Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Archive for November 2009

Adoption awareness month and Thanksgiving

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Today I’m a little homesick.  I miss my kids, my one true family.  We’re a little strange.  I haven’t even spoken on the phone to them the whole time I’ve been here, but that’s not something that’s ever been necessary with us.  We know we’re in each other’s thoughts.  And when we’re together, we don’t have to do anything special or even talk much:  just being present is enough.  There is no obligation, no negative history.  Only love.  It is enough for me.

My stay in Korea has been…incredibly difficult.  From the moment I got off the plane and the bus driver screamed at me in Korean for something to do with loading my luggage, because he didn’t understand that I didn’t understand Korean and thought I was being rude…It’s been an exceptional and incredibly draining nine months.

But still I want to love Korea.

This weekend I go to eat Thanksgiving with many other dispossessed ethnic Koreans of the adoption diaspora.  We’ll eat turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.  All of us here, trying to love Korea.  All of us here, separated from our families, many of us estranged from our adoptive families.   Do I go there because I love to hang out with adoptees?  No.  I only know one or two of them and don’t care to know more.   In America, some gather together just to acclimate themselves to seeing other Asian faces and get to know them as real people.  It starts as fear-of-Asians phobia therapy and then evolves into a sanctuary.  But here, that’s not necessary, as there are Asian faces in spades.   No.  I don’t have to speak to even one of them.  It just comforts me to see so many gathered in one place who KNOW. That’s all I need.  Not community, because I’m too traumatized by something so claustrophobic and distrusting of people in general;  not even solidarity, because not all adoptees agree or are in the same place in this journey.  No.  I go for the adoption awareness.

This month is adoption awareness month.  It is a time when those promoting adoption gather their collective voices to extol its virtues, increase its numbers, and lobby for its ease.

But to me, adoption awareness is the knowing of what it feels like to be adopted.  It is that unspoken thing we all share, whether we are “happy” adoptees or “angry” adoptees, we who have returned are not here for naught.  That thing we share, is a loss nobody should ever know, that those who were not abandoned or relinquished will never know,  but that binds us, like it or not, (for me mostly not) together.

Over three decades ago, America was riveted to their television sets watching the dramatization of Alex Haley’s Roots. It was not just an exploration of where he came from, but also how he came to be here.    And to my wonder, it seemed as if the entire nation finally learned to respect African American brotherhood, and to understand that being displaced against one’s will should rightly unite them on the deepest level.

However, in this adoption awareness month, there is no popular respect for our “pilgrimages,” because we appear ungrateful for our displacement against our will. We reject the notion that our loss should be something we should also be grateful about.  We are united on this deepest level.  That is why we’re all here.  My silence during adoptee functions just goes hand in hand with this understanding.  I don’t have to speak to the other returnee adoptees to know that I love them and they me.  We just know.  That’s enough for me.

And so in silence I will gather with my fellow returnee adoptees.  I go there for the ritual of thanksgiving, the pale substitute for the Korean Cheusok thanksgiving that venerates our first families, and their families, and their families before their families.  I go there for a small taste of the only ritual feast I’ve ever known, the feast of my adoptive family’s culture, in commemoration of the voluntary displacement of their ancestors.  I go here to say, “please pass the stuffing” and know others will understand what “pass” means and what “stuffing” is.  I go for the saving grace of cranberry sauce.  I go there to give thanks.  For the little comforts we have.

And I will thank my mother for the Stove top stuffing, the Durkees freeze-dried onion green been casserole, and the Cool Whip covered Eagles’ brand pumpkin pie.   And I will still wish I had never been adopted.

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Written by girl4708

November 23, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Infinite Longing

Do you think ALL adoptee’s feel the SAME about their adoption in terms of loss?

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No doubt there is an initial loss of being seperated from the natural family. But do you expect that all adoptee’s are going to feel the same level of loss?
  • 2 weeks ago

Additional Details

What about those who are raised without secrets and lies or in open adoption? Is it possible for some to have a healthier outlook on their adoption than others?

2 weeks ago

By “healthier” I mean more positve outlook and self-esteem and at peace with their adoption circumstances.

 

I agree that it’s not healthy to “stuff” feelings. But is it assumed that adoptee’s who claim to be “not bitter” do that?

