By Trace L Hentz (DeMeyer)
I have met quite a few adoptees who can’t talk about being adopted. Why? They can’t put feelings into words. They didn’t talk about it as a kid and they never learned how to talk about it as an adult.
They might be as confused as I was when I was a child hearing that I was adopted - this was before first grade. What did “adopted” mean? Somehow I got it - these were not my parents, someone else was. But who? And why?
I got used to hearing we “adopted” Trace.
They'd explained I had a different mother and father. I don’t think I took the news well at all. I sat with it a long time. All I could imagine was “bad.” Nothing good. Something bad happened or else I wouldn’t be there. Later I was very pissy and unhappy about it. I don’t remember exactly how I acted but I do remember my a-mom Edie would tell me I didn’t like her. I never recall saying to her “I want to go home and leave here” but I would have acted out my hurt and confusion, because I had no words for what I was feeling! She took it that I didn’t like her. (Which was the groundwork for guilt which I did feel...)
Now that we have the internet and many new ways to find useful information, I read adoptees are more traumatized than a prisoner of war. That’s right. It’s called PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. A prisoner of war may escape or be released, but an adoptee may suffer their entire life.
(The following is taken from my memoir ONE SMALL SACRIFICE)
I believe there are four distinct traumas in being an adoptee. They are: 1) in utero, when you feel what is happening to you or sense what is coming; 2) when you are delivered, abandoned, and handed to strangers; 3) later when you are told you are adopted and realize fully what it means; and 4) when you realize you are different, from a different culture or country, and you can’t contact your people, or know them, or have the information you need to find them.
It took me years to get this. (The adrenals do go into over-drive, the fight-or-flight syndrome.)
Some adoptees are scared silent - they are not able to communicate any emotions they feel. This is the adoption fog.
Then some adoptees are afraid to meet their birthparents - afraid to know why they were given up as babies.
Then we fear we might disappoint them! (Or in my case, I had no tools when I was told by my b-mother to never contact her again. How was I supposed to handle that?)
There are more traumas, too, that happen as you age – like when I’d fill out forms at the doctor’s office. I had no medical history. I had no idea if I was sitting next to someone who could be my biological brother, sister, mother or father. In my 20s it was terrifying to think I could marry my own relative! I could carry a gene or trait that I might pass down to my children – and I wouldn’t know until it’s too late. If my birth-parents were alcoholics (they were), then I really shouldn’t drink. I could be predisposed to diabetes or heart disease or cancer or depression and not even know. My list went on and on.
In 2006, I found out my birthmother had diabetes, another shock. I never knew anything about my mother’s side until the 1990s, then I met my dad when I was 38 in 1994.
Today I realize a powerful link exists between what I’m feeling and what happens in my body. There may be some adoptees who do not wish to face all this and go on as they are, holding on to these sad feelings and self-pity, rather than do the mental work to heal and go into reunions. Recognizing a pattern of belief is tough, partly because you gain sympathy by stealing (or sucking) energy from others when you act sick. Some call this co-dependent behavior. That is no way to live. You need to be your own person, self-energizing, and emotionally stable.
Some adoptees believe that when we meet first mother or father, all pain and agony will disappear. That sadly is just hope. That is not the way it works. A reunion is just one step on the journey and it helps, but there are many many more steps just as difficult. It’s truly a test to get better.
Regardless of your ancestry, blood or skin color, adoptees can heal this. But the only one who can fix you is YOU.
(to be continued)