Rare and ... Rare

"Have you ever heard of people saying, “this feels like it’s happening to someone else” or something to that effect? Now I can completely relate to that. I kind of feel like. Well, I don’t know exactly how to quantify it. It’s a new sensation.  Extremely weird, but not entirely unpleasant." - my newly-discovered maternal half-sister

"I have to admit, this is incredibly awkward, but I am happy to get to know you." - my newly-discovered paternal half-sister

"That is a picture of your grandmother.  If you want to know what she looked like when she was younger, look in the mirror.  You look just like her." - a great-uncle

"Who the Hell are you, where did  you come from, and what's this nonsense about a Promised Land?" - the Canaanites

I waited a week for my biological mother to call my biological father, then picked up the phone and called him myself. Guess what?  She hadn't called yet.  I told him she had given me his name, and that I was their daughter.  He was upset for a long time.  Not angry or anything, just reliving old traumas.  He has two younger children with his wife, so I now have gone from one sibling to five.  Our relationship is -- awkward.  He feels guilty but won't say it.  I could give  him every reason to feel guilty, but I don't want to drive him away so I won't say it either.  Upshot:  there's a lot of things unsaid.

The next day my birth mother called my birth father and talked to him.  They affirmed for each other that they had done the right thing by me and felt really good about it.

Nobody asked me my opinion.  I didn't give it either.

His wife is disabled.  I don't know if she's been told that I'm back.  She went to school with my biological mother, so I don't see how she couldn't know about me being born.  But maybe I'm still supposed to be a modern-day secret.

A few weeks after that was my mother's family's reunion.  I had been invited back in the spring, and since then, as curiosity about me grew in the family, had morphed into the star attraction.  The week before I was so excited I didn't sleep a wink.  One morning I poured sweet tea over my breakfast cereal.

More people showed up than had come in ages.  Some were genuinely curious to meet me, others just wanted to see the curiosity, still others came for the food.  But for the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who had my nose, my hair, my height.  That did some good.

None of the immediate family was there, it was all cousins.  My mother had begged off at the last minute in spite of being provided with free transportation, claiming she had forgotten she had a medical test scheduled on that day for a rather severe condition.  But one woman looked like a photo of my mother had looked ten years ago and dressed like I do when I'm feeling good, so there's that.  I made her uncomfortable telling her that, so we didn't talk again.

I was connected to the attendees through my maternal grandmother.  I was told to solicit stories about her, but when I did people laughed uncomfortably and changed the subject.  Apparently her name is still used as a synonym for a bossy woman.  Pity, we might have gotten on well.  Or at least had some memorable arguments.

And that's where things stand.  My parents are relieved to find out that I am alive and well, but uncomfortable with me, our situation, or both.  Some people are glad to get to know me.  Others don't know what to make of me. Still others wish I had never been born.  For others I'm a curiosity.

It's a complex, delicate negotiation adoptees find themselves in, trying to place themselves within the context of the actual people in our biological family.   Unfortunately the stesses that come from being an adoptee lead to a lack of validation of our feelings and an inability to connect with others.  My people skills are essentially nonexistent.  Thus, the very skills we need the most in reunion are the very ones we have the least.  That hurts.

Dealing with all this proved very painful.  I spent most of the summer and into fall as a walking basket case.  The pain has gradually subsided, although it flares up on occasion, such as when I  come across mention of an interesting relative who died before I could find them.  My distraction of choice has been Animal Crossing New Leaf; I don't even want to look up how many hours I've logged in on that.  But the time I spend with it is slowly diminishing.  I'm still terribly absent-minded though.  It's hard to read for any length of time, or remember anything.  And I really shouldn't be trusted with any handheld electronics other than my 2DS.

But painful as it has been, I'm still glad I did it.  Most of the relatives I've met have been pleasant, and even the unpleasant people are easier to mentally grapple with than phantoms.  Wrestling with facts, even painful ones, is so much better than wrestling with nothingness.  In that slot at the back of my head labelled "Where I Came From" there is now information, not half-formed guesses.  That is huge.

