Good Adoptee vs. Bad Adoptee By Pamela A. Karanova
Trigger Warning // Suicide
While my sneak life brought me some fulfillment in my childhood, what was going on inside behind closed doors was something almost no one knew about.
Patricia suffered from untreated manic depressive disorder and what I believe to be schizophrenic episodes. She had manic episodes regularly, and they would be integrated with emotional outbursts that created a very toxic environment. Some days were worse than others, but one thing is for sure, I don’t remember any days where she resembled a happy and healthy mother.
She would get angry with us on a bad day and tie us to the dining room chairs with dish towels. Next, she would tie the towels together to make a longer towel, sometimes several. Finally, she tied them around our waist and our mouths with our hands tied behind our backs. She would leave us there whenever she needed us to be out of her way, sometimes minutes and sometimes hours. No telling what the reason was she did this; it could be because I kept running outside every chance I could to escape or because she needed to take a nap.
She would regularly cry hysterically and complain about how much of a failure she was as a parent. She was sick A LOT! She resented Thomas for leaving her to raise two adopted daughters independently. She was constantly taking prescription medications. She would over-medicate herself as a way to escape her reality. Most of the time, it would make her sleepy, so she was always going to sleep and taking naps, sometimes many times a day. She slept a lot, and throughout my entire childhood, I never remember her having a good day.
I always had this deep-rooted feeling of being flawed because of how sad my mom was all the time. Combining that with the abandonment from my birth mother, my feelings of badness only increased as I grew into my preteen years. “I’m sorry” was something I sometimes said to Patricia a hundred times a day. She and Melanie were constantly fighting about everything, you could imagine. They would get into physical altercations regularly, and it seemed like Melanie was definitely the bad adoptee. Not to my standards, but from how Patricia treated her, She was always the target, and they never got along.
Melanie told me that she and Patricia got in a physical fight in the basement one time. I’m not sure what the argument was about. Melanie said; she ran up the stairs to escape Patricia’s wrath. However, Patricia grabbed a pair of scissors and started chasing Melanie up the stairs while shouting, “Here, kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty!” I can imagine this scared Melanie significantly, and eventually, she got away from her by running to our bedroom and slamming the door shut.
I was always stuck somewhere in the middle of the blowouts with Patricia and Melanie. My role was to gravitate toward my mother to try to comfort and console her. It’s no doubt that I was the good adoptee in Patricia’s eyes. I remember almost every single fight they had; I was in charge of trying to make Patricia feel better. These are big shoes to fill, and it was all I knew.
She would cry hysterically while sitting on the couch. So I would sit next to her, rub her back, and say, “It’s okay, mommy I’m sorry, mommy.” She would talk about how mean her family was to her growing up and how she had an abortion at a young age, and not long after, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which resulted in a total hysterectomy. She adopted children because she aborted the only child she could have ever had, and she talked about this constantly. She also made it known from a young age that she never wanted to go to a nursing home. She would even go to the lengths of listing the reasons why.
She seemed never to stop crying about these things and, of course, the divorce. She would cry about never knowing who her father was and that she felt like a failure as a mother. The burden of her life and failures felt like they were planted on my shoulders from the time I could walk. This was a reoccurring theme in my childhood that happened almost daily. So now, you might understand why I was always about that sneak life. Fuck this shit; I was out of here on the regular!
It’s not that I didn’t care about Melanie, because I did, but Patricia made everything about her. She was always the victim in every altercation, even when she was the adult in the house. Normal disagreements never get dealt with appropriately; they usually were a big ordeal, and Melanie, the bad adoptee, was always to blame. On the other hand, the good adoptee would always come to the rescue to comfort my crying adoptive mom. It was a full-time job and never-ending.
I remember we started seeing therapists at a very young age, so many I can’t even count. Believe it or not, we never discussed adoption in my childhood with any of the therapists or my adoptive parents. We would all have to build a report with the therapists and have solo sessions and sessions as a family. After several visits, the reoccurring theme was that the therapists would tell Patricia politely that she was acting like a child instead of a parent.
The therapist would offer her suggestions on managing her emotions so the blowups in the house didn’t escalate into volcanos! They would create ways we could de-escalate by all of us agreeing to a time-out. Then, when a blowup was about to happen, we would all go to our bedrooms, close the door, and have a cool-off period. Sounds simple, right?
There was only one problem when we would go to our bedroom to shut the door, Patricia would be outside the door screaming and banging on our door for us to open it up, and we always would. So this idea never worked when we used this tactic. But when Patricia wanted to do it, it was a whole different ball game.
She would get butt hurt that the therapist would direct everything back to her parenting style and her emotional and mental outbursts. Then, finally, they told her she needed to be the one to change because we were just kids. So Patricia would get upset, go home in a rage, and never see that specific therapist again. It was like we were on a neverending merry-go-round of seeing therapists, and this pattern was happening every single time. I’m not sure why Melanie and I didn’t tell the therapists about everything going on in the house. Maybe we were scared? Regardless of the reason, we kept many things from them, or CPS would have been contacted immediately, and they never were.
I didn’t want to be the good adoptee, and I didn’t want Melanie to be the bad adoptee. I felt bad for Melanie all the time. We didn’t ask for this setup; however, it was all we knew for our entire childhoods. Because of this, Melanie and I never had a chance growing up to be close like most sisters are. Instead, we had Patricia spinning the triangulation tactics between all three of us for an entire lifetime.
