Interview by Karen Pickell from Lost Daughters

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2015

We Are Not Our Story:

An Interview with Author and Adoptee Claire Hitchon by Karen Pickell from http://www.lostdaughters.com
I recently reviewed Claire Hitchon’s latest memoir, The Wall of Secrets, in addition to its predecessor, Finding Heart Horse (you can read those reviews here). Claire’s life has been affected by adoption in profound ways, and I thought she might be able to give important insight to those of us who continue to struggle with processing trauma from our own adoptions.

I am grateful to Claire for the open and honest answers she’s given to my questions on difficult topics. There is encouragement here for all of us. It is soothing to hear Claire’s words.

How did you become comfortable talking about the difficult circumstances of your childhood and adoption? What types of reactions have you received from others, both inside and outside of the adoption community?

I survived by disassociating at a young age from the pain of abuse, rapes, and street life. The Wall of Secrets was a real wall in my parents’ library. I carried it in my mind until my adoptive mother passed away and I found my biological family in 2003. I could relay my story to anyone and not feel anything, until then…then the drawers started flying open and my worst nightmare became real.

It wasn’t until I began to write that I actually crawled into the places that hurt the most. I relived each and every secret. It was the most painful journey I’ve ever experienced. It was as if, once I found my birth mother the secrets had to be hauled out, one by one. I was already fragmented from reunion and all the secrets had to be dealt with in order to become whole and healthy. I went into seclusion, exhausted and physically ill. There were many times I wondered if I would ever reach the other side.

Each rewrite became a bit less traumatic and finally, the parts I had disassociated from were spread out in front of me in words, including the primal wound of adoption. Only then could I speak freely and without hesitation knowing I had dealt with, processed, and accepted all of it. The story that had been inside me, poisoning me, was now nothing more than words between the covers of books. I was no longer my story.

I’ve received various reactions, more positive than negative. You’re in a place of complete vulnerability when you share a story such as mine. I decided those that judged were not the people I wanted in my life anyway. Reactions have been from absolute horror and shock and being told, “Things like that are best left untold” from an older woman at a book reading, to tears of gratitude and validation that one is not alone. I’ve had women of my generation open up about their experiences with narcissistic, mentally ill mothers, comments from young adults about finding hope, to people unable to listen or read as it is a trigger, a piece of their pain not yet processed.
Have you connected with other adoptees who also experienced abuse in their adoptive homes? If so, have you discovered any commonalities in how adoptees who have been abused process that trauma throughout their lives?

I’ve been able to connect with others in various settings. I was an RN in psychiatry for over twenty years and many histories of patients held the secret of adoption in them. Most of us survive by disassociation from abuse suffered at the hands that were supposed to care for and love us. We tend to self-medicate when we get older with alcohol or drugs, not realizing the core issues of our pain. A disconnect keeps us from being re-traumatized or even loved. We live from a fear-based place. I’ve seen some that act out and then there are those of us who crawl up inside and just go on, carrying the pain until we are ready to look at it, if ever. There is a need for search even if it doesn’t lead to reunion for most of us to face our initial trauma, the primal wound. All adoptees begin with the initial trauma of loss. You can come from an adoptive family full of love and still experience similar issues; the abuse is just another layer to dig through.
As an adult, you cared for your adoptive mother for many years until she died, which seems remarkably compassionate considering her treatment of you. How were you able to reconcile your complex feelings toward your mother during that time?

I held on to the hope that things might change for many years. We all want our mothers to love us, adopted or birth. I realized nothing was going to change so I had to find a way to care for her without destroying myself. I had to work and I had a daughter to raise. I was a practicing Buddhist, yet finding compassion for her as my mother was beyond my abilities then. I had to look at her as a psychiatric patient, nothing more, just an ill person needing my care. I was an only child, there wasn’t anyone else, my father had died years before. I felt an obligation as one human to another. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to find forgiveness and also compassion for her.
Did you receive an explanation from your birth mother about why she relinquished you for adoption? If so, were you satisfied with her explanation?
Claire Hitchon
No, unfortunately my birth mother was quite ill and also emotionally detached when I met her. My understanding is that her mother insisted she give me away. This was in the early 1950s. She was twenty-five years old, not a young girl. She went on and had two more girls and a boy and kept them. Her mother even moved in with them to help. I have no words.
In The Wall of Secrets, you discover that your birth mother had two other daughters. What is your relationship with your sisters today? Have you been able to develop a close connection with them?

