My Adoption Story Part 8: Out of the Fog into Grieving and Depression, and onto Healing…

I WAS NOT PLANNING ON BEING AWAY FOR THIS LONG when I wrote my short post before the holidays saying I was going to focus on family and myself for a little while. Truth is, I have tried to get back, tried to write again but have not been able to. Every time I have sat down I have been triggered to the point of having to leave it alone.

As if the experience of being involved in the adoptee community, constantly talking about adoption, constantly thinking about adoption, constantly feeling the adoption was so overwhelming in itself that it became too much to handle for me. It started eating me from the inside. Emotions I had pushed aside my whole life made their way to the surface and most days there was nothing else to do but to cry.

I am starting to feel better again, and hope that in terms of coming out of the fog the last two months were the culmination. I had several breakdowns, a huge amount of anxiety and there were more tears than I can recall. I have never felt broken before, but during this time I did.

“It’s called “coming out of the fog” – the process by which adoptees who have considered themselves unaffected by adoption, start looking to their past, their background, their origin and as a result start shifting their view on adoption, their own and in general, as well as the effects it may have had on their life…

It is real, it is a hell of a ride, and going back in is not an option…”

This was a facebook post of mine on April 23, 2018. I was about halfway through the process and experience of coming out of the fog. My view on adoption had shifted, my own and in general. I was becoming more and more aware of the problems with adoption, the industry of adoption and the real effects of adoption on the people who it affected the most; the adoptees.

As I have mentioned before, once I started coming out of the fog I essentially went through the stages of grief. It took me a while to realize that I was going through grieving. Once I understood that my emotions and my state of mind were those of a person who is grieving the next question became, what was I grieving? Was I grieving the mother I knew nothing about? The life I didn’t get to have? The family I didn’t get to know? The person I didn’t become?

It was difficult to think of the things I had lost, although I had barely had them in the first place.

But what became even harder was what came after. Coming out of the fog didn’t only mean shifting my view on my adoption, on my life. All the insights that came with the process, with reading and informing myself, and realizing how so much of my own behavior, my own decisions, and even how my life had played out was all through the lens of adoption and separation were heartbreaking to deal with.

But the most difficult part of coming out of the fog, of the grieving that followed, was not the insights, not even the loss of the things I’ve mentioned so far, but the feeling of having lost MYSELF. I was no longer the person I had been before coming out of the fog, the person I had built myself up to be, the person I had shaped myself into being, the person I felt really proud of being and who I had learned to love.

Coming out of the fog I lost her. I was not prepared to grieve the loss of myself.

I felt like a shell, like an empty body, and I had no idea how to handle that.

I was thrown into something like a depression. People around me would not have known. They could maybe sense something was up, something was off. But that I was angry about everything, felt no desire to do anything and cried for nothing… Not many would have known because talking about it would have meant risking breaking down in front of someone…

One of the things I am more afraid of than anything is the risk of giving in to breaking down. I don’t know if there is any coming back from that if there is a way to put myself back together if I do that. So I don’t cry in front of people. It’s a way for me to still keep my emotions in check.

I can talk about it all after. That is progress because a couple of years ago I was holding ALL the emotions in, and would not admit to having them to myself or to others. Here I am talking and writing and sharing about it. One step at the time…

The following is a piece I wrote about a month ago:

“I have a hard outer shell.
I’m tough, can even be intimidating.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that.
People who meet me for the first time tell me, some right away, some later.
I can crack a joke and laugh loudest in the room in any given social setting.
And I do.
I easily put myself in the center of attention.
She’s such a happy person.
She’s such a confident person.
She’s got such insight.
She’s so strong.
I only cry behind locked doors, by myself.
I let the tears stream down my cheeks,
dragging the makeup down along with them.
I hold my hand over my chest to counterbalance the pressure and pain of crying quietly, of wanting to scream but not being able to, and of wanting to kick and hit the wall, the door, anything to release the feelings and let them go, but not being able to.
I break down quietly.
By myself.
Behind locked doors.
Then I stand in front of the mirror.
I look deep in my red puffy eyes.
I wipe my cheeks.
Look long and hard at myself.
Pull back my shoulders.
Lift my head straight.
Tell myself I got this.
I break down sometimes.
But I’m not broken yet.
Turn around and walk out,
hoping I waited long enough after the last tear fell, to be able to meet peoples’ eyes without them knowing I had even a single tear fall.
And I put that smile back on my face.
If I didn’t tell you, you would never know…”

