I’ll Give You An Out

I finally watched Grey’s Anatomy this week, my bestie called me and told me she needed to discuss the episode like usual and I needed to hurry up. Being the good procrastinator that I am, I waited a whole extra day.

I have never checked into a treatment center or psychiatric facility however the mix of emotions watching Jo walk into hit me hard. The hardest part was her giving Alex an “out”.

Like most adoptees, we have “outs”, whether we realize it or not, we always seem to have an escape route. Whether it is a relationship or friendship, we always, whether conscious or not, have an “out”. We have create a way to “leave” or “abandon” the situation without our pride or feelings being hurt, or at the very least, rationalization on why we have left said relationship or friendship.

Looking back through my life, I can see my “outs” or the “outs” that I have given or created for people, just like Jo. She tells Alex that she knows of his history, that he seems to always date “crazies” and that since they never officially filed a marriage license, that was his out. He doesn’t answer her. Some part of me knew why she did it, knew why she was pushing him away, why she gave him that out.

At an adoptee’s core whether consciously or unconsciously we are used to people leaving us and on some level we expect those around us to leave. We create these “outs” to “spare our feelings” to let people leave because that’s “what they do” but what if we let them leave or force them to leave because we devalue ourselves and don’t believe that we are worthy enough for love.

That’s a heavy statement. We have decided for ourselves that we are not worth someone else’s love. We have decided for them that we are not worthy of their love. I used to play it off, that I always had an exit plan “just in case” was it really just in case or was it because I had already decided that I was not worthy enough for what someone was offering me? That on some level I was in reality planning for my own self sabotage and self fulfilling prophecy. My creating the “out” or the “exit plan” it is only a matter of time before history repeats itself again and we spiral down only to feel miserable because we have created our own worse nightmare.

Knowing all of this, what does it all mean? Where do we go from here? Are we even capable to “stop” giving “outs” to people?

Personally I can tell you that I am fully aware that I self sabotage and I plan for an “out”. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m doing it to be smart or if I’m doing it out of habit. At the very least I’m glad I’m aware of it. I know the behavior exists, I know the consequences and sometimes I honestly don’t know anything different. Sometimes the compulsion is so great that I can’t even reason myself out of it or even stop the impulse. Being aware of it helps, talking about it helps. I have had plenty of conversations with other adoptees and they just understand. They get it, they know the similar behaviors and feelings and sometimes the best thing I do, is just talk about it with them and work through it. Maybe one day we can start addressing it head on and a better solution, but until then, talking with professionals and talking with other adoptees is the best that I have found.

Adoption Trauma…is it a Thing?

If you follow any part of the adoption triad organizations on social media there has been a lot of discussion regarding adoption trauma. Whatever your stance is on the issue, I can tell you first hand, that regardless of when a child is adopted, there is some trauma that occurred. There have been studies that have been shown even while in utero, “the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero.” 1 Once those babies are born and are removed from their biological mother, that newborn is unable to process the loss of their biological mother. There are other studies which state that our response to trauma is coded into our cells, that even as young children and even adults, our response to certain triggers is involuntary, we react by instinct. Sometimes we, as adoptees are unable to explain our behavior, if we recognize it at all. How can we recognize something that we aren’t even aware of? There are also studies that show that when a newborn or infant monkey was cared for in consistent and inconsistent intervals which concluded that those monkeys which were cared for inconsistently showed a higher rate of insecurity, lower social standing, anxiety and depression among other things. This study also mentioned that these monkeys who received inconsistent care were unaware and their reactions and stress were stored within their lympathic system, that with each situation of rejection or abandonment, it would bring the person back to the initial trauma and our body would begin to react on instinct, as it did during that first initial trauma. For us, that pain is real, each rejection we faced throughout our lives felt as if we were re-living that first instance of trauma over and over again.

The first time that I came across this information was 3-4 years ago. I was working through an abandonment workbook. The concept it was explaining was that in our limbic system we store our first emotional memories which is the foundation of how we eventually react to certain stimuli. The workbook continued to state that when we would experience rejection or abandonment or loss, our emotional response would revert back to the our “first” instance of that same emotion and we would emotionally respond based on our limbic system. We have already been “pre-wired” in the way that we respond. That we involuntary emotionally feel the way we did that first initial loss. Isn’t that amazing? This theory means that each instance of loss, we emotionally go back to that first instance and emotionally “relive” those emotions over and over.

