my own bullshit feelings. They’ve been through enough.

A compassionate response came next – Offer her acceptance for any and all emotions she may experience. Work your way from there. Allow him to be around her as much as she and him are comfortable. Encourage playtime/movie time whatever he likes. Be understanding above all else. These are extremely difficult emotions for his mom just as much for him so offer as much kindness as possible.   This is never easy and remember she is in pain and your son IS traumatized at some level because of losing her. That is a fact and you as an adoptive mother HAVE to make peace with it.

One suggested way to deal with this is – be mom (your 1st name) and mom (her 1st name).. that will better help him associate who she really is to him – his mom. He will know her, he will sense something familiar about her and she will feel like home to him because they already have that birth connection. She is his mother in a biological way that will never change. Kids aren’t as confused about the duality of multiple moms as we are as adults. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard uncomfortable (for you) things to actually support this relationship.  He’ll get to know her over time and much easier if there aren’t adult issues and expectations on it.

Finally, some important advice – You need to find a genuine love for her beyond her being the person that is the reason you have your child.  Just going through the motions you think you should in terms of open adoptions isn’t enough. It should not be what you think you should do. It should be naturally what you want to do. Coming out of prison is difficult. You are treated like a pariah. Getting a job with a record is hard, getting any help from anyone or any government funded programs is difficult to impossible. Some programs you cannot even apply for if you have a record. Welcome her. Make sure she knows she has an important place in his life. Do NOT talk about boundaries and make her time with your son a top priority.

Today’s Teens Are A Lot More Understanding

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is believed to be caused by overwhelming experiences, traumatic events and/or abuse during childhood.  This came up today in association with a former foster care youth who had a terrible experience in foster care, is now in her teens and wants to share that with others.

One mature woman shared her experience – I went into the system at 3, taken from mom at 5, and emancipated through marriage at 16.  I tried to share my story.  I got a lot of rejection from other teens. That was a different time, though. Teens these days are a lot more understanding of trauma and mental illness and they welcome the opportunity to hold space for those who have gone through horrific experiences. 

Another person was very supportive of this teen’s desire saying, It’s her story and she’s old enough to share. Will she receive backlash….possibly. But I bet she’s going to get more support vs. backlash, which is what she is seeking. She’s seeking a community that says “I hear you and I understand”.

Foster care children have been stripped of everything.  It is hard to understand why people would take children into their home for foster care and not intend to make them feel at home.  Examples –

Only buying the child the bare minimum or giving them hand me downs. One mature woman who was once in foster care shares – It always made me feel less than or like a charity case.. often I was given her biological daughters clothes/school supplies from the previous year etc. I remember the first time I got my own winter coat at around 7-8 years old.  It was like Christmas to me.

It is no wonder children subjected to these situations develop personality coping mechanisms. Schizophrenia and DID are often confused with each other, but they’re very different things. Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness: symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disorganized thoughts, speech and movements and social withdrawal. It does not involve alternate personalities or dissociation.

People with DID are not delusional or hallucinating their alternate personalities. Individuals with DID may experience some symptoms related to psychosis, such as hearing voices, but DID and schizophrenia are two different illnesses. There are very few documented cases linking crime to DID. The idea of an ‘evil’ alter is not true. People with DID are more likely than the general population to be re-traumatized and experience further abuse and violence.

Personality disorders are a constant fixed pattern of feeling and behaving over time, usually developing in early adulthood. Personality disorders, like borderline personality disorder, involve extreme emotional responses and patterns of behavior which make it hard for the person with the disorder to have stable relationships and function in society.

DID is a dissociative disorder. Rather than extreme emotional reactions to the world, people living with DID lose contact with themselves: their memories, sense of identity, emotions and behavior. Unlike personality disorders, DID may first manifest at almost any age.

Feeling Out Of Place

Sometimes it happens when an adoptee goes into reunion with their original family that they suddenly become aware that the reality of really seeing the people one is genetically related to makes the adoptee realize their adoptive family are truly the genetic strangers they are.  It can be very confusing and emotional for the adoptee.

An adoptee might notice – I feel so different than this adoptive family I have been made a part of.

An adoptee may honestly love the people in their adoptive family and still feel like (after coming into physical contact with genetic family) a stark spotlight has been shone on the differences between the adoptee and that adoptive family.

Meeting the genetic family cold make a lot of foggy feelings crystal clear.  For an adoptee, meeting these people can be utterly life changing.

It may be that the adoptee will lay their head on their mothers lap and cry while she strokes their hair on that first day of meeting. The adoptee may feel like they could trust her like no one else ever present in their life.  The adoptee may feel a love they had never felt before.  Such is the true mother/child bond.

An adoptee may feel  a deep cellular connection with genetic family that they don’t experience with their adoptive family. One adult adoptee admitted that – “When I have a very real problem, my first mother is often the first person I go to. For me, the reason I do this is because she understands better than most other people the way I think and the way my mind works. We’re very alike and being very alike means she can help me solve my problems better than my adoptive mother, who doesn’t think like I do at all.”

An adoptee may wrestle with guilt feelings about not feeling a sense of belonging to their adopted family.  It can be jarring for an adoptee to find people who are so much like them. That may also be the moment they realize what they have been missing all the years they spent in their adoptive family.  It may become clear how unlike their adoptive family they actually are.  It may only happen when they meet their genetic parents and siblings.

In the nature verses nurture debate, nature can be the undeniable winner in adoption circumstances – though it takes a reunion – and it may take decades before this awareness fully impacts the adoptee.