The other day I was listening to the latest episode of the podcast Adoptees On. I don’t remember how I first learned about the podcast, but I remember where I was when I heard it: walking the dam in Los Gatos. It was season one, episode 1: Carrie.
I walked and listened, knowing my life was never going to be the same.
I had found my people.
Later, much later, I went to my first adoptee conference in Indiana. I felt like a fish that was finally in the right tank of water. I could breathe. After a lifetime of feeling weird or different I saw that there were a lot of other people who felt like me.
What an incredible relief. It’s like I had been born wearing a girdle and someone showed me that I could take it off.
I could expand.
Marci Purcell has the most beautiful eyes. They see you. I don’t remember where I first met her because all I remember was the sensation of stillness, of love. It may have been at Indiana. It may have been at an AKA conference. All I know is that I felt seen. As a human, this is a remarkable experience, and as an adoptee it can be life-changing, life-saving: to be seen in a way that feels like mirroring.
I wish, of course, AKA’s conference was happening this year for so many reasons. It’s healing and informative for me to be with other adoptees, and it is also healing and informative for me to be with other members of the adoption triad so I can better get a sense of how really we are on the same page: we want the best lives possible for the children of the world, and together we can work at defining what that means. Together we can find ways to fully appreciate each other.
I hated first mothers until I met one. I had thought the mother who had given birth to me must have hated me to put me up for adoption and then to deny contact later in life, but then I heard the stories of other first mothers, and I understood I had no idea what was going on in their heads, no idea of the depth of their trauma and grief. If my first mother were alive, I would stop bothering her. I have stopped reaching out to her family. They do not owe me anything, and I am--yes, I am going to say it because I truly believe it is true--lucky to be alive, lucky to have the life I have.
I could have taken myself out of the game. It’s tempting, as an adoptee sometimes, to disappear.
But the will to stay and the decision to make the most of the life you have is an amazing experience—at least it was for me. I still am a body and a brain that has fury and sudden changes in emotions, sudden dips into depression, but I am more generous with myself. It’s
okay, Baby, I say. Hold on. Do the next right thing. Hold on. You are not alone. The more kind and real I am to myself, the more kind and real I am to others, and the more kind and real my life becomes.
More and more I feel I am living from my heart instead of from my dysregulated nervous system, but, holy cow, this is a process. Talk about baby steps! One step forward, two steps back. Repeat.
I had deep issues with my parents who adopted me until I wrote about my thoughts and actions and came to terms with my fury and their confusion. Now I just wish my mom were alive so I could tell her I love her with all my heart, my raging, broken, loving heart. I do tell my dad who is still alive, and it is a relief. He is not my biological father, but he is the father I got, and either I can rage against the dealings of the cards or I can be in my body, in my life, and love the best that I can. I love you, Dad, even though we are so different. I love you even though we are so similar.
When Marci asked if I would write a piece for AKA’s newsletter, I felt, again, seen. She believes I have something to say, something of worth. These things matter: having a sense of worth, feeling seen.
At the end of the latest Adoptees On episode (the latest now, on April 14, 2020), Haley asked Kevin for his recommended resource and he started to talk about me. He talked about the time we had lunch; he talked about my book, the writing classes I teach. He talked me UP, and I, of course, cried.
We adoptees see each other. We support each other. We lift each other UP.
And when we gather as a triad, the opportunities for support and understanding are endless.
Anne Heffron, author of the memoir, You Don’t Look Adopted, is currently writer-in-residence, farmer-in-training at Spirit Hill Farm in Sebastopol, California. She is a writing coach for people in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada. She has a 75-minute class she calls Write or Die that is meant to get you off and running on your writing project (and in your life). She has no recent picture of herself because she has been on her own with the the chickens and the turkeys for months now it seems and does not love selfies. Hence the photo of her gloves.
