Updated: Aug 25
It started with crying. At least that is my first conscious memory, the terror I felt when trying to go to sleep as a toddler. Nap times and bedtimes created chaos in my house. I grew up remembering the frustration of the entire house trying to get me to rest. My adoptive mother often passed off the responsibility to my siblings, equally annoyed and equally unable to soothe me.
I grew up internalizing that to mean I was demanding. Until one night in an Adoptee Lounge, a fellow adoptee talked about their own childhood struggle with sleep. "I was terrified if I woke up, my family would be replaced." And I felt a lightning bolt of realization that was validated by research showing adopted children are at a higher risk for sleep disorders. As a child, I didn't realize why, and my family didn't realize why either. Because I didn't understand the connection, I only felt out of control.
This is how adoption affected me. I often internalized the reaction to my behaviors before understanding where they came from. The 'why' was about my deficiencies, not a natural reaction to what happened to me. As an adult adoptee so much of my life is pieced together afterward.
As I got older and developed more emotional control, I turned into a good child. Every out-of-control emotion stayed within the skin of my body. My voice betrayed me every day. My actions told a different story. A story I would begin to believe, this story of being saved, of not deserving time or space, would be the foundation I built my life on. I had to prove to you I was worth it and the best way to do that would be to try to be exactly what you wanted to me be.
This is a futile exercise, although, I did get quite good at it but never reached perfection. And any conflict related to not anticipating your needs was a dagger cutting inside me. These daggers would leave holes where my feelings would seep out in unexpected and unproductive ways.
Now, middle aged, I am learning to let go of all those things I internalized. Attempting to define myself not by what happened to me, but by the type of person I want to be. A person not ruled by fear or rejection but by love and hope.