Friendship, goodbyes & holidays: adoption triggers part two
Even adoptees who have only ever lived with one family can struggle with attachment on a day-to-day basis, or when a big life event occurs...
Thinking about the situations in which I struggled as a child, and sometimes still struggle with now, it's clear to see I have some issues with attachment. It's a relief to know there's a reason behind it all, but it was never noticed and/or acknowledged, much less supported as a child. I am from the "blank slate" era where what a baby didn't know couldn't hurt them.
I'm skipping straight to F, G and H for this next instalment of events and situations that I, as an adoptee, have struggled with. I wonder if some of these resonate with you?
When I was eight I made my best friend join an official club stating we were each other’s best friends. We had a badge, a motto and a password. So far, so normal. Only my friend was forbidden to have any other friends. Let's just say it didn't end well. If I'm honest, I still struggle to “share” friends now, although I’m a lot better than I was!
As you can imagine, now I’m a parent, being at the school gates everyday is a big reminder of my anxiety around making (and keeping) friends. My main goal is to avoid projecting any of this on to my children. As Monica from Friends would say, "I'm breezy!" Wish me luck with this.
No surprise that I have separation anxiety and a deep-seated fear of rejection. Three of my close friends live abroad and it’s fair to say I didn’t take the news well when they left. My reaction to being told someone I love is leaving is somewhere between:
– total shutdown where I feel cold all over and immediately and methodically set about cutting them out of my life, and
– clinging on to their ankles like a tiny desperate terrier doing full-on dog weeping
In my more rational moments I have said to them, "I love you and I want you to be happy". But I still feel like beating my fists and shouting “How could you leave me?”
Of course I have anxiety about travelling to and from my holiday destination and making sure I have all my bookings confirmed; I'm a 'perfect' compliant adoptee after all. This is a given for me, and I honestly can’t imagine a holiday without it. But the issue is more serious than that. My mind starts to spin when I think about the people I am leaving behind. How can I be sure I won't be forgotten and/or replaced while I am away? This feeling has faded a lot since I married and now have my own young family, but when I was younger it was debilitating.
I still shudder to remember my first time away from home at Girl Guide camp. I was so homesick and subconsciously may have been reliving my early abandonment. In a town far from home I hallucinated I saw my mum and I started following her down the street. Never did it cross my mind to tell the Guide leader I was struggling, and ask her to call my mum for me. Never did it occur that I could ask to go home.
And when I started going on holiday in my teens, I was the sad sack queuing for the resort payphone on my one-week holiday clutching ten-pence pieces in my sweaty hand. While backpacking in my 20s I wrote, addressed, stamped and posted 20 birthday cards before I went. I chose to sit in horrible internet cafes emailing home rather than experiencing the new countries, cultures and people. I struggle so much with being in the moment on holiday, so it’s no surprise that mindfulness has been a tough concept to get on board with! (I do heartily recommend trying it though.)
Let me know if you've experienced any of these attachment-related issues. You can comment below or contact me. It helps to know we are not alone, and as I heard on the Adoptees On podcast recently: these are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
I've also blogged about my struggles with ageing, birthdays and Christmas.