Adoptism-Brain: It’s real!

I have a mental condition called “Adoptism-Brain”.

Oh, you’ve not heard of it before? Allow me to share.

It occurs when you are an adopted person, and you think about being an adoptee a lot, and you know you have two names and two sets of family out there. It’s when you are painfully aware that you are not enough like your adoptive family, even on the best of days, and even when you wish you could be more like them.

It’s when you look like your birth family members, but there’s still a ton of missing information because separation for so long causes this. It’s like looking at a censored document with key words blocked out of the paper, or at one of those pixelated pictures of someone naked. So you know some stuff, but you can’t know everything because you didn’t get to experience a past together or see all these people face-to-face. Adoptism-Brain makes you think and see the world in a different way from non-adopted people.

It’s part science and part psychology. When you are exposed to limited stimuli, (in my case: visuals, audio, touch, and scent of the biological family) you grow up missing something. Instead, (in my case again), I was provided with substitute stimuli. It met my basic needs, but…

My adoptive family was pretty darn great. I will not deny this. I had all the stuff a baby/growing kid could ever want and need, including loving grandparents, summer vacations to Florida, a red Huffy bike at Christmas and a big, loving Boxer dog with droopy jowls and a thick, furry neck I could throw my arms around to hug tightly.

It’s not that I lacked decent stimuli, (after I was placed). It was that I lacked authenticity. The message conveyed by my parents and society at large was conflicting to the lesson adults also taught me, which was to always be truthful. The Institutions in Authority back in the Baby-Scoop Days fully believed that accepting substitutes and false / hidden facts was OK. That was the thinking back then. I don’t blame my mom and dad. They were raised to not question authority.

The problem was, (and still is for so many), that it’s confusing and not that simple. It’s not OK. Fake news is not OK because it messes with your head. It makes your mind work to constantly adapt to and work around all the missing sensations and details to find a wholeness in your identity.

Adoptism-Brain makes you function differently from other people.

Adoptism-Brain made my brain do flip-flops while trying to learn in school because I had this one extra layer of personal information to process that no one else had to deal with.

Adoptism-Brain made me incapable of noticing little things like when someone in my family would say, “Oh, look at that pretty blue bird over there”, and everyone else would turn to see it and go, “Oooh-ahhh” at the birdie, except for me who would be saying, “Where, what bird?” because I had more important things to stay watchful for.

Likewise, this condition might have caused me to unintentionally miss a detail of information you’ve verbally shared because my thoughts are also constantly split between what is actually going on in the present world and what might have happened concerning some very significant people from my first past. I will never stop wondering about the real story of how I came to be.

Adoptism-Brain makes me wary. It makes me question what is true and right.  It gives me a deep distrust of symbolic talk and superficial behaviors.  I want your exact words and for you to only say what you mean. No BS-ing.

I’m not a scientist or a doctor. Still, it is true that my brain is not wired like a non-adopted person’s brain. I know this is a fact because I live it and observe it every day with all people I interact with. I also know that without a bigger reason, no one will just freely offer up CT scans MRIs or EEGs to find proof just because you’re an adoptee. Those tests cost a fortune, and folks in immediate life-threatening situations need to access that level of care first.

Our brains work funky in ways that can’t be quantified in a traditional, methodical way, ( at this time), which is why it’s such a challenge to convince the academic community that Adoptism-Brain is a thing. Believe me. It’s a real thing.

If cancer patients can experience “ Chemo-Brain”, ( which appears to be a real thing but hard to quantify), then it’s also possible for the adopted to experience Adoptism-Brain. Right?

The thing now is, what do we do about it? Can we make Adoptism-Brain go away? I can only share that finding out as much truth as I possibly could is the thing that helped me the most. Today I know what my reality is and what might have been. It’s not a matter of finding better or worse. It’s a matter of knowing.

Just knowing.

 

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A Teachable Moment

Recently I found myself in this discussion with someone regarding the release of my sequel memoir, AFTER THE TRUTH. I believe she truly wanted to understand:

Her: “So what’s it about?”  (the book)

Me: Still adoption but what adoption is like as an adult instead of how it felt as a kid.”

