When Reality Hurts

It’s hard sometimes when those who love you tell you that you just need to want something to get it. It’s hard when they ask you for something you’re trying to give and their response to you’re trying is to just want it. They don’t really understand. My head pounds and my stomach curdles constantly. I wake up and each day it feels like I’ve been hit by a truck because the night previous I didn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and when I finally fell asleep I dreamed. My dreams follow me from my sleep and I wake without knowing where I am. Everything around has transformed into memories of the past and the people who once hurt me surround me again. None of it’s real, but I don’t know that. I try to grasp on to every piece of reality that could pull me back, but each piece I find shares history with the dream. Often times, once I’ve reached a more tangible reality, the residue of my dreams lingers for the rest of the day. It’s hard. And it’s a pattern…it’s an unconstitutional pattern that lingers around until it’s found my weak spot and then it hits. That’s the one thing they do understand…that it happens over and over. I don’t ever notice the outcome because during the pattern I live more in survival than in reality. My life becomes surviving from day-to-day, minute to minute. I struggle to see the changes in my behavior and my attitude. I am not sure if it’s harder to be confronted about it by the ones who love you, even though they don’t really get it, or the idea that the actual relationship starts to become almost abusive. I’m not sure if it’d be classified as abusive but I shut the world out. I become so unreachable that even the things that give me the squirms or hurt me don’t phase me. I allow things like forehead kisses which most of the time make me want to explode. Even those who I most of the time reach to for love and for guidance can’t coax me. The world disappears and I start to live somewhere far away, somewhere safe and less overwhelming. It hurts because only those who are close to me see it and I only see them once a week or so. So the majority of my time I spend living somewhere else while those around me think that I’m happy and thriving. When you explain these things their reaction is one of either non-belief or unsurety. Sometimes they tell you you’re being dramatic or they make comments to say that you’re being dramatic. And so you just stop. I’ve returned to CrazyTown and made a pit stop at stoic. I still wake and my head pounds, I don’t know where I am and my stomach feels like it’s going to hurl…but I put a smile on and walk out of my house, void of emotion…And now that I’m here, where it feels more comfortable…I’m wading trying to get back to the other side. Life is exhausting.

Self-Absorbed

There comes a moment when you look around, waiting for the person in charge to help you and then, you realize you are the person in charge. You are the grown up. You are the only grown up there…and you’re not very good at It.” –The Invisible Sign

Not too long ago I was talking to a friend about some of my past adoption issues and how they still linger years later. She asked me why I am so self absorbed and why instead of talking to adoptive parents about the things that I wish my adoptive parents would have known why I don’t focus on how good the adoptive parents are doing. I didn’t really have an answer other than to say, “because not all adoptive parents want praise all the time, some want to know what they can do to help their child feel more normal.” Content with the answer, I asked her further about the self-absorbed comment and she led in with the fact that I refuse to date and that my entire life revolves around me. It does. My life does revolve around me and it probably will for a while longer because I have never had time for me. For years, the first thing that I thought when I woke up was what can I do to make sure my family is okay and that everyone gets their needs met today? For so long I have focused on taking care of everyone else around me that I have never given myself time to take care of me. My needs have never come first. And so many times in taking care of others, I waited for someone else to come take care of me. I looked around for a grown up to come in and take charge; to make sure I was okay. Sometimes, when everyone else’s needs got met but there wasn’t enough to go all the way around I felt like screaming: But what about me? Why don’t I ever come first? Or second? Why is it that my needs always come last? And by the time I was adopted, I was old enough to take care of myself and so my needs continued to be my responsibility. So many times, even today in the family I have, the waiting happens. I look around and hope that one of the adults in my life with swoop in and say, “Hey, you’ve taken care of everyone for so long, let me take care of you.” I hope that they will ask me to participate in recreating my brain by allowing them to meet my needs. And they do. In their own way, each family has taken me in and is able to give me enough. They are able to help me fill a little bit of my needs. Even still it’s so hard not to push that expectation on them. It’s hard not to demand that one of them do it. Because when I look around and I realize that I’m the grown up, that my years of childhood are long gone and have been since I was a kid, it’s overwhelming to think that I have to continue to do this for another 70 or 80 years. It’s exhausting to know that my needs will forever be my responsibility and that I didn’t have the chance to get them met by someone else. And it’s mind numbing to think that one day, I might have to start taking care of other people again and putting my own needs last. So, I guess for me, and possibly others who’ve had to take care of everyone else their entire life, I am self-absorbed because I never had the chance to be. I am self-absorbed because I have to be. I am self-absorbed because my life has been a series of everyone else, but never my own. I am self-absorbed because I know that if I am not, at this point, I will not be able to get better. But just because I’m self-absorbed and choose to do the things I know will help me heal, help me be happy, and allow me to someday reach back out and give my entire self away again it doesn’t mean I can’t still care for others. It doesn’t mean that their needs and their wants are any less important than mine. Just because I’m taking initiative of my life doesn’t make theirs any less impactful for me…in fact, it’s empowering to know that they are self-sufficient enough to take care of them so that I can take care of me. Sometimes you have to stop waiting for someone else to take care of you and just take care of yourself.

