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Friday, July 8, 2011

An Adoptee - Through The Looking Glass Part Two

“"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings"”. ~Lewis Carroll

My adoptive parents always accused me of living in a fantasy world. They were very grounded and practical people who, not only never thought outside the box, they lived in it. Me, I was a dreamer always playing out the story lines I created inside my head to suit whatever ideas and emotions I felt. But, in reality I was living in an unreal world. I was adopted. And it is time for talking about it.

I remember being told I was adopted about the time I began kindergarten. I am thankful that my adoptive parents told me then, I can’t fathom finding out later in life. And, I think I’d already surmised that something was not “right” and we were different than other families. I watched as the parents of my friends demonstrated their love for their children with hugs, kisses, and other actions, and yes stern correction when necessary. I received continual dismissal, criticism, and a cold, unemotional, detached set of adoptive parents, along with abuse. At a very young age I realized I did not belong in this family.

I immediately asked questions about the family I came from, but they went unanswered and the issue of adoption was swept under the rug. And that scenario became the norm. Where were my real parents? Were they dead, alive, close by, or far away? When my questions were ignored I began to imagine up my own stories. It became my escape from the reality I was living in, which in actuality was a horror story.

I played “make-believe” and “let’s pretend” like all children did, but mine was not just for play. I borrowed for my own story creations from favorite books such as “Nancy Drew” (talk about trying to solve life mysteries), TV shows like “Bewitched” (oh how I dreamed of having a nose like Samantha’s and I could immediately twitch it and find my real family), and my favorite movies like “Alice in Wonderland”, and related to “Heidi” and “Cinderella”. The latter two as an orphan and treated as domestic help and second best to natural children. Only, no one came to rescue me, or help me, and there was no prince. I could have been Alice, lost in some strange land with people behaving oddly and trying to tell her things that simply did not make sense.

No matter how anyone tries to justify it, it is NOT normal to give children away! And, it is certainly abnormal to be taken from your whole biological family and given to others with no recourse for explanation or information. It is time to remove the blinders to adoption and give adoptees what we are asking for, what we need, and what we deserve.

Creating and reading fairy tales can be fun. An imagination is a wonderful thing. But let’s quit pretending when it comes to adoption. Changed names and falsified information on birth certificates with the truth hidden and sealed away from us by others needs to be the plot of some B movie, and not the reality of our lives.

Adoption Survivor, not Victim

Von Coates interviewed me about my adoptee and writing experience  - I wanted to share an excerpt:

·        In your life was there a pivotal event that changed you from being a victim of adoption to a survivor?
Trace, 1st grade

That is a great question because lots of people won’t recognize there is a definite shift from victim to survivor.
When laws restrict opening adoption records, these policymakers make us victims. There are many adoptees ready to know their family name, meet relatives and have reunions, but cannot because of adoption laws.  Other adoptees, lulled by gratitude, may fear upsetting their adoptive family, and may not see themselves as victims of a corrupt unjust system.   
The adoptee moves from victim to survivor when they decide to break the law, when they decide to regain and restore their own identity, and get their name. That’s a giant leap forward.
My becoming a survivor happened in stages, in a sequence of events. As a child I grieved. I promised myself as a teenager that I would find answers but it looked impossible with sealed records in Wisconsin.  I felt overcoming my low self-esteem was first. In my 20s, I realized there would be “emotional processing” I’d need to do, slowly, over time.  Opening my adoption records was very important in 1978 but troubling since I had no help to locate my parents. This was before the internet.  I also had to face reality that I might not find them or my parents might not be willing to meet me.  I never met my mother Helen which felt like a second rejection in the 1990s. I was 40 when I met my father Earl in 1996. Reunions (or not having a reunion) take time to process.  Over the years, other adoptees were great teachers for me since there are no guidebooks for dealing with adoption and the trauma. There is so much to understand, obviously.
Writing and remembering everything again and research changed me most – like a light bulb went on. I started to see adoption as an industry and a measure of control over a mother’s maternity and placed orphans in a state of emotional disgrace.  Recognizing adoption as an institution, one that has outgrown its purpose, one that is damaging for mother and child, was perhaps my biggest transforming moment.  (It was actually magical…)

·        You say in your book adoption involves many traumas, not just the one of the loss of a mother. Many of the things that happen to us, the damaging relationships, breakdowns and illness result from those traumas. How do we move from being vulnerable, to strength and survival?

In my book, I mention four distinct traumas for adoptees and I know there are more. Adoptee and natural parents are vulnerable to the billion dollar adoption machine that still manipulates us. I felt manipulated. Restricting us from meeting, laws which prevent our meeting, then add a dose of shame, judgement and misunderstanding, all deeply affects and even harms adoptees.  I do write about this in depth.
Adoption is very isolating.  Many adoptees like me suffered in silence. I see many adoptees create stories for their missing parents. If they do not know the truth, and never meet them, adoptees can stagnate emotionally and get trapped in illusions, lies and excuses. That is a very hard way to live. It’s very difficult to tell an adoptee what to do, or how to heal and overcome this vulnerability.  I took small steps on my own and finally realized that there was only one solution for me – find the truth.
A closed adoption is the ultimate act of disruption. Because of my disgrace and orphan-status, I was not living emotionally well. I was not empowered as a human since the very act of adoption removed my identity.  I made a decision to not live this way or accept the fantasy-land my adoptive parents and adoption industry created for me. I had to open my adoption, period.  I would not give up.
It took me a long time to see how I failed myself with very troubling decisions and blamed Helen my birthmother for misery I had as a child.  I fought the idea of being a disgrace.  I fought feeling rejected by Helen when I finally found her.  I fought very hard to heal myself, know myself and release judgment.  Even as a teenager, I thought it was ridiculous to be expected to live a fantasy and project gratitude.
Finding the truth and meeting relatives moves you from feeling vulnerable to empowered, from victim to survivor.  

Read more of this interview at Once was Von blog: here
--- Trace A. DeMeyer (www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com)