When Your Biggest Blessing Invalidates My Greatest Trauma

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When your biggest blessing invalidates my greatest trauma it sets me up for a lifetime of pain, suffering and isolation. It facilitates a lifetime of suicidal ideation, because the pain is just too great to process. It makes me feel more isolated and alone than non-adopted individuals can ever imagine. It makes me wish I was aborted and feeling like I want to die for most of my life, because my pain is greater than my desire to want to live. It drives me to attempt to take my life as a teenager, because you fail to admit I have lost anything. It drives me to a place of addiction, because at the end of every day the only way to manage every day life is to numb the pain. When you use bible scriptures to defend your blessing, it makes me question the bible and the God you are speaking of. When your biggest blessing outshines my reality, it makes me feel unimportant and insignificant. When you refer to me as a blessing, it hurts because you are invalidating my adoptee and relinquishee reality.

My story went something like this:

Me: Mommy, did I come out of your tummy?

Adoptive Mom: No, you were adopted. Your birth mother’s choice to surrender you for adoption was my biggest blessing and a dream come true.

Me: What do you mean?

Adoptive Mom: She loved you so much she gave you to me to raise, and I will always love her and be thankful for her decision.

Me: Who is she? Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: We don’t know, honey.

Me: Experienced the most significant mental mind fu*k of my entire lifetime.

I was approximately five years old when this conversation took place, and it’s clear to me that my life was never the same. Every day, I was haunted every hour and every minute wondering, wishing, and dreaming about finding HER.

No matter what questions I had or what mental torment I experienced from this moment forward, my adoptive mom’s joy and happiness trumped everything. My feelings didn’t matter when I was her biggest blessing in life, and her joy  of being a mother trumped my feelings of sadness every damn day.

If I’m transparent, my adoptive mom likely didn’t know the pain and heartache I was experiencing but if she did, her happiness was highlighted over my pain. I was adopted in August of 1974, and my adoptive parents were told to sweep the entire idea of adoption and what it meant under the rug. They were also told the less we talked about it; the better things would be. This is how many adoptions were back in those days, but today is a new day and a new year. It’s 2020, and when you know better, you do better.

However, I ask myself if my adoptive parents knew this, would it have changed anything for my five-year-old self, who was desperately searching for my REAL MOTHER?

I genuinely believe as a 46-year-old woman, if I were able to process my trauma at as early of an age as possible, my healing journey wouldn’t have started at 36+ years old. I wouldn’t have been addicted to substances for 27 years of my life. I recently celebrated 8 years sobriety, however I feel like I’ve spent my entire life not only suffering from the trauma of relinquishment and adoption but healing from the lifelong aftermath of these experiences.

I have barely started living my life yet, and if I’m lucky, it’s over half over. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but I try to remain grateful that I’m here and I’m alive because I know so many of my fellow adoptees are not. This is why I keep sharing and writing. Adoptees are dying!

Adoptions continue to happen all over the world. We cannot continue to fail to acknowledge that before the blessing of an adopted child is brought into a family, it is equally intertwined into the very beginnings of our life, which is a traumatic experience. We must also recognize that relinquishment is trauma, and so is adoption. These are two very different dynamics to the adoptee experience. The sooner society steps out of denial about these truths; the sooner adoptees will start to heal.

Better yet, if our adoptive parents knew these truths from the beginning, would they still choose to adopt anyway? In my experience spending the last ten years networking in the adoption community, most all adoptive parents I have talked to have expressed they TRULY had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they adopted. The adoption agencies and attorneys never shared the truth with them. When they learned what they were up against, it was too late, and they were stuck with this child who has come with deep-rooted relinquishment trauma, or they rehome them and send them back.

Let me be clear, we can have wonderful and loving adoptive homes and love our adoptive families greatly, but the original trauma of relinquishment still remains the same. Networking with adoptees for over 10+ years and hearing their stories, building relationships with them, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt most of us don’t get happy and loving adoptive homes! If you are that one adoptee or know that one adoptee who’s “Just fine” with being adopted, spend more time getting to know more adoptees. That one adoptee story doesn’t compare to the hundreds of thousands of adoptees who have nightmare adoption stories and adoptive homes. Remember, adoption trauma always compacts the original relinquishment trauma.

