Assembling Self

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Adoptee's story of survival

I want to share something with everyone that hopefully will help lend some encouragement on this difficult, painful, and confusing path of being adopted.  Although each of our stories have similarities in them they are also unique.  I have learned so much over the last thirteen years from others and hopefully my experience can shed some light on the hope that always exists even if it can't be seen or felt right now.

I have struggled with strange and mysterious undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and untreated health issues since the age of 15.  Without current medical family history that could have saved me time, money, and effort navigating the health care system without it and many times without insurance, my life has been one of continual loss.  Two things are important in life and that is family and your health.  Since not having the support of either family, knowing I was ill, and with no answers or information to provide doctors, I lost jobs, relationships, homes, and the ability to provide and care for my children.  I also lost hope, faith, and the belief in myself as a human being.  Because of the judgment and condemnation that comes from people believing you are a hypochondriac, or your health issues are a result of drugs and alcohol (as you sit sober in a room so ill you can't get out of bed for days being accused of all kinds of things), or you simply make it all up to be lazy or get attention, and in pain and agony for years who wouldn't want to end it all?  That, is not life.  That, is slowly dieing.

Well, I tried that once.  I wrote two letters one to my exhusband regarding my daughter, and one to my current abusive boyfriend and laid down to not wake up.  Only I did.  And, once again not to concern, or caring, but once again to judgment and condemnation.  My boyfriend even laughed and said "You can't even kill yourself right don't you know you're supposed to mix alcohol and pills?"  Yeah, I picked people in my life that imitated exactly what I knew growing up.

When you grow up with parents like this how do you know what good people really are?  When you are told everything is your fault you begin to believe it.  When you are continually rejected, abandoned, and not taken seriously, what to you do?  You learn to escape, and not in healthy ways.  I had tried being good growing up but was constantly and continually told I was not.  So, since it seemed I was failing at being good, bad became so much easier.

One of the serious health issues I battled for over a decade was a rare genetic gall bladder disease.  I was always tiny but tall.  Around the age of 25 I began to have a hard time eating, nausea, sometimes vomiting that year after year increased in intensity and duration.  I was o.k. as long as I had drugs and didn't eat.  Only, no one can last that way for a very long time being ill.  I got too sick to work any longer and was spending many days in and out of the bathroom being sick.  It eventually became the first thing that started my every day.  I found that if I didn't eat anything at all it helped.  But once again, that wasn't a long term solution to the problem I just got so weak I couldn't even function.

Doctors could find nothing wrong with me.  I finally physically broke and wound up in an anorexia/bulimia hospital in a psych wing with doctors trying to convince me, and my husband, I needed intense treatment for this disease.  Fortunately, we found out that our insurance would not cover it and they immediately let me out.  I weighed 97 lbs.  I am 5' 6" tall.  I knew in my heart I did not have an eating disorder.  I loved food.  The good news is that is when they were able to diagnose me with PCOS and found a mass in my liver they couldn't explain and an impact wound from my liver that had been apparently bleeding for quite some time.  They said it wouldn't hurt me.  But, all the time I wondered and worried about what was really wrong with me.

At this point in time I was away from hard drugs and alcohol as my body could no longer tolerate them well at all but marijuana became my best friend.  I could zone out and it soothed my stomach.  But, it was also a lead weight around my ankle and my attachment to it kept me from functioning in any normal adult way.  Doctors were begging me for updated family medical history and I had nothing to give them.  My adoptive parents were of no help either I only heard "we don't know".  I would later find out this was a complete lie.

Several years later and another marriage I finally had health insurance.  Not that anything happened over night.  I was still told nothing was wrong with me, it was all in my head, I was making this up and the old voices of the past came back to haunt me.  "You are crazy" was the loudest.  I became pregnant with my son and became even more ill and at 5 and 1/2 months went into premature labor and was on bed rest and in and out of the hospital for most of the pregnancy.  I tried to quit smoking pot.  Every time I did I spent the next three days unable to keep any food down at all and so sick I would wind up in preterm labor again.  My husband at the time began to believe that there was in fact something wrong with me.  We began to call pot "my medicine".  As soon as I took some I could scarf up, and in fact did, huge platefuls of food and I was fine.  Still, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me.

