At 5 years old I remember the first time I sat in a therapist office. It was my adoptive mom, my adoptive sister and me. She used triangulation tactics to turn my adoptive sister and I against one another. It was a regular scene at our home that all hell would break loose and things were chaotic on the regular. I’m not sure who directed the therapist visits, but if I were to make a guess it would have been my adoptive mom. It should have been social services or the courts but somehow, they never were called.
I remember having alone visits with the therapist, as well as visits with all of us together. Adoption was a topic that impacted our family in every way, however it was never talked about in the therapy sessions.
What was talked about is our adoptive moms parenting skills, and our responses to them as children. When we would share the experiences in this home, the therapist would encourage us all to do some different things to help calm the house down. One of those things was going to our rooms to allow time to calm down when all hell would break loose. We tried to keep our end of the bargain; however, our adoptive mom would constantly come banging on our door, manic demanding we open them.
I didn’t have the language for it then as a child, but now I do. My adoptive mom was narcissistic, she would have manic depressive and paranoid schizophrenic episodes, she was addicted to prescription pain pills, and she was suicidal. She battled major depression and would try to commit suicide on the regular.
Anytime the therapist would guide her to do something different as a parent, she felt targeted. She stopped going to that therapist soon after, and eventually she would find another one. I remember therapist my entire childhood, but adoption was never talked about.
I started to run away around 12-13 years old. I hated this home and found being in the streets a new freedom I had never experienced before. I started getting arrested at 13, and spent my juvenile life locked up in detention, drug and alcohol treatment and I also spent a lot of time in group homes.
Compared to the house I lived in, I always felt a peace in any of the places I was locked up at, over the home I was adopted into. Structure was something I wasn’t used too but I liked it. It was peaceful. But you would never believe of all the places I was, and all the therapist I saw throughout my juvenile years, Adoption was never talked about. It was very much on my mind looking back, I wonder why I didn’t say anything?
I wonder why they didn’t say anything.
I remember sitting in from of my probation officer, Kathy Lake. She was very stern, and by the book when it came to probation, but she never once asked me, “Why do you keep getting in so much trouble? What is making you angry? What’s happened to you in life that’s hurt you so bad you keep breaking the law?” I always wished someone got to the bottom of adoption issues, but at that time the outbursts in the home were at the forefront of all hell breaking loose. I took my anger and pain outside to the streets.
Part of me feels like I didn’t’ mention adoption being the root of my pain because I didn’t understand the links between the way I was behaving and feeling and adoption. I also feel I was gaslighted from an exceedingly early age to be thankful and grateful that a family took me in when my own family didn’t want me. I was my adoptive moms greatest joy because I gave her the title “Mother.” How could I share my real feelings, especially when they all tell me to be thankful? My true feelings would hurt them. I didn’t know how to process this as a child.
I think one of the biggest issues I had was being told to feel a certain way, but inside I didn’t feel that way at all. I wasn’t thankful or grateful. I hated the home I lived in. I didn’t have the language as a child to come up with connecting the dots on these topics and no one else helped me find this language or open conversations to talk about it. My adoptive parents, therapists or adults in my life ever helped me gain an understanding that relinquishment trauma very well could be the root of my issues, compacted by adoption trauma. I feel they all failed me miserably even all the way to seeing a therapist at 18, because I was suicidal. They never brought adoption up, nor did I but most of these years of experiences with therapy I was a child.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same way for my fellow adoptees who are children sitting in the therapy rooms today? Has anything changed? Have the therapist failed them too? Is this a big reason why adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide, as well as over representing prisons, jails, mental health, and treatment facilities? I can’t help but wonder.
Where does the real problem lie?
It was up to me to do the self-work as an adult and try to get to the root of my problems. No one was going to do it for me. After spending 27 years addicted to alcohol, angry and mad at the world, running a rat race trying to get to the bottom of what my problem was, let’s all share a drum roll please…
Relinquishment Trauma was the root, compacted by adoption trauma. Surprise, surprise. I have tried many times to get therapy as an adult as I’ve emerged out of the fog, and into my truth. There have been times my pain was so great, I just wanted to end my life. But instead I have hung onto hope for many reasons. Mainly my children, and my fellow adoptees.
As my experiences with therapy as an adult have been significantly different than when I was a kid, at the end of the day they have still failed me. I have tried several times to find a new therapist, begin to build a relationship and I find myself explaining all the dynamics to the adoption experience so that they can understand the magnitude and depth of my root issues. Complex PTSD, Complex Grief, Loss, Abandonment, Rejection, The Primal Wound, Relinquishment & Adoption Trauma, Bonding, (or lack of) Identity Issues, Anger, Rage, and the list could go on. Each time I have found myself therapying the therapist. At that point, I feel like I should be the one getting paid. At what point do I realize this therapeutic relationship isn’t going to go anywhere because this person isn’t educated on all these levels of adoption and relinquishment trauma so they can help me? It’s more like I’m helping them.