In what ways does relinquishment and adoption trauma surface in an adopted individual? It can be acting out at an early age or teen/adult years with anger, rage, self-harm, substance abuse, breaking the law, running away, testing the waters in every way possible. Depression, anxiety, abandonment, mental health issues, self love, self hate, rejection, and Complex – PTSD. Let’s not forget grief and loss. Grief and loss show up in more ways than non-adoptees can even imagine and it lasts a lifetime! We struggle with these things for our entire lifetimes and many adoptees never get the help they deserve, taking this pain to their graves. We don’t wake up one day and it’s gone. It follows us, like ball and chain. For many of us, it feels like we’re doing a life sentence for a crime we didn’t commit.

While our adoptive parents, their friends, and family are celebrating adoption blessings, the truth is that adoptees will continue to attempt suicide at 4x the rate of non-adopted individuals. We will continue to grieve our grief and process our loss alone for a lifetime. We will continue to feel helpless in a world that celebrates our relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma. We will continue to live a life riddled with anxiety, depression, and sadness. We will continue to feel isolated and alone. Many and most of us take these things to our graves, because there has never been any help for us.

Instead, you celebrate our trauma and normalize the separation of a mother and her baby. Nothing about relinquishment and adoption is normal, and all the feelings adoptees feel and how we respond to relinquishment and adoption trauma is normal considering the circumstances. What’s not normal is relinquishment and adoption trauma!

Back in 1974, adoptees weren’t baring their souls to share their stories in hopes of shining a light on the truth about adoption and how it’s made them feel. If they were, there might have been very few of them. Today they are, and it’s making a difference. One of the biggest things I have experienced that’s been a significant hurdle to overcome is that our world celebrates adoption the way they do. Can you imagine our world celebrating rape or child abuse? Can you imagine our world celebrating someone being held hostage at gunpoint? Can you imagine our world celebrating a mother and child dying in childbirth?

Only in adoption is our most tremendous trauma of relinquishment not acknowledged, but it’s celebrated. The mental mind fu*k this causes for relinquished and adopted individuals can’t even be explained. Let me be frank; it’s a big giant clusterfu*k.

While our adoptive parents and society are celebrating, they don’t equally acknowledge that we are being is severed from our roots before any adoption occurs. This is the most significant loss of our lifetimes. We lose genetic mirrors, biological connections, medical history, siblings, grandparents, ethnicity, homeland, and so much more on top of YOU CELEBRATING IT. Stop celebrating mothers and babies being separated!

If you’ve made it this far, I will encourage you to challenge yourself in stepping out of denial about the FACTS that what you were told and what you learned about adoption might not be accurate information. I ask you to open your eyes, ears, and hearts to the truth that relinquished and adopted individuals need you to equally acknowledge all we have lost before you consider celebrating it.

We’re not your blessing. Until you can do this vital step to help aid us in our healing process you have no business celebrating us or calling us a blessing. When our adoptive parents are our elders, we follow suit in what they acknowledge as we are children. If you recognize this, we will realize this. Conversations about grief, loss, relinquishment, abandonment, rejection, culture, genetic mirroring, searching, and reunion need to happen. As children, we will NOT be able or equipped to open these conversations on our own. Without the support of our adoptive parents, we will suffer, and we will suffer greatly.

I hate to shatter the fantasy that your adoption is a blessing, but the truth is before every adoption takes place, relinquishment trauma happens first. Adoptees are dying. Please stop celebrating our relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma, and if even after learning all this, you still choose to celebrate, at least equally share the truth by sharing the painful pieces as well. If you don’t, you will regret it, and please know you are assisting in the stalling of your adopted child’s healing. A lifetime of pain will follow no matter what, but if you choose to assist by opening these difficult conversations, it will help!

If you are the adoptive parent of an adult adoptee, you can still apply this information to your journey, life, and relationship with the adopted individual in your life. I don’t know your story, nor do I need to know it. Start talking about the TRUTH in adoption. Start talking about uncomfortable topics. It could save your relinquishee/adoptees life.

Thanks for reading.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th – Express Yourself

As Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th approaches, a fundamental component to this day is to encourage all the adoptees to share their feelings on this day. The ways to get involved are limitless, but I have created a comprehensive list of how to participate on this day. You can visit the link by clicking here.

Express Yourself

I’ve suggested that adoptees express themselves by writing and sharing that writing on Adoptee Remembrance Day. You might want to share it with a few co-workers or at a Friday dinner with a few friends. Whatever your plans are, sparking conversations about what this day is all about is the key to opening up the discussion on how you feel about Adoptee Remembrance Day.

