How Does It Feel To Be Adopted? – Melissa Guida-Richards

blog picBIO: Melissa Guida-Richards is a 25 years old stay at home mom that discovered she was adopted at nineteen years old. She created the blog spoonie-mama.com to be a helpful resource to other mothers dealing with chronic pain, the challenges of motherhood, and the struggles of being adopted. Melissa is also an aspiring children’s picture book author, that creates own voices stories that will touch the hearts of many. Her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Criminal Justice has helped her learn so much about mental health in our society, and she hopes to help many families affected.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

Lo siento, no hablo español.

By: Melissa Guida-Richards

Imagine waking up every day looking different than your parents

Asking yourself who you look like

Why your skin color is darker

Imagine working in a store and people coming up to you speaking a different language

“I don’t speak Spanish, I’m sorry”

And you are truly sorry

But not for them but yourself

Imagine they give you the look

You know what that look means

What kind of Hispanic doesn’t speak Spanish?

Imagine hating yourself because you know more Italian

You eat pasta almost every day

You hate rice and beans

Imagine not fitting in with your family

Imagine hating them but yet loving them all the same

Imagine coming to college and trying to embrace your true culture

But being so embarrassed because you don’t fit in with other Hispanics either

Imagine a fellow hermana asking you where you’re from…

Imagine the look you get when you tell her or anyone else that you’re adopted, I don’t speak Spanish

I

Don’t

Speak Spanish

Imagine asking your parents why they lied to you for so many years?

Imagine understanding but yet not forgiving them…

Imagine being Italian and Portuguese for 18 years of your life

Imagine finding out that they reason you’re darker is because you were adopted from Colombia

Imagine your family saying racist things about your culture

Imagine them not understanding why it’s wrong

Imagine crying because you don’t know where you belong

Imagine #thestruggle

Imagine what I want:

Respect

Imagine it being that simple

No more looks

No more questions

No more awkward moments when I say I’m adopted

No more wanting to hide who I really am

Imagine it being that simple

Because it really is that simple

Melissa Guida-Richards

Authors Note:

Adoption is not a one sized fit all puppies and rainbows situation. Their is definite trauma, stress, and anxiety. It has taken me over six years from my late discover of my adoption to work through a lot of negative feelings. I’m still affected by it to this day, but over time I have come to terms with it. It is important to talk about your situation so you can help yourselves process, so please do not hesitate to reach out to others, even just a Facebook group.

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Check out her article on The Mighty.

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How Does It Feel To Be Adopted? – Kevin Engle

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BIO: Kevin Engle is a retired addictions counselor whose professional life was spent as a therapist working at one of the premiere inpatient treatment facilities in the nation. He currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and is active in the adoption community. He spends his free time reading, writing, and walking his dog, Perry.

 

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

What follows is my “truth” as I see it today.

I don’t mean to suggest that my “truth,” or my story changes, but rather, as my insight grows, I can share more of it as I become more aware, and more of the fog lifts. This “story” doesn’t really contain much at all about my experience with reunion as I am finding that reality to be to new for me to write about in any meaningful way. There, the fog is still lifting and the subject is still quite emotionally confusing. Some of you will have read parts of this before, as I have shared pieces of my story as stand alone posts previously. For those of you that I bore, I apologize, but this is the first time that I have tried to share my “truth” as a hopefully meaningful whole.

There’s a cliché about failing relationships that goes like this… “there’s his side, her side, and what really happened.” That’s sort of what trying to make sense of my natural mother’s life is forcing me to do, compare the various stories told by her families and try to discern, “what really happened.”

This hasn’t been as difficult as one might think, you see, I’m not comparing the stories of the ex-husbands or others with obvious axes to grind, I’m talking with my family, both sides of my family, my “real” family, and there, there is agreement. I won’t go into the details, but my mother is, to put it as diplomatically as I can, troubled.

Her childhood, being raised in “foster care” on a Mennonite farm, was an experience shared by three of her seven children in their turn, and their experiences of life on the farm, unlike those reported by my natural mother, were good ones, but this isn’t my mother’s story, or my brother’s and sister’s stories, it’s mine.

