Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Inner World of Adoptees

Caught part of the movie, "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," based on the family life of writer James Jones. It stars Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Hershey and Leelee Sobieski.

This isn't a movie review.

But some thoughts about adoption.

First, even though it's about the writer's family life...the actor who plays the adopted son got left out of the movie poster. I mean, there's only four people in the family and the dad, mom and bio daughter - or the actors who play them - are featured prominently. What happened to the adopted kid?

Leelee got most of the dialogue and action while the actor who played her adopted brother struggled with inner turmoil. This is hard to show on film. Which means he hardly talks and looks stricken or mortified half the time. Once, he threw himself on his adoptive mother's stomach after she had a miscarriage when he was a teenager. He mumbled his few lines so I have no idea what he said.

So my point is...that's the trouble. Or the challenge.

Being adopted is an inner struggle. A lifelong inner struggle. Just like characters in the movie, nobody seems to take much notice of the adopted kid and how he's reacting or coping. At least in the first half of the movie. Maybe he spontaneously combusts at the end. I have no idea.

But back to the the whole inner struggle. If you're adopted, you know what I'm talking about. Trying to explain what it's like is a frustrating experience because you're likely to hear that it's no big deal and you should just move past it, like it's a big piece of ugly furniture. On the outside, we look okay, seem fairly normal, if we're not trying to commit suicide or hittin' the bottle too hard. I'm not talking about how adoptive parents respond - or not - to their kids. I'm talking about the way society does. All those people in the U.S. who seem to think adoption is so wonderful and a blessing and a great way to raise a family, when many of adoptees say, wait, it ain't so great and let me tell you why. But because we don't look or present like failed social experiments that many of us feel like inside, well, we're dismissed. This is usually where people say how normal we seem, etc., when we feel like three eyed spotted aliens.

The whole inner struggle aspect is nearly impossible to explain.

But this is it.

To me. It just doesn't seem right. There's something not normal about the way I feel or connect to the world, probably because a primary connection was broken off shortly after I was born. And then there's that whole disorienting experience of being raised by genetic strangers aspect to adoption, as if Barbies and Beanie Babies were interchangeable when we know they are not. There's something...off.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cumulative Adoption Trauma

For your viewing pleasure...or discomfort, please check out this commercial about Cumulative Adoption Trauma.


It pretty much nails the experience.

One of the reasons I'm not posting so much is I'm working on a semi-autobiographical novel about the dark side of adoption. I just finished a draft chapter about the day when one of the main characters finds out she's adopted and questions her adoptive mom. That chapter pretty much wiped me out. It brought it all back. The day when I finally got up the nerve to ask about my first mom and my a-mom fell apart. We fell apart. Like two pieces to a badly designed puzzle. Nothing and nobody could ever make us fit. Not after that. Not after I betrayed her with my questions. Not after she proved herself untrustworthy.

Let me know what you think of the video.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sleeping to Avoid Pain

I recently started a thread about this on my favorite forum and many adoptees responded saying they do this, too...or something like it.

It's been pretty hectic lately (house guests, teenagers and trying to stick to a writing schedule), so some of you may have seen this at AAAFC. If so, sorry for the repeat.

Was just reading, "The Needs of the Newborn in the First Hours of Life" that I found on Julie's blog. (Thank you, Julie. Again!)

This is the part that made my eyes pop out:

The baby has no way of interpreting what is happening to it, or of knowing that the separation and abandonment it is experiencing are ever going to end. The only way the baby can shut off the pain of the long hours without its mother, is by using sleep as a defense. Primal patients who have relived this particular trauma have often gained insights into the fact that this became a prototypic defense for them and that they continued to use sleep as an escape whenever reality became too painful.

When the going gets tough? I conk out. It's the weirdest thing. If something happens that upsets me, not long afterward I feel like I'm crashing. And then I get really sleepy. Sometimes, if I can't fight it, I take a nap. This is embarrassing to admit, but I never made the connection between a triggering event and my sudden sleepiness, but I've always thought it was odd and have wondered about it. Lots! And then I stumbled across that article. As a newborn, my mother never held me (her choice, she admitted, didn't want to get attached) and so I was left in the nursery for an entire week while she made up her mind whether to relinquish. And like so many of you, then it was off to Mystery Foster Care and Who-the-Hell-Knows-What-Happened! So the above makes sense.

Monday, October 01, 2007

My So-Called Adopted Self

One thing about finally coming to grips with being adopted and what that means and how it's impacted my life amazes me: the continuous discoveries.

It's like digging in a really deep archaeological site.

The finds just keep coming.

Some of them are little bits and pieces that are covered with crud, so you gotta brush 'em off and tag them and later, examine them together.

Occasionally, you make a really significant discovery, just when you thought you'd found everything there was to find.

Which happened last week.

Don't have time to write about it now, but will. This one totally took me by surprise. I would NEVER have linked it to adoption, but it sooooo makes sense. And not only that, I found some other adoptees experience it, too.

To borrow the title to Betty Jean Lifton's took, the Journey of the Adopted Self...once you begin that journey, it's surprising what you'll find.