For those who don’t know, Adoptee Remembrance Day was created to pause before National Adoption Awareness Month and put a focus on remembrance of all the adoptees who didn’t make it out alive. Maybe the adoptee was murdered at the hands of their adoptive parents, or they took their own life because the pain was just too great. Perhaps they are an international adoptee who’s adoptive parents failed to complete the proper paperwork for citizenship, leaving the adoptee in limbo, a lot of times deported from the only country they have ever known.

Express Yourself

Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day to reflect on adoptee loss. While our world seems to dismiss the side of adoption that doesn’t acknowledge this loss, the adoptee lives with this pain our entire lives. Most of the time, never being able to articulate the words at a young age, so we spend our whole lives trying to process how we feel inside.

Express Yourself

Adoptee Remembrance Day is to share those feelings at your comfort level. It’s a day of acknowledgment. It’s a day for adopted individuals and our allies to come together and raise our voices on areas that we are passionate about and our feelings about this day.  

Express Yourself

You don’t have to be adopted to acknowledge Adoptee Remembrance Day. Maybe you are a friend or family member of an adoptee, and you’ve seen this adoptee experience heartbreak and pain regarding their adoption journey. Perhaps you are a family member of an adoption that was closed. Maybe you are the adult child of an adoptee, and adoption has echoed throughout your life, and loss has been prevalent.  

Express Yourself

Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day for adoptees worldwide to be heard, validated, and acknowledged. Whatever your feelings are about this day, I encourage you to focus and reflect on the places you hold deep inside and consider letting them out. Maybe sharing them is too much for you at this time, but writing about them and letting them out is one of the most critical steps. Start a journal, and keep writing. Consider making a video or a song. Being creative in art, spoken word or poetry would fit right in. Anything you can do to share how adoption has made you feel…

Express Yourself!

  • If you would like to share them publicly, visit the Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th Facebook page and learn how to get involved. Invite your friends and family to this page and the event as well.
  • To get involved with the promotion of this day, please visit our promoting Adoptee Remembrance Day page.
  • You can view the Adoptee Remembrance Day Agenda (we will insert the link once it’s ready) to find out a list of events and activities that are going on that day.

The key is to do something!

Express yourself in whatever way feels natural and organic to you.

Share the love and get involved.

A special shout out and THANK YOU to the individuals and organizations who have reached out to me to collaborate to add an activity to this day. Thank you! I couldn’t pull this day off without your willingness to participate.

If you’re an adoptee who wants to share your Adoptee Expressions on Adoptee Remembrance Day, please email me at adopteeremembranceday@gmail.com for guidelines.

Sending Sunshine, Love & Light

Acknowledging My Dance with Depression

This isn’t an easy topic for me to write about, but I feel it deep in my soul that it’s a topic I need to bring to light. Especially right now in our current times.

I have never acknowledged that depression has impacted me, and I’ve really never written about it. However much of my life experiences and feelings along the way have given me every reason to acknowledge it. There is a reason for this denial, and I would like to share it with you.

Adoptee sadness has riddled every area of my life, along with daily feelings of constant anxiety. I can guess it’s been similar for many of my fellow adoptees. Grief & loss due to my adoption experience is something I will process until I leave this earth and go to my grave. I’ve accepted it’s here to stay.  

But is grief and loss the same as depression? I think each persons journey is unique to them, as well as their struggle with depression. There is no cookie cutter one size fits all. I’ve never been good at gauging feelings and how I feel and putting it into words. I think it’s partly because no one ever asked me my feelings growing up, and the feelings I did have we’re pushed so deep inside due to gaslighting from my adoptive mom I never was able to process verbally how I felt. It’s still hard for me to do this but I’ve gotten better over the years. Here, I hope to articulate how I’m feeling.

One of the most significant examples of depression I have experience within my life is that of my adoptive mom. She was mentally ill in many ways, but major depression was one of the issues she had. She suffered from narcissism, manic depression, pill addiction, and the list could go on. Her pill addiction and the examples she set were very unhealthy ones that have impacted me my whole life. She was never a happy or healthy mom, ever. I think I remember 2 days of my whole life where she said, “I feel good today.” She was always in bed, crying, sleeping, or in the middle of a suicidal manic episode which overrode any positive experiences I ever had wither. I’m sure I have some, but the trauma in her home is bigger.

