“What’s that key around your neck?” – I get that question as much as I get questioned about where I’m from.
I wear a golden key around my neck. I’ve been wearing it that way for ten years.
It says, “Togetherness is love, 10.02.62” on one side and “M. T.” on the other.
My mom, being a rebel, decided to skip school with a childhood best friend. They wandered the streets of New York City. They found the key. They tried to find the owner/place it went to. However, it had been thrown into the middle of street, so they were unsuccessful. My mom and best friend always thought it was a lover’s quarrel. Key thrown away in anger.
Fast forward to when my mom adopted me.
When I was little, I had a fear my parents would not come home to me after a date night.
My mom would say, “Take this golden key from this tower, keep it with you. We’ll be home when you’re sleeping and you can personally give it to me in the morning.” It gave me a sense of security. Like my mom and dad were with me and would return.
When I graduated high school, I had chosen to attend college out of state. As a gift, my mom had the golden key strung and gave it to me as a gift, as a promise to always be with me, that my mom and dad would always be there, at home, waiting for me to come home, key in hand (or around neck, to be precise).
A little story about a key shaped like a heart in honour of Valentine’s Day.
On 30 December 2021, 7-9pm CST we gathered in social media application, Clubhouse to participate in an online vigil, created and led by Vietnamese adoptee Adam Chau. The event was organised in conjunction with Christian Hall’s family who created the physical in-person vigils at various cities around the USA. The purpose of the vigils was to honour Christian’s life, raise awareness about and bring the impacted communities together in solidarity to seek Justice for Christian Hall. You can read their latest articles here and here.
A number of adoptee guests were invited to share our thoughts for the online vigil: Kev Minh Allen (Vietnamese American adoptee), Lynelle Long (Vietnamese Australian adoptee), Kayla Zheng (Chinese American adoptee), Lee Herrick (Korean American adoptee).
I share with you what I spoke about in honour of Christian Hall.
My name is Lynelle Long, I’m the founder of Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV). I’d like to thank you Adam Chau for organising this online event today in honour of Christian. Thankyou Nicole, Christian’s cousin who is on our call, for allowing us to join in with this vigil. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss! It’s a privilege to be able to speak. I am a person with lived experience of intercountry adoption and like Christian Hall, I am of Chinese descent … except I was born in Vietnam and adopted to Australia, whereas he was born in China and adopted to the USA.
The common thread that unites me with Christian Hall is that we both experienced abandonment as an infant. No matter what age we are, for an adoptee, loss of our first family as abandonment/relinquishment is a raw and painfully traumatic experience. It stays with us throughout life in the form of bodily sensations and gets easily triggered. When this happens, these sensations flood our body as fear, panic, anxiety.
Worse still is that when our abandonment occurs as an infant, we have not developed a language as a way to understand our experience. We are simply left with pre-verbal feelings (bodily sensations). It took me over 20 years until I read the first book, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier which changed my life in terms of coming to understand how abandonment and adoption had impacted me. That book was the first to help give words to the experience I felt up until then, as an entirely somatic experience, as uncomfortable sensations in my body, that I hadn’t understood, which I’d spent my life running away from every time they re-emerged.
The other common thread that unites me with Christian Hall is that we both experienced suicidal ideation and attempts. For him, it tragically meant the end of his life by police officers who did not understand his traumas. For me, after numerous failed attempts and ending up in ER, it meant a long process of awakening to the trauma I had lived. 20+ years later, I have spent most of this time helping to awaken our society to what adoption is really about for us, the adopted person.
Being adopted never leaves us. We might try to escape and pretend that it has no impact but deep down to our core, our abandonment wires almost every aspect of our being – most importantly, how we connect or not to others around us and to ourselves. At its core, intercountry adoptees experience loss of identity, race and culture. Unless we have supports around us that understand and help us to overcome the trauma of abandonment early on, we stumble in the dark, completely unaware of how our abandonment impacts us. Many adoptees call it “being in the fog” until we become awakened. Today, decades after Nancy Verrier first wrote her amazing book, we now have many, many books written by adoptees who are THE experts of our own lived experience. These books are a written testament to the complexities we live through adoption and how this impact us.
In the past 2 months, I have worked with others to speak out about the impacts of abandonment and adoption trauma and the direct connection to risk of suicide. I acknowledge that Christian’s family do not relate his tragic death to suicide, but I suspect his feelings of abandonment were triggered as key events led to him being on the bridge that day. I hope that more adoptive families will educate themselves about the complexities we live as people who get disconnected from our origins via intercountry adoption. There are almost 2 million of us worldwide and we are speaking out en-masse to help the world understand it is not a rainbows and unicorns experience. We require lifelong supports from professionals who are trauma and adoption trained. In America alone, there are hundreds of thousands of intercountry adoptees – America remains the biggest receiving country in the world. Too many are struggling emotionally every day, yet in the USA, there is still no free national counselling service for intercountry adoptees and their families. There is also NO national post adoption support centre in the USA funded to help intercountry adoptees grow into adulthood and beyond. Isn’t it a huge shortcoming that the largest importer of children in the world has no lifelong supports fully funded, equitable, freely accessible – how can America expect positive outcomes for children who are amongst the most vulnerable if we don’t fund what we know they need?