This blew my mind. I couldn’t believe first, that our body was that incredible that we have the capability to store those type of memories, as I reflected back through the workbook it made a lot more sense as I look at instances of loss in my life. That being said, I believe adoption trauma is real, I believe that no matter the age or situation of the child, it is still “traumatic” to separate  them from a biological caregiver. Does this change my opinion on adoption? No, and even though I am an advocate for family preservation, I am aware that everything may not be so cut and dry, that there is some gray area.

I know that there are those that disagree with me, that believe family preservation is the only way, but I disagree, I don’t believe everything is black and white, there is some gray and this is one of those things that I believe there are some situations which adoption may be the best course of action.

 

The Adoption Narrative

I can’t for the life of my find the right words. I’m overwhelmed, discouraged and disgusted. The adoption industry as a whole has turned human trafficking legal and turned children into one of the most profitable commodities. Like many other KADs, I know that the money that was paid for my adoption didn’t go to assist family supportive programs, or any other type of social service, instead it went to help rebuilding South Korea after the Korean war. To be frank, we were the nation’s hottest commodity and around 20 thousand or more per child, you can imagine the amount the country made on our behalf. Without thought of the future, Korea went as far as to try and erase our history and our past with the hope that we would never venture away from our newly found country and attempt to retrace our roots. Korea was wrong. Every month, every day, every summer KADs fly from all over the world to try and find their roots, to search for lost family members and put together pieces of a puzzle that never quite fit. We go back trying to be part of a culture that wanted us to move ahead and never look back, a culture that at times even rejects us now. We aren’t Korean by their standards and yet we try to fit into their world that we were never a part of or have forgotten. We can feel the stares when we are unable to speak Korean or when we do not know the social norms and customs. We are fully aware that we exist in two different worlds with one foot in each…and yet people still pay thousands of money each year to adopt a child from another country without knowing the impact it will have on the child.

We, as adoptees know all too well the affects that have haunted us. We are plagued daily with our own sense of abandonment, even with something as trivial as someone forgetting to call us back. We feel that sting each time. We know that eventually there will be questions that are unable to be answered or things we cannot explain. There will be things we may remember but do not know anything more than that. We will have to be reminded each time of our adoption when we go to the doctor and are asked about our family’s medical history. Each time in school we are reminded when a genetics project is assigned. We feel all those pains and those never really go away. We feel each impact that someone else made on our behalf as an infant or young child, taking us from a country we were born into and moving most of us half way across the world.

I have been fortunate enough to be on both sides of the equation. My daughter is adopted and I know that she will have questions. I know exactly what kinds of questions she is going to ask and the types of things she is going to feel. Even though she was adopted through foster care and our situations are not the same, I know there are some things I will be able help her through.

Now comes the uncomfortable part, the part where I can imagine that by all of these comments that I am somehow ungrateful that I was adopted or unappreciative of the life I was given. You’d be wrong if you think that, but I know that won’t stop you. You know who you are and your opinion of me will never change. I am not ungrateful in any way, shape or form, nor am I upset, bitter or even resentful that I was adopted. What I am saying is that adoptive parents don’t always know the impact that adoption has or will have. Even as babies, we are not clean slates. There have been numerous studies that show babies are able to identify their biological mother after they are born. Ripping them from that is traumatic whether you are able to admit it or not, there are plenty of studies that will confirm that it is traumatic for an infant to be separated from its mother.

The adoption narrative needs to change, how it needs to change isn’t something that I’ve been able to find a solution for yet. I know that there are millions of adoptee voices out there each with their own opinion on adoption and each with their own experience and story and they need to be heard. We are the experts. We are willing to sit down and have a conversation on what an adoptee means to us and how it has impacted who we are. The conversation only happens when people, mostly people who want to adopt and those who perpetuate the adoption commodity are willing to listen.