Yes, she also had a son. The two sisters and I share the same father although she wasn’t married at the time. I grew up, as I mentioned, an only child. To find siblings was beyond my wildest dreams. So many synchronicities and similarities we immediately connected. (This is so very painful to even think about.) Unfortunately, trying to integrate into a family after fifty years of absence is difficult. I looked at reunion as a chance for the whole family to heal and grow together. I found my birth mother and lost her. I found my family and now they are lost as well. The second and third rejection only magnifies the pain and loss of not growing up with them. Adoption affects everyone. History won.
What advice would you give to other adoptees who have experienced abuse or disconnection from their adoptive families? What has been most helpful to you in coping with and recovering from the trauma of your early years?

Understanding that it wasn’t your fault is huge. To know that all babies are born innately pure and none of us deserved the pain handed down from generations past. As adults, we have to take responsibility for re-parenting our inner child, healing the wounds and discovering that we are not our story. We have to break the cycle for our children. You must clear your life of toxicity no matter who it is. Leave the negativity behind and create the life you deserve. One filled with love and acceptance of self.

Thank you Karen Pickle from the amazing website http://www.lostdaughters.com for this interview.

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CARPE DIEM

We each have a finite number of heartbeats, a finite amount of time.  But we have enough heartbeats and enough time to do what is important in our lives.

Susan L Taylor

“THAT DAY” is over…Valentines Day of course.  For those of us alone, depressed, adopted, abandoned, abused, lost… it’s a day we hide from. Who wants reminding that they are any of the above let alone not loved?  Not me, that’s for sure.

CARPE DIEM-SEIZE THE DAY

This saying contradicts what i just said above doesn’t it.  What if we really are and just didn’t know it, couldn’t feel it, couldn’t believe it…what if?

I know it’s a big what if for most of us who have experience with the underbelly of life..but why not try..just for today..to believe it? Myself included.

Byron Katie says that the truth is, that our mattering is innate….no one or nothing can make us matter and no one can take it away.

Is it true?

This is one of her questions of inquiry which I use often.  If this is true, how much time have we lost in feeling like we don’t matter, like we aren’t loved.  Each moment that goes by that we feel like we don’t matter is a moment lost forever.

Ask yourselves..why would we be not loved, why wouldn’t we matter?  I know it’s not easy, far from it.  Our wounds go deep, the pain unbearable, yet underneath all of that lies our perfect buddha self.  Nothing external can bring us the feelings of “mattering or being loved”. Our willingness to dig deep enough to uncover the beauty within, along with the discovery of our strength and courage will allow our vulnerability to shine.

 Just do it.

Seize the day, the hour, the moment.

Activate your warrior energy, the fire within your heart.  Don’t wait until tomorrow because tomorrow might never show up.  Put aside the excuses and do the work.  You do matter,  You are loved.  Someone told me that today and I said I would sit with the words until I believed them. Thank you.  I will…until…

In fact, perhaps I’ll keep THE WALL around and fill it with moments of love and  mattering.  Moments of belonging and wonderment, that after six decades, I too, am worthy of what many take for granted…LOVE & MATTERING

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Are You Starving?

Feeding The Soul

How many of you are surrounded by “things”?  Your space choked by the latest technology, the latest appliances, toys….. surrounding you, reaching out, trying to entice you to spend your days wandering around without specific purpose.

I know myself, as I sit with my morning coffee, catching up on the latest news feed, fb pictures, important posts, I look up and at least two hours has  vanished and my coffee is cold.

It’s November: Adoption Awareness Month, with all the awareness that this brings.  The gift that keeps on giving but never fills the empty spaces, the hunger and longing, the starving for connection and love.

It’s November:  Stores already have their Christmas displays out.  The latest toys flashing on the tv screens winning over children with the “I wants”.  The people already rushing about, pushing, shoving hoping to fill the hole where the hunger causes growling and rumbling pains.

It’s November:  The month that I receive with love and eagerness my first GrandOne.  I remember well, when I first looked into my daughters eyes at birth and saw for the first time a genetic connection, a love so profound I still have no words.  For the first time in my life, I felt full.

Each of these November events bring different types of hunger, values, desires.  Our insistent soul demands these agendas: transcendence, transformation, connection.

What I find interesting is that If, and only If….we find ourselves living in a mythological system where the energy of the images of our tribe, our family or culture in fact changes us, lifts us, connects us, then something abstract, contrived, and trivial like money loses its charm.

We are not hungry…..

But….while money is necessary, money for the sake of money, things for the sake of things, while seemingly so urgently relevant, leaves me wondering if it’s because millions of us are not able to experience effective spiritual lives.

Soul

The literal translation of the word soul is a Greek word psyche.