I have done everything in my power to not be like my adoptive mother or my birth mother. All I have ever wanted was for my kids to see a happy and healthy mom because that’s something I never had. Giving them less than that I feel like a failure as a parent, defective.

 I have always done a great job at hiding things, and I stop anyone from knowing my issues, because I don’t want to burden people. I have a few close friends who I can confide in when times get tough, but no one really knows the inner thoughts of me or my struggles daily. I will put on a smile, try to find the positive in every situation, and tell you everything is just great.

I’ve been able to find joy amid the pain and I have always preferred to share the joy with others in a way to bring them a positive outlook on what life can truly be. But what about when things change, and things aren’t looking so positive anymore? What if all the things that brought you inner and outer happiness are no longer able to be found? What if the same people you’ve been able to turn to are going through their own struggles? What if the pain is so great, you spend day after day just surviving, sitting in sorrow?

I feel guilty on top of feeling this way.

Things I think about, are the fact that other people are struggling much worse than I am. I still have my job, I have my physical health, I have 3 healthy kids, a home, and a roof over my head. I’ve survived a whole hell of a lot, just like all of us have. But I still am feeling sadness and sorrow daily. It’s not been something I can shake like I’m used to doing. Usually it comes for a few hours, or a day or two and it tapers off. Currently, I’m going on 6-8+ weeks. I realize some people have lived with depression their entire lives. If I’m transparent, I think it’s impacted me my entire life as well. However, I’ve denied it because I don’t want to be like my adoptive mom, or to show signs of being an unhealthy mom like she was.  

I realize currently many things can play into how we are all feeling. Let’s be honest, our current state of affairs are enough to let anyone feel this way all alone. Then you add real life struggles to it, or crisis situations, and it adds to the current situation. I think everyone is having a hard time right now, and it’s so understandable.

I noticed a few months ago when the situation happened with the adoptive mom/therapist (can read here) it was the beginning of a downward spiral for me and I haven’t been right since. It left me feeling hopeless. Seeking therapy, one more freaking time was a HUGE step for me. It was truly a last resort, and I was at a place where I was willing to do ANYTHING to not feel the way I was feeling and to work on adoptee triggers. I knew these experiences that drove me to therapy (once again) were rooted in RELINQUISHMENT TRAUMA but no one can HELP ME! I was faced with the hard reality that I will have to live with these issues for the rest of my life because I give up on therapy.

While this situation had me “down and out” another situation happened within a few days. My son and daughters close friend committed suicide, who was an adoptee. Sadness and sorrow sunk in for so many reasons. I knew this young man (22 y/o) personally for years, and I looked at him like another son. He reached out to me in June by phone. He said he was online, looking for adoptee resources because he was having significant abandonment and self esteem issues and he needed some support. He found my information regarding Adoptees Connect and called me. I was so happy he did. I let him know our group would be meeting again in August, and I would love to meet with him between now and then. We text several times between June and August, but we never got to get together in person. I had just text him the end of July to let him know our meeting time and date was August 2nd, and that I would love to see him. but I got no response. I also text him in July to see if he wanted to meet to talk, but I got no response. On August 11th was the day he decided to end it all and he committed suicide. If only I did more. I will always wish I did more. My heart is broken is an understatement.

The sadness that our entire family felt, and the sadness I carry is a sadness I don’t think I have ever felt in this way. It’s been constant, and I really can’t see past it for long. This situation happening, along with the therapy situation made me realize a lot of things. I always knew there really isn’t enough professional help for adoptees, but this hit so close to home. We’re on our own. If we don’t connect with one another, we will die alone and die trying. It really made me realize even more so how important Adoptees Connect, Inc. is to the adoptee community. However, we still can’t be responsible for walking someone through processing relinquishment trauma. We aren’t equipped! We aren’t therapy groups. We’re primarily listeners putting an emphasis on CONNECTING IN REAL LIFE. It’s made all the difference in the world to have this community, but even then it’s sometimes not enough.  

My thoughts have scared me the last few months. I have thought many times, daily sometimes hourly that I wish I could just die and end it all. There is a difference between wanting to commit suicide, attempting suicide, and thinking about suicide. Please understand I am not going to harm myself. I would never put my kids through that because I’m all they have. If I didn’t have them, I would have been gone. I hate adoption and all the pain it has caused me and all of my fellow adoptees I love and care about. Yet our fu*ked up world continues to celebrate mothers and babies being separated. Adoptees are dying from broken hearts, relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma yet they still celebrate our trauma. F*ck them and f*ck adoption.