It's just that the nature of the (entirely artificial) situation is like walking into a room where you are going to be the guest of honor at a party through a door that has a bucket of mop water perched on top of it.  I have to get through the door, and there's no way I can avoid the dirty water.  I don't like that, and I'm not too happy about the people who set it up, and the fact that they didn't mean to set it up isn't going to keep me one speck cleaner.

But one big mystery remains.  How did I come to be -- me?  What parts are biology, environment, and sheer will?

I'm a fairly standard-issue female INTP (brainy, absent-minded, socially awkward, fanatically honest and obsessed with the truth), albeit generously leavened with developmental trauma.  Except there's nothing standard about female INTPs, at 1% - 2% of the population we are more rare than hen's teeth.  In spite of genetics, they don't seem to be any more common in my biological families.  While they may be in hiding (we are introverts after all) it appears the last one before me came of age in the Great Depression.  So, IDK, is there something latent in the genes that only manifests as INTPs under extreme stress?  Do we only appear **drops voice dramatically** "When the Need is Great"?  DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!

Great theory, except for the fact that female INTPs are the least popular personality/gender combination on the planet  (Really, people.  That dreadfully underestimates the damage an S dedicated to an evil cause can do.)

I'm being maudlin.  That's not going to help.

Whachu mean by that?  It helps me deal, so chill!

**deep breath** Get it together now....  My thoughts are whirling around like fish in a bubble net.

Still, it's a valid question.  How much of my obsession with the truth comes from something in my genes and how much is from being so thoroughly lied to at such a young age?

And if it is something in my genes, is it something hard-coded in, or something emergenic, that depends on a randomly occurring combination of traits and/or circumstances?  Is it just -- one of those things?

"One of those BELLS that now and then RINGS,

It was just one of those things."

 I don't know the answer.  I know more than when I started out, but nothing definitive in that regard.  Typical.

Gradually more of my internal CPU is starting to kick free of this conundrum and show up for other work.  This is great.  "Hey Brain, long time no see!  How have you been?  I've missed you!  Tell my creativity I miss her as well!"  There's still a few more posts on this topic that need to be made, but I'm ready to move away from it being the bulk of my attention.

(And not a moment too soon, my house looks like it's auditioning for Great Expectations.)

And I don't want to sound too surly, most people I've met have been wonderful.  I'm just not used to having so many wonderful relatives!

Now I have to figure out what to do with all these extra people in my life.  Y'know all those feel-good movies that end with the curmudgeonly hermit making a ton of new friends?  Notice how they always roll the credits before they show how he copes with the sudden jump in social stimulation.  Why is that?  :P

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Your own narrative

The part of your story that struck me most was this:

The next day my birth mother called my birth father and talked to him.  They affirmed for each other that they had done the right thing by me and felt really good about it.

Nobody asked me my opinion.  I didn't give it either.

It's such a common theme in reunion. Many adoptees have traveled a rocky road, having to deal with all sorts of issues. In reunion many of us want affirmation of what was done to us, and rarely do we get anything of the kind.

Instead, reunions often lead to situations where we have to be considerate of the feelings of even more people. Parents that insist on having done the right thing, siblings that wish we hadn't come to stir the pot. On top of that, we're strangers at the table. We have no rightful place in the family, so it becomes awkward to express our own feelings.

Maybe you needed information to learn where you come from and to find out what is biology and what is not. However, there is also a need to process that information, and I have learned it's best to do that away from the biological family. Based on what you have experienced yourself and the information you have gained by meeting your biological family, you can create your own narrative of your life, one that does justice to you as the child that you were, and as the adult you have become.

In the end finding that narrative for yourself is more important than the affirmation that will likely never come

Yes, it's tremendously

Yes, it's tremendously awkward.  That's why I came up with the mop water analogy.  By the very nature of what was set up for you before you were born, by the time you accomplish all the work that gets you to the party you are a filthy, stinking mess, and no one else there can either see it or wants to acknowledge it.