 It’s a word, a metaphor to describe what we consider to be our essence.  It is the energy that blows through us, that enters us at birth, animates our journey and then departs, at our passing.

When life is lived in accord with psyche’s intent, we experience inner harmony, supportive energy, connection and our lives become meaningful.

If the external things in fact fed our soul, we would not be so hungry all the time.  If they linked us to other realms, connected us in compelling ways to our tribe we would not have hunger pains.

We are affluent, yet starving….

A few years ago, before I became so ill, I spent time with the Hill Tribes in Northern Lao.  People who lived as it was, centuries ago.  Straw Houses on stilts, coffins built when a babe was born because life span was 35yrs.  The children had no toys, no clothes, no healthcare.  Babies were having babies,  Food was what you had around you.

And yet, I have never met such full, connected, loving beings in all my travels.  Lao, being a Buddhist Country was built on a foundation of inner, soul, heartfelt spirituality.

 To us, it appeared they had nothing.  In reality, they had everything.

Soul, Hunger, Loss, Love, Belonging, Tribe, Adoption, Pain

I think of these things a great deal.  As an adoptee I have a broken place in my heart that leaves me with hunger pains beyond description.

My saving grace is that I am filled with spirit, my soul is full, my heart open.

November

A good time to review what’s really important in our daily diet.  A time to reflect on what makes you hungry and what feeds your soul.

Loss…..When Your Heart Is Breaking

IMG_1488“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

Rumi

I believe that.  I’ve been witness to the magic of allowing yourself to believe.  Many times over.  In fact, those feathers and many more in my collection are just one sign that someone I loved dearly is close by.  How precious is that?  To know you never lose the ones you love.

Many of us, myself included have experienced Loss and Grief recently.  It comes along when you least expect it and grabs your heart and twists it wringing out the tears leaving you raw and open.

As a former RN I believe in the Kubler Ross grief cycle.  Not only for the loss of a loved one but for any loss.  For those of us with Mast Cell Disease, Cancer, EDS, any type of debilitating illness or injury.  Your life changes and with that..you experience loss of many kinds.

We all experience grief in our own way.  It may come in waves and toss us around like tiny birds on an angry ocean.  Or perhaps it sits there, hidden until something triggers it and then it grabs our mind and heart squeezing until the tears are forced out.

According to Keubler Ross the five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally acceptance.  Not in any particular order, perhaps jumping back and forth for however long it takes to get to acceptance and peace.

As a Buddhist I believe in Death and Impermanence of Life.  It’s part of the natural part of life, however, death is not the end of life.  It’s merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life.  Our spirit remains and seeks out new life.

When we come to the last moment of this lifetime,and we look back across it, the only thing that’s going to matter is,

“What was the quality of our Love?”

Richard Bach

As adoptees we arrive in this world already burdened with the unbearable loss of our mother.  We spend our lives in a place of darkness and sorrow, sometimes not even recognizing the depth of pain we carry.

It doesn’t matter that you understood that your mother was unable to raise you or she thought she was doing what was best for you, or perhaps too young and under pressure.

 IT DOES NOT MATTER.

She let go.  The whole family let go. They all let go.

“They” will never understand.  “They” were never let go.

It becomes a family of pain.  My Mother shut down.  She carried “the secret” inside her tortured heart for years.  My heart goes out to her.  The pain must have been unbearable.  I felt it the moment I gave birth to my daughter 36yrs ago.  I looked in her eyes and immediately felt my Mothers pain.

Adoptees never completely heal.  Neither do their Mothers.  After search and reunion even if it goes badly we at least have the potential for growth.  We have a chance to move from the traumatized self to the revitalized and transformed self.

Tomorrow is my Mother’s birthday, five days before mine.  She died a short 9 months after I moved across Canada to get to know her.  I found my Mother and Lost her all in the same breath.  I was so filled with grief and pain from the first loss and the loss at her death my Mast Cells took over my body and sent me into the mast cell abyss from Hell.

Her family will grieve for her.  They will reminisce with each other of the memories that holds them together as a family.  I will grieve for the loss of what could have been.  For the loss of heritage, genetic markers, memories that bind, love that stays, family that never was.  It never goes away, this grief.

To all of us in the past weeks that have experienced loss,

I dedicate this blog to you and those we have lost.

Look around you…notice the small things..the wind blowing softly past your ear.  The butterfly sitting on a flower.  The soft rain hitting window panes.  The brilliant red leaf as it flutters slowly from the tree.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

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Who Do You Trust?

“I’m not upset that you lied to me,

I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

Do you honestly love yourself?