Internal Time Clocks

Sometimes when you are working to defeat the demons of the past, the hardest thing to hear is, “you put way too much emphasis on that”. As it has been for the past 10 years, specifically, and though it’s getting easier, February has been kind of a rough month. It entails multiple birthdays, a best friends death, and of course Valentines Day. Celebrating two of the birthdays, in the past, included giving myself to the birthday person for as long as they wanted and doing whatever they wanted…and for Valentines Day? It became double the fun. It isn’t something I like to remember or even want to remember, but I do. Each year, as February approaches, my body spikes up and the flashbacks get worse…this year, however, was a little different and none of it started until closer to Valentines Day. The day it began, I mentioned to my friend that the week following might be a hard one because it is a week chalk full of big stuff and she responded, ”you put way to much emphasis on that.” I stopped the conversation and told myself to not mention it again and to not allow myself to be bothered on the days of past events. The 12th came along and I did okay. I had a good day and no flashbacks or meltdowns, until around 11 at night. I completely lost it. I couldn’t understand why I was freaking out but when I looked at my phone and realized the date, I realized that my body was reliving survivor’s guilt all over again. I hated myself for living at a time when I was not loved and my best friend who did die was loved. I hated myself for making it out of Crazytown and leaving everyone else behind. And I hated myself for hating that I lived. Around the same time I started having nightmares about the abuse that occurred with my bio family. My nightmares followed me into the day and little things kept triggering me. I walked my dog and just being outside at night triggered me. The flashbacks turned into body memories and I couldn’t remember where I was and couldn’t separate the past from reality. But the thing is, I wasn’t even consciously thinking about my friend’s death on the anniversary of his death nor was I thinking about the sexual abuse that occurred heavily on Valentines Day. But my body remembered and it needed me to work some stuff out. I still have the two birthdays lying ahead. This year, both fall on a day when I have all day affairs leaving me no room to think about them. My hope is that my body will forget the time, forget the day, and live as if it’s a normal day. The thing is, it’s not that I put too much emphasis on these days. Often times these days are full of activities that leave me no room to think about anything other than what’s going on. Perhaps the problem is that I don’t spend enough time on these days allowing myself to heal from the past. Maybe my body remembers because it needs help forgetting, or working through it. In the mean time, I’m doing the best I can and because my body does remember and I am still diligently working to learn to regulate…my internal time clock reminds me that there was pain and it was never actually felt.

Push and Pull

Love is hard.
The part of you that wants love, that needs love the most, is the part that continuously pushes people away. It’s the part that fights with every fiber of it’s split being to crush anybody who comes close enough, who wants to love you. It’s like you win grandly at this terrible failure. You fight so hard to keep everyone away when in reality you hope that they’ll see through your anger and stay. You have to see who is strong enough to handle you and all your hurts. So which is the biggest failure? Your inevitable ability to wash your hands of anyone who enters within a 500-mile radius of your heart, or the fact that you want their love so badly it terrifies you and you don’t know how to control the fear? In either case you lose someone…and someone the rest of you really cares about.

But love is not really that hard.
Love is patient and kind. The reason that feels so scary is because for so long there was no patience or kindness. There was no one there to say, “Hey, I love you even though I’m having a hard time.” No, instead there was anger and frustration. Rages sometimes. You were in the way or on their nerves. But love is easy. You’ve felt love. You’ve desired love—love in the purest form—and it was simple when you got it.

