Pamela is an adult adoptee, living in Lexington, Kentucky, was born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1974. Although Pamela’s roots are scattered all over Iowa, she considers Kentucky to be her home.
Over the last ten years, Pamela has dedicated much of her life to not only work towards healing regarding her adoptee journey but also pouring into the adoptee community. She’s created resources for adult adoptees and built relationships with adoptees all over the world!
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Disclosure: This article does not mean I’m quitting Adoptees Connect, Inc. It means I’m taking the Adoptees Connect hat off when I share certain things about my journey, as well as when I write here in my blog.
One of my biggest struggles over the last few years of my life is the Adoptees Connect hat I wear. It seems the role I have taken on with Adoptees Connect is such a significant role, sometimes I’m wearing that hat more than my own personal hat. This is one of the reasons I’ve been working hard at setting some very consistent boundaries for myself.
When Adoptees Connect launched in January 2018, I truly had no idea what a commitment I was taking on, or how this would impact me personally or professionally. All I knew was that adoptees were dying, and they needed an in-person space to call their own. The internet was great for some things, but when an adoptee is at ends rope, ready to leave the world it’s unrealistic to expect them to have enough energy to get online and ask for help.
I set out on creating in person communities of others who understand their pain. I didn’t want this for ONLY my community, I wanted it for every adoptee community. I knew it was life or death for adoptees everywhere. Whatever I was taking on I knew it was worth it, because I finally found purpose in all the pain I had experienced in my life. It brought glimmer hope and healing to myself, as well as my fellow adoptees.
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
I’ve learned that even setting personal boundaries, and having an in person adoptee community that sadness can still set in, as well as complex adoptee issues. One of the many hard parts for me is having to wear the “Adoptees Connect” hat and represent Adoptees Connect, Inc. which has sometimes shadowed over my own thoughts and feelings. I’ve had to put Adoptees Connect first along with the vision and mission. In many situations that has caused discord with people for the simple fact I’ve felt like I’ve had to protect my vision, especially when I feel it’s been threatened. I absolutely hate this part of my role in Adoptees Connect. It’s been the worst part for me because I don’t like or enjoy discord. I do realize it’s a part of life but I will never like it.
I’ve learned that different people love what Adoptees Connect is about, and they want to be a part, and make commitments but when it comes down to doing the work they aren’t committed. I’ve learned that different people love what Adoptees Connect is about, but they have their own agenda which doesn’t necessarily align with the vision and mission of Adoptees Connect, Inc. They attempt to apply their vision to the Adoptees Connect vision and when it’s not in alignment, it creates discord, disconnect, and hurt feelings. It’s been very draining to say the least.
At the end of the day I’ve felt more times than I can count how many times I’ve had to confront people that due to our visions not being in alignment, and the outcome is it’s best we disconnect from partnership. This isn’t an easy thing for anyone to do, but to keep the commitment to the AC vision, it’s had to be done.
In my own personal life, this load has taken a toll emotionally, mentally, and even physically. Never once have I wanted to throw in the towel on Adoptees Connect, but sometimes I want to take the Adoptees Connect hat off when I share my feelings. Especially here on my own website when I share my feelings on my own personal journey.
I’ve always felt like my dedication and Adoptees Connect “Hat” has taken the forefront, even before my own personal life. I’ve kept a lot quiet because of fear of how others will respond to my struggles, and the role I play within Adoptees Connect, Inc. I can no longer do this for my mental health. One of my fears is, “What will others think of me?” “How will they respond that I’m feeling the way I am?”
This article is sharing that moving forward, at least on my website I’m having to take the Adoptees Connect “Hat” off so I can share my own personal struggles and experiences. I have promised myself I would be true to me, and in that I want to be able to help other adoptees with different struggles they might be having as things are so significantly changing for so many of us in our lives.
I hope my articles moving forward will help someone, and I hope others will give me grace in understanding that I’m human too like the rest of you. We’re all experiencing things differently than we ever have and allowing space for the different hats and changes we all wear is important. We should never have to hide pieces of ourselves to make others comfortable or out of fear. Thank you for understanding that making these changes for myself is a part of my self-care and personal boundaries.
Thank you for reading and I hope you are making changes in your life to accommodate your emotional and mental wellness at this current stage of your life.
Ouch, this might have come off as abrasive right off the title. Hopefully so because my aim is to grasp the attention of anyone in the adoption arena in hopes to help someone who might not understand that you can’t fix adoptees and you can’t take our pain away. We need to embrace it and learn it’s here to stay. The sooner I acknowledged it, stopped running from it or trying to mask it with substances, the sooner healing started to happen.
