My brother, adopted 2 years before I arrived in our adoptive home, died homeless and mentally ill in the Philippines last week. He was an intercountry Filipino American adoptee, just like me.
We don’t know what happened. He was involved with bad company. I have a feeling that the death was assisted. Neglect was involved. It was in Mindanao, in a rural area, where it’s dangerous for Americans to travel into, I hear. Real kidnappings happen there if they find out you’re American. I couldn’t go to see if this was real. The only person informing was a lady who was bad news from the start. She always asked him for money. Hounding my brother to get a hold of my adoptive mother. And she was a part of this death, taking photos of my brother days before he died homeless of suspected alcohol poisoning.
The news hit me and the grief process has been real and harrowing. I had trouble giving the news to my co-workers. The first day back at work, I cried in the last hour.
What I want to write is what I’ve learned from my life and world as a Filipino American adoptee. This life has never been easy. It hasn’t been fun. I was never comfortable with my white, adoptive family. And I had a mentally ill brother who was from my birth country, brown like me, and only two years older than me, and I loved him with all my heart.
However, he was never healthy. He was abusive to me growing up. He was mentally ill and his abuse grew to where he inflicted it on himself. And he tried to involve me with that too, so I had to have boundaries. I waited for him to get better. I thought he would, but he only got worse. And it made me feel worse as the years went on, carrying this pain. Not knowing where to put it, who to blame, why it was there.
After everything, I want to say that there comes a time when you just need to choose. Where instead of reacting as you had before, you look up and take a new breath because it’s all just gotten to be too much. You notice new details in the clouds and realize that you’re still kicking and you can’t keep having the same thoughts, or the same habits. You feel a shift. You see the need to face the adversity and want to grin in its ugly face instead. You see the need to give yourself the space to be the real you. Because there’s no going back.
I spent so many years hiding in the grief and trauma of my past and I guess I’m writing this because those times are over.
All I know, is that from here, I am going to be strong.
I honor my experience as a Filipino American adoptee with reverence. I will never be ashamed of what I’ve gone through. I will not be embarrassed of my suffering, which I caught myself feeling today, around my co-workers. I will not carry the burdens of my brother’s pain anymore either, which I had. I will love myself. I will forgive myself. I will be gentle on myself. I will no longer be so hard on myself, as before.
All this time, I’ve been carrying around the burdens of a life I never had. I held on to the pain of a love I never got to hold.
Of a family I never got to know.
But my brother died, the only person in the world that I probably ever loved. The only person in whom I ever saw to be real family. And something changed in me.
I breathe, writing this. I am alive, writing this.
I am here in the present. I have survived all of this messed up shit. Being orphaned as a baby in the Philippines. Having to traverse the American life I was given, because that’s how the cookie crumbles. We are given what we’re dealt with and you have to deal with it. You have to adjust. And sometime in adulthood, you learn the importance of being kind to yourself and others in the process because wellbeing is a part of one’s survival.
After all of this, I feel a sense of palpable resolution in the bones of my being. It is to be strong. It is to love what I have in this world today. And it is to not give up.
My resolution is to keep working. To live a healthy life. To be authentic. To live true. I am still here in this world. And I am alone, but I made it out with my faculties in tact.
I haven’t made a lot of friends on this path but I was stern in working hard, turning to a world of art, libraries and schools for an outlet.
I lead a life of reserved strength. I developed my own expression of creative media, wild in my own intellect and undertakings.
And I am just starting out in this world even at 36-years-old.
I don’t know if anyone will relate to this blog but if someone does, just know that I am never going to give up and I don’t want you to ever give up either. Because I’ve been blessed with hearing the stories of just a few of you, and having met a few of you on Christmas, and it has been something to treasure. And you are so vital in this world, you truly are.
I will believe in you and in love as I did when I was younger and I will never stop. Just the way I believed in God as I did when I was younger and I never stopped either. I won’t stop believing in the human race. I won’t stop working towards a higher purpose because that is what gets me up in the morning.
I am here today to say, that the pain and the trials and the struggles will serve a purpose in time.
There is a reason for living and you will find it.
In the darkest hour, you will find strength.
Or strength–will find you.
Read Desiree’s previous blog at ICAV: What I Lost When I Was Adopted