Love is hard.
It’s like a battlefield that’s continuously in motion, asking for a rest in the most comforting trenches. It pulls you in and lulls you to sleep. As you dream your body soaks in the warmth and the silence, but then something sneaks into your brain and reminds you that love isn’t so safe, so you retaliate and the war continues.

But love is soft.
It encompasses you in your hardest times, but you forget that. And as you work through the hard times, love sits patiently and rallies around you waiting for the moment you’re free from your hurt and your anger. But again, you see only the hardness of boundaries and what feels like duplication of the past. It feels so hard and you feel that love has disappeared. Until you move past the hard time and look back, you realize that love is what held you up.

Love is hard.
You keep hearing people say that you just have to work at it, you just have to want it, and then you just have to do it and you start wonder if you’re doing it wrong. You see quotes about the strongest and the most loving people being those from the hardest places and you question if you hadn’t gone through hard enough things to allow you to see how important love really is. Did I miss the memo?

The thing with trauma, I think for anyone, but especially with those directly involved, is that love is a push and pull. Some days are really hard. Really, REALLY hard. For the parents, they see their child misbehaving, they soak in the struggle, and for a moment they forget what is that they adore about said child. For the siblings it feels like there is so much sacrifice and un-justice. To them it seems that they are not as important as this brother/sister who is constantly acting out, so they too must act out. And for the one who entered traumatized, every day feels like a battle learning to become one with this family. Every one is trying to make it work, but everyone functions so differently that there are times when it just feels like nothing is ever going to get better and the animosity and resentment are continuously present. But then there are moments of complete joy; sometimes a few minutes, maybe a day or two, and as deeper healing starts to take place even longer periods—months or years. Everyone involved starts to understand that the hardships in love didn’t really outweigh the outcome, rather they produce it and create deeper loving, more connected beings. It’s a long journey, it’s a hard one…but what follows is so worth it.

what about a rescue family?

A common term in adoption quoted by adoptive parents, at least in those with turmoil, is a rescue mom. Sometimes there’s also a rescue dad or siblings or even an entire family. I’m not sure, as an adoptee, where this term originated or at what point an adoptee is said to have acquired a rescue mom {family} outside of the normal teen-hood behavior, but it often crosses my mind.

We live in a day and age where people are easily accessible, really only a few clicks away. It is in our nature, as humans, to desire connection and understanding and so often times we search for that connection on social media outlets, support groups, via text messages, or snail mail. We search for people who will understand us for who we are, or who we want to be, and who will tolerate us long enough to support us in whatever struggle it is we are having. We search for people who will fulfill the needs that are not being met in our day-to-day life with our day-to-day people. We seek to empty the seed of rejection and misunderstanding. I see this often, not only with myself, but also with hundreds of people every day. I’m part of a mixed group of people including adoptees, adoptive parents, siblings, and family members all struggling with the relationship piece of adoption—attachment, connection, bonding. Kids of these parents have left home and never returned; instead finding a new home surrounded by new people who will meet their needs differently than the “original” adoptive family. Just as a child goes off to college and finds solace via “other moms” these children leave home seeking that comfort…only perhaps a bit more dysfunctionally. It confuses me at this point when a parent or family member begins to belittle or encourage negative happenings towards the relationship between the adoptee and the “rescue family”—a term commonly used between adoptive parents in these groups. When a parent talks ill of the rescue parent and shames the adoptee. Weren’t you once a rescue parent, too? Bringing your child bigger and better things than their previous home? Hoping for the best and giving it all you’ve got? Providing your child with the understanding you thought they needed. Bringing a child into your home and working to understand them, cluelessly? And people were so grateful to you for “rescuing” your poor child.