I never knew Christian personally. I only discovered him through his death. I wish I had known him. From the many intercountry adoptees I connect to, I know we gain so much emotionally from being connected to others just like us. Being connected to our peers helps reduce those feelings of isolation, helps us understand we aren’t the only ones to experience life this way, helps connect us to sources of support and validation that we know has worked. I wish Christian had met our community. I’ll never know if it would have made the difference so that he wasn’t there that day on that bridge. As an adoptee, I suspect Christian most likely wanted help that day, help to ease his hurting soul, not death.
Also, let’s take a moment to remember his biological family in China. Whether they ever truly had a choice in his relinquishment, we’ll probably never know but from my knowledge in this field, it’s most likely not. Christian’s adoption was likely the result of the 1-Child Policy era in China where thousands of families were forced to relinquish their children, many of them ending up intercountry adopted like Christian. Please take a moment to consider that through adoption, his biological family don’t even have the right to know that he has passed away.
The travesty in adoption is that trauma is experienced by all in the triad (the adoptee, the adoptive family, the biological family) yet the traumas continue to go largely unrecognised and unsupported in both our adoptive and birth countries. We must do better to prevent the unnecessary separation of families, and where adoption is needed, ensure that families undertake adoption education, learning about its complexities in full and having free equitable access for life to the professional supports needed.
My huge thanks to his extended and immediate family for being brave and opening themselves up thru all this trauma and allow these vigils where his life and death can be honoured for the greater good. I honour the pain and loss they’ve lived and thank them immensely for allowing our intercountry adoptee community to join in with them in support.
If you would like to support Christian’s family and their push for justice, please sign the petition here.
If you would like to better understand the complexities involved in intercountry adoption as experienced by adoptees, our Video Resource is a great place to start.Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a resource like this to help educate first responders to better understand the mental health crises that adoptees experience.
by Kamina the Koach, transracial adoptee in the USA.
I am a domestic, transracial, late discovery adoptee born in 1979 just outside of Dallas, Texas in the USA. At 42, I identify as just another African American woman but I actually didn’t know I was black until I was 14 and even then, I only thought my mother had an affair, or at least that’s what I was told. I believed this lie because I wanted to believe my parents, until I found out, by accident, that I was adopted.
When I found out at 32 that I was indeed adopted, I was going through SO MUCH that I just could not bear to face this truth. I acknowledged it and suffered the ignorant comments people made about me being adopted, to include questions about why I hadn’t searched for my family. It all made me even more defensive. I’ve always had, what I determined to be, rage issues. That certainly didn’t help the matter, constantly being confronted with questions I couldn’t even answer for myself. Instead of facing this horrible new truth, I locked it away and left the USA for almost 10 years.
My adopted home was full of racism, chaos and confusion. I was homeless at 15 because my female adopter put me out. She called the police and they came and waited for me to pack my things and leave. I asked them where I was supposed to go. They said that they didn’t care but I couldn’t stay there because my frail white female adopter was afraid of her big black burden. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting out of that home, though it did prove to make life quite a bit more complex than it originally should have been. Up to this point, we had been fighting over a man almost 15 years my senior that she had been allowing me to see. Until I started to unearth all my trauma, I didn’t even realize that this too was abuse. Nonetheless, in the time she spent with him helping us sneak around to see each other, she fell in love with him. I will leave that first home right there but not before also mentioning that my female adopter’s biological son sexually abused me and when I finally had the courage to bring it up, I found out she knew. So yes, let’s leave them right there.
I had so much trauma in the works before I found out I was adopted that I had spent almost 10 years attending to those wounds before I could even consider the journey out of the fog. I looked to religion, even attending seminary to become a chaplain in the Army. The book “The Secret” began my spiritual transformation. While I am not religious at all anymore, I am quite deeply spiritual as that book set me on the path to study Quantum Physics and other ideas and theories that not only supported my soul but also didn’t go against science. I needed to make sense of it all.
In China, I found the book A New Earth by Ekhart Tolle and started to learn more about energy and discovered I could control my menstrual cramps by focusing on the energy I hold in my body. That led me to discover energy medicine and energy healing, from which I took my atunement to become a Reiki master. Living outside the white noise of the USA gave me an opportunity to explore myself in a way I never had before, and so I did. Meditation became easier and I started growing and changing as I continued to feed my mind with knowledge about my soul and the powerful energy that we all share that is inside us.
