I Am Nine of Nine (Plus One), Victims of Circumstance
Life is not always colorful for an adopted child.
The best stories I have ever written come from interviewing people who live extraordinary lives. Sometimes their stories are too familiar. Perhaps it is because they have a parallel to my own life.
Beautiful and smart, Sarah's story inspired me.
In Sarah's own words, “I was thirteen, the first time I came out of the closet and told my best friend and his mother. I thought they would both be receptive because they are pretty liberal. Boy, was I wrong! The look on Tom's mother's face said it all. She tried to brush it off with a kind word, but I knew. I have seen that look a hundred times before. And then it happened. Tom began to slowly withdraw from the friendship. By the end of the summer, we rarely spoke."
According to Sarah, this event spiralled her into an identity crisis that would last an entire lifetime. While she does not blame her autophobia (fear of abandonment) on this one event, she does admit it had an effect.
That day was the last time she told anyone she was adopted. Until today.
"It was 1975, my dad had recently passed away. Standing in the bathroom doorway I heard my mom whispering to my aunt. "She is adopted but please don't tell her, we don't want her to be treated differently." Treated differently? Being adopted was something to be ashamed of? To be honest, coming out about being gay was a whole lot easier than admitting I was adopted. It still is."
Sarah's words did not escape me.
In fact, they could very well be my own.
Adoption is not a disease.
As far back as I can remember I always knew there was something “different” about me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew. I could sense it in the way that some people treated me. Like I was damaged goods.
Grandma Stella was the worst.
I’d often ask myself, “Why doesn’t she like me?” When I confronted my mother about it, she said,"That is not true, she loves you.” Then why do I have to sit on the floor when everyone is eating at the table? Mom always lied, "You're little." Of course, I knew there was another reason.
Growing up, the constant whispers, pointing fingers and hurtful words like, “she acts just like her family,” felt like daggers to me. Talking about my family negatively made me wonder what was wrong with me. I was a child, I internalized it. It is what children do.
Guilt, anger, identity issues, and an intense fear of abandonment are common among adoptees.
If you can imagine what a lifetime of shame and blame does to a child, you might begin to understand the intense emotions that adopted people face each and every day.
I do not have to imagine. It's my life.
Yes, it’s true. I am adopted. But, I refuse to be ashamed of it. I am simply a victim of circumstances beyond my control.
"At least your parents loved you, they chose you." "You grew up in a great home so your parents did you a favour." "Afterall, your siblings had it worse than you did, you were the lucky one who got adopted." These are the words that run through my head each and every time I begin to feel sorry for myself or think about my life and what it could have been. It's almost as if I am not allowed to. And, the guilt of doing so often consumes me.
People tell me not to live in the past, but the past is part of who I am and for better or worse it shaped who I am today. My life is not necessarily my own. It is a pieced together version of what it might have been. An imaginary version. I have no regrets, just curiosity. I love the family that I grew up with but it's a human desire to know your true identity. Is that so wrong? Is it so terrible to want to imagine an alternative ending?
Children in this situation often imagine a kind of utopia where they meet their biological family and it's all perfect. After some time, they begin to realize no one is coming for them and they just push it down until they can no longer do so. Reality sets in and it bites.
Suck it up buttercup!
I am nine of nine siblings (plus one-half sister) who were innocent victims of abusive alcoholic parents (who coincidently never got punished for it). In fact, my mother is still alive and she still denies it ever happened. I don't think that she will ever say sorry because it means admitting what she did. She probably cannot come to grips with what she has done. That is understandable, neither can I. I cannot comprehend how any mother can do what she did.
While we have all moved on, there are still painful memories and scars that can never be healed. Abuse, neglect, and a failure on the part of social services to protect my family is unjust. We all have a different story to tell, some are worse than others and each sibling handles it in a different way.
We were innocent children when this happened yet we are the ones who live with the guilt. Guilt that we could not protect our other siblings from horrible abuses, guilt over choices that we made growing up in order to survive and anger knowing that we simply had to suck it up because if we talk about it, we have to admit that it actually happened. Denial is safer and hurts a whole lot less. But, it did happen, and someone should pay for it.
But who? My dad who has passed away, my mother who is slowly dying all alone, or the social service agency who sent us all away and eventually forgot about us?
Where is the justice for my brother who was sent to a juvenile detention centre with criminals in order to protect him from abuse? The justice for my sister who was sexually abused and neglected over and over again on a consistent basis? Where is the justice for my brother who killed himself drowning in the sickness that he was born with? And, where is my justice?
No, I wasn't abused or neglected, but I want justice for them. It breaks my heart knowing what they all went through and not one adult around them did anything. How can 10 children in the same family be abused and no one noticed? That is the guilt that I live with each and every day.
I know they want to share their story but its too painful. And to be honest it is too painful for me to hear. But, someone has to. Someone has to be their voice. I am going to be that person.
I am going to step up and say, it is wrong. None of you deserved what happened and the adults involved should be ashamed of themselves.
If nothing else, I am telling this story so the next time you hear or think a child is being abused, step up and say something. Because their entire life depends on it. Don't just step up for the moment, step up forever. Be that person to take a stand and be a voice for them. Let that child know he or she is not alone. It is all they will ever need. The fear of being alone is far worse than the abuse. I am not alone, I am nine of nine (plus one) and for once we can honestly say we are family. No one can ever take that away from us again.