Ever-after

Much of the problem - for those who are unhappy with their adoption story - has to do with the perpetuated story/belief the adoption industry has created for itself: all live better WITH adoption, than without.

While I have no idea what life would have been like with a single career-driven woman, I can say life in a violent dysfunctional family-of-four was no paradise, either.

As an adult, I can understand WHY both my bio and adoptive parents chose adoption, at that particular time in their lives. But as the struggling surviving by-product of said social experiment, I still fail to see the benefits that go with the story that states all are better-off, and "happily ever-after", long-after the written thanks and credits have been given.

(BTW, I believe adopters, and birth parents can be just as unhappy as an angry adoptee when it comes to an unwanted adoption-story. This is yet another filth none of us are supposed to acknowledge, or see.)

I've yet to find evidence

I've yet to find evidence that either of my birth-parents or their spouses were abusers or narcissists, let alone both.  Whoops, there went the "better off" argument.

More on the narrative... which is not so rare

I too was struck by the comment, "They affirmed for each other that they had done the right thing by me and felt really good about it. Nobody asked me my opinion. I didn't give it either."

I've been at this wonderland, myself, and I've always found myself all too protective when it comes to the feelings of others, forgetting I'm a person, with feelings and needs, too.

I'm curious... why did you remain silent? (Have you given yourself the permission and opportunity to speak the words you wanted to say, even if only to yourself?)

[For my own recovery, I have learned the words and stories I have kept to myself do not necessarily need to be shared with either my bio or adoptive family members, but my story and the unhappiness it has brought me does need to be heard, and the anger needs to be validated, not dismissed. I have found this process works best when this part of me is shared with someone who is not only willing to listen, and hear without interruption, but is also willing to refrain from reminding me how F'n lucky I was to be adopted, in the first place. After all, a drained hurting pup can only take so much!!]

I seem so much stronger than

I seem so much stronger than my half-sibs and parents IDK if they could take it yet.  I fear it would destroy our budding relationship if I didn't hold back for now.

Strength in a relationship

Your current status/situation represents what so many abused adoptees have to do, when entering a potentially meaningful relationship.

Who gets The Confession?
What gets shared?
When does the truth get told: at the very beginning, or once the people/environment feel safe?
Where does the relationship go, after the whole story is known?
How detailed should the story be? (How much is too-much?)

Personally, I believe the questions are much tougher once the abused adoptee has developed even a small emotional attachment, with another

While silence may seem like a strength, it can also be seen as a survival mechanism. For many of us, the wounds and fears are so deep, while we want the touch that represents softness, kindness, and love, it is the very thing we deliberately avoid, not because we are strong, but afraid, very very afraid.

Whenever the time is right for you, lioness, I hope you find the strength you seek and need in your new bio-family relationships.

Thank you.  I couldn't have

Thank you.  I couldn't have done it without journaling.  there's no way my mind and body could hold it all.

relationship struggles

Dear Kerry,

So I'm in desperate need of some advice from someone who obviously understands. From what I have read about your story, maybe you can help. I've been dating a man for about a year now. We don't see each other very often because of our jobs and he lives away. But we talk every day. When we do see each other, it's amazing. We have a wonderful friendship, and a deep connection... and I feel almost loved when I'm with him--- almost.

Quick history. He was adopted at birth. No other siblings. Decent AP.
Reunited with BF, but no current contact. He has a few 1/2 siblings, but they aren't really in his life.
BM refused a reunion.
(Yah---can't even imagine how that would make someone feel).
To add to this, his ex-wife cheated on him, and played on his weaknesses.

This is a man who is caring and thoughtful and passionate and feels very deeply. But there are some major walls up. I can only get so close. Then he pushes me back. Sometimes he is standoffish and distant. I try not to take it personal. I know he's probably scared. Or maybe he is testing me. I'm not sure. He's totally aware of these walls, and why they are there.

