Adoption Trauma, Not Always Forever

adoption trauma

Most of us have heard the old saying, “the only thing promised in life is death and taxes”. I’m certain many of us can add one or more items that needs to be included to the list.

One thing I think should be added to this list is trauma. If you live long enough, you will most certainly face trauma. Trauma is a badge of life often carried in our minds, consciousness and even displayed by the scars and bruises exposed on our skin. My belief is we all experience things differently. Some people suffer through life-long debilitating conditions. We may have a crazy uncle who cowers in fear when fireworks go off each fourth of July, due to the PTSD he suffers from war; or we see those we love, suffer with a more benign issue such as profusely sweaty hands when having to give a public speech.

During my 45 years of life on earth, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of trauma. As a soldier, I slipped on the bloody floors of an operating room inside a military hospital that minutes earlier, had been used to save the life of a casualty of the Afghanistan war. As a young student, I pumped the chest of a dying man when I trained as a paramedic. As a nurse I observed the slow gasps of air during the last hours of life, called Kussmaul’s respiration. It was an experience that burned into my memory when I worked on the wards of a hospital.Hilo trauma

The shock of any trauma, I think changes your life.
It’s more acute in the beginning and after a little
time you settle back to what you were.
However it leaves an indelible mark on your psyche.
Alex Lifeson

trauma gurney

When an adoptee criticizes the adoption experience or speaks out against aspects within the current system, they are automatically labeled “angry adoptee”. When a successful adoptee uses their influence, money and time to promote adoptee related issues, it is pointed out they are compensating for something. Successful adoptees have some secret character flaw. Behind closed doors they must be dancing naked to Beelzebub or offering newborn kittens as sacrifices to Odin. In reality, such comments do nothing to enhance discourse and upon closer examination, are just good ole fashioned stereotyping. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.

I’ve seen more of this type of adoptee labeling in recent years and a growing number accept these attacks as fact without allowing anyone to examine or recognise it for what it is: an attack on adoptees.

By smiling, we help them do that. Next time you encounter a “happy” and “grateful” adoptee who had “wonderful” adoptive parents and a “wonderful” life, look a little closer.
Julie A. Rist.

When read in a vacuum, this sounds plausible. There is a growing belief spread by adoption counselors that adoptees are damaged goods because every adoption is about separation and trauma.

Recently, I ran across a self-professed adoption counselor who said “Every adoptee has a trauma to resolve even when they appear outwardly fine”. The same person stated, “Another horrible shooting in Texas in a church. It’s clear, God doesn’t protect those who don’t protect themselves.” In the real world bad things will happen to good people.

Be warned about those who prey on individuals who need. I have a seen a growing number of counselors that linger on adoptee sites and peddle their wares. Self promotion of their books, counseling services and advice. Be careful who you seek treatment from. There are many simply out to make a profit from you.

The reality is, we will more than likely suffer trauma during our lifetime. It is the price of admission to life. The deck is stacked against us. Around 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Roughly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. The car insurance actuary companies have predicted the average driver will be in a collision once every 17.9 years i.e., around 3 to 4 accidents during their lifetime. Knowing this, we do see people going around to divorcees recommending a lifetime of counseling. Individuals shaken up after an accident given a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Cancer survivors prescribed to feel a certain way i.e., they must feel guilty to be alive if they beat the odds of chemo therapy.

When I was young, I had a fear of heights. Climbing tall structures was debilitating. As an adult, I overcame my fears and learned how to repel out of helicopters, parachute from airplanes and bungee jump from structures several hundreds of feet tall. People can get over their fears. There are cognitive behavioral techniques such as constant exposure, done gradually and repeatedly exposing individuals to their fear in a safe and controlled way. I am by no means a licensed mental health professional nor am I suggesting people self-treat for diagnosed issues. Nor am I diminishing or trivializing life-long conditions. I am saying people should not automatically diagnose adoption to be life-long traumatic event for all of us. We come from different backgrounds and experiences and the outcomes will vary, like any of the traumas we face in life.

More Reading:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/251876-inheritance/
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/pregnancy-stress-during-1998-ice-storm-linked-to-genetic-changes-in-children-after-birth-study-suggests/article20868841/

One Reply to “Adoption Trauma, Not Always Forever”

  1. I first discovered my adoption in a high school science class exercise using our parents blood types to determine our own, I realised mine did not match my parents. I remained silent and approached the Science Teacher after class, who upon viewing my results exclaimed then “that is not your father then, you are adopted”, I suppressed that knowledge in my subconscious for 47 years, I even became the family genealogists created a huge family tree 13,500, attended many family reunions, traveling 1000s of km to attend interstate, spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in research, had a headstone re-manufactured for the Irish Convict Ancestor and helped organise a reunion Australia Day 2008 (not my ancestor). Had I been asked if I though adoption was a good idea, I would have answered in the affirmative. In 2017 via an Ancestry DNA test I discovered I was adopted, I had absolutely no idea I was adopted I had suppressed it so deep; I was in total shock. I was only a few months later when I overheard my wife was discussing blood types with her sister that the high school memory flooded back. This is an example of the power of the mind to suppress trauma. I have never met a “happy adoptee” that when you scratch a little below the surface, signs of trauma appear. I do not believe child then adult separated from biological family whether adopted or not can escape without some trauma, it is always a traumatic event whether as a baby, infant or older child. Denial of trauma is common condition and may be for several reasons, shame, fear of ridicule, sense of loyalty to adopted parents and adopted family. I am firmly of the belief that the Act of Adoption, the legal and actual separation of the child then adult from biological parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, family history, culture/s, vital family medical history is ethically wrong and in itself child abuse and identity theft. If adoption did not exist, then neither would child trafficking.

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