National Adoption Awareness Month to me means I need to add my voice somewhere to the adoption arena because I’m adopted, and I know how it feels. Over the last 10 years of my activism in sharing how it feels to be adopted, I keep hearing the majority of adoptive parents say things like, “I just want to take away my adopted daughters pain” or “I don’t want my adopted son to feel like he was abandoned”.
I moderate multiple platforms online where this is a common theme and every time I hear it, I cringe. I think to myself, “They can’t possibly understand what damage they are doing by this mindset!”
Because if we know better, we do better and once you know, you can’t un-know.
I decided that time is the most important thing we have, so I didn’t want to waste another minute not putting this information out here.
When a child or baby is adopted or separated from their biological mother for ANY REASON, no matter when it happens in life, it causes a trauma for this child. That trauma has to be acknowledged, but it also has to be exposed and brought to light so the person who has experienced this trauma has a chance to heal. As a baby, born and relinquished by my birth mother, my trauma happened at a preverbal state so growing up I never had the words to tap into this trauma. I didn’t have the language or memories talk to anyone about it. While this trauma has been stored my entire life in my subconscious memory, the fact that it’s never been addressed or acknowledged growing up has led me to a lifetime of addictions and unhealthy behavior habits.
I think if my adoptive parents understood this, they would have been able to help me. In 1974 they were told to not talk about it and move on. Sweep the truth under the rug and press on with the “better life” theory and act as if this real trauma never existed. Once this trauma occurs, it can never be undone. Healing is possible, but in order to heal it we must feel it and the earlier we start to do this, the sooner we start to heal.
Adoptees deserve to heal.
I think as parents, we naturally want to take our children’s pain away, adopted or not. I’m a mom, I successfully have raised 3 kids to adult hood as a single parent and I have said many times, “I wish I could take your pain away” when they experience painful things in life. In acknowledging my own pain, I have been able to learn to acknowledge their pain.
There is a big difference in saying this but not reserving space for the pain to be processed vs saying this but also allowing space for the pain to be processed.
We can’t heal our wounds by saying they aren’t there.
While I believe many people have good intentions, we naturally don’t like to see people hurting, especially children. We want to help them, but the biggest mistake that can be made for an adoptee is when people try to fix us, or attempt to take our pain away by trying to make us “FEEL BETTER” without ever actually acknowledging that pain (trauma) to begin with. This is really life or death for adoptees everywhere. Of course, it’s life or death for anyone that’s been separated from their birth mothers, but I speak from an adoptees perspective so that’s the lens I’m sharing from.
The biggest deception in adoption today is that LOVE will somehow take the pain away, or that love will be enough. Well I’m here to share from my perspective and experience that love isn’t enough, and it will never be enough. The feeling of pain was far greater in my life than being able to FEEL LOVE. Let’s be honest, there has never been a safe space for me (or most adoptees) to share them until Adoptees Connect, Inc. Because my trauma and pain was so BIG and LOVE was presented to me as abandonment, LOVE is something that confuses me to this day. Love leaves, love is loss and love is abandonment. “My birth mother loved me so much, she gave me away” is my view of love. Because of this, LOVE has always been a foreign concept to me when it comes to other people loving me.
Having children of my own, I finally know what it’s like to love others, but I still struggle to this day believing or FEELING like anyone loves me. I know it’s rooted in my adoption experience because I’ve spent the last 7 years in recovery working on myself. I’ve been able to identify the root issue being abandonment & rejection from both birth parents, compiled with C-PTSD, grief, loss and trauma.
Throughout my entire life I longed for my birth mother. The sadness that followed is something I can’t even put into words, but it stuck with me my entire life. I drank alcohol for 27 years to COPE with this experience because I couldn’t handle processing this pain, but alcohol temporarily took the pain away. No amount of love, material possessions, people, places or things could make up for my trauma and loss of my birth mother at the beginning of life.
My birth mothers shortcomings didn’t matter to me
ALL I EVER WANTED WAS HER.
Instead of anyone trying to fix me, or take my pain away what I needed was my adoptive parents to open the conversations to allow me to process this pain at age appropriate times I needed them to know AHEAD OF TIME before they ever adopted me that the pain I would experience from relinquishment trauma will be with me for the rest of my life and it will negatively impact me in many ways. I needed them to research relinquishment trauma, pre and post-natal bonding between mother and child and what happens when that natural process is broken, and the bond is severed. I needed them to know their love wouldn’t be enough to fix me or to heal my broken heart. I needed them to know that no matter what they did and how they did it that it wouldn’t take my pain away. I needed them to know about the emotional and psychological issues I would suffer for my entire lifetime because of this trauma, many years beyond being a cute baby and a cuddly toddler. The sooner the reality and truth is brought to light, the better!
