How to Support a Spiraling Adoptee

I know that I have been posting a lot about my thoughts and reactions to episodes of Grey’s Anatomy…sorry but this one is inspired by that too. As Jo Karv’s story continues to progress, I have been very interested to see how her relationship with Alex is going to be. For those that don’t watch the show, Alex started out as an asshole, I hated him. His character was snarky, mean and a gave people chlamydia. However as the seasons progress we start to notice why Alex is as angry as he is and why his world view is different. If you don’t watch the show Alex comes from a home where he basically raised his siblings. His dad had walked out and his mother had untreated mental illness. Alex was always the caretaker. Throughout this series you start to notice that he typically chooses women who need care taking.

Alex has always been able to “take care of things” when people in his life fall apart, he is there to pick them back up, put them  back together and get them on their feet again while losing little pieces of himself along the way. This episode, Jo continues to push Alex away, she is hyper sensitive to things that are going on in the hospital and Alex continues to try and support her.

Towards the end of the show, Alex is in the chief’s office and he starts yelling “I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t ask what’s wrong. I don’t know how to fix it.” He is so upset that he has been pushed out of  everything happening with Jo. He doesn’t know what is all going on through her mind and he doesn’t even know how he can help her.

For those that have interacted with adoptees, you may have figured out that we carry a lot of baggage with us, some have A LOT more suitcases than others but either way we have suitcases nonetheless. Next I bet you’re wondering if we ever completely unpack our suitcases and find some kind of balance or “normalcy”. I’m not sure. I haven’t gone through my entire life yet. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Since I have started on this journey, I have really relied on the friendships I have made throughout the KAD community. We know the issues we all struggle with and sometimes we even hear more baggage then we ever thought were possible for another human, let alone an adoptee to carry. Whether EVERY SINGLE adoptee wants to admit it or not, we ALL trauma, even if it is something we have never addressed or come to admit but it is ALWAYS there. There have been numerous studies that show no matter the age of a child, even from infancy separation from the bio mother changes the way that child develops. Numerous studies have shown that this separation causes a lack of production with a neurotransmitter of flight or fight and it has been linked to anxiety as well as depression.

On top of that add in some abandonment issues and you’ve got the work cut out for you. For those adoptees that are aware of all of this, we know it’s a lot, we know there is a lot of work to be done to handle all of our issues and maintain normalcy in our relationships. We don’t need to be told, we already are aware. We know we have issues. Do we always want to talk about them? No, especially since not everyone is able to handle the complexity of our issues.

How do you support us then if we don’t want to discuss with you? First, give us our space. Throughout the journey of finding my birth family, I have gone through a ton of emotions. I have been at highest high and I have been at some pretty low lows. To try and describe it even now is difficult to put into words. As I’ve been on this journey I have reached out to other KADs, specifically ones that have already gone through the search and have either reunited or have found their birth parents but the parents do not want any contact. For lack of a better excuse, it’s just easier. These people just know what you’re feeling. You don’t have to explain what’s going on in your head, they just get it.

Sometimes I want to talk to other people about it, some of my closest friends that I have known for decades but there isn’t that level of empathy. They can listen and hear us but sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes I need someone else to understand what emotions I’m feeling to reassure me that I’m not alone, that these feelings are as normal as possible and I am not driving myself crazy. Please, if an adoptee you love is spiraling and doesn’t want to talk to you, give us our space. Most of us will talk when ready.

Second, know our triggers. Whether or not we are aware of them, we’ve got them. I’ve slowly been trying to identify mine. When you add in the abandonment piece to the initial trauma add in a few more triggers. For me personally, if you start to pull away from me, I’m done and I can tell you exactly what I start doing. I pull away from you and withdraw emotionally. I go into self protection mode because the story in my head is that you are obviously going to leave if you are pulling away from me. Most likely after that I self sabotage and make sure you leave…and there are many different ways that I have done this over the years.

For adoptees FOMO or fear of missing out is all too real. We feel as if we are constantly missing out on something, if someone doesn’t include us, we jump to fear or assume that person is no longer interested in being friends with us. It sounds so stupid when I type it out but it’s a very real and true thing. Because of our trauma, because of the way our adoptee brains are wired, we immediately react (flight or fight) when we are triggered the way we always have, our brains respond sometimes without us knowing why, it almost goes into auto-pilot. Sometimes we are able to control it and sometimes it gets the best of us.

The ways that you can support us is just to be there. Give us some reassurance that everything is okay and that you are there for us. Personally, I know that when there is conflict in any of my relationships, friendly or romantic, I need that reassurance that even though something isn’t good right now that it doesn’t mean I am any less important or cared about by them, a little goes a long way.

I’m sure there are thousands of ways adoptees need support. These are just a few of the things that I need, things that I have come to identify. If you think of anymore leave a comment.

 

Always,

J

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