Being Honest as an Adoptee

09 Nov

Is there any way an adoptee can truly be fully honest to others about their deepest feelings about being adopted? To me, it doesn’t seem possible, at least for many of us who feel the weight of loyalty to protect one or both families over our truths. Or because we want to protect a fragile or new relationship with a member of our family by birth. It silences us. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that many of us never will be able to, instead, we ignore our needs to give voice to the harder experiences and deep dark feelings we’ve been through – even in relatively anonymous spaces. Invisible strings seem to hold us back from telling our stories in-depth, a needed telling to finally find release and maybe even some peace.

I’ve been held up as an adoptee who had a good experience, also one who had a bad experience by strangers who do not know me, they just didn’t like that I didn’t walk the adoption line, speak the adoption is love message people seem to crave to hear.

I did and I didn’t have a good adoption experience, bad things happened along the way, things I can’t talk about. And some of those harder experiences adoptees have, may also have happened because of how we felt and reacted to our own trauma of abandonment. Especially in the realm of wanting to be loved, needing to be shown we’re worth loving. It’s one of those rabbit holes we can go down because the very person who should have loved us most of all, abandoned us. And yes, I know the adoption speak she loved you so much she broke her own heart, that doesn’t translate as true when you’re the one not kept. It just doesn’t and it can’t even if we know the reality at the time, it still translates to abandonment for some of us.

Both my parents through adoption and parents through birth have passed away and I don’t have many relationships with extended relatives from any parent. Yet I still instinctively choose to protect them when I can, or dance around the hard, and maybe it’s just my personality but I also doubt I’m alone in this regard. Being adopted never ends and in the wee hours of the night we may even admit we are defined by being adopted because it’s been the filter that we look through at everything else in life.

Being adopted is hard, the feelings are always there just under the surface just waiting to be triggered. My way of dealing with it now is to become desensitized to it by being around it online. That has helped, I don’t crumble as often.

A friend I grew up with was also adopted; we went through school together as best friends until I became the wild child and she the popular one. We never were not friends, we just each went our own way, I stayed the wild child never conforming to expectations, she went the compliant way every step, she married well, married up, had the requisite children and nice big house. Years later, I found out that she found solace in alcohol, her marriage ended, and she’d died young. We each took different paths in high school, why I, the wild child made it through and why the good compliant child didn’t – I’ll never know. Whatever the difference was it makes me sad, I think of her on her birthday every year, always did, despite not being in contact. The mutual friend who told me she’d passed said she had challenges she struggled with. I don’t know why she needed alcohol as a solace, but I do know adoption and being adopted isn’t the easy road to travel, and remembering her sensitivity, I’d guess being adopted played a role in any demons she chased, because how we react, usually has it’s roots in our lived experiences and being adopted is one big one.

Adoption severs you forever in so many ways, ways you never can regain what you lost.



Posted by on November 9, 2020 in Adoption


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20 responses to “Being Honest as an Adoptee

  1. Lara/Trace

    November 9, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    You have the coherent voice now, Tao, and that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      November 9, 2020 at 7:58 pm

      Thank you, that post was hard to write, took me way back and through things I’d rather just forget.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Claire 'Word by Word'

    November 10, 2020 at 5:40 am

    Sharing through your voice what some are still striving to release is such a gift. It helps. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laksh

    November 10, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    My heart hurts for your friend and for you. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. beth62

    November 11, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    I hear ya TAO. I can be a Judas, a Benedict Arnold, an ungrateful, a slapper of face, a deserver of cancel… with just a few words of my truth. No matter the direction I am facing. The invisible strings of experience have become a torque around my neck.

    I can also be transformed by many into a praised hero by using some words of my truth. Which pretty much ruins my truth every time.

    I’m not sure which is better or worse! It’s so much easier to say nothing, until it’s not.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tiffany

    November 12, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    I’m so grateful for everything you share, TAO.

    My daughter who is adopted said some things this last weekend when she was having a hard time, and I shared with a close friend who is an adoptee expecting some support and understanding. She instead gave a knowing smile and said “Well, just my observation, but she clearly does it intentionally because it makes you sad.” Implying that by sharing “I hate being adopted” when she is hurting, our daughter is manipulating me. This friend has witnessed a few meltdowns, and I have been increasingly feeling that she is judging how I am handling them, but I tried to not be so sensitive. Clearly, I wasn’t being sensitive.

