Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dear Adoptive Parents: An "Angry Adoptee" Gets Vulnerable--The Pain Behind the Rage

I originally composed this "letter" on June 25, 2013. I never published it because it felt too vulnerable. However, after learning of yet another adoptee suicide just days ago, I feel compelled to share it. I share this with the hope of breaking through the culture of silence and euphemism in the adoption community. We need to normalize and create a culture of safety and acceptance for the intense and profound loss, grief, pain, anger, sorrow, guilt, and confusion that many adoptees experience and wrestle with on a daily basis, yet feel unable to manage due to stigmatization, marginalization, negative labeling, invalidation, ignorance, suppression, lack of support, etc.

Please listen.

Please believe.


* * *

Dear Adoptive Parents,

I have anger.

I have more rage than I can contain at times.

Sometimes it possesses me, and I lose all control.

I'm not proud of it. It's not something that I enjoy.

But that's just the thing--it is in these moments, when I hurt so deeply that all I can feel is rage and and hate, that I need those closest to me to be willing to see beyond it, to recognize that it's not something that I want to feel, that it's not something that I'm trying to inflict upon you. And in fact, that it's really not about you.

I know it can feel like it's about you. And I know that it can hurt when this rage and anger come out in unhealthy ways. I know you feel that it threatens you.

But if only you could see that it's not about you, even when it looks and feels like it is about you. If only you could see what is behind the rage. If only you could see what I am using the rage to protect myself from--pain. 

Profound, crushing, unspeakable pain.

It's about the fact that the wounds of being separated, left, relinquished, abandoned--whatever you want to call it--from the very ones who were supposed to hold onto me no matter what are just so deep and irrevocable and consuming that they crush me at times. 

It's about the rage and the pain that I feel that no one showed my original mother compassion, that no one was willing to help her in her utter despair and distress. 

It's about the confusion and turmoil I feel toward God and the Church when I am told time and time again that this was God's plan--to separate me from my own flesh and blood, from the woman who bore me in her own body--and yet I am supposed to feel grateful and joyful.

It's about the fact that there are moments that I am overcome with a grief so suffocating, so burdensome, so wild that I do not know what to do with myself--

And so I explode. I rage. I scream. I let all that I am feeling swell and erupt, like a torrent of terror and horror.

Because for so long, I have been taught to hold it in. For so long, I have been treated as though the effects of the trauma I experienced did not exist. Because for too long I was expected to be the "good adoptee" who is grateful and unaffected. Because for so long, I have tried to tell myself that I can live as an adopted person without feeling deep things.

For so long I have tried to do this alone--because for so long I have felt like Medusa with a head of snakes--my horror makes me untouchable. Unlovable.

But ultimately, what I need is someone who is willing to love me through the rage--not in spite of it, but because of it.

To see that the rage comes from a place of profound pain and hurt.

If only you could reach beyond the rage. I know it is a lot to ask, but it is what I need. 

Because there are times that I cannot but doubt that there is any human capable of loving me through such intense rage, such consuming pain.

And how can I blame anyone?

It is hard to love someone who feels unlovable.

At times, you may see a happy, well-adjusted adoptee. I may smile and laugh and hug and say "I love you--I'm so grateful to be adopted." But, inside, I am hiding deep pain, confusion, turmoil, grief, and guilt. And I feel trapped, unable to even acknowledge much less share this darkness within me. So I hide it. I cover it up. I cover it up so well that I forget that it's even there. I forget it so perfectly that I deny that it even exists. I convince myself that I feel nothing--other than what I am told to feel: gratitude, joy, peace. 

Although I have taught myself to forget--my heart and mind never do. Although the pain may be buried so deeply that everyone around me is convinced of the contentment I feel with my life, deep down my heart and mind still grieve, still hurt. All is well...until one day, something inexplicable begins to break through, seep out, little by little...

And unless, you are willing to see beyond the veneer or beyond the rage, my feelings of isolation and alienation may dangerously increase.

So, please, listen to me.

Believe me.

I am not looking for pity. 
I am looking for understanding.

I'm sharing this not for myself but for those who read it--for adoptees and adoptive parents and anyone who loves an adoptee.

I cannot help but think of the slew of adoptive parents--so many of whom claim to be Christians--that I have encountered over the years that reject and dismiss those whom they call "angry adoptees." 

And I think of them as I share these words, hoping that perhaps they will stumble across my words, and read them with the realization that these words could one day be the very words of their own children. And I hope that they will realize that how they choose to respond in such moments of intense emotion means everything.

To realize that it's not about them.

And that it never was to begin with.

So, please, let go of yourself and love your child without condition (who will grow to become an adult no matter what you do) through the rage and anger, the hurt and pain, the questions and doubts.

Don't fear it.

Don't run from it.

Run into it. With arms wide open.


An Adult Adoptee


*Risk of Suicide in Adopted and Nonadopted OffspringThe odds of a reported suicide attempt were ∼4 times greater in adoptees compared with nonadoptees.

To read more posts written by Mila at Lost Daughters, click here.