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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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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Hay House Radio Interview for Finding Heart Horse (I still have free Ebook Stubs to giveaway)

IMG_3394 When you write your story, bear your soul, your heart, your life with the world there is no going back.  Brene Brown says vulnerability=courage.   The more vulnerable you are with others in life the more you become filled with courage.

Most of you know the back story, have watched the video and now will hear the interview.  Yet,  I still feel very vulnerable.  I also am filled with courage.

I’ve worked for days on The Wall of Secrets,

 today the self publishing process has begun.

I still have Ebook stubs to giveaway,  if you are interested drop me a line at thealmostdaughter@gmail.com

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Here is the Hay House Radio Interview..it’s still airing on Bright, New Voices

Living on The Edge

To put it simply, having a Rare Mast Cell Disease sucks big time.

For those of you who aren’t on my Facebook you may have wondered why I haven’t blogged for a while.   Since going to Toronto for my book signing of Finding Heart Horse at the Hay House I Can Do It Conference, I have been hospitalized twice.  Two weeks apart, I headed to the ER in anaphylaxis and unable to breathe.  Along with that I had been light-headed, teary, in terrible bone pain, nauseous with vomiting and diarrhea (at the same time unfortunately).  Add into the mix a sensation of bugs crawling up the back of my neck into my scalp, flushing, chills, so fatigued I could hardly drag my body outside to take my dog out.  The list goes on and on.  You think you can manage it, ignore the symptoms or blame them on something else, such as I was doing, thinking it was my low iron.  Mast Cells play havoc in every organ and system including the brain, tricking you into rationalizing the pain, the fatigue, the dizziness, the tears.  Eventually, the inevitable happens.

It’s difficult for people  to understand because when you see me, except in a major flare I look healthy.  The outside is deceiving.  Inside, my organs are paying a huge price for late discovery and diagnosis due to lack of medical information.  I’m adopted.  That’s a whole blog in itself, about the need for medical information for adoptees.

In Canada, 1 in 12 people live with a diagnosed rare disorder. There are approximately 7,000 types of rare disorders documented in Canada. This translates to nearly 3 million Canadians diagnosed with a rare disorder, one of which is Mastocytosis. These numbers do not include countless Canadians suffering without a diagnosis. To put this in some perspective, our organization is aware of approximately 300 people of all ages in Canada diagnosed with a form of mastocytosis.

Mastocytosis is a rare disorder (or disease). Medical research articles alternate between classifying it as a “disorder” or a “disease”, depending on the researchers’ focus on the various forms or types of mastocytosis. We refer to it as both alternately in an effort to be inclusive for all patients, regardless of type, form, variant or subvariant named within the mastocytosis definitions.

Mastocytosis and Mast Cell Activation syndrome affect all systems, organs and tissues of the body. In particular, skin, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, bones and bone marrow, lungs, gastrointestinal system, eyes and blood are the most documented as adversely impacted by these diseases. Research exists but much more needs to be done to further identify and understand the less studied effects of mast cell disorders on the heart, brain and female reproductive system.
The signs (eg.skin spots, unusual lab test results, etc.) appear due to an over-abundance of mast cells either limited to the skin or internally, or both. The symptoms occur when mast cells are triggered to degranulate. Mast cell degranulation is a normal response of the immune system trying to protect the body. However, these disorders trigger mast cell activation (ie. degranulation) with or without apparent or valid trigger. Things such as foods and drinks, extreme temperatures in water or air, emotional and physical stress – these are only a few examples – can trigger mast cell degranulation for these patients. If the patient has both an over-abundance of mast cells, in addition to having excessively active mast cells (ie. degranulating when they should not), then the symptoms and illness become more severe, prolonged and life threatening.

http://www.mastocytosis.ca   The above description was copied from the Canadian Mastocytosis site.  It has a wealth of information for patients and family members.

http://www.tmsforacure.org/welcome.php   A great site that provides up to date research, support, information for both patients and families.

I don’t want to focus on creating a blog just about my illness but it is part of who/what I am and depending on how stable my mast cells are, it dictates a good part of what I am able to do..even blogging.  I want people to be aware of those around them that may suffer from various invisible illnesses.  There are many, and if you ask your friends, I have no doubt you will find several with the more common ones such as Fibromyalgia or CFIDS.  Understanding “The Spoon Theory”is helpful to those you may have in your life that are ill.

