Adoptees, Mental Health & Daily Self-Care

Once again, I’m noticing a significant amount of changes in the adoptee community, and it’s helped me reevaluate and reorganize my commitments on where I stand within this community. We all have the abilities to make these choices for ourselves.

Back in 2010, when I started to emerge from the fog, Adopteeland (the online adoptee community) was a welcoming place to be in. It was a light to not only me but hundreds of thousands of fellow adoptees. We made online friends, we built online relationships, and we helped one another online when the other was down. 

I remember all of the “aha” moments I experienced in hearing other adoptees share their stories, and little by little, my story started to come out just like the adoptees I knew that shared their stories before me. It was empowering. I was finally able to tap into my deep-rooted issues that stem from being relinquished by my birth mother and being adopted into an abusive adoptive home. I started to share my feelings little by little, and it was validating and freeing in many ways. Eleven years of being completely consumed in Adopteeland has passed, and I’ve learned many things in that time. 

Part of sharing my feelings on my website has been for my healing, but it’s also to help my fellow adoptees who might be reading from afar so they know they aren’t crazy for feeling the way they feel. Our feelings are expected for a not normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from your biological mothers at the beginning of life. 

As years have passed, I saw the recognizable need for adoptee-centric spaces that meet in person, in our neighborhoods, and our communities. After a close call with my contemplation of ending my life in 2017, I decided I wanted to take all the pain I was carrying from my adoption experience and do something positive with it. For me, I describe it as finding purpose in the pain. It’s saved my life to create Adoptees Connect, Inc. In return, the resource itself has saved the lives of many adoptees around the USA and beyond who attend our in-person groups. 

Around 2018, I noticed an overwhelming and alarming amount of cyberbullying and cyber mobbing in Adopteeland. It was disturbing in every regard. I have seen fellow adoptees bully other adoptees to the point of attempting to take their own lives. It was so disturbing to see, and I created an Adoptees Connect Social Disclaimer because of this activity. I decided that any of the platforms I am a part of cannot and will not turn a blind eye to this type of behavior.  All of our volunteers and facilitators must agree to abide by this disclaimer to join our organization. 

I was hoping many of the other organizations in Adopteeland would follow suit, but sadly I have been greatly disappointed in that area. 

Let me be honest, aside from the adoptee vs. adoptee discord, the internet, in general, isn’t a safe space for anyone. Adopteeland is filled with triggers for adopted individuals, and time and time again, I see the fallout from these events. Someone is always getting hurt, and that’s never a good feeling. Adopteeland, just like the internet in general, is a breeding ground for keyboard warriors to flex their muscles and mistreat people disrespectfully and downright awful. Many people have big balls on the internet, even women. I have seen adoptees turn on other adoptees or adoptee-centric organizations and the drop of a dime. It doesn’t matter how much good they have done in the adoption community. This is the same community they wish to protect and care for. No one can be trusted on the internet. All of my real adoptee friends are ones I connect with offline, off the internet. There is a small group of them, and they know who they are. 

Because of the increasing toxicity of Adopteeland and the internet in general, I have decided to make some very significant changes for myself, and I hope you consider doing the same. First, I had to self-reflect and ask myself how these interactions with other adoptees and organizations made me feel? Do I feel consciously good about them, or do they leave me feeling drained, sad, depressed, isolated, and alone? Do they trigger me? How do I respond to the triggers? Are they interfering with my quality of life?

A lot of the time, I had so many fires in the oven all over Adopteeland, I sacrificed my time as if my commitments to Adopteeland were a full-time job. I knew the commitments created needed resources, and they were areas that had never been touched in the adoptee community before. I held my commitment to Adopteeland as one of the primary and most significant commitments of my life. This is 11 years of time I can never get back. 

I can’t lie; it’s taken a toll. 

I woke up one day and learned I had been misled by this community I put so much trust in because I saw what they would do to others. I knew they could do the same to me. Adopteeland can and will turn on you in a heartbeat, stab you in the back, and LITERALLY leave you for dead. Most of them don’t care about you. You are just another adoptee on the internet. I have seen adoptees set up cyber mob attacks towards other adoptees or organizations and not think twice about the person they are cyberbullying or what they might be going through in their personal lives. After many years of seeing my fellow adoptees get dragged through the mud, I realized I could no longer witness such travesties. My heart hurts and hurts deeply when I see these interactions online, and it aches me to the core to see adoptees harm fellow adoptees. This is not the community I want to put my hope, trust, and time into. This is one of the main reasons Adoptees Connect groups meet in person in real life. To bypass the internet and build genuine in-person relationships.

It’s life or death for many of us. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are adoptees worldwide whom I have built relationships with online and who mean the world to me, and I will never meet many of them in person. They aren’t included in the Adopteeland problematic scene. They are kind, loving, compassionate, and would do anything for the adoptee community. I would do anything for them. They know who they are. 

Adoptees are tender individuals, and no matter what anyone does that I don’t agree with or dislike, I don’t have a right to cyberbully them or set up cyber mobbing attacks on that adoptee or an adoptee-centric organization. If I was to lower myself to that type of activity, it’s CLEAR that Adopteeland isn’t a place for me. 

