I'm a gifted adult survivor of child abuse by my adopted parents, who left me with chronic depression, PTSD, and a touch of autism for good measure. Here I examine the fragments of my past. It's enlightening but not pleasant. You've been warned.

If you want to see my lighter sides, here's a list of my other blogs:

We Have Always Lived in a Homeschool my blog about homeschooling my three gifted children

Lioness' Fandom

My Pinterest Boards where I express myself without words

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Adoption Story Part 1

My adoption story is really the life story of my adopted mother.  She was born in rural Mississippi during the Depression.  Her mother was a flirtatious Southern belle who married a prosperous, elderly cabinetmaker with children from his previous marriage who were older than she was.  Shortly after the wedding his new wife announced that she was pregnant.  Her husband was furious with her.  They had no other children, and her husband died when my adopted mother was about six or seven.

A-mom had issues.  She also managed to not inherit either her mother's people skills or her father's crafting skills.  The former she valued, the latter she loathed; thus setting her up with a lifelong envy of social people and a lifelong hatred of creative people.

But if she couldn't be a Queen Bee herself, she could make herself valuable to a Queen Bee.  According to her own stories, she and the other well-to-do little girl in her class bullied everyone in their elementary school.  Mom was the Enforcer to the other girl's Queen Bee, a role she would go on to play for the rest of her life.

(That Queen Bee dumped her for a Sugar Daddy as soon as she could, and only coarsened my a-mom's opinion of other women.)

A-mom graduated a year early thanks to summer school (she hated classrooms) and married an Air Force pilot named Pierre.  She found out she was infertile, ostensibly thanks to malnutrition but that doesn't seem to fit the evidence.  Circumstantial evidence (I'll talk about it later) points to them trying to adopt through Catholic Charities, and Catholic Charities rejecting Mom as being unsuitable to parent.  They divorced shortly thereafter.

In the late 1950s in the South, a divorce was little different from a death sentence on the social scene.  So when she met my also recently-divorced adopted father-to-be, they married quickly.  Actually they eloped on Christmas Eve; were married in the office of the church, not the chapel; and took their own wedding photo by placing the camera on the table in the honeymoon hotel room while they sat nervously holding hands on the bed.  It was just as awkward as you imagine.

My adopted father was a bookish railroad representative who liked to spend his spare time reading and crafting things.  They soon realized they didn't really belong together, but neither could take the social stigma of a second divorce.  In the early 1960s one divorce might be blamed on the other spouse, but two divorces meant there was something wrong with you.  Neither could stand that thought directed at them.

But a socially acceptable sham marriage needed real offspring, and that's where I came in.  I was adopted, well purchased really, to complete "the set", in the same way people of that day would buy a matching armchair to go with the rest of the furniture in the living room and complete "the look".  My adopted younger sister, purchased 2 1/2 years later, was the optional accessory that was supposed to make the look "soar", more ottoman than armchair.

That's enough for now.

My Adoption Story Part 2:  Cindy

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Morning Before Halloween, 2013

Last week was absolutely devastating.  I wandered around lost in a haze of pain fighting an impulse to tear out my heart just so it would finally stop hurting.

This Monday morning isn't so bad.  The pain is down and the energy is up.  We'll see if this condition lasts more than an hour.

This week's adoption-related To-Do List:  a writing assignment from my therapist (the peril of working with a former teacher -- you get homework), and researching ways to minimize the pain of reunion.  Reunion has always been too scary to contemplate.  Why tear open all those old wounds in yourself and other people?  Why be the immediate instigator of all that terrible anguish?  I'm not some silly child who thinks it's all going to be flowers and butterflies and the pony she didn't get when she was ten.  I'm an adult, and I know it's going to hurt me and my birth family like the literal definition of Hell.  So before traipsing into the unknown, I'd like to find out some more about protection.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goodbye Ground, Hello Freefall

Several years ago I got out my birth paperwork, realized I was too traumatized to deal with it, and I haven't dared look at it since.  Seriously, that lying piece of legal shit that said I was the actual daughter of my abusers -- I have never, ever hated anything in my life as much as I hated that piece of paper.  I couldn't stand to touch it, even to look at it clearly.