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/navigation/BYDLS-TheSpoonTheory.pdf

There are also many support groups online and on Facebook and I have to say for both mastocytosis and adoption these groups have been my lifeline.  I’ve heard it said that online friends aren’t real…I’m here to tell you they are as real and important as your friend across the street.  After years of communication and coffee by Skype, they are a support system of compassion and knowledge and understanding that is so important when one is isolated and ill or struggling with coming to grips with issues only faced by one that is walking the same walk.

I’m going to include some pictures and then move on to another blog post.  I just wanted you to know, I’ve been thinking about you even while

 Living on The Edge.

IMG_3484IMG_3481IMG_0001I have pages of pictures but you get the idea.  It’s helpful for those of us with rare diseases to chronicle symptoms by photo to help the physicians who aren’t familiar with something unusual.  I also keep a journal with foods eaten and symptoms along with meds taken.

When I go into the hospital, it’s always after using at least 2 epi-pens myself.   The Advanced Life Support medics arrive, as I have a tendency to crash quickly with low O2 sats.  They start the IV’s, usually administer more epinephrine and ventolin along with O2 and benadryl IV.  This last admission, was 12hrs. I was headed for the ICU and intubation, fortunately at the last-minute…. after 10+ 2mg epi-nebules, multiple ventolin treatments and the TMS Protocol, which is IV Benadryl, Solumedrol, Ranitadine, administered twice, my symptoms began to subside.  My O2 sats were running low at 70-80 and when 90 on room air I was allowed to go home.  Recovery time is usually a week or so from one of these episodes.

Life is Living on the Edge.

  Each day is a gift whether you have an illness or not.

 Make the most out of your 24hrs.

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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
WWW.AMAZON.COM

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 …

 

Surviving the Holidays

The Zebra is a symbol for those of us with a Rare Disease but I know it applies to those of us that are adopted as well.

ImageI started out writing another post and just couldn’t get it going because the upcoming holiday is on my mind as it is with so many of us.  Post after post after post is about family and Christmas.  Pictures of beautiful trees, and snowy lights twinkling on the front porch scroll by.  Recipes for the best turkey ever or the gluten free version of Xmas dinner with pictures included leave you drooling over the computer keys.

There’s only one problem.

This is one of the most difficult holidays aside from birthdays of course, for thousands of us who are adopted.  Thank goodness for the internet and people who understand what it feels like to be suspended in animation not belonging in either world of adopted or biological.  So much emotion.  So much sadness expressed when the desires of being part of….don’t come to fruition.

I remember my biological family reunion.  Movies of Christmas’s played with pictures around the tree.  Happy kids tearing open gifts and family around the table.  My absence not even known.  It brought home the loss of what never was and would never be.  Such a place of grief I  had never imagined. I think of those times a lot, not so entrenched in the devastation anymore but acceptance of what never was, what never will be.

Christmas as a child was not something to be remembered with fondness.  I know many of us experienced this.

I just came from getting tubes and tubes of blood taken with a very bubbly technician caught up in the excitement of it all.

 “Aren’t you excited?” she says, grinning as she pokes around for veins.  “Excited for what?” I say, knowing full well what she means.

“Oh, you know…the family coming and the tree and stuff.  I love it all!” she says a tiny snake of blood flowing down the minuscule tube curling down my arm.

“Well,” I said.  “Me..not so much.  I’m just staying quiet.”

She pushes another tube into the socket and smiles in that way we all know is pity and unimaginable to someone so full of life and innocence.

I’ve noticed in my newsfeed that so many of us will be alone.  It really is just one day, I say to myself as I scroll the feed.  But in between the lines of words I feel the pain.  I’ve been there and know the darkness, the feelings of rejection and dismissal, of not being wanted.

The old writer Henry James says:

“There are three important things in human life.  The first is to be kind.

The second, is to be kind.  The third, is to be kind.”

So often, we offer kindness readily to others but find it difficult to be kind to ourselves especially when we are struggling  around holidays.

Being a Zebra and accepting the reality that you are unique, rare, beautiful and interesting can help remove the sadness.

We need to start with ourselves by being present and accepting what is.  We can’t change the past so let “the ghosts” go.  Try to stay present in the moment.

Try Positive phrasing.  Visualize more what you want to be and less what you want to move away from. Positive action and thought is far more powerful than negative.

Recharge.  Some, prefer to be in groups and soak up the energy coming from other beings.  Other’s recharge in quiet environments or nature. Find out what works for you and then do it.

Share your difficulties or volunteer.  Sharing your feelings about the holidays without focusing on specifics may help.  Balancing sharing your “real gifts”, your compassion and understanding not material things with your community.  Volunteer for a shelter, or seniors centre.  It shifts the attention from you to other precious beings and you reconnect with your true nature.

