Why Adoption Contributes to My Fearlessness





More times than I can count, I’ve been asked:

Weren't you scared that you'd catch ebola when you went to Africa to preach? (No. It may have had something to do with the fact that ebola is NOT present in most of the continent of Africa. Read this post, please. But I digress...)   

Aren’t you afraid of terrorist attacks? (Plane tickets to Kenya are pretty cheap right now since the terror alert is “severe” as well as the public’s unfounded fear of Ebola in the entire continent of Africa, where it doesn’t exist in most countries. But I already said that. Suffice it to say, many people aren’t traveling because they are afraid of disease or terror. The terror threat is real. Unfortunately this happened just two days after we left.)

Aren’t you afraid of being on planes for that long? I can’t imagine 25-30 hours of travel…and being over the ocean for that long. Whew!

Doesn't speaking in front of groups that large scare you? 

Aren’t you afraid of walking around in the slums?

Aren’t you afraid of crime?


Aren’t you afraid of catching a plethora of diseases in a third world country?

What most people fail to realize is, I began my life by losing EVERYTHING.

E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

Let that sink in.

When you lose everything at the very beginning, and you survive...it has a way of making you brave. I notice that adoptees seem to go one of two ways...they become brave or they give up entirely.

When you lose everything as you begin, it's all uphill from there. Or you quit.

I've made my choice.

Should We WAIT To Tell People We're Adopted?
(The Case for Starting at the Beginning)

Before you think I’ve lost my ever livin’ mind, let me explain.


I’ve spent the last fifteen days in Africa, sharing my story, everywhere.  Thousands of people – women, men and children – have sat with rapt attention and heard where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and what God has done in my life.

When I begin sharing my story I usually say that my mother was pregnant with me in the 1960’s. As  a result of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and my birth, my mother became homeless and jobless.  She had to go far away to have me in secret. Then I was separated from her, my sister and brother… for the next 27 years.

As I share this, it never fails…

People start crying.

Some bury their faces in their hands or Kleenex and weep.

They shake their heads in disbelief.

From major cities in  the USA to remote African villages, they sit in shock, and they cry.

Eventually I get to the part in the story where I am adopted. 
I also share about the breakdown of my adoptive family.
There is more weeping. 

The audience is typically spellbound as I share my story, and not a pin drop can be heard except some people sniffling or blowing their nose. 


Do I want them to feel the loss just to feel it, or weep for weeping’s sake? No, there’s a reason I share, and it’s not just to affect people whereby they weep. People immediately identify with loss, pain and grief. After I share my story and how God has helped me to not only survive but thrive, many people respond. They want to survive and thrive too, despite all the obstacles in their lives.

They come forward for prayer for the dysfunction in their family, serious illnesses, death of someone close to them, among many other things. God never fails to meet us at the altars.



But…there’s a very different reaction if I simply begin my talk or my sermon by saying, “Good evening everyone. I’m Deanna, and I’m adopted.”

When I do that, the entire place typically erupts with thunderous applause.

“Adoption” is a trigger word to most of the world, and not in the way that it is to millions of us adoptees.

Adoption is a code to 99% of the world. 
To them it means: panacea.

And if you START with the word adoption, you will never get most people to understand the loss that is behind your adoption.

They are too busy celebrating to realize the loss you had to incur in order to be adopted. 



So I’ve stopped introducing myself whether one-on-one or before an audience by starting with the adoption. I start with loss, separation, pain, grief…and then they begin to understand.

Some of them still clap when I get to the point in my story where I say, "And then...I was adopted." But it's a much smaller amount of the crowd, and sometimes it's a slow, tentative clap. Most of the time, they are still sitting there in shock over the loss that I just shared with them, prior. 

So the thought I had this week after sharing my story again and again the past fifteen days and seeing this reaction is this...

Let's not start our stories with adoption.
Because our lives didn't start with adoption.
We are adopted.
But all of us who are adopted have a story way before that.

Even those who were relinquished at birth spent nine whole months with their mother.  

One day we might be able to start with the word “adoption” and have the world understand what adoption cost us personally, before they start clapping. But for now, we might want to change our strategy from beginning the conversation with our adoption and start with our relinquishment. Because that’s exactly how it happened. 

This is Happening December 1st!
Cover Sneak Peek!!


Worthy To Be Found is releasing December 1, and will be available on Kindle and paperback! Last week I released an early peek of the cover to the Adoptee Restoration newsletter subscribers as well as as exclusive online peek to the AR newsletter readers of the back cover. (If you want to subscribe to the free newsletter and get exclusive updates, go to the right hand sidebar of this blog to sign up.)


