Out of the fog - Connecting dots about how adoption has affected me
Life as an adoptee has been full of contradiction for me, and I know for many others as well. I wrote a piece on this once, called “Contradiction in the life of an adoptee” You can find it and read it HERE. I participated and shared my story on an episode of Adoption Advocacy Podcast, also talking about the contradiction, and shame that many adoptees live with. You can find and listen to that HERE. Both the written piece and the podcast took place about a year ago.
At the time I was new to having come out of the fog. Since then, I have continuously analyzed myself, my behavior and my life. Time and time again, I have reached new insights and understandings about what it is I have been through, and what the effects have been. One of those insights has been realizing that the survival instinct runs deep in me as an adoptee and will make itself known even in seemingly light situations that are of no immediate danger to me. It has caused me to act in ways that have puzzled myself and others, time after time. It has led me to act in ways that have been frustrating, to myself and to others, time after time. For the next few posts about my adoption story, I will share with you some examples of what I mean when I say that my life as an adoptee has been one of living in survival mode.
Please, keep in mind that I share this because I hope to offer support and validation to fellow adoptees who may have felt the same, abut haven’t been able to connect the dots. It took me over 30 years, and if I can spare a fellow adoptee the confusion, loneliness and hurt, I will share it with the world.
Saying “I am sorry”
One thing that I have always struggled with is saying the words “I am sorry”, as in apologizing for something I have done or a mistake I have committed. To most people, while not a pleasant position to be in, it is not THAT big of a deal to have to apologize. You make a mistake, you realize your mistake, you apologize and most likely, you move on from there. It is not a matter of life or death. It is part of life.
Let me share with you what I wrote on this topic in a group on facebook recently:
“Something I’ve always struggled with, and am still working on, is being able to own up to having done something wrong and apologize for it.
I freeze and my mind won’t let me utter the words “I’m sorry”.
I have realized that it’s because if I apologize, I admit to having done something wrong, being the reason for someone’s pain, causing something bad in a situation. If I admit to having done that, I admit to not being perfect. If I’m not perfect I may be less lovable. If I’m not lovable, I risk being rejected and abandoned all over again. So, for me, the words “I’m sorry” become almost dangerous to utter in that instance. It becomes a matter of survival. And in that moment my survival instinct becomes stronger than the hurt I may have caused you.
Once I understood that, I have on occasion forced myself to say “I’m sorry”, but I still struggle. And every time, I am ready for the ground to open up and swallow me whole as soon as I utter those words.
But I’ve survived, so I will push myself again and again to own my mistakes and hopefully one day, it will be for me, as it is for normal people to say “My bad, I messed up, I’m sorry”. And life just goes on.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have shut down, in a flight over fight-response. Or maybe even more accurately would be to call it a freeze-response. You can find me staring at you with a blank expression, and in my mind I know that if I just own my mistake and apologize, things will be fine, but I am seemingly physically unable to do it. I feel as though I will sink into nothing if I admit to not living up to expectations and it becomes imperative that I just keep quiet.
I am often able to apologize later, after the “danger” has passed and I can do it on my own terms. But then, the damage is done already.
This behavior has been the cause for so much confusion within myself, and I am sure to those close to me who have been subjected to me ignoring a situation, rather than recognizing it and apologizing for it. Trust me, there is no ignoring on the inside. On the contrary, I beat myself up plenty and absolutely realize my part, and possibly take on more responsibility than what is mine to carry. On the inside. Today, I understand where it is coming from, and that it has a logical explanation. And today, I can work towards being able to say “I am sorry” out loud, in the moment, when it matters, and know that I will survive. That not being perfect doesn´t mean I will be less loved, abandoned or rejected. That being imperfect actually means being human and normal. That showing flaws actually makes me more approachable, more authentic and maybe even more lovable.
But for my entire life until recently, because of living in the fog, because of not having anyone who could relate to me, because of the narrative of adoption not inviting adoptees to speak about their own adoption other than in positive terms, because of having adoptive parents who had not been properly informed about the effects of mother/child separation and who didn’t know to read up on it themselves because it was not mentioned in relation to adoption, because of living in survival mode and that to me meant being compliant, staying in my lane, not being an issue and hiding my thoughts, feelings and questions about adoption so deep down I did not even know they were always there, I never understood that the underlying factor to my entire life, was always the separation from my mother and the adoption that followed.
These things need to be talked about. I wonder how many adoptees can relate to this but have never said a word to anyone. I was one. So for the second half of this NAAM, I will share with you, in addition to this one, a few other things that make it easy to see that as an adoptee, even as a compliant adoptee deep in the fog, adoption and everything in relation to it, has always affected me and it has always been the lens through which my life has played out. And therefore, awareness needs to be raised so that more people can know and recognize what life as an adoptee can be like. All sides of it.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for spending this time with me, reading my story.
If you would like to share your story, I would love to connect with you and help you share it here alongside mine.
Own your story, share your story, write your story.
All my love to all of you,
– Amanda Medina
PS. We are all in this together!