It's Good to Be Grown

For me, being an adoptee has meant growing up with the feeling that my life circumstances were dictated to me out of my control. And in a sense they were for the first 18 years. I had no say in any of the decisions that were made in the beginning of my life. And, like any other child – I didn’t make the rules when I was growing up.  That part is normal, for anyone adopted or not.

However, that time is past.

Yesterday is gone.

It’s a new day.
I have had to try to overcome the mindset I had for a long time that I am on a path set by others -- one I cannot change. One that I must just accept whatever comes to me, and try to navigate my way through it.

Even in my adult life I've kind of had a mindset that I need to "wait and see what the grown ups decide." Well, guess what...I am the grown up.  I don't need to wait to see what they decide and I don't necessarily have to put up with what they decide, unless I want to.

It's easy to come to a place where we let life happen to us rather than us happening to life.  I want to make something happen in life, not just wait around to see what’s going to happen to me. Sometimes I forget – I have the power to make decisions.

 But recently I have journeyed through a time of growth in this area of my life. It’s not limited to adoptee-related things, but everything that touches my life.

This thought is revolutionary to me: 

I’m not a victim. I’m a decision maker. 

If something is not healthy for me, I have the power to change it.

If it doesn't work for me, I have the ability to change it.

I don’t have to just lay down and take it and say, “It is what it is.”

Life awaits.

My potential awaits. 

I can allow other people to determine my path or I can be the decision maker.

I’m not a baby anymore in the arms of the social worker at the Children’s Home Society.

I am a grown woman who has a purpose.

No longer do I see anything in my life as something I just have to put up with. I think it’s a combination of a God-thing in my life (an awakening) and being in my 50’s and knowing I don’t have forever here on earth. I am not going to waste my life letting others dictate my happiness, potential, or peace.

So that’s the purpose of this blog post, to tell you what I’ve been journeying through in my life and to encourage every adoptee – stop letting life happen to you!!!

Get out there and decide things for yourself. Make some bold moves. Refuse to just float along and wait to see what happens. Act now. You have the power!

It’s good to be grown.

Adoptees and Draining Anger and Rage

Recently I had occasion to meet with “T” --  a teen adoptee.  I happen to have all A’s in school at the present time in my master’s program but T is way smarter than me. He makes me look like a tinker-tot when it comes to brain-power. T is doctor smart, lawyer smart, maybe even brain surgeon or rocket scientist smart. He has so much promise.  But right now, T is making all the wrong choices, throwing it all away due to intense anger and rage over post-adoption issues. Without a change, T is headed to becoming another tragic statistic.

I get it, I really do. 
With tears streaming down my face, I pled with T to hear my heart. After validating all his pain, I said:

 “Relinquishment, adoption, the system…all of it has taken so much from you. Are you really going to let it take any more than it has to?"

Many people would never guess that in my 50’s I have to periodically drain post-adoption anger out of me before it becomes rage. Even at this stage of my life, I have to keep it in check so it doesn’t take more from me than it already has. Whenever it rears it’s ugly head, I’ve learned to not push it back down, but to liquidate it and drain it out.  What does this look like? As a  human being I sometimes cry, journal, walk or bike it out. As a Christian, many times I worship it out and pray it out. As a Pentecostal, I pray it out in my prayer language. 

 I spoke to T about the importance of safely and regularly draining, as I call it. I’m not a therapist, just a fellow adoptee who is decades older and could have a degree in adoptee drain-o.  (In case you wonder, T is not substituting me for therapists. He’s been to many.) Regarding adoptee anger/rage if you don’t drain it out it will kill you. If it doesn’t kill you physically it will kill every opportunity in your life, every relationship, every good thing.

Oh my adopted friend……

Don’t let it steal your future family from you…the one you dream of and the one you have the power to create.

Don’t let it steal your educational opportunities from you.

Don’t let it steal your career from you.

Don’t let it steal your dream house.