I became quite a devout Muslim while living in Saudi Arabia and I studied Buddhism quite a bit while living in Thailand and Myanmar. I was constantly seeking a way to fill up the hole in my heart where a family should have been. Religion didn’t do it. Science didn’t do it. And let’s be painfully direct and say that spirituality didn’t do it either. I desperately wanted to have kids of my own but that was yet another attempt to fill that hole.
I returned to the USA after almost 10 years of living and working abroad in eight different countries during the worst time in my life to be an American, March of 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m an introvert and an empath, so being at home was great but the problem was I could literally FEEL all the pain of the country. At one point, I was curled under my office desk in tears shaking and crying. The loneliness finally broke me on my birthday, a bad day for many adoptees and I’m no exception. This was the second time I self-sabotaged on my birthday and almost succeeded in ending my life. I was supposed to go see a guy I liked and he went missing. Instead, I got up, got dressed and went out to get the attention I so desperately thought I needed. I was arrested for driving under the influence on my way to who knows where. I was so out of it that I didn’t even know I had driven all the way to another city before I was pulled over and arrested.
That was it for me. I began my reunion journey shortly thereafter. Wherever you go, there you are and I had been running from myself for far too long. In the 10 years I was abroad, groups have formed to assist domestic adoptees in searching for free, using only non identifying information and DNA results. I’m a research fanatic and that’s how I ended up making a turn down the adoptee rabbit hole. I had joined an adoptee group once before and left because I was overwhelmed. Same this time. I joined many groups and each time I would find myself out of place or wildly uncomfortable. Luckily though, not before I made two amazing adoptee friends who are also women of color and transracially adopted. I’m so very thankful for their presence in my life, but I still avoid groups for the most part. I hate discourse that ends up in bickering. The one group I continue to enjoy is one for adoptees who have cut ties with their adoptive families. I have not found another group where I felt this safe.
As I moved through my reunion journey, I continued to hear people say that I NEEDED a therapist. I couldn’t afford one at the time and didn’t have insurance to help. Instead, I joined a support group for adoptees of color. I didn’t fit in there either. It was decent the first session but after that, I began to feel like an outsider yet again. I began to ask for help more to see if anyone had any ideas and one of my new adoptee friends turned me to Joe, one of the very first adoptee psychotherapists to start to write about this. His website stated he offered help for free to those who are moving towards reunion. Nonetheless, after our first session, he started discussing money. He was also an older white male which made me uncomfortable and he attempted to overcompensate by telling me he had a a black girlfriend. It was very creepy and uncomfortable. Needless to say, that didn’t work out either.
After Joe, a former military friend pointed me to a military funded therapist. I was so thankful to find out she was also trained in EMDR. I knew about EMDR because a friend of mine died in another friend’s arms and an Army chaplain suggested I research it to help him process his trauma. However, she ended up being quite racist, calling me a reverse racist. After two sessions, she ended our relationship via a text that almost snapped my soul in two. I had started seeing a very sweet person I was in love with and I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the relationship or navigate reunion without help. It was like being broken up with, like death. Abandonment has always equalled death to me.
Those two failed attempts at therapy didn’t deter me from continuing my healing journey. Dr. Gabor Mate is one of my favourite trauma experts and he asserts that all of our mental hang ups are a product of trauma, including addictions. He also endorses psychedelics for healing, though that wasn’t the first time I had heard about this. The first time was probably when I was wondering to a friend about near-death-experience and they mentioned DMT, the manufactured version of the plant medicine ayahuasca. At this point I had read a book on how people are able to rewire their brains through following an intensive meditation modality, but that ayahuasca had been able to achieve the same results, often with only one dose. As I went further down the rabbit hole, I found the psychedelic groups on the social media platform ClubHouse, and that’s where I first turned my attention to psilocybin, the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms. I had never thought of them before but began to study them more closely. I found they have the same capabilities to rewire the brain and quieten the ego portion of the brain so I could look at my trauma for what it truly is.
When I moved to Arizona in July of 2021, I finally had access and began the search for the medicine (magic mushrooms) while still studying what people had to say about the process. Science has done plenty of studies but I wanted to hear what the natives had to say about it as well. Colonization has allowed white people to appropriate everything and make it seem as though it was their ideas, but these natural healing modalities have been around for 1000s of years. I wanted to hear what everyone had to say so that I could make the best decision for myself. ClubHouse offered that opportunity as well.