Maya Angelou believes that unless you love yourself, you really can’t be trusted.  She quotes an African Saying which is:

“Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

Because of relinquishment, trust is difficult for adoptees.  I know everyone experiences trust issues over their lifetime and most are able to repair the damage.  With adoptees, that first betrayal never leaves.  On top of that you have no genetic markers, no history.  In my childhood I wasn’t able to trust my adoptive parents, and running away experiencing life on the streets as I describe in Finding Heart Horse certainly didn’t foster trust.

When trust is destroyed at such an early age in adoption, it takes effort and practice to regain. Whether it’s in reunion, or with relationships in general, everyone has an obligation to “show up” while the relationships are forming, sometimes for years depending on what both sides want.  Because of the imprints of distrust on the early neurological system, positive, trusting experiences have to be integrated into the limbic system as well as understood by the neocortex.  Deeply ingrained, biological, neurological.  So important to recognize this.  Continue until…….

Sounds complex,  not really, just takes time and practice and people willing to stay for the journey.

Trust doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry.  Trust means that you can count on the other person to have your best interests at heart.  They don’t have to agree with you, just care about you.  Interestingly, the word trust originated in Scandinavia; akin to Old Norse..traust.  I’m Scandinavian.

In reunion since 2003 when I first heard my biological families’ voices, I’ve experienced the roller coaster that most of us happily jump on, not knowing the psychic chaos it will bring.  I opened my heart for the experience, hesitantly mind you. I trusted.  Something about finding your mother cracks that locked up heart pretty fast.

Unfortunately, every time I started to relax, and trust that I was accepted as part of an already established family, something would happen to fracture the relationships.   Ten years later their lives remain constant, as they were before my appearance and mine has completely changed.  One by one they left.  At the worst times possible, when I was most vulnerable, right after the death of a friend I was “unfriended” for speaking up.  A sister needed to “look after herself”.   Sometime later I was told I wasn’t “ready for a sister relationship” and unfriended by another sister and lastly the trust I had built with my brother was smothered by anger at a time I desperately needed a brothers support.  A statement made in an adoption group that was referring to bio family, not meaning the immediate family, shattered what I thought was family.  How could that be?  I trusted.  History won.  I lost my family.  Would I ever trust again?  How many times can one be rejected and still keep an open heart?

I often think of the “what ifs”.   Had I known what to expect, had I known how physically ill I was then (many of the symptoms such as exhaustion, constant crying, were due to mast cell degranulation), had I been medically treated, had I not pushed myself over the edge energy wise, had we worked as a family to heal,   had I not had my heart broken….had I not found my mother only to lose her…what if…….

Part of trust is respect.  One must respect and love themselves first, then you can love and respect others.  Most of us need to go right back to the basics and learn to love ourselves first.

IMG_3621So how do you build trust? In yourself and in relationships?

You have to know yourself first.  Trust yourself to do the right thing.  Believe in yourself.  Understand that you can survive on your own.   Face your Demons.  Be vulnerable but selective with who you share with.  Acknowledge your accomplishments.  Adoptees need to remember life isn’t black and white!

Resolution is possible.  We need to push through the fear of being hurt again.

Be Honest

Listen to the other side’s feelings without judgement

Let go of the past.  Stay in the now.

Focus on what you want today not next year.

Trust takes time.  Go slowly but go..

Continue on..over and over and over again…until…

You Trust

Being an Almost Daughter…Here’s to all the Motherless Daughters & Sons

I was so sure I would be able to stay away from the computer today.  So sure, so determined.  Here I am, unable to “not write”.  I’m usually pretty good at not letting “special occasions” get to me now.  It’s taken a lot of work and reprogramming of those deep-seated beliefs.

Mother’s Day, of course is a tough one when you haven’t had a mother.

Yet, here I sit.  The Almost Daughter..one of the thousands of Motherless Daughters.

Hope Edelman wrote a book called Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of loss.  She was writing about the death of her mother but the loss applies to those of us who have lost our mothers from birth as well.  We also are motherless daughters in a different sense,  especially if you didn’t have mothering in your adoptive home.

“There is an emptiness inside of me–a void that will never be filled.  

No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does.  There is no love as pure,  unconditional and strong as a mother’s love.

 And I will never be loved that way again.”

Hope Edelman

How does one begin to understand or explain the depth of what it means to have never experienced a mother’s love.  For the last few days my news feed has been inundated with pictures of flowers and dinners and moms and children.  I look at them and smile, happy, that for them, the day holds memories of nurturing and love.

 Inside..deep inside..there is a place that screams of loss, of pain, of not knowing what that feels like.  Of recognition that I will never know.

My adoptive mother never wanted, nor should she have had children.  There was no nurturing there, no love, only the harsh reality of not being wanted which was reinforced daily.