I have educated myself extensively on adoption, abandonment, and all the fear and pain and loss that it can cause....throughout a lifetime. I have learned about the avoidance of closeness, physical touch, intimacy, and connecting with people...all because of that fear. I have learned that trust does not come easy. Not just with people but with life in general.... or even happiness. I get that it causes feelings of depression, low self worth, sadness, and sometimes shame.
I can't imagine the loneliness and emptiness that follows a person through their life, and with very few people who understand or validate those feelings.
He is experiencing most of this I'm quite sure. I cannot truly understand, because I have not lived it....but am doing my best to empathize. I am very patient and understanding.
I am trying to just be there for him. Be loving. Supportive and understanding. And more patient. I'm being gentle and compassionate. I give him space. I'm trying to do this without being pushy or prying into what he may need to keep private. It's a really difficult balance.
I think it stresses him out.
I love this man with all my heart. I want to be with him. I know he loves to be with me, and cares for me deeply...but he doesn't LOVE me. I'm not sure he can. I think he wants to.
It's hard for him to accept the love I have for him as well.

He knows how I feel. It's really hard for him to open up. And he has told me (in so many words) that he's not sure he can trust anyone with his heart again.
Ugh. Sometimes it feels as though my heart is breaking. Is there anything more I should or should not be doing ?!
Sometimes I am SO confused and I feel like giving up. I'm not sure I can continue to love someone who can't love me back.

I need to know what I am supposed to do. How do I be there for him? How do I show him that I'm not going anywhere, because I know to him, words don't mean shit.
How am I supposed to act ?!?!
I'm always trying so hard. And for what?
How do I love him? In your opinion and experience, what has helped you, or others you know ? Any advice from you is helpful or from your readers.

Thank you for reading this.

Working relationships

Hi SuzieQ,

Unfortunately, your situation reads all too familiar. Having experience with both sides of the relationship coin, (not trusting others, and wanting - desperately - to be loved and treasured by a particular person), I can truly appreciate the frustration you must be feeling all.the.time.

To be honest, I have often believed my own child abuse/neglect issues and fears associated with adoption/abandonment have become interchangeable and one-in-the-same. (After all, in an over-simplified overview, based on the few documents I do have, there were no signs of abuse or neglect prior to my first-mother's relinquishment. In my particular case, all forms of abuse and negligence took place AFTER I was "chosen" to be adopted, not before.)

Socially speaking, I have always felt strained and in-conflict. On one hand I'd harbor a real reserve and feel genuine disgust, even hatred towards others, but at the same time, I'd also "secretly" (?) want and need the unconditional loyalty, forgiveness, and acceptance of someone special... someone different... someone better than the rest.

My hunger for a loving and all-accepting care-giver was ignored. Without safe warmth and care, my biological body and essence, in many ways, was being starved and deprived; I had no idea how to feed (or numb) such a basic need.

I don't know how your love behaves, but I find many, (if not most), adult adoptees are pros when it comes to maintaining a toxic relationship. We're very good at putting on a façade and faking our way through pain. Without an ability to relax and believe -- trust -- any intimate relationship is going to feel doomed, and become a huge source of stress. (I need to insert here, I believe adoptive parents have a very important responsibility: each adopted child needs to learn how to establish safe, healthy coping mechanisms, especially when worried, afraid, and stressed in a relationship. Good adoptive parenting incorporates healthy examples for the adopted child to comprehend and follow.)

Part of my own recovery, (and my ever growing ability to love and be loved) revolves around a major recognition: I wasted too many years believing 1) I have no value or worth and 2) As a result, I believed if I wanted someone to love me, I would have to work extra hard to win (earn) even the smallest measure of love and kindness.

