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.

 

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

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