There was another form with my altered birth certificate, a name change form from the Christian charity that handled me before my adoption.  It changed my name from "Angel" to the name my adoptive parents gave me.  I thought, "Eh, generic Christian placeholder name so they didn't have to write down 'Baby Doe'."

Only now I've talked to another adoptee who came through that same charity who says that's not how they operated.  Apparently they did try to get a name from the birthmother.

That's the most devastating thing I've heard in my life.  I'm used to being abused and abandoned.  I can take that.

I can't take this kindness.  I can't stop crying.

Paul Sunderland Lectures on the Neurological Effects of Adoption Trauma

A British addiction counselor talks about the characteristics of his adoptee clients.  Wow.  While I somehow dodged the bullet on addictions (except to science fiction and comic books, read Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for more about that) the rest of it fits only too well.

I especially like his emphasis that in this case a life-threatening trauma happens at such a young age that there's no pre-trauma personality to draw on and no cognitive thinking to mitigate it.  I've had so many people tell me, "Why don't you just calm down and get back to normal?" without understanding that there is no normal for me to return to.

ETA:  the video doesn't always pull up as fast as I'd like, so here's the direct link

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Two Generations of Adoptions, Two Generations of Secrets

I come from a second generation adopted family.  I was adopted, my sister was adopted, my father was adopted, and his sister was adopted.  All were closed adoptions outside any family connection, and my sister and I were private adoptions, so there was absolutely no oversight.

My sister and I were given some basic, non-medical information about our birth parents' ethnicity (French/English and Welsh) and circumstances.  We were told that our father and his sister had been given such information as well (Black Irish and Native American), but when we asked them about their backgrounds, they became defensive and denied knowing anything.  It discouraged us from looking any further into our own backgrounds as children, not openly but by example.

Both my adoptive mother and my adoptive paternal grandmother were infertile.  The story was that their condition was caused by malnutrition but even as a child I had problems with that explanation.  Neither woman showed any of the physical signs of an adult who was severely malnourished as a child, nor were there childhood stories full of tales of privation.  While their families weren't rich, they were well-off by rural standards.  My mother did grow up during the Great Depression, but her stories were always about how she had more food and better clothes than her classmates.

(Always.  Mom was nothing if not class conscious.)

Theses days I suspect a different cause.  According to recent findings,several studies have shown that women presenting with a history of infertility have a higher than expected rate of sexual abuse in childhood.   That finding makes a lot of rather gory anatomical sense.  Unfortunately, for various reasons the profile of adult victims of childhood sexual abuse fits my adoptive mother and adoptive paternal grandmother far better than the profile of childhood malnutrition.  I doubt I'll ever know the truth though.

Given the frightening ease with which patterns of child abuse replicate themselves in families I would personally send every woman who wanted to adopt due to infertility to be screened for childhood abuse issues and if necessary sent to counseling first, with frequent checkups later.  Seems like that would only be common sense.

Yeah, right.  Like that's going to happen.  Adoption is a ten billion dollar/year business.  I doubt it's providers are going to let common sense get in the way of their paychecks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Family History

I'm going to talk about my adopted family in upcoming posts.  I can't say much about my sister though, as I don't have her permission.  I haven't been able to reach her in five years, and I don't even know if she's still alive.

Friday, October 11, 2013

On Searching, Anger, and Closure

I get asked how I feel about aspects of my adoption, but thanks to my PTSD I'm not in touch with my feelings about anything that happened in my childhood.  Those feelings are locked down tight and I don't have the key.  People compliment me on my calmness is talking about these issues.  I'm not calm, I'm numb.  Here's a short FAQ though.

Do you want to search for your birthparents?

I don't know.  I'm working on a longer post about the ethics of this issue, but the short answer is that I'm not sure it's the right thing to do.  They gave me life, and I'm pretty sure they gave me up in good faith believing I would be sent to a loving home.  I can't see the agency telling them, "We giving your baby to abusive bullies", can you?  So if I did get in touch with them, I would be intentionally bringing them news that's going to hurt them, and they've never intentionally done anything to hurt me.  That seems like a rotten thing to do.

