Lessons Learned

May was tough to get through. Even as I write this, four days into June, my eyes are still heavy with sheer exhaustion. Yet, it was an adventure in getting to know myself better, and exploring arenas that I never thought I would or could. It was fascinating and interesting. It was hard and liberating.

If anything, it was a huge learning experience for me, in many, many ways.

I learned that I can talk about my adoption experiences.

In therapy years ago, I was lecturing myself over my seemingly bad habits in tough or traumatic situations. Growing up, I had to learn to cope with the abuse I was dealt in my own way; a combination of meditation, and repressing the situations or feelings associated with the events. I would close my eyes, I would build a wall around myself in my mind’s eye. I would then watch the girl take whatever pain, hurt, sadness or anger she was feeling, and place it lovingly in a box, or wrap it up. Then she would dig and dig and dig until it felt safe to leave it there. The soil would be poured over it, and it would be gone. Vanished.

Except, that it’s still there. It’s just buried and festering, meaning that years later it’ll come back from the “dead” and be hard to explain. Nonetheless, it’s what worked for me as young girl. It saved me.

In not so many terms, I repressed the bloody hell out of my childhood abuse, and it was, as an adult, my go to method of coping with any and all troubling situations. As I sat there and berated myself, my therapist got this look on her face that meant she was about to put me in my place,

“There is nothing wrong with the methods you used in order to survive. Always remember that. These methods, while they may not be serving you right now, they helped you survive.”

Every May, I would go back to that place of burying and digging. I would cry and cry, but real words would never escape my mouth. I always figured in order to do that, I would have to be made of steel, and I am most certainly not.

I won’t lie, having to be honest with my thoughts, feelings and emotions this month has left me raw, and exhausted. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but it was empowering to do something I had told myself I could never do. I did it, I owned it, and while I know parts of last month were anything but graceful, I have lived to see another day.

As this year continues, I hope that this is just the beginning. I hope that by talking through the toughest month of all, I can continue to have this ongoing dialogue regarding my adoption experience. I hope it opens up doors that I had blockaded off in my hesitation to actually deal with my feelings surrounding The Kiddo.

I learned that sometimes in order to make breakthroughs you have to let go of the past, including some relationships.

Since I’ve cut out my family, there as been this eerie clarity in my life. Over the years, I’ve always been able to stand outside the dysfunction and see it for what it is, most of the time. I knew when I made the choice to back out of their lives, it was the best decision for me and my family. It was time to let go of the past we had together, which unfortunately meant, due to a lack of evolving on their part, letting go of our relationship.

I never expected that I would have all these personal breakthroughs because of that decision. I never expected that walls would crumble that had refused to in the past. I never expected that not having them in my life would make it easier, so much easier, to tell my story. In losing them, I have regained a part of myself that I have never been able to reconcile with. In moving on from our relationship, I have been able to stand even further back, and see the full picture. In letting go of the idea that my parents would ever be exactly what I needed, I freed myself from a life time of hoping for something that will just never be.

I wish them well in their life, I do, but in order to be more and be better in mine, I had to let them go.

I learned that I have a voice, and it matters.

For the month of May, this blog had over 4000 unique hits. For comparison, in April, it had just under 2000. As the month went on, I watched the hits continue, and I was in awe. Of course, I don’t place my own value in how many hits I get on a daily or monthly basis. However, what it did incite was this feeling of validity, and the reality that while there are those in my life who won’t listen to my story, there are many more who will. With each hit, my voice just got a little stronger.

I feel like this was the month, I was able to really get my voice back. To really shout out my personal truths, even when they were hard to write. I really felt like I gave myself, and that 17 year old girl the vindication she deserved by writing as hard as I did. I plan to continue to strengthen that voice, but this month, it really changed the volume.

And for the first time, since I began writing, I really felt like my voice was a worthy part of the chorus.

I learned that those who I want to support me, won’t always support me, or care about this part of my life.

As a result of my aforementioned child abuse, I am ridiculously obsessed with certain people in my life accepting me, and wanting to know more about me. I seek validation from parental-like figures, and it bothers me when I don’t get it.

Yet, as the month wore on, I realized that I don’t need that kind of support. I don’t want the kind of support that is given out of pity or desperation. Yes, I do want actual, genuine support, but it doesn’t make me any less valuable as a woman if I don’t get the approval I desperately wish to have from those outside sources. I cannot control the behavior of others, nor should I want to. Furthermore, knowing where support lies with individuals in my life makes it easier for me to navigate who is trustworthy and caring. It helps me know where my safety zone is in regard to adoption issues.

Not everyone will love me, or love what I have to say. Not everyone is going to care about my past and how it has shaped me into the woman I am right now. Not everyone is going to take a genuine interest in supporting me. And that is okay.

Knowing that, and being okay with that? It really is a gift.

I learned that my friends are amazing.

My friends…I knew they were awesome before May began. They are awesome for so many different reasons. But this month, it put them in a different place, a whole new level of greatness. If I didn’t understand how brilliantly lucky I am to have such an incredible group of women in my life before, I do now. They respected my space when it needed to be respected. When I needed a friendly face, just to save me from my own darkness, they were there, sympathy, empathy and love abounding. If I went silent for a couple days, I would wake to text messages gently nudging me, letting me know they were worried but understood my silence.