More than an actual depiction of a situation or event, it is also a representation of a life-long fear of crying in front of people, holding all the emotions in and never ever wanting to show any weakness to the world around me, that I have lived with for as long as I can remember. My role in the family was that of a compliant adoptee. Not because I was told, not because I was made to take that part, but because of how my first year and a half of life had affected me. All the understanding and insight that has come with being able to look back through a new lens and realize that so much of my seemingly illogical behavior and decisions at times, had the most logical explanation of all, in the trauma of separation and subsequent adoption, and life as a transnational transracial adoptee gives me hope.

I know I am not alone in this. I know from talking with fellow adoptees that my experience is shared by others. I am hoping that I have finally reached a point where healing can begin…

I hope you stay with me in the new year, as I embark on new projects and ways to be involved in the adoptee community, helping to raise the voices of adult adoptees, in order to bring awareness to the reality of the adoption experience. I’ll be sharing it all with you…

 

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!

 

 

 

 

ADOPTION STORIES: Juliana Ledesma, born in Colombia, adopted to the United States

Fellow Colombian adoptee Juliana Ledesma shares with you, her adoption story in her own words. This one touches on the damage that the lies can cause. Many adoptees will tell you that they just want to know the truth, good or bad. Just the truth…

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“My Adoptee Life ~ Adopted from Colombia

I was born in Medellin, Colombia in 1990.  Growing up, I was told my mother was young and couldn’t afford to take care of me “mas o menos” (more or less).  Looking back, I realize the story may have been fabricated over time. The story goes that when the orphanage was translating all my paperwork, my adoptive parents were holding me and were so excited that they were barely paying attention.  (Also, that it was just so long ago)  In short, I was told my first mum may have been from the mountains due to her poor writing and that she left me on the doorstep of the orphanage with a letter.  Prior to my adoption my adoptive parents were on an adoption waiting list for about 10 years.  In 1987 they adopted their first child, a boy, from a nearby city in the US.

They wanted a daughter and had heard it could be easier to adopt from Colombia.  January 10th, 1990 they applied to adopt an international orphan with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  On September 14, 1990 they received a referral letter for me and were awaiting pictures and other information.  My adoptive maternal grandmother wrote a list of questions, one of which stuck out to me.  “Was she relinquished by mother at birth?” To which my adoptive mother wrote in: “2-3 weeks.”

On September 29, 1990 they received my photo and “brief” information.  In a note, the director of my orphanage asked my adoptive parents to make their travel arrangements since they would have to make two trips and the adoption would be finalized there, in Colombia.I was healthy and a newborn, so they were very interested and within weeks, my parents and brother flew to Colombia to visit me for about a week.

When I was six and a half months old, I flew with my adoptive parents from Medellin to Detroit.  The story is deeply ingrained in my mind.  The date was February 14th, there was a blizzard and we had to fly around the area for hours waiting to land.  My entire extended family on my adoptive mother’s side was there waiting to meet me.  And so my “Gotcha Day” was always noted on February 15th due to the Valentine’s Day Blizzard. Oddly enough, life-changing things occur for me surrounding this date.

Fast forward 27 years.  My adoptive brother begins wondering about his natural family and tells me he has asked our mom for all of his adoption records.  It hits me that I have never done this and I do the same.  For the first time ever, I saw my natural mother’s name as well as her mother’s name.  I had seen my paperwork plenty of times… Whenever someone important needed my proof of citizenship we went into my files to copy my Naturalization certificate.  But it never appeared as big as it does today.  I’m pretty sure my adoptive mom kept the majority of it safe at her mother’s house. My grandmother passed away in 2014 and so it was all back in adoptive mother’s possession.  I will never forget that night when I saw my paperwork or the day after.  I was so angry with my adoptive mom.  I really felt betrayed and lied to.   I quickly hopped on google and searched my first mother’s name.  I found her – her email and her phone number!  The next day the world around me couldn’t stop spinning… I had never experienced anything like it before.  I still don’t know how I made it through that day, but I did.  A week later I decided to email my first mother.  A few days went by and no response.  I had found her work email and emailed that one as well.  The next day she responded from her personal email.  I could barely believe it.  Her responses were quick, short, and mostly cold. And  I would soon learn how afraid she is of the world knowing of my existence and relation to her.