Her: “Did you really not like being adopted?”

Me: “Um, getting adopted was fine. Being adopted not a lot.”

Her: “How come?”

Me: “I wanted to be born in the family like everyone else. I wanted to be born and in like you were, and like ___XXX___ was. I wanted to feel more real, and there was no way to make that happen, no matter how good it was.”

Like, as an adult it’s better because you don’t have to worry about kids bullying you on a playground over it.

And now people care less since it’s all out there in real life and on TV. We have baby-mamas and baby-daddies and we aren’t putting them down. But when I was a kid, that stuff was still like a sin and a shame.

Now people talk about it more.

Her: Yes, times have changed.

Me: Now that I actually know a bunch of other adopted people who are my age and think the way I do, it’s better. I’m less different.”

Her: “Oh.”

Me: (taking advantage of my chance to speak freely here),  “It’s like what if I was born with 3 missing fingers instead? Ya know? You learn to compensate, you move on. You find a way to have a life, but 3 missing fingers sucks even though it won’t kill you. You might want to hide your bad hand from a lot of people and wonder what it would be like to have normal hands even if you do figure out how to hold a pencil. You learn to deal but you still would like to not have those missing parts.”

 

#adoption #afterthetruth #akintothetruth #adoptee

Review: When We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

When We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is a historical fiction account of five siblings, separated by tragedy and impoverished circumstances in the 1930s. When their mother suffers serious pregnancy complications, their father must leave the children alone on a shanty boat to seek medical help.  While away, the unthinkable happens. The children are abducted.  Curtailed by poverty, no formal education, a lack of societal support and fear, the children and parents become separated.

Cut to present day when a young, aspiring attorney from a Southern, aristocratic political family happens upon a family mystery and secrets when she returns home to visit and attend to her father who is ill.

Elements from the past combine with the present to unfurl the truth regarding this family’s past history.

I personally enjoyed the “voice” of Rill, the teenaged oldest sister from the 1930s, who struggles to protect her siblings from danger, abuse, and further separation. She is courageous, personable, spirited and bright.

Avery, the modern day lawyer is struggling with her own identity as a woman in a position of prestige in the public eye. She must discern between her wealthy family’s expectations and traditions for her future and her personal aspirations which might break from the presumed path of duty, humility, and conservatism.    

Some adopted readers might find this account filled with “triggers” relating to their personal situations, but it is a worthy and well-done read. It is another truth relating to adoptions and child-brokering for profit conducted by Georgia Tan many years ago. Sadly these crimes do happen in present times around the world, (although, to be fair, not in all adoption cases.)

When We Were Yours is descriptive and draws you into the past through creative story-telling and engaging dialogue.

Review of: The Kid, (What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to go get Pregnant) an adoption story by Dan Savage

Writer/ Journalist, Dan Savage appears to be an adoptive parent who gets it. He’s written a book about his and his partner, Terry’s experience when they decided to adopt a baby in the 1990s.

With great detail, humor, and compassion for their son, his birth mother and fellow adoptive parents, Savage explains the deeply thought out process of deciding to become parents. He describes how he and his partner felt while attending pre-parenting classes and meetings with the biological mom which their Portland, Oregon agency arranged.

This book is important for all members of the adoption constellation because Savage offers his unique perspective as a future adoptive parent in the public eye due to his career plus also a member of the LGBTQ community. It is unique because there are few adoption-themed books available from this social group, although the vast majority of his experiences and attitudes while waiting are universal to many couples who are expecting a baby. The Kid is probably one of the funniest books you’ll ever read on this subject as well.

This was a fun summer read because it was light and uplifting. However, Savage is the kind of person who masters humor to cope with and deflect his sincere feelings of compassion, love, care, and respect for the community of adoptive parents, social workers, his partner and especially their birth mother and son.

Review of Little Sylvie, An Unforgettable Adoption Story

This memoir is Sylvie Gagnon’s, account of her adoption experience and what her adoptive parents went through during the process of adopting a baby from Canada. It is also about Sylvie’s feelings regarding being an adoptee and connecting with her biological mother as a young adult. I chose to read this memoir because Sylvie is an adoptee from Canada, and I have a friend who is also an adoptee from Canada and naturalized in the USA.