*************

NOT  CHOSEN Best Answer:

Sunny – I wish I could give you ten thumbs up!

Questioner – I’m going to answer your question, but maybe from a more literal stand-point, just because (most) everyone else is being refreshingly on point and trying to be objective and you’ve got some great general answers there.

– First, I think loss is loss is loss.
– Second, I think you can weight the losses. For example, losing a mom is HUGE, no matter what your age or circumstance, on a visceral level
– Third, losses ADD UP.

losing faith
losing relationship
losing your country
losing your culture
losing your heritage
losing your language
losing trust
losing innocence
losing ignorance

it’s like a soup of pain: the bulk of each adoptee’s experience is loss of mother. then each soup is made unique depending on the combination of other added losses.

my best adoptee friend has all of the above. she lost her mother by death. a few years later she literally got lost. she lost her father by adoption when nobody searched for her father – even though she was 9 and knew his name – she lost her siblings – she lost her country when she was sent to America – she lost her heritage – she lost her culture – after two years, all her language was lost – it wasn’t long before her innocence was lost when her adoptive father abused her – and all this time. she was fully aware of her powerlessness because of her age. So in the end she lost all the relationships she valued, she lost faith in the charity and responsibility of adults, and she lost trust in those pledged to care for her.

We tend to focus on the main loss, but there can be so many. This is why I call myself an adoption survivor. Because for me and many of my fellow adoptees, we shoulder so many losses on top of the main loss.

How can you measure something like that? I’d like to measure it in dollars and sue the adoption agencies. I’m hoping someone with a water tight case can and does.

As for your additional details.

I personally have a great deal of empathy for the “not bitter” adoptees, though I do wish they wouldn’t protest so much and see me and my experience as the enemy. Just like them, I don’t want to be pitied – I just want to see change for the better, and that requires some sympathy. Two different animals entirely.

Regarding those so-called “kool-aid” adoptees, I feel for them. When you’ve got everything as good as it gets, then whatever feelings you have about losing your mother become incredibly treacherous waters to navigate. When you’ve got no other additional losses that can share some of the heat, then you’ve very little allowance to complain. The margin for even the smallest expressions of pain becomes extremely prohibitive. That’s a tight-rope I wouldn’t want to walk, and a much more difficult position from which to discern one’s deepest feelings. Some may call this denial. I call this an ineffective way of dealing with the core issues.

I’d also like to add that a “healthier outlook on their adoption” and positive outlook and self esteem are not the same thing. I can have a positive outlook and very high self esteem and still have a negative outlook on adoption. Maybe instead of “healthier outlook on their adoption” you meant “more socially acceptable outlook on adoption” ? Other than that, it’s just common sense that those who have been treated with more equality and given the truth won’t have to add injustice at the hands of their parents onto their loss will have less of a burden to carry.

We all experience loss and struggle with it in our own ways, due to our infinitely varied circumstances. We all do the best that we can because we have no choice. Peace does come through acceptance of our adoption circumstance. However, some things no human should be asked to be at peace with: like violations of our civil rights, exploitation, abuse, etc. And as long as adoption is involuntary, as long as there is exploitation, as long as there are violations of our civil rights and the obliteration of our identities, then we should not rest.

Because no child should have to experience even one added loss on top of losing their mother, and no child should lose their mother just to fill the arms of another, which happens far more than anyone cares to admit. These losses are preventable. Prevent, and we don’t have to ask these questions.

Written by girl4708

November 12, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Q&A

house of denial

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Reading the following Traits of Families that Tolerate Incest and Child Abuse got me to thinking, and so I wanted to respond to each of the points they made so maybe you could see what an incest abuse house might look like:

Poly-abusive
Sexual child abuse is just one of a number of abuses taking place in an incest family. There may also be a history of family violence, substance abuse, and other criminal activity.

This wasn’t the case in my family, at least not that I know of.   My family was all about self-control to probably an abnormal degree.  Interviewing my father in later years I found out that his sister and father went to Florida together for a week, and that she came back, “different.”  I am sure there is more to the story, and I wonder to what extent it affected the rest of my father’s family, as there were five brothers and my aunt was the only girl.

