Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Confessions of an Adoptee

The girl is long gone. So is the young woman. Separated by education and years of experience and a hard knock or two or twenty.

Time for a confession.

Back in my early twenties, I wrote a letter to the editor of a major newspaper voicing my opinion on an article featuring adoptees searching for their birth parents. In it, I expressed my outrage and disgust for these pitiful creatures. I knew my real parents, I protested. They were the ones who raised me. What was this stranger - the birth mother - to me? Why, nothing, I concluded. Those who searched must be maladjusted or angry. By contrast, I was perfectly adjusted, thank you very much; the type of person who got on with life! Why dwell on something that could not be changed? A proactive, positive person, that was me.

And for a long time...it was. Go Go Go. Do Do Do. Busy Busy. Productive. Unreflective. Reactive. Talking too much to hide my discomfort.

So what changed?

What accounts for such a radical transformation as this? From staunch defender of the sanctity of the adoptive family unit to one of the institution's more obnoxious critics?

One can only suppress and deny for so long. One day all that tight wrapping is going to come undone...as it finally did for me back in April...when an unpleasant family encounter left me reeling and sobbing and sputtering. Just like that. Went to pieces. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't pretend. Something was wrong. Really wrong. My reaction to this incident was out of proportion to the offence. An extreme overreaction. This nasty relative had managed to trigger my biggest fears which were always there...lurking: abandonment; rejection; insecurity. Bit by bit I've unwound the wrapping. Layer by layer. Uncovered troublesome behaviors: the people-pleasing; the over responsibility; the need to be liked and approved of; the tendency to save or rescue others.

The closed adoption system and all its secrecy and lies and half-truths did us a great injury...an injury that so many people call a blessing. Family, friends and even strangers tell us how we should feel and what we shouldn't...until we're brainwashed. Look at all the language that is directed at us. Lucky. Special. Chosen. All words designed to comfort and explain, yes. But also serves the dual purpose of shaping our thinking and keeping us compliant and silent and forever children...muffled.

Without all the protective wrapping, the air is a lot colder and certainly more uncomfortable, but it's a whole lot fresher! And what of that young woman who wrote that editorial twenty some years ago? She's a stranger to me now. One I feel sorry for. She was miserable and scared and very confused and terrified to admit it. The extent of my self deception? I couldn't even admit - not even to myself - that my adoptive parents were childlike and self-absorbed. At the time of that editorial, they had cut me off financially and emotionally because I had chosen to attend college several hundred miles away from home. They were lacking in empathy and used shame, guilt and blame as a cudgel. Still, I defended them and adoption. I'm still trying to figure out exactly why and I guess I'll be trying to figure out that one for awhile.

3 Comments:

Blogger Joy said...

Oh Nina, I can so relate, a few months before I phoned nmom, I already had the contact info, just sitting on it, I said in a class, "I have never had any feelings about being adopted! How could I? I don't know any different"

It just makes me laugh now, pretty out of touch, of course being out of touch is in our own best survival interest, we are often dependent emotionally and formatively on people who are very invested in keeping us out of touch.

10:50 AM  
Blogger chez said...

Hi Nina,
Only found your blog a couple of weeks ago - great writing!!
I've been "awake" a little longer (both my a-parents have passed away - so I was released from their clutches earlier than most)- but before that time, I was always chirping the "I've got a family....." blah blah blah blah garbage also.
When you stop chirping the adoption-is-great line, you are somehow so much more exposed.....but revitalized non the less.
Well done on finding your way through this murky adoptee-land and for sharing your thoughts and emotions with others that sometimes can't find their own words.
All the best.
Cheryl

2:27 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

Hi Nina,

Just found your Blog. Looking forward to reading more.

Glad you recently woke up and smelled the burnt coffee.

3:51 PM  

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