It was exhausting being in this home around such an unstable and unhappy mother. This pushed me to dream more and more about my birth mother. I thought about her nonstop and dreamed that she would come back and get me one day after realizing that giving me up for adoption was a big mistake. Who would give their baby away to strangers and mean it? It was incomprehensible to me. I was waiting on her to change her mind and come back for me. Indeed, my chances of finding her or her finding me were always bigger if I was out of the house!
I fantasized about how beautiful she was and what the day would be like when she showed back up because, in my mind, if she “loved me so much,” she would eventually show back up. She had to be a better mother than Patricia, and she had to be looking for me like I was looking for her. Everywhere I went growing up, I searched for her face in crowds. I would look for women who had the same skin tone and hair color I did. Are you my mother? I would wonder.
By the time I was ten years old, Patricia had graduated from nursing school as an R.N. I think it’s lovely she had the dream of being a nurse and even raising two kids as a single parent; she made it happen. But how would she be a nurse with such emotional and unstable outbursts?
We lost Title-19, and we moved to an apartment at 4009 Westover Road, Apt #6. It was a 655 Square foot, 3rd-floor apartment, which was a stark difference from the big grey house on 13th street. We moved on an evening during a school night, and I will never forget how tired and hungry we were. Around 10 PM, we asked Patricia if we could have something to eat; however, there was not much to pick from just moving.
Patricia found a Lipton onion soup mix box tucked down in a big ” Kitchen box. She was able to heat it in the microwave, giving us each a cup. But, of course, with this being broth and no real food, we weren’t happy with it.
Melanie and Patricia get into an altercation that escalates into another blowup fight. I think Melanie was brave and confronted Patricia on certain things, whereas I was passive at that time. I did anything to keep the peace.
The next thing we know, Patricia takes off, flying out the apartment door and down the steps. Melanie and I have no idea where she is going, so we decide to look out our 3rd-floor apartment window to find Patricia lying in the street, trying to commit suicide!
Of course, we would have never expected to see that in all our lives. We both began to cry hysterically because we didn’t want our mom to die. We surely didn’t want to see it happen! Terror took over. What the fuck were we supposed to do? I am confident I blacked out or disassociated during this time because it was a very traumatic experience for me to witness.
I am not sure what happened to escalate out of this episode. Did she get up on her own? Did a car come and help her, or someone who maybe saw her? Did Melanie and I run down to get her up? I have no idea, and I will never know. Somehow things went back to “normal,” but my life would never be the same after this incident. Still to this day, I have visions of this situation that revisit like a reoccurring movie theme.
Melanie and I still shared an even smaller bedroom, but we put bunk beds in the middle of the room, which left about 3 feet of space on each side we could call our own. We plastered posters all over our walls to mark which side was ours. I loved Poison, Motley Crew, and Guns N Roses. Melanie loved Boy George!
With a 700-square-foot apartment, we were all three, literally on top of one another. I had no idea how awful things would become, but I was about to find out. Not long after moving into the apartment on Westover Rd, Melanie and I started to have altercations independently, without Patricia spinning things in the middle each time. I mean she did that also, but at times we didn’t need her help. I remember Melanie would attack me countless times, pin me to the ground, and sit on top of me. She would hold me down by clawing my arms until I started to bleed from her nails digging into my skin. I would beg her to get off of me and stop, but she was stronger than me and overpowered me on the regular. I was still the good adoptee, and now I saw her in the light as the bad adoptee because I felt like she was bullying me. I still believe that Patricia set us up to be against one another from day one. So it’s no wonder we started to tango!
Another day, another outburst from Patricia. But once we moved into the apartment, her outbursts would become so outrageous that she started to threaten suicide regularly. She not only threatened suicide, but she took her shoebox filled with prescription pills to her bedroom; she locked the door and also took the house phone with her so we could never call for help. Her threats of killing herself and locking herself in her room, locking us out, were exceptionally traumatic. She did this a lot!
I remember vividly banging on the bedroom door for hours, begging her not to kill herself, and crying hysterically. Just like her lying in the middle of the road trying to kill herself, I am confident I blacked out or disassociated again because I have no memories of how we escalated out of these episodes, only the hysteria I felt begging my mom not to kill herself. These memories have always plagued my mind, and they dominate anything good that came out of living with Patricia. This was not a safe home, and I did not feel loved. Chaos was a nonstop companion at no choice of my own or Melanie’s.
Soon, I would find another escape plan for myself that opened my life to a whole new world. It was easy to escape from the big grey house because we had three doors that led outside. However, the apartment on the third floor of Westover road only had one. I learned that I could open my bedroom window, and at the time, I could climb down the wooden panels that were like steps to the ground. This turned out to be my number one way to escape the disfunction and constant fighting I lived with within this family. Even climbing down three stories which were exceptionally dangerous for a ten or 11-year-old, I soon became a professional escape artist. Sneak life was back in full effect!
But first, it was time for a weekend visit with Thomas and Laura. So we packed our bags as if we were staying a lifetime, leaving only for the weekend. It was 5 PM on Friday, and we would get to escape Patricia’s wrath for a few days. We would be dropped back off Sunday at 5 PM.
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