I was adopted at eight months old, and went to live as the only child of a college professor, and a school teacher. I have no information about where I might have spent that first eight months, but from what I know about my mother’s circumstances, it wasn’t with her.

I don’t remember ever being told for the first time that I was adopted, it was just something that I had always known. What I do remember is the story, the one about how my “real” mother loved me so much, that knowing she wouldn’t be able to give me the type of life that I deserved, chose instead to give me up for adoption, and that my adoptive parents then in turn chose me to be their son, that I was special, and that I “came from good stock.” For what it’s worth, I believe that that is a horrible story to tell a child.

While I know that my parents meant well, what I took away from that story was the belief that love equaled being given away, and that since my adoptive parents chose me—I envisioned being picked out from among a group of babies, sort of like when we went to the dog breeder to get my first puppy—they could “unchoose” me if I didn’t do whatever it was that I was expected to do as their son. In short, I grew up believing that being loved was a pan-scale type of arrangement where love was contingent on good behavior.

My adoptive father was an intelligent, compassionate, and caring man, whose commitment to my well being I never had reason to question, yet question it I did, all the time. In retrospect, I was a tester of relationships. I was always, after about the fourth grade, testing others to see if their love had limits. My father passed this test, by dying before “finals,” when I was nineteen. My adoptive mother, by virtue of her own issues, did not.

For much of my life I was unaware of this pattern, but I always acted as if all love was conditional. When ever anyone said that they loved me, I thought to myself, sometimes unconsciously, “Will they still love me when I do this, or say that, or act out?”

Over time, I developed a variation on this theme.

As an adoptee, my trust issues ran the gamut from not trusting at all, to trusting to much and to easily.

I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, but I would go through a period of time where I trusted no one at all and then shift, to suddenly trusting someone with my whole life story. Not surprisingly, this would tend to scare individuals away—to much information to soon—giving me a reason, at least to my way of thinking, for swinging back to the other pole, where I trusted no one.

What was really happening, I believe, was my acting out my unconscious search for someone to accept and nurture my inner child. I wasn’t developing relationships, I was trying to take hostages!

The whole problem with “tests” is that there is always another level to take them to. I had to find my own sense of belonging within myself. I had to stop expecting others to prove their love for me by passing my tests. Eventually, as I continued to raise the stakes, we reached a point where they failed my impossible last test.

What I have learned over the years is that the kind of acceptance and nurturing I was searching for could come from within me. I needed to learn that I could be my own inner child’s guardian and protector. I needed to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin. It was only then that I began to develop healthier relationships with others.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not “fixed,” I still go back and forth with trust, but the swings aren’t as extreme as they once were, and I no longer feel compelled to act on them blindly.

That all said, the root issue for me is fear – the fear of the unknown, the fear of rejection, and the fear of being deeply, deeply, hurt. Emotionally, I become that small child who had no idea what was happening to him when he suddenly found himself in a new “home,” where no one, and nothing was familiar.

I have written before that I believe we stay as sick as our secrets, so, in the interest of full disclosure, here is what was once my biggest secret. For much of my life I lived in a dark, dark, place filled with despair and self-loathing, feeling less than and wanting to die.

For a long time—ever since I was an adolescent in fact—I believed that “life sucks, and then you die.” This “world view,” which had its roots in the fact of my adoption and growing up in an abusive home, led me to wonder, over and over, how the people that I saw around me seemingly handled simply living from day to day, but I kept my inner world a secret.

I tried to act as if everything was alright with me.

I tried to mimic the lives of those I thought seemed happy with their lot in life, but to no avail.

I kept my inner world a secret.

Over time, I tried relationships, I tried sexual promiscuity, I tried marriages, I tried new jobs, I tried new cities, I tried over-achieving, I tried under-achieving, I tried drugs and alcohol, I tried religion, but always, I kept my secret. Finally, at 27, having collected a whole slew of new secrets to stuff down into my inner world, profoundly depressed, feeling hopeless and helpless, I tried suicide for the first time.

For me, adoption, and how it was handled, or rather how it was not handled, by both my adopted parents, and myself, became a breeding ground for mental illness.