After a month or two, my adoptive mom and I finally talked about it all and she admitted that it was purely her own “stupidity” and she really just didn’t even realize… this of course broke my heart but I guess in a better way than “my mom lied and tried to keep this from me my whole life”.   However, it still hurts that my relinquishment form was filed away somewhere else and I had only been given it when I asked when I was 27 years old.  It was the missing piece to my puzzle and had been under my nose the whole time.  This did cause a rift between my adoptive mother and I, but I am grateful we were able to communicate about it.  Opening up about so much of this had made one important thing very clear, our shared dream of going back to Colombia together was now completely out of the question.”

 

Written by

Juli Love

Born in Colombia

Adopted to the US

 

You can read and follow Juliana’s personal blog at www.godisheroath.wordpress.com

A Piece of My Writing: Vulnerability

We respond differently to the trauma of separation from our first mothers. A year ago, I wrote a piece on vulnerability. I have always struggled with it. I was starting to see the potential connection between the two. A year later, knowing so much more about it all, I can say that I was definitely on to something…

 

Let’s talk about vulnerability.

How many of you struggle with this?

I find it very difficult to be vulnerable or show any kind of weakness.

I have only ever cried willingly in front of one person when sad or hurt.

I have ever only opened up fully to one person about issues that have affected me or bothered me, from issues in my family growing up.

I have ended numerous friendships for different B.S. reasons once they got to a certain point of closeness, rather than let them get too close to where I would have to really be myself – because most of the time I’m not sure who that even is.

I tend to flight rather than fight when things get tough around me, as in breaking an engagement when things were getting hectic and life was stressing me out.

I love the idea of starting over in a new place where nobody knows me and I can decide who to be. Until I build friendships and things get settled and it’s time to start letting people in.

There is nothing I hate more than having to admit to being wrong. As if I’m afraid that by admitting to being wrong, or having made a mistake, I become less loveable, less acceptable in the eyes of the person I apologize to.

And the slightest hint of someone making fun of me, even when done lovingly, infuriates me. I wish I could laugh at myself more, but again, it’s tied to being vulnerable, which I really struggle with.

Even writing this, knowing I will post it is hard for me…

Could it be that being abandoned as a baby, which is what my adoption papers say I was, has traumatized me to the point of being afraid to let people in? I was found by a woman in the street, abandoned, and she kept me for a month and when she couldn’t find my mother she brought me to the police. They say that even as babies being abandoned can traumatize us. I’ve never done much to explore this because I always pushed the idea to the side, calling myself the success story of adoption. Exploring any potential negative effects of my background would mean having to be open to vulnerability. And I never have been. I’m only now starting to invite the idea into my mind…

 

Written by

Amanda Medina

December 1st, 2017

 

NAAM 2018 – THE LAST DAY OF THE MONTH, THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!

THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!!!

National Awareness Month 2018 is coming to an end today. It has been a month full of emotions and insight. Some challenging, some heartbreaking, some inspiring, some validating, and some comforting.

Thank you,

to those who have read, liked, commented on, shared, and followed my blog and social media posts this month.

to those who have reached out in response to the posts, stories, and writings this month.

to those who have tagged, mentioned or shone a light on my blog and posts this month.

to anyone who has given any time to my blog and my posts this month.

AND THE WARMEST OF THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART AND A SPECIAL MESSAGE OF APPRECIATION TO,

Johanna, your words on identity that rings true for so many adoptees were the perfect way to kick off the month that would be all about sharing adoptees’ voices and stories in their words. You are much braver than you give yourself credit, and the world will be a better place for adoptees thanks to you and your courage. I appreciate you so much!

Kristen, fellow Colombian adoptee and cousin of mine. Words cannot describe how happy I am that you have let me share your story on the blog. Your strength in being yourself is inspiring. I love that you got to reunite with your family and that the timing worked out for you to share your story just as you returned from your trip back home to Colombia. Sending you so much love prima!

