My Lack of a Blood Bond

 

broken-family-blog

 

I always knew I was adopted. It wasn’t sprung upon me in my teenage years causing to question my upbringing, nor did I find some conclusive sheet of paper which would turn my life upside down. It simply was a subject that was open for discussion at any point in time. I was 18 months old and had bounced around the foster care system since birth, and by the time I arrived at my parent’s home, not only was I emotionally and physically scarred but I was also aware that this was yet another family who might get rid of me like the rest had. I know I did not understand the word adoption, or perhaps even the concept, but I knew it felt different.

My mom was up front with me from day one in explaining that I had a birth mom, but that I was chosen by them to be a part of their family. As I grew older she let me know that she would help me look for my birth parents if that was something I was interested in and over the years, curiosity popped in and out of my head…who did I look like? Who had the blue eyes? Who was responsible for my pudgy little fingers? While those questions were always at the back of my mind they never became much of a priority, unlike the constant nagging of the “why” question. All I knew at the time was my birth mother was young and unable to take care of me and given that none of my foster homes opted to keep me, there must have been something wrong with me, and the fear of being “given back” was a constant shadow in my mind.

Growing up, there was not a lot of time or emotional space to think about finding my birth parents, as the domestic abuse in my home started when I was five and ended when I was 13. My sexual abuse, which occurred outside the home also started at five and ended at 14 and my mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 13 and lost her battle after six long years. I was 19 when my mom passed away and although over the years, the curiosity of my origins had grown bigger, the guilt about doing it after my mom died was overwhelming and once again I pushed the issue to the back of my mind.

In my early 20’s, I was given some information about an Ontario adoption registry that allowed both adopted children and their birth parents to register on a computer program which would then search for a match. I filled out the form, forgot about it and continued on with my life. Out of the blue, when I was 24 I received a big unmarked brown envelope which I proceeded to hand to my girlfriend at the time, told her to open it, thinking it may be a book from a college I had looked into, and ran in to get us coffee. Upon my return to the car, I find her in tears with the envelope in her hand saying “it’s your past”. To be honest I had forgotten completely about it and the shock set in as I started to read the first of the pages.

My birth mother was half black, half Irish and because she had died that year in a fire I was given her identifying information, her name and birthdate etc. She had indeed been a young mother with a history of addiction and mental health problems. My birth father was of Italian descent with blue eyes and darker skin and there was very little other information about him. My birth mothers mom was still alive, and I was also informed I had two half-sisters, and with my permission and a few exchanges of letters, a meeting was set up. It is a very strange feeling to be handed family and expected to have some sort of instant connection simply because we share some DNA, especially considering that blood relations had never been a part of my life.

As the meeting approached, I anticipated the many scenarios that could occur, and although I can say honestly that I wished for a close knit family, I went in with as few expectations as possible. It was odd to finally look at someone who has some sort of resemblance to me. My birth mothers mom was a kind, elderly lady who was just thrilled to meet her grandchildren, and like many people of that generation, was not willing to divulge much information about the past. My middle sister had actually lived with our birth mother on and off for five of six years, however following numerous suicide attempts, she was permanently removed and placed into foster care. My youngest sister has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) complete with minor facial and hand deformities and is mentally challenged but was thrilled to meet her sisters for the first time. All in all, the meeting went well, and with the promise to remain in contact, we all went our separate ways.

I noticed within the following weeks a sense of resentment and anger building up towards my birth mother. I get she could make a mistake and not have the ability or support to quit her addictions, and therefore would lose custody of me, but the fact is, she was given six months of after my birth to clean up and prove herself as a worthy parent. She was given supervised visitation rights which she repeatedly showed up high, or still drunk from the night before, and as the weeks passed, the visits lessened until one day, she just never came back. It started to eat at me, what type of woman could prioritize alcohol and drugs over her children, not just once, but three times. Why could she not have at least tried to get me back, not just wash her hands clean and get back to her routine, free from the burden of a screaming baby? How could the cycle just continue to repeat itself with no intervention until a child has to be born with mental deficiencies and physical deformities? Were there more than just the three of us? Perhaps someone who didn’t register, or did she finally figure out that birth control was not as rare a diamond?

