The title being the default response by at least one person when any challenges and feelings an adoptee has faced, or is dealing with, is brought into a conversation. It is the response we expect and the non-adopted seldom let us down. This post is about a non-adoption conversation I had recently, hopefully it will be one that will allow non-adoptees to understand better and shift their requirements from adoptees making everyone else feel better, to accepting all facets of the adoptee experience as valid and real.
I recently spent a couple of days with a nurse monitoring me after a procedure and we talked about my story and all my medical challenges thus far. The afternoon of the second day we were talking about my stroke and she noted that the records showed it to have been a significant event and amazing recovery. She was right, I have had an amazing recovery, she was also wrong, so I told her that sometimes I still struggled, sometimes due to stress or from exhaustion. That I also struggle with appointments where I have to follow commands (ex. getting a mammogram and they tell you how to move next and I either don’t understand or do the opposite), so I always feel the need to explain so I waste the least amount of their time. I know how frustrating it can be to get them to understand because I look fine, act fine, even my speech to a casual observer is good, but when you dig deeper you see the cracks in many areas that will always exist. She listened and said you have hidden deficits that makes it harder for people to understand, those words told me she got it. Then she told me about a friend who struggles with hidden deficits too, how exhausting and frustrating it is for him because everyone assumes what they see, is all there is to see, they don’t see the extra effort involved to make sure his work product is the same as before. To most people recovery means just like it never happened, no consequences, all done now and back to normal.
How does the above experience apply to adoption? We all have aspects of who we are that others don’t see. Adoptees have hidden losses caused from being adopted, whether they feel them deeply, minimally, or have never gone there, we have them.
Maybe if people in adoption chose to see the core issues and challenges that may be faced by the one adopted at many different points in their life as normal, and expected to present from time to time – it’d be better for the adoptee experience. We wouldn’t have to try a million different ways to get through to people that we can be perfectly happy living our life, and at the same time, be brought to our knees to process all over again some aspect of the loss caused by adoption. And, sometimes, for the adoptee it can be the first time they experience the impact of the hidden losses decades after they were adopted.
And we certainly wouldn’t have to deal with someone in the adoption community who is just bursting at the seams to pipe up with: I know an adoptee who is just fine with being adopted. It’s hard enough when people with no connection to adoption say this. I’ve also never known an adoptee who didn’t struggle with some challenge directly linked to being adopted at least once, most often at many points throughout their life. For me, it happens when life events trigger deeper reflection or other losses happen that trigger them.
Wouldn’t you like an adoption community that never heard some version of: “I know an adoptee who is just fine with being adopted?” A community that accepts being adopted means there will be times throughout life where they will struggle with the impact and losses of being adopted. That it’s not an if, it’s a when, regardless of how small or how big it is, we all must process the losses at some point in our life, in our own way, in our own time.
I want the entire adoption community to get comfortable with the fact that being adopted comes with hidden losses and costs to the one adopted at some point in their life, whether a blip, a tidal wave, or a continual stream never running dry. And that no adoptee should have to pretend everything is all better now to make others comfortable, ever. Hope this made sense and the ones who need to understand – can hear it.