I will do my best to share from a place of grace because a lot is on the line here, but I also refuse to sugarcoat things to make them comfortable for anyone who reads this article. Hopefully, I can reach a middle ground that relays the message yet shares what is at stake in an upfront way.
The lives of adopted individuals are in a crisis, and there is no time to wait in sharing this truth or to ponder on those who might take this article as a slap in the face or offensive.
First things first, this article is for anyone who knows and loves an adopted individual and for those who can step into their shoes to try to gain a level of understanding that adoption might not be all you have known it to be.
Do you have the emotional and mental capacity to do that?
Are you open-minded and can see that other perspectives are entirely possible?
If the answer is “YES,” Please continue.
If you can’t do that, don’t bother reading any further.
Your time will be wasted.
This information is for those who want to learn and those who can see beyond their own level of experience, knowledge, and understanding.
My entire life, I’ve been silenced, shut down, and ridiculed by non-adopted individuals, and I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of seeing my fellow adoptees treated this way, and I can’t help but wonder if people understand the depts of their words and actions? Do they know their responses to us sharing feelings could be a life or death response from the adoptee?
Adoptees are DYING!
I can’t help but give some of these people the benefit of the doubt that it’s not just adopted people they treat this way, but all people because they never learned the actual value of acknowledging someone’s feelings, sitting with others in their sadness, and also having empathy for others and trying to understand their viewpoints. I have learned the hard way, this is a gift, and not everyone has it.
I have recently seen an adoptee share a meme (see below) on a social media post, and a long-time friend & family member decided to post a comment on the meme. This is what they said, “I don’t get it. Would you have rather grown up in an orphanage or foster care?” This reminds me of all the times we get, “Would you rather have been aborted?” or the infamous “You should be thankful you were adopted!”
I couldn’t help but jump in and go to the defense of this young lady, who is a fellow adoptee, because his comment struck a chord with me. Even when the meme said, “Adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide – Listen before its too late,” and he still didn’t have the common sense that it was OBVIOUS that the adoptee shared this for very valid and legit reasons. Gaslighting her into feeling bad about sharing it was an awful thing to do. Talk about insensitive and offensive to the adoptee experience, yet how many adoptees experience this daily?
If we emerge from the fog and start sharing our feelings, we are always in fear someone will jump on us or tell us we’re ungrateful, and it can and does cause us to shrink back from sharing our truth.
My point in sharing here is that you have no idea what it feels like to be an adoptee if you aren’t adopted. You don’t have a clue about the complexities that we carry around with us daily. You have two choices. To listen and try to learn from us OR you can turn the other way and ignore us like we’re the ungrateful adoptees the world says we are. BUT YOU WILL NOT continue to gaslight us and minimize our pain and suffering when it takes us our whole lives to get to a space where we feel confident enough to share our feelings.
I know so many adoptees who have been on the edge of taking their own lives at various times in their lives. I am one of those adoptees. But, unfortunately, one friend or a family member can say something that literally can and will and has sent an adoptee over the edge of taking their own life, and there is no coming back. It happens all the time!
It blows me away that even when this meme says what it says, this individual had to insert his ignorant and self-serving comment without ever asking the adoptee, “Hey, I’m wondering if you can help me understand this better? I would love to learn from you!”
I wrote an article back in 2014 – Just Listen, That is All. But if you want to do the world a favor, try to LEARN something new while you listen to adoptees share their experiences. It truly is a humbling thing when we come to a place in life where we acknowledge and accept that we don’t know everything and we can learn a lot of things from other people.
If you have made it this far and are a friend or family member of an adopted person, thank you for reading. I would like to invite you not to comment when an adoptee shares feelings unless it’s coming from a place of support and understanding. What would you do if your comment was the breaking point for that person, and it was the last straw for them to feel once again invalidated, unheard and unacknowledged? You would have to live with that for the rest of your life, and there is no bringing that adoptee back.
Like the meme says, LISTEN BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!
How hard is it?