As I aged and became more aware of mental illness and addiction and the effects they can have on someone’s life, I began to be able to make a sense of peace with the anger I was feeling. Yes, I will always feel abandoned, but in this case, perhaps it really was the best scenario. My birth Grandmother passed away within a year of the meeting, and I would love to say I have two sisters who I am super close with, but despite my numerous efforts to reach out, the reality has become Christmas or Birthday text, usually initiated by me, and often lacking a response. I have made peace with that as well. I have no expectations of either of them, and as I said, you can’t just put three strangers in a room and because of one common factor, a birth mother, expect a bond to form instantly, or in this case, at all. I care about them of course, but do I love them? Hard to love someone you don’t know.

A blood bond means nothing to me. A chosen bond means the world.

 

If You Have Survived the Next Five Years…

 5-years-later

I have been, to far more than my fair share of funerals in my lifetime, ranging from acquaintances and relatives, to friends and family. Without a doubt the hardest one was my Mom, not only because she was my only form of real love, but also because of the age she passed. It seems that when a person dies at an older age, we can more easily rationalize their death…they had a good long life and that is just part of the life cycle, whereas the younger the person is, the less sense it makes; the more difficult it becomes to find a justification for its occurrence.

This past week I was at a funeral service for a beautiful 15 year old girl, tragically hit by a car. The outpouring of support was unlike anything I have ever seen before. There were hundreds of kids gathered to not only pay their respects but to provide a network of comfort and a foundation for  each other and the long healing process that lies ahead. The service itself was beautiful and the speeches touched the heart, one more so than the rest. A grade 8 teacher had handed out an assignment to his classes whereby each student had to write a letter to their future selves which he would then mail back out in five years, when they were in grade 12. Sadly Maddie didn’t make it to grade 12 but the letter was read and the irony of the words she had written to her future self “I hope you have found some peace” left not one dry eye in the crowd.

At the reception I could hear the murmurings of many a person talking about how not only a letter should be written by every student to their future selves, but how it had inspired them to go home and do so themselves, and so I thought I would give it a shot.

Dear future me,

If you are reading this, it means you actually made it another five years and for that you should be so incredibly proud of yourself. You were so close to running out of both hope and strength years ago and yet you somehow mustered up the courage to continue on. Make sure you reward yourself well for this achievement. I hope you are happier and a bit less emotionally heavy than you used to be. I hope you kept up with therapy and learned how to effectively manage these illnesses and you are at least a few steps beyond surviving, perhaps on the way to thriving. I hope you wake up in the mornings now without the heaviness of not wanting to be alive. I hope you have maintained the close relationships you had and that those people are still near and dear to your heart, and that you have continued to grow and allow yourself to love and truly be loved.

I wonder if you are still as insecure as you were, and if you are still letting fear and anxiety influence both your decisions and actions. I wonder if you still feel so alone or if you have finally found your place in this big world. I wonder if you have found a balance between being hyper and hypo sensitive and spend less time riding the emotional rollercoaster. I wonder if you have managed to forgive yourself and perhaps not silence, but shush your inner critic enough to have boosted your confidence a wee bit. I wonder if you have continued to keep your heart under lock and key or if you have enough self-love to let someone truly love you. I wonder if you kept writing or if this blog is buried along with your words.

I hope you continue to fight. I hope that no matter what happens you muster the strength and courage to face it and not to give in to the darkness that called so often. I hope you learn to love and accept yourself for who you are and continue to move along the path of healing. I hope that your BPD no longer controls your life and that after five years, mental health stigma is so much less than it is today. Most of all I wish for you some peace, in your mind, heart and soul. It is there for you if you keep digging. Don’t give up.