I have great compassion for her now.  She’s been dead for years and I have forgiven.  Of course, none of its forgotten and the wounds still spill out their pain every now and again..like today.

I met my birth mother in 2003 after searching over most of my life.  I was 50 and terrified to meet this woman who gave me away.  It doesn’t matter why you are given up.  The primal wound still exists.  The in utero knowing of “not being wanted” the energetic connection that was severed early, even before I entered the world.

She never saw me.  She never named me.  I never existed.

She lived in my heart and I lived nowhere.

I moved my life across the country to get to know “my family, my mother”.  Life changed forever when I got that first call that there was a family.  A family that had existed all of my life but without me.

Thirty years before that, I had found a cousin.  Everyone knew I was looking except my siblings who never knew I existed.  I often wonder if we had the fortune of meeting then, would things be different?

Our kids could have grown up together.  We could have grown up together.  It would have been 30 yrs less of secrets and lies.  Would we have been able to heal at a younger age?  Would my mother have loved me then?  Would she have been able to mother me then?  So many would haves, should haves, could haves.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe things happen for a reason and I suppose the time wasn’t right…but then when is it right?

There is never a right time to expose  a secret for the one who holds it close.

I will never get over the loss.  I try to embrace the tiny bits that emerged to connect us.  She loved horses and of course Finding Heart Horse describes my passion for horses and my search for my Heart Horse.  We both had a standard uniform of white shirt and blue jeans.  The first time I saw her picture I was speechless.  It was like staring in a mirror.  Never before had I seen myself reflected back so vividly, so genetically.  My daughter was my first biological connection.  I can look at our pictures now and see the resemblance but for the longest time I didn’t know what “I” looked liked so couldn’t see me, in her.

The Almost Daughter: not wanted in my adopted family, they wanted a boy

The Almost Daughter: my real mother died 9 months after I moved across the country to get to know her.  On this day, mothers day, 8 yrs ago.  I never got to be mothered.  I never had the chance to be her daughter, nor she my mother.

As I’m writing I understand why I’ve fought so hard NOT to write on this day.  It’s difficult to express authentic emotions in our society.  We tend to push them down and not release them.  We speak in social talk which I’m so not good at anymore, nor do I want to be.  In the adoptee world the social talk is translated into meaningful connections with honest words.  Much has been talked about with the work up to this day.  I thought I could just let the day be a day..

I found my mother and lost her all in the same breath, on this day.  I hold great compassion for her as well.  How terrible to have lived with that “secret” for all of those years.  How painful, what a terrible loss to hide from everyone.

I had to “grow myself”, raise myself in an environment I was never meant to be in.  Even running away at 15 didn’t solve the problem.  I grew up on the streets looking for where I belonged, where my family was, where I fit in.

The Wall of Secrets has finally been submitted and the self publishing process begins again.  Perhaps you will understand me better knowing my journey or perhaps you aren’t really interested, it doesn’t really matter either way.  This journey,  my journey, my healing, is the gift I am able to give to my daughter on this mothers day and that’s all that really matters.

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To all of us..To the Motherless Daughters and Sons of adoption and death I am holding you all in my heart today as we grieve our loss together.

 

Neither Here…nor There

In my last blog about energy I had a picture of the two necklace/pendants I wore at my book signing.  I believe strongly that everything holds energy, is energy and place great faith in my Buddhist Malas that have seen me through many troubled times, as well as the writing of Finding Heart Horse and The Wall of Secrets.

I wrote about the energy of the “horse pendant”, the Stallions, the wild horses that I love so much.  I left the story behind the other pendant until now.

A few months ago Kay Jewellers put out an ad for a new line.  Adoption jewellery …specifically a necklace that would be given to an adoptive mother upon the birth of “the baby”.  It sparked outrage from the adoptee community and was seen as an insult and offensive by many.  It was an idealized memento that failed to acknowledge the trauma, pain and disappointments involved in adoptive situations, never mind the adoptee primal wound trauma and what that leaves us with.

Conversations were bouncing back and forth in forums like boomerangs, some angry, some in disgust, some with disbelief.  Nothing about the ad was right or real.

We have such a brilliant group of people in the adoptee world.  It’s filed with advocates, writers, authors, musicians, therapists, teachers, social workers and…jewellers.

Tracy, from Tracy’s Gem Shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/TracysGemShop designed a brilliant and touching rebuttal pendant.  One that was real and to the point.  This is what I wore at the book signing.

