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Friday, October 28, 2011

COLD AS ICE: My Top Five Personality Changes as an Adoptee

cold as ice (icy photo by Trace)
1 – CONFUSION - As a child I was terribly confused about being adopted. My adoptive parent’s lack of an explanation as to how or why I became an orphan only made it worse. I wanted to feel sure there was nothing wrong with me but I could only guess. My a-parents never bothered to share pertinent details with me, like it wasn’t important - but it was.  My identity and the truth meant everything to me. All I knew was I was abandoned, made an orphan and placed with strangers who legally became my parents. I had questions no one wanted to answer or could answer. I lived in a confused fog until I was 22, until I opened my adoption. Then confusion faded away.

2- BLAME – I did blame my adoptive parents for my situation. They had adopted me yet seemed clueless to my inner grief and torment.  I recall how Edie my adoptive mom would say, “You act like you don’t like me.” I don’t remember exactly how I acted but I do remember her words. I am haunted by her words. Yes, I had a rebellious attitude in my teens but I didn’t act it out. I had decided to open my adoption, no matter what. Blaming my adoptive parents for my situation went on silently for years.  I blamed them for birth pain they didn’t create; of course now this makes me feel guilty and terrible but I do understand why!

3- ANGER – There is no simple way to express anger or articulate the stress of adoption when you are a child. I blocked my emotions splitting into different people… I taught myself how to act. It was not safe to show real emotions. I was cold as ice. I imagined if I acted angry, I could end up kicked out, sent to live someplace else.  This is a very difficult and dangerous proposition for a child… when you are forced to pretend you’re happy and ok… Fantasy is normal but normal kids do outgrow it. Adoptees are not treated like normal people, forced to accept adoption as permanent…closed, no discussion. Today, I have healthy anger. What makes me angriest is how no one checked on my brother and me when we were placed. The social workers missed the fact that my adoptive dad was a raging alcoholic and their marriage was tettering on disaster after Edie’s miscarriages. I am angry that adoption records in too many states are sealed and lawmakers ignore adoptees and don’t ask us how this can affect us our entire life!

4- LOW SELF ESTEEM – Healthy self-esteem was not taught at home or at my school - just the opposite. I was a child who measured self-worth on crazy notions of wealth, prestige (nice clothes and cars) and high grades. Attending Catholic School, life was about morality, hell and sin. Was I the bastard child of an illegitimate pregnancy? What did people think of me? I questioned if I was good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Adoption and religion crushed my self-esteem. I could have worn a sign that said, “Don’t get too close or I’ll run!” I was unsure of who I was. I fled good people and bad situations and didn’t stand up for myself.  After I opened my adoption and met my dad and knew my ancestry, my self-esteem started to bloom.

5- HOPELESS – Too many adoptees live in a state of hopelessness. In my 20s I knew my situation was hopeless when I learned adoption records were sealed in Wisconsin. I hoped to find my parents and meet them but it looked hopeless. Then I met a judge who respected my right to know my identity. He let me read my adoption file. Not every adoptee has had this happen. Unless laws change in North America, adoptees are forced to live in a hopeless fantasy, forced to accept that we’ll never know, and forced to accept laws and secrecy. Feeling hopeless is a lot like feeling helpless. This destroys self-esteem, healthy emotions and our ability to trust and love.  Many adoptees I know cannot handle close relationships because of the trauma of being abandoned, left to guess what happened. This stress does not heal until adoptees meet relatives and hear the truth.  Until then, hope seems only a dream. I hope for the day we are no longer hopeless...
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