1. Find community.
Finding a place where you “feel felt” is so important. Our feelings
need to be validated and our experiences shared. When we are able
to do that in the context of community, inviting others to witness our
stories, transformation happens and healing occurs. I certainly see
this transpire among the members of a group I co-facilitate for teens
who were adopted. Teen AdoptCONNECT is a safe place for kids to
express their feelings and in return get the validation from others
who “get them.” Find a group or create one if there isn’t one in your
city or town. Attend an adoption related conference or talk to others
who are walking a similar path. While in person meetups are great,
there are also wonderful opportunities to connect online. Check out
the podcasts AdopteesON and Born in June Raised in April, and the
Facebook pages Ask Adoption and Hello I’m Adopted.
2. Move your body!
Walk, run, hop, dance, skip, swim, ride your bicycle! As people who
were adopted, we experienced a profound loss that many of us can’t
recall consciously because it happened before we had language to
describe the event. The memory instead is held in our midbrain and
our nervous systems are often sensitive and can easily become
dysregulated. Others who do recall separations and transitions and
can put words to the events may still experience a heighted state of
vigilance leading to anxiety or depression.
Exercise and movement are great regulators. Exercise activates the
body’s natural healing process by boosting the levels of serotonin
and endorphins in the brain. These are the “feel good” chemicals.
Yoga, tennis, bike riding are my go-tos.
3. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is moment to moment intentional awareness…of
thoughts, emotions, and sensations, without judgment. It’s a way of
focusing your attention. It’s being awake. Mindfulness is a way to
recognize thoughts, feelings and sensations and relate to them more
skillfully. It’s the opposite of being on automatic pilot where many of
us spend a lot of time. Mindfulness allows us to feel more in control
of our thoughts and feelings rather than being controlled by them.
Over time, with regular practice, mindfulness changes the way our
brains are wired – it prunes away the least used connections and
strengthens the ones we use the most. Mindfulness makes our
default a more resilient state. Attention becomes more focused and
we cultivate compassion for ourselves and others which leads to
feeling more connected. Mindfulness lowers our blood pressure and
stress level and strengthens our immune system. In short, we feel
better! I enjoy the wisdom of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tara Brach and Sharon
Salzberg (to name a few) and I LOVE the apps Calm and Insight Timer.
As Sharon Salzberg reminds us, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult; we just
need to remember to do it.”
4. Explore nature. Get dirty.
I put these two together because there’s something fantastic and oh
so healing about being in nature and if you get dirty while you’re out
there, good! Take a walk, go to a park, find a green space, even if it’s
just a patch. Find a river or stream…a pond or the ocean and count
seagulls or ladybugs. Pull out your bicycle and ride like you did when
you were nine…ring that bell. Consider camping and if you go, build a
campfire and roast some marshmallows under the stars. Do you have
space to plant a garden? If not, get a pot and plant a flower or two in
the morning sunshine. It all adds up.
Do something fun. Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National
Institute for Play says “If adults can begin to reminisce about their
happiest and most memorable moments, they can capture the
emotion and visual memories of those moments and begin to
connect again to what truly excites them in life.” Take some time to
recall how you played as a child. What did you love to do? Now
recreate that, no matter how silly it seems and see what happens?
6. Work with an adoption-competent therapist.
Neuroplasticity is brilliant. Our brains change throughout our
lifespan. It’s never too late to work through adoption related issues
(or any issues for that matter). I wouldn’t wake up each day excited
about my work if I didn’t believe this to be true!
In my work with clients I combine talk therapy with two other
therapies that are especially effective with trauma and/or events
that occur pre-verbally, that is before we have the language to
describe what happened. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and
Reprocessing) and Brainspotting are helpful therapies that work with
the body-mind and allow access to the subcortical areas of the brain
where traumatic memories are stored. I guide clients to address
memories and work through blocking beliefs so they can live their
best lives in the present, knowing all that has happened but feeling in
charge of their lives today.
Lesli Johnson, MFT uses a collaborative approach in her work with clients and is certified in EMDR, She has presented at AKA conferences several times over the past decade. Lesli is also an adoptee.
