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.