My son was born and quickly afterward my health took a huge turn for the worse.  I could no longer tolerate any food at all unless I was stoned.  I had loved pot in my 20's it took me out of my horrible childhood memories and pain, and into a whole other world of bliss.  I was now 35 and felt attached to a ball and chain of smoking to survive.  I would wake up every day, throw up, drink what coffee I could, cry, and then smoke and cry some more.  It was a nightmare I felt I would never wake up from.

I went through all kinds of phases with religions, praying, holy water, prayer clothes, psychics (one who actually diagnosed my gall bladder condition and gave me the date of my surgery two years down the road and was exact but that's a whole other story) you name it, in desperation trying to get well or some answers to why I was so sick.  After all my adoptive mother told me "if I would only live my life according to the word of God" been there, done that, didn't work.  And then, after two months of doctors, and specialists, blood workup, and testing and testing and testing and testing, I finally got a surgeon who diagnosed me with a rare GENETIC gall bladder disease that only 6% of people have.  It is a disease of the whole organ, no stones, and does not show up on any medical test at all.  It is USUALLY found in people's family medical history!!!  I had the surgery and in no time was up, eating, and working.  I now know why there is a need for medical marijuana.

I was still in a bad marriage and living very dysfunctional.  I knew I wanted better.  I got into counseling, got an adoptive mother for a counselor who encouraged me to search to find the answers I needed about my biological background, and not just for medical reasons.  The next year we got a computer and after getting lost in AOL chatrooms (anyone that knows me is laughing right now that big loud chortle snorting kinda laugh) I plugged in adoption into the search box and VOILA.  My life changed forever.

With the support of the online and offline adoption community I found the court I was adopted out of and obtained half of my updated medical history.  I found out my biological mother was 4' 10" tall and weighed under 100 lbs., and my biological father was 5' 6" and around 125 lbs.  I got my father's height and my mother's weight and add a gall bladder disease and what do you get?  Someone who LOOKS anorexic!!!  I also found out numerous hereditary disease run on one side of I also inherited PCOS is one of them and at the same age my biological mother had surgery for it.

I finally realized that it was not ME who was crazy it was the closed records system of adoption that was.  And, I found people who were working to change it.  I joined up, learned, read, wrote, and healed so much over the next two years.  I was still living in a dysfunctional relationship but I was finally stronger physically, and so much more emotionally than I had ever been in my life.  I wanted a better life, I knew I deserved it, and by God I was going to get it.

I'll never forget the day I left to attend another adoption conference this time in Nashville.  My husband rolled me a joint to take with me as I was going to be gone for five days.  I took it and packed it away deep in my suitcase, loaded it into the trunk, and left.  I spent the next five days surrounded by the movers and shakers, the writers, the lecturers, and the leaders in the adoption reform movement.  I was also amongst those who understood without question what I felt and had all of my life.  There was no need to explain it was just absolute unconditional acceptance and support.  My head and body were buzzing with the intensity of all I was feeling.  I felt free, and alive, and GOOD.  No drugs needed.  O.K so some cocktails, but there's nothing wrong with that.  Especially when you get to share them with those you have watched and admired for years.  I'm not going to drop names but I still look back and am amazed at it all.

I hated leaving and I didn't want to go.  I cried before departure.  I wanted to bottle up those five days and drink it each and every day for the rest of my life.  I came home walking on air.  I also came home and brought my bags out of the car, picked out the joint I had in my suitcase walked into the living room and tossed it at my husband.  His jaw dropped.  He said "You didn't smoke for five days?"  I said NOPE nothing.

And this is my story of survival.  One that almost took a turn down a very long and horrible road with a terrible ending.  I owe most of it to the people I have met over the last thirteen years.  It has not only saved my life, it has changed it for the better.  I don't tell my story for sympathy I tell my story because hopefully it will give others courage to face what has happened to them.  It is an example of an adoption gone wrong and a life full of health problems without any help or recourse to obtain vital and crucial medical information for doctors.  I am still working on getting the other half of mine after thirteen years.  This is unacceptable.

I have suffered and my children have suffered unnecessarily.  I refuse to quit working towards the right for adult adoptee access to THEIR biological family background and information without interference, great cost and time, and control by the adoption industry, agencies, lawyers, and social workers.  It is our right and no one else's to dictate to us what we can or can not know.  It almost killed me, and some adoptees or their children have lost their lives because of it.  I owe my life to those who took me by the hand and showed me the way.  Whatever I can do to stop happening to anyone else, what happened to me, I will.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.


No comments:

Post a Comment