Kris shares about Adoptee Anger

This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.

by Kris Rao, adopted from India to the USA, recently discovered their adoption as a Late Discovery adoptee.

In 2019 at the age of 34, I learned that I was adopted. Since then, I have become insanely familiar with the grief cycle. In a non-linear fashion, I have been relentlessly experiencing all the emotions associated with grief. Of all the emotions, anger, however, has become the one constant emotion when I think about adoption.

In the case of my experience, as a late discovery adoptee, I am angry for being lied to for 34 years. I feel deceived. Conned. Duped. Whatever words I can think of to describe it, ultimately for 34 years I was manipulated into believing I was someone that I’m not. Manipulated into believing strangers where my biological and genetic kin. The identity I was given never seemed to fit with the person I knew myself to be, and I was gaslit into feeling like the crazy one for my thoughts.

The thing about anger though, is that it is perceived as a negative emotion. All my life growing up, I have been taught to control it. To not let it get the best of me. Even now, as I write to share my experience and express my opinions on adoption today, there are those that tell me to not be so angry. That anger is not a good thing.

For quite a while after discovering the truth, I struggled with the anger. In a group for late discovery adoptees, I once posed a question about anger. More than 90% said that they still are angry, or struggle with anger. The most helpful responses were the ones that said it was okay to be angry. One adoptee even responded to something I wrote and said that it was a “righteous anger”. And they were right. My anger is righteous and justified for my experience. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel it.

As Faith G. Harper wrote in her book Unfuck Your Anger: Using Science to Understand Frustration, Rage, and Forgiveness:

“If feeling anger is OK, you can be angry and still be OK.”

Looking back, I think I struggled with anger because I confused my thoughts about anger with how we manage and act upon it. There is nothing wrong with the emotion itself. Anger is a normal reaction to any negative situation, and it’s how we deal with it that determines a positive or negative reaction. And that’s the key thing, “Anger is a response to a deeper emotion. It’s a secondary emotion, meaning it’s reactive. Not just to situations we encounter but to other emotions.”

Negative emotions are okay as long as we express them in a healthy manner.

I was always frustrated growing up with how I was raised. Frustrated that I couldn’t understand why I always felt different. That frustration turned into anger soon after discovering I was adopted. I’m angry about being lied to. I’m angry about all the abuse I experienced and for being gaslit into believing that it was for my own good. And I grieve because of it. It’s a lot of negativity to deal with all at once. When I learned I was adopted, I was hurt. There was sorrow from what felt like a huge act of betrayal. That hurt would also become anger. The more I tried not to feel all these “negative emotions”, the more “negative” I felt I was becoming.

Mark Manson wrote the following about negative emotions in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

“The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

“This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.”

It’s been a lot of work, but I’m learning to reframe myself and how I view my anger. I am learning to simply accept what it is, and use that to process my grief, my trauma. Accepting the negative experiences of my adoption. Allowing myself to feel my anger, and not be it.

I came across this quote a while ago, and it stuck with me regarding my grief.
“No one notices your sadness until it turns into anger, and then you’re the bad person.”

I don’t know its origins, but it feels accurate. If anything, I want people to know that my anger is not about who I am as an adoptee. It’s not even about who I am as a late discovery adoptee. It’s about what I feel as an adoptee.

More importantly, I see my anger as a tool, because it not only has allowed me to establish and keep necessary boundaries to protect myself, but it is what drives me to write for change, share my experience, and restore all that was taken away from me. I’ve learned to use my anger to advocate for change, for sharing my experience and my unapologetic truth. I share the realities of adoption by writing just exactly what I feel and how I’m dealing with it.

My anger is about calling for accountability from those that don’t want to be held accountable. It’s about reclamation.

In an essay about anger, Brian Wong wrote the following:
“While anger might not be the most practically useful emotion to have in all cases, its epistemic and motivational productivity makes it the ideal candidate in steering victims towards making appropriate claims to compensation or reparation. It is the anger towards losing what matters that enables victims to pinpoint the most important components of their restorative process – of course, we might not think that restoration is intrinsically most valuable, but this critique misses the point. Anger can play a crucial role in recovering lost goods.”