In utero, what did I have to do to have my basic needs met? Nothing.
In the real world, in the orphanage, what did I have to do to get an adult to meet a basic need? Scream.... or shut-down (as a way to cope with the pain/stress).
In my adoptive home, what did I have to do to.... get through the day? Please my adoptive mother. (There were many times I felt as though I was purchased just so she could feel wanted and needed. As I got older, this job, as the "grateful multi-talented ('lucky!') adopted child" became more and more difficult/impossible. This "job" taught me an unfortunate lesson: the needs of others will always matter more than the simplest, most basic need of my own.

I'm sure you can see how all this turmoil and conflict can be exhausting and debilitating, making many relationships "not worth it (the work)."

There are many topics adopted people are not encouraged to discuss. One such topic is the barrage of feelings, and coping mechanisms, that go with the person forced into an unwanted relationship. ("Unwanted" in this context means something that's causing too much -- too many feelings of confusion, worry, and stress.)

I'm curious: how does your love express feelings of frustration and stress? (Has your partner done much work identifying issues/triggers that do (or don't) work in a relationship?)

Also.... who initiated the relationship?

Is being patient enough..?

Reading some of your posts Kerry....wow !! SO much sounds familiar. It's scary how similar it is. Anyways, he definitely pursued me. However, I think that the closer he gets, the more frightened he is. And this is turn, makes him pull away. I have some issues with depression myself, and since I HAVE to be able to stand on my own 2 feet, I sometimes will call him on this. This probably stresses him out. It's almost as he associates love & trust & closeness with abandonment and loss.
I really am trying to just know him better. I want to know ALL of him, not just the good parts--the safe parts. Like I said, I do this as gentle and as loving as I can.
I think he wants to be in this relationship. I do not think he feels trapped, as I have given him an "out" on more than 1 occasion.

As far as dealing with feelings of frustration and stress, sometimes he shuts down. He has days where he is super quiet. Other than that I think that he keeps these feelings to himself. Internalizes it.

The triggers you speak of, I think he probably knows what they are, but does not verbalize them to me. I believe he is very much in touch with his feelings, and the demons that cause him to fear intimacy and view relationships as stressful. I know he hates any confrontation.

I am super laid back and really easygoing, so I don't think in general I make him feel stressed. We don't see each other very often but when we do, it's for a few days at a time. We seem to get very close and then I leave.
I think he prefers it this way because it allows him to disconnect. Apparently, this fear of abandonment and rejection goes deeper than I can imagine. I'm not trying to change him or fix him or save him. All I want to do is love him. But I'm starting to wonder if he will eventually become overwhelmed with it all--and BAIL.

I do think he does have some healthy coping mechanisms. I also think that whenever I bring up issues of feelings or love or tearing down those walls to let me in a little, it IS stressful for him, and that is when he shuts down a bit. He gives me a slightly different explanation each time. I think they are all truthful, but he has a hard time expressing exactly what he means.
I always try to put his feelings first above anything, and am careful with these discussions as to NOT stress him out.
I guess it doesn't matter what I do. He needs to figure it out himself.

Thanks so much for your honest insight.

Closeness, from a distance

I always like these types of discussions because I think soooooooo many people can learn - through identification and honest discussion - how the wounded, yet seemingly "normal, well-adjusted, just like everyone else" adoptee adjusts and reacts to "normal, well-adjusted, just like everyone else" personal relationships.

The following really describes my own approach and comfort-zone in relationships. You wrote: "We don't see each other very often but when we do, it's for a few days at a time. We seem to get very close and then I leave. I think he prefers it this way because it allows him to disconnect."

I can very much identify with the need to "disconnect", but as I am able to experience it, I am able to engage intensely with another person, enjoy that time very much... and then, after X amount of time, resume my normal (excruciating) routine, whilst maintaining good, close, even therapeutic communication with a person who somehow managed to bring a sense of freedom and life into my sense of dead-end-ness.