My father blames his abuse on drinking.  However, he was not an alcoholic, and he was not drunk when the abuse began.  Later, these incidents coincided because the only time he could have an excuse for not being in my mother’s bed was when he was playing his bass on a gig, and drinks were provided to the musicians gratis.

Duplicity, deceit, collective secrets
The incest family hides its embarrassing secrets.

Incest is so taboo it doesn’t come up in any conversation, so it’s a level of secrecy too secret to even acknowledge to oneself. However, There weren’t collective secrets in my house.  I think it was more a sign of the times with their generation that would not air any dirty laundry out in public.  Or even to family members.  We didn’t have collective secrets but kept secrets from each other.

Rigid and tightly controlled
Incest families have rigid rules to prevent revelation of their secrets.

My family was extremely tightly controlled.  Mostly this was my mom’s doing.  If she was silently seething about something, you could tell because she would have micro-perceptible tics, and you breathed a little quieter and walked silently and made to sure to be ultra sensitive and stay clear of trouble.  The problem was that this was not a rare occasion.  She was like a hawk, and one sidelong glance was all it took.  It was like living in a library with the most vigilant librarian imaginable on duty, the one who hated her life and hated people.  So there was always this psychological tension in the air that you didn’t want to trip up.

Together, probably due to my mother’s influence, our family had strict rules about the activity and behavior of children.  It was a strange hybrid of progressive liberalism from my father and repressed Victorianism from my mother.  We were to be seen and not heard, but when we were asked to speak, it should be something progressive and liberal coming out of our mouths.

I was kept on an extremely short leash:  one time at 12 years old I went to the neighbors to borrow something, was gone for ten minutes, and my mother totally freaked out because I had been missing when she called on me.  When a woman with tics who rarely speaks freaks out, it’s twice as scary as when someone just gets angry.  I still shudder thinking about it.

You know how you go to visit some establishments as a child and you are made to understand that there are strict rules for decorum?  You keep your knees together.  You make sure your skirt covers your bottom when you sit.  You cross your ankles together under your chair.  You don’t bounce your legs or tap your toes.  You sit upright.  You don’t put your elbows on the tables, etc., etc.  Well, that’s how I felt in my house every day.  A billion unspoken rules, any violation of which would raise an eyebrow, or cause the corner of the mouth to twitch, or worse some silent muttering.  I wanted to please so badly, and every little sign of disapproval was pointed and severe.  Yes.  I was tightly and masterfully controlled.

Demand for blind, absolute loyalty
Incest families usually have a domineering head of household who rules the family through force.

Force?  or fear of madness?  My mother ran the household, because it was her realm – a booby prize of control because she had no life of her own.  Everything about her was about control:  controlling her emotions and making sure everyone else controlled theirs as well.  There was no force, except the police state of her stare.  That stare can not be underestimated, and I lived in constant silent fear of upsetting her precarious balance.

Poor boundaries
Disrespect for each others’ privacy, rights, and individuality is common in incest families.

Again, my family liked to think of themselves as progressive liberals.  Bathrooms were not private.  We only had one, and toilet use trumped shower use.  So in a household of six, this meant a lot of exposure.  Too soon, however, we were a household of three.  Nakedness or modesty was not respected, because both my parents were freely naked in front of us, ostensibly to prove in their liberal self-image that bodies were beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of.  So I saw much more than I wanted to see.  And I couldn’t, in defense, ask for privacy, because it was off the table as an issue.

My father’s hip liberal attitude included family baths – and my mother participated probably only because he urged her to.  The bath is where my abuse started.  Family baths that my mother opted out of, to have more time to herself.

Parents immature and inexperienced in life
Parents of incest families usually never become fully mature adults.

While my parents were both very responsible and upstanding citizens, I would have to characterize them both as being very immature.  They didn’t take action to improve themselves or gain more understanding.  Their actions were self-absorbed like those of children.  They did not learn from situations.  My father was a whiner, a pouter.  My mother avoided situations.  These were not emotionally evolving people in any sense of the word.

Conflictual marriage or troubled divorce
In incest families, this may refer to situations where children are pushed into the drama between a conflicted mother and father.

