November is National Adoption Month, and in that spirit, I’m re-visiting some of my earlier realizations about recovering from the invisible wounds of adoption. As every adult adoptee realizes, the deep-seated after-affects of adoption don’t go away. Impossible to change the past history that so shaped us as we grew up. What we can change is how we regard that baggage. It is something we must bear, and the stronger we become, the lighter seems the burden. I think of it as ASCENDING.
Here, slightly altered, is my realization about the anger that arose from my “adoptee status.” It was originally published on this website two years ago. Happily, I spend less and less time in the Canyon and more time, both metaphorically and actually, climbing mountains.
Anger is a terrible thing. Unless one deals with it, the feeling can deepen into a Canyon of Despondency. It seems there is no bottom and that one can never escape this negative emotion.
Until I admitted that unresolved issues about adoption were the root of my unhappiness, I was doomed to be the victim of angry, hurtful emotions. Because I had wonderful adoptive parents, it was very hard to blame them for anything. I admired and respected them. Only after they were gone did I realize how much the shame and secrecy about adoption had drained my self-confidence.
Adoption adds so much to a child’s life: parents who chose him or her, security and stability, a room of one’s own.
But it also takes away: blood ties, growing up with someone who shares your DNA, parents who probably look like you. As a baby, you resided for nine months inside your mother’s womb; you were connected at a primal level.
The adoption that followed your birth also represents a LOSS.
During the long years I dwelled on the loss of connection with my birthparents, I wandered a bottomless pit of unhappiness. I could never resolve my feelings of deprivation. I’d been part of my birthmother. I spent the first few years of my life with her. Didn’t that bond us forever?
When I was adopted at age five, which I describe in my memoir The Goodbye Baby: A Diary about Adoption, I did not ask questions. Instead, I grew up longing to know where I came from, why I was relinquished. I desperately needed to parse out what part of me was nature and what was nurture.
To articulate my anger would have seemed ungrateful; Depressed and resentful, I was a wild and uncontrolled adolescent. Re-reading diary entries about my teenage escapades, I pitied my adoptive parents. The diaries revealed an unflattering truth. They showed how slow-burning rage drove me to recklessness, to throwing myself into dangerous situations. All the outward successes—good grades, a nice appearance, friends and a social life—were a facade. I felt I had no value, which deepened my sense of loss.
As I entered adulthood, I began to realize that my outlook on life had developed around a perceived loss. Never mind that I had wonderful adoptive parents. I pay tribute to them in From Calcutta with Love: the WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard. However, they either could not or would not talk about what happened. I had to accept their philosophy, that I began life as the “born again daughter.”
Anger, unchecked, tends to grow. At least, in my case, this was true. It intensified over time. Before I looked back at the past revealed in diary entries of The Goodbye Baby, I wandered the canyons of despair. I had to climb my way out to release my anger. For me the path was, and still is, writing. Spend time with your inner self to discover who you really are. Dig deep and then ascend. YOU are worth it!