Self Respect is NOT Selfish

I have debated weather or not to dive into the depths of this subject. If you are like me chances are that you have been called selfish on more than one occasion. Like me, from time to time you second guessed your decisions and motives wondering if you were in fact being selfish. There have been more than one instance where I have second guessed my decisions and motives.

It wasn’t until quite recently that I decided to really look into the difference between selfishness and self respect. There were some decisions that I made that appeared to be selfish in nature however that is not the case. Looking at the decision in question from several different angles led me to the conclusion that there is some part of it that was selfish in nature. I knew what consequences were bound to happen, however I continued with the decision nonetheless.

While the insults were being hurled in my direction, I decided to take a good hard look at the decision that I made. For years I have struggled with having a “us” or “we” mentality. My thoughts would always go to a collective thought verses an individual mindset, I would think about myself, my dreams and goals last and think about other people’s feelings first.

Selfless isn’t always a noble quality, by being selfless and not caring for ourselves we tend to be trampled on by people who are rightfully putting their feelings first. This has happened to me, I had always thought that setting my feelings aside and thinking about others first didn’t leave me the ability to respect myself or love myself enough to put my needs and goals first. Be doing so I was trampled on by others, I became agreeable and passive.

Once I began to love myself and see myself as an individual it was easy to start taking care of myself and putting my needs first. At first it was very weird, I was very uncomfortable because I kept second guessing myself and thought that I had become selfish. This however was not the case, the simple fact was that I had gained enough self-respect to be bold enough to chase my dreams.

While I know there will be times in my life that I will probably be selfish because like everyone else, I am not perfect, I also know that there is a difference between selfishness and self respect. It’s okay to put your own needs NOT wants first and it is okay to chase your dreams and to put your needs above the wants of others. Don’t forget that.

 

Always,

J

Feelings aren’t Facts.

The following are some phrases that I have heard throughout my life: “You should feel lucky…”, “Don’t be so sensitive…”, “You’ve got it all wrong…”, “You are the only one that feels that way…”, “You have a problem…”, “You shouldn’t let it bother you…”, “You make a big deal out of everything…”, “You take everything so personally…”. What do all these things have in common? They are all ways that we invalidate each other’s feelings. What happens when we invalidate each other? Invalidating someone else doesn’t just mean that we disagree with another but that it communicates to the person that their opinions and feelings are irrational, selfish, and wrong.

I am sure from time to time everyone has used some of these phrases, I know I am guilty of using them. Typically however when these words and/or phrases are not used when someone goes through something significant in their lives. It is in those times of emotional distress or struggles when these words can be the most hurtful. This does not mean that we cannot empathize with others but stating that someone’s feelings are incorrect is just as hurtful.

One of my favorite sayings that I have learned is that “feelings aren’t facts”. Let’s break this down. What does this mean? This means that even though we may feel a certain way that does not necessarily mean that those feelings are “correct”. Meaning that just because we feel something does not mean those feelings are facts.

For example, just because we may feel uneasy, scared, distrustful or apprehensive does not mean that we are right or wrong. Feelings are feelings, those are not facts and we should not let ourselves be fooled. What we feel is just that, feelings, those feelings do not lead us down a path to truth or fact, they just simply are. What we feel is neither good or bad, it is simply just how we are responding and what emotional response that stimulus produces. We are not understand that our feelings have overridden logic or common sense, but it is just how we are feeling based on the current circumstances.

These phrases, mentioned at the beginning of this post, are phrases in which those feelings are being invalidated. That those who are expressing those feelings are wrong or somehow incorrect. When those phrases are repeated over and over throughout someone life, it means that from an early age that person’s interpretations of and feelings about the things around them were bad and wrong. The affect that this has on someone can be devastating.

It can kill someone’s confidence and has the potential to worsens psychological disorders and emotional problems. This can cause further feelings of self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy and create people-pleasers. We begin to second guess our emotions as if they are misleading us down a forbidden path. Our senses begin to mislead us and we begin to question ourselves as well as each emotion we have. The world around us is no longer something exciting but more like an entire experience to mislead and confuse us.

