Gratitude

Grateful.

I am so grateful for the love I have in my life despite the traumas I have gone through, beginning with the loss of my original family. I’ve only recently began using this word and I will tell you a bit more about that in this post.

A few years ago, my adoptive mom and I met for coffee while she was visiting. She nonchalantly showed me pictures of my toddler aged self with bio family members of whom I’d never seen before. She insisted that I had seen these photos and I argued, “No. I had no idea they existed. I would have remembered! I would have asked to keep them. This is what I needed.” She said they’d been in a box “forever” as if my parents knew exactly where they were the entire time I lived in their home, under their care. Proof of love and connection, pieces of resemblance collecting dust while I pushed to survive in a community that was not made for me. I had to fight the confirmed fear that my original family didn’t want me, that I was disposable- while simultaneously forcing myself to have faith in the idea that I was lovable and worth life despite the constant contradiction and interrogation of my existence.

These photos showed joy.

I looked healthy.

I was loved.

They looked like me!

I was connected.

These pictures made me feel like I must have been taken from these people. They loved me. How could they have given me up knowingly and willingly- the way my adoptive parents told me.

While all of these emotions were flooding my heart and my head, I fumbled for words hoping something that made sense would come out, “How could you keep this from me? Why?” She quickly defended herself and blurted out that I was a happy kid, that I never really asked about my family, and that I seemed okay. She said I didn’t care about that stuff. I remember looking at her confused and angry, my body was burning up with emotion. Seeing my reaction and my loss for words she began firing off words strung together, ranging from excuses to justification to, “How about some gratitude!?” Y’all, that was it. I was D O N E. FINISHED. That was the trigger. In that moment I hated her and I let myself hate her.

For the first time ever, I realized that I was no longer stuck. I didn’t have to stay. I was able to leave whenever I wanted to. Her comfort and her goodness was no longer my obligation. So after a pause that felt like a lifetime, I said, “I don’t have to be here anymore. I’m leaving” and I left. It took more of me than I’d like to admit to get up and take the physical steps out the door. It was like I had shackles, weighing on my ankles. But I did it. I left; shaking, overheated, and with her following and yelling after me. My entire life I’ve been making everyone else comfortable, trying so hard to not take up too much or be too much. But I’m done. For far too long, I’ve lived for other people as if I’m indebted to a world I never chose to be a part of.

For me, gratitude, has always been a word weaponized by predators in sheep’s clothing. “You must be so grateful to be adopted, so grateful to have such a giving family, so grateful to have been saved, rescued, etc. .”

But I never made those choices. They were taken from me and made without my consent. I wasn’t allowed the information. I don’t even know if my family had all of the information! I wasn’t part of the decision. I was taken and sold, bought and put on display for the sake of someone else’s goodness, someone else’s comfort.

Most days I still cringe when I hear the word, but I’m taking it back because it’s not about anyone who uses this word to excuse trauma and make themselves more comfortable with something they don’t even care to understand. ✌🏾

Today, I feel adopted.

There are some days that I feel particularly adopted. Not adopted from the view of an adoptive parent, like “I am loved and wanted and somebody picked me and everything’s gonna be okay and my life is a gift…” But more in the way of feeling rejected and incomplete and not good enough and a mistake and abandoned and unwanted and all of those negative feelings that I can almost guarantee every adoptee has felt at least once in their life.

Growing up, I always felt like a burden. I’ve always felt like I had to “hold my own”, so to speak. I had to be strong enough and big enough and brave enough and good enough and I’m really sick of feeling that way. I know that I’m loved by a lot of people in this world but my reality is that the two people in my life that were biologically most like me and who knew me before I was born, could not take care of me and raise me in their home or family. Carrying this burden gets to be too much. I don’t have to be solely responsible in taking care of and loving myself, but I do have to teach my friends and family how to take care of me. And that too, gets very exhausting.

Most days, I can say that my bio parents could not raise me and I believe that, but today it feels like they didn’t want to. As an adoptee, it doesn’t matter how many people love me or how much love they give. When you have been rejected or abandoned or for whatever reason were not able to grow up in the home you were born to, it affects every part of your life. In fact, just existing can become exhausting. I feel like to exist is to defy everything I am because who I am is unknown. Who I am is incomplete and who I am does not fit. I was not born to be raised in the family that I was raised in. I was not raised in the culture I was meant to be raised in or even the country. I was born in a country and culture of a family that could not have me for whatever reason and because of that, I would say that I am kind of lost and I’ll never be completely found again. That might sound dramatic to some, but it’s true. When you’re an adopted person, you have to create your own. You will forever be at a loss and some days that loss hits harder than others.

I have this temptation to say that this isn’t all, that this burden gets easier to bear or this weight gets transformed into art and beauty when dot, dot, dot. But it doesn’t. Its hard, and it’s always hard because even when you meet your bio family, if you choose to do so or have that option, it will never be the same as growing up in their home. Maybe it’s better, maybe it’s worse, or maybe its something else all together, which is what I’d like to believe. Whatever it is, it’s complicated and it’s not easy.