Don’t let it steal your dream experiences – vacations you dream of taking, or things you want to check off on your bucket list.

Don’t let it steal all the goals you will slay.

Don’t let it steal all the incredible things that are awaiting you.

I begged T and I hope he listens.

I hope you listen, too.

Post adoption issues threaten to rip every amazing thing out of your hands that you are destined for.

Take control.

Refuse to let what has happened to you derail your God-given destiny.

Adoption's Side Affects and Me at 40

This is exactly what happened to me. 

There were some people in my world who whispered about insanity. Even before my natural mom died and I melted down. I was already in a downward emotional spiral because a few years earlier I had come out of the fog.  One person who whispered about my insanity was a close friend. Unfortunately I had written proof staring me right in the face where she said to another close friend that I had "gone off the deep end." Game over. With friends like that, who needs an enemy? At least my temporary insanity  helped me figure out who my real friends were.

When I fully came out of the fog, as it’s called in adoptee-world, I was in my forties. I had never known a grief so deep. By many people’s standards, I had the world by the tail and was successful at most everything I did. At the same time, there I was on my side curled up into a ball blubbering to God with snot running down my face, begging him to take me out of this world. I would go back and forth between praying for him to take me to repenting for asking him to and thinking of how painful that would be for my kids and saying, "I'm sorry God, I'm sorry I ever said that. Please just take this pain away." To add insult to injury, when you do come out of the fog and you go public about it (out of the closet, so to speak) it gets worse for a while. 

Right now, like the rest of the world,  I’m enamored with the show This is Us. There is no doubt who my favorite character is. It’s Randall. Like many adoptees, I totally get Randall. The only aspect I don’t share with him is that of being a transracial adoptee. But all the rest concerning his adoption, I get. And the episode where he melted down in the corner? It was like watching my life back when I was emerging from the fog. 

Success in life is no guarantee that an adoptee will be unscathed when it comes to post-adoption issues. Millions of adoptees are wildly successful, and deeply in pain at the same time. They are honor students, valedictorians, doctors, lawyers, pastors, teachers, moms and dads. And they are running hard to escape the pain. The first time I was in counseling, my therapist said, "What are you running so hard from, Deanna?" At the time I didn't realize why I was running. I just knew I needed to. It would be a while before I understood my need to run.

What’s so horrible about coming all the way out of the fog and fully feeling for the first time is that you have no frame of reference to know that things will get any better. So it feels utterly hopeless at the time. You know that time can never turn back. You will always be relinquished and adopted. There’s no going back to fix what hurts.  Even if you believe in miracles. Even if you know Jesus. 

I would have crazy thoughts like, “If someone cut my head off right now, Jesus wouldn’t just pop it back on."  (Even though he did put Malchus' ear back on in the Bible, he’s probably not going to do it for me.) And so I would think about the fact that Jesus allowed my first mom to give me up. He allowed a couple to adopt me whose marriage would break down in dysfunction and divorce. He allowed my first mom to take my father's name to her grave. He wasn't going to fix the mother and father wound in my soul by taking it all away. He was obviously requiring me to bear it. The decision was final. And I would have to figure out a way through the intense feelings of grief.

I didn’t want to bear it at all and was just mad that I had to, so for a while I just laid on my side and hugged a pillow while hot tears ran down my face and I cried so hard I shook the bed.  The sheets were soaked as the rage drained out. It felt like hell and a bit of relief all at the same time.
As I read this quote by Anne Heffron the thing that I think most is of all the parents who think they are okay because their child or teen is so well adjusted and successful. 

I was that person.

And I went through pain so great that it is only by the grace of God that I am still here. 