I have heard these words. I can remember second guessing my feelings and trying to figure out what feelings I should be feeling.  It wasn’t until I went through therapy that I started to realize that it wasn’t normal to be second guessing my feelings. My therapist always told me, feelings aren’t facts. There are still times that I remind myself, that although I may “feel” a certain way, that does not make things into facts. It has been quite helpful over the last four years.

Remember the next time you “feel” something that just because we may feel a certain way does not necessarily mean that those are the facts. Our feelings are just that, feelings, nothing more and nothing less. Try to take an objective view of the situation or person and see if your feelings match the facts OR that the facts are different than your feelings.

 

Always,

J

 

Self Destruction in 3…2…1…

At some point in our lives we self destruct. Am I right? Maybe it’s the pressure of every day life debating whether or not you are spending too much time at work or not enough time at work. It can even be that your child’s birthday party wasn’t like the one you saw on Pintrest or their classmates. Whatever the reason, we some point we hit our breaking point, the point in which we can no longer bear the weight that has been placed upon our shoulders.

Even now, years later, I can still recall my though process prior to making an impulsive, self destructive decision whether in middle school or even into adulthood. My thoughts were always the same, I had made up my mind that whomever I was currently infatuated with, was about to leave and had lost all interest in me…even though those thoughts were based off of my own feelings and not facts. Since whomever I was with at the present moment was about to leave, I justified my behavior believing that I was only moving on and showing the world that I was not hurt on the inside…that I was as tough as I claimed to me. This was not the case, the strength I pretended to have was a facade, it was all pretend. It was the way that I had learned to protect myself after years of feeling left behind and rejected.

I have included the links to the books that have helped in my self sabotaging behavior and helped me identify my triggers while showing me tools too help become more self aware. If you have the chance, please check them out. They have been worth every penny that I have spent. The following books have given me more explanation, tools and self realization than I thought were possible. For a long time I always felt alone and out of place. It was as if my experience made me unique and stand out from the crowd. It wasn’t until decades later that I would meet others that shared in the same type of struggle, that knew the types of feelings that I had experienced.

The light bulb above my head had been turned on and once I had gotten explanation for what I was doing to hurt those I cared most about, I knew it was time to fix it. Fixing it ended up being one of the hardest things to heal from. In fact, I am still healing. I believe this healing journey will be life long. I will tell you that there are days and situations in which I end up thinking the most irrational and ridiculous thoughts but now I know those thoughts are coming and I am prepared for them. Take care of yourself.

 

J

 

The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Revised and Updated: Surviving Through and Recovering from… by Susan Anderson 

The Abandonment Recovery Workbook: Guidance through the Five Stages of Healing from Abandonment… by Susan Anderson

Taming Your Outer Child: Overcoming Self-Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment by Susan Anderson

What I’ve Been Reading

I thought this post I would take a different take on things and include some of the books that I have been reading over the last couple of years. I have not included all of them but wanted to highlight some of the ones that really meant something to me. I have included the links to either the author website or their Amazon page. Please feel free to check them out. I will be reading them again soon.

The first book that I want to mention is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers”. This is a book that was recommended to me about two years into therapy. By this time my therapist and I had built a very good rapport and we began to dive into a lot of the issues.

Before I explain what this book is about, I want to make one thing clear. Neither my therapist NOR myself, have diagnosed any of my family members. The resources that were given to be were based upon the conversations, situations or comments that were brought up during therapy with regard to situations that I had throughout middle school and beyond.

My first initial reaction hit me straight in the chest. The main question asking us if we will ever be good enough was a hard pill to swallow. From middle school into my early adulthood, this is how I felt. I thought that no matter what I did or how I acted, I would never been good enough. I ordered the book off of Amazon and started to dive into it the first night I got it. I have to admit, there was a disclaimer from my therapist that I may not relate to everything mentioned in the book, because the topic of abuse is brought up and that is not something that I have experienced.

I was however able to identify with a lot of other emotions presented in the book. While reading through, I completed the exercises that were suggested and did my best to follow their instructions and tips. I felt better, as if someone truly understood what was going on through my head. It was such a comfort in the validation that came from hearing other people’s stories.

If you are interested in learning more, I will include the link at the bottom of this post.

