Assembling Self

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yes, I speak fluent Adoptee

Since I was sixteen years old I've been reading books like "I'm OK, You're OK" by Thomas A Harris MD, and trying to figure out what happened to me because of my childhood and adoption.  This is not a rant on my adoptive parents at all, this is an explanation of what many adoptees go through trying to understand adoption and our place in it, our family(s), and in the world.

We are given no manual, no book, no road maps, and much of the time, no explanation about adoption.  It simply isn't discussed.  Or we quickly learn it is a subject that is not open to be talked about, or brought up.  Worse yet, we can be scolded and called ungrateful and not thankful for being adopted simply because we question it.  And, even in open adoption situations or for adoptive parents who communicate to their adopted children about their circumstances and information in reality they don't know what adopted children feel, because they aren't adoptees.  In essence, we are the only ones who can truly get what being adopted means.

I knew I was damaged goods at a very young age.  I also eventually realized, I was probably the only one who could help myself climb out of it.  There were no other adopted children around me (my adoptive brother and I never spoke of it and now as an adult he has no desire to) and although I knew our family was very very dysfunctional, I also knew that it was different than other families because of adoption.  And, in reality, back in the day (I show my age here truly) there was no Oprah, or Dr. Phil, or Dr. Drew.  And, no one talked about what went on behind closed doors with the exception perhaps some neighborhood and community gossip.

I remember studying child psych when I went back to school in my late '30's and reading in my Adolescent Child Psych book: "Orphaned, abandoned, neglected and adopted children can all have the same issues with attachment disorder, abandonment and rejection issues".  There it was in black and white in print in a college textbook.  It was an AHA moment for me.  I also was lucky enough at the same time to have an adoptive mother as a marriage counselor who was well versed in adoption issues and encouraged my search efforts and need, and also RIGHT, to know.  For the first time someone had validated my feelings about being adopted and the impact it had on me.

I stepped into the computer age in '97 and found support groups and went on to attend adoption workshops, conferences, and seminars. In the last thirteen years I have become a different person.  I owe so much to other adoptees who walked the path before me and said "Go here and do this", and I did, and I am so very overwhelmingly thankful for their help (UNDERSTATEMENT).  Adoption issues are not just "in the past" they are here and now and alive and functioning for many adoptees each and every day.  Adoption is not a one time transaction it is a lifetime event.  I now know my buttons and triggers that are tied to the past and adoption.  I recognize them and deal with them in healthy ways or as best as I can.

I don't think I know it all.  I am still figuring things out.  Mostly though, I don't want to see any other adoptees have to spend enormous amounts of time, money, or energy groping in the dark, grasping for hope, and struggling to find their way in the world adopted.  I never deal in absolutes either and respect adoptees who say they never think about adoption and it doesn't affect them at all.  And, although I  have a difficult time believing it, I won't dismiss their feelings and experiences or try and tell them otherwise.  I know all too well what that feels like.

I have my path as many adoptees have but there are some of those shoes adoptees wear I have never worn, nor will I ever.  I am however, wise enough to learn from them.  I advise the non-adopted to do that as well.  If you know an adoptee be silent and just listen if they bring up adoption.  If you love an adoptee please open your heart and mind and take the time and effort to comprehend what they are trying to relay to you.  It may not seem important to you, you may not understand all of it, but I can guarantee you the effort you make to hear them without judgment will mean more to them than you will ever know.  And thanks, for listening.


  1. There are five stages of our journey according to Brodzinsky et al and we're all in different places as well as being unique.Complex!Yep, I speak adoptee too!

  2. And Von I LOVE how you speak adoptee!!! :)

  3. Thanks Karen, I'll never shut up now!! x