Finally, after years of trying to handle my inner world all by myself, I surrendered, and honestly asked for help. I shared my secrets for the first time with other adoptees, and was amazed to find that I wasn’t rejected out of hand. I shared my story and my truth for the first time and found acceptance and support. In a very real way, my truth has set me free.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not “cured.” In my opinion, when you have adoption related trauma, and add to it an abusive parent, you have a recipe for a lifelong struggle to find “connectedness” in the world in which you live. To this day, in spite of years of working on this issue with therapists and in groups, I still struggle with relationships and trust.

 In the beginning, self-awareness as it related to being an adoptee sucked.

I knew I had problems, but I didn’t know what to do about them. I began sharing my story, my truth, with others, and slowly, things began to make sense for me. I read the stories of other adoptees, and related them to my own experiences. I read about adoption in general, not from the adopters perspective, although there is a place for that, but from the perspective of fellow adoptees and natural mothers. It helped a lot.

Perhaps most importantly, I began to share my pain and confusion, and that helped to lessen my load.

When I first began looking at what my childhood and adult life was really like, at an emotional level, I became so angry that it scared me. I needed the help of knowledgeable and caring others to allow me to begin expressing my feelings in a healthy way. I needed to learn that feelings weren’t facts, and that experiencing my own feelings—some of which I had been holding inside since I was a small, small, child—wasn’t going to kill me. I’m not kidding, the little boy that still lives within me thought he would die if he stopped protecting himself from his feelings.

Acceptance was the key for me. Acceptance that my life, in spite of my being adopted, and in spite of all my warts, was good and had meaning for me.

The process of healing from adoption related trauma for me has been like peeling the skin off an onion – there seems to always be yet another layer, and tears are often involved.

n gaining a better understanding of—better insight into—myself as being someone who experiences adoption trauma, it has helped me to think of my trauma as something that has a will to live, a will to maintain the status quo, and a desire to continue to keep me sick. My trauma has, in its own way, “talked” to me ever since I was a child. First, it repeated the messages it heard from others, then it convinced me to tell myself these same messages.

It wasn’t that bad.

You’re just ungrateful.

Nobody will understand.

Your childhood was wonderful, what’s wrong with you?

Nobody wanted you.

You’re different.

You’re unloved and unlovable.

You never did live up to your potential.

It’s never going to get any better.

Nobody can be trusted.

Don’t ever let anyone know how you really feel, better yet, don’t feel.

These messages, and others like them, overwhelmed the child in me and became my secret inner voice, always waiting for the opportunity to speak up and remind me of what I really came to believe about myself. No wonder I lived in a dark world of depression and self-loathing. No wonder I reached the conclusion that “life sucks and then you die.”

Today, while I can, at times, still hear the voice of trauma, I’m no longer ruled by it.

I share with others, on an ongoing basis, parts of my truth, and the process of my recovery, and in so doing, I help myself.

I read about others experiences with adoption trauma, and in so doing, I help myself.

Thank you all for reading this, and a special thanks to those of you who choose to share with me, parts of your truth, you help me more than you can ever know.

Kevin Engle

Adult Adoptee 

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How Does It Feel To Be Adopted? – Shane Blackwell

Shane BlackwellBIO: I was adopted at 3 weeks old.  When I turned 23months old my a-mother gave birth to twin girls.

My adoptive parents believed that adoptees were “blank slates” and that I would/should “fit in”.  I wasn’t and I didn’t.  My personality and emotions are SO much like my birth mothers, and nothing like my adoptive family.  When I wouldn’t conform, I was ridiculed, punished and ostracised.  Despite my twin sister’s going to school every day and coming home every afternoon, I was sent to boarding school 5 minutes from home as a border ostensibly “to toughen me up”.  At 16y/o I was forced to sign a veto document so my birth mother couldn’t contact me.

In 2012 my son was diagnosed and treated for brain cancer, my ex wife had an affair and my marriage crumbled.  My a-parents still blame us for both.

In April 2016 I found my birth mother with the help of JigSaw Queensland, and we finally reunited on 3rd May 2016.  We have been in constant daily communication ever since.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

What adoption did to me…

Ever look at a complete stranger and wonder who they are?

