This week, an adoptee blogs for us. She writes a letter
to herself at different stages, starting with the neglected baby and ending
with the hopeful, thriving adult.
Keep crying baby me. Speak even when they’re not listening.
Sit tight, stay warm. The best is yet to come, I promise.
Quick, close your eyes again. The car engine has stopped and
it’s cold and dark outside. This is the moment when Daddy scoops you up from
the car in his coat and carries you to bed. Remember the safety of his arms,
the lemon smell of his aftershave, and the way he fireman lifts you up the
stairs. He knows you’re awake, but he also knows you’re tired, and cold, and he
wants to hold you.
Also, tomorrow morning, try and let Mum leave the house for
work without screaming the place down and hiding the door-keys. It makes her
sad, and it makes you cough. Remember the ‘Owl Babies’ book? The Mummy owl
always comes back, just like Mum.
Woah there little me, pause. Don’t bite Mum. She is not
cross with you as a person, but your hitting. You shouldn’t have hit your
brother with Thomas the Tank Engine. She wants your behaviour to be safe. It’s
selfless of Mum and Dad to tell you off. It would be much easier for them to ignore
difficult behaviour so as to avoid the inevitable tantrum-explosion.
The angry volcano that lives in your tummy cannot always
win. Your biological family’s poor decisions/behaviour, the genetic makeup of
your volcano, cannot rule your forever-life. You deserve more. Your parents
deserve more. They climb to the top of your volano every day, peek inside and
try to understand it. Like you, they usually do not understand it, it just
happens. But they see that it hurts you, so try and soothe the lava back down.
Try and count to ten before reacting.
Really you should wait fifteen minutes before going back to
play with your brother. I wish you understood this then, but when the volcano
erupts, your body is filled with adrenaline. The adrenaline contributed towards
you smacking your brother. It takes 15 minutes for the effects of this to wear
off. After five minutes people begin to feel better, as the hormone levels have
decreased. However, your blood is still being diverted from your brain towards
your body. You’re ready to fight, run away, or freeze. You can’t think
logically at all because your blood isn’t reaching your head. This happens to
everyone when they are overwhelmed. But remember, you’re not ready to play nicely
until 15 minutes.
Well-done you. You are good at sport, good at English, good
at Drama, good at making friends, good at singing, history, religious studies,
listening, and being kind. You also no longer bite! It’s nice to see how far
you’ve come. However it’s difficult, right, constantly proving that you were
worth adopting? Continually achieving to reassure your parents that they picked
the right child; that they didn’t make a huge mistake. It’s a lot of pressure
thinking that an A- school report could take away your parents or their love.
These feelings are invisible but all consuming. You hate
yourself for feeling these things because your parents have sacrificed
everything for you. They love you unconditionally. You feel guilty. These
feeling get so big that you don’t know what to do with them, so you turn them
towards yourself and self-harm. First you stop eating, then you find sharp
objects, pills, chemicals… I understand why you’ve started this, although it’s
devastating, but please tell someone now! When you’re 16 you frequent a&e
when really you should be playing hockey with your friends or going to the
For your future mental health, acknowledge that these
feelings exist, but know that you can choose how you act. When people are
overwhelmed, they go into emotional thinking. You, in particular, adopt a
binary and pseud-analytical way of thinking. Don’t tell yourself that these
feelings are unjustified. You’re not wrong to feel this cocktail of depression
and self-loathing. You have every reason to feel abandoned and lonely, because
you were. You were a little baby and left alone. Love can’t mend that, the
initial rejection will always have happened. But love will make you strong
enough to manage the past, and flourish. Your parents want to help and love you
in anyway possible – bask in that love.
Oh, and don’t make too much of a fuss when Mum goes to the
week-long teaching course. If you behave well, Dad takes pity on you and buys
you a hamster.
Yes, you fruitcake, you will still be lovable when you’re a
‘proper adult’ (which, rather amusingly, you think is 20). Stop crying that
it’s your 20th birthday, and start eating that cake…before your brother does!
Also, listen to your parents when they say that they’re
proud of you. Feel the wool of Dad’s jumper (that you ‘borrowed’) over your
dress as you sit by the campfire, and close your eyes as Mum puts her arm
around your waist while they all sing ‘happy birthday’.
Happy you-haven’t-self-harmed in 5 years! It’s an achievement!
Celebrate it. However, know that it is ok to still have the urge sometimes.
When you are under pressure your mind flips through a list of previous coping
mechanisms (self-harm, using Thomas the Tank as a weapon, crying,
over-achieving, hiding…) You’d be a robot if it didn’t. So, try not to panic
about that, and remember to enjoy being you too. You will go on trips to Africa
with Mum, have brother/sister movie afternoons with your brother, and ski down
mountains with your Dad. You will make cakes, celebrate achievements, and share
the norovirus on a particularly unfortunate Christmas.
Perhaps most importantly, listen to your parents when they
say that you don’t need to always please them/others. They want you to be
happy, healthy and safe. If that’s being a postman, a bird watcher, or the next
prime minister, they don’t really care. So it’s ok that you gave up the well-paid job, the rented two bedroom flat, the predictable commute and the stable
future to take a risk. Enjoy your flat in Barcelona with a balcony near the
square. Continue to study filmmaking, keep teaching English to make money for
Spanish lessons, make pottery, and swim in the sea. Be you. You may be 100
before you learn to love yourself, but at least try and know that others love you,
not because of what you do, but because of who you are.