Avoidance will only work for so long, and then our emotions start to come out in unhealthy ways. I would much rather sit with my child and HELP them PROCESS the pain by allowing them to feel feelings than watch them self-destruct because they aren’t able to articulate the words about why they are feeling the way they are. We need our parents help to find the right words, and the space to be able to share freely how we are feeling about our adoption experiences. It’s impossible to tap into this when society silences adoptees unless they have a thankful and grateful narrative to spin.
WE HAVE TO STOP BEING SCARED TO SIT WITH SOMEONE IN THEIR PAIN.
WE HAVE TO STOP TRYING TO RUN FROM PROCESSING PAIN.
WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WE CAN’T PUT A TIME FRAME ON HEALING.
Pain is a natural response to different experiences that happen to us. I say all the time that the way adoptees feel is normal. What’s not normal is being separated from our biological families at the beginning of life. I say this to validate every single experience and feeling of every adoptee who might come across my words. I want them to know they aren’t alone, and they aren’t crazy!
I grew up, and here I am. I survived and I’m surviving daily. I’m in recovery from relinquishment trauma, compacted by adoption trauma. All I have really ever needed was my adoptive parents and those who aren’t adopted to acknowledge my pain, and in acknowledging that pain, sit with me and listen to me share pieces of my story. They need to understand that there is much more to adoption than what society shares. It’s not all cute and lovely. It’s not all happy and positive. All adoptions are rooted and grounded in the biggest loss of a persons life, and until that’s acknowledged adoptees will continue to be stuck like I was for so many years.
45 Years of my life I can never get back…
I knew someone awhile back who wanted to fix me and was constantly trying to make me feel better. I had to tell them to please stop it because there is nothing anyone can do to change my reality. I certainly don’t need anyone else to try to re-frame my reality for me as an attempt to make me “feel better”. What is so hard about acknowledging someone else’s pain, and just listening to them and sit with them in the pain?
I’m a realist who’s focused on the truth. I didn’t fight for 45 years to get my truth, to turn around and pretend it’s not my reality. I experienced that in the religious settings of my x-church which is known as “spiritual bypassing”. This is when someone uses spiritual practices to avoid dealing with reality. I’ve broken free from that, and I will never live a lie again. So, when I cling to my truth, I don’t appreciate anyone trying to come into my space and change it after I’ve fought my entire life to receive it and I’ve spent many years working towards healing from it.
As a child I never could acknowledge my painful truth because my adoptive parents were busy pretending, I was a blank slate, and they were my only parents. Reality, I had a broken past and history before I ever came to them but them denying it, and pretending like it didn’t exist wrecked me, and it still impacts me to this day. How do you think it feels to be a part of 2 families, but never being able to feel like you fully belong to either? Like an outsider always looking in. It’s extremely difficult to navigate so I’ve made the choice to opt out for my own sanity, mental health and recovery.
I share no DNA with my adoptive family, and I have no shared history with my biological family. I’m learning to adapt by accepting I will never truly be a part of either family, so I’ve moved far away across the country from everyone to try to recovery from this experience the best I can. I now have 3 adult children who are my family. Although, I’m 7 years into my sobriety and recovery journey and I consider myself an adoptee who’s worked through a lot of these issues, not one day goes by where being adopted doesn’t impact me in some way.
I’m thankful for my kids because without them I wouldn’t be here.
It’s us against the world.
We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
I’ve accepted that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life due to my adoption experience. Thankfully I’ve been an adoptee whose found my adoptee tribe that meets in real life and they get me. They understand and they will sit with me in my pain. They don’t put a time frame on it, they don’t try to silence me, and they understand the adoptee journey. This has been very validating, but I can’t help but wonder who’s narrative might change if other’s hear this side of the story?
Will adoptive parents stop trying to avoid dealing with the truth after reading this? Will non adoptees in society try to listen more and talk less, with compassion and understanding? Will they listen to what I have shared here? Will they try to learn more, and stop trying to bypass the process of dealing with the truth of adoptees all over the world? I can’t help but hope that if my adoptive parents had this information back in the day, they would do whatever they could to learn to understand the adoptee experience and having the willingness to listen and learn.