September 15, 2014

Adoptees and How It's Supposed to Be

I've seen this meme on Facebook and Pinterest many times. And like a lot of things, it's an instant trigger. I always think of adoption.

When it comes to my struggle post-adoption, I believe that's the crux of so much of it.

There's that darn picture in my head of, "how it's supposed to be."

"Mothers shouldn't have to be separated from children..." or...

"Every human should have their correct and true birth certificate sans lies..." or

"No parent should refuse contact with a child..." or

"Everyone should know who was present at their conception..." or

"Everyone should have the knowledge of who conceived and birthed them..."

"Parents shouldn't get divorced..." or

and lots of other things that affected my life.

The thoughts of "how it's supposed to be..." could drive us literally insane if we let them.

Every person in this world has a dream of the way things are "supposed to be."

It's unrealistic to believe it will always go the way it's supposed to. 
Nevertheless we dream.

We may dream of "standing out from the crowd" because of our art work or our sportsmanship or a plethora of other good things.

But nobody wants to "stand out" and be part of the 2% of people in the world whose mothers relinquished them.

It's vastly different than standing out because you're the valedictorian of your class, or because you've got an amazing voice.

Most of us want to stand out from the crowd for the happy things in life.
Losing your entire first family isn't one of the ways in which anyone dreams of being different

Many days my prayer has just been that God will take "the way it's supposed to be" out of my head. Because it's about to drive me crazy.

There have been a lot of times I've said, "God I don't even know what it's supposed to be like because things got so screwed up. So please, just take this mess and make something beautiful out of it."

The past never changed. 
It couldn't be "fixed".

But thankfully I had a hope and a future.
Still do.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
 Jeremiah 29:11

September 11, 2014

Trigger Happy: Adoptees Who Are Successful Even When Living Triggered

Laura Dennis and I are able to do what many other adoptees do every day – succeed in life, despite very regular triggers that come our way. Today we’re teaming up on a two part blog post, to discuss how real and numerous triggers are, and how we succeed with that reality. Part one is below and part two can be found today at Laura's blog.

Deanna: My assistant Erika and I were having lunch the other day and this subject came up. I’ve discovered that Erika is really open minded about this subject and understanding. We were talking about adoption and my involvement in the community and I shared with her about how many triggers take place in my daily life and how I not only manage but overcome them.  It’s no exaggeration that I usually face at least one of these a day without me ever bringing up the subject. In fact, I try my best to steer clear of the subject most times, just out of self preservation. Once I alerted my family about how often these triggers come and encouraged them to take special notice and watch how many times people bring things up, they too are amazed. Until I told them to become vigilant about noticing, they had no idea what I was facing on a daily basis.

The main reason I don’t bring things up with others would be protecting myself from more pain than I have to go through in life but the second reason would be that it’s very hard to succeed in life and respond to triggers the way I want to, versus how I have to, if that makes sense. 

Laura: Yes! Sometimes it feels like they’re everywhere! Let me just back-up a moment and explain to those who may be unaware, just what we mean when we mention “triggers.”

Adoption triggers are a specific kind of emotional trigger that happens when we come across what to others may be a seemingly innocent comment. They trigger us, as adoptees (but it also happens to first family members and adoptive parents), because these observations touch a nerve, reminding us of our adopted status—all that we’ve lost, in spite of the things that society reminds us that we’ve gained.

For me, it’s deeply personal triggers like everyone expecting me to be happy on my birthday. Or, “in the news” events such as seeing a child removed from her willing-and-capable first family when an unethical (should-be-illegal) adoption is finalized.

I see what you’re saying about responding to triggers. To survive, we have to pick our battles, so-to-speak. We can’t reeducate everyone. That said, if someone is particularly nosey (borderline rude) with regards to a personal trigger, I have been known to lay down the truth. As in, Do you find something happy about the day that I literally lost my first mother for twenty-three years? I don’t. … One may guess that truth-telling did not go over so well. We’re talkin’ awkward silence, blank stares and quick exits.

But these people are few and far between. I think the most important first step towards living with, and thriving in spite of, triggers is recognizing them in real time. What are your thoughts? 

Deanna: First of all, thank you sooooo much for explaining triggers. Geeeesh, where was my head? I’m assuming everyone out there understands our adoptionese. Okay…

Being fully out of the fog there I go with the adoptionese again I pretty much recognize them in real time now. But I didn’t always. That subject is a fascinating blog post topic in itself. I’d like us to unpack that sometime. What you said just made me realize that for years people would say things and I would have an incredibly icky feeling and didn’t understand why. Often those moments led to my parents or my husband saying, “What’s wrong?” over and over again. I didn’t know what was wrong, I just felt so blue. Now I realize it was in those moments where triggering things happened for me.

As you mentioned, different groups of people face triggers. It’s not the same for everybody. But whatever our personal ones are, they are powerful. For me it usually centers on people telling me how I should feel. The worst is when it happens with those who want to characterize my adoption as a sacred event rather than a legal transaction.    

A huge trigger happened to me shortly after I started this blog. I walked into a ministers meeting. The business hadn’t started yet but I walked up to the coffee station at the hotel we were meeting and a colleague walked up and said, “Hey, I’ve been reading your adoption blog…” I said, “Oh really? Well that’s awesome. Thanks so much for reading.” And he said, “Your writing is really good but on the adoption thing I just don’t understand what the big deal is, because we’re all adopted.”

I looked at him quizzically.

And then he quickly followed up with, “In Christ…we are all adopted in Christ, so it’s all good…”

And I wanted to just scream:

Really??? I had no idea we ALL lost our entire first family in a day… 
I had no idea we ALL lack a truthful birth certificate!

I had no idea we ALL experienced the trauma of separation from our mothers…

I had no idea we ALL were relinquished and then papers signed, placing us with strangers…

I had no idea we ALL have a case number with health and human services…

I had no idea we ALL understand what it’s like to be part of the legal INSTITUTION that is adoption! Woowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

This is what I wanted to scream, but I didn’t.

My effectiveness on the job, not to mention my very livelihood, depends on me not saying these things, at least not in that manner.

What I did in that moment was say, “Is this the regular or the decaf?”  and quickly move to change the subject.


September 2, 2014

My truth? Your Truth? Or THE truth?

I’ve noticed it’s common in the adoptee community that people will mention they are searching for their truth. They may remark, “Still searching for my truth,” or “So glad I finally found my truth.”

I understand what they mean. I’ve lived it, too. 

I write this post not to bash, simply to make an observation that every time I hear someone say “my truth" a part of me wants to scream: “It’s not just MY truth, it’s THE truth! Period!"

When people fail to give us “our” truth, they refuse to live in THE truth.

The reason they fail to give it is moot. Truth is truth. Lies are lies.

Keeping the facts of someone’s history from them isn’t just something that affects that person, but many people. It affects generations, and the world at large when people refuse to live THE truth.

So when you keep the truth from me, you’re not just lying (even if by omission) about my life but yours as well.   

Doing that makes one a sick person – living in secrecy and lies rather than transparently and in the light.

As far as it depends on me, I choose truth. All truth.

It is a travesty when people choose otherwise.

People who reject the truth in any form affect the entire world in a tragic way.

Not just me.
Not just you.