"Take up room. Embrace your talents. It's okay to think you're beautiful."
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.
I was removed from my mother at birth and placed with strangers before I was placed a second time with more strangers a handful of months later, who then became my adoptive family.
Yes, this has had a significant traumatic impact on me — my mental & emotional development, body, health, psyche, and life — all of which I was unaware of until a handful of years ago.
Healing is a journey that one chooses to be on; not one everyone is willing to explore.
When it comes to the complex experience of adoption (and reunion), too many assumptions are made where questions should be asked, but I’ve learned not everyone is genuinely curious; judgment is easier for some.
That’s okay though — this is my journey, and they’ve got stuff to figure out on theirs.
There plenty more, of course, but I wanted to highlight a small handful of these from my personal adoptee experience:
I never knew my birth mom or family so I “don’t remember” the events.
Research shows that bonding occurs before birth for an infant, and the separation from its natural mother - relinquishment trauma - is the worst thing a human being can experience; the affects of this primal wound remain with the adoptee throughout their lifetime, regardless of their “adoption experience.”
I am ungrateful for the life I’ve been blessed with because I choose to look deeper into my adoption, origin, history, trauma, and subsequent challenges.
Grief & trauma have never been about gratitude. I can love my family and grieve my birth family at the same time.
I can hold both, and still embrace my journey.
Babies don’t remember their mothers.
Yes, they do. My body not only remembered instantly, but had an overwhelming reaction to mine the moment we hugged.
I’m a victim of my circumstances surrounding adoption.
Finding your voice takes courage, and learning to use it takes vulnerability.
I am no victim, but a warrior.
This isn’t just about adoptee stories, but everyone’s story — we all have one, and every story matters.
The dismissal of another person’s pain is the denial of our own.
’Primal Wound’ by Nancy Verrier
‘Adoption Healing, A Path To Recovery’ by Joe Soll
Some people believe trauma only happens to certain people. We have all experienced trauma at some point or another. Just different forms of it.
Grief and healing look like different things for different people.
As an adult adoptee who’s been ‘out of the fog’ for some time, those two things have been quite the maze to navigate. Just when I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on where I’m at, something finally breaks through the surface that I didn’t even realize I was desperately seeking to understand.
When it comes up, fear is relentless, even physically paralyzing for me. I can only say a handful of words: “I’m scared. I’m scared.”
My husband is the the most supportive, loving man in the universe, but he hasn’t always known what to do or say when I‘m in that state.
I haven’t always known what was happening when I’ve been in that state.
It’s kind of hard to express needs let alone explain them when the trauma of relinquishment is preverbal.
Realizing that, in that non-verbal, traumatized, infant state, I had been approaching him as if he is my birth mother and/or the negligent foster care caretaker has been so clarifying and significant in my healing process.
This is, at its core, abandonment/relinquishment re-enactment on so many different levels in both the body and mind.
In that state, I literally cannot tell him what I need sometimes, but I’m learning.
We’re learning how to provide lightning-speed relief for the other.
We’re learning each other more and more every day.
It’s important to be aware of how prolonged distress is really, really hard on the body, and those working with trauma know that timing is everything.
Figure out what works — touch, voice, words, no words, etc.
I’m right here. I love you. I’ve got you. You are safe now.
Practice it. No one is perfect (there will be drops!) so work on repair speed.
It sounds like a lot, and that’s because it is, but we all deserve to heal.
We’re all worth it.
At the root of fear and rage is pain.
For adoptees, it is the devastating, excruciating trauma of relinquishment: the primal wound of being separated from our mother. Research shows that this separation is the worst thing a human being can experience. I actually didn’t learn that until this year.
I’m here. I’m in one piece, even though it doesn’t always feel like it. I may be in a shit load of pain, but I only know how to love fiercely and I’m learning how to soak in all the love my husband pours into me daily.
I’m healing just as fiercely, and
I’m embracing my journey as a proud adoptee — aka, warrior.♥️
I'm not a huge drinker. I enjoy spending time with friends, and occasionally, that involves going out, maybe trying a new restaurant, and catching up. Even if I've seen you a thousand times, I'll still have social anxiety, so a cocktail will be ordered as soon as I sit down.
The problem is, you can't tell I'm about to explode. I'm an introvert, but you'd only believe that wholeheartedly if you knew me really well. As an adoptee, I've spent a good part of my life people-pleasing, which, in my world, just means fear of abandonment in action. And as an introvert, I absolutely dread small-talk, so mastering social skills means only one thing: a genuine effort to connect; one of the most terrifying things in all existence.
I should've named this post "How To Take An Un-Reunified Adoptee To A Bar" instead. This year marks a decade since I met my birth mother in 2008. I'll be honest. There's not a day that goes by where I don't wonder if I'll finally see that e-mail from her in my inbox, and then hating myself for it. It's truly a complex battle between abandoned baby vs. adult self - and quite the balancing act. I had a friend lightheartedly ask me once, "Why don't you just let her go?" I felt that gut punch for months (she's my birth mother), but I don't know what's worse: living unawarely or being in denial. Feeling pain as a result of trauma has never been a matter of choice; the only choice here is the validation of its existence.
Before I get too off topic, I'll say this. To be fair, I understand not everyone will understand another's grief (after all, each of us are wired differently with different backgrounds, experiences, etc.), but maybe the most painful emotion to experience as a human being, is the dismissal of our pain by others.
As an adoptee, this pain cuts deep into my core wound of relinquishment - the trauma volcano that has been erupting inside of my body since before I was born.
Only within the last few years have I begun to come out of what's known as 'adoption fog', and while my heart and life have changed in the best, most healthiest ways possible, I've also been introduced to a new kind of pain that grabs you by the heart, and then sets you free...over, and over, and over again.
So, about drinks. If you’re out with an adoptee who is navigating grief, awakening, learning love; and you want to be supportive yet you’re not sure how to help, please know this:
Telling our stories is like a baby learning how to speak for the very first time. Be patient with our grief. Finding your voice takes courage; learning how to use it takes vulnerability.
Artist | Singer-Songwriter | Composer