Once again I want to thank all of you for your overwhelming response to the story when it initially posted here on the blog. Were it not for that, the book wouldn't exist. And, of course I want to thank Entourage Publishing for wanting to publish the story. Without either of these factors, this book wouldn't be reality. As most of you know, when I wrote the story I was broken and just pouring my heart out. I never dreamed that so many would respond.

We are hoping for a huge day on December 1, so that the message contained in Worthy to Be Found will reach many. Most of you who read the blog have already read the story. So you might wonder, "Why do I want to purchase the book if I've already read the story?" I thought you may feel that way, and to be honest it was part of my reluctance to take the story down off the blog and make it a book, when I was approached about doing so, by Entourage. What I decided to do was give you the book just as it was on the blog BUT, expand it greatly. So, expect the same story you loved here at AR, just greatly expanded. I go into greater detail on some things readers were wondering about. I learned a lot from your feedback of the initial story.

The book covers the 14-day story that was posted here, as well as an expansion in many ways. And, it will be followed in 2015 by a sequel, also published by Entourage, that will be the story of how I moved forward. The goal will be to share with others my experience in recovery, in hope that it will resonate with others and assist in their healing process.

I'd also like to thank Linda Boulager at Tell Tale Book Designs, for creating a cover that brought me to happy tears. She incorporated roses (which play a very important part in my life story) as well as many other elements on both the front and back cover that are really symbolic.

I never lose the wonder that people read here, and count all of you friends. I pray for all of you often, and love you much. xo

Adoption Therapy: An Interview About the Latest Hot Release from Laura Dennis


The incomparable Laura Dennis has a hot new book release, and it's my fervent hope that the whole world hears about this book, because there's a great need. The message contained therein will save lives. It's THAT important!! Today, I'm interviewing Laura about Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues. The book is available on Kindle and paperback. And, I had the incredible honor of writing the afterword for the book. Let's get started!

*************************


Deanna: What led you to the decision to publish this anthology? 

Laura: The idea came from someone close to me saying something to the effect of: Babies who are taken from their mothers don’t experience trauma! There is no trauma in adoption!  If I had a nickel for every time someone said this to an adoptee, I could afford an expensive lobbying firm get adoptees OBC access in every darn state.

The “no trauma in adoption” line is so common. I knew I could argue a good case, but felt at a loss to provide “proof,” so-to-speak. I wanted a book that adoptees could use, flipping to a chapter or a quote—replete with all of its references and examples and professional opinions—and saying to say to someone: This! This is what happened to me, and it happens to others! We’re not making this stuff up!


Deanna: Was it easy to find people to contribute?


Laura: After having published Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology, many had seen the work that was being done by Entourage Publishing and myself. So, adoptees and therapists were enthusiastic about getting involved.

The adoptees I know—especially those who have emerged from the adoption fog, are incredibly self-reflective about their adoption experience. We’ve accepted that adoption is not processed in a one-time awakening (as much as we may desire for it to be that way); rather over the course of a lifetime.

I’ve always been interested in the psychological aspects of adoption, so in my adoption activism, I’ve connected with many mental health professionals who have a special interest in post-adoption issues. Honestly (horrifyingly?), experience with post-adoption issues is a very under-studied aspect of modern clinical psychology. Contributor Brooke Randolph, LMHC wrote

It is no wonder that so many therapists are making mistakes when trying to work with those who have been impacted by adoption. Most clinicians were never provided even a basic introduction to adoption, let alone an explanation or analysis of the complexities adoption entails. Sixty-five percent of clinical psychologists surveyed were unable to recall any courses addressing adoption in graduate school, which is better than the eighty-six percent who could not recall any courses addressing adoption in their undergraduate coursework, either (Javier, et al., 2006).

When asked how much time they spend discussing adoption in doctoral-level clinical programs, professors reported an average of 7.95 minutes per semester on adoption, yet they reported spending 22.17 minutes on the rare dissociative identity disorder, and 76.82 minutes for schizophrenia (Sass, et al., 2000). I have never seen a case of dissociative identity disorder, but foster care and adoption was something I dealt with at least weekly during my masters-level internship.  

So there you go. Post-adoption issues are severely under-taught at all levels of education. Adoption Therapy is meant to fill in the gaps, to be a resource not only for adoptees, but for colleges and universities.

