So many losses, how do I cope?
I am not sure if you are the right person that I should be writing to as I am not 'officially' adopted although I was not brought up by my biological parents. I suppose I need to give you a brief summary of my life.
I have been through a great deal of counseling over the past few years and know not to blame anyone for my situation. But there are times - like now for instance - that I feel that it is difficult to know that the things that I have gone through are not due to me or anyone else.
My father left my mother when I was about five years old. My mother then met another man who for one reason or another took a dislike to me. He beat me for a number of years and, for example, shut me in cupboards for hours on end.
During this period I lived on and off with my grandparents who, at the time, were the only people to acknowledge what my mother and her new partner were doing to me. When I was eight I moved to live with my aunt and uncle. They were very protective of me and as a small child tried to fit in there. They had two sons, both much older than me. The younger of the two was, and has always been, incredibly kind to me through thick and thin. The elder resented me becoming a member of the family right from the start even though he was 12 years older than me --an adult, I guess.
When I was about 12-13 years old he started to have sex with women in front of me in my bedroom. Even though the room was directly above my parent's they never mentioned it to me. This went on until I was around 16 when he moved out and married. I moved away when I was 18 and began a university degree. At that time I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of bettering myself - I realized later that I wanted to prove something to everyone else that I was able to get away from that life, it wasn't really for myself at all.
Just before my finals when I was 21 my grandparents died, within 2 weeks of each other. My world went to pieces and my clinical depression, which I had been diagnosed as having when I was 16, became overwhelming. I felt so alone, especially when my aunt refused to listen to me when I told her I couldn't cope any more. I went through many years of psychiatric treatment, psychotherapy, counseling, and finally, after a major crisis last year, found that there was some happiness in the world. I realize this sound a bit melodramatic, but I felt as if had spent 27 years of misery.
I have a very good job, a very understanding partner, and a house of my own. I know that I have done well for myself in a materialistic way. However, in the past year, even though I have started to feel better in myself, I have had to deal with so many deaths. It has also stirred my memories of other people who have left me in one way or another.
When I was 13 a very good friend committed suicide and when I was 22 another friend died of throat cancer. This year I have gone to 6 funerals and have to go to another one this week. I can't help thinking that if it weren't for me so many people would have had happier lives, and it has got to the point where I am wondering whether or not the things that are happening to me and the people I know would stop if I weren't here.
I have not got to the suicidal point yet - I have tried that so often in the past when I was so chronically depressed. I don't feel that I am not at that stage yet, but worry that I am heading that way again.
I think that the main problem is that I have always worried about people leaving me as I have been so disappointed by people in the past. I am becoming obsessed about the people who I do care about and who care about me. Thank you very much for listening to what I have to say.
Thank you for submitting your question. I feel that your concerns are valid for me to address even though you are not 'officially' adopted. The fact you were not raised by your biological parents most likely led you to have very similar issues that are common with adoption issues. First of all, I want you to erase your beliefs that the bad things that are happening to you and the people you know and love would stop if you weren't here. These thoughts are dangerous and will only perpetuate your depression. It is clear from what you described that many people have abandoned you in your life. And with each abandonment, be it physical abandonment by your father, emotional abandonment by your mother and stepfather, it appears as if you have been taking it personally.
When you were a child at that age of five and your father left, that wasn't your fault. You had nothing to do with that. You didn't cause your father to leave your mother. That was a decision he made on his own. When your stepfather who didn't take kindly to you starting beating you and locking you in cupboards for hours at a time, it wasn't because of anything you did or didn't do. Your 'elder' cousin who resented you and ended up having sex in front of you had his own problems and you are not to blame. Nobody can answer why these things happened to you, but they did. And you reaction to life following your less than favorable childhood is perfectly understandable.
The following are issues that many adoptees, and people who have been abandoned, face: substance abuse, failed relationships, inability to bond, under achievement, over achievement, depression, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, and self-blame. "If only I were different" is a common remark from adoptees, especially adoptees that were raised in abusive homes like you were. Subsequently, I see you in many of these areas. You felt like you had to prove that you were O.K. by excelling in academics, your became an over achiever in materialistic ways, you have periods of feeling suicidal and were diagnosed with clinical depression, and you carry an excessive amount of self-blame. I get the impression that no matter how happy you are with your partner, and no matter how great your job or house is, it simply isn't enough. Material things are pleasant to have in life but it does not take away the emotional pain that you are feeling inside. There is an expression that I subscribe to and that is, 'happiness is an inside job'. In the meantime, each death is a reminder of all the loss you have had in your life, each loss is a reminder of how your father left, your stepfather disliked you, and how your cousin abused you.
I am very concerned about you. You say that you are not suicidal at this point but you have been in the past. And even though you have been through counseling over that past few years, I feel that it would benefit you to talk to someone on a regular basis. I can give you ideas on how to let go of the past, but it sounds to me like you need to develop a relationship with a therapist or other professional that you really trust. And the more you let that person in, the more healing will come to you.
Please try to remember that you are not in charge of how happy or unhappy other people's lives are. Abandonment is a deep issue for you and the only way for you to lessen your fear of it is to become your own best friend. Be good to yourself, trust those who have proven that they are trustworthy, and let go of the relationships that aren't fulfilling to you. Life is too short to be worrying about who is going to leave you next. Given your history, it is understandable for you to feel as you do.
But remember that people can always tell when you are worried about them leaving you. Try not to put any undo pressure of your loved ones. Let them love you and love them back in your own precious way. When you start to feel as if they are going to leave you or that the world would be a better place without you, try telling yourself positive affirmations. Remind yourself on a daily basis that you have a right to be here and you are a valuable member of society. I do not know you personally, but I can say without reservation that the world be at a loss if you weren't here. All human beings are important and crucial members of society.
This question was answered by Kasey Hamner. Kasey Hamner has a Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology, a Masters of Science degree in Counseling, a Pupil Personnel Services Credential authorizing her services as a School Psychologist, and is a Licensed Educational Psychologist. She specializes in adoption related issues including search and reunion, abandonment, self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, and relationship difficulties. Also amongst her specialties are children's issues including adoption, abandonment, ADD, special education and so on. Her approach is eclectic and is adapted to suit the individual's needs.