What makes you come to a conclusion of acceptances or rejection in what seems a microsecond. How do you read people? Is it their appearance, what they are wearing, or the look of their face?

Maybe it’s deeper than that.

What do you see when you look across the room? Can you see the sadness or the spark in someone’s eyes, the sorrow or happiness in their heart? Maybe it’s the weakness in their posture or the way they hold themselves. Are they sitting alone or in a group?

More importantly what do you do next? Do you ignore them? Or interact with them?

What could you learn from them? What life lesson have shaped them and what have they learnt from their experiences?

I see a man that loves, yet his heart is broken. I see a man that feels, yet his body is stiff. His eyes are dry, yet his soul weeps.

Do you see me?

Do you know how I feel?

I’ve been broken, blank, flat, depleted, confused, beaten, and numb. I’m struggling to come to terms with what has happened to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my adopted family, and I appreciate everything they have done for me. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it wasn’t for them, but somehow we’ve lost our way.

The torment and primal wounding of adoption and losing the connection to my birth mother haunted me.

Being a highly sensitive introvert that was ostracized and bullied by peers in youth & in boarding school to the extent of developing a severe stutter.

Irlen Syndrome, a perceptual processing disorder, accompanied by dyslexia, resulting in poor curricular performance in school, including failing art.

A poor career decision to leave a great job which lead to employment in narcissistic workplaces which left me with severe depression.

My son was diagnosed with a brain tumour which has left him with lifelong disabilities and personal challenges.

Broken marriage, after my wife ran off with another man, lost my house and the majority of contact with my 2 kids.

Having to deal with a psychologically controlling, invasive matriarchal, somewhat narcissistic adoptive mother who demanded me to stop seeing my new partner at this age. I was 42. They also repeatedly overstep and disregard boundaries demanded by myself in regards to my parenting requirements and them accessing my son. This recently lead to a mass falling out and disownment from the family.

Adoption: As an adoptee I have suffered grief over the loss of a relationship with my birth parents. I have repeatedly dealt with abandonment issues in just about all my relationships. I struggled with self-esteem and identity development.

When I was adopted my adoptive parents were given the impression that we were blank slates and that adopted families weren’t any different from any other family. That’s just not true. We were supposed to fit in and mould to their world, their heritage, and be just like them. They were misinformed by people and organisations who knew better, there for they were unequipped. Even if the most empathetic understanding family adopted me, it’s too much of an obstacle and physiological trauma was inevitable.

Blind to my special needs as an adopted child, intimacy and closeness was what I craved, but due to the lack of professional screening processes, it was pot luck as to what family I landed in. My adoptive mother controlled my relationships and used food and financial support to trigger my guilt to keep her happy. She used this to her advantage without considering my true needs. I was not permitted to search for my birth family, I was forced to sign a veto on my 16th birthday, stopping my birth family from contacting me.

She intentionally amplified and used my weakness against me. I was so eager to please. I was not in a position to, and/or didn’t have the skills and understanding to stand up for what we believed in as our own family. Eventually that splinter turned into a wedge and the relationship with my ex wife collapsed.

Cancer: During my younger years I was quite naive about what cancer was and how many people are affected.

I had been quite lucky that an impromptu skin check in 2009 found a stage 1 malignant melanoma just above my shoulder blades.

In December 2011 my 13 year old son was diagnosed with a brain tumour. My then wife and I took him to the doctor multiple times after he started bumping into things and become very vague and losing interest in things he had previously loved doing. Over nearly a 12 month period we were repeatedly told from numerous people he was fine and it was just puberty and hormones kicking in. They were wrong. My adoptive family now blame us for him getting cancer.

He had a 3 cm tumour blocking the flow of fluid around the brain and spinal column, causing pressure to build up on his brain. He also had a smaller one on his pituitary gland. The 2 malignant Germinomas were treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy successfully and he is now in remission, however he was left with considerable lifelong challenges and health issues.

Severe short term memory and brain development problems. Minor muscular atrophy on the left side of his body affecting his dexterity and movement. Severe anxiety to the point where he overthinks, clicks his fingers and repeatedly talks to himself. Diabetes Insipidus a condition that dilutes urine and seriously affects the brain’s chemistry. Ongoing hormone regulation issues from having basically no pituitary gland. Pronation distortion syndrome, a severe distortion of the legs and knee joints after hormone treatment. Puberty and growth problems.

