Thoughts on Jo Wilson on Greys Anatomy

For those of you who have followed this season of Grey’s Anatomy you have slowly follow Jo’s story. From her very rough start of living out of her car, her extremely abusive ex-husband, to now where she is happily married, about to start a family and starting her birth family search. I wasn’t sure if Shonda would ever give us more of a backstory about her but thankfully this season we start to see Jo’s story and specifically her adoption journey unfold as she and Alex discuss starting their own family.

*SPOILER ALERT*

This past episode we got to see Jo after what seemed like a while to process the brief interaction between her and her biological mother. Over the past couple of episodes we have seen her withdraw from Alex and the rest of her friends, she hasn’t been work, drinks more than we typically see her drink and appears jilted, angry, numb and depressed. When she emerges from her bed and starts back working she immerses herself at work, continues to push Alex away and finally is confronted that she was drinking while in the lab.

The end of the show is an argument between Alex and Jo when he confronts her about her going to work drunk and she continues to push him away. By the end of the show, I could relate to Jo on so many different levels.

I have read a few comments from other viewers about how “Jo is the worst” and she is “always in so much pain…Alex doesn’t need her…she is so petty”. The review was hard to read because Jo is incredibly relatable to many adoptees. For those that have followed my adoption journey and now with the potential of reuniting with birth family, I can understand 100% why she withdrew from loved ones. I don’t agree with her showing up drunk on the job but the degree of her heightened emotions could cause people to do irrational things.

I’m sure the million dollar question is why did Jo withdraw and didn’t explain herself to Alex. As an adoptee, who has spoken with other adoptees, specifically Korean adoptees, some who have reunited with family, some where the birth family continues to deny their existence, some who are in process of searching and other who will never know their birth family and on some level we all relate. We all have this collective experience that is unique to us that we understand all the different emotions we experience as we walk along this journey.

There are times, I admit that I prefer to speak to specific KAD friends because of where they are in their birth family search, or because of other similar circumstances we have. I do not mean to withdraw myself from my other friends and loved ones, however adoption and the trauma surrounding adoption is something that we all KADs just understand. Some of these women that I have become close friends with I have only met a handful of times but on some level we just all “click”. We understand the struggles all of us have experienced and empathize in our current struggles of having our feet stand in two different worlds.

I am by no means excusing Jo’s drinking behavior or showing up to work drunk. What I am saying is that her portrayal of what adoptees go through during the birth family search is something ALL adoptive parents should see. Her story shows the darker side of adoption. As I have mentioned before, not all adoptions are happy endings, some have a very dark side. I am extremely grateful that Shonda is shedding light on adoptees, our journey, our pain, our struggles and has given us a realistic portrayal of us on prime time.

Monday evening, I finally got the courage to call the organization I have been working with. Unfortunately, the person who answered did not speak very good English so I will have to call back later this week. I am nervous and extremely anxious. I don’t speak Korean and having to explain where I am at in my search is nerve-wracking enough.  For now one day at a time, one step at a time.

 

-J

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Adoption Awareness Month

I have shared this picture before, not recently but I feel since it is “National Adoption Awareness Month” it needs to be shared again. Both as an adoptee and adoptive parent, this quote resonates with me on every level. Like everything and everyone, there are vast varieties of feelings adoptees have with regard to adoption. There are “angry” adoptees, adoptees that have no intention of finding their roots, others choose to address any and all issues that have come from their adoption.

Every year I would proudly support National Adoption Awareness Month, a month that I would celebrate my adoption and the pride I have from it. Which I still do, however, there are a lot more issues that usually aren’t addressed. When I was younger, I always wanted to foster/adopt, mostly because I wanted to give a child the same opportunity that I was given. I still have that desire, however, I feel as if I have come full circle and have been able to see adoption as a whole in a completely new light.

When I was younger, I wanted to adopt a child of a different race, I never really knew the reason why but looking back from where I am today, it was because I didn’t want to be the only non-white face in a crowd. I thought that my entire life I would constantly be in the minority and I used to have a sense of loneliness that came with it. Growing up there were other adoptees, several in fact but all of us never really would hang out or even talk about what it felt like to be adopted. Maybe it was because we never knew how much adoption can impact someone.

Once I started fostering my now daughter my viewpoint started to change. During the adoption process I found myself wanting to ensure she would be connected to her roots, even if that just meant appropriate pictures I could find on Facebook or anything really. These were some things that I never had and I wanted to make sure some of her eventual questions would be answered. It was then that I ran across this quote.

