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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wortley

Life as an Adoptee

Updated: Apr 4

Too often in our approach to the newborn we deal with him as if he is exactly that–“brand new.” We neglect the fact that the neonate is really the culmination of an amazing experience that has lasted forty weeks. … By looking at the neonate as if he had “sprung full-blown from the brain of Zeus” we are missing the opportunities that the newborn’s history as a fetus can provide. – T. B. Brazelton

In the beginning.

The first blog I ever wrote was called Mayhem. It was a description of the worst panic attack I have ever had. One moment it was crippling me, then telling me to run and finally to lash out in anger.

Anxiety and fear were exhausting me. My sleep was poor, I had no appetite and my ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel had vanished, with no sign of returning.

I was on medication, seeing a therapist and regularly in touch with my doctor but still the anxiety grew. It was like a trapped beast that wanted to attack, only to flip into a whimpering mess moments later.

Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder had grown from the seeds of insecurity that were planted way back.

In fact, how far back?

Let's start at the very beginning.

'Babies aren't aware of a change in their surroundings.'

'Babies are so resilient.'

'Babies just need to be cared for. It doesn't matter who the care provider is.'

Many times counsellors and therapists asked me to imagine a time when I didn't have an underlying feeling of fear and the truth is, I can't.

That doesn't mean I have lived in a state of anxiety all of my life. What is does mean is that the old anxiety-o-meter is very sensitive to life's happenings.

Some situations hardly affect me at all, whereas those around security and possible abandonment send it sky high. The rection to the latter is not only emotional, but physical too. The breath disappears from my body, I shake violently and the fight or flight response is intense. My body convulses as the tears flow and it takes all my strength to gain control of my breathing. It feels momentarily like I am about to be annihilated.

I've heard that word before.

The word annihilated takes me back to 'Mayhem,' especially when I created the Audio version of the blog. In my last ditch attempt to find wellness I began intense, one to one sessions with a CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) therapist.

During our first session together I was asked if I knew what it was that I feared. I thought about it and the answer was no. The therapist then asked, what did I think was going to happen to me. The answer was simple, I was going to be annihilated!

In all honesty it didn't make sense to me. There it was, this all consuming fear I would cease to exist.

You may be wondering why am I focusing on this word? Now, from a place of wellness, surely it would make more sense to leave it in the past and move forward?

Well the answer is this. I have never understood why I have felt this way or why I felt disconnected from this world. As a child I longed to have Enid Blyton's Faraway tree at the end of my garden so I could try out all the different worlds until I found the one in which I fitted.

Highly sensitive to those around me, emotional, creative and a daydreamer I was different from my family, albeit a family that loved and supported me come what may.

Revelation: The Primal Wound.

It was during a mental health webinar that I first heard about the suicide statistics in adoptees. From memory, it was that adoptees were 4 time more likely to attempt to end their lives. I was shocked.

Remember that children are resilient and remain unaffected by adoption at any age!

This webinar left me wanting to know more.

As my curiosity grew, a contact of mine recommended a book called 'The Primal Wound' by Nancy Verrier. Nancy was a birth mum and an adoptive one. During her own experiences of raising an adoptee she began researching the possible effects of being adopted.

My copy arrived a few months ago and excited as I was to read it, I was also apprehensive.

I had to be in the right frame of mind to read. I would pick it up, read a paragraph and put it down: pick it up, read a few lines and put it down again. What was I afraid of?

Now having read the whole book I feel I have found myself. I saw myself in the words on the pages. I saw my fears and reactions and then I saw the word 'annihilated.'

It took my breath away. Why was this specific word there? Why would anyone use this word unless they really meant to? No one ever uses this word.

Annihilation. Annihilation.

All my life the thing I feared, that fuelled anxiety and panic disorders, was annihilation and it was written right here in this book in front of me. Someone was putting in to words the origins of my emotions. My reactions were no longer a puzzle to me.

This panic and fear have nothing to do with the present circumstance, as difficult as it may be. Rather, it has to do with the triggering of archaic memory traces of the original abandonment and the life-threatening experience that it was.

The Primal Wound - Nancy Verrier Newton

Grounded at last.

a bulb in the soil with roots
A bulb and the beginnings of growth.

Imagine you plant a bulb in the soil. As it is fed by its surroundings, the roots begin to grow, supporting new life.

Now imagine you pull that bulb out of the soil. Some of the roots may stay in the soil and those that come out with the bulb will begin to die off.

A period of time passes and you decide to plant the bulb again.

In the right soil and surroundings the bulb will more than likely grow new roots and life will begin again.

Will the new roots connect with the old ones?

Will the origins of the bulb be a part of the new roots and beginnings?

It is extremely unlikely especially if it is replanted in a totally different location.

This is how I see myself as an adoptee. My roots, my beginnings are somewhere else. The reasons I have grown up the way I have, were unknown. I was a misfit, a slightly dysfunctional, kind, misfit.

During hard times I felt like tumbleweed, blown in whatever direction dictated by those around me.

Whether psychiatrists, therapists, family or friends choose to recognise the primal wound bothers me not.

This theory has brought me home.

I see my origins, those early roots and visualise new roots of the person I am today, reaching down, embracing my true beginnings with confidence and love.

arms hugging a heart
I choose to love me.

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