Deanna: What was your goal for the book? 

Laura: I had a very clear goal; I wanted adoptees to be able to walk into a potential therapist’s office, flip to a particular chapter, and state: This. I need help with this. Are you qualified?

I wanted the words of other adoptees and the perspectives of mental health professionals to provide examples and resources and (for lack of a better word) proof of what an adoptee might be experiencing. Granted, the specifics of our post-adoption issues play themselves out in varying ways, but the emotions felt are so similar it can be wonderfully validating to have a resource such as this book. The chapters tell us, Oh, maybe I’m not crazy after all; it’s just this unprocessed post-adoption issue that needs unpacking.

Deanna: How has the initial response been to the book?
 

Laura: Well, sales-wise I’m very pleased. I still would like to see more reviews on Amazon, to bolster the sense that this book is in fact vital for adoptees and the therapists tasked with helping them … but the book is very dense. I think it’s still early, and it’s taking time for people to read and process.

To that end … in an effort to bolster the reviews … we are giving away a free e-book of Adoption Reunion or Adopted Reality to anyone who writes a review of Adoption Therapy on Amazon. (Readers can simply email me the link to their review: laura@adoptedrealitymemoir.com)

Deanna: Has anyone been surprised by the very title, "Adoption Therapy"? 

Laura:
As in wondering, Why would anyone need therapy for adoption? Adoption is beautiful and there’s nothing sad or upsetting about it!
I can see how many who are in the fog (adoptive parents included) would be liable to say this, but I think that they wouldn’t even think to research or Google such a thing. It’s only when we begin to emerge, and we think, Man, I could really use some help with this … that I believe people would look for a book on such a topic. At that time it would likely make sense to them why such a book is needed.

Deanna: Why do you think a book like Adoption Therapy is so needed?

Laura: Of course, we do have The Primal Wound (N. Verrier), Journey of the Adopted Self (B.J. Lifton) and many, many more, but I wanted a resource for adoptees to be able to pinpoint how specific aspects of adoption loss and trauma played out in different ways. Because clearly, not every adoptee is traumatized by their adoption; just as not every soldier who experiences combat comes home with PTSD.

With post-adoption issues, there’s the notion of degree—some adoptees are affected more deeply (others simply bury it better, perhaps for a lifetime). There’s also the aspect of how adoption trauma is identified in our [many times maladaptive] behaviors. I’m not saying that all adoptees are damaged, either. The point of this book is to show that it’s the adoption and its attendant losses that are at the core; there is not anything inherently wrong or crazy about adoptee. … Not every adoptee becomes codependent; but many do struggle with codependence in his or her personal relationships. Not every transracial adoptee tries to change and mold his or her physical appearance to match that of the adoptive parents; but many do.


We need a book like Adoption Therapy to tease out all of these diverse ways that adoption affects our lives. Reading about the transracial adoptee (TRA) experience (even though I’m domestically adopted and White), was absolutely fascinating. Seeing how Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen (TRA from Hong Kong, adopted in the UK) and Mila Konomos (TRA from Korea, adopted in the US) used painful and destructive ways to modify their appearance—and how they could tie those behaviors directly back to their adoptedness—helped me understand and process further my own body image issues.

For example, Konomos makes the argument that her starving herself was more about control than anything else. She says in Adoption Therapy

The primary realization that has helped me to overcome my anorexia and to cope with my adoption over the years is learning to accept that I will never be in control—that control is ultimately an illusion. Even of those things that I think I can steer or command, I cannot, because life is just too wild, unpredictable and adventurous to submit to control.
But as it pertains to my adoption, I have most importantly had to learn to accept that there is nothing I can ever do to make it right. There is no amount of work or control that I can attempt that will ever bring me complete resolution or closure. This is the only way that I have found peace—to accept that I will never find complete peace over my relinquishment and adoption. 

These are tough words to read, indeed. Especially for adoptive parents who might want to “fix” their adoptee, or who simply want their adoptee to be happy and at peace. But I find comfort in her words. Recognizing that we don’t have to come to a place of peace and acceptance takes some of the pressure off. It’s okay to not be okay with our adoptedness.

There are so many lessons held within Adoption Therapy, but there are so many more still to be explored. This is why I’m now accepting abstracts for (working title) Adoption Therapy 2. We need the voices of first moms (and first family members), men, more transracial adoptees, and other diverse populations to fill-out the wide range of the adoptee experience. Anyone who wants to contribute can email me at laura@adoptedrealitymemoir.com.