I’m tired of therapying the therapist.
I recently had an experience that left me with no hope that I will ever be able to receive therapy ever again. I shared on my website an article called My Experience with Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). At the end of the second session ( I committed to four) my new found therapist lets me know she’s an adoptive mom, and she asks me if she could share my information about Adoptees Connect, Inc. with some of her friends and colleagues. I won’t lie, it was a huge red flag learning she was an adoptive mom. However, due to my two ART sessions being great experiences I expressed that would be fine, and they could reach out to me if they had any questions.
A few days later, I get an email from my therapist as follows:
The message above was copied and pasted to me via email, from my therapist. She did not include the identity of the colleague/parent/therapist.
I can’t even begin to express how upset this made me. First of all, there is one adoptive mom on this entire earth that I have had a great relationship with and that’s because she’s my friend of over 25 years, and she is 100% receptive to learning the adoptee experience in hopes to understand her adopted children better. She’s it for me. The rest of the experiences I’ve had with them haven’t been great. I will add this experience to the list of them.
When I read this email, my stomach sank. It’s been said by a friend close to me that she likely thought “I could handle it.” I think she’s right, but that doesn’t excuse the message that was sent concealing her colleague/adoptive mom/friends’ identity, meanwhile mine is wide open for her to learn. In her defense, I agreed that would be fine to share my information, but this was taking it was too far IMHO. Her friend should have contacted me directly. I found this to be very unprofessional.
As soon as I read the email, I felt like I had two adoptive moms against me and that I was all of a sudden in a position where I not only had to defend myself, but my nonprofit and also every other adopted person on the planet. It was an awkward and uncomfortable situation to be in. I immediately had to put my Adoptees Connect, Inc. hat on and that made me even more upset.
As feelings started to boil over, I woke up early the next morning to craft the email I would soon send to my therapist and her friend who are both adoptive moms. After this, I sent an email to this new therapist letting her know I couldn’t keep a therapist relationship with her due to the conflict of interest of her being an adoptive mom. I had someone mention that I let her off the hook, which is true. I resent that, but one more time I had to put my Adoptees Connect hat on, and it overrode my own feelings and I was really angry that I was put in a position where I had to do this. As I crafted this email to these two adoptive moms, here I was once again therapying the therapist/s.
This situation tainted and ruined the once trusted relationship that I was trying to build with this new therapist. It was over. This situation left me feeling so discouraged and upset, it was the beginning of a downward spiral of sadness and emotions I hadn’t felt in alone while. I’m still not over it. This was a last resort for me. Not to mention this experience tainting the two positive therapy sessions I had.
I realize there are many adoptee’s who are stepping up to become ADOPTEE COMPETENT therapist, but there are none in my entire state, and I’m sure that’s the same for many of my fellow adoptees. Major kudos to all those who are adoptees and therapists, and those who are in the process of becoming therapist. I personally know many of you, and I am so thankful for what you give our community!
I will share the list that is a recommended resources on the Adoptees Connect website and that’s Adoptee Therapist Directory if by chance you are an adoptee in search of an adoptee therapist please feel free to check this website out.
I genuinely believe there is an incredibly significant inadequacy when it comes to therapist and their general knowledge regarding all the different dynamics to relinquishment and adoption trauma. So much missing data and information to be learned and it’s so needed for the adoptee population. From my experience in therapying the therapist and their lack of being able to help me, is one of the reasons Adoptees Connect, Inc. was created and founded as a nonprofit. Because the world has failed adoptees, and we’re truly all we have when it comes to being able to share our experiences with others who get it. And many days that doesn’t seem like enough. We can listen and be there which is what the Adoptees Connect groups are focused on but we aren’t equipped to counsel other people’s trauma.
If you are an adoptee and have had a great experience with therapy, or even an adoptee who is considering therapy please don’t take my article as a reason to discontinue or disconnect from therapy. You might have a better experience than me. If you do, I’m happy for you. I encourage therapy if the relationship is serving the adoptee in a positive way and I feel it’s very needed to be able to heal from the adoptee experience. Unfortunately, after 46 years of being on this earth, I have yet to find that relationship but I’m happy for those to have.
Maybe one day all the adoptee therapist can get together and write some adoptee centric literature for therapist and adoptive parents that can help teach non-adopted therapist about the truth about adoption? I know it’s a far fetch, but it needs to happen. We need adoptee therapist and more adoptee centric resources; our lives and survival depend on it.
For my fellow adoptees, can you relate to any of what I have shared here? If you feel up to it, please share your experiences.