“Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey has only one; that is the step that you are taking right now.”
I have spent a lifetime on my adoption journey and I am still on it. I really don’t think I will ever fully heal from my post adoption issues. Every adoptee’s experience is different. We are all on a unique journey. Like snowflakes, no two journeys are alike.
As a teen and a young adult, I struggled. I masked my anxiety and depression and like many adoptees looked “perfect” on the outside. Internally I was in pain and although my life looked great, it was anything but that on the inside.
I have devoted my life to healing from post adoption issues. I do this daily personally and also professionally. I do believe healing from anything that has hurt us in life is a choice. We make a choice to heal. We make a choice to say: “This is really hard but I want to come through this. I want to make sense of this journey and I want to heal from its impact. I want to live in a better way. I want to move forward.”
For some adoptees such as myself, adoption is with us constantly. We cannot get rid of it. It is like a twin who is always by our side. It is with us all of the time and this adoption twin is not always our friend. This adoption twin can represent the pain, feelings of shame, rejection, unworthiness, loss, anxiety, trauma, feeling invisible and unlovable, feeling as if we were not meant to be born. We have to work on acknowledging and accepting the twin, knowing that the twin is with us on our journey. What is even more difficult is comforting the twin – making sure the twin knows it will be O.K. The twin needs to know that it will be safe.
It takes a lot of courage to help the twin and heal from the wounds of adoption. It can be really scary. Sifting through the layers of adoption can feel overwhelming. It is work, really hard work. It is easier not to work on post adoption issues. It is easier not to heal. It is easier to ignore it. Many of us do ignore it. We can disguise it. We can turn it into anger, rage or fear. We can deal with it by developing unhealthy coping skills such as drugs, drinking, overeating and many other maladaptive behaviors. We can hide from it, run away as far as we can from it. But it always finds us. We can allow it to ruin relationships, sabotage our lives and make everyday living harder.
When we face the pain head on we begin to unpeel the layers and layers of adoption. We then deal with it, make sense of it , work through it and finally accept it only to find more layers and we continue to peel. I believe that we must be on this road to healing. Healing is the key to living a better life. We deserve to lead a better life. This starts from within ourselves. We have to find our own answers. We have all had different experiences, different truths, different belief systems and we must challenge these areas to begin the healing process.
Where do we start? How do we do this? How do we begin to heal? There are many ways and again it is individual and we are each on our own path. I can share with you some of the things that have served me best over the years toward healing my adoption pain.
- Ask other adoptees what works for them. How do they heal? What has been helpful?
- Get support, there is a lot of post adoption support available. Find adoption groups, individual therapy by an adoption competent therapist, writing groups, journaling, EMDR, expressive arts, mindfulness, body work, books, podcasts, films and other areas that allow you to heal as well as connect with your feelings.
- Self compassion is the key to healing. Be good to yourself. I cannot emphasize this enough. Kindness and self compassion have to be a daily practice. This in itself can be life changing and transformative.
- Gratitude everyday is critical to healing. This takes a few minutes and the benefits are great.
- Acceptance of what is really difficult can ease pain and suffering. There are many good books and podcasts on this topic.
- We have no control over the past but we do have control over the future.
Adoption is a lifelong journey and we are all on our own individual path. Stay on your journey. Know that there are bumps and snags in the road but it is the only way to heal.
About Jennifer Eckert: Jennifer Eckert, LICSW, is the founder of Boston Post Adoption Resources. To read her bio, please visit BPAR’s Team page.