This guest post is by Juliana Whitney, an adoptee and adoption advocate.
I consider myself to be introspective and due to education and over a decade of therapy I consider myself to have a pretty thorough and well-rounded understanding of what it is to be an adoptee.
What we feel, what we are triggered by, and why.
I also consider myself to have a healthy level of empathy so even if an adoptee has experienced something I haven’t I am usually able to understand and relate to that person.
I am so grateful for all of this and this is why I put my heart and soul into connecting with anyone and everyone affected by adoption.
Part of putting my heart and soul in to it is showing my triumphs and my struggles.
Therapy, introspection, empathy, education: none of this means that I have it all under control.
I still have times when I am triggered by something and my inner adopted child is uncontrollable.
It’s not that I can’t handle or understand the emotions, but I definitely can’t stop them.
My little adopted girl inside is a feisty one.
Let me give you an example: I don’t handle separation very well (what?! An adoptee who doesn’t handle separation well? Crazy. I know).
When I was a kid I would be moody and distant for days after visiting my birth family because leaving them always triggered a fear that I might never see them again.
I always see them again and we are very close, but my inner child isn’t secure in that.
It was difficult for my parents to see me come home upset. To them it seemed like a negative response.
They had never been in my shoes so I think it was hard for them that they couldn’t help me more than just by letting me ride out the emotions.
Really, letting me ride out my emotions was the best thing that they could do.
I think they eventually understood that the negative response wasn’t to my experience with my birth family, but due to the ending of it.
Now I am much older, and really quite similar. My inner adoptee hasn’t grown up much.
I recently went through a huge life purge.
I broke up with my boyfriend of 4.5 years. I therefore separated from a lot of the people we shared that were really his people.
Also, my roommate moved out and my best friend moved away. All within 6 weeks.
I am also trying to survive my MBA program. I look at all of this as an opportunity to start fresh, go after my ambitions full force and fill my life with new positive people and experiences.
I am super excited for life right now!
But at the same time, sometimes I just cry. I cry because a lot of separation occurred all at once.
First I visited my birth dad and some of my best friends along with some new friends in California for a week and had an amazing, positive, uplifting time….and then I came home.
I had about 3 days of withdrawal from my birth dad and all of my amazing California friends. Withdrawal looks like overeating and spacing out a lot.
I recognized the behavior but it was difficult to pull out of. Three days is actually pretty good, I think. Then came the rest.
It was the first time I had really been home and single so that abundance of free time was new, my roommate left the day I returned so the house was empty and I spent the next two weeks trying to emotionally prepare for one of my best friends to move away on to her new exciting life-changing adventure.
The free time was a blessing because I can put a ton of energy in to That Adopted Girl online and writing my book.
Living alone was a little strange because I have a thing about feeling safe.
So being on my own in the house without a boyfriend or my male roommate around was slightly anxiety inducing.
And then the two weeks preparing for my friend to leave were both super fun and totally heart breaking.
With each of these things my adult self sees all of the positivity and the good change and the opportunity for success and for new relationships.
My inner child does not see these things. My inner child gets all confused and upset. She screams “Why is everyone leaving and what is going on?”
For those two weeks before my friend left I reacted as my inner child while keeping as composed as possible.
This means that for to weeks I partied and had fun and drank way more than any adoptee ever should with our risk for addiction.
I also became super artsy. I am a really creative person but not usually in an artistic way.
For a few days you would have thought painting and crafting were my lifelong passions.
I spent days just painting and creating things.
At the end of the artistic binge, I admitted that I was trying to distract myself from how uncomfortable and unusual everything was and I broke down crying…in my house…alone…with paint, glitter, canvases and crafts literally covering the floor of my entire downstairs level.
It was bizarre to break down crying alone in the middle of the night in what looked like a Michael’s craft store after a hurricane. It was a physical representation of how my inner adopted child had taken control.
I had to admit to myself, that despite how positive and exciting and full of opportunity my life had become, and despite my feeling that the universe brought all of this change for the better, my little adopted girl inside was sad.
I had to listen to her.
I had to recognize her pain and deal with it.
I had to address how her wounds still affect me. Once I took the time to do this I was right back on track.
This is something that all of my years of therapy have taught me to do; recognize when I’m reacting from something subconscious, like adoption issues often are.
We have to acknowledge and care for our wounds, our inner child, so we don’t end up living as that child.
Some adoptees live as that child, live as their wounds and spend a lifetime in turmoil because of it.
This isn’t always avoidable, but parents play a huge role in helping their child understand their adoption and their emotions attached to it.
I think that things could improve if more adoptive parents were well prepared. I know it can be exhausting.
I put my parents through some serious storms, but they used their resources to put me in therapy and help me anyway they possibly could so that now I can be “That Adopted Girl.”
Now I can connect with others and help others.
Now I am not afraid to be vulnerable and show my wounds in order to connect with people and let people know that they are not alone.
From the bottom of my heart, my sincerest and dearest wish is that every adoptive parent looks out for signs that their child is struggling and does anything and everything within their means to help them.
Because the more proactive parents are, the better chance adoptees have of being secure and emotionally stable adults. Then, more adoptees will be able to turn their wounds into wisdom rather than weakness.
You can read more about Juliana’s story of growing up in an open adoption here.