In her book The Primal Wound, Nancy Verrier discusses the invisible injuries of
adoption. No matter how nurturing the adoptive parents, the adopted child feels the pangs of what seemed like abandonment. Because of my post-WWII closed adoption, I’ve harbored “separation wounds” for many years.
In my case, the thinking has gone like this: “If you love someone, he (or she) will abandon you.” First, my birthmother, then the men in my life. The symbolic bad boyfriend of my entire life is a disagreeable character I call Edgar.
I met this DEMON when we were both young, he stayed with me during two marriages, and he hovered over me when, between two marriages, I dated reasonable, basically good men. Edgar managed to ruin everything. Herewith, an excerpt from The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption…
Whenever I think I have finally been healed from the wounds of adoption, life serves up a reminder that I am not. It is the opposite of “looking through rose-colored glasses.” When one looks through the glasses of being adopted, everyday events are reminders of loss, betrayal, or abandonment. Through reading all my diaries, I became very aware of the unremitting prevalence of “adoption bruises.”
There are metaphors I find helpful in understanding the wounds of my adoption, including disease and death at sea. When troubled by having grown up as an adopted child, I let insecurity and self-doubt take root. Reason eludes me. I have given that negative emotional state a name—Edgar. Like burning flames, Edgar is fueled by his own energy. Like fire, he feeds on everything, which he transforms into negative thoughts about my past, present, future. Edgar is a demonic artist who paints the world in stark tones of black and gray. Like a disease, Edgar undermines my physical well-being. Edgar lurks, waiting to arise when I am feeling healthy and balanced. When my spirit starts to wane, he is poised for the kill.
Edgar is always keeping score. His message to me: To be considered worthy of living, I have to prove myself “good” every day. If I do not, I might, metaphorically speaking, be sent to an orphanage. Never mind that I lived in foster care for only the first few years of my life. No matter that I should be well over the feelings of abandonment from that difficult beginning.
Fire burns everything in its path. Self-destructive memories add to Edgar’s growing
stockpile of ammunition. Edgar thrives on drama and misfortune, not just mine, but the world’s. As a disease, the dormant, carcinogenic Edgar lurks until a failure or dashed hope comes along. Given this rocky life journey, the arrival of fresh calamity does not take long. Disappointment appears and then malaise sets in, a pervasive feeling of things being awry. My stomach feels queasy, my shoulders ache, and my limbs are leaden. “Uh oh. Here’s Edgar,” I think to myself.
There is the Death at Sea Edgar. I am managing to feel on top of things, treading water or perhaps just swimming along. As in the movie “Jaws,” a painful memory or a nagging doubt comes bubbling up to the surface and threatens to devour me. Though it looks like a shark, it is just a blow-up plastic, pretend monster. Unlike a toy, it is powerful and aggressive. The higher it rises, the larger and stronger it becomes. In order not to drown, I must punch down the Shark Edgar, beating him into submission so he will sink beneath the waves. But being Edgar, he keeps rising up.
The best solution for the Disease or Death at Sea Edgar is to walk my labyrinth, to meditate, or to take a short hike in the hills near my home. Action and movement allow me to change gears, to keep from going down “the slippery slide.”
This circuitous path led to liberation, and the ability to begin the second part of my life. Ultimately, this path yielded resolution to the enigma of my own personal labyrinth.
The adoptee paradox: How to acquire the skill to beat down the blues, the sadness that never completely vanishes? Taking arms against one’s adoption issues requires vigilance, determination, and maybe even resignation. Ultimately, I had to accept Edgar, “adopting” him as the ugly monster that will never be tamed but must be kept in his place. That way, we can both live.