IMG_0906  The Adoption Pendant

It was designed for adoptees or mothers of loss to adoption.  Take a close look.  What you see is a tattered, torn, tarnished heart signifying loss.  The stone is set wrongly into the setting to represent the adoptee never fitting in with the adopted family, birth family and/or world due to the loss of their original identity.  I chose the blue sapphire.   My birth mothers birthday was five days before mine in September.  How painful for both of us.

I had many comments at the book signing about both pendants but mostly about the uniqueness of the broken heart and the fact that adoptees generally feel we are Neither Here, nor There.

A sense of belonging is something I’ve never known.  In Finding Heart Horse you can read the many subcultures I tried to fit in, never quite feeling at home.

hiraeth

(n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past

As an adoptee, you are dropped into a family and expected to take part and act as if you belong..It’s like trying to put a square peg into a round hole..it just doesn’t work.  They know it and the adoptee sure knows it, and yet everyone pretends that it’s all just fine.  This secrecy breeds shame, guilt and a lack of knowing how to fix it.  In my case, certain requirements were to be filled, I was bought and paid for and should perform as requested.  That worked until I became of the age where one begins to develop your inherent biological traits and the desire to find who you really are.  I escaped.

It’s human nature to want to belong, to fit in somewhere. We have been called pseudo-species by some, survivors by others, generally residing just outside the mainstream of human existence.  As a group, we sound like brothers and sisters reminiscing about family.  It’s a private world, a tribe of outsiders holding secrets that bind us together.  Through these tribes, we have a chance at learning who we are.

 Those who have been through reunion know it’s a challenge at the best of times.  Years have been lost, history denied, memories non-existent and still, because finally we have “family” we so strongly want to belong, to fit in, to be part of all that we had lost from the beginning.

Even with a great deal of time and mutual support the reunion process is often misunderstood and challenging.  It’s a slowly evolving process which everyone needs to work at, walk through and heal.  Sometimes, that doesn’t happen.  Feelings need to be acknowledged and accepted on all sides.  No one can be left out.  Each person has been a part of the process in an energetic sense and everyone has to work together to heal.

In my adopted family, I have the history but not genetics.  In my biological family I have the genetics but no history.  My goal was to make memories, find my place among the group and finally belong to a family.  Unfortunately it’s not   that simple.  There is a piece missing.  An undefined, raw, unknown, just like the tarnished, off centre broken heart with the misplaced gem.

Neither Here..nor..There

These are my experiences and mine alone.  Some people find  home and family, some don’t.  Just as regular people in regular families feel they don’t belong, we are all different.  Oh…but I wanted it so badly.  I hung on to hope and prayed nightly, then cried myself to sleep.  That pull, that longing, that hiraeth is a strong force.

What I  discovered as I journeyed into the dark depths of my soul and began digging in the dirt was that unknown to me…I was home already.  Underneath the layers and layers of loss and pain the diamonds lay waiting..all I had to do was dig deep enough, shine them up, breathe and settle into my authentic self.

I AM

I EXIST

I BELONG

Generational Pain – Breaking the Cycle

As I research all things connected to my life journey, such as adoption, PTSD, rape, self-worth, loss..well you know where it’s all going.  The list is long, very long for all of us.  One thing we never think about..in our thinking of our own pain is that we carry generational pain.

When I wrote the last post “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” I wanted to continue in posting how much our thoughts affect all aspects of self, physical, emotional, day-to-day function and more.

We are easily carried away by some overwhelming feeling in any given moment I just want to remind you to see that as an alarm clock of awakening to the idea, that you hooked.  Picture the fishing hook and know you are hooked into believing the thought.  It’s not real.  You are living in a story that doesn’t belong to you if you feel depressed, fearful, unworthy, unlovable.

Before you had that particular thought…were you suffering?  You have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really true.  If you were to hold your hand over a candle…do you wait for a thought to tell you to move it?  No, of course not.  It’s automatic.  The same thing will happen if you ask each time you are suffering because of some thought.  Practice and soon it becomes automatic.

ImageALICE AND CLAIRE HITCHON

Ok, so they are my adoptive family but when I think how much pressure i felt as a child to live up to my namesake I shudder.  She was the first female principal of a High School.  Huge for Women’s Rights back in the day.  While I was not genetically related I experienced generational pain just from being subjected to the daily brainwashing.

When we can think past our own ego and momentary thoughts and reflect on  Generational Pain it creates a gap between ego and others.  Eckhart Tolle explains it in a concrete way in A New Earth when he speaks about “our Pain Body”.  I would encourage anyone suffering with pain to read his description of how we accumulate generations of pain in our body’s and with the least little trigger we explode, experiencing what we think is our pain but is in fact, negative, painful experiences handed down for generations.