At what point does a person become the rescue parent? Or when do they stop being the rescue parent and start being the actual parent? I know, as my adoptive mom and I have talked about it, that my adoptive parents believe that I moved here to live with Bailey and replace their family with hers. They believe that I came here to be rescued, to play the “poor orphan” card…and perhaps in a way I did. I had nowhere in that moment to go and here is the only place I knew people. I was asked to never return home, to my adoptives, where I was living was being torn down and I was flunking out of school. So, I weighed my options between here and two other states. I chose based on where I knew I’d get the most support and stability. It turns out that it was the best and hardest move I’ve ever made…but at what point did my adoptive parents deem Bailey my so-called rescue mom? When she encouraged me to move somewhere I’d have support? When she offered me a place to sleep when I had nowhere but my car? And when did Zhanna become my rescue sister? When she asked me to go out and catch grasshoppers with her or when she wanted to have a sleep over because we were having too much fun to actually go to sleep? And with Becca, did her asking me to family functions and offerings of support during dr’s appointments, hospital stays, etc make her my rescue mom? When did these people stop being my rescue family and start being my family? The moment they offered me a place to stay when I had nowhere to go. Was it the multiple times they endured the hateful comments or rages, both in anger and in calmness on their parts? Or the moment they looked into my fear filled eyes after I lost it, and they did too, and said, “no matter what, we will be here for you…” and have yet to abandon that promise though they’ve been given ample opportunity.

As an adoptee, moving on is so different from that. When I came here hoping for stability I also hoped for understanding. I hoped that someone, after 20 years, would hear me and help me through my pain. And I can only hope and believe that my adoptive mom has worked through the deep seed of rejection she feels I am thrusting on her and can understand the magnitude of how much she has helped me and the people here have helped me. I do not reject her, however, I also do not entrust her with my deepest secrets or darkest fears because I know that she cannot handle them. She knows she cannot handle them. I did not find a replacement for her as I know that once I am healthy she and I have the possibilities of having a good, solid relationship…. unfortunately she is not the right one to help me get healthy. She is not the one who is able to walk through my deep secrets with me. Perhaps, to her these people here will always be my rescue family…or perhaps one day she’ll realize that it is merely an extension of my already family…

 

 

Finding Home

I don’t know how to write this post and to make it cohesive at the same time. My thoughts are jumbled and confused, still left unprocessed, but they sit on the tip of my tongue waiting to be told.

I’ve searched for many years hoping to find home—to understand home. I thought that home is where you grew up, where your first memories were made and with those who surrounded you in those moments. For some it is, unfortunately for others, it is not. A part of my heart resides in a little town far from where I am now, searching for something, someone, there. It wanders around determined to find the people who created my very existence, my first memories, the ones who were meant to love and cherish me but did not. As I returned to that place surrounded by people who once tried filling that void and replacing it with home, my heart sunk. It didn’t break or shatter, it sunk into a depth it had only sunken to once before and I was sure it’d never be again. As I went through the day the amount of disconnect required for me to be able to function within this family without a breakdown was uncomfortable but comfortable in the most familiar ways. It was forced. It was required. In a moment’s time, I was trapped in a place I had not returned to in the years I’ve been here. I’m not a crier, but as I lay in bed that night knowing that I wouldn’t return again, I sobbed at the loss of what I believed to be home. I sobbed at the loss of a precious soul that connected me to that home and the reality that unless she comes to me, I will not see her in living form again. The next morning I got up and I left behind what I thought I always understood, for a second time. I travelled to an aunt’s house who, for lack of better words, was my last stop, my reassurance that this was right. As we conversed for a few hours about not only my visit but the issues it’d bring up, my school, my cousin (who too was adopted), and life in general she asked: do you feel calm enough that you will be able to return again? Do you want to come back? And I didn’t. I don’t. I can’t. She led a false hope that what I’d left only hours before, even three years ago, was still home. I sat in the airport searching, again, hoping to find and understand what home is. As I watched airplanes take off and land I wondered how many passengers were seeking just as I, a place to belong, a place to feel loved, a place to settle their hearts. As I landed back in my state and walked off the plane and into the arms of Becca (who’d accompanied me on the trip) there was an instantaneous feeling of relief, an understanding that it was okay to let my original home go. Today, as I sat on Bailey’s porch recalling her concern for me last night, asking me to wake her so she could make sure I was okay, I felt a brief sense of surety. I remembered a time, three years ago, when I sat on this very same porch terrified of the woman inside of the house behind me. I recalled a time that I yearned to go back to where I came from, where things felt comfortable and safe…and how in the very moment the universe flipped and this place became comfortable and safe while the place I come from was unnerving and daunting. As Grace sighed in relief when I told her I was back and the eagerness she had to schedule a meeting as soon as possible confirmed that here, I have a slew of people who do love me, who I can be me around. I have a place where I can turn to when I struggle and the people around me understand. In that moment I realized that over the past three years, the women and their families here have cracked my deep, thick walls just enough to free me from my self enough to know that it doesn’t feel good to not have anyone. They’ve helped me heal enough to understand that I don’t have to lock every decibel of my heart from the world, that some people can handle me. Like many, I’ve searched my whole life to no avail…and still it is uncertain where my home is. I still don’t feel I can or do belong somewhere with someone. But slowly, my heart is creating a home here… with these people who refuse to give up on me and continue to put their hearts into helping mine be free. I may not know exactly where my home is, or if I have one at all, but I’ve found a home here, in small increments. A home that may not always be mine but for now can be mine.