I have a list of self-care things I do when I feel sad, or blue. They have been great for my mental health, but at this season they aren’t working like they always have. This is when I started to realize that I was struggling with more of a depression, than just grief and loss. I say they both intertwine for me at times because my grief and loss due to adoption is never ending. It’s been hard for me to tell them apart. I will also share; these are not the only situations that are currently on my plate. There are several more, however I wish to keep them private. I’ve become a professional at hiding my true feelings, all the way back to being 5 years old learning I was adopted. Isn’t that how us adoptees are programed and gaslighted from the beginning? “Be thankful you weren’t aborted” or “Be thankful someone took you in when your own mother didn’t want you.” We’ve had to break through mile high barriers just to tap into our pain. Some adoptees never get to that point, and they die taking it to their graves.

I took a few pictures on my birthday which was August 13. You couldn’t tell by the pictures that my heart and soul was ripped to shreds, yet I knew I needed to put on a dress, some red lipstick and a smile so at least when it’s all said and done, my kids will have some pictures of me to remember me by. At that time I was able to share how I have stayed sober for 8 years. That day was hard to get through with so much happening during the weeks that lead up to that day, but I was still able to find the goodness in life. Even celebrating my RE-Birthday , it took everything in me to celebrate that day, and I got my sh*t together just enough for my kids. I just wanted the day to be over.

I tried therapy, that didn’t work. As a last-ditch effort to straighten my mental health out I decided to ask my doctor for an antidepressant. I would like to stop feeling like I want to die. If you understand my history with my adoptive mom, and her pill addiction, and mental health issues you would understand why this was such a hard decision for me. I tried one medication, that made things worse. So, I’m currently trying another. If this doesn’t work, I give up on trying medication. I have no more options.

If you read over my blog all the way back to 2012 you can’t say I’m not trying to help myself. I think I’ve tried everything under the sun to heal relinquishment & adoption trauma.

I think there are several reasons I’ve decided to share this place in my journey. But first let me share what it costs for me to be here, pouring my feelings out on my website. I run the risk of the ENTIRE WORLD learning my feelings. Being vulnerable in that way isn’t an easy thing. I worry about prospective jobs finding my website, current employers, adoptive and biological family I have severed ties with reading it. I worry about people close to me reading and wondering what they will think. But most of all, I worry about my kids reading it. This article doesn’t show them the “Happy Healthy Mom” I so desperately want them to see. I hope they never read it, but if they do, I would like to tell them I’m sorry.

The other reason I’m sharing is for my fellow adoptees and that whatever they are going through they aren’t alone. I will share it all, if one adoptee can somehow benefit from my story. I also want to share that I believe deep down that this is a season. I refuse to accept depression and the way I am feeling is going to always be here. I think it’s been extra hard accepting the fact that this is it, this is the cards I was dealt and there are no more chances things will ever change for me regarding my adoption experience. Some days are harder than others.

It’s National Suicide Awareness month, and October is National Mental Health Awareness month. I hope me being transparent with my struggles, encourages you to be transparent with yours. Sometimes sharing can be a great healing tool. I’m not looking for sympathy or to be fixed or saved. I’m the only person that can figure this out.

Many of my fellow adoptees around the world are feeling the same way I am, and non adopted people too. I know I’m not alone although I feel like it much of the time. I’m thankful for this space where I can share my feelings. It’s been invaluable over the years. As I learn to be patient with the world, due to our current situations, I just ask others be patient with me. We have no idea what other people are carrying. I will keep pressing on, I’m behind in emails. Sorry. I’m isolated, as so many of us are. I’m doing what I must do to stay afloat, and I hope whatever you are doing, you do the same.

If you reach out to me, I’m going to tell you “I’m good” because I really don’t know how to talk about all these things, nor do I want to talk about them. It’s hard enough just living them and thinking them and feeling them. It does feel good sharing them here, but then there is always the risk of what others will think. But I honestly don’t even care anymore. I care more about the adoptee who might read this, who’s feeling isolated and all alone. I think we’re all in survival mode. All we can do is take it one day at a time.

I look forward to brighter days, and for a future where adoptees don’t have to carry their heartbreak and pain to their graves. I have a feeling many of us are feeling similar ways? If that’s you, what’s helped you?