So you figured it out, May (not March) Madness is a play on words, for a most serious subject. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month! But here I go again, switching things up, changing the Adoption narrative. To me, May should be called, National Adoptee / Birth / Adopted Mental Health Month!! Most of us know that our "mental health" has not had the most perfect start in life. Kind of like ourselves. Our invetro relationship with our first / birth mother's were severed after our births, we were not able to bond with our first / birth mothers, which is quite an important step in the growth of any human being. Most first / birth mother's also have relinquishment issues. They have to deal with the fact they had to give us up, for whatever reason. They have to live with that. Our adopted / foster relationships are different. I know I speak for myself, however, some of us have struggled with those relationships! These subsequent relationships, while we grow up in them, have made us feel like an outsider. Very different than everyone else (see photo below), not only physically - some of us were adopted from other countries making that another disconnect - but also in our natural way we think and act. We may have different skills, different talents, different likes and dislikes then our adopted siblings. We know these differences are genetically given to us. But, does everyone else know? They did not. When our adopted parents looked at us, they could not see the comparison to Uncle Joe's good looks, or the piano player that Grandma Jane was. We are categorically different, in so many ways. I can positively say that I have always felt I was different. Something was missing in my life, in myself. My puzzle was way out of whack. There is a fundamental difference in myself and my adopted siblings. Mental health needs definitely need to be addressed in adoptees and foster children / adults.
Research has found that adopted children are at risk for suffering from mental health disorders. We know that adopted children are almost twice as likely as biologicals to suffer from mood disorders, anxiety, abandonment issues, loss of trust, grief, rejection, substance abuse, self esteem issues, self harm, academic struggles, behavioral issues, and yes - even suicide! The fact is, no one knows what it is like to be adopted, unless you are. This trauma is real. I know for me, it all came to roost when I was a teenager. The search for self identity, created a very unique and difficult time. I was left with a gigantic gap of "who am I"? This is a fact that I and so many other adoptees and foster adults live every single day of our lives. Back in the 60's when I was adopted, the mental health of the adopted child was far from anyone's mind. Only the adopted and the birth parents were considered. Adopted parents never understood the gravity of not knowing who we are and where we came from. That we were denied our most basic right of genetic and biological information, either because our adopted families were uneducated in providing the necessary information these child adoptees now adult adoptees needed, wittingly or unwittingly not having the ability to deal with and care for good childhood development and future adult adjustments? In a blog written by Joe Koelzer, he writes "Compounding the pain of adoption trauma is the societal expectation that it shouldn't exist at all". And in the words of the Reverend Keith C. Griffith, "Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful!" Halleluyah, finally a true and correct statement. Ask adoptees and they will tell you, to some extent that they do not feel "lucky" or "chosen" or "grateful".
Here at ARSS we just conducted a poll, and asked adoptees how they feel when someone refers to them as a 'gift' or 'chosen'. Here are a few of the responses, while not all negative, most are: "crappy, bought and sold, like a thing, like i've never been real, a stand-in, randomly assigned, an object, an outsider". These are real adoptees with real feelings. There so many discussions to be had on this mental health subject and adoption trauma, of which I have barely scratched the surface.
In conclusion, with the help of trained therapists, some of us have started our emotional healing. We have created our own voice, our own movement, so to educate those who have misunderstood us for too many years. During this month of May, may you start this conversation with your loved ones who do not understand why you are the way you are, it is time we talk about the mental and emotional impact of adoption. It is up to us, it takes a bit of courage but if we all start to talk about our mental health because of our adoptions, we can then move forward and hopefully one day create a world where no adoptee has to go through what we have. Hopefully we have paved the way for them. Adoptions are wonderful, if our society can see us and treat us as every other human being, and this includes opening our records, and and our files to us. Please take a moment and sign our petition on Change.org to open adoptee records.