Of course, the usual healthy instructions about eating properly and exercising go along with managing stress at holiday time too.

When you are in a quiet environment, where you feel safe and in peace…enjoy the blissful experience.  Gently touch your wrist or hand and notice how it feels.

If, at any time or for any reason you find your inner peace being disturbed just centre your attention on your breath as it is and gently touch again your chosen spot.  Your breath and your peaceful spot have always been there, now and later.  And so is your ability to enjoy life as it unfolds during these days and the ones to follow.

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

Pema Chodron

Re-Surfacing

  

Medicine BuddhaThis is my Medicine Buddha Thanka in my meditation room.

It was given to me by my wonderful Tibetan friend Namgil from India.  His Father painted it just before he passed on.  I’ve been spending a great deal of time in there the past few weeks.  Well, there and the ER as you saw on my FB.  

I’ve been sitting, laying, reflecting, meditating, shedding tears… trying to understand the concept of loss and pain, both physical and emotional.  I always think I’ve got it….until it happens the next time.  Mind you…considering how I was a few years ago, I’m so much better at recognizing and stepping outside of my physical self to observe.  Being in the presence of the Medicine Buddha helps, just as being in any kind of spiritual place brings a sense of peace, belonging and clarity.

His deep blue, ties back to a master healing stone Lapis Lazuli.  The deep blue is associated with the brow chakra,  The attributes of the brow chakra are discernment, clarity, vision and seeing beyond illusion.  How appropriate for me at this time.

In his hand he holds the myrobalan fruit, representing all of the best medicines in the world.  Being so ill these past few weeks I soak in the energy this brings.

His right hand gesture represents and symbolizes the eradication of suffering.  Especially the suffering of sickness using the means of relative truth.  The left hand is resting in his lap palm upward symbolizing meditative stability.  Meditation is looked upon as a tool to aid in the eradication of sickness and suffering, both of which have been a huge part of my life.

How? By digging deep into the very roots of the pain and suffering and finding the absolute truth.  I’ve written about digging in the dirt and finding our own diamonds buried underneath the rubble and baggage we carry around.  It’s a lifelong process, this digging.

This has been National Adoption Awareness Month.  I don’t need to tell you how much has been discussed amongst the First Mothers, The Adoptees, People trying to change the system in hopes of making things better.  Post after post written about the atrocities of adoption and how it’s left behind a trail of people with broken hearts.

 I’ve thought endlessly of how it has affected me and those around me.  I’ve had to re read FINDING HEART HORSE several times this month in preparation for printing.  These reads have brought deep reflective tears and awareness for the young girl who suffered so much trauma.  Interesting.  I thought I was done with the tears.  It was with compassion this time, with understanding and acknowledgement that came from my heart.  Different than before.  Even pain has layers.

Much of my suffering comes from a lack of connection rooted in being taken from my Mother.  Now many are lost to me and my heart breaks sending me into a dark place of despair.  I know many of you have felt that loss, that darkness, that aloneness even when in a room full of people. I know some of you are sitting there now. When the actual people move on you are left alone…with yourself and your Medicine Buddha or as in my book…your Heart Horse.

I’ve tried to repair the cracks.  I’ve used crazy glue to mend the pieces that fell completely out.  I’ve read, and prayed, and forgiven.  Yet I cry alone.  No matter how you look at it, unless you are there for yourself, love yourself, accept yourself you will always be looking outside and you will find nothing.

In the ER I was by myself.  They pepper you with questions while you are gasping for air, tangles of tubes and chaos around you.  “Who’s your next of Kin?  Who should we call if we intubate?  Who is your next of Kin?  Over and over.

 When I first found my birth family I was so excited.  I finally had next of Kin and put their names everywhere never thinking that one day the space would be empty once again.   Such a simple thing to so many…next of kin.  When you are adopted and live your life with no information, no history, no kin..its just so amazing to have names to put down….such a simple thing and yet so important.  Next of Kin.  Such a loss then and now.  

ImageThe sooner you figure this out…the better.

 Less suffering, less chaos.  Easier said than done, I know.

So, I’m laying in my meditation room contemplating some pretty heavy subjects.  Death for example.  How fast life can change.  In an instant someone is gone.  We see it on the news everyday.  Do we take time to really think about the person, about their families, those left behind.  Did they argue that day over something so silly as a spilled coffee.  Did they say goodbye with a kiss,  Did they say thank you for all that that person has done for them.  Perhaps its only when you come face to face with your own immortality that you raise these questions.  I would hope everyone thinks about these things.  I know in reality they don’t .  How many people live with regrets.  Regrets of not doing, not saying, not forgiving.  I am working hard to not be one of those people.