Thanks so much, Deanna, for interviewing me about Adoption Therapy. Your words of wisdom as someone who has been through complex trauma and grief—and lives as a restored and loving person—are right on point. In the Afterword your wrote, your advice is so helpful and healing, exactly what is needed to close the book. You remind readers—including adoptees and those who love them, and those therapists tasked with helping them heal—that we can live as whole human beings, and still be adopted.

Deanna: Thank you, Laura. It was my honor to be involved in this project. I wholeheartedly believe in it, and in you!  

No, I Will Not Pretty-Up the Details.
Why I Don't Agree With Positive Adoption Language (PAL)


The world relentlessly attempts to squeeze us into their mold of prettying up the details.

Proponents of what is known as “Positive Adoption Language” implore us to say, “made an adoption plan” instead of “relinquished” or “surrendered” or the dreaded, “given up.”

Stop putting your spin on it, please.

I was relinquished.
I was surrendered.
I was given up. 

Until I fully faced that reality, I could not move forward.

These same proponents of PAL want me to say I “made contact with” my “biological” mother instead of saying I reunited with my natural mother. What a crock. Made contact? What do you call nine months of living inside someone's body? 

My mother and I already shared nine months together.  I reunited with her, this person I had already lived with for nine months. As far as being natural, that’s exactly who she was – my natural mother. (I say was because she is now deceased.) 

It is natural to conceive, and deliver a baby. That’s something God has naturally created human beings to be able to do although I do realize some people struggle with the trauma of infertility. And that makes me sad for them. Bottom line though is, I was conceived and birthed through natural means. Spin that any way that you want, but the truth is --I was born to this woman, and she was my mother.

And by the way, it’s the most natural thing to keep your kids, not to surrender them being that only 2% of children are relinquished. Do you like how I used surrendered and relinquished in the same sentence? This might cause the PAL proponents to need a  valium.   

I'd say conceiving, carrying, and delivering your child is about as natural as it gets. 

You PAL folks want me to say I “was” adopted, not that I “am” adopted. Are you on crack? Seriously. My natural family doesn’t go away because a few papers are signed. These are real people. 

The institution of adoption creates new ways of relating and doing things by it’s very nature. Every time I go to the doctor’s office and fill out papers, which is a few times a year – I get a reminder that, guess what…I’m adopted! I have to write it on medical papers several times a year. That adoption affects my life in profound ways even to this very minute.

Please, stop trying to change my history just to make life more comfortable for you.   

“Deanna, why do you have to talk about the pain? When you wrote your personal story, was it necessary to share all the nitty gritty of how the losses affected you through the years? Was all the talk about perpetual trauma and sharing exactly what happened in all it’s rawness really necessary?”

Those who walk in truth and not other people’s air-brushed versions they so crave to make it look like their choices were of no consequence, will always get challenged.

No, I can’t pretty it up.
I can move forward. In fact, I have made much progress!
But that wasn’t possible until I first faced it, in all it’s ugliness.
Moving forward isn't possible until you first deal with reality.

A white-washed story told through rose colored glasses is not essential in creating a beautiful ending.  Guess what… I’m in charge of the ending. Finally, I’m in control of something in this story. Because I’m an adult now and my thankfully, I get to make my own choices and don’t have to just ride the waves of the choices others dished out. It’s my turn now. My choices combined with God’s supernatural power in my life work together to create an amazing ending to a woefully painful beginning.

But pretty-up what I lived through, so others who made choices that affected me don’t feel quite so bad?

No, not gonna do that.

That would be like putting a positive spin on the Holocaust. 
And not only would that be impossible but utterly inappropriate.

Thankfully we adoptees do not have to check our brains at the door, or our feelings. 

We are the grown ups now. 
Welcome to our world.

Exclusive News Coming!



Why exclusive? Well, it's just for those Adoptee Restoration readers who are signed up for the Adoptee Restoration newsletter. Yeeeeeeeeessss, I know some of you signed up for that six months ago. But, I never sent you anything. Sorry. I'm usually not such a slacker. I got a new job and it turned everything upside down in my life (in a good way) for a time. But I'm getting my balance now. And, a slew of newsletters are fixin' to come out yes, I do live in the south starting TOMORROW, Monday, November 3. That's right, I'm sending the first one out TOMORROW!!!!Squee! Shout now, somebody!

Launch day is coming for my book and I've got major news to share! The big day is coming and it's being released on Kindle AND paperback.

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