The next book is one that I jumped into when I started attending my church small group. It was the only one that worked with my schedule. Each Tuesday at 6:30AM we would meet and start out our morning in prayer and discussing our current study. I joined this group in April of 2015 and it was one of the best decisions I have made. I have met some of the most amazing Godly women whom I call sister.

When I started this group, they were reading “Biblical Femininity” by Grace Church. The entire book focuses around how women are image bearers of God and the feminine qualities of God that we reflect. Women are called to be “helpers”. Mentally and spiritually, I was not in a good place when I joined the group. I was separated from my boyfriend at the time whom I had selfishly hurt in the worst way possible.

I desperately wanted answers to my brokenness, to understand what had happened. It was there in those early morning studies that I came to find the broken pieces. This book not only explains how women were created to be helpers, but also explains how we can be tempted and what happens when we succumb to those temptations. As we started to learn and read about our core temptation things started to fall into place. I started to understand my role as a woman and even more, understand why things had happened the way they did.

Since the first time I have read this book, I have read it two times since then. It seems that the more I read it the more I get out of it. It was one of those books that turned on a light bulb for me.

There are other books as well, however I am going to include those in the next blog post, because those are written by the same author and have an overall theme together. I have included the links to the two books I have mentioned today. They are worth the read. I will be posting more as I’ve got a nightstand full of books that I need to start reading.

 

 

 

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karly McBride, Ph.D.

Biblical Femininity by Grace Church

Functional Dysfunction

Sometimes while in the middle of a storm you don’t realize how chaotic or dysfunctional a situation is. It is like the saying of hindsight is 20/20, when we reflect back on certain situations or interactions we may be able to see that something wasn’t right or “normal”. The further you are away from something the more clearly you are able to see it.

In December, I went to see my therapist. There were a couple of situations from the beginning of the month that had sent my anxiety over the edge and I went to check in with her. Since it had been four months since I had last seen or spoken to her there was a lot of catching up to do.

During our conversation we discussed a few things that had gone on recently and a few other things that were upcoming. I casually mentioned to her that I was just in shock that a bourbon society a couple of states away that my uncle (my mom’s cousin) belongs too started a team for their local ALS walk and they will be walking and raising money in memory of my dad. She asked me why I was in so much shock. I told her that my only connection to this society was my uncle and that although they had sponsored my team in the Upstate, I didn’t expect them to create a local team and do the same.

Her response was something I don’t think I will ever forget, her response was simply that I was not used to people acting “normal”, that I had become accustomed to the dysfunction around me and was not able to recognize “normal”. That’s when it hit me. I had become conditioned to believe what had previously surrounded me was “normal”. The reality is that I didn’t really know anything different, certain behaviors, phrases and attitudes I had just assumed were “normal”.  Yet here I am in my early 30’s starting to learn that I was mistaken, that life and families are functional, dysfunctional, functionally dysfunctional and everything in between.

Functional dysfunction stops here.

People In Glass Houses…Sink Ships

This is a little bit of a mixed proverb, I was reminiscing about the move Boondock Saints, if you haven’t seen it, watch it, your welcome. However after some thinking about this mixed proverb, it actually started to make sense.

People in glass houses really do sink ships, not their own ships of course because there isn’t anything to sink, but other people are fair game and even entertainment to people who live in glass houses. We can see everything just by looking in. We can see their “perfect” life and their standards, but what we don’t see are the ships they sank to get to their state of perfection. We typically tend to tell any and all stories in our favor, we are all a little self serving from time to time and who doesn’t like being painted in a good light? If you think  I’m wrong, on some level you are lying to yourself. We tend to want ourselves to be pictured in “good light” in a position where we may have not hurt someone or at the very least did not have the intention to hurt someone.

Typically, humans overall do not want themselves in a negative light, there is a way in which all of us want to be “seen” or known. Maybe we want to be seen as “book smart”, “street smart”, “friendly”, “compassionate” or even “intimidating”. Whatever our desire is to be seen does not always happen. Sometimes it is easier to point out someone else’s mistakes or shortcomings instead of focusing inward. It is during these times that our pride takes over and we are unable to see that it is more important to build each other up instead of tearing someone else down to appear a certain way.