Quite simply, that’s what anger is. What it can be. 

Healing from my past traumas for me isn’t about letting go of my pain, or my anger. It’s how I manage it and how I utilize that anger. It’s about using my anger for a positive experience.

Anger as a reaction to a negative experience can provide us with the energy for change. It can be used to help keep ourselves safe and give us the courage to take back what we’ve lost. And that’s a good thing!

For more from Kris, follow at:
Kris-404:RootsNotFound
Twitter @adoptedindian
Instagram @indianlatediscoveryadoptee

JD shares about Adoptee Anger

This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.

by JD Glienna, adopted from the Philippines to the USA. JD is co-founder of Adopteekwentokwento, a Youtube channel that shares Filipino adoptee voices.

I do become angry from time to time. I’m angry about all the lies I have to sift through to get to the truth. I’m angry that the system gave me to abusive parents. I’m angry that there was no process to help protect me or educate them for improvements. I’m angry that I have to constantly work through the bad memories. I’m angry that I listen to the lies of how great a mom I had, or comments like, “This is my baby” when it damn well was lies. I’m angry that a child had to be the pummel bag for someone else’s insecurities.

I may not always be angry, but it bubbles from time to time. I’m angry that some want a storyline versus taking responsibility. I’m angry that adoptees are the last part of the triad to be considered behind the adopting parents agenda, the government system, and then the birth mother. I’m angry at the lack of support for adoptees in post adoption. I’m angry for those who experience that they are a lie for someone and that they have to remain a lie. I am angry for all adoptees who want to be part of a family, adopted or biological and are constantly rejected.

You can follow JD
@lakad.co
@Adopteekwentokwento

The Unaware Adoptee

by Krishna Rao adopted from India to the USA.

The day I learned I was adopted, both my families died. The ones that raised me, turned out to be a sham. The ones that did not, turned out to be an enigma.

In June of 2019 at 34 years of age, I learned I was adopted after taking a DNA test for fun. There were definitely a lot of emotions I went through when I made this discovery. From having my identity shattered, to questioning everything about my past.

For 34 years, I believed I was the biological kin of the parents who raised me, because that’s what they told me. And yes, I always felt something was odd, I just didn’t have the conscious knowledge to know what it was.

In the early days of discovering my adoption, I came across April Dinwoodie’s Podcast. In one of her podcasts she interviews Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, who as it turns out, is also a late discovery adoptee and learned of his adoption at 35. Darryl said something that really stuck with me. “I can use my story not only to make my life better, but I can help so many other people who are in the same situation as me to understand their lives better.”

What he said inspired me to start sharing my story. I then started to blog about my experience. I created an Instagram page and I share my thoughts on Twitter. It has allowed me to process what it means to be adopted. For my entire life up until that point, I was raised as an adoptee, without ever consciously knowing I was adopted.

Documenting my thoughts, emotions and experience is a way for me to work through them and heal.

Since that time, I have learned a lot. But in no way, shape or form does that make me an expert in adoption. I still have a lot to learn, and more importantly a lot of healing.

We live in a world where sharing is so easy to do now. My thoughts have reached out to people from all over the globe. And so have many others. In that regard, it’s interesting to read all the different views adoptees have on adoption. Some are for it, some against it. Some in between, and there are those that just don’t have an opinion at all.

When I think about where I stand, I feel like there’s no definite answer. I am not for adoption. I am not against adoption. As of today, it feels more like I am anti-bullshit about the whole thing.

I do not believe that adoption is going away in my lifetime. I don’t see how. It’s more than just giving a child a home. In many cases it’s about giving a person the opportunity to have a life. It doesn’t guarantee a better life, just a different one.