Our minds and our bodies contain the blueprint of our heritage.  In Buddhism, the belief is, that seven generations of our ancestors unfinished business is still alive in our cells.  Can you imagine?  Seven generations!  That’s a lot of pain considering the earlier generations weren’t so “into” healing and self work.

This pain is cellular, alive, jumping at the chance to be triggered and allowed to  take over and inhabit our souls, while we sit there, thinking it ours to bear.  If we don’t acknowledge it objectively, it may lead us to fates that do not belong to us.  For years we suffer confusion, anxiety, depression and pass it on unknowingly to the next generation.

For those of us who are dealing with Adoption Trauma, PTSD from rapes, abuse, violence, loss,  the impact is monumental.

It’s not just in Buddhism that this belief stands strong but in Native American, First Nations, African traditions and general psychology beliefs, so it’s time we gave this some serious thought and start breaking the cycles of our past.

 When things are not going right in our immediate life, we need to look deeply at the unmet needs of the past generations and it’s only when we are able to find and shine a light on the pain legacies we’ve been hauling around that we can become free and break the cycle.  Can you think for a moment on the burden you’ve been carrying deep in your bones, in your cells of your nervous system that has survived generations…until you uncover the truths.

When I gave birth to my daughter was the moment I experienced full on, the pain my Birth Mother must have felt as “they” disappeared with her first-born.  Her never having seen me, held me, named me.  Her pain was mine now to carry in that instant.  It was so profoundly clear it rattled me for days.  I couldn’t bear to not have my daughter in my sight and back then, babies were kept in the nursery.  She had to undergo light treatment for jaundice and I parked a chair outside the window and refused to move, much to the nurses angst.  When she cried, I cried.  It broke my heart wide open every time they took her from my arms to return her to the room full of babies.  I thought a great deal about the woman who gave birth to me.  I cried for her a million tears and a piece of my heart became hers because I now understood.

Later, I learned that her father had died when she was a child.  More pain, not just for her but for her mother as well.  The pain, the shame, the raw emotion of everything negative was now mine to carry.  I vowed to break the cycle so my daughter won’t have to carry this burden of suffering.  It’s not easy, as you know because  it’s at a cellular level and needs deep insight and work to unravel the threads of suffering and heal them.

The amazing thing is..

If we do the work.  If we can step outside of ourselves long enough to really see our suffering for what it is.  If we can challenge the beliefs behind our thoughts…If we can honour the unresolved pain legacies of our ancestors instead of viewing with anger..

We can put to rest what is already behind us.  We can break free from the strong arms of the loyalty to suffering and become free.

 Our bodies, our minds will be free, powerful, creative.

 The cycle will be broken.

SHEMPA…..do you have it, do you get it?

There is a concept in Tibetan Buddhism known as “Shempa”.

Shempa, is a place where we are “hooked”.  It’s something that gets under our skin, that works its way into our mind and we find after a while we can’t stop thinking about it and letting it go is difficult.
barblesstreblehook

Shempa’s are little irritants that work away at the mind.  They can, if nourished, become very strong and powerful actually taking over.

A Shempa is an addiction to a way of thinking-a seemingly justified projection.  The Ego speaks first and loudest and is hardest to identify as a “hook”.

Growing up as an adoptee already hardwired for rejection and unworthiness creates many shempa’s.  Some have been huge and have taken years to detach dozens of tentacles.  Like an octopus they wrap around you holding you tight providing a safe and comfortable place to exist.  The smaller ones, the everyday Shempa’s are sometimes amusing if you catch them quick enough and recognize them for what they are worth.

Pema Chodron speaks often of Shempa.  She describes it as the tendency, the urge, the hook that triggers our habitual tendency to close down.  Now if that doesn’t apply to adoptee’s I don’t know what does.

Because we arrive already prewired for certain behaviours our tendency to “get stuck”, experience shempa, be attached to the prewired thoughts is frequent and devastating when we try to live in the “real world”

We grew up trying to fit in to the adopted family, trained in how to be someone other than who we really were.  Remember that feeling I so often mention and point out in my “little girl” pictures?  That tense, withdrawn, self blaming, angry, jealous place….that is Adoptee Shempa.

Those prewired beliefs and emotions lead to actions and words that end up poisoning us.  How many of “us” feel detached, separate, unlovable, unworthy, not belonging.  I would hazard a guess and say 99% of “us”.

Don’t get me wrong, normal people, you are included too.  I know the general population has the same issues and feelings. Yours come with life experience, while ours comes already programmed in the limbic/amygdala systems of our brain.