The lucky one

To the adoptee who doesn’t understand,

You are lucky. Lucky isn’t typically a word that many of us adoptee’s actually like. It gets redundant hearing it over and over how grateful we should be and how lucky we are that we were chosen. It’s a word that sometimes plagues us with guilt as we know that there are thousands of others who want to be exactly where we are all the while we are searching and yearning for something else. It’s a word that before adoption we thought meant family, that when we saw a friend get chosen we knew they were lucky. But you, you’re a different kind of lucky.

You are the adoptee who, despite the idea that you’ve lost everything, is content. You are the one who tells your mom “no” when she asks if you have any interest in searching for your first mom. You wake up every morning with a certainty that you are right where you belong. You are the adoptee who couldn’t imagine questioning the idea that your parents are your parents despite there being no blood ties. You don’t need to worry or wonder whose eyes you have or if your giggle matches your first moms. You are so settled in who you are and in your family that none of the “before” matters.

I envy you for that because I am not that adoptee. I am the adoptee who needs to know, who wants to. I am not settled with who I am or where I belong. I was adopted older, therefore I too am lucky, but I don’t feel lucky knowing I had to lose every last bit of what was mine to gain something new. I know whose eyes I have and I know where I get my unsettled southern twang when I’m dysregulated…but I’m still not settled. I need something more. I need to truly know my first mom. I know she is. But I need to truly know her.

I don’t know if you envy me. Being completely content in your family and your adoption gives you a different experience than my own. Are you the kid that was the “good” adoptee? The one without the issues? Did you ever envy the attention I received for wondering? Or do you agree with me? Are you the lucky one for having no questions? Just like I do, do you make assumptions? Do you assume that I’m just not grateful or that I don’t love my parents?

Not only does being curious and needing that knowing separate us, but being an older adoptee does. It only puts one more brick between my understanding yet complete envy of you. I have a past and I know my first mom. I know what she did and does and I know that she didn’t want me. I know that in my first 14 years she hurt me and allowed others to hurt me, yet I still yearn. I still desire that connection with my firsts so badly. But I shouldn’t. I should be like you: content. I should be happy and okay with being adopted and having other people “want” me. But I’m not.

You and I, we don’t understand each other. We question each other’s motives and thought processes marking one to be healthier than the other. We wonder how if we’ve been given so much we can seem either overly grateful or not grateful enough. Maybe we even try to place ourselves into each other’s shoes to see what life would be like. We have so much that connects us but there is a world between us.  We don’t understand each other but the truth is, we are the same.  Either way, we have people who chose us and if that makes me the bad kid for not being as appreciative or attached, and you the good kid cuz you’d never dare think that your adoptives aren’t your parents,  I’ll take it. It’s worth it. It’s not really a matter of I am or you are lucky, I think we are very much the same and a very much lucky…in our own ways

Why I’d Say No {part 2}

As I settle back into my daily routine, I thought I’d take a moment and share a bit more about why I’d politely decline an offer of adoption.

Connection doesn’t come easily for me. It is not natural and is something that I have to work very hard for. I was reminded of that this past week when I went home to Bailey’s for Thanksgiving. Here at school, I have one focus–to do well in school. I go to school, to work, and to my house all the while staying far away in my own little world. I don’t’ have to worry about being in a relationship or truly connecting with anyone. Throughout the years, I’ve managed to learn to still function appropriately without being present. It has taken me the two and half years living here, in an unconditionally loving place, for me to be able to enter back into my body, if not just enough to connect at some level. The problem is, I didn’t realize how exhausting that has been for me until this recent trip home. Everything came flooding back–the failed adoptions, my mistakes, how imperfect I am, how unlike kids my age I really am–and some major regression ensued. All of the feelings of jealousy towards Zhanna returned, the 2-3 year old behavior, the need to self-soothe. And then when it was time to come back, the small meltdown. I went from being the 100% functioning 22-year-old to the 2/5/8/12-year-old in a matter of days. And that’s when I realized that I am not family material.