                                                                                                                                Love, Me

                                                                                                                                               

The Emotional Frenzy of the Snowball Effect

 

snowball-effect-writing

 

 

It often starts off with the simplest of negative thoughts. Sometimes it is triggered by something someone has said that I may have misconstrued, which is easy to do with BPD and the lack of tone in text messaging, and at other times it is just my mind beginning its uncontrollable spiral downwards. Is it caused by anxiety and fed by depression? Is it common among those without a mental illness? How can one simple word or thought turn into such negativity and self-hatred? What makes our mind spin out of control with such fury? How is it we are upset about something in the present yet within minutes we are condemning ourselves, yet again, for things we did or said when we were children, or young adults?

The snowball effect really is the perfect analogy. Starting out with that first handful of cold, white wonder, and as we roll it along, it collects snow from whatever direction we push it and does not stop building in size until we effectively stop it. My thought process is really not much different; a random negative thought travels through my mind and gathers the other negative thoughts, until they are in a ball so big I feel physically heavy from the weight. Just the other day I read something into a situation that was not even there and instantly started with the first thought of self-doubt…there’s so much wrong with me; followed by I’m a failure, a loser, not loveable and so on and so forth, which then somehow spirals either backward or forward. Those initial thoughts of present day self-hatred, guilt or shame, or whatever emotion, have now triggered past situations in which I felt the same way, so now, not only am I fretting about how I feel about myself today, I am also travelling back in time collecting all the negative emotions that have been stored with each trauma, and bringing them to the forefront, in essence creating a snowball of negativity, which, remember, started with a single negative thought.

This exact same analogy applies to future thoughts as well, and when anxiety adds fuel to the fire the downward spiral now includes the future. Yet again, one simple dark thought can take me down the hill of negativity, projecting all the things that are going to go wrong, the bad things that are going to happen, or all the ways I am going to screw up or get hurt…and the list continues. Funny, because I don’t ever recall being able to predict the future at any other point in time in my life, but suddenly through this snowball effect, I am psychic and not only foretelling the upcoming events in my life but in my mind, actually trying to prepare for them, and keep in mind, nothing has even happened.

For example, I have to move in the spring and just the thought of doing so after being in my place for 12 years is causing me extreme stress and triggering past traumas. Now, my rational brain knows that after all that I have survived, a move certainly may be traumatic, but will not kill me. It is simply a change that I need to adapt to, as with everything else in life. The emotive side of my brain however, has begun the snowball process. What if I can’t find a place, or can’t afford it, or it’s in a bad area, or they won’t accept pets, or I don’t like it and I can’t get comfortable enough to call it a “home”…and those are not even the worst thoughts. Snowballing even bigger, I have also created the scenario of all of the above happening and ending up homeless or in a shelter, which then leads me to question if any of it is worth it and perhaps this is now the excuse or reasoning I need in my head to justify taking my life, as I am simply too emotionally exhausted to start over, yet again. So now my thoughts have sunken into the darkness of the ultimate finality over a sequence of events which I have created in my mind, most of which are likely never going to happen.

A single negative thought leading to a scenario of death, in five minutes or less, which in turn leads to an uphill battle to get out of the darkness, and as soon as I see the light, the self-defeating cycle repeats.

Is it possible to stop the snowball or at least slow it down? Is there a way to restrain it so it doesn’t reach the bottom of the hill, but perhaps comes to a standstill midway? Having BPD increases impulsivity which can also include thoughts and not just actions, and in my case racing thoughts and lack of verbal restraint are making the struggle more difficult. I am learning the first step is to recognize that original negative thought as quickly as possible because if I at least know the snow is starting to gather, I can be better prepared for the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge of Surrendering My Expectations

 

 surrender

 

I am not sure if I love my father. When he says those dreaded three words…”I love you”, it is as if the words are merely skimming the surface of my being, they become words with little meaning. When I do repeat it back to him, the words flow out habitually, feeling both empty and emotionless. Rationally I know there is some form of attachment on a deeper level, but I can’t find the words to accurately describe what those emotions are, nor am I sure I want to go digging to find out. As the past has unkindly and repeatedly reminded me, there are certain fortresses that are built with such strength and resilience they can no longer be broken down. As one brick is chipped away, three more have taken its place and somewhere behind these layers of safety and self-protectiveness lay my emotions for my father.