I’d love to see more movement in family preservation but as an intercountry adoptee, I understand that the idea of family preservation is going to take a lot more work. How do we change entire societies mindsets? In many places adoption is still deeply stigmatised. I was adopted from India to the USA and even though people do adopt in India domestically, I get the sense that it is still a taboo topic. My paperwork from India states that I was abandoned because my mother was unmarried. It’s as if the only option for a pregnant unmarried woman is to abandon her child.

Everyone affected by adoption has their own opinions and as a person that has entered this space less than two years ago, I’m tired of seeing division. We’re all entitled to an opinion. We are all allowed to speak our minds. By the same token, others are allowed to disagree.

I know not everything I say or share is agreeable to some people and that’s fine with me. But how do we take this issue and change it to an agreeable approach?

I personally think the definition of adoption needs to change. It’s not just about taking a child and placing them in a new family where they lose everything they once had. I see it all the time where people talk about what is best for the children, all the while forgetting that these children are going to grow up, form opinions of their own along the way, and become adults. I certainly did.

These adults are not adopted children anymore. They are not children period. And these adults already have families. They already have roots.

I was somebody before adoption changed me. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, but it is still there. As someone who doesn’t know his origin story, I want mine. Even if it’s doom and gloom.

When we talk about adoption, I believe words matter. The English language is not complex enough to help us define the relationships in adoption.

The way I see it, my parents are the people that raised me. They are not my mother and father. My adopters are mother and father figures, not replacements. My mother and father, the ones I already have, are not my parents because they did not raise me. However it is viewed, or defined, I can still accept both sets of people as my family.

I get to make that decision even though it feels like society wants me to separate the two and say I belong to the ones that spent time and resources on me. Spending time and resources doesn’t matter if the relationship is conditional, and in my case, when it’s full of deception. Anybody could have fed and sheltered me but it takes more than that to give somebody a life.

That being said, I choose who I belong to. And right now, it’s none of them. Why? Because I can’t appreciate the fact that other people made choices for me. Choices that led to my relinquishment and then my adoption.

Both sets have been brainwashed in some shape or form. The adopters were probably told and felt that the adopted children would be theirs. They took that a step too far, and as such they never told me I was adopted. And I can only speculate what my birth mother went through. Being told that children of unwed mothers are not worthy to be kept. Reading up on India’s history of adoption and how unwed women are treated when it comes to being pregnant has not been very positive.

My past is beyond my control and I have to accept it. Now I am the one who has to spend time and resources to process all this for myself.

I do know there are decent adoptive parents out there, raising other people’s kids and actually supporting them as adoptees. I know some of them. I know and have read about couples that take their adoptees back to their birth countries. They actually want to help them find their families. It is shockingly eye-opening and heart-breaking to me because I know that was an option I never have gotten to experience. Instead, this has now become a process and a journey I do alone.

I don’t know where I was going with this. It just is. I’ve known about my adoption for 20 months now. I’ve been full steam ahead trying to learn and absorb all that I can and everyday my perspective changes. I try to learn from all sides before I form an opinion. And there are many sides to this.

Adoption is a complicated and traumatic experience.

This is why I say I’m anti-bullshit. I’m tired of the crap that doesn’t matter. There has got to be some way to make this better.

Better for adoptees because it’s our lives and well-being that is at stake here!

Alone

by Debbie Nahid born in Iran, adopted to the UK.

Debbie as a child at the beach in Suffolk

I was born in 1968. My mother had concealed her pregnancy for eight months when she boarded a plane in the Middle East bound for London. On her arrival, she visited a doctor in a Harley Street clinic and asked for help to give birth secretly. The doctor contacted a private adoption agency who agreed to place me with an adopted family in England so she could return to her homeland and escape the threat of an honour killing. If her family discovered she was pregnant with me, we would have been killed to protect their honour and reputation.

We spent ten days together in hospital before I was removed and taken into temporary foster care. My mother had signed all the relevant documents but she had named a father on my birth certificate and it was this that prevented my adoption into a family. At two months, I was handed over to the care of another foster mother who had been deemed unsuitable by social services and desperately longed for a baby of her own.