I cannot yet function at a healthily connected level within a family unit and have outside activities as well. I cannot focus on school and focus on relationship. My brain, heart, and body are not yet at a level where they can all work together to meet the needs of more than one thing. Because I have to work so hard and exert so much energy into just connecting, it is hard for me to be in the same house as someone who desires connection for long periods of time. It’s too exhausting and then the regression starts.  This was a problem in each of my homes as my inability to connect was taken as mere rejection towards them. They, much like myself, were unable to come outside of themselves and their hurt to teach me and show me that it was safe to come back and connect. Ultimately, if I was in a family setting I don’t think I would be doing as well in school. One or the other would suffer, and I’m not sure I’d be okay with that.

Not only am I unable to connect easily, I don’t do transitions well. Any transition whether it be from having class to having a short holiday break, or from my house to Bailey’s for the weekend knocks my entire routine off cycle and throws me overboard. Each transition takes a few days to recoup…which usually means that for a few days I’m having meltdowns, panic attacks, sometimes self harm, and complete disconnect. Due to the excessive amount of abuse I’ve gone through it would seem that this is all normal, and it is, but I am not a child and therefore cannot behave as a child. I cannot have these days of meltdowns over the simplest of transition and I couldn’t put it on the shoulders of someone else to make sure that I’m able to cope. Bailey, Grace and Becca have graciously taken that task on, as their schedules allow, but I couldn’t put that full time on someone else. It is ultimately my job to learn and to adapt to the changes around me.

The truth is, I may never function at an age/emotionally appropriate level. I may never catch up to my peers. I do worry that connection will always be a struggle for me. But even so, I know that one day I will have the most healthy relationship available on this planet…because I will have worked passed the trauma’s holding me back. That relationship may never be a mom or dad relationship and quite frankly, that’s okay because I may never be family material. Please don’t take that the wrong way either…I say family material meaning that I am not daughter material. I may never have the capabilities of loving someone as I once loved my mom or my dad. I may never regain the amount of trust it would take to allow someone to be my mom and dad. I may always have to be content with a created family of sisters and brothers, and that’s okay.

Adoption is a big deal. It gives people the opportunity to create something outside of the ordinary. It allows connection without blood. Adoption is meant to be happy, in the saddest of ways, and I have walked into too many believing that it was a happily ever after and forever. Adoption is meant to be forever. Walking in, the child wants a family and the parents want a child. There is an expectation that at some point there be a bond created in which a true mother/child relationship built on trust and love is maintained. I know that I couldn’t walk into a family and fulfill that expectation. I know that right now, I couldn’t meet a family with that familial expectation…and it wouldn’t be fair of me to hurt and mislead them into believing I’m ready for that.

Why I’d Say No

In lieu of National Adoption Month, I thought I’d share my thoughts on adoption.

A few days ago, one of my professors who knows I was adopted and that the adoption didn’t work asked me, “If the opportunity arose, what would you say about being adopted again?” At first I was confused and a little irritated, I didn’t know how to respond as half the class was staring at me. Instead of giving a yes or no, I answered, “It’s something that I’d have to think longer on. It’s not a yes or no answer.” She was pleased and moved on, but the question kept ringing in my ears. How would I answer?

I haven’t gone into great detail about all the failed adoptions as I feel they are still a little to personal, but from each adoption a little piece of my heart was changed. The first family that was going to adopt me got tired of fighting my grandparents and when they decided to move, they decided to give up. The second adoption failed because I was having doubts and was still too attached to my roots, something my adoptive mom couldn’t stand. My third failed because it was the mother of my second and things were just uncomfortable. I became the “trouble” child. The last, my legally adoptive parents, failed because of the rejection, fear and the lack of trust.