TOO HARD FOR SOME PEOPLE!
National Adoption Awareness Month is coming up, and so is Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, and a lot of adoptees will be sharing feelings, thoughts, and emotions during these times. I invite everyone reading to try to understand the WHYS better when adoptees share how they are feeling.
It costs nothing to be a kind and empathetic human being.
I am thankful you are here for the adoptees who have made it this far because I want to invite you to cut these insensitive and harmful people out of your life. You do not need anyone in your life who tries to shut you down, silence you, and minimize your legitimate feelings. I encourage you to block, ban and delete anyone who can’t create space for you to share your story and emotions. Those are not your people, and it might be hard but do it anyway. You deserve to have people in your life who are understanding and empathetic for you and all that you carry. Allowing harmful people in your life will not serve you well in the long run.
Family or not, they have to go.
Put yourself first, and set firm boundaries.
*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
Trigger Warning: Abuse, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Suicide
Please consider reading my previous two articles before reading this one. They will help you understand this article better. You will find them here and here.
As I started to get my feet wet to learn about Internal Family Systems, the first part of me has presented herself.
I named her Gooddamn Green Girl.
It’s 6:11 am on Saturday, March 6, 2021. I set my alarm for 5:00 am this morning, so I could get up early and do some housework, brew some coffee and write an article about Goddamn Green Girl.
I’m already in tears, thinking about her. I’ve learned on my healing journey; tears aren’t something to run from; they are therapeutic. As soon as the thoughts about Goddamn Green Girl come to my mind, an enormous amount of pain follows her. Anger and rage are at the forefront of my perception. Goddamn Green Girl isn’t sharing her life for sympathy, or for anyone to feel sorry for her. She’s sharing because it’s evident that she’s never been heard or listened too so having the space to share her thoughts is a big deal to her, especially living a life never having a voice.
The IFS model has given her a voice, and that alone is a critical step for her. You would expect for me to start at the beginning, where the core of relinquishment trauma resides for me being adopted. However, Goddamn Green Girl has stood out to me first, as being the soul protector of self, making the most significant impact in my life. If I don’t start with her first, I don’t think I will identify my other parts to follow. To learn more about Internal Family Systems click here.
Goddamn Green Girl made her grand entrance around 12 years old. To read some of her pre-teen backstory, you can visit here. She was rooted in abandonment, abuse, and trauma, and as she grew in her persona, the hardness of her heart grew as well. She discovered alcohol, which was an everyday part of her life, beginning at 12 years old. She never fit in anywhere, not even in her own skin.
Her name is significant to her journey. Her adoptive mom would always threaten she would go to hell for using the Lord’s name in vain, so it made her want to do it more. Trust me; she did it more. She also told her she would hell for dating outside her race, but she never acknowledged Goddamn Green Girl didn’t even know her ethnicity. Dating others looking nothing like her seemed safer to her; at least she knew they weren’t a biological sibling. Knowing she was going to hell made her want to rebel more, and she did. Her favorite color was neon green, and this is why her name is Goddamn Green Girl. She was rebellious, and she was hell on wheels. At all costs, Goddamn Green Girl was a protector, because no one else was looking out for her.
In the deep space of Goddamn Green Girl, she was experiencing the biggest disappointment of her life. She found out she was adopted around five years old, and she set up a false hope that her biological mother giving her away had to be a big mistake. Who would give their baby away and mean it? She believed her birth mother would come back to rescue her, and she waited and waited and waited.
She hates waiting, and finds it to be a huge trigger.
Her adoptive parents divorced, and her adoptive dad remarried and moved away to raise a new family. She would visit her adoptive dad every other weekend during her childhood, where an older stepbrother sexually abused her. Her adoptive mom had always shown signs of mental instability. Before and after adopting two daughters, she showed signs of emotional and mental discord. The home she grew up in grew more and more toxic and emotionally abusive. I will write more about what I experienced in this home soon as I share more parts.
