Mental Health Matters: Psyche of An Adoptee (II)

I once read an adoptee’s article I’d found on social media. In it she asked, “Can you imagine being the only person in the world you know who you’re related to?” (Pine, 2015). This woman’s question summarized the moment my adoption was revealed. I felt alone, as if I was the only one of me around. Where did I belong?

Scholars call this a sense of belonging, which is also a common adoptee issue*.

peas_podBelonging begins with family. I looked nothing like anyone around me, which is a physical way of belonging. In addition, my family homed in on parts of my physical difference, such as my butt. My parents used to say I had a “bubble butt.” When E.U.’s Da’ Butt came out, my father would replace one of the names with mine, “Kathy got a big ole butt!” When my elementary class was featured in the Chicago Suntimes, family proclaimed they knew it was me because of the way my butt protruded in the picture. Comments about my derriere continued well into Christmas 2013 when my great aunt mentioned something about my oldest daughter and I sharing this feature. I was 40 years old.

There was nothing my family could do about my posterior, but my mother and grandmother did their best to correct other perceived flaws. My mother noticed I didn’t move my arms when I walked, so she showed me how “normal” people rhythmically did this. To this day, I sometimes remind myself to move my arms so as not to look robotic. That was just the beginning of the list. The two ensured I turned my feet in so that I wouldn’t walk slew footed; straightened my back so that I didn’t walk like a duck; and raised my voice so that I spoke from my diaphragm. My insecurities grew with each lesson, especially because I didn’t see these “flaws” in anyone else.

eggsThere were also familial detachments. My mother retold times of her great-grandmother laying ties on the railroad as an example of where she drew her strength. It’s a great narrative, but there was little connection, because I knew she wasn’t my great-great grandmother.

My paternal grandmother lived about three blocks from us, and eventually, right upstairs, but the distance between us was great. I called her, “Grandma Emma,” like her other grandchildren, but it was obvious she was closer to my father’s sister and her children, who lived 800 miles away. I recognized the warmness in the way she embraced them when they visited and the attention she provided. Maybe this had little to do with being adopted; maybe it did. Either way, I didn’t feel a part of her.

square pegI carried this general lack of belonging into my marital family. How could I feel at ease in an additional family, when I couldn’t even find comfort with the one in which I was raised?

I sensed the awkwardness of my own interactions.

My father-in-law would sit at the kitchen table and talk to me about how he fixed a refrigerator that morning. I’d stare past his words, not knowing what to say or how to relate.

“Seems like she’s not interested in what I’m saying,” he once told his son.

I wasn’t. But more importantly, I just didn’t know how to be around someone else’s family.

His mother once told me she was glad she didn’t have girls.

“They seem difficult,” she admitted.

I internalized her comments and assumed as her daughter-in-law I must also be too difficult for her. We rarely spoke more than five sentences between us. Not understanding her quiet, unassuming personality, I deemed their nuclear family as another group I probably wouldn’t fit into.

Like other parts of me, this pattern of behavior remained and affected many adult relationships. I developed detached connections since I figured I wouldn’t fit in anyway. It’s a stressful existence for sure. But one that I eventually learned to let go of.

Eventually, I’ll explain how. Until then, let me know if you can relate to anything here. I’ve since learned that you don’t have to be an adoptee to feel as if you don’t fit in.

*Disclaimer: I only speak for myself. I’m sure all adoptees have different experiences and perspectives.

25 thoughts on “Mental Health Matters: Psyche of An Adoptee (II)

  1. Oh my god. I hada thing about my walk for a long time too. It’s probably still there. My mother and a horrible friend of hers used to make fun of theway I walk. I never understood it but whatever they observed was validated by others who’d comment on my walk. The closest i have hotten to understanding what the hell p e ople are seeing ius that I look like I’m walking on air. WTF does that mean??? It took well into adult hood before I could face seeing my walking reflection in a storewindow or walk down a street without adding that as another reason to feel self conscious. People can be cruel but I’ve found the cruelest have mainly been family 🤷🏾‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s so odd that we have all these similarities thousands of miles apart! But I’m glad you can relate to what I’m saying. It’s pretty challenging for people who haven’t had these experiences to understand how something as “small” as being told that you walk funny (by family) can affect much of your life!

      Anywho, thanks for commenting Mek!


  2. I worked with a woman in her 40s who was adopted at age 8. She purposely acted out to do things her way and establish her own identity and admitted she was 28, a mother and headed for divorce before she realized she was her own worst enemy. But she said family simply labeled her a bad seed, and was always ready with punishment but never any support or counseling. No one at school reached out either.

