Navigating through life as an adoptee has been an incredibly challenging experience, to say the least. There are definitely a handful of things I wish my younger-self knew to help get me through some of the more difficult times. However, I truly believe everything unfolds just as it's meant to. Some of life's most beautiful lessons and wisdom are a result of our deepest pain.
Here are a few of mine, that I enjoy sharing with fellow adoptees and adoptee youth.
1. Evaluate the friendships/relationships in your life and decide who is safe, and who is unsafe. Surround yourself with those who are compassionate and loyal.
When I re-branded as an artist this year, I began posting a lot about adoption and my experience, which also meant that I was also talking a lot more about it. It became very clear to me, pretty quickly, which friends truly cared about my well-being, happiness, and healing, versus the ones who just enjoyed conversations on the surface, hanging out over drinks.
Adoptees need a strong, emotional support system, and I realized that I was at a point on my healing journey where it wasn't only healthy for me to begin exercising boundaries with certain people, it was necessary. It's incredible what happens when we no longer tolerate toxic friendships/relationships and when we start saying "no." We make more room for those who are healthier for us in our life. We make more room for ourselves.
2. Adoption-competent therapy.
I just made a post on this recently. I have been in therapy since I was 14. I had talked about being adopted with my therapists, but no one ever connected any dots for me until I was introduced to adoption-competent therapy in 2014. It was then that everything was clarified, re-defined. This means having a therapist who is well-informed on adoption trauma and all the ways it can manifest on not just a psychological level, but a physiological, biological, and neurological level. Get referrals, seek recommendations from other adoptees in the community. Do yourself (and your bank account) a favor and look into adoption-informed therapy.
Don't be afraid to ask for help.
I am in therapy with my husband (who was adopted by his dad) every week, and we look forward to it every week. Adoption is trauma, and it is vital to get the appropriate kind of help so that we can fully recognize what we're struggling with. Relinquishment trauma affects every area of our life, especially our relationships - and relationships are everything.
3. Meditate. Do yoga. Go to the gym. Take care of your body.
Lots of people like yoga. I still need to try it! Going to the gym is part of my regular routine during the week. I have ailments related to my PTSD, and I've found that meditation and taking care of my body physically correlates with how often these ailments show up. Make it a point to eat a healthy meal daily, and have a balanced diet. Limit the alcohol if you can. We didn't have control over being taken from our mothers, but we can control how we treat our body. It makes a huge difference.
4. Tap into your creativity.
You don't have to have a talent or hobby to tap into your creativity! Creativity is such a healing outlet. Sometimes I'll just sit at my piano and play, but creativity for me also means cooking something new or even just organizing around the house (one time I organized two entire boxes of tools, and it was so therapeutic) - it means whatever it means to you. Being able to explore this side of us allows us to dig deep into our grief, pain - all the emotions - and express them however we want. Find whatever that looks like for you, create, and release your heart into the Universe.
5. Meet other adoptees and build friendships.
I went to a conference recently where I was in a huge room filled with other adoptees. It's truly amazing to know other people who get it, and aren't afraid to talk about it! In a world where adoptees feel isolated and alone, it really helps to know others who share the same primal wound of relinquishment. Sure, we may have different stories, but having validation for what we experience is so important for the healing process. It's difficult enough already to attempt having a conversation about adoption, and not having someone look at you like you have six eyes is awesome.
"Why don't we just look up a Filipino last names database and see what comes up?"
That was the question that would lead me to my birth parents' marriage record on Ancestry.com and, ultimately, change my life.
I hadn't thought about searching in a long time. The last time I had tried, I was about 18, and the lady on the phone with the adoption agency told me it would cost me $500 for them to facilitate the search with possibly more fees if I wanted a mediator to assist with reunion. We'll call her Tina.
I didn't have $500. I was also scared about people finding out I was interested in searching - what they would think, what I would look like, how ungrateful I would seem.
How ungrateful I would feel.
There's an overwhelming guilt many adoptees carry for wanting to know who and where we came from. Not only are grief, trauma, and loss implanted deep in our psyche at separation, we grow up living under the expectation of gratitude - that of others and also our own.
Regardless of what the rest of society wants to believe, when we're talking about the psychobiological, neurological, psychological, physiological (the list goes on) affects of adoption trauma, the primal wound of relinquishment and family separation - knowing and/or not knowing these answers affects every aspect of how we relate to the world and ourselves.
And relationships are everything.
So I stepped down from the place of hope and excitement and retreated where pain, grief and loss were home and familiar. It felt safer in the moment. Searching felt too big. Maybe I wasn't meant to know. It'd probably be nearly impossible to find my birth parents after all this time anyway. They were both young, but what if something happened and they weren't alive anymore? What if they didn't even want to hear from me?
I hung up with Tina. I had no idea I'd be calling her back in another seven years.
Ready or not, this was the day.
It was the summer of 2008, ten years after my mom had taken me to the adoption agency to get my file folder that I mention in Part 1.
I was sitting in the living room of my tiny apartment with my then-boyfriend who I'd been dating for a couple of years. We'll call him Sam. I'd been cleaning because my apartment was a mess, and there it was, the folder I took out once every few months or so. I showed all the documents to Sam as if it were the first time ever (he’d seen those papers several times) yet he participated with the equal interest and curiosity.
Then I handed him the poem my birth other had written to me titled 'Never Forgotten.'
It was a closed adoption, so the last names had been whited out on all the documents for privacy, but on this particular poem, whoever was whiting stuff out left the first three letters visible. I'd seen those first three letters countless times before, never thinking anything of it other than, oh, look, they forgot to white-out those three letters. But that's when Sam said, "Why don't we just look up a Filipino last names database and see what comes up?"
I had never thought about doing that before. There are a million different last names in the world, quite possibly. I wasn't sure about Filipino ones, but I knew a large number of them were Spanish, and some Filipino, depending on your family tree.
But his idea seemed worth a try. Her last name started with an 'A'.
With our laptops set up back to back on the kitchen table, we were on a mission. Searching simultaneously, to my surprise, a database came up where there were only a handful of names hers could have been!
I took a guess as to which one was hers, picking the one that felt most familiar. Somehow, I knew it would be hers.
I had both of their first names, so I signed up for a free trial on Ancestry.com.
Literally, within minutes of searching that last name, my birth parents' marriage license popped up on my screen, and my heart stopped.
I screamed. There they were. Inside of my laptop.
My sister-in-law gave this bracelet to me a few years ago, and I’ve been wearing it a lot recently. I love the message on it: “woman of power.”
Many different things come to mind when it comes to “power,” and it means different things for different people.
Money. Resources. Career. Family. Passion.
I’ve learned, especially this year, that power, to me, means vulnerability. I have it most when I’m in that place because it enables me to be the most authentic version of me, which transcends into everything I do — my work, my music, my creativity; the way I love my husband, my family and friends.
It means being raw and honest with not just others but most importantly, myself. It means knowing the difference between giving up and understanding who/what is no longer worth my energy — and as an adoptee, knowing that it doesn’t mean I just abandoned someone or something, but that I needed to pay more attention to the needs of my little girl.
It means speaking and living my truth, regardless of who likes, dislikes, gets, or doesn’t get it, because in the end, power is knowing my journey is mine, no one else’s.
It’s being awake & in wonder, which, to me, is what it truly means to live.
Sometimes power is feeling strong mentally & emotionally, or simply just making it through the day, but today, it means knowing that nothing has never, can never, and will never break my spirit.♥️
Artist | Singer-Songwriter | Composer