Assembling Self

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Emotional Impact Being Adopted Has Meant In My Life


I see this person staring back at me and wonder who it is I see?
Are those her eyes?  Is her face the same?
Do I look like him?  What were their names?
Mirrors like pictures tell thousands of tales but the stories told have always failed.
In lending me the slightest clues to endless questions and intangible truths.
For I feel just like an empty shell that has no history or past to tell.
A single light shines all alone in the dark so far from "home".
Burning bright to light the way into the dawn of another day.
To illuminate where I must go and guide my steps through this unknown.
Discovering trails back to where, I'll find that face that's in the mirror.

Some of this may repeat or over lap what other adoptees have written or expressed about being adopted.  That is the great thing about communicating with other adoptees, you finally know your truths are similar to others.  There is a lot of comfort in that especially after being so alone in the world with all the issues of being adopted that are never spoken of, and usually dismissed as unimportant instead.  I enjoy hearing from other adoptees who inspire me with their voices of truth and encourage me to voice mine.

I do tend to speak for other adoptees too, and I feel after 15 years in adoption search, support, education, activism and reform, I can.   I have gleaned a lot of experiences from the voices of thousands of other adoptees.  Today though, I am going to speak of my personal experience about what it means, and how it has felt and still feels, to me being adopted.

Many adoptees will tell you that they have never felt the way I do, and are happy and grateful for being adopted.  They consider their adoptive family their real and true family.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that in any way.  What I can tell you is that there are a good amount of adoptees, who feel as I do.

It's growing up living a secret double life that no one really knows about, including you.   It's belonging, or many times not belonging, to two separate worlds.  And always, always, trying to reconcile each with the other.

Being adopted means watching from the outside.  Constantly analyzing other families and comparing them to your own.  It's never fitting in anywhere, even inside your own skin.  Because your own skin is all you have to belong to genetically.

Pondering your navel in ways nonadopted people would never think about, and where that connection that once was is now.  Birthdays that are spent wondering if your mother is remembering you, and if she is in what way, good, bad, or indifferent?  Being adopted means being puzzled with the reasons parents could give you away, and walk away, and leave with so many unanswered questions.

Mirrors are tough, because they tell so many stories about you, yet none you really know to be true. Fantasy becomes a huge factor in your every day life.  You are often caught as a child staring off into space, or called on by a teacher for not paying attention.  It's not that you mean to be like this, it's that you don't know how NOT to be like this.

Being adopted means a lot of pretending.   Pretending everything is o.k.  Pretending you are someone you are not, because you have no idea who you really are.  You are always examining others to see how they do it and seem so comfortable with themselves.  You become chameleon like to blend in, and to appease others as you have no true sense of self and you fear further rejection.

 Adopted reality can hit you really hard, like a fast ball to your heart, an unexpected sock in your gut, when you hear your adopted mother snicker and proclaim, “No wonder your mother gave you away”.  And then, a large part of you believes it to be true.   And you always will in some capacity believe this, and hear that voice in the back of your mind.

It can also pull the rug out from under your feet in a matter of seconds, this being adopted, when you hear a social worker say "I'm sorry your biological mother is asking no more mail be sent."  Or, "Your biological father will not claim you are his daughter, put anything in writing, and says he understands your need for information but everyone there is healthy."  No nonadopted person can quite fathom what it means that the people who you were born from want nothing to do with you, ever.   And instead want to brush you, the dirty secret of their lives, off and away under the rug somewhere hopefully you'll never crawl back out from under.

Coping with losses and rejection so deeply unfathomable that sometimes the overwhelming facts and reality of what you face is so unbelievable you can't wrap your mind around any of it.  It all seems like a bad B movie, or an even more outrageous soap opera plot, or a nightmare you'll wake up from eventually.  But it's not.  There is no escape and you live it each and every day of your life.

Some days are easier than others.  Sometimes you can almost nearly forget, at least for awhile.  Of course, it's always there and you realize no amount of denial, food, drugs, alcohol, or other relationships are going to erase the perpetual questions, mend holes in the fabric of your existence, or fill the massive loss adoption has brought to your life.

I hope this gives those who can not understand adoptees some insight into the pain and trauma adoptees can and do endure most all of their lives.  Especially, those who want and need us to be grateful, and thankful, and happy that we were adopted.  I will never be happy to have been adopted, or relinquished, or "left" by two families.  I can only go on to attempt to educate the world and reform adoption, and hopefully help heal and support other adoptees struggling with their personal battles, issues, and truths in their own lives.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.” ~Steve Jobs


  1. I'm so sorry for your grief!I'm a first mom trying all I can to help my son. I would never have given him away at 16 knowing what I know now. He needed me, his mother to be with him. I was the best person to parent him. I've never stopped loving him.He's going to be 40 soon, and has just recently vented all his anger to his adoptive mom about how he pretended to be happy, and never felt loved.
    She told me his memories were all wrong! They are his memories!

  2. My A-Mom has also told me that my childhood perceptions and experiences from being adopted "IS ALL WRONG". My life served one purpose, to please my adoptive mother and she reminds me that I failed miserably. My life was a waste.

  3. Rainstorm there are too many adoptees out there, thousands upon thousands, who feel exactly like we do mentally and emotionally to be "wrong". Give her "The Primal Wound" or anything by B. J. Lifton if she really wants to try to understand you. I think just sending the links to the books would help to show the actual documentation of adoption issues. I've had some chapters in "The Adoptee Survival Guide" and "Adoption Therapy" all written by adoptees and adoption therapists if that would help. Let me know if there is anything I can do I know adoptee support groups can sometimes help too. We are the only ones that really get it. I know it took my long time friends a great deal of time but they have finally seen the devastation and havoc adoption has wreaked upon my life and others. Best, Karen