I think it is safe to say the old days of Adopteeland back in 2010 are dead and gone, and for my mental health, I have had to disconnect and release myself from 99.9% of adoptee-centric spaces on the internet. Let me be honest; I don’t give my time too much on the internet these days. I have a beautiful life to live, and I don’t like the primary bloodsucker (internet) stealing the most valuable thing I have, my time.

Another dynamic to my mental health is not over-committing myself to adoptee/adoption-centric responsibilities. I sometimes think, as adoptees, when we find the online community, we get so excited we jump all in headfirst. But the kicker for many of us is that we forget to swim back to shore and find life again. It’s sometimes tough, if not impossible, to find a happy balance between life outside of adoption commitments and to be adopted and finding happiness in the world. 

For me, Adopteeland and adoptee-centric activities have drained the life out of me. I think it’s so important that we listen to our bodies and make changes when things aren’t bringing us solitude and happiness. It’s essential that we learn that many things are for a season, and we’re not supposed to sit in Adopteeland or the Adoption arena FOREVER. It will keep us stuck, and I am a prime example that it’s kept me stuck for a long time. 

I don’t regret a minute of my time in Adopteeland, and I am not disappearing. However, I have to put my mental health first because my mental health suffering was impacting my physical health. I encourage anyone reading this to listen to your bodies and what they are telling you. It’s okay to back out of commitments and also prioritize them. 

Adoption and Adoptee related topics are draining AF. The internet and Adopteeland are draining AF. Self-care is an essential dynamic to being knee-deep in something as heavy as adoption. I have developed a very effective self-care routine, and most of the things I do to take care of myself have nothing to do with adoption other than writing. For me, this means removing myself from ALL THINGS ADOPTEE/ADOPTION at times. My self-care routine are the things I’ve found that re-energize me and allow me to stay grounded and centered. Hiking, walking, writing, reading, bonfires, sunrises, sunsets, outdoors, spending time with my kids and loved ones, my dogs, arts and crafts, kayaking, tending to my plant addiction, etc.

Staying in something so heavy so much of the time can and will impact our quality of life. 

I challenge you, if you are an adoptee in Adopteeland spaces, to be mindful of your emotional, mental, and physical health being challenged. Be aware of your interactions on the internet, with others and how you treat people, and how you allow them to treat you. Be mindful of the triggers you experience and how your body responds to the triggers. Adopteeland can be an unhealthy place to be involved in. In the beginning, it’s like you finally found your tribe, a euphoric feeling. It has a lot of pros to it, but all of a sudden, you get sucked into something, and your whole life is consumed into it, from the minute you wake up to the minute you lay your head down at night. Nothing as heavy as adoption can be healthy without consistent and committed self-care and a healthy balance.

Every. Single. Day. 

If anyone on the internet has mistreated you, adopted or not, I encourage you to report them if possible and block and ban them from all of your platforms. However, if you are the creator of a platform and allow this behavior to occur on your platform, I would like to ask you why you let abuse happen? Turning a blind eye, you are no better than the cyberbully or emotional abuser. I used to have a loyalty to the adoptees in Adopteeland, but that ship has sailed and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately, there are many problematic adoptees in Adopteeland, and I will not tolerate anyone’s bullshit. Period. 

We have to realize that sometimes people make mistakes in person and online. We’re all human beings, and we don’t always get it right. If you make a mistake and have tried to right your wrong, and someone won’t allow for an honest, professional, and open dialog to find a solution for the mishap, you can walk away. If someone drains the life out of you, you can walk away. If anyone is bullying you and cyber mobbing you, you do not have to tolerate this behavior. I wonder what the online cyber bullies would do if they pushed another human being over the edge to end their lives? Would they still advocate for adoptee suicide?

WALK AWAY. 

REPORT ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR. 

BLOCK. 

BAN. 

DELETE. 

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th is approaching. I picked one day on behalf of Adoptees Connect, Inc. to be a day we highlight Adoptee Suicide and all the other dynamics ARD symbolizes. I thought long and hard about this. One day was picked (over a week or month) because of the sensitive nature and focus of the day and how it can impact the adoptee community long term. One day seemed like a better idea than a week or a month because I worry about the mental health of anyone participating in such sensitive topics for a longer duration than a day. 

I am noticing the rise of a three-month highlight, starting with September being Adoptee Suicide Awareness Month, followed by October and November trailing on with some of the same highlights. I commend all adoptees who are pouring their hearts and souls into bringing awareness on such an important topic for the adoptee community. I support each of you!

First, of course, November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and it’s heavy and triggering for adoptees in its own way.  I worry significantly and even gravely for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of all the adoptees participating in these topics for up to three months in a row. Do they have the resources they need? Are people spreading love and light during a difficult time? Who’s on standby when someone is on overload with emotions piling up during such a lengthy focus on such a excruciatingly painful topic?

I know for sure, my emotional and mental well-being can only take one day of it, and I am dedicating that day to Adoptee Remembrance Day. After that, I can not and will not be able to participate in more. It’s just too heavy. I would die committing to more, and I am not saying this lightly. 