In each of these adoptions I held the biggest reason for the disruption: the inability to let go of the past and become someone new. I was in so much pain and turmoil that I didn’t know how to move past it all. I needed that extra help. I needed to regress back to major growing points in my life that were missed. Unfortunately, my adoptive families didn’t know or understand this. The families who did understand this refused to do this because chronologically it wasn’t right. I was 17.5 not 2 or 4 or 8. They didn’t have the ability to accept me enough to let me feel safe. I didn’t have the ability to trust them enough to let them in. It was hard. With each family I walked away feeling a little more beaten, a little more bruised. But I didn’t give up.

After each family kicked me out or left, I decided that I still wanted a family. I kept telling myself that there are millions of families out there in this world, one of them had to be mine; I had to belong to someone. As much as I knew S@nta wasn’t real, I wished every year to have a family “come for me” for Christmas. I hoped that some how I’d magically have a family on Christmas morning. I remember being so happy after my 2nd adoptive family asked if they could adopt me, we went on a walk and I told them that I had wished for this for years. Every time an adoption failed, I prayed even harder to a God that never answered..to a God that I didn’t even believe in but that so many people kept saying made life so much more bare able.

So, how would I respond to someone if they asked if I wanted to be adopted into their family? or adopted in general? I think, right now, I would apologize to them for giving them the idea that I wanted to be adopted and then I would respectfully decline. It’s not that I don’t want to be adopted; believe me, I do. I want a mom and a dad and siblings more than anything. But the truth is, adoption isn’t for me. It isn’t part of my plan.

After 4 failed adoptions I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the only problem, but I was a problem. Because I grew up with my mom it is really hard for me to let her go. For 3/4 of my life, she was the one who I woke up to…despite the horrible abuse and environment. She is the one I called mom every single day. She is the one I took care of when she was sick or coming down. She was the one whose wounds I mended after her boyfriend beat her black and blue. For 8 years I have been so terrified to let go of my mom, to let go of my past and my hurt, that I failed to let anyone else in.

I felt like I was being brave by moving on from each loss so quickly. I felt like I was conquering the world with each step I took forward when I was thrown back. But what I didn’t realize was that for so many years the hoping and wishing and praying for a family where I belonged didn’t mean having  a mom, a dad, and siblings. It didn’t mean forgetting about my mom and shutting everyone else out. Instead, it meant going into a multitude of families and learning from each one something new. It meant putting myself through so much pain and turmoil that I could understand that there is more for me than belonging to someone legally. It meant learning that no matter what is thrown my way knowing my heart and mind and body could be strong enough to beat it.

I want a mom. I want a dad. I want a legal family. But a legal family is not my thing. A legal family, in my case because it is not an option to have my real mom a part of my life) gives the stipulation that there is one mom and one dad (after  adoption) and that you can mourn your first family but that you cannot have your first family. Legal family means being held to an expectation that you are like them somehow. Legal family means calling someone mom and dad and brother/sister. It means learning to conform to new rules and a whole new life style.  These are things I’ve done 3 too many times. These are things I cannot do without compromising the love I have for my mom, because in this moment, my heart doesn’t know how to love like that. I don’t quite understand how to love my mom and love another mom and dad too, yet.

I have a family where I am and even though it’s not perfect, I don’t fight so hard to keep them out. I’ve learned to slowly open my heart and to let them in to see the deep, deep hurt. This family believes in me like no other family has believed in me and each day, I’m learning to allow that. I’m learning to accept their help in whatever form they give it to me and it’s hard. Family is hard. Learning to communicate and react appropriately, to love and to love unconditionally is hard. Learning to respect each members physical, mental, and emotional needs is hard. I’m learning slowly to give my past to my family…to let them help me carry my baggage so that it’s not so heavy…and it’s hard.  We struggle. Sometimes I get so angry at them I wish them away forever–and then I fear they will leave. Sometimes they become so confused and frustrated with me that they yell at me or take a break from me. We fight, more than I’d like to admit, but most of the time we are okay…because I don’t have to call them mom or dad, brother or sister. I don’t have to like sports or go to church. I am free to be who I need to be with the only expectation being that I am: respectful of others, honest, and doing my best. They have taught me what unconditional love is and that love never fails.