Instagram is @askadoption
by Dawn Scott, Vice President
STAR-Support Texas Adoptee Rights
Legislative sessions can seem a bit daunting here in Texas, and the political climate itself might feel so polarizing and exacerbating that we tune out, but here are a few updates on bills that I hope you’ll be interested in hearing about as they directly impact our adoption community.
HB2725 authored by freshman Rep. Gina Calanni, herself an adoptee, enjoyed one of the highest tallies of Co-authorship in the House with 35 sponsors, aligning both sides of the aisle. It would have restored the right of an adopted person to access their OBC (original birth certificate) without the current protracted adjudication process. HB2725 successfully passed out of the Public Health Committee after an eleventh inning revote thanks to the continued efforts of advocates and Capital allies. In a pivotal moment, Chairman Senfronia Thompson convened her committee on very short notice exclusively to gather that key majority vote before the deadline. It then passed favorably out from the Calendars Committee and was scheduled to be heard for a floor vote on the final night of eligibility, but was left to die stalled behind a few controversial bills that were hotly debated in the very last hours of session. Heartbreaking as this seems, the good news is legislators were still signing on in support that evening, a strong signal that momentum continues to mount for this clean OBC access bill. Equal rights for adult adoptees remains a nonpartisan, popular issue that will return in 2021!
A positive outcome for foster youth was attained with passage of HB 123 by Rep James White, that streamlined procedures for obtaining drivers licenses. Companion bill SB481 by Sen. Kirk Watson was placed onto the coveted local and uncontested calendar in the final days of session and it’s passage was widely applauded as a victory to further independence and self-determination of youth overcoming systemic bureaucratic hurdles. CASA among other groups supported this legislation.
A bill establishing criminal penalties for physicians and others who tamper with or otherwise violate the integrity of transferred genetic material during ART and insemination procedures was also passed. Initiated by citizen champion, Eve Wiley of Dallas, whose surprise DNA saga attracted national media attention, even appearing on abc’s 20-20, this law aims to prevent fertility fraud by raising the offense to a felony sexual assault. SB 1259 sponsored by Joan Huffman, was passed unanimously by both chambers, signed by Gov. Abbott and became law effective Sept.1st.
Dawn Scott is the current Vice President of Support Texas Adoptee Rights (STAR). She has been serving on the board since 2015. She is also past president of Adoption Knowledge Affiliates and currently serves in an advisory role to the AKA Board of Directors. Dawn is passionate about adoptee rights for all adoptees, both in Texas and nationally. When Dawn is not advocating at the Capitol she is devoting time to her passions - her Beauty Counter small business, and her top priority, raising her daughter Ava with the same commitment to leadership, advocacy and truth.
www.texasadopteerights.org & www.Beautycounter.com/dawnscott
With the advent of DNA testing, the rising prevalence of open adoptions, and the challenges we face in our current foster care system, Adoption Knowledge Affiliates is more relevant than ever. As we approach our 25th year serving Central Texas, we’d like to take a moment to say thank you for your dedicated support. AKA is a grassroots, member funded organization, advocating for change and providing community support. Without you, we could not offer our individual services, innovative monthly programing, and our annual conference. Impacting the Austin community and beyond with our message of truth and honesty in adoption practices since 1992 is indeed an accomplishment. It is an accomplishment you can take pride in, not possible without your generous support, year after year.
Guest Blogger with an AKA Art Fundraiser, Artist Sharon Frech! Raffle tickets available through March 30th!
Click here to learn more about Sharon’s art, her story, and how she is donating the proceeds from a few of her pieces to Adoption Knowledge Affiliates in Austin, Texas.
If you donate $20 you get 10 tickets, $30 you get 20 tickets, or select your own donation amount. Drawing will be after the close of the exhibit, which is March 30, 2016. Winner will be notified by email. All proceeds go to fund Adoption Knowledge Affiliates Annual Conference in November. Click here for AKA’s Donation PayPal Link.
a concept, a belief and an action
A lack of choice and being chosen
A legal solution to a spiritual problem
A spiritual solution to a legal problem
A loving choice and a thrusting upon
A nurturing touch yet a stealing away