Editor’s note: The writer’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.
I found out that I was adopted from a grade-school bully. Instead of offering emotional support, my parents said it was a lie and ignored it. Over the next few years, this information was used by my peers to humiliate me, as they knew my parents were lying to me. When asking my parents about the subject, they would say, to be adopted was something so lucky for a foster child to experience. Adoption was seen as one of the greatest acts of charity that a family could attain. Picking an unwanted child and saving them from certain horrors that would befall the child if it stayed in foster care was seen by them as a badge of honor. My parents decided it was time to discuss my adoption case with me when I was 13. It was talked over briefly with little detail, and then I was told to forget about it. If I ever dared to ask questions, it was seen as disrespectful. “You are part of a new family, a family to whom you owe everything because after all, your biological family didn’t want you,” they expressed to me. To a young teenager’s mind, “adopted” became a synonym for “unwanted.” My once-whole heart burst into a million pieces, with one piece forever lost: identity.
I started to notice differences in small things like physical appearances and skin color, overanalyzed every reaction and thought, and compared it to the values of my adopted family. If I did not behave as expected, I was punished and once again reminded that my insolent behavior was not tolerated because I was fortunate to have been chosen to be a part of the family. I lived in fear of being sent back to foster care because I was so frequently reminded that it was a possibility. So, I learned to conform to the high expectations and tried to silence the ever-growing curiosity. Depression, along with a wide range of emotions, became frequent and unbearable. I would have uncontrollable “outbursts of bad moods.” Looking back, I know what was wrong — I was grieving. I would try to imagine what I would be like in the perfect world where I was still with my biological family. I was grieving the person that I could have been — the one without the deep mistrust and anxiety, the one who would never have to wonder why. The outbursts of emotions were due to the resistance I got when asking the necessary questions needed to heal. What was lacking in support only fueled my obsession.
That doubt, anxiety and constant search for identity of self grew more and more, especially within the teenage years where time is usually spent figuring out the important aspects of your future. It is during these years that adoptees can feel a step behind in comparison with their peers. Not only are they trying to look towards the future, but there is always a strong desire to figure out the past. If adoptees were provided with the necessary support during this time of uncertainty, it would be better for the developmental aspect of the individual. If that support is neglected, it will lead to resentment and further damage the emotional connection between the adoptee and others. It is vital to have an open conversation and continue to be open and supportive with your adopted child, no matter what emotions the child is feeling. Allow the child to express all thoughts or feelings. As an adoptee, these conversations and affirmative reactions to how we are feeling would help deal with these emotions head-on. Instead of this constant feeling of being alone, it would result in a stronger support and bond between the adoptee and their support system. Please be patient with the child because after all, they are grieving.