One of the main points of me writing this article is that I’m worried about the adoptee community, and I see some awful interactions happening that are harmful and hurtful to the productivity of so many amazing causes. I’ve witnessed dark sides of adoptees I have known online and loved for years that I never thought I would see. In experiencing and seeing these things, I will continue to take steps back away from the same community I have poured my heart and soul into for 11+ years. My main focus is Adoptees Connect, Inc., and that’s the only commitment I have time for these days. Keep in mind, while Adoptees Connect does have a social media account on Facebook and Instagram, the root and main focus of the entire vision of the organization is creating OFFLINE adoptee-centric spaces that meet in person, in real life for many of these reasons. That’s where I choose to put my focus, time, and energy. I can’t get sucked into online drama, and I avoid it to the fullest at all costs. 

Please be careful with your online interactions and the amount of trust you put into Adopteeland. Please give yourself the gift of walking away from anything, anyone, and everything that doesn’t serve your emotional, mental and physical health positively. If Adopteeland is too triggering for you, either walk away entirely or set yourself boundaries and participate in small microdoses. Understand and recognize when your time’s up, and you can cross over to finding other fulfilling things in life. If you don’t do it on your own, your body will do it for you!  

Take care of yourself, and above all things, please put your Mental Health first. 

For any adoptees struggling right now, here are some Recommended Resources we have listed on the Adoptees Connect website. Please share them in your online communities.

Love, Love. 

*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

Join Us in Celebrating the Launch of the Adoptee Remembrance Day Website Powered by Adoptees Connect, Inc.

We are eager and enthusiastic to unveil the Adoptee Remembrance Day website with you! As the very first Annual Adoptee Remembrance Day launched in 2020, it’s created a firestorm of activities across the globe that take part in this day. Such a symbolic day for the adoptee community needed its very own space to share upcoming news, events, articles, and all things – Adoptee Remembrance Day.

What is Adoptee Remembrance Day?

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th serves several purposes.

It raises public awareness of crimes against adoptees by adoptive parents, an action that current media does not recognize. It also allows us to publicly mourn and honor the lives of our brothers and sisters who we have lost who might otherwise be forgotten. It raises awareness about adoptee suicide, shining a light on a difficult topic. Through these actions, we express love and respect for the adoptee community. Adoptee Remembrance Day reminds others that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends, and lovers. Adoptee Remembrance Day gives our allies a chance to step forward with us, memorializing those who have died too soon, and it also recognizing the loss all adopted people experience, before they’re actually adopted.

While this topic remains sensitive in nature, adoptees who are murdered by their adoptive parents is increasing around the world. It is a time to honor their legacy by setting aside a day just for them. While those who have passed away before us, are no longer able to speak and share their stories or voices, there are many adoptees today who are paving the way for the voiceless to become strong enough to share their voices and stories. We are the voice of the voiceless.

We also recognize that there are international adoptees who are living without citizenship and/or have been deported due to mistakes by adoptive parents, adoption agencies, attorneys, and ultimately, the U.S. adoption system. Some international adoptees must survive abuse and neglect, including in regards to their citizenship, from their adoptive parents. We honor the adoptees who did not survive or are struggling to survive their deportations to countries they left as children where they have no support network and limited access to support services, including mental health care, clothing, food, and shelter. Lack of citizenship is a tragic and often unacknowledged issue facing the adoptee community. Please visit Adoptees for Justice to learn more.

This is what Adoptee Remembrance Day is all about.

While our first annual Adoptee Remembrance Day in 2020 was a day that was echoed all around the world, it is evident that it was only the beginning. As the years pass, our hope is this day grows larger and continues to expand across the globe. We hope that the truth about relinquishment trauma is recognized, acknowledged, and addressed as a critical component before any adoption ever takes place. We want to raise awareness of the complexities that adopted people experience by hearing the voices of those who have the lived experiences, the adopted individuals themselves. We want to honor those adoptees we have lost from suicide and at the hands of their adoptive parents by setting a day aside to recognize them and the loss we feel without them.

We are honored to share the first story on the new Adoptee Remembrance Day website by the highly thought of Sara Graves. Sara has agreed to share her story publicly, and we couldn’t be more proud of her and honored to share it as we unveil the new website. We admire her willingness to share her story and applaud her strength in this process. To help us celebrate Sara and her story, please visit the Adoptee Remembrance Day website and leave her a message of support and love. You can view Sara’s story by clicking here.

Don’t forget to follow the Adoptee Remembrance Day website and the Facebook page. You can RSVP to the next Adoptee Remembrance Day by clicking here. Have an idea for the next Adoptee Remembrance Day? Please submit it here.

To everyone who has participated on this day, thank you. We’re sending love and light around the world, and as adoptees share their truth, our voices get stronger together. Adoptee Remembrance Day 2021 is only a few months away. Please reach out to us if you would like to get involved by sending us a message here. – Pamela Karanova, Adoptees Connect, Inc.

Help Support the Growth of our Growing Network!

Adoptees Connect Inc. is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) public charity. Donations to Adoptees Connect are tax deductible as allowed by law. Please consult your tax advisor regarding deductibility. EIN: 83-1862971. Thank you for your generosity in helping our vision move forward.

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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