Not often was the abuse directed at me, but at my mother instead. I have a few memories before the first beating, but they are like scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that can never be made into a picture. The cries and yelling had startled me awake but the uncertainty and fear kept me under the blankets. It was shortly after Christmas, the tree was still decorated and a few opened gifts remained lying about. My mom was crying and I had sat on the loveseat next to her, with a box of Kleenex and one of the toys I had received for Christmas. I remember feeling uncomfortable with her tears yet feeling the need to console, so I placed my small hand on her back and started rubbing. I brought new tissues, her cigarettes and emptied the ashtray more than once. I hugged her tight and told her everything would be alright, although I could not begin to understand why my dad would hit my mom until she bruised. I was almost five years old and that was the first day I began construction on a wall to keep my father out.

He perpetuated the typical abusive cycle; first was the beating, usually at night, followed by a morning of pleasantries and breakfast like nothing had ever happened, and wrapping up with some sort of gift for both my mom and I…and repeat. I cannot begin to tell you how many times this occurred, but according to him it was only a few, and my memories are highly exaggerated. To this day I can’t fathom any five year old imagining being dangled out a bedroom window, held only by her ankles, as her father’s desperate attempt to get at her mother, who was hiding in her bedroom. I can’t conceive of anyone who would want to create that sense of fear for themselves. I can’t imagine a child wanting to walk on eggshells for perpetuity around a person who is supposed to provide unconditional love and support.

The sad thing is I much preferred any type of physical abuse compared to the emotional assaults I was dealt. The bruises fade, the cuts turn into scars and fade with time, but the words stick like crazy glue and seem like they are on a never ending loop, playing over and over again in my head until they become part of my belief system. Words alone can destroy an adult’s sense of self, so for a child in their formative years, they can cause extreme damage to the way we see not only ourselves, but the world as well. The words to this day still run rampant in my mind…

“You’re stupid”

“You are a failure”

“You will never be anything”

“You make it hard for anyone to love you”

I could go on and on, but I think the point has been made. I would rather a scar for every letter in all those words than to have to spend tremendous amounts of emotional energy unlearning the damage done by what was said. The spoken word can never be retrieved.

Why do we seek approval and validation from the people that don’t give it? Can we not brush them off and focus on the ones who approve of us and accept us for who we are; is it innate or a learned behavior? I know that I have spent the majority of my life seeking some sort of approval from him. I waited for years for the validation that I had been sexually abused; that it wasn’t something I had made up to get attention. I hung on to the hope that one day he would admit and own up to the damage he caused me. “One day” has yet to come.

I see my Dad every two weeks when we meet for a coffee that lasts no more than an hour. That is my quota. I skip most family functions aside from funerals as I know my Dad has expressed his disappointment in me to both family and friends. I have learned that my life is much easier when I expect nothing from him. What I need is never going to come and waiting with bated breath is only causing myself more pain, so I have made as much peace with it as I can. I no longer tolerate the verbal abuse and take charge of the direction of conversation which stays at a superficial level. It feels like it is too late to look at him as a father figure, so I could best describe it as an awkward surface friendship.

I am learning to accept only what he has to offer and to not hope for anything more. I have learned to understand that he is not going to change and all I can do is change my reaction to him. I realize perhaps he does love me in the best way he knows how, regardless of if it fulfills my needs or not and just letting go of that expectation has relieved a tremendous amount of my hurt and anger. For once in my life, he is no longer in control; I have finally taken that power back.