I was taken on a train to Suffolk and raised in a rural community of white English people. My mother was a single woman who did not have any extended family or partner to support her. I did not look like her; I had thick black hair, dark brown eyes and a tan on my skin that never faded. I felt like an outcast not only in my town but in my own home too.

My mother refused to tell me the truth about my birth and I was raised to believe that she was my biological mother. She also claimed that my father had come from Iran and apparently died before I was born. She did not have a photograph of him or myself as a newborn. I can remember questioning her many times but she would not discuss how I came to be in this world.

I grew up feeling extremely lonely and isolated, not just by my physical difference but also by her inability to be open about my existence. Social workers used to visit our house regularly but I was never told that I was the reason for these visits; I thought they were just being friendly when they asked about racial abuse I was experiencing at school. My mother used to tell me that the social workers were bad people who wanted to destroy her life and I believed her.

When approaching sixteen I discovered the truth. My mother woke me one night to tell me I was not her real daughter but she would not explain how I got there to be with her. In that moment, my whole world froze before me. I felt empty and frightened. I did not know who I was and I needed to find out. She told me that the name I had been known by for sixteen years was not officially mine.

A social worker came round to explain that I had a different name all along, a foreign name and that I was ‘a foreigner’. I wasn’t given any counselling or support during this period and it has set me up for a lifetime of mental health issues. I don’t think you will ever understand how it feels to discover you are not the person you thought you were. Everyone and everything becomes a lie.

I began to run away from home and each time I did this I was picked up by the police and taken back to the place I was running from. I eventually made it to London where I found the adoption agency and met with the woman who helped my birth mother. However, she didn’t want to help me and insisted I should drop any idea of searching because I would put my mother’s life in danger as the threat of an honour killing was indeed real. She also said that my mother had ‘moved on’. I was bereft, with no one to turn to and nowhere to go.

There is no help for an intercountry adoptee, which is essentially what I was – no helpful social worker, no access to records and no intermediary. The only way I was able to trace my birth family was by travelling to go in search of them, which at the time was to an extremely dangerous region, as a war and then later an invasion all hampered my efforts but didn’t stop me from pursuing the truth.

I found my birth mother when I was twenty four years old. She was married and had four children. I was afraid that she would reject me all over again, but she didn’t. She wanted to meet me. I wasn’t aware that my arrival would trigger her shame and guilt for having a child out of wedlock in a Muslim society. At the time, I was overwhelmed by my own feelings and it felt like rejection when she insisted on pretending I was somebody else. It was deeply upsetting for me to have found my birth mother after years of searching to then have to pretend I was someone else. It felt like another lie.

For the first time in my life, I was in the same home as my biological mother and my half sibling. I saw likenesses and mannerisms; I saw a physical resemblance that connected us all and yet they were strangers who had a different upbringing to me. They were raised in a different culture to the one I had been brought up in. It wasn’t just about colour, it wasn’t just about race, it was about a cultural identity that I found difficult to partake in because it was so unfamiliar to me. I may have appeared the same as them but my mindset was completely alien to theirs. My birth mother was a woman who had grown up in a restrictive society and this prevented her from openly acknowledging me because she feared the consequences.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get long enough to know her because she died quite suddenly and by the time I received the news, it was too late – she had already been buried. I would spend the years that followed trying to build a relationship with my half-siblings and trying to reach out to my birth mother’s relatives who did not want to build any relationship with me. They wanted to keep my identity a secret to protect their family honour, which meant rejecting my existence.

Debbie at her mother’s grave

I think my life would have turned out differently if I had always known the truth about my adoption because it wouldn’t have been such a shock. I didn’t know then that I was led by trauma and living a traumatic existence. I was searching for honest people but I only found deceptive ones. I had a right to the truth because it is my history, my biology and my genetic code. From the moment I was born until now everyone who could give me information has tried their best to withhold it from me, using the threat of an honour killing as a justification.

Now I am a grown woman with children of my own and I am searching for the truth about my biological father’s identity, so my story continues….

This article was also published at How to be Adopted.

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