Surprisingly, my most favorite quote about adoption came from my favorite TV show, This Is Us , which features the lives of the Pearson Family with “triplets” but one of them is adopted. In the 2017 episode titled “The Most Disappointed Man,”their trans-racially adopted son, Randall, has an epiphany about adoption and how it has affected him. When I heard him say, “It has defined my life, being adopted. It’s defined my life even when I didn’t realize it was defining it, and I think that part of that, at least for me, is that this big, giant thing happened to me and I didn’t have any say in it.” I knew what a profound statement that was. I was amazed that the writers for a television show could word my thoughts about adoption into such perfection and broadcast it to the world through this character, Randall Pearson. I paused and played back those words more times than I can count. I have pondered them now for 3 years and connect to them on a very deep level.
It is quite challenging for an adoptee when you start to recognize that adoption has defined your life, even when you didn’t realize it was being defined by it. Most people see adoption as something that happened to us at one point in our life and will tell us that we should not let moment in time define us. Well, I would love it if that were possible, but it’s not. I did not let adoption define me. Adoption began its duplicitous meddling in my life before I had any say in the matter. In fact it was such a subtle and covert operation that I didn’t even know anything was happening and it took me decades to become aware.
When I have a conversation with someone about the effects of adoption and adoption trauma, it is not always well received. Actually, more than not, the push back can be pretty strong as no one wants to think that the very institution they believe has been created to save and rescue children could have negative effects on them. Many are skeptical and think that maybe adoptees are just looking to place blame for anything negative that has occurred in their life or that we only start to believe we have these issues due to psychological suggestion. But that’s simply not the case. We are looking to better understand ourselves and the issues we have long dealt with. We are connecting these to separation and adoption trauma for the first time, but the issues and coping mechanisms are not new to us. My family can certainly confirm many of these have been my standard way of operating for most of my life… people pleasing due to a fear of rejection; extreme independence and not asking for help even when I’m drowning due to feeling like I can only trust myself and not wanting to appear incapable; preferring to be around males over females; being a chameleon to fit in anywhere due to identity issues and fear of rejection; being very compliant so I will be seen as worthy; unwillingness to admit fault; performing for acceptance and needing praise and approval; lack of boundaries; chronic fatigue; ADD; clinging to people and relationships even if they are unhealthy; being calm or numb in the face of crisis situations or death; difficulty allowing others to know me intimately – again due to that fear of rejection if I allow them to know my true self. Believe me when I say that admitting all of these things are struggles for me is very hard. I would prefer for you to see me as perfect and having it all together. Some of you who know me, may even be shocked about some of them because outwardly I have adapted well.
While many of these have affected me negatively, some of those things have served me in positive ways. Regardless, they are trauma responses. When you experience trauma at such as a critical stage of development as a newborn and while you have no verbal ability to put words to it, that makes it very difficult to sort out your true self from your false self that is just coping. I’m working on figuring out who I am aside from the trauma, as are many other adoptees who have come out of the fog and awakened to the hard truths of adoption, but it’s tough y’all.
So yes, Randall Pearson… just like you, adoption has defined my life, even when I didn’t know it was defining it.