    I was floored and hurt.

    To be clear, our daughter doesn’t “get away” with bad choices made just because she is hurting. There are consequences and we talk through it, but I do not believe in punishment for either of my kids. I think kids do better when we acknowledge their emotions and also talk about better ways to handle those emotions next time. I think our daughter is different from this friend and feels things much more intensely and deeply regarding her adoption.

    Reading what you shared resonated so deeply with me because I could picture our daughter writing this someday while my friend I don’t think ever would.

    Adoptees, like any group, aren’t a monolith, and it’s so helpful to have so many perspectives to be able to be the best AP I can be. I know I make a lot of mistakes, but I hope I never let my daughter feel that she isn’t heard and can’t be honest with me.


    • TAO

      November 12, 2020 at 11:40 pm

      Awe bigs to both of you Tiffany. Pretty sure she’s at the age when I started with big feelings. Validation would help so I think you’re on the right path. And yes, we are not the same, some do go through life never missing a beat, some choose to push any feelings down being loyal, reasons like that. I think you do just fine from where I sit. Both/And should be a given for an adoptee because we can hold dual emotions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tiffany

        November 13, 2020 at 5:47 pm

        Thank you so much TAO. Yes, I have learned to say “It’s ok to feel feelings that don’t make sense together all at once.” Thanks to you and all the adoptees who have helped me learn the range of emotional possibilities.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Claire-JinLi

      February 5, 2021 at 5:30 am

      Wow Tiffany thanks for sharing! I feel like your friend is playing this game of whose in control parent or child,and whose manipulation who? I don’t think any parent should have to play this game with their child especially when a child says she hates being adopted! As an adoptee myself, I could relate to your daughter in ways that I also wished I wasn’t adopted, but it’s not out of anger or hatred towards my parents but because I just wished I wasn’t abandoned in the first place to have to be adopted. There’s so many emotions about adoption that I can’t even explain in a short sentence. So thank you for not listening to your friend but instead validating your daughters emotions even when you can’t find a solution.


  6. virtuious

    November 18, 2020 at 4:27 am

    You hit it spot on my friend! As an adoptee myself I feel like some wounds will never heal! Each day in my life brings another adoption hurdle to get over. I feel like people around me act like the victim in my life. Both my birth parents act like the victim. My biological brother acts like a victim of MY adoption. The list goes on and on!

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      November 18, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      Sorry for the delay, no power. Welcome, your comments will automatically post in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

    November 25, 2020 at 4:45 am

    Somehow, I missed this post in my email (until now). TAO, it means a lot that you shared this with us. Sometimes, we really don’t have an understanding of individuals who write comments (maybe I’m mostly speaking for myself).

    People often say: “Everything happens for a reason” — blarney! But, do you think it is sometimes true that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?!” (Though we do suffer, as you pointed out.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      November 25, 2020 at 2:21 pm

      Yes, I do, you may break in between though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

        February 5, 2021 at 7:22 pm

        Yes, Tao. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is probably just a glib cliché. Maybe people say that, thinking they are comforting you, or because they don’t know what else to say. Maybe it’s just something we tell ourselves — a psychological defense mechanism. Tao, I agree with you– you may break in between!


        • beth62

          February 6, 2021 at 12:58 am

          🙂 My friend wears a t-shirt that says, What doesn’t kill you makes you hobble.

          Liked by 2 people

  8. marissah

    January 8, 2021 at 6:35 am

    Wow I also struggle(d) with substance abuse. Pain is hard to overcome especially when you deny yourself that exploration of grief. So sorry to hear about your friend. This is why it’s important for us to feel and speak .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Claire-JinLi

    February 5, 2021 at 5:33 am

    Thank you Tao for sharing your story and experience! I am also an adoptee and I relate to your writing about the need to not rock the boat and brush things off to protect the feelings of my AP but that also can be damaging to myself! Thank you again for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      February 5, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      Welcome Claire-JinLi



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