Tracy, thank you for sharing your adoption story. Yours is a strong voice in the adoptee community and I am honored that you let me share your story on my blog. A domestic adoption with its own nuances of struggle, your story rings true for many adoptees. I appreciate what you do, how you work to spread awareness and hope you keep pushing forward. You are a strong and important voice in the community!

Florencia, I love how you and I have connected over the past couple of months and thank you for sharing your adoption story on the blog. I admire the work you do, and how you use your background in psychology to advocate for adoptees and draw attention to the need for an honest and open conversation, including all sides of adoption. The peace you have found shines through in your writing. You are an inspiration for sure!

Michael, when I saw you come into the adoptee community in the group for Colombian adoptees the questions you posted stood out to me. A few months later I am beyond happy to call you my friend and universal brother. I have seen you grow in your adoptee identity and I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with you. I am so glad you shared your story on my blog as it has a unique and heartbreaking feature. I am always here for you hermano!

Yennifer, I loved how you shared your story. Bringing to light what reunion can look like. The feeling of being home, even in a place you didn’t grow up in, but because that is where your life started. That is where your family is. The work you do in the adoptee community, giving the mothers a voice and a face through your photography project No Mother No Child, and the work you do with organizations in Europe and Colombia is inspiring and motivating for me who am just beginning. Thank you. I am so happy to have connected with you!

Julie, thank you so much for using your voice to share your story on my blog. Yours is a story with features so many transnational adoptees can relate to. I appreciate your work so much and I can’t wait to read your book!

Frances, I saved your story to the end. Your writing is so heartfelt and when your memoir releases I will be lined up to buy and read it. You capture the emotions of your story so well, and my heart goes out to you. I cannot thank you enough for your courage.  I am beyond honored for the confidence of sharing your story on my blog!

I have so much love and appreciation for all of you, each and every one of you!

This month was full of ups and downs. Some days I felt very inspired and motivated. Other days my heart was breaking over and over again. At one point, I had to take a break from it all because I reached emotional exhaustion. I have found strength in a whole community of fellow adoptees over and over again. I am starting to feel like I am finding my place in the world in the work to change the adoption narrative to one that includes the voices of adoptees. This month is on its last day, but my motivation, my vision and my determination are just taking shape…I have a feeling this ride is just beginning!

I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for spending this time with me, reading my words and those of my fellow adoptees this month.

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!

#NAAM2018 ADOPTION STORIES: Frances Rove, born in the U.S., adopted in the U.S. – late discoverer adoptee

FELLOW ADOPTEE FRANCES TELLS YOU HER ADOPTION STORY IN HER OWN WORDS. AS PART OF A MEMOIR SHE IS WORKING ON, HER STORY IS UNIQUE IN THE WAY SHE WRITES AND TELLS IT. SHE IS ONE MORE VOICE WHO CAN SHARE THE EFFECTS OF ADOPTION ON THE ADOPTEE. SHE IS ONE OF MANY WHO, GROWING UP DIDN’T KNOW SHE WAS ADOPTED…

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“THE MYSTERY OF ME, excerpt from a memoir in progress

Frances A. Rove

I thought I knew who I was until I discovered the poems. I found two poems in my deceased mother’s puzzle box and, for the first time, I felt in my DNA that I had been adopted.

Despite my mother’s and my periodic arguments and her angry retreats into silence, I had tried to mirror her perfectly as she required. It had been hard to tell where she ended and I began.  The adoption revelation unraveled my identity. Who was I if not her “mini-me”? She had said that she and my father tried to have children throughout their twenty-year marriage. She said I was her miracle baby born just as she went through menopause.  If she kept my adoption from me, what was the truth?  Was I really born in Texas?  Was I really forty-two? So much time had passed, could I find my original birth and adoption records?

I phoned my cousin Sandy to confirm my intuition about the poems’ meaning. I was almost twenty years younger than Sandy, so we weren’t close, but she probably remembered when I joined the family.

