Growing up, the fact that I was adopted wasn't really something that was discussed. I've been blessed with an amazing family that I am eternally grateful for. I was a happy, care-free kid full of energy and entertainment. There was this part of me, though, that I couldn't quite put my finger on; something painful that was always there. Underneath my upbeat personality were feelings of anxiety, sadness, emptiness. Grief.
Research studies show that the removal of an infant from its biological mother is intensely traumatic for the baby, and the excruciating affects remain in their physiology throughout their life. Following this separation, I was placed in a foster home where care was negligent, an environment void of my birth mother's touch, voice, or scent . . . things a baby needs when they first enter the world. These traumatic events created a psychological blueprint that remains with me to this day, and the post-traumatic symptoms I've experienced manifest themselves in different ways, affecting every area of my life.
Adoptees often carry around with them a painful sense of rejection that heavily affects their self esteem, causing them to constantly question their worth; the feeling that they're at fault always present, regardless of the background story for why an adoption took place. For me, the trauma of abandonment and post-traumatic stress became a state of mind and body with which I operated out of on a daily basis.
Open conversations within family can ease painful, confusing emotions and help adopted children feel validated and unconditionally loved regardless of their difference in biology and/or ethnicity. Avoiding the topic can exacerbate feelings of shame, intensifying the idea that there is something 'wrong' with them and that they will always experience rejection in life. Those unfamiliar with an adoptee's world might say: "Well, at least you were adopted into a family, so why can't you just be happy and thankful for that?"
If it were really that simple, research studies and statistics wouldn't reveal adoptees being four more times likely to commit suicide than children living with their biological families.
In reality, adoption is truly a unique landscape. Understanding its complexities can help children in foster care and adoptive parents build a more secure attachment, learn how to approach sensitive issues, and encourage a deeper understanding of our emotional brain development.
It was after learning I was adopted at age 10 that I began to write music. What I was unable to express with words, I conveyed through song. When I didn't know how to articulate what I was processing - I found my voice, my comfort, through music. When nothing else could, sitting at the piano soothed me.
My adolescent years are a blur of drifting in and out of depression, anger, obsessive-compulsive behavior and low self-esteem; day after day, fighting relentless anxiety in my body . . . I watched other people enjoy their families, friendships and relationships. More than anything, I wanted to have that, too - but at the time, I simply did not know how to attach to others in a healthy way. Over and over, I re-enacted abandonment and, conversely, I would abandon.
I saw my first therapist at 14, and continue to go to this day. It's my favorite day of the week. It took years to find effective, quality therapy that was a good fit for me (there are all kinds out there), but without it and/or music, in all honesty, I don't know where I'd be. Therapy is kind of like building a puzzle. Piece by piece, your original 'framework' starts to come into view . . . you can see where edits were made along the way, and why. You begin looking at a bigger picture, and more and more, you make sense. Coming to terms with the root of my pain has given me understanding, more compassion for others, and hope. The daily journey of healing and therapy continues, and while at times challenging, it's been life-changing.
As a result of these experiences, I'd always felt hesitant to really pursue my dreams wholeheartedly . . . but I experienced a huge realization recently that has not only given me new perspective on purpose and what that means for each and every one of us, but has literally broken down walls I've kept up between my heart and what's always been waiting on the other side. I believe we all have unique gifts to spread real love in this world; and by doing so, we can heal our own hearts in the process.
On my run this morning by the lake, I saw this sign. Inspired, I took a picture of it, realizing at just that moment what day it was.
Every year on 7/10, I remember the sound of the life flight helicopter propellers going around and around; being wheeled at full speed on a stretcher into the ER.
I remember broken bones, broken clavicle and pelvis, 26 stitches to my face, unable to walk for 3 months, and being in a really chaotic, crazy, painful point in my life.
...and then I reflect on how much my life has changed since then; how my heart is still the same - but stronger, healthier...and so much happier, because I understand what it means to heal from the inside out.
To say how grateful I am to be alive today and in one piece would be an understatement, but I'm reminded of God's love for me, for all of us...and I'm reminded that even when it doesn't feel good, that there's a much bigger story that's unfolding, greater than we can imagine, and to have faith in it no matter what.❤️
Artist | Singer-Songwriter | Composer
~ Brené Brown