Great and heartfelt post at No Name Changeling.
I’m angry again.Sigh… . Once again, an adult adoptee shared their pain in an adoption community. It was heartbreaking and I completely identified with this person, but I was too afraid to respond. Why? Once again, the birthmothers told this person that they had to understand the birthmothers pain! And, once again the majority of adult adoptees kept silent.
(I am no different…. I am so fearful that even writing this anonymously is giving me a panic attack.)
Let me be very clear: Birthmothers do not understand my pain! Here’s the result of birthmothers explaining to me of how hard and traumatizing it was for them to give up their baby: The more they tell me about their pain, the more guilty I feel and the more worthless I feel!
Why do birthmothers respond so enthusiastically to adoptee questions, when it is very clear that the questioner…
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(Warning – sexual assault triggers and book spoiler alert)
“It’s a catch-22,” she says. “You don’t want to think something as violent and horrible as a rape is out of your control. If it’s out of your control, it could happen again, couldn’t it? So you tell yourself you were in control. You’re the one who caused it. You went down the wrong alley, or trusted the wrong guy, or you weren’t wearing your lucky socks. That’s why it happened.” …
“But then,” Jen says, “if you make what happened your fault, what can you do with all the disgust and anger you feel? All that negativity turns inward. Because if you were in control — if you’re the one who didn’t stop it — then the rape must be your fault.”
Your fault, says the voice in my head. Your fault!
~~ from Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle
Replace “rape” with any trauma. Let’s say…relinquishment. ALL kids naturally make what is happening around them into something about them, even more so with trauma. So you don’t want to think that something as awful as your whole family abandoning you as out of your control, because if you have control it is less likely to happen again (i.e. because it was “your fault” and “you won’t let that happen again”). So you make sure to cover all your bases and stay in control, become extremely people pleasing….because hey, people stay with people who meet all their needs, right?
But being abandoned by your entire family is a traumatic and, well, honestly deplorable thing (no matter how society tries to paint it into being selfless gift…I mean seriously, no one in my large, loving extended family could have stepped up and made it so a tiny baby didn’t have to be left with a series of strangers forever? No one?) So what do you do with that terror, anger, shame, and disgust at the situation? You turn it inward, since if you were in control, it must be your fault.
Bad baby. Bad baby. It’s no wonder nobody wants you.
Dear ones, if you are reading this and feel this way, I am SO SORRY. And, I get it.
I don’t have answers. Those tapes that play in our heads can be so loud. With no pre-trauma personality to fall back on, it is all we know.
I get it.
It is not your fault.
My hands are holding yours
and you are not alone in this.
I’m almost finished reading Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle and her mother Clare Dunkle. (I know how it turns out because I just finished the mother’s book that tells it from her perspective). It’s a memoir of a girl struggling with anorexia.
(((SPOILER ALERT!!! But I’ll try to be somewhat vague))
I’ve just reached the part where she realizes that a trauma that occurred in her life at 13 really *was* a catalyst of her descent into anorexia. Until that time (I think it’s about 7 years later) she blamed many other things.
The title “Elena Vanishing” not only refers to her getting thinner, but also how her personality, the Elena that she really was pre-trauma, disappeared until she was a shell.
The realization I mentioned above seemed to be instrumental in her getting a handle on her anorexia. She was able to remember who she was and revisit this person and somewhat piece her back together. She had memories of love and connection and a strong life force.
This, my dear readers, is to me one of the most difficult and terrifying parts of being an adoptee …let me rephrase that, being an adoptee out of the fog of denial. (I know many adoptees who swear there is nothing wrong but hold their lives together with a super tight obsessive control of the details of their days, or in any number of other ways. “Oh, I’m just a control freak, that’s all…” Yeah, right.)
The adoptee who feels like an alien, who feels like a piece of driftwood, a pulled up sapling in a forest of deeply rooted people, one forever treading water…the adoptee given up early on in life has no pre-trauma personality.
That “shell” that Elena became after trauma? It’s all we know. We feel not just vanishing…but vanished. There’s no “me” to look back on to put the pieces back together.
I have a theory that so many adoptees contemplate or attempt suicide to put to rights that cognitive dissonance that occurs when they realize that they feel dead inside, a shell of a person. They want to make it whole again…either all alive (but how, when no one gets us and screams at us to be thankful for how we feel??) or all dead. (Dear readers, please please get help if this is you…)
I wrote this post, like I said, before finishing the whole book. In the last few pages, it was revealed…
(SPOILER ALERT! 🙂 )
…that her mother almost died in childbirth and was unavailable to really parent much for an amount of time as she recovered. The therapist in the book suggested that Elena’s mean “inner voice” was actually something that took over when her mother was unavailable, and that once her mother was “back” that Elena had, as a tiny baby, decided she “didn’t need her” , became hypervigilant, because she had gotten along without her and, I’m adding, she didn’t want that abandonment to happen again!
So that kind of pokes a hole in my using this book as an example of a pre-trauma personality for this post, because her initial trauma WAS at birth, with another trauma later. I’m keeping it though, because while my example may be flawed, I’m sure if I had time I could find another book or story with a correct example. Plus, the rest of the book makes sense in light of our abandonment issues, and is a good example of those.