 Are you angry at your birthmother?

I don't really know because I'm not in touch with my feelings on this issue.  I'm angry at the intermediaries, but from what I know she seems as much of a victim of fraud as I was.  I suppose I'm probably a little angry at her for getting us into this situation in the first place, but I don't know what other options she had at the time.

Do you want closure?

No, on the contrary I want commencement.  Right now I've got the false closure that comes from stuffing these issues in a locked box and trying to walk away from them and "get on with my life".  That only works in the short term.  I greatly suspect that I'm going to have to crowbar the lock, wave away the dustcloud, haul everything out for a good cleaning, and then put it back in some sort of order before I can even begin to decide if I want closure or not.

(Have I mentioned I hate cleaning?)

I greatly suspect "closure" is an illusion.  Oh, and "comfortably numb" isn't comfortable at all.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Link Roundup

I've talked about my childhood periodically in my other blogs.  Here's the links:

Our Journey to Homeschooling has a bit about my school days

Schlumping Into the 21st Century getting uninvited to my sister's wedding

Fairy Tale our courtship

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...oh, crap The first time I blog about adoptee abuse and the resulting mental illnesses. 

Depression Toolkit

Christmas With Mom 2005 

When Hell Came to Our Home MegaPost Remember that time DHS tried to steal the kids and have me institutionalized?

Past vs Present The first time I managed to write with any depth about my childhood abuse.

The Terror of Peace and Quiet my first attempt at blogging about PTSD

Three Kids, a Spouse Who Teaches, and Another School Massacre Newton

 Reassessing VideoGames  


I Think I Just Won My Nerd Merit Badge

Adoptee Abuse, i.e. You Know That Thing We're Supposed to Never Talk About?  Let's Talk About That.  The post that inspired this blog.

PTSD Primer

You know, messing with layouts is such a great way to waste time....

In talking about my experience as an abused adoptee I'm going to talk a lot about PTSD's influence on my life.  Not a many people understand PTSD, so this is a
primer on how it works.  At least how it works in my life.  It may not work the same in other people's lives.

PTSD starts when a much weaker person is confronted by a life-threatening monster, or the equivalent of a life-threatening monster.  That person fears for their
life, and with reason.  What happens next?

There are some people who, for whatever reason, just don't get scared in the first place.

There's the people who get scared and fight their way through their fear.  For Doctor Who fans, the quintessential example of this is Sarah Jane Smith.  Over the years (hell, decades) Liz Sladen taught a master class on how to portray a woman who was scared shitless but never witless.

Then there's the scream queens.  Danger appears, they get scared and scream for help, I guess trying to call on the first two groups.  I confess that when I was a little girl I found scream queens completely bewildering.  Why on Earth did they think anyone was going to come rescue them?

Why did they think anyone cared?

Then there's us, the people with PTSD.  The monster threatens our lives, we get scared.  But we don't scream or fight our way through our fear.  Instead we shove our fear in a box (think the Ghostbusters' containment unit or Pandora's box), lock it, stamp "Do Not Open" across it, and deal with the monster.  For Doctor Who fans, I suspect the Seventh Doctor's Companion Ace fit into this camp, although I haven't seen enough of her episodes to say for sure.

What's the difference between the second group and the fourth group, you ask.  Don't both groups deal with their fears and get past them?  Not exactly.  The second group faces their fears.  People with PTSD don't face their fears, they just shove them out of the way.

How's that work?  I can't speak for everyone with PTSD, but in my life PTSD is a very mechanical process.  It works like an overflow tank separating me from dangerous emotions.

Overflow tanks are useful devices.  There's a little one in your hot water heater, another in your car, and they often build huge ones in flood-prone areas.  When the water (or other fluid) in a hydraulic system gets past a certain point deemed "too high" and threatens to flood, the overflow tank opens and shunts excess water safely out of the way.  Then when the water outside goes down to a "safe" level, the overflow tank opens again and the excess water flows back into the general system.