    Her mom OD’d when she was five and she entered foster care at seven when her father went to prison for armed robbery. I’m not familiar with the system, but it seems to me her situation should have warranted counseling before she was even a candidate for adoption.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see that happening. It’s the attention to feel loved and important that some of us seek.

      And smh about the therapy. I remember telling my grandmother I was in therapy, and she was like, “For what?” :-/ I think adoptees should get a free six months every year, until they deem it unnecessary.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree! After talking with that coworker, and volunteering in the foster care system, my eyes were opened! Adoptees are supposed to be “grateful” because they have been “chosen” and are “saved” from the system, so what problems could they possibly have? I simply cannot find the logic in that. It doesn’t erase what they’ve been through and how they came to be adopted.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Realizing that you are the only person you know that you are related to has got to be deep.

    But, that’s exactly how one of my oldest and dearest friends felt…well, at least until she gave birth, but she had to wait until she was 40 years old in order to successfully conceive.

    I really don’t think that those of us who are not adopted can fully relate; all we can do is bear witness.

    I was touched by your example of great- great grandmother’s fortitude… and you thinking, wow, that’s good for her and her descendants, but she is NOT my great-great grandmother.

    Naturally, your mind wondered what kind of fortitude, if any, your biological great-great mother had. Clearly, whoever she was, she must’ve been a strong woman, but in what way?

    It would be much too coincidental for her to have also found strength in logging RR cross-ties.

    Anyway, chile, I ain’t gonna even mention your butt other than to say that it was an asset! LOL!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Big ole 6ft air hug Lady G! I’m glad you get what I’m saying here. And yeesss…isn’t that sentence profound??? When I read it, I was like, yup. That’s exactly how I felt for a long time.

      Thank you too, for saying, it’s natural for thinking these things. For a long time, I was also made to feel that it wasn’t. But…you’re right. It’s hard to relate if you aren’t in the position (sometimes).

      …and LMAO it has been an asset 😉 lol

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing!!.. well, if one goes far enough back in history, whether religious or scientific, one will find that everyone is related to everyone… 🙂 as for me, I just follow my heart, being me doing it my way…“Confidence is knowing who you are and not changing it a bit because of someone’s version of reality is not your reality.”( Shannon L. Alder).. 🙂

    “The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no man has ever been before.” Francis Phillip Wernig

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL that’s one way to look at it 😉 I’ve learned to just be me and do what I want, without worry about others’ feelings. I’ve learned to honor my path. Thanks for the quote. You always have an appropriate one ❤


  5. I’m not an adoptee however, without getting to detailed, I can definitely relate to feeling on the “outskirts”, even with certain family around you. Looking for to your “how”. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m not adopted but when parents divorce and you see less of one side of your family, there is that feeling of being a misfit. Some on my paternal side made me feel similar inadequacies that also made me socially awkward. Becoming older, I became sarcastic and passive aggressive. Now, I choose to be around or not and I’m perfectly fine with it. Those formative years shape you and stays with you in done way or another.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see how that would be. And I over relate to the sarcasm and passive aggressiveness!!! I actually let go of those characteristics a few years ago and I feel very liberated. Thanks for sharing your experiences here 💜


  7. I think we all feel that way at some point–the odd man out, the black sheep. A psychology professor I knew said almost all kids believed they’d somehow ended up with the “wrong” parents. I took after my father, where my three sisters took after our mother. My hair was curly and unmanageable, theirs was straight and amenable to home haircuts. My manner of dress was sloppy (untucked shirt, sagging socks), theirs was neat. They played by the rules, I did my own thing (playing records on the wrong speed, creating new colors, like mixing peach and brown to represent a person with a tan, and building stuff that wasn’t sanctioned in the Tinkertoy “instruction book.”) I am still LOL about the big ol’ butt thing. OMG, Kathy, how awful that your family wouldn’t let up on it and leave you alone. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joan, have you heard that song lol I won’t even tell you what I said to my great aunt that Christmas. I’m sure she didn’t hear me because it wasn’t nice lol And just to add…I knew they weren’t being mean, necessarily, but after a while, it was super annoying!

      I definitely understand not feeling as if you belong in your family no matter what, but some families seem to accept everyone as is (unless I’m fantasizing this).

      Thanks for adding these points from the psychologist! I think it’s all fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

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