My adopted relationship status – “It’s complicated.”
Imagine. You spend 9 months within a warm and safe place. Then, suddenly, you are made to leave, then removed from the very essence of what you have come to know for your entire existence, possibly never to feel that essence again. This is adoption.
I have spent a lot of time over my years working as a clinician understanding attachment and attachment theory. That time spent was more about my clients and not really about myself. What I know is that early, pre-verbal and in utero attachment sets the stage for personality, relationships and a person’s life long ability to relate to others.
This past year – 2017 – I have spent a lot, and I mean A LOT, of time relating, remembering and rehashing my experiences as an adopted person and my knowledge of how we as humans “attach.” I have had to evaluate and re-evaluate how I interact in the world, who I truly ‘am’ at 52, and how I can be more authentic. I have a therapist. I go every week. She is great. I am not an easy client. I pray for her. She deserves a medal.
This is my own theory regarding my own experience of my adoption. This is what make sense TO ME. It is not every adopted person’s story or theory. This is the Janet. Me. Not anyone else. (I think I have made my point)
When I was in my birth mother’s womb, I feel as though I knew I would not be kept. She was struggling so much in life and my birth father was not a stand up guy as he hit the road once my existence became known. Imagine that little embryo me KNOWING that I was not going to stay with my mother from the very beginning.
I was given to family #1. I was not nurtured. I was not cared for. I was, truth be told, neglected. I was removed.
I was in my “limbo” time prior to coming to my parents. Who knows what happened during this period, but I get the feeling, I was not cherished as an infant should be.
I came to my family. I was immediately taken care of. Things got better.
Unfortunately, our earliest experiences form our ability to relate to the world. I would dare to say I was in my 20’s before I figured out how to relate to the world. It just took some time.
Growing up, people would say to me, “Oh, aren’t you so ‘lucky’ you found a good family,” and, “Oh, you sure do look like your mom / or your dad / or your (fill in the blank),” or “Isn’t so nice to be chosen,” or “You should be so grateful your parents took you in,” or “Do you miss your REAL mom and dad?” (the world “real” is still a trigger for me)
All these statements, though at times, well meaning, caused confusion and caused me to feel “less” than others. I never realized how MUCH less until I started intensive examination of myself as an adopted person. I always just thought I was weirder than other people. I had a hard time making friends in elementary school, and middle school. My church affiliation provided a more accepting group of friends, and I am still friends with many of them even now.
Let me share one example of me: When I was young, I would lie about the simplest things to avoid, what I perceived, was “being in trouble.” To me, my brain thought that if I were “in trouble,” my parents could “send me back.” I knew I was adopted from a very young age, and I knew what this meant – my first mother did not want me. So, logically, this would mean that at anytime, I could be sent away. Now, I see that this was not logical thinking. But as a kid, whoa, I avoided trouble like it was a pea on my plate. (I really DISLIKE peas)
I saw a quote today, “Adopted people often edit what they say to avoid offending others. This takes a lot of energy and erases essential parts of the self.” Anne Heffron, author of, “You Don’t Look Adopted.
I have spent a lifetime of editing what I say and being careful not to be too “me” and to be vulnerable, open, authentic, and acceptable to myself. Well, those days of editing myself are gone. I have come into my true, authentic self more fully and I am practicing more Radical Acceptance than ever before.
Hey, it took time, but watch out world, because I am HERE NOW!