Who are these people hurting away? They are hurting themselves. We become consumed with our “image” instead of staying genuine and not putting others down in order to bolster ourselves. Instead of letting our pride get the best of us and further isolating and distancing ourselves from each other, why not put yourself aside and support the person next to you. Remind yourself that we are all in this life together and we are all that we got. Be careful throwing rocks at glass houses, sooner or later those rocks turn into something spectacular.

Where does strength come from

Throughout my life, I have heard from several people, they can’t believe how “strong” I am. After grieving over the loss of two parents, I seem to hear it more. Each time people mention my strength, my response is very short, typically just a thank you. Honestly half of the time I have no idea where the strength comes from, it is just there. It got me thinking, where does our inner strength come from? Do we all have it? Of course we do. Obviously I wouldn’t be writing such a blog if I didn’t think everyone inside them had a warrior hiding inside just waiting to come out.

Just like everyone else, there are definitely days that I don’t feel strong, days where all I want to do is stay in bed under my thick down comforter and not move. Thankfully those days only seem to come around once a month or so but it doesn’t make those days any less real. Somehow I had to tap into my inner strength, something I’m still not 100% how to tap into but I usually made it happen. Sometimes it was because the right song came on at exactly the time I needed it, or because I had been listening to that particular CD on repeat. Otherwise it was because I hid my strength with anger and used the anger as motivation, that always didn’t end the best.

The bottom line is that I don’t have a concrete answer for you. I can sit here all day and tell you that you are amazing and can move mountains but that isn’t anything more than just sitting on Pintrest looking up motivational quotes, yes I’m guilty of that too. I am here to tell you that at some point in our lives we are given the challenge to step up for ourselves, or our kids and are forced into digging down deep to find that warrior. In everyone’s life we are giving an opportunity to crawl out of the depths of the darkest pit and become stronger than you thought possible.

Now would be the time that I say something inspirational like God doesn’t give you more than you can handle or what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. While I think those sayings have the appropriate context, now is not one of them. As helpful as those says are, sometimes it isn’t a comfort to know in the midst of the situation. It is okay to sit in the ugly dark pit, what I am telling you is to not stay there. Don’t allow the every growing void or dark abyss to consume you. Remember that time that you didn’t think you would survive but you did? That’s because your strong. Or that other time that you never thought something was going to happen for you but it did? That took a lot of courage.

Strength doesn’t come from anywhere, it is within us. During some of my weakest moments over the last couple of years, I clung to two Bible verses. The first is 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about  my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” These were the two verses that I clung too as my dad’s disease progressed. It is still some of my favorite verses.

It’s sounds counter intuitive doesn’t it? We aren’t supposed to delight in weakness or difficulties. There were several times while sitting in church that I have heard these verses, but it was until last year that I really understood what they meant. While I the disease was progressing and I was in SC while my dad was in MN, I had a great group of friends that would check in on me. Most of which were from my church small group. They asked what I needed and how to be there for me. I told them I didn’t want anything cliche, I didn’t need to hear the typical saying that are told to those grieving. I needed raw honesty, that the situation sucked and it was okay for me to feel all the feelings. They graciously agreed to my request and were exactly what I needed.

There were some hard days, really had days, even now some days are a struggle. As I look back and reflect on everything I still state that at my weakest, I was my strongest. My church small group would go to a local women’s shelter once a month and give a morning devotional. One morning this verse was on my heart, and I decided to share it and part of where I was in my journey. It was then that I realized that being able to admit that you are at your weakest or lowest is actually a sign of great strength. I’ll type that again just in case you didn’t catch it the first time. Being able to admit that you are at your weakest or lowest is actually a sign of strength. Boom. There it is. In it’s simplest form, true strength comes from admitting when you are at your weakness.

When we are at our weakness and we choose to reach out to others and ask for support or encouragement, we have cast aside our pride and reached out to make a deep connection with someone. That is strength. That takes courage. It definitely isn’t the easiest thing to do and sometimes even for me it’s a struggle but it is amazing to see what happens once you start asking for help.