The hallmark of my parents’ relationship was no communication.  They did not speak of issues in front of us children, ever, and would go behind closed doors to literally whisper their disagreements.  Again, the environment was tightly controlled, especially emotions.  Afterward, it was clear that nothing had been resolved and a wall of silence was what we were taught by example, as how to deal with relationships.

My father used me for validation when my mother wasn’t around.  He would try to get me to sympathize with him.  Later, he would use me as a confident and tell me their relationship problems.  Still later, he told me he turned to me because  my mom was “cold” to him in bed.

My mother was perpetually miserable in crush on someone else.  For some reason my siblings were unaware of this, but I could see it/feel it.  And later confessionals with my parents confirmed this.

What we had here were two people dependent upon each other in a maternal/paternal way, but who both felt trapped.

No childhood for the children
Incest families are somber and strict places, where the authority figure (usually one of the parents) dictates behavior for everyone else. Rather than let children run around and play, they force children into a regimented routine.

The sound of children playing was like nails on chalkboard to my mother.  She liked babies.  But didn’t really care for children.  She wanted to read and fantasize and escape, and me making any noise at all would destroy her perpetual search for reverie.   She also shut down joking amongst my father and brothers, and any time my father was happy or whistling or in a good mood, she shut that down too.  It’s as if her unquiet suffering mind required all her focus and concentration, and any disruption which brought ugly reality into that effort was frowned upon.

Chaotic situations, traumatic stress
Incest often takes place in chaotic households, with unstable roots. These families may move often and lack connections to any one community.

Or, these families carefully craft a place in community, superficially always present, yet not really engaged with any of it.  My parents really had no friends, despite attending church gatherings for fellowship.

Low level of appropriate touch
In the most toxic incest families all touching is considered taboo. Parents do not hug, caress, or cuddle their children, as normal families do. This is perhaps the most telling symptom of incest.

Bingo.

I can remember being asked for a kiss at times – you know, the kind of staged pucker-up type of full-on kisses.  But there were no random kisses to the head, no caresses, no holding hands except in dangerous traffic situations, no bear hugs. In short, no physical affection of any kind.  Occasionally I would see my mom smiling or amused over something.  But affection to her was buying me a soda or an educational workbook and watching me enjoy it.  But touch?  nope.  nothing.  One story my mother repeated several times was of breaking a hair brush over my sister’s head because she squirmed while she was fixing her hair.  I sat very still as a result.

My father, on the other hand, loved to wash my hands and clip my nails.  It was these small opportunities for skin contact, in an environment where there was no touching allowed, which fed him in some dark way, and which was a precursor for his uncontrollable desire to molest me.

Compensating veneer of religiosity
Incest perpetrators often hide behind an external show of religion.

Church was my family’s only social life.  Religion is great.  It provides the facade of community and bolsters their place in society.  It convinces them that they aren’t really the anti-social misfits they really are.

What was my home environment like?

Well, I can tell you that at first glance it looked like anybody else’s house.  Except that it was eerily quiet.  It was heavy, like kryptonite.  But of course that would change if anybody came over:  then my home became a mirror of whoever came to visit’s personality.

What facilitated my abuse?

In retrospect, it was my mother.  Not on purpose.  But everything she did set up that heavy environment.  Except for the t.v., which was my babysitter, no noise was tolerated.  Where was she during my bath time?  Where were my siblings?  Why did everyone allow my father to read me bedtime stories every night by himself?  Why did we do nothing together as a family?

And that one day when the social worker came to visit, (I vaguely remember my mom cleaning house for the social worker’s visit and how perfect she was that day) how could they be so clueless?  Did they even bother to look closely?  Did they see us play and interact?  (of course not – there was no play) Did they look at our photo albums and see any candid fun shots?  (of course not – there were no candid fun moments)  Did they do anything besides have some coffee and ask my parents how I was doing? Of course not.

So actually, EVERYONE facilitated my abuse.  The entire family was so lost in their own misery nobody thought about me or that I was a child or what I needed as a child.  And the social worker was just there to rubber stamp everything.

Gack, I should have gone into social work.  This is just so distressing to think someone could have caught this.   I know I could walk into such a home, sniff, and say, “something’s not right.”

Written by girl4708

November 10, 2009 at 8:01 am

Posted in Infinite Longing