In this moment, I would say no to an offer of adoption…even if it was from any of the people in my “family”…because I know that once the idea that I have a MOM hits, the trouble will hit. I would say no because I have a family. I have people around me who love me and who believe in me. I am adopted–both legally and undocumented…

 

What Love Means

A few years ago, when I lived with my adoptive parents still, Zheila asked me what I thought love meant and what it meant to have a mom/what a moms role is. Wanting so desperately to have these things, I thought I knew exactly what it meant, yet I came short of an answer. I didn’t know what to say. I told her I didn’t know but that it wasn’t what I was getting/ what was happening. Two years later I can confidently answer her question and this is how:

Love is unconditional. It doesn’t judge for the little mistakes I make. Love doesn’t look at me as a diseased child. It doesn’t try to mold me into something that I wasn’t meant to be. It doesn’t care that I was abused for 3/4 of my life. Love see’s that I am trying my very best and accepts that. It is accepting and kind and walks with me on my journey. Love doesn’t expect anything in return. It picks me up when I’m in my darkest moment and helps me build stairs from the bottom of my well. It offers to sit with me on the bathroom floor as I injure myself just to feel something, even though it’s hard and then follows through. Love wraps me in its arm when I feel the most unloveable. It doesn’t expect me to be my age. And though I don’t have experience with an actual mom,  I finally know what it would feel like to have one. They are not my mom, but Bailey, Becca, and Grace (my therapist) encompass me in love every day and show me what I never had. They make sure that I am okay. They make sure that I am safe. Every day Bailey tells me good morning and goodnight. She reminds me that though I’m a broken, I am not shattered. She makes sure that I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge and offers kind words of encouragement towards my success. She makes sure to tell me often that I am loved and that I am a good person. She will pull me into her arms and rock me like an infant if I am unable to cope with the world and just need help. Becca sets me on a path of logical consciousness, helping me to survive every day at school. She too allows me to be broken and still feel loved. She doesn’t talk to me daily, but when she does she never forgets to let me know that I’m loved. Like Bailey, she offers me one of the greatest gifts–the gift of a friend (their daughters) who is much like myself. She will wrap me in a hug as I stomp my feet and cry. When I’m struggling in school, she sits down with me and walks me through and helps me to process what is going on.  Grace also checks in on me every day. She makes sure I have taken my pill for bed, that I’ve survived a day, and that I’ve completed everything needed. She offers me a deeper therapeutic relationship than the average therapist which allows me to have someone to connect with when my main support is  unable. She laughs with me and holds me when I cry. She holds many of my darkest secrets and keeps them safe while letting me know that she still believes I’m an ok kid. Like the other two, she offers me someone who thinks much like I do. She understands me at such a deep and emotional level that is both terrifying and satisfying, as do the other two. Each of these ladies offers me a love that is pure and kind. They give me a love that’s intentional and unconditional.  Each of these women have shown me in a multitude of ways that no matter how broken I am, no matter how many mistakes I make, they will always love me. They all three make sure that I have a roof over my head and that I’m eating. They sit with me in my darkest time and let me regress as far as I need to in order to heal. They wrap me in their arms when I’ve had a bad day.

Though these women, combined, offer what a mom is supposed to offer (unconditional love and support) it isn’t always easy. There are hard things about love and about having/being a mom. We struggle sometimes. I reject their love and after a while rejection is just plain hard and exhausting. I fight them tooth and nail when they try to help me understand that I am lovable and that I am worthy of love. Most times they fight right back. They fight my brain with me…but sometimes they lose it. Sometimes they yell. Sometimes one of them even screams. They take a step back and recoup and it’s hard! I don’t like it. But this is love and this is relationship.

These ladies aren’t my mom and never will be…but they have given me a sense of family and worthiness that I have lacked my entire life. They have given me relationship without stipulation. They have given me relationship without hurt (though I’m not going to lie, quite often relationship is pretty painful anyway, in a struggle kind of way.)

This is what I want my adoptive mom to know now. These are the things I would tell her if she asked me what love was and what it meant to be/have a mom. These are the things moms are supposed to do and this is what love looks like. I know she wouldn’t agree and that’s okay because for now, my “mom” fill is complete. I don’t need a mom and I don’t want a mom. I have love and I have three wonderful women and 3 of the most amazing friends who support me in all that I do. I’m surrounded in pure and unconditional love and trust and it feels right for me. It feels like what I need and for now, it feels like enough. Love is patient, but more importantly love is forgiving.

“Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you…”