Adoptees, you are allowed to have a bad day or an off day. You are allowed to feel crappy and need a break from teaching the people around you how to love you. You are allowed to be human and you’re allowed to just focus on being, because some days you have to try harder other than others. Give yourself grace, patience, and give yourself a little extra love on those days. I’m not sure who said this first or best but it’s true… “Loving yourself is not selfish, it’s self preservation.”

Good luck out there.

PS: If you are having a particularly adopted day(s) and its just feeling too heavy to carry alone, look for an adoptee support group near you, get in touch with an adoption competent therapist, reach out to adoption resources, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

* Or if all of that seems like a little too much feel free to email me at adoptednotbroken@gmail.com.

Owning My Story

I want to be very careful to speak on my own experience and only that. With adoption, there are so many different views, ideas, and realities to so many different people involved, the adoption agency, the birth parents, the adoptive parents, biological siblings, adoptive siblings, etc. and I don’t want to speak for or on behalf of anyone but myself.

When I was a kid, I memorized the story that was told to me, without even thinking about it. I remember being like 6 years old and adults, “awwe”ing at my adoption “story”. Other kids would say, “Wait, are they your real parents?”, “Why are you a different color than your family?”, “Does that mean your real family didn’t want you?”, “Is that your real mom?” and so on. My parents’ friends and acquaintances would say, “Well, aren’t you so blessed to be here with such a loving family.” or “I bet you’re really grateful to be in America.” While I know that no one meant to be hurtful with those comments and questions, the truth is that every time I had to recite my story or respond to ignorant and hurtful questions, I pushed my pain deeper and deeper.

No one ever told me to make sure that everyone around me was comfortable and that they understood my story, it was just very clear to me that I was not to rock the boat. I was not to question my story and it felt like everyone around me was entitled to it. I was so sure that I was disposable. I was so sure that if I said something wrong or made it sound like I was ungrateful by asking questions I could be “returned” or abandoned, again. Every once in a while, I would go through a period where I felt my adoption more than the every day weight of it and very few times, I let people in. I figured out how to live through it. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone, talk about it, or even grieve, because what if I offended my family! What if I made someone feel bad? For some reason, I thought that everyone else and their feelings about me and my “story” mattered more than me and my own experience.

It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I started to realize that I had so much baggage to work through. I finally decided that I was worth more than the price tag I gave myself, and began to unwrap all of the layers of shame, guilt, fear, that I used to cover up my own truth.

This was the story I wish I could have told when I wanted to at 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.

“At three years old, my parents were no longer able to parent me. I was a child and it was not my fault. I was placed for adoption and adopted by a family, who did their best to raise another family’s child. It was really difficult. I lived and dealt with a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, a lot of shame and a lot of fear. But I made it this far. I am well, and I am working toward healing and growth and finding who I am all over again.”

My adoption story is a lot more complicated than the feel good religiously framed missionary story glazed in “blessing”. It was hard, it was painful, and I am still affected by it today.

It took years for me to be able to talk about my adoption in more than just the bullet point answers that I recited as a child. Thats okay because it is MY journey and only mine, but if I felt like I could ask the questions that I had, the questions that plagued my heart every single day, I would like to believe that I might have been just a little more whole today because there is power in just knowing and owning your own story.

Here Goes Something!

I have probably started and quit about ten different blogs. Some I’ve started and quit after a couple of years, and others I’ve started and then deleted in the same week. My goal for this blog is to keep it going as long as I can.

To be honest with myself, I have quit those blogs for a number of reasons and fears. Some of those fears have included:

  • I’m not a professional, who would care to read my stuff?
  • Crap, I’m not even that great of a writer!
  • Damn, what if I offend someone?
  • What if I offend someone I love?!
  • I should probably spend more time working through my stuff rather than writing about it, right?
  • I’m sure someone else is already doing this better than I am.
  • This is just a lot of pressure. (Mostly self imposed, but still!)
  • What if someone actually likes what I have to say, will I have to write this forever?
  • What if I run out of topics?
  • But mostly, what if people just don’t like me?

Like many people, I have struggled for most of my life with insecurities and negative thoughts, and only in the last five years I have been on a mostly intentional journey of  working through my shit, excuse my language (Warning: there will be a little more of that). In those years, well, actually more like in the last three years I’ve realized that most of the baggage and pain that I carry comes from my childhood and my adoption experience. I’ve tried looking at myself and my life through the lens of my adopted family, my faith, my relationships, my education, etc. but it really all started when my biological family, for whatever reason, decided or was told that they could no longer take care of me. And only in the last year I have started to unpack what that really means to me and how that reality affects and has affected my entire life.

If you’re still reading, maybe you’re interested in following along. If so, you can totally subscribe to this blog and keep up or you can just check in once in a while to see what new things have been added, as you’re able or interested. If you’re not interested, thats okay too.

This blog is different for me because even with all of the fears I mentioned above, I care about myself and my own healing more. I want to do this for me but also for other adoptees. Because, this shit is tough! BUT, it is a little tiny bit easier knowing that someone else “gets it”.

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“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown