Assembling Self

Monday, November 5, 2012

Adoptee Masks


They perceive this shell but can not see, deep inside the real me.
The one who's lost, afraid and weak, things I dare not reveal or speak.
They think I'm really someone else, this front, facade, false prided self.
Little is the world aware what slivers of my soul I share.
I keep it hidden very well behind the safety of this shell.
Protecting weaknesses unknown the sealed off part of me called “home”.
For like chameleons who hide beneath the camouflage unspied.
I cover up what I can't show with secret masks concealed below.
The naked eye can not detect these fortress walls built to protect.
Within my dwelling unrecognized a stronghold they can't criticize,
nor ridicule, or realize, or know how much that I despise.
This vulnerable person that I am, so alone in alone in silent pain I stand.

I picked the photo above out of a long list of available choices because it really symbolized to me the blank feeling you can have about yourself as an adoptee, and the different masks we often hide behind.  This is not a self protective characteristic only adoptees utilize to cope in life but we can often feel further displaced because we have been separated from our origins.  Too often too when we speak up, ask questions, or express our inner angst about being adopted we are told "it doesn't matter", or "to get over it", or a myriad of other judgments and criticisms regarding how we "should" feel.

Growing up detached from biology and genetic roots leaves us much of the time to create and outer personna to hide behind.  We rely on a plethora of personalities we've gleaned from our family, siblings, and or peers, sometimes good and sometimes bad but the reality is they are usually not "ours".  Because, if we don't "act" our parts as good and grateful adopted children, do we risk being rejected and given away again?

It magnifies our separation anxieties and intensifies our need to fit in, and can severely compromise our development into a solid sense of self because we have little or no knowledge what that really is.  We are genes, habits, hobbies, and physical components of other people who are unknown to us.  We are navigating life from birth without important information other people have.  We fill all that in with masks we create to cover up our fear and we quickly learn to shut down and become introverted about our adoptive experiences, internalizing how we really feel rather than to risk further condemnation and or misunderstanding.

It took me until the age of 39 to be able to obtain information about my biological family that I was able to identify with, relate to, and understand who and what was really "me".  It changed my whole life and who I have become now.  Adopted children have a different set of circumstances upon birth than other children and when recognized and dealt with in an open and honest way it can make all the difference in their lives.  Including; the right to ask about being adopted, the right to speak out about being adopted, and the right to know where they came from. 

“We understand how dangerous a mask can be.  We all become what we pretend to be.” ~Patrick Rothfuss "The Name of the Wind"

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