Goddamn Green Girl was sprouted from a 10-11-year-old girl who grew up in an abusive adoptive home, and after escaping this environment each day, she found herself in the streets of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The newfound freedom she experienced was a freedom she had never felt before. She liked it, but truthfully, she was acting out in pain. The reality had finally set in that her birth mother wasn’t coming back. Deep down, she was broken-hearted. No one understood the complexities of her grief, which showed up as anger, self-hate, and rage.
At 12 years old, she was arrested for the first time with a group of kids who burglarized a laundry mat. This was her first experience with breaking the law, and it was only the beginning. She soon became dependent on alcohol to take her pain away, and running the streets was a daily ordeal. She only went home to shower, change clothes, and hit the streets again.
She remembers looking in the mirror at this age and having no idea who was looking back at her. Who did she look like? Where did she come from? This was when her self-hate and sabotage began, and it was a deep part of her life for many years to come. In the back of her mind, being outside running the streets, she had a chance at running into her biological family. She was hopeful that she would find her birth mother one day, and her spirit was never going to be settled until she did.
She became acquainted with a family by becoming friends with two sisters, who took her in as a little sister. Their older brother, who was 18-19, showed Goddamn Green Girl attention, and around 13 years old, She was in her first relationship with him. She so desperately wanted to belong and be a part of a family; most of the time, she never wanted to go home. Let’s be honest; she didn’t want to go home anyway. This just gave her more reason to stay away. She spent close to a year going back and forth between this house and her own, showering and going right back. Keep in mind; alcohol was always available here, and soon, it would become her best friend.
Around the age of 14, she experienced the first physical abuse from the relationship she was in, and instead of run away from the abuse, she kept going back. She thought this must be what love is, right? Why would he go to the extent of abusing me if he didn’t care? At least he didn’t leave me as my biological mother did. The whole concept of him choking her and slapping her showed her he loved her. Kind of like her birth mother giving her away, love always equaled pain.
The abuse continued, and she started to fight back, which only made it worse. They set her up to be raped in an attic at a house party, and they succeeded. She wanted to belong so badly; even after this, she went back. Her view of love was utterly skewed. When your biological mother “loves you so much she gives you away,” it’s easy to have a toxic idea of love. It’s a mental mind fu*k in itself. They also tried to rape her on the kitchen floor in broad daylight, where someone else stopped them and helped her out of there that day. At first, she had no memory of it because they made sure she was intoxicated first. Later, pieces of these memories came back, and they plagued her mind for years to come. This information was tucked away, locked up never to be told to anyone. Shame took over. After the rape attempt, she decided she wasn’t going back to this house anymore, but it was only because someone else convinced her not to go back. If they hadn’t, she would likely have gone back. No one knew her experiences at this house, and she was ashamed and blamed herself. If she weren’t drinking alcohol, this would have never happened—more deep-rooted hate set in, more profound than before.
Goddamn Green Girl always had trouble in school and could never seem to focus on what was in front of her. Traditional school was not an option as anxiety being around so many other people would make her physically ill. She ended up dropping out of traditional school, and off and on she attended the school for “the bad kids.” The idea of being labeled as one of the bad kids, lined up with her feelings of being bad just for being born, and abandoned by her birth mother.
Badness followed her everywhere she went.
It was in her DNA.
Soon, she was onto the next abusive boyfriend. He had controlling ways, and her mind, that was also love. If he didn’t love her, he wouldn’t care or stay. Love leaves, right? He stayed. She ended up pregnant by him at 15 years old, and she miscarried the baby due to the abuse he inflicted on her. She often wonders about the child she would have had, at 15 years old. She always felt like he would have been a boy. What would he have been like? How old would he be now? This relationship and this kind of abuse was much more extreme than the first if you can even imagine that. She doesn’t want to go into much detail, but he was angry and rage-filled and was known in the city she grew up in as tough, and she was his punching bag. But she loved him, and she believed he loved her, so she stayed with him until she was 17 years old.