In 2013 I found another stage 1 malignant melanoma on the inside of my left thigh above the knee.

In 2014 my adoptive mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Just like adoption, I was never given an opportunity, support or the space to deal with how cancer had affected my life and the people around me. It was as though I didn’t exist, my feelings didn’t matter and my opinions didn’t count. Like adoption, I was forced from people who should have loved me to continue my life as though nothing was wrong.

Work: After school I had no idea what I was going to do. I ended up working for my adoptive father for 8 or 9 years. He owned petrol stations and moved into bulk fuel distribution. After he retired my sister and I started a petrol station together. I only lasted another 3 years when I found my call to be a graphic designer. I was then fortunate enough to be asked back to the college where I studied, to teach part time at nights. After 12 months the position became full time. The college was in a state of transition of ownership when after 6 years my contract came up for renewal. At this stage I had been an unofficial program manager for close to 3 years. The position never came so I moved on.

I took part time and full time jobs over the next 3 years with some good but mostly bad employers with questionable ethics. I then slid into depression. Little did I know that teaching had become a greater part of my life than I realised and I missed it dearly. I had become so depressed that I had started to talk erratically to myself just to get through the day. In early November 2012 they must have seen or heard me in a moment of distress, but instead of helping me they walked me to the gate and told me never to come back. 4 weeks later we’d received the diagnosis of my son’s brain tumour.

I finally got my career back on track in the following March as a lecturer, and moved from one college to the next through corporate takeovers etc. Then the business owners who I was working for embezzled 20 million dollars of government funded money, including wages and entitlements owed to me and many others.

I now work for a national directory company assisting with marketing via web and print.

Self doubt has always lingering…. For years I have struggled, looking for external validation, looking to understand who I am and justify my life experiences.

The Validation didn’t come so I started looking within, I started not to care of what others thought of me, I could only validate myself, I finally realised that no one else could do that for me.

I started questioning everything I believed in, I was shaken to the core. I looked deep within my soul and I chose to believe in myself. I realised I was not the person I once was, and I was no longer the person others perceived me to be. I’ve started to strip away everything and everyone that have been holding me back.

Disownment

Again I’ve been broken, my chest is collapsing on my heart, metaphysical pain has been polluting my body for as long as I can remember. Every day is a challenge every step is a mountain and my tears are the rivers.

I must ensure I am in alignment with my true self and not take on the negativity and will of other people, not only me but for the people around me, my work, my friends, my partner and children and those who still love me unconditionally.

Being a highly sensitive person I’ve longed to be understood and valued for who I am. With a combination of masculinity with deep empathy, and commitment to Truth. I can provide a great source of comfort and healing for anyone who is willing to receive it.

I believe the Highly Sensitive person’s time is coming where his hidden attributes will be called for in our society. They will be the new and sought out leaders.

People are tired of the shallow, game playing, egotistical interactions that have become the norm.

We can spot deception from a mile.

The cheap interactions with narcissistic personalities we tend to attract are just getting very predictable. Many of us have evolved from those demeaning relationships including myself.

Too many have also wrongly associated masculinity with being controlled, demeaned and disrespected.

But these old paradigm beliefs from the previous millennium, are now quickly dissipating.

They are being replaced with a more balanced and empowering perspective of what masculinity truly is.

I applaud all those Highly Sensitive people who are embracing their gifts and becoming outstanding beacons of Light.

I hope it’s not too late.

I hope I can save myself.

With the help of the right people in my life I am beginning to understand my true self and reconnect with the sensitive child within me. Little by little, each breath is finding new strength, a new purpose, to reclaim the identity that was once mine, then taken from me and be happy for who I am.

It’s my time to assertively step up, and shine.

Shane Blackwell

Adult Adoptee

Please take a moment to check out some of Shane’s articles and be sure to follow his blog:

Thoughtless Delineation

“Seven” is no longer my lucky number

Adoptiopn is a psychological barrier

The cloak in the mirror

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