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My sense is that adoptees often come across in the online world as angrier than we are in real life. If someone has a blog that focus on adoption issues, he or she may often be addressing matters that stir up anger, but that doesn’t mean that the person walks around angry all the time in real life.
Another issue is that for some of us, anger is something that we came to later in life. I know that in my case it took me a long time to get to the point of being able to step beyond what I viewed as acceptable feelings for me to have about adoption … to find the courage to say, “You know what, there is a part of me that is really pissed off that this thing happened to me.” I may not be angry all the time, but I am angry some of the time. I call it the “baby rage,” and it is old and powerful. It may not have risen to the surface until relatively recently in my life, but it was there all along.
If you knew me in my early 20s, I might have seemed to be a lot more at peace with my adoptive situation then than I am now. But really, I was just numb. When I look back on that part of my life, that’s how I perceive myself. I was half-asleep, barely there. I went through the motions of relationships, but I didn’t really connect. A few months ago, I was driving on a long stretch of highway, my kids asleep in the backseat, and my mind began to wander through different events of my life. Eventually I landed on thoughts of someone I had known in my teens and early twenties. I liked him mainly because he didn’t expect too much of me, and seemed as emotionally distant as I was, but the last time I saw him he tried to push our relationship into a new place. He wanted to talk about feelings (gasp!) and, even worse, “the future.” I froze like a deer in the headlights. I couldn’t even begin to go to the place he was asking me to go. I couldn’t even have the conversation.
Now I know adoptees aren’t the only ones to have commitment issues, and I also know there are plenty of adoptees who don’t experience anything like what I’ve just described. But for me, my difficulty with emotional connection does seem to have been connected to the particular way that I processed my adoption experience. I hadn’t allowed myself to feel grief or rage or any emotions connected to adoption other than “officially approved” emotions such as gratitude. And in suppressing the “negative” emotions, I also suppressed others.
My awakening was a both sudden and gradual. "Sudden" in that the first blast of intense emotion – adoption grief – came at me out of the blue one day and knocked me flat. That was the day I suddenly found myself on the floor in my apartment sobbing uncontrollably. But “gradual” also applies because the process is one that continues to this day, and it’s always been a two steps forward one step back kind of thing. It might be nice if I could in fact “just get over it,” but for me the process is an ongoing one, rather than a onetime event.
And it wasn’t just the negative emotions that I suppressed. I also suppressed feeling of love and affection toward my biological family members, as well as curiosity about my origins, because I interpreted such feelings as an indication of disloyalty toward my adoptive family. I didn’t understand back then that love is not a pie. I thought I had to choose. I remember the first time I allowed myself to fully experience my love for my biological mother. I was sitting quietly by myself with my eyes closed, and I just allowed myself to feel, to really feel without holding back. And strange thing happened. At that same moment, I suddenly experienced a swelling of love for my adoptive mother, stronger than anything I could remember feeling towards her before. Surprised? I’m not. In suppressing my love for one mother, I had unintentionally suppressed my love for both of them.
Now I allow myself to feel it all: the whole crazy mixture. I don’t know any other way to be at peace with what happened to me other than to walk through the emotions – all of the emotions. And sometimes I write about these feelings. My emotional awakening is an ongoing process, and it isn’t always pretty. This newest part of my adoption journey, reuniting with my biological father, is bringing up a whole new layer of emotional stuff. It’s wonderful, it’s confusing, it’s scary … and it’s all good. Really, it is.