During that time, she was a runaway. She was in and out of several group homes, detention centers, drug, and alcohol treatment, and she broke the law more times than she can even try to remember. She hoped somewhere along the way, someone would kill her, but only after trying to take her own life didn’t work.
No one even noticed.
While in drug and alcohol treatment at 15 years old, she was put in a hospital room and handed the big book from Alcoholics Anonymous. It was apparent she needed to get familiar with this book, or she was never going to make it out of this locked facility. One of the first confusing areas for her was the concept of finding God, and that was something she had to do to make it out. She knew of God because her adoptive mom read the bible, read her devotionals, and threatened her with hell throughout her life. Is this the same God? Goddamn Green Girl decided to fake it until she made it out of this treatment facility. Not one time was her root issue of relinquishment trauma, compacted by adoption trauma ever discussed. Just like all of her therapy appointments throughout her entire life, adoption was never addressed.
Goddamn Green Girl hated herself, She hated the world, and She hated everyone in it. Her grief, loss, abandonment & rejection showed up as rage. She continuously provoked physical altercations with others, but her acts of violence on others were actually how she felt deep-down about herself. If her own mother didn’t want her, who else would want her? The more she hated herself, the more alcohol she drank, the more she was arrested, and the more she just wanted to die.
The reality was the pain was so great; she didn’t want to feel it anymore. Where was God? If this was his plan for her life, F*ck him. Dying seemed like the only way out. She just wanted to find her people; She wanted her truth; She wanted to find her way home, to her biological family, because all that was missing from their life had to be her. They were all that was missing from her life. In the back of her mind, She had a tremendous hope that they must be looking for her, and it was only a matter of time until she found her way back home. She felt that ANYTHING had to be better than the abusive adoptive homes she grew up in.
Therapy was a constant part of Goddamn Green Girls life, from the age of 5+. Therapists were never equipped to open the topics of root issues of relinquishment trauma or adoption trauma, so Goddamn Green Girl never worked on the root issues. Around 18 years old, she found herself in another therapist’s office. This time was the first time she shared the childhood sexual abuse from her oldest adopted stepbrother.
She was encouraged to contact her adopted father and her adopted stepmother to share this news. Over the next 30 years of her life, they ignored her and never validated her experience as valid. They never addressed the issue, and Goddamn Green Girl felt ignored entirely, which added further destruction to her life of being invalidated and heard.
Until the age of 21, Gooddamn Green Girl lived a life in the streets while paving a destructive path everywhere she went. What changed everything for her was having her first baby in 1994, who finally give her something to live for when she didn’t want to live for herself. She was up for many new challenges, learning how to be a mother when she never had a healthy example of one was at the top of the list. She was determined to go back to school, graduate and make something of herself. Goddamn Green Girl still shows up sometimes, and she will always be a part of Pamela’s life. She’s learning to acknowledge her and to give her what she needs, which is something no one else has done.
Goddamn Green Girls adoptive mom finally came clean at 21 years old after a lifetime of deception; (lying she knew Goddamn Green Girls truth) that she knew who who her biological mother was. Her initial reaction was more rage, for being lied too. However, she was set out on a new search, to find the woman she had dreamed about her whole life, her birth mother. Alcohol was still her best friend, and it was the only way she knew how to cope with a lifetime of pain, and what has passed and what was to come. From a runaway teenager, to a new mom – she finally had something to live for. Now Goddamn Green Girl was a mother, of a beautiful baby girl. ❤
Now that I (Pamela/Self) have been able to identify Goddamn Green Girl, and acknowledge her part in my life, I am able to sit with her and nurture her which is something no one else has ever done. She visits frequently, in different experiences I have in life, and she’s triggered frequently also. Learning the dynamics to Goddamn Green Girl, and her triggers is helping my SELF understand and make sense of it all. Through IFS, I’m learning that none of our parts are bad, even when much of this article is heavy, I acknowledge that Goddamn Green Girl is a part of me who was protecting other parts of me. And she was brought to life, out of my child and baby parts. I am currently identifying them as well, and they will be shared in the near future.