My mother had told me that she lavished gifts on Sandy before my birth. They always joked and interacted without expectations like Mom and I never could. I admit I was jealous. They’d been more alike than my mother and I. Now I thought maybe they shared a gene for light-heartedness that I lacked.

I phoned and asked Sandy to lunch. She responded as if I’d invited her to the running of the bulls at Pamplona.

“Us? Lunch? Why?”

“My mother hid two poems about adoption, ” I said.

Sandy chuckled. “Well, it’s about time you knew!”

I swallowed hard as an earthquake cracked my fragile foundation as if a hand reached back and changed my past like a naughty time traveler.

The next day, Sandy arrived at the restaurant carrying a faded tote bag. We ordered, and I described the puzzle box and the poems. She laughed and looked out the window.

“That sounds like your mother, playful to the end and beyond. She loved a mystery.”

My mother had been “playful” with my identity. It was hard to believe she had lied to me for so long about something so important.  I looked away.  I didn’t want to alienate Sandy by venting my growing irritation.  She might have more information.

“Everyone knew you were adopted, but we were afraid to tell you,” Sandy said.

I felt like I’d been slapped. “Everyone knew?” I whispered.

Sandy unrolled the silverware from the napkin and said, “Both sides of the family knew, but I don’t know the details. Your parents brought you home from Texas and tried to pass you off as their own child.”

I glared at her, suddenly wanting to kill the messenger. My face smoldered with embarrassment for my parents and myself. I couldn’t believe I had discovered this, decades too late.

Sandy continued, “You looked nothing like your green-eyed mother or your swarthy, Italian father with your reddish hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.”

I clenched my jaw, willing myself to sound composed despite my shock and anger.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I asked.

“You know better than I do, your mother had a temper. No one was willing to risk her wrath, not even your father, even if we disagreed with her.”

“People thought my mother was wrong and still didn’t tell me?  Daddy wanted to tell me?” I still thought of my father the way I had when he died when I was eight.  My voice was intense and shrill. I’d forgotten where I was.

“Franny, calm down. It wasn’t our place. Your parents were both forty-six when you were born out of town. We let your mother have her fantasy.”

I wondered why was I merely a prop in her fantasy, not a real person worthy of respect?

“I always thought the whole family hated me because there was something wrong with me! Now I find out there was this secret, this wall, I felt between us.”  I was almost shouting.

Sandy turned to see if we were drawing attention.

I gritted my teeth and said, “No wonder I felt like I had no real family except my mother.”

“I think your mother wanted to keep you to herself and to keep everyone at arm’s length so you wouldn’t discover the adoption,” Sandy said.

“And what about after she died? It’s been two years! No one could tell me then?”  I got out of my chair. “I’m leaving. I’ll pay the check.”

“Wait, Franny. Your mother gave me this bag. Your baby bracelet from the hospital is in the front pocket.”

Bewildered, I took the bag and looked inside. Betrayal burned all the way down my body. “What are you doing with these?”  I thought the photo albums and baby book were in storage. “I’ve never seen a baby bracelet.” The bag held a treasure trove of my history.

Sandy shrugged and said, “Your mother just told me to give it to you after she died.“

I was steaming about the lies and being the butt of family gossip all my life. “When were you going to give me these if I hadn’t called you?”

Sandy stared at me and didn’t respond.

I started crying before I reached my car.  I thought of all the conversations I’d never had.  Would my father have told me the truth and helped me to set boundaries with my mother?  My mind flashed through the years I’d felt isolated and inferior.

In the car, I examined the bracelet of tiny pink and white beads that spelled our last name, “R-O-V-E.” It barely fit around two fingers.

I wondered how I could be adopted but a Rove at birth.  It would be years before I would untangle the lies and adoption records and have the emotional strength to search for my birth family.  Eventually, I’d uncover numerous other family secrets.

Tears blinded me as I tucked the bracelet back into the bag. I started the car and sat for a moment trying to get back into my body.

I drove home with the heater on as a chilly wind blew, but I felt I’d never get warm again. Leaves drifted off the trees. They were naked to face the coming winter storms.”

Written by

Rances Rove

Born in the U.S.

Adopted in the U.S.

The above is part of a larger work Frances is working on, her memoirs.

She is an advocate for mental health and animal causes.