[In the past, I wasn't able to disconnect from the bad, and enjoy the good... I could only see and feel the misery. I could only project misery and loss from my point of view... a view I made a point to keep secret. In the past, I would limit what I'd share with others; I would keep secrets, knowing those secrets were only for me, and not to be shared. In essence, I lived my life very simply: I would keep everything that mattered, to myself. I could spend all day, every day, with another person, but that wouldn't mean that person would get to know even the basics about me, my family history, or genuine general opinion about things.]

As I see it, having the ability to "disconnect" -- a chance to break-free from old scripts and routines, with only a mild case of debilitating neurotic fear -- is a real major personal achievement!

As for advice or "suggestions", all I have is this to offer: Over time, I have learned we all have idiosyncrasies that make us all wonderful and unique.... and in some cases, these quirks and "abnormalities" are the very features that make us attracted and attractive to another. For myself, my best relationships are those that maintain a closeness, regardless of physical/geographical location.

p.s. The observation you made about personality-types made me laugh that nervous laugh I get when I'm freaking out.... "I am super laid back and really easygoing, so I don't think in general I make him feel stressed."

If your man has an intensity to his personality, (like I do), I can say with confidence, it is VERY stressful to be in a situation where the laid-back person is quiet and calm, and The Intense Freak is freaking-out! I have been known to flip my lid, all because in a given situation, my partner did not respond to X with the same sort of reaction or intensity, as I did. (I see this as a shared-language sort of thing... I think if the adoptee fears his/her own personal language cannot be understood.... or appreciated, that relationship will become a huge source of stress... a landmine that can lead to all sorts of unwanted addiction-based behaviors.

oooooooh wow.... the anxiety!! <.~. crazy face .~.>

Fear of being loved

Wow this is so DEEP. And so complicated. I appreciate you responding to me. I've noticed however, that there isn't a lot out there to educate friends and loved ones IN the relationship with the adoptee. But I have learned so much reading posts on this site. It really surprises me that a laid back, calm approach in the relationship can cause stress. This confuses me. I would think that the opposite behavior would be threatening and equally stressful. For instance if I push, even gently, he withdraws. And then starts a cycle that I'm sure you're all too familiar with.

That being said, I've noticed he has never really expressed any NEEDS to me. Never. I don't think that's a good thing because how can that NOT be stressful, if you can't express your needs ?

I was listening to something on you tube from Joe Soll that was very enlightening. It allowed me to better understand. It describes how adoptees often express an intense fear of being loved. How is this possible? How could anyone be frightened of being loved by someone else?
It was explained like this:

If I allow myself to feel the love of someone, it will remind me of what I have always wanted, and what was always missing.
This being of course, the bond that was severed at birth between mother and child....the most sacred and intense love relationship that can exist in this world.
And that the reasons why this bond was severed doesn't matter, but the point being that I lost what was needed the most when I was a small baby. On some level, I always knew it was missing and always longed for it.
It is part of what creates feelings of loneliness, sadness, and fear.

If I allow myself to feel love, it will remind me of this, often on an unconscious level, and that can be TERRIFYING.
It will also bring about feelings of anger, about that loss. And those feelings will either cause me to explode in rage, or feel as though I'm going to lose control.

Terrifying? Terror? It's hard to imagine those words being associated with love. But to someone who has lived with those fears and feelings their whole life, I can see how that's possible.

I am fearful however, when I read one of the posts here about "pleasure anxiety."
Why would I think there is hope of having a loving, intimate relationship, if he is feeling significant "pleasure anxiety,"
fear of being loved,
inability TO love,
and persistent stress about all of it. ????

love, hurt, and a quick easy reference

In answer to the question, "How could anyone be frightened of being loved by someone else?" I can sum-up my own answer with this simple rule: risking love - risking another abandonment.

To put the personal pain in a better (non-romantic) context, I wrote a piece describing the pain I have with Separation. You can read it here: http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/57911

...and I agree, there isn't a lot of down-to-earth conversation/intervention for hurting adoptees, and the ones who want to love them. But I do believe, a lot of hurting pups can be turned-around, with the right partner, patience, and a whole lot of work.

Pound Pup Legacy