Saturday, January 10, 2009

Via Nicole: The mental health system and adoption: questions for triad members

I started this last night, and got so wrapped up in it I totally forgot to publish my Philly Phriday on the most despised tourist spot in all of Philadelphia, so apologies. Wait 'till next Friday for the hatred.

Anyway, I hate really long comments in blog posts, so I decided to do this on my own blog instead. Reprinted via Nicole:

Do you feel the mental health system is adequately equipped to support you in issues relating to adoption/relinquishment/abandonment?


I could go on and on and on about this, but they don’t have a clue. Not one, single, solitary clue. They do far more damage than good, some damage worse than others, but all in all, damage. The combination of alphabet letters that young adoptees are diagnosed with pisses me off from here to eternity, and it's professional suicide to speak out against it.

Example: at a special education meeting attended by my husband for a Korean-adoptee student once, various letter combination were thrown around to describe her. After reading over her file he made the fatal mistake of saying, "I don't think she's suffering from any of these, I think she just has adoption." One guess how that was received.

If you have ever sought counseling for any adoption-related issues, how long did it take for you to find a counselor who was competent with addressing your adoption issues?

It’s hard to remember, going to therapy has been like being a serial monogamist, with occasional cheating from time to time. I do remember my very first therapist, who I went to see in my early 20’s because I was wondering why I was such a screw-up, immediately jumped all over adoption. But I wasn’t ready to hear what she said and dismissed her.

When John Bradshaw’s inner child work was all the rage, I did have a therapist who advocated that type of therapy, and while I found that personally helpful, I felt guilty for benefiting from it. I remember saying over and over that there were people who had real issues, abuse, incest, one of my best friends was passed around by her own father to his drinking buddies for crissakes, etc, and why should I be pissing and moaning. The therapist had said something along the lines of, “Don’t you find not knowing who you are abusive?” and while that was validating, I still dismissed it. The hardest thing was, it was adoption that made me dismiss it. Being adopted to me means that I come last, nothing I say matters, nothing I need matters, I am the least important person in everyone’s life.

I had said to Nicole before that many times I’ve found myself compartmentalizing my therapy, hence the cheating comment from above. I’d see a so-so therapist who knew about adoption issues, while at the same time seeing a great therapist who knew nothing about adoption issues. Which only left me feeling more fragmented than before.

I like the guy I’m seeing now, although it’s only luck of geography, socioeconomics, insurance and a flexible work schedule that I have access to him.

If you have ever sought the services of a mental health professional for adoption-related issues, what was your experience like? And was it through the private mental health system (ie, you used private insurance to pay) or through the public mental health system (ie, you used government insurance to pay)?

Private insurance – see here for the angina associated with that.

Would you define adoption as a culture? As in… if there were a cultural sensitivity training for mental health professionals, do you think adoption would be an appropriate topic to include? If so, why? If not, why not?

Oh absolutely, but how do you do cultural sensitivity training about adoptees? Do you take a group of people, change their names, force them to live with people who look nothing like them, and have them live in a climate of secrets, where everyone around them knows the truth except for them? If so, for how long? A weekend seminar with continuing education credits just wouldn’t cut it.

Adoption is a hidden culture that ripples out. I’m sure my half-siblings are living in it themselves, even though they don’t know it. They grew up with a mother who was haunted by the outline of her secret firstborn. How can any woman be a fully connected mother with a secret demon ghost child haunting the nursery? I know I couldn’t be a fully connected mother with a secret hidden ghost mother of my own, as well as being raised around the ghosts of the biological children my adoptive mother wanted to have.

Would you be more likely to get counseling for adoption-related issues if you knew the counselor you’d be seeing shared your triad status?

Nah. I mean, if Betty Jean Lifton were here on the Island I’d be venting on her couch weekly, but I’d be wondering if they were working on their own adoption issues through therapy. I’ve also witnessed hiphiphappyhurray adoptees being therapists which scares the bejesus out of me. The best therapy I’ve had has been with shrinks who were unusually empathetic real people. Honestly, what has helped me the most has been, in this order:

  • blogging
  • being in the company of other adoptees online
  • getting active (i.e., RegDay, Adoptee Meetups, hopefully heading up to Albany if weather permits, volunteering with Philly, etc.)
  • therapy

The therapy is necessary, because you know, there is just some shit that I just won’t share, but self-awareness and the ever-onward struggle towards one single self is coming from a combination of the four.

I'd like to hope and believe one day I would have a sense of an authentic self, but if I have no pre-traumatic identity to draw upon for comparison, I'm terrified of spending a lifetime in search of it. Jesus, I'm too old for this.

8 complaints from ingrates:

Lorraine Dusky January 11, 2009 at 12:07 PM  

Hey Ungrateful, Your commentary was spot on...especially the part about take a group of people, change their names, force them to live with people who do not look/think/act like them, surround their past with an veil of secrecy, pretend none of this is happening, etc. And we expect these people to be normal?
What's abnormal is that more do not search and rebel.
lorraine from

Sunny January 12, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

Best therapist I ever had was a non-adoptee, too. That said she knew nothing about adoption, but could easily see the lunacy in it. Great post, T. xx

Ungrateful Little Bastard January 13, 2009 at 9:22 AM  

I wonder what it is in some of them that makes it so apparent....

Unknown January 15, 2009 at 12:24 PM  

Thank you. Laughed out loud at trying to actually implement some sensitivity training... maybe we should send them all off to islands--they don't get to come back UNTIL they demonstrate "getting it."

missingpiece January 19, 2009 at 12:28 PM  

great commentary...i'd love to hear more about how exactly blogging has helped you the most...

Ungrateful Little Bastard January 19, 2009 at 12:32 PM  

I think of it as just writing the pain out. It's good and bad at the same time. I like having one place where I can write it out, but the problem is people with a limited outlook read this and think it's the whole of me. But whatever, It works for me. It doesn't make me unadopted but it makes me feel not so alone.

missingpiece January 19, 2009 at 12:35 PM  

yes, in my limited blogging experience, blogging makes me feel a little less alone too.

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