With PTSD it works the same way only instead of water" it's "adrenaline" and "fear".  A dangerous situation arises, and adrenaline and fear rise in the body.  Once the adrenaline level gets past the "danger" point, the brain automatically shunts the fear you're feeling into the overflow tank.  There it stays until the adrenaline level lowers to the "safe" point, at which time the overflow tank opens and spills the fear back into your general system.

It all happens automatically and subconsciously, without you ever having to think about it or even know what's going on.  And, here's the kicker, it never stops.


Even decades after you've stopped needing it, it's still there chugging along.

Here's a real-life example:  some calamity occurred one evening before supper.  I dealt with it, cleaned up the mess, cooked supper, got everyone to the table,
put down the last dish, sat down -- and burst into tears long after the actual calamity took place, because it was only when I had everyone sitting down to eat that my subconscious deemed it "safe" enough.

And this happens all the time.

But I hope you spotted the flaw in this stopgap system.  When the adreneline level goes down, the fear comes out.  That means you can game the system.  If you never let your adrenaline level go down, you never have to feel fear!  That's great!

(For Doctor Who fans, I suspect that's the reason for Ace's legendary belligerence.)

Except -- what happens to an overflow tank that never gets to drain?  It starts leaking.

And what happens to a person with PTSD who keeps all their fears locked up in their tank?  It starts leaking.

But what's locked up inside your head isn't water.  It's fear.  Caging fear only makes it grow stronger.

And the longer it's caged, the stronger it grows.  So while it's vitally important for people with PTSD to chill out and relax their adrenaline level, it's also the absolutely no-lie scariest thing in the world for them to do.  It's easy to fight monsters at that point, because the monsters outside are always less scary than the Monster Army beating on the doors inside your head.

Anyway, in my case at least PTSD works in a way that is analogous to a simple mechanical process.  I'm glad I understand that -- now.  But I only figured that out
six years ago.  Before that I spent my entire life either completely numb or battered by devastating random bouts of negative moods, and I didn't have a clue what was going on.

For example, the year after I married my wonderful husband I was without question the happiest and safest I had ever been in my life up to that point.  Yet I
spent my newlywed year racked by nightmares and sudden, intense, random bouts of inconsolable weeping and sensory overload when we were alone in our home.
We know now it was trauma from my childhood seeping out, but at the time we had no idea what was going on.  It went away after about a year, much to our relief, but in an earlier age I could easily have been deemed possessed.

PTSD has a way of robbing you of joy.

While PTSD was first diagnosed in soldiers, it also appears in rape survivors and child abuse survivors. But most of the studies and metaphors associated with PTSD are still martial.  But now you know enough to understand what I mean when I talk about PTSD in later posts.

Just one more thing.  I developed PTSD at such a young age that I can't remember ever not having PTSD.  I can't remember ever feeling spontaneous and synchronous emotions.  So it's not a case of being able to what I felt like before I had PTSD and tryingto get that feeling back.  It's not there.

Anyway, that's enough background on that topic fornow.  See you later.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


I've been on the internet 15 years now (time flies when you're having fun) talking about all kinds of things, but it's always been hard for me to talk about my abusive childhood.  Even harder, make that virtually impossible, is talking about the fact that my abusive parents adopted me.  That one hurts like Hell just thinking about it.

I could talk about the conditions it left me with, the chronic depression, the PTSD, the newly-diagnosed (but long suspected) touch of autism.  But talking in any sort of detail about the circumstances that left with those conditions is another story.

But at the beginning of this summer the containment field around my long-suppressed childhood emotions began breaking down, and the demons started sneaking out of Pandora's box.  Now I hurt all the time, with a heartache that oscillates but never leaves.  There's no point in not talking about the pain now as it's not going to go away anytime soon, so I might as well blog about it.

This subject is painful and unpleasant, and not everyone wants to read about it, so I've created a separate blog just for it.  If you'd rather just read my other blogs I'll understand.

But if you're coming along for the ride, thanks.

Construction in progress

Come back later.