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.
Growing up, the fact that I was adopted wasn't really something that was discussed. I've been blessed with an amazing family that I am eternally grateful for. I was a happy, care-free kid full of energy and entertainment. There was this part of me, though, that I couldn't quite put my finger on; something painful that was always there. Underneath my upbeat personality were feelings of anxiety, sadness, emptiness. Grief.
Research studies show that the removal of an infant from its biological mother is intensely traumatic for the baby, and the excruciating affects remain in their physiology throughout their life. Following this separation, I was placed in a foster home where care was negligent, an environment void of my birth mother's touch, voice, or scent . . . things a baby needs when they first enter the world. These traumatic events created a psychological blueprint that remains with me to this day, and the post-traumatic symptoms I've experienced manifest themselves in different ways, affecting every area of my life.
Adoptees often carry around with them a painful sense of rejection that heavily affects their self esteem, causing them to constantly question their worth; the feeling that they're at fault always present, regardless of the background story for why an adoption took place. For me, the trauma of abandonment and post-traumatic stress became a state of mind and body with which I operated out of on a daily basis.
Open conversations within family can ease painful, confusing emotions and help adopted children feel validated and unconditionally loved regardless of their difference in biology and/or ethnicity. Avoiding the topic can exacerbate feelings of shame, intensifying the idea that there is something 'wrong' with them and that they will always experience rejection in life. Those unfamiliar with an adoptee's world might say: "Well, at least you were adopted into a family, so why can't you just be happy and thankful for that?"
If it were really that simple, research studies and statistics wouldn't reveal adoptees being four more times likely to commit suicide than children living with their biological families.
In reality, adoption is truly a unique landscape. Understanding its complexities can help children in foster care and adoptive parents build a more secure attachment, learn how to approach sensitive issues, and encourage a deeper understanding of our emotional brain development.
It was after learning I was adopted at age 10 that I began to write music. What I was unable to express with words, I conveyed through song. When I didn't know how to articulate what I was processing - I found my voice, my comfort, through music. When nothing else could, sitting at the piano soothed me.
My adolescent years are a blur of drifting in and out of depression, anger, obsessive-compulsive behavior and low self-esteem; day after day, fighting relentless anxiety in my body . . . I watched other people enjoy their families, friendships and relationships. More than anything, I wanted to have that, too - but at the time, I simply did not know how to attach to others in a healthy way. Over and over, I re-enacted abandonment and, conversely, I would abandon.
I saw my first therapist at 14, and continue to go to this day. It's my favorite day of the week. It took years to find effective, quality therapy that was a good fit for me (there are all kinds out there), but without it and/or music, in all honesty, I don't know where I'd be. Therapy is kind of like building a puzzle. Piece by piece, your original 'framework' starts to come into view . . . you can see where edits were made along the way, and why. You begin looking at a bigger picture, and more and more, you make sense. Coming to terms with the root of my pain has given me understanding, more compassion for others, and hope. The daily journey of healing and therapy continues, and while at times challenging, it's been life-changing.
As a result of these experiences, I'd always felt hesitant to really pursue my dreams wholeheartedly . . . but I experienced a huge realization recently that has not only given me new perspective on purpose and what that means for each and every one of us, but has literally broken down walls I've kept up between my heart and what's always been waiting on the other side. I believe we all have unique gifts to spread real love in this world; and by doing so, we can heal our own hearts in the process.
Artist | Singer-Songwriter | Composer