This was written last week on a particularly emotional and difficult evening. Every year as my birthday gets closer and closer, a heaviness comes over me—a heaviness that only adoptees seem to understand.
Aai, I went through my wedding photos today. I looked for you in every single one. I searched my face for features that might have resembled yours. Some moments I feel my heart can’t handle the agony of knowing you will never see me in my bridal saree. Other moments I am comforted because I felt your presence all around me every moment that day. I felt like a true indian bride and I longed to see what you looked like on your wedding day. Maybe we looked the same. I ache for you.
So many milestones you’ve missed, and I have missed many of yours. There will always be one we share. 26 years ago I was still a part of you. You were my first home. We only had a week left to be together. I so wish I knew your thoughts during those last few weeks and days. I can only hope you were not alone.
We are turning 26, and each year that passes adds more and more distance between us but I will never give up on trying to find you. You are forever in my heart, my aai. Please don’t forget me.
I am so so heavy. I am missing you so deeply. Deeply doesn’t even seem to cover it. I look in the mirror and I travel back in time to you. I’m exhausted. I’m in a shell that I don’t want to retreat from. In a time where I already feel overwhelmed and anxiety ridden, friends from all sides are overwhelming and overpowering me calling me a traitor only for standing up for what I feel is right to me, just as they are doing also. There is nothing wrong with that, but i feel so small. I already feel small. I am feeling a little more alone than I did before, and before there was already only one of me in the world so there is that. I miss you. I hope you’re missing me, if you remember I exist.
A fellow adoptee friend of mine shared this earlier today and it struck me. I immediately had to go write about it!
Goodbyes have always been difficult for me. As a child, they were nothing short of traumatic—especially when it came to my parents. When I was 7 my mother travelled for the fourth time to India, this time to accompany a friend in bringing home her own adopted baby. I knew how far away India was, and I was sure my mother was going to die while there. I tried my hardest to be brave and not to cry, but my heart ached for my Mama to come home. I needed everyone home in order to feel we were all safe.
I remember believing with all my heart that if I didn’t give a proper goodbye they would either leave and never come back, or they would die without a goodbye.
When my dad would leave for work every morning, if I didn’t get to give him a kiss and tell him goodbye face to face I would have a breakdown. Breakdown as in crying uncontrollably until I could find him and embrace him. Separation was so traumatic. There was one particular day I remember I was so inconsolable that my mom called my dad back to the house because he left before I could say goodbye. I remember another day where I was sick with the stomach flu and Dad had snuck off to work without saying goodbye. I was devastated and as I was hurling into the trash can, I tried yelling out goodbye loud enough for him to hear. He didn’t respond, so I knew he hadn’t heard. My little heart was absolutely broken.
In my young innocent heart, I thought goodbyes were permanent. I’d been told so often that my birth family loved me so much that they had to say goodbye to me. So in my mind, love meant goodbye, and goodbyes meant forever.
Anne’s words hit me because after so long of this anxiety and stress that accompanied goodbyes, the adoptee’s body and mind shut down. It’s easier to walk away than to undergo the stress it triggers. The moment our blood relatives abandoned us, our little bodies experienced a separation so traumatic, it triggered a heightened level of a stress hormone that never quite went away. Fight, flight, or freeze. Now as adults, that’s how many of us function—at the first sight of conflict, we see a goodbye. And goodbyes have only ever meant forever. If you know an adoptee who struggles with this, please hang in there. Please don’t give up on us. We are trying…it doesn’t mean we don’t care.
I’ve been trying to string together words that make sense into a post for several months now. It’s been a busy few months, but every so often I will sit down and pull my thoughts together until I feel I have a coherent idea. My train of thought has a different agenda, however, and after several different tangents and deleting and overthinking and rewriting and self doubt I will finally just save the damn post as a draft, forget about it, and then come back to it days later and realize how awfully disorganized and stupid it is and delete the whole thing.
This is how my adoptee brain works.
Some days I wish I could just take a break from my brain and sit inside someone else’s head. A non-adoptee.
Not another adoptee’s brain, because we all seem to think the same way. The more adoptees I connect with, the more I realize we are all the same. Something in our brains were rewired the moment we were left by our blood and abandoned to our own devices. Some as infants, some as children, some even as teenagers.
That damn fight, flight, or freeze reaction that was permanently wired into my brain the moment I was abandoned as a newborn.
That damn overactive stress response that my subconscious alerts to every stressor and every change no matter how minute.
These I know too well. The stress and fear of change and failure that have accompanied me every moment of every day since Day 1. They in turn summon my good ole friend, Anxiety.
Just for a day I would like to know what it is to be relaxed. To be normal. To see what a normal functioning mind looks like.
I need to understand what it is like to be able to fly by the seat of your pants. To be able to change plans last minute and not panic about every small detail that could possibly go wrong.
What is it like to get ready to go out and be rushed and not have an elevated heart rate? To not snap at someone who rushes you or mentions the time because you’re so anxious about it you’re raging inside?
I would love to understand what it’s like to go to a family reunion and not feel like a stranger among them. I’ve known them my entire life—yet it still feels like something is missing. What is it like to be among family and feel whole?
What is it like to not be N E R V O U S all the damn time? Sometimes I don’t even know what I feel nervous about.
Also, can we talk about the stress of meeting new people? Someone please explain to me what it is like to not absolutely DREAD meeting new people. And when I say dread, I mean I would rather take a razor blade to my tongue and chug some whiskey than meet new people. Since Day 1, I have been hard wired to remain self-reliant. If there is anything I’ve learned from my experiences, it is that people lie and people change and people leave, even the ones we call family. I don’t say this for your pity or concern, I say it because it’s just true. I don’t need people, and the ones I choose to remain in my life are the ones who I know, I KNOW they won’t be leaving. The honest and the genuine. So when I meet new people, I begin the process of figuring out which kind of people they are—the changing kind or the staying kind. It’s an exhausting process and one that I would rather avoid.
You’re probably stressed by now just reading this. Exhausting huh? Chances are, if you know an adoptee they struggle with these issues as well. Some hide it, others embrace it. Some still live in what we call a “fog” and have absolutely no idea these feelings of grief and anxiety and depression even exist. Maybe they are aware and struggle but don’t know why. I have struggled with these issues all my life and I never realized until recently how it all ties back to my abandonment/adoption.
Don’t get me wrong—adoption can be great. CAN be. But it always always begins with trauma for the adoptee. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to abandon/give away/leave and even if it isn’t meant to, it hurts. Being given up or abandoned will fuck someone up for life. Over the past year I have been meeting more and more adoptees who share these same experiences and subconscious responses that abandonment has hard wired into our brains. It has been refreshing to know that what I experience is normal for adoptees because they experience it too. I’m growing ever more thankful for these connections that validate my existence. Despite our different beginnings and backgrounds and different upbringings, we function the same way because of the burden we all carry. It can get to be exhausting.
So just for a day, I would like to experience what it is to be a normal, non-dysfunctional, non-adopted human. Sometimes this anxious brain just needs a break.