I have a bumper sticker that reads..You Don’t Always Have to Believe What You Think”.  I read it every day as I get into the car.   An older couple stood staring at it in a parking lot one day and as I approached them the man looks at me while shaking his head and says…”I don’t get it!  Way to deep for me!”  Sometimes, simple is something we complicate.

We are not our stories, nor our thoughts, despite being hardwired to believe it to be so.  Life is uncertain and that breeds fear.  It makes us insecure and leaves an energy of restlessness and slight unease.  Of course, human nature then wants to squash those feelings taking us into addictions or comfort zones of many kinds.

Trauma, PTSD…Adoptees suffer terribly from it and are so easily hooked into numbing the pain and discomfort.  I was.  In Finding Heart Horse you can see the inside life of someone in so much pain I believed without numbing I wouldn’t survive.  I had already disassociated so much in my 15yrs and there was much more to come.  I was hooked.  That was Adoptee Shempa.  I’m free now, but still experience those feelings of distress only I handle them differently.

I think it was when I read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and he was talking about the “pain body” that i fully grasped the depth of my pain.  It was shortly after meeting my birth mother and her subsequent death.  I was beside myself in grief.  Having found my mother, only to lose her was more than I could bear.  I was engulfed in pain.  Generations of pain.  Pain from my maternal generation going back years, all passed down.  I was determined I would break the pattern for my daughters generation.  I would do whatever I had to break the cycle.

We first have to recognize the attachment to thought, or Shempa.  Look outside of ourselves when we are experiencing those moments of anxiety, pain, emotion.

We need to sit with the feeling, not run to hide it or smother it with habit of choice.  Once you can identify the thought, the pattern, the pull of shempa you are able, with practice to stop and not let the habitual patterns control our lives.  Practice, awareness, and more practice eases the discomfort.

We are all so bogged down with the complexity of life as an adoptee when in fact if we could just learn to discuss things just as they are we would give ourselves such freedom.  The process takes time.  Initially, even for those non adopted persons self-absorption is a normal aspect of daily life.  The Ego has taken over. Habitual behaviour is ego-based.  Trying to make our point, running away, disconnecting or trying to fill up the space in our lives with mindless activities is all managed by Ego.

If we can get to a place of objective. clear seeing and understand we don’t have to believe our thoughts…that is where Ego is thrown out and our hearts open, compassion takes the place of self-absorption.  Life becomes easier with less drama.  Peace begins to fill those spaces.

Once you become familiar with your own Shempa..you begin to see it in others.  At the moment they get “hooked” there is no escaping.  All you can do is provide space for yourself and hold your mind in a place of openness.

We, as adoptees have to dig deep to discover the many ways we use these deep-seated belief systems.  We carry such heavy “pain bodies”.  We can also break the cycle so that the generations to follow are lighter, happier, freer .

In a few steps we can learn to interrupt out habitual patterns and those that are so deeply ingrained, we can learn to manage.

Recognize the pattern

Refrain from “going there”

Relax into the feeling

Resolve to keep at it until the pattern is changed..

We can do this

After the Release of Finding Heart Horse

It’s been a couple of weeks now since Finding Heart Horse has been free.  I experience waves of emotion as if I have just given birth and in a sense that’s what releasing a book is.  It’s your word baby, a chronically, a story, a life of it’s own.  For years you nurture it with phrases, favourite words, descriptions, coffee stains, tears and love and then you set it free to live it’s own life.  Terrifying and freeing at the same time.

This past week I have been working with an amazing photographer Nathan Harben putting video and words together to make a video release for Finding Heart Horse.  Robin Toma, another amazing photographer is also contributing and I can’t wait to see the final product.  Video releases are short, usually 1-3minutes in length so everything has to be condensed and the photographer performs his magic and you have a short summary of what you want people to know about your book.

It’s yet another “birth” of sorts.  Another exposure of self that leaves you feeling vulnerable and new and yet energized.  I continue to watch Brene’ Brown video’s and am trying to embrace with courage the vulnerability of my telling my story.

Stay tuned for the video and the Hay House Radio Interview.

I’d like to start a Finding Heart Horse gallery.  When you buy a book send me a picture of you and the book or the surroundings and I will add it to the gallery.  I know, so far it’s being read in Scotland, UK, Canada and the USA…send a picture in to   thealmostdaughter@gmail.com

Finding Heart Horse: A Memoir of Survival
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Have you ever wanted something so badly it was all you could think of? All you could talk about, write about, dream about. Claire did. She wanted a horse. Finding Heart Horse is her journey and her search for her Heart Horse. It takes her from being “the girl most likely to succeed” to a life on …