In the process of searching for magic mushrooms, I began to search for a therapist. My romantic relationship ended quite violently and I just couldn’t bear the idea of hurting anyone else with my hurts. I believe the concentrated positive energy of my adoptee friend, led me to my new therapist or at least aided in my search. Not only is she very aware of her whiteness and the privilege it yields her, she isn’t uncomfortable to talk about it. She’s also adoption informed, trained in brainspotting and psychedelics for healing. Brainspotting is even more effective than EMDR and requires less prep work. I found her using https://www.psychologytoday.com/us. I like this site because it allows me to search for therapists who accept my insurance, the modality I wanted, and the area of specialty. I always searched for adoption informed first, but would have accepted merely trauma informed. I’m happy I found the therapist I have now because she trusted my intuition about my own healing, even before I did.
At this point, I have done three sessions of psilocybin and 5 therapy sessions and I’m stunned at the breakthroughs and progress I’ve made. I love myself, probably for the first time in my life — truly love myself. I mourned what I lost when I lost my family and have developed deep compassion for myself. My biggest fears to date have been my rage and my issues developing boundaries. Guess what I’m now working on? That’s right, my rage and my boundaries. Why now? It’s amazing what you’re willing to do for someone you love, especially when that someone is yourself! It’s still scary but I know for sure that I’m worth the effort. Now, I’m actively using psilocybin on my own and using my therapist for integration after each ceremony.
I will wrap up by saying that we are all unique, even though we share adoption in common. Before you begin such a radical healing journey, please consider where you are spiritually and emotionally. Also, don’t take other people’s word for anything. Take everything with a grain of salt, even what I have written here. Though people may have a title like doctor or therapist, that doesn’t mean they know which healing path is best for YOU. Only YOU truly know that.
If you don’t have money for a therapist, which I understand wholeheartedly, there are so many resources online that will point you in the right direction and help to give you some insight into your struggles. Take plenty of time reflecting on yourself, your journey and where you want to go before you make any decisions. All the healing you need is already there inside of you. The trick is finding the key to unlock it.
One last thing, healing is a journey, not a destination. Though I am making huge leaps and bounds, I will always be walking down this road. You can’t rush it and you might even hurt yourself if you do. Have patience with yourself, though often easier said than done. Sending love and light to all who read this as you move along your healing path.
Recommended Resources for Healing with Psychedelics
I also recommend joining in on ClubHouse and the groups that discuss this topic. Specifically, there is a couple that I have joined who have been doing this for 14 years i.e., healing people with magic mushrooms. Their names are Tah and Kole. They are VERY knowledgeable.
Hi everyone! My name is Xue Hua and I was adopted as a 1 year old from Hunan, China. I live in Indianapolis in the USA, where I’ve grown up. My (white American) parents had 3 biological children and then adopted me when their youngest was 7 years old. About a year after adopting me, we adopted another girl from China, and then another about 3 years after that. So we are a family with a total of 6 girls – 3 biologically related and white, and 3 adopted and Chinese.
While it’s definitely been nice having siblings who are also POC and adopted (which I know many do not have), it’s also been quite hard having siblings that are white. Over the past 2 years, there has been some serious family fall-out, and on my part, much because of how we have communicated/not communicated about race and adoption. It’s hard because I had really looked up to my older sisters, and they have prided themselves on being very “woke” and social justice-minded, but yet, they have largely refused to acknowledge how they have contributed to my experiences with racial trauma in our family, and that’s been a recent big breaking point in our relationships. Fortunately, although my mom is fairly conservative, she has been much more understanding and willing to look at herself honestly.
Another major theme in many adoptees’ stories is abandonment issues, which I am no stranger to. In addition to obviously being put up for adoption and living in an orphanage as a baby, my adoptive father, who I was very close to, died when I was 8 years old. While my mom and I have always been close, she had the tendency to shut down when conflict and stress increased, so I spent a lot of my childhood (especially after my dad died) feeling emotionally abandoned as well. I see many other fellow adoptees in our social media groups who share similar struggles!
One thing that’s helped a lot throughout my adoption journey is becoming friends with other Asian women. While there are moments of feeling “more/too white,” I have, more often than not, felt very included and welcomed. It has also been a great outlet to discuss race and racism with fellow adoptees who truly understand what I’m talking about / experiencing.
Another thing that’s been helpful is writing. I recently wrote a personal creative nonfiction piece on being a transracial adoptee and it won “best of” the nonfiction category at my college’s literary & art magazine! It was so cathartic telling my story to others and being so generously recognized for doing so. I highly recommend for any other adoptee writers out there to share your story – whether for personal or public use!
by Christina Soo Ja Massey, aka YooNett adopted from South Korea to the USA.
The Tears of Trauma I cry as a helpless Orphan, I cry as an Adult throughout my Life.
This piece of art deals primarily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Trauma of being abandoned, left to fight for my Life, but being unable to do so … The fear, anxieties and hopelessness of the situation. I attempted to convey how this Trauma persists throughout my Life. I have come to my Adopters already deeply scared only to relive old Experience via new Scars.