Thursday, April 1, 2010

When adoptees respond: Surprise! There is nothing wrong with me?

It’s so hard at times, because I feel as though there is this HUGE part of who I am that goes unacknowledged. I feel as though I walk around in this life only being partly known.

Of course, ultimately, this life is not about me in and of myself. And although the sole point of life is more than being known, I do long for and seek understanding and recognition of who I am as I try to live and relate with others.

Being adopted has had profound and extensive effects on my experience of life. And realization of these effects has only grown and deepened as I age.

Sometimes, I wish that I could just gather up all the ways that being adopted influences who I am and lock them away in a box never to trouble me or anyone I love again. But I attempted such neglect and suppression during my earlier years and for far too long. I tried it for the first twenty-seven plus years of my life. And even with my best efforts, it still seeped out in the most destructive and unhealthy ways.

It was never that being adopted never affected me until now. It was never that being adopted didn’t have any effects on me until I was an adult. It was that the general thinking while I was growing up was that being adopted had no consequence, and so therefore when I began to demonstrate so-called inexplicable emotions and related behavior, I was labeled as psychologically unstable. I was put on medications and sent to counseling, because something was “wrong” with me.

Now I realize that nothing was wrong with me. Rather, I was responding in a very natural way to severe loss and trauma.

I didn’t need meds, and I didn’t even necessarily need counseling. I simply needed someone in my life to realize that all of the emotions—the rage, the sorrow, the pain, the grief—were not an indication of mental illness or a screw gone lose. But rather they were a very normal and natural response to losing my original family, culture, and country and being displaced into those which were foreign and dissimilar.

I am almost thirty-five years old, and it is only now that I have even begun to grasp how wide and how deep are the wounds left upon my life.

I know many around me grow weary of my repeated expressions of these realizations of loss and grief, which only serves to further increase my sense of isolation and alienation.

But I cannot flip it on and off like a switch. I cannot say, by this date and this time, I will forever be done. Such extensive losses and subsequent grief and sorrow do not lend themselves to demands and deadlines.

I wish they did. Then, I could simply be through with it all. And never again have to speak that word that defines so much of who I am, even against my will.


Jae Ran said...

I really liked this post a lot, Melissa.

Mila said...

Thanks, Jae Ran...slowly but surely, the lights are coming on for me... ;)

Mia_h_n said...

It might be slowly, but like you said in the previous post, things probably just develope at the pace you'll be able to handle it. At least, overall...

Siinone said...

Hey Melissa,

It's Tara! I know exactly how you feel! I remember when I came to that same revelation...being put on meds and everyone thinking there was something mentally wrong with me...well yes there was and there wasn't!! I was traumatized and nobody failed to recognize it and help's actually known now that many adoptees suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for many many years after they are abandoned. Only this past year, have I allowed myself to embrace that fact and heal myself. Kicking to the curb all of society's expectations of how I should be behaving/reacting to emotions so deep that have taken me so long to understand about myself. Everytime I start to feel like, "oh what did I do? or that's because of who I am" I say to myself, yes, it is. Because that's who I am....I know the reason...and I know I'm entitled to feel that way....

Anyway, I'm not sure if you feel exactly the same...but I can definitely relate to how you feel about growing up and that there was something wrong with you. It's just that we were not "supposed" to feel any emotion over the trauma, because that's what it is, about what happened. There was so much ignorance about adoptees back then. But I also sometimes feel like, well it should have been common sense for my parents to understand what I could have possibly been going through. But that's a whole other issue for me.

Well, I just wanted to drop by and say hello!


Mila said...

Tara! Hi, so great to hear from you. Yes, I can completely relate to what you expressed. It took me years, of course, to realize that what I was feeling and experiencing was normal for an adoptee.

And as you alluded to, even once we realize that our reactions are actually normal concerning our circumstances, it's still such an uphill battle, because so many around us (ie, family & friends) do not acknowledge or understand the complexities of being adopted.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's great keeping in touch.