I never really looked at it from another perspective. I had just always assumed that I was given up for adoption because that was the “best choice” at the time. However after speaking with some adoptees, ones who have reunited with their biological families, mostly Korean adoptees, I know that some were relinquished through coercion or some were taken away and given up by extended family members. These ideas had never crossed my mind. I guess I had always had a rosy picture of adoption, at least until I met my daughter and walked through part of her journey.

There is a weight that comes with adoption, for the children and the parents. I know that I will be questioned as her mother because we are different races and that there will be some questions that I may not be able to answer. There is a weight that comes with knowing all of that and knowing that she will have her own unique set of struggles. I know that I cannot protect her from everything and that eventually, she will have to walk on her own journey through adoption as I have.

Some adoptees have used National Adoption Awareness Month to advocate to keep biological families together. I am neither pro or anti-adoption, my situation is not the same as all other adoptees, we can relate on similar feelings and have a “me too” moment but our journeys and struggles are not all the same.

Instead of using this month as a way to advocate one way or another, I want to use it to bring other adoptees’ voices to light. It’s time to listen about the impact that it has on us, that some of us were not adopted into loving homes, some are estranged from their adoptive families, others have suffered neglect and abuse, some international adoptees have even been deported because their adoptive parents never completed the naturalization paperwork. These are the voices that you need to hear. It is their stories that matter. Not all adoptions have happy endings some are short stories and some tragedies and those stories need to be told.

Stronger than Catastrophe

A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook. It started with the statement that every parent needs to watch this. Naturally in my half awaken state I began to watch the video. WOW, just wow. After watching this very short video I was completely inspired. All if it resonated with me which meant of course that I immediately had to post it on Instagram. Coincidentally I had found a meaningful quote, probably on Pintrest I wanted to use. I have included the link to the video here. Trust me, it’s worth the 3 min.

It begins with explaining why we love our children, they we love them because they are fragile and dependent on us. Which continuing through the video is explains that we as parents need to teach our children to be strong. We teach our children that when we fall, we dust ourselves off and continue with what we are doing. It didn’t hit me until I heard that, it made me realize that this entire time throughout my childhood and the way I have raised my children, I am teaching them to be strong.

The older gentleman speaking is Jordan Peterson, in the video he says, “It’s not that life is better than you think. Life is as harsh as you think. It might even be worse. But you are way tougher than you think.” When we are faced with challenges big or strong, we forget to give ourselves credit for facing adversity head on. I don’t believe we give ourselves enough credit for facing life head on and we don’t even realize it. We are so damn tough and we fail to realize it. Give yourself a pat on the back or enjoy a glass of wine or two, you are way stronger than you think you are. In fact, you are so damn tough you have faced all of these terrible things and are still breathing. We may be bruised, broken, and hurt but we are still here, still facing life and all that it has to throw at us.

This little bit of encouragement was exactly what I needed today. Don’t forget to remind yourself that YOU are a warrior, YOU have made it through hell, and YOU will continue to thrive. It’s okay to know you’re unstoppable, that there is something deep inside you that will rise to the occasion even when you believe you will break. In my life, I have thrived despite the adversity, loss, rejection, and grief. Be unstoppable and recognize your strength. I’m in your corner cheering you on reminding you how tough you are.

Always,

J

Grief…what it’s really like

The beginning of October is an emotional rollercoaster for me. October 1 is my mom’s birthday and October 8 is the anniversary of my dad’s passing. Grief is something that I had become accustomed too even from a young age. After losing my mom in grade school, it became something familiar. Years would pass by and the sting of losing someone you love whether expected or not still hits you in the chest. There are days where things are alright and you have accepted the great loss but you can expect days that drag you down and it takes everything in your power not to scream each moment of the day. Throughout my life, I learned that grief is not linear rather that it comes in waves like the ocean. Waves of acceptance and peace wash over you and the world around seems just as bright as when they were a part of this world. Once the waves go back out into the ocean again the wounds reemerge only to feel as raw as the day the loss occurred. Those days when the pain is real and raw are some of the hardest days to keep a smile on your face.

When you lose someone you love you want the world to remember to stand still even for a moment to recognize what the world has lost. That the loss you have suffered has affected those around you. For those that have not experienced such a loss, it is hard to put yourself in our shoes. We belong to a “club”, one where membership is involuntary. The loss of a parent is something that you can’t put into words, it is something that pours over into every aspect of your life. There are moments that I want to call my dad and tell him about the newest thing that his grandchildren are doing or ask his advice about home renovations. Some days I try so hard to try and remember my mom’s infectious laugh and continue to wonder if I resemble her in any way.