When I would talk about The Kiddo this month, they listened. They actually really listened. They asked questions, they poured me wine, and we ate delicious food as we all opened up about our lives. We were driven closer together. I could tell in their small but kind ways that they truly cared about my heart, about my well-being, and wanted to make sure I was loved and supported during this month.

Of course, I’d feel terrible if I didn’t mention the women I have found through social media and blogging. This world, this intimate adoption world, where we all come from different walks, with incredibly varying experiences, is small. Yet, when it comes to support, and love, it’s huge. I have learned much from those I have connected with online, and have gained much from the relationships that have blossomed. These are some of the most thoughtful, beautiful, intelligent women I know, and I truly feel incredibly honored to be in their lives, if even in such a minute way.

These women, these fabulous women I know, are the friends I will have for a lifetime. If I didn’t recognize that before May, I do now. Every woman should be blessed to have a group of friends like I do, really.

I learned that letting go of my own guilt helps me better as a Mother now.

As the waves of grief would ebb and flow through the month, so did the waves of guilt that follow the sadness. Potato knew I was struggling, and telling him about The Kiddo made it easier for me to explain just why I was having a hard time. One night, as we were cuddled in bed, I leaned over to Potato and said,

“I’m so sorry if I have been out of it lately, hun. I’m just sad this month. I will be okay soon, I promise”.

With the wisdom of an eighty year old, and the kindness only a four year old can garnish, Potato put his arms around my head, and smiling he said,

“Mama, it’s okay. I think you can be sad today. You miss The Kiddo. He’s not here, and you wish he was. It’s just fine to be sad about it. He probably misses you too. I love you still.”

Just like that I was able to see all of this month for what it is. It’s my time to fully mourn, no bars. It’s my time to remember and to honor those memories. Even more, it’s my time to come to terms with the guilt I feel in the past, present and the future. I am allowed to be sad, and it doesn’t have to dictate the mother I am in the present or future. I am allowed to miss The Kiddo, but it doesn’t mean that my parented children have to lose out on having their mother now. Yes, the loss of The Kiddo has changed who I am on many, many levels, but I don’t have to feel guilty about that. Nor do I have to allow it to constantly define every facet of who I am.

I learned, once again, that writing saves me.

Many times through the month I could be heard saying, “What in the hell would I do if I didn’t write?”

Well, I’ll tell you what I would do. I would explode, and bounce around, unsure of what I was attempting to accomplish. I would be a mess of nerves, of anger, and hurt. I would be lost to many of the epiphanies I’ve had through writing. I wouldn’t have this epic support group through the connection of social media. I wouldn’t have found women who I admire and who inspire me. I wouldn’t have found the peace of mind that I have currently.

I’m not good at math, I say stupid things when I am nervous, and I don’t pray. But I write, and even if no one reads it, if no one pays attention to these words the find their way to me, I will still be better for having wrote them. I will still feel a sense of dedication to myself by honoring my own truths as I struggle to locate my own personal demons, and exorcise them through my words.

Most importantly, I learned to be grateful.

I am grateful despite my devastating loss, that I am now in a place in my life where I have the supports that I do. I am grateful for the ability to browse the internet and connect with others who truly get it. I am grateful for the freedom to express myself through this blog, and in my real life. Right now, things are not as I wish they would be, but there is always the future, and I am grateful to have that future ahead of me.

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4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. This is a powerful post. And it sounds like May was a powerful month for you. It sounds to me like May – as hard as it was – has helped you to take back some of the power you lost as a child while being abused. Here’s to the future…

  2. This entire post just resonated with me so deeply. I experienced abuse as a child too, and your way of coping with yours is so similar to mine. Your finding your voice and the experience you’ve had with validation is also similar to mine though on a different level and mine happened before May. And…I write for the same reasons you write. Amazing post, and you truly have a gift with words. I’m SO happy for you and I feel truly honored that I’ve found your blog and that you’re among my online support system. Thank you.

  3. I love the conversation with Potato. Children are so in tune to their parents feelings and emotions. So often it is taken for granted just how perceptive they are. There are times when my girls have known something was bothering me before I realized that there was something brewing in me.

    Writing is an amazing thing. My Mom has journaled for years, always encouraged my sister and I to do the same, I just didn’t get it until I started blogging those almost thee years ago. Whether anyone reads what I have to say or not, I know it has at least given me an outlet that I need, and has helped me wrap my arms around so many thoughts questions and doubts about myself, my girls, everything.

    Glad to have found you, glad to call you a friend.

  4. I so relate to this post. As a young girl, I remember pleading with my future adult self–asking her to come back and help the little abused girl. I also use writing as a coping mechanism. I’ve been blogging about my experience with adoption, and I realize that in order to tell the story in its truest light, I cannot ignore how my own abuse history intersected with this recent adoption. I called my brother–basically to ask his “permission” to write about our father, and you know what? My brother and I talked for the first time about our childhoods (we are in our late 30s) and my brother remembered witnessing what happened to me! I finally have external validation after so many years. Unbelievable–and I owe it all to writing.
    Best,
    Jennifer 🙂

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