Life Lessons from an Adoptee – Part 3

This is a series written by Tamieka Small, adopted from Ethiopia to Australia.

‘If we look for the light, we can often find it, but if we look for the dark it is all you will ever see.’

Uncle Iroh

This is truly one of the best quotes I stumbled across from, yes, Avatar: Legend of Korra (an Americanised fantasy/spiritual anime based in an alternate reality). It was quoted from Uncle Iroh when Korra stumbled across him in the spirit world in her child form. In her child form she was crying and giving into her negative thoughts and the audience got to see how it impacted the world around her; making the other spirits angry and sad, and turning the sky dark with clouds and anger. Uncle Iroh emphasised to her how powerful her inner thoughts are, how our thoughts can impact our perspectives on reality; and dictate our beliefs about our reality, and ourselves and how it can bring down and uplift up the people and environment around us.

It’s important as a human being, and especially as an adoptee to not give over our power to our negative thoughts, and I know that is easier said than done. This is especially hard when living with trauma or other mental illnesses, sometimes it’s a constant battle we all deal with maybe all of our lives. But it’s important to realise that there is plenty of darkness in the world, and in our personal lives, but if we give in, we give in to our most basic instincts, we give into our egos and all the things that tormented us as children. And these thoughts can taint how we see the world around us, the life we live in. If we let the darkness in by just an inch sometimes it can overwhelm us, and feel like that is all we see in the world; and when you turn on the news it’s easy to give into the belief that we live in a dark world. When we live a difficult life it can make it even harder to not fall into this type of headspace, so it is important for our survival and our sanity as well as our wellbeing to leave a light on for ourselves; to give to ourselves the chance to live a happier life by choosing every-day to choose to see the light in every chance we get and in every challenge life throws at us.

When we start to put in a little effort every day to see the light we do have in our world it makes it just that much easier, and the light will shine back on us. When we build a reserve of light and happiness for ourselves it gives us more to ground ourselves when we face any hardships in our lives. Sometimes light is what we give ourselves in our darkest moments, a gift we give ourselves as a form of self-care; kindness and understanding and self-love.

Self Care and Healing

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Last week, I was fortunate and privileged enough to attend a 3-day Adoptee Self Care Retreat funded by the Australian Government for adoptees from the Forced Adoption era and for people who have been in State care.

I want to share my thoughts of what I gained from attending as I found it to be such a positive experience. I have always advocated and requested a retreat like this, but sadly, to date, I have not seen or heard of one specific for adult intercountry adoptees.

I went not knowing the other dozen adoptees who attended and all were domestically adopted in Australia. The retreat focused on self care via yoga and meditation with amazing home cooked and grown food. I was raised in my adoptive family as a vegetarian because of their Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs so I loved being served food that was wholesome and nutritious. At home, I’m so busy with kids, dogs, family and school life with adoption thrown in when I have time, that often I go without barely eating.

The yoga, meditation, massage and facial was just awesome! I had needed to get away from life’s busy chaos and give to myself. I normally spend a lot of time nurturing other people and forget to nurture myself – but this retreat was a great way to remind me to do daily self care and to understand by living it for 3 days, the massive benefits when I do. I came home so much more relaxed, at ease, at peace and most importantly, connected back to my body. Being in this state helps me deal more positively with the daily challenges of life.

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I loved meeting fellow adoptees from such a variety of life paths, all with different experiences, but fundamentally to whom I shared so much in common. Attending the “adoptee focused” sessions run jointly by the NSW Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC) and Relationships Australia, Wattle Place was healing, validating, and connecting. In these sessions, we shared in depth about the impacts of being adopted. We did this in an environment where we were supported and validated for the variety of experiences we have lived throughout our journey so far. It was humbling to receive my fellow adoptees validation and empathy, to hear their journey’s, and as a group, to encourage and support one another.

The power of group healing is so deep! The retreat reminded me of my journey in my early 20s when I first began healing from sexual abuse. I attended group therapy hosted by Wesley Mission and met other women survivors for the first time. I have never forgotten the impact I felt upon hearing their experiences, receiving their validation for the impacts we all suffered, and ultimately, for the sense of connection in being with others who had travelled a similar path, were looking for healing and a way to move forward. It made such an impact on me that I began this network for intercountry adoptees. I wanted to replicate the healing that can come from finding those who have travelled a similar path and struggled with similar issues. Validation, support, and empathy from those who understand, can never be underestimated in it’s power to help us heal.

The retreat also reminded me to honour my path and where I’ve come. Over the decades, I have shifted from being powerless to turning my experiences of adoption into something that can hopefully benefit others. I also now regard my adoptive status as a privilege because without it, I would never have met so many amazing people who carry such deep scars but who display resilience on a daily basis. I hold my hands in that heart place position which we practiced in yoga and thank the powers to be that I was able to find healing. I hope in some small way, the work we do within ICAV will help to empower the healing and connection for many fellow adoptees around the world.

I encourage fellow adoptees to find a way to give to yourself, take the time to do self care even in tiny ways each day, and reach out to connect with others of us who can understand, validate and provide peer support. My utopian wish is to have these types of retreats for us and for future generations of intercountry adoptees around the world.

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