I am glad some people who knew what they were doing held me through that. There was no one in my world prior to the time I came out of the fog who would have known what to do or how to help me. Most of the people who surrounded me would have probably just given me a chat about being grateful. And honestly, one of them probably would have found me somewhere, and read the note I left behind to say goodbye to everyone. And maybe one of the saddest parts of all is that no one would have really known why. They would have just whispered about "the enemy getting in" and "Satan taking me out" which would have been true, BUT not the whole truth.  Christians are reaaaaaaaaaaaally reluctant to blame anything on adoption.

My hope is that every adoptee finds a safe space to process things when they come out of the fog. Finding trustworthy people to talk to is essential. People who will do no assuming and hours of listening. People who, if they are not adopted, will refrain from telling you anything about how you should feel.  Or giving you a speech about thankfulness.

If you are an adoptive parent reading this, please lose every speck of smugness that your child will never face any of this. Please resist spiritual bypass at all costs. Please listen more than you talk. Please remember, it's not about you.

To the person who is reading this and is just coming out of the fog…you are not alone, and you’re not crazy. I’m saving space for you. 

If you find yourself in that painful place of intense waves of grief so high you don't think you can go on...please, know there is help. There is life on the other side of this. 

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide!

Two things are turning the adoption industry upside down and taking away the grip of control they once had on adoptees:

1) Social Media
2) DNA Testing

I for one could not be more grateful for both of these tools. Back when I started my maternal search, neither of these options were available. Now, they are both key to a search.  As time goes on, DNA testing is making archaic laws with sealed records obsolete. In time, a person will be able to find whatever they want, without ever having to get their records unsealed.   

Even with these two great tools, the resolution of my paternal search may happen too late to meet my natural father. He will probably be dead and may already be so. BUT, I firmly believe the information about my paternal family will be known in my lifetime. I hold on to hope that I will be able to connect with paternal relatives.

I have hope not only because I believe in God, but because the number of people who are DNA testing is exploding. The numbers are vastly beyond what anyone expected. Ancestry DNA alone doubled within a year and the same results are expected again. A friend of mine who is a DNA expert tells me that within the next few years they are predicting that everyone who tests will be guaranteed to have at least second cousin results right away, due to the number of people testing and the expected number of people in the DNA bank. That is a great improvement from when I tested for the first time in 2013.

I have tested at Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage, and GedMatch. Since I took my first test, I have had amazing results. I have had close matches and secrets revealed that would never have been, had I not tested. Unfortunately those secrets revealed were just more on the maternal family side, although I always welcome a relative on either side. Nevertheless, it was information revealed that never would have been had DNA testing not been available. I was able to help a relative I never knew I had and give her the information she has always longed for.
DNA tests give adoptees their power back. I encourage every person I know, not just adoptees, to DNA test. I explain to them that not only will they find out more of their history, but they will help so many more people as they do.

My husband just tested with Ancestry and before he got his results I told him that no matter what came back, he needed to be prepared to help people who may be seeking the truth about their origins. I explained that no matter how difficult the information may be to digest that presents itself, he needed to do the right thing and give people their information. With what secrets I do know about in his family, I expected there were probably more that we didn't know about.  As I expected, a match came that was a result of a family secret. He was able to help someone figure out who their father is. And he has a new cousin he didn’t know about before he DNA tested.  It is so rewarding to help people and put to rest the restlessness in their soul that is present when they don't know who and where they come from. 
Christmas is approaching and now is a great time to give your friends and family DNA tests as a gift.  All of the companies usually have sales at this time. People will be more inclined to test if it’s provided for them. My prayer is that more people than ever get DNA tests for Christmas and that about eight weeks after Christmas, millions of people will get the gift of truth as they start the new year. 

Note: Whenever I write a post on DNA, people ask me a lot of questions I'm not prepared to answer. (I'm not an expert.) I highly recommend Richard Hill and his work. Check out the DNA Testing Advisor website and Facebook page, and read Richard's books. He is a wealth of information about DNA testing and has helped me personally. Also, once you DNA test, be sure to join the group DNA Detectives on facebook. 

With the help of DNA testing, friends and advisors, anything is possible!