This book reads fast and is very much to the point. It proves once again that as adoptees, our feelings and beliefs are all over the spectrum. I would have liked deeper reflection and description in the writing, but Gagnon makes some essential points which all adoptees can relate to.  She went through a time where searching for bio family was not a priority for her. She believes this is because she had a blessed life with her adoptive family and she was lucky enough to have a sister and a couple of close school friends who were also adopted. Gagnon never felt isolated or unsupported. One message this very short book delivers is: Surround yourself with go-to “safe” people, with whom you can freely discuss important needs and ideas.

Eventually, Sylvie Gagnon, (a pen name), did realize that she would like to thank her bio mother for giving her life and making the decision she did in the 1960s. She was also wondering about heritage and health history since having nothing of substance to provide doctors was both annoying and disappointing. These beliefs ring true for many adopted people.

Gagnon discusses how she was found by her birth mother by a private detective and what a shock that was, considering her adoption was considered closed and she was still a student in grad school, trying to figure out her life.

During the course of correspondence by mail, Sylvie’s birth mother shares some important-to-know but difficult information. (no spoilers). The next message to fellow adoptees and anyone who might be searching for a missing family member is: Try to not focus too much on any negative feelings you might experience because of the past. Instead, focus on how you can be the best person you can be now. She goes on to advise the reader to think very carefully before making the decision to search for and contact a missing relative. Careful consideration is a key to having successful relationships and having your unanswered questions resolved.

 

 

Review of Yes, Chef, a memoir

Adoptee and award-winning celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson, is as imaginative, detail-oriented and talented in the finest kitchens around the world as he is when writing about his life. This memoir takes the reader on his journey of being born in impoverished Ethiopia, where he and his sister survived squalor and deadly disease prior to being adopted as very young children by parents from Sweden. He grows up in a caring, home with wise and loving parents who value learning and hard work and a grandmother who shares a passion for the art of cooking. While struggling academically in traditional school, playing soccer and eventually reaching young adulthood, Samuelsson experiences many adventures all kids face, however, he is constantly aware of the contrasts between the typical person of Scandinavian heritage and his Ethiopian background. He copes and manages while intensely pursuing his career in culinary studies in fine restaurants throughout Sweden, Switzerland other areas in Europe. He eventually arrives in New York City in January with $300 to his name and begins a stressful yet successful career at Aquavit, a trendy, Sweedish-fusion restaurant. His desire to achieve and learn new techniques and recipes is insatiable while he forges ahead, working long hours and battling unexpected changes in his personal and professional life while overcoming racial prejudice in his career field.

This book is engaging, entertaining and flows swiftly. You will feel hungry while reading! Samuelsson bravely and realistically conveys his feelings regarding his adoption and reunion with his birth father’s family.  The scope of information between his work and personal life details as seen from an adoptee’s perspective are balanced like an award-winning dining experience with precision flavoring, warmth, and great care.

Review of Rhonda Noonan’s book: The Fifth and Final Name: Memoir of an American Churchill

Adoptee and mental health professional, Rhonda Noonan has written a remarkable and well-told account of her life and the events which led to discovering her heritage prior to adoption. Her memoir, The Fifth and Final Name: Memoir of an American Churchill is fascinating, well-paced and tells of extraordinary events and people she encounters along her life path. This memoir is continued validation for all adoptees that the desire and drive to search for our truths is normal and real. Each of us has a unique story to share. (Maybe even two!)

 

Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing yours with us! This is a great read for anyone associated with adoptees and lovers of history in general.

Dear Adoption, Will You Ever Go Away?

Thanks to Reshma at Dear Adoption!

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Dear Adoption, Will you ever go away?

Will I ever out grow you? If I search and find, will I be unadopted at last? What about when I’m 85? Will I no longer identify as “adopted” then?