Grief challenges you, it makes you dig deep and find a strength you never knew about, not because you want to but because you are made to pick yourself back up and continue to stay a part of the world with only the memory of someone you love. We have to find the strength in the midst of a loss to smile and enjoy life again.  If you have lost someone you love, I understand. I may not know the circumstances or can relate 100% but I can tell you that I have felt the pain and sting of loss and it absolutely sucks. I feel ya. I get it. I live with it. Hug your loved ones and never let them forget how much they mean to you.

Always,

J

Dear Adoptive Parents Everywhere,

What you have is a blessing and a curse. The mere foundation of your family is built on someone else’s trauma. This thought of happiness founded on trauma never really occurred to me. Honestly, I had always assumed my biological mother was “better off” and that her decision to place me for adoption was in my best interest and hers. After speaking with other KADs, some of whom have reunited with their biological family and others who have decided the unknown will never be known. There is a possibility that some of these birth mothers were coerced into giving their child up for adoption. The circumstances surrounding adoptions may never truly be known and the intentions unclear.

As an adoptive mom, I know some of the struggles that my daughter will have. There are times even now that I have to be very mindful of how I word things or how things are phrased. She remembers that she has another set of parents, but she doesn’t remember what they physically look like. One time she even asked me why they couldn’t keep her and when she came to live with us. After speaking with her therapist, our answers continue to be age appropriate. We have never spoken badly of her parents to her, we simply stated that they were unable to keep her safe. “Safe”, a word she knows very well and a word I still struggle to feel. My daughter likes being protected, she needs to know and feel that someone is with her, that someone won’t leave her and that either myself or her dad will return. For now, that is the best answer I can give her.

Adoptees struggle being stuck in two different worlds, at least those in transracial adoptions. We belong to a culture that we don’t identify with yet we identify one in which we were raised. There is a constant inner struggle that goes on within each of us between the two worlds. We are not white enough to be white, and yet we are not culturally Korean enough to be Korean. We may look the part of being Korean, but most adoptees still struggle with identifying with the Korean culture.

Whether you are transracially adopting or not, it is important to know that we as adoptees have a lot going on underneath the surface. We may have memories that may be triggered by smells, locations, seasons, food or even sound. Personally, I am not sure that I have any memories sounded by these but I know there are some that have them based on food and seasons. We don’t always remember events, but our bodies do, we don’t remember any possible neglect or abuse, but our bodies do, and we especially don’t always remember the trauma of being separated from our biological family but our bodies do. Please support our emotional health as well as our physical, we may not know the cause of our pain but help us get the support we need.

Remember to show us compassion and love, sometimes we need an extra hug or an extra reassurance that we are safe and secure. Remember to support us if we decide to search for our biological roots. We are only curious to see where we came from, you cannot blame us for being curious, but we would never replace you.

*This may not apply to all adoptees, but in my experience, this is what I have seen*

Always,

J

Wait…Are YOU her Mom?

While I was checking out in the grocery store with my two children the cashier asked, “Um…where does the blonde hair come from?” My daughter does not have the same physical features that I do, her hair is golden yellow, her eyes are one of the most beautiful blues I have ever seen, and her skin is milky white, she physically appears the polar opposite to my monolid eyes, dark hair and olive skin tone. During the four years, I’ve been this little girl’s mother, I always heard the same types of questions. People wanted to know how me, being of Korean ethnicity came to be the mother of a blue-eyed blonde hair little girl. As a foster parent and eventually an adoptive parent, I never want to explain my little girl’s past to complete strangers, I felt it was intrusive an inappropriate. She is still very little and she doesn’t even comprehend her history or life before she came to live with us. My response was very curt, I simply stated that she got the hair from her father, it was quite the clever answer if you ask me, both her biological and adoptive fathers have blonde hair. Technically I wasn’t deceitful, I was able to provide an appropriate answer while still protecting my daughter’s privacy. The cashier asked if those were strong genes given that my hair is so dark, I nodded and proceeded to finish checking out my groceries.

Since this little girl came into our home, she was one of the best things to come into my life. She has challenged me in ways that my son never did and gave me a lot of things to self-reflect over. Part of the topics I discuss in my book is because of her, and my desire to provide her with the best home and mental support available to her. My hope is that she would be able to process things that had happened in her past and would be able to heal from them. By this time I had also started to become part of the KAD community (Korean Adoptee), this too aided in the self-reflection and hearing stories from other people.

