My adoptive parents left me in a burning house when I was six years old.
I got myself out, and I knew I was alone.
I saw my adoptive parents simply as guardians, not real parents. My adoptive father gave up on me when I was four years old because he felt rejected by my lack of enthusiasm for him, but we lived in the same house until I turned 18 and moved out.
I was an only child. It was awkward.
I was adopted at six months of age because my mother physically abused me and left me alone in an apartment while she worked full time. Her psychiatrist, a good samaritan, had me removed from my mother by the police on three separate occasions. His interventions probably saved my life.
Twice I was placed with foster families, and then once in a county shelter.
I was born in San Jose, California and adopted in 1965. It was a closed county adoption, but I did manage to reconnect with my birth parents later on. My birth mother is mentally ill. She’s bipolar with many suicide attempts. My father’s wife and kids were very upset to learn about me, so I’m not in touch with either of my birth parents anymore.
Ultimately, I know I was better off being adopted due to the stability it offered, but of course, adoption brought its own unique set of problems.
I never connected with my adoptive family and was very angry during my whole childhood and beyond. I was completely shut down, especially during my infant years. I wouldn’t laugh or cry. I was silent as a stone. I felt half alive, half dead.
I came back to life bit by bit. What helped was good friendships, therapy, forming a family of my own, travel, and falling in love with the power of offering service to others. From the California AIDS Ride to working with destitute villages in Ethiopia, service is ultimately what helped me connect to a sense of belonging on our planet.
My life is full and joyful now. I’m 52 years old, married for 26 years, and have two grown up daughters. I work as a therapist and specialize in life-threatening illness and bereavement. I’m a growth-oriented person and strongly believe in our ability to heal and come back to life.
My adoptive parents died five years ago and I took care of them during their passing. Whenever I get triggered or slip back into a dark place, I know the territory well enough to know how to get myself out of it fairly quickly.
At this point in my life, I feel joyful and free. I don’t feel defined by my story, but rather use it to help others and to appreciate the fullness of life. I wish I had known before I was adopted that I have this life force in me despite the abuse and neglect. The universe will support me, and I’m strong enough to stay alive and find my way to joyful living over time.
This year I’m leading a group of women on a healing journey in Spain, writing a book, and co- leading adoptee healing retreats with Anne Heffron in addition to taking care of myself, my family and my private practice.
I hope that in 10 years time, I will spend my time leading various local and international retreats, have written much more, find time to paint and create, and spend as much time as I possibly can with my family and enjoying our little beach house.
I want to share my story for the sake of helping others. That’s what is most important to me. I believe in the power of sharing stories to help us feel we are not alone or broken, particularly when the world underestimates the pain and trauma of being orphaned.
Belonging makes us stronger. And that’s why I share my story.