For my fellow adoptees, have you been able to identify any of your parts? Child, teen or adult? Have you ever used IFS therapy? What’s your experience been like?
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
My close friend Stephani has hipped me to the world of Internal Family Systems – IFS, and it’s changed my life. I will be candid, Stephani has been talking about doing “Parts Work” for as long as I’ve known her, but I had no idea what the context of “Parts Work” meant. As my relationship with Stephani has gotten stronger over the last few years, she’s helped me identify different parts of me when we’ve had conversations about life experiences.
Over time, it’s sparked my interest in wanting to get to the bottom of what “parts of me” even means.
IFS is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts. We believe the mind is naturally multiple, and that is a good thing. Just like members of a family, inner parts are forced from their valuable states into extreme roles within us. We also all have a core Self.
Self is in everyone. It can’t be damaged. It knows how to heal.
The more I learned about IFS, the more I began to identify different parts of me, and I started to evaluate what role these parts have played in my life currently and back to my childhood at my earliest memories. I am still at the beginning stages of learning about IFS, so my writing might be based on the level of understanding and experience I currently have with IFS. I feel the need to share this because I am still learning.
One of the many IFS dynamics I am drawn towards is the concept that we all have parts, and we all have SELF. Self is the true us and who we are. IFS guides each of us to know that we have no bad or negative parts, and all of our parts have served a great purpose. These parts have been protectors to help protect SELF from harmful experiences at some point along our journeys. They can surface at different areas of life as protectors, and sometimes they stay in the background, not surfacing at all.
Moving forward, I want to share some of the parts of me that I identify as I move forward with the Internal Family Systems Model. Example – I have already identified one of my teenage parts. I’ve named her and acknowledged different times when she shows up in my current life and what she protected me from in my teen years. I’ve been able to identify and tap into her feelings, and she’s already shared a lot of her role with other people. In doing this, she already feels she has a voice, which has never happened. She’s shared things about her that have been locked inside for 46 years. Sharing is healing, so even this small step has created an extended-release for me.
I’ve identified one of my five-year-old parts, and I’ve also named her. She played a pivotal role in my childhood. I want to share more about her in a separate article. I’ve identified one of my pre-five-year-old parts, and I haven’t come up with a name for her yet. She holds the terror and trauma from relinquishment separation from being given up for adoption. As I navigate my IFS journey and move forward with understanding these parts, I hope to know how these parts impact me to this day and what they have protected me from in the past.
This all might seem like a strange foreign language because I can relate. Those were my thoughts in the beginning. However, when I have tried EVERYTHING under the sun to heal my adoptee/relinquishee issues, and nothing has worked, it leaves me in a state of mind where I’m willing to try anything. The more I learn about IFS – the more it makes sense to me. It’s given me a new tool to discover and learn about layers of myself, which has given me a new fresh wind at trying to figure it all out. It’s given me a chance to provide a voice for all the parts of me who have so desperately wanted to be heard, but no one has been available to listen.
Some of the questions I have –
Why am I the way I am?
Are my ways serving me a good purpose?
What do I need to identify and change?
Now I can begin to understand my sensitivities and where they come from?
Healing can happen from these discoveries. I’m excited to start the IFS process and share some of my self-discoveries with you. I feel this model might be something that other adopted individuals might consider learning more about. One thing is for certain; healing isn’t going to come knocking on our doors. It’s up to each of us to seek healing ways out, and that’s going to look different for each of us. As I move forward with learning more about IFS, and the process of seeing a new adoptee/therapist I want to share my discoveries with you all. Even if it helps one adoptee, it’s worth the share.
A special shout out to my close friend Stephani – Thank you for your willingness in sharing your parts with me, thank you for encouraging me to learn my parts. Thank you for listening to me share about my parts. Thank you for your transparency, and most of all THANK YOU FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP! XOXO P
To my fellow adoptees, do you know anything about IFS? Have you tried using it in the past? Are you currently using this model? If so, what’s your experience been like? Has it helped you? If so, how?
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