My personal experience says the answer is “No”. Now instead of being the adopted girl, I am an adopted adult. It’s less stigmatizing, and I can conceal it if I want, but it’s always there, lurking inside my soul, peeking through my eyes and pressing an ear to the side of my mind as I continue to experience the world. It’s like in cartoons when the character has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Adoption, Why do you try to slip in with reminders and advice about how to live my life? Adoption or “Adoptism”, as I like to call it, you send me mixed messages…

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Book Review: Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for her Roots, by Gloria Oren

Gloria Oren’s memoir, Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for her Roots is quick and engaging. I am also an adoptee and writer, so I value what my adoptee colleagues have to say. Her story focuses a lot on her life growing up as an adoptee and what her adventures and challenges were as a young Jewish only child female from Brooklyn, New York.

While some readers / reviewers might criticize Ms. Oren for focusing so much on her childhood, coming of age and young adult life pre-search and reunion, I totally understand this. She wrote the book the way she did to show her appreciation of her adoptive family and how they shaped her life. (Let’s face it, adoptees are products of both nurture and nature, and one is not more important than the other.) How she was raised would have influenced how she searched for and initially connected with her biological family members.

The search and reunion part of an adoptee’s life is just a part. The fact that we LIVE with the adoption branding while we work, play, socialize, marry, divorce, parent or raise a puppy is a bigger thing.

In the book, the author discusses her concern and curiosity regarding accurate health history, which was denied by the state of NY for this writer / adoptee. This is an absolute basic necessity, which all adopted people should be allowed to have, but many state laws still sadly subscribe to the outmoded notion of privacy and secrecy when it comes to providing adopted citizens their original information. Her story does not address many specifics of health concerns she learned about after finding her bio-relatives, and this is one area where the author could have elaborated on the outcomes.

While reading this book the reader feels as though they may be sitting at the kitchen table chatting and sharing coffee with Ms. Oren. Her style is descriptive yet direct. The book is also flavored with family photographs which help the reader feel connected to the writer.

If you enjoy concisely-written memoir, appreciate Jewish culture, are influenced by adoption or generally like stories about family dynamics, this is an excellent choice.

Whaaaatttt????

“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents,”   Al Trautwig

Whaaaat????

Semantics has gotten this NBC Gymnastics announcer in some huge trouble because he tweeted that Simone Biles’ parents were not her real parents.  Simone was adopted by her biological grandparents. Legally and morally, Ron and Nellie Biles are her PARENTS. The reporter should have stuck to the sporting facts and focused on Simone’s achievements and talent instead of who is who on her family tree.

As a fellow adoptee, if I were Simone, I would feel disrespected and violated to have had such personal information spread all over the news and social media, (especially with distorted facts). When I was a teenage adoptee, those kinds of details about me were very personal and not for anyone else to share. As a teenager I refused to let adoption define me. If I were Simone right now, I would do my best to only focus on my goals at hand, (being a gold medal-winning gymnast on Team USA in the 2016 Olympics), and to not let this reporter’s comment annoy or embarrass me. Has anyone asked Simone how she feels about Trautwig’s remark?

If I were Simone’s parents, (yes I mean the mom and dad who has raised her for all these years), I would try not to take offense and instead try to laugh off the ignorant statement. I feel bad for them having to cope with the publicity caused from Al Trautwig’s hasty and thoughtless words. They don’t deserve that.

Her birth parents should also not be shamed for past events. It’s over.

As much as I am for adult adoptees having full access to their truthful birth information, I do not believe that adoptive parents should be slighted or discredited, especially if they have faithfully dedicated their resources and efforts to raising a child. I believe Ron and Nellie Biles did / are doing this. I don’t think my mom and dad would have appreciated Al’s phrasing either.

Yes, I mean the mom and dad who raised me.

Finally, had this commentator stuck to the actual news story, many folks in the adoption community could just enjoy the Olympics and focus our wishes and efforts more on adoptee rights and concerns like accountability of governmental and other adoption services and congresspeople when it comes to laws, citizenship issues and family preservation.

Al Trautwig maybe was trying to make a technical point with his sentence. (It wasn’t a total lie, but it was tacky the way he said it.) However, we should all be focusing on and celebrating this young woman’s skills and success above anything else.

Congratulations, Simone! You make the USA proud!