Adoption creates something within us, it leaves a scar that only other adoptees speak of and understand, some of us can instantly connect even without meeting in person. The experiences and stories that I have heard are a comfort to know that it wasn’t just my experience or something unique to me. There are not a lot of adoptees who speak about their feelings or about the feeling of being stuck in two different worlds. Being a transracial adoptee AND adoptive mom has its own struggles and stories. There are countless instances in which I can feel and see the glares, the questioning looks, and comments that have been made.

There was one evening while I was attending a friend’s church, a woman approached me from the congregation and asked me if I felt grateful that my parents adopted me. Most likely from the look on my face, this poor woman didn’t realize what she had said. Grateful? GRATEFUL? My mind could not process being grateful, I was a baby when I was adopted, I wasn’t given a choice or an option on where to go, I was just sent where I was placed. Even now decades later I can only speculate what my life would have been like if my parents would have not adopted me. The different scenarios that someone could dream up are endless.

Why don’t we, as adoptees speak out more? For me personally, I was always concerned about what people would think or how it would make my parents feel. My intentions were never to hurt them but my feelings and experiences are different than others. However, I believe that adoptees need to tell their stories, that even pain and trauma can emerge from growing up in loving two parent stable homes. That there is something significant that happens when you adopt a child or even a baby. Our experiences are unique and significant for others to hear. If we don’t speak up and use our voices to tell our stories we have failed future adoptees and adoptive parents. Without us taking the courage to use the voices we’ve been given leaves an opportunity for nothing to change. Be courageous and tell your story, experience, and feelings even just to your friends.

Always,

J

Stop the Stigma

Alright, it’s time to be truthful. Anxiety sucks. Depression sucks. There are days that I hate having to convince myself that some of my own thoughts are misleading and untrue. Do you know how exhausting that can be? How much work it actually takes to keep yourself put together even with the help of medication? I have struggled with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and complex ptsd since my adolescence and have only been on medication the last three years. I can’t imagine how my life would have been different if I had gotten help sooner, or had been surrounded by people who didn’t think mental illness carried such a stigma. Because I have been helped so much through medication and therapy I decided that it was time to be open about my experience and try to stop the stigma of mental health. There are days that I don’t want to do anything except lay in bed and eat take out while binge watching Netflix while refusing to shower. Thankfully those days are few and far between and if I get into that funk my kids usually want to cuddle up and watch a movie with me.

Why is this so hard to talk about? What makes anxiety, depression, bipolar, trauma, abuse, and other mental illnesses so difficult to talk about? Treatment for mental illnesses has made so many leaps and bounds since the days of straight jackets and haldol. I will admit that at first it’s difficult even for me, I was worried the looks I was going to get or if I would be seen differently by my friends. Once I opened up, it wasn’t so weird to have conversations about what medications were working and eventually a few friends started talking about their struggle with mental illness as well.

It’s time to stop the stigma. The quote above from Jennifer Lawrence says it all. We are able to talk about medication needed for diabetes, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even acid re-flux but not about medication needed to help us mentally.  It’s not any different, some people cannot control the level of serotonin in their brain any more then someone can control the levels of insulin their pancreas is able to produce. We need to have more open conversations surrounding mental health and the time to start is now.

Inspiration for Bermuda Grass

Those of you who know me, know a little about my childhood. At the very least, you know I was adopted, loss my mom when I was seven and recently lost my dad. Over the years I never thought that I would ever write a book, much less be so open about my emotions. Back in 2014, I became a foster parent. Our first place arrived in October and we officially became her forever home in May 2018. At the time she was placed with us, I was working at a mental health facility. Most of the day I was around therapists and we would discuss various topics. In college I took a childhood development class and graduated with my BA in Psychology, so I know a little. From multiple conversations with different therapists, I knew our Little Miss would eventually need therapy. It was from there I began getting her involved in therapy. Several months later and after a conversation with a close friend, she asked me how I was so strong. She wanted to know how survived everything I had gone through. She was currently going through the loss of her aunt to breast cancer. It was at that point that I thought maybe I should show the world, through writing. During one Sunday at church, there was a small message about things being completed, at that point I knew I had to write a book.

*Keep watching and following to hear where I got the idea to use this grass as a symbol*

Thank you for all the support.

Always,

J