I’ve had several near death experiences in my lifetime, each time vowing to make each day count.  To be generous of spirit, loving and kind.  To make amends for my wrongdoings.  To help those less fortunate and be there when needed for those who call out.  I make it my daily practice.  Sometimes, i fall behind and slip into my own pain body.  After all, we are all only human.

We all want the same things really.

 To be loved and respected.  To be heard.  To be wanted and cared for.  To be happy.

After coming home from the ER this last time, I was reminded once again how fast life can be lost.  

It’s Thanksgiving Day a few hours south of me.  A day where families get together to celebrate gratitude.  Something we need to pay more attention to each and every day.  For those who are alone and in pain on this day, know I’m thinking about you and sending loving energy.  I know too well what that feels like.  Look inside, look at the small things and be grateful for just taking a breath.  Just taking a breath, nothing more.

I believe the essence of all teachings, from all forms of spiritual communities is the same.

Commit not a single unwholesome act.

Develop a wealth of virtue.

Tame, transform, conquer this mind of ours.

 Be Peace, Compassion and Wisdom.

Image

 

We Are What We Think

“We are what we think.

All that we are arises with out thoughts.

With out thoughts we make the world.

Speak or act with an impure mind

And the troubles will follow you 

As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.

All that we are arises with our thoughts.

With our thoughts we make the world.

Speak of act with a pure mind

And happiness will follow you

As your shadow, unshakable.”

From the Dhammapada

 

Mast Cell Disease

Mast cell diseases include mastocytosis, where the body produces too many mast cells, and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), where even the normal number of mast cells are too easily activated by a trigger to release their contents, called mediators. These mediators can cause a variety of unpredictable symptoms in both children and adults, including skin rashes, flushing, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, headache, bone pain and skeletal lesions, and anaphylaxis. Triggers can be heat, cold, stress (physical or emotional), perfumes or odors, medications, insect stings, and foods. These symptoms are treated with medications including antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, and leukotriene inhibitors, while anaphylaxis is a medical emergency requiring epinephrine. Mastocytosis can affect skin and internal organs such as the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and spleen. Most patients with mastocytosis have cutaneous (skin) or indolent (benign) systemic forms, but aggressive disease can occur, which may require chemotherapy.Image It would be amazing if people would take the time to understand, to learn what this disease does to a person.  Here…I’ll even give you a link…http://mastcellaware.com/about.html

  • Mast Cell Aware has pictures and is easily read and informative.  

It’s all so clear now, the mysterious symptoms that I endured over my lifetime.  You know the kind.  The ones the doctors shrug and say…hmm…I don’t know why you would have THAT and give you a pill.  Being adopted sure didn’t help matters since I had no family history to bring to the table.  Duh…I don’t know either..would be my answer.

What I did know was that from a very early age when life when wrong and traumas occurred these weird symptoms would appear.  Hives that covered my body and an itch so horrid a scrub brush didn’t even take the feeling away.  Looking back now, i see the pattern…so very obvious as I was getting sicker over the years.  Stress/food/trauma=hives, anaphylaxis, nausea, pain and on and on..

Unfortunately Mast Cells, which are so important and play a role in healing and immunity are not that well studied or understood.  Only in the past few years are they being studied and related to many serious diseases.  All of our connective tissue…all of it…has mast cells.  That means your skin, the lining of your organs your bones and many other sites.   When triggered they can, depending on which area is involved release over 200 various chemicals, the most known is histamine which presents in allergic type reactions.  If you look at your lungs, stomach, liver, spleen, each one has various other chemicals released and all cause different symptoms.

Part of this post is because I’m feeling really sick.  The other two parts are because Invisible illness’s should be brought out into the open..just as I previously mentioned about my books.  People need to know these things.  Understanding only comes with education.  The third part and perhaps the most important for me is Adoption Reform.

Adoptee’s need to know their medical history.  It would save lives and years of searching for the answers to mysterious symptoms.  If only i had the information before I was five decades old…I would have had a chance to save my organs that are now beginning to fail me due to mast cell damage.  My lungs, my liver, my GI system and now my kidneys all have damage and continuous involvement.  I could have put the puzzle pieces together had I known family history.  It’s only been in the last few years mostly because my mast cells went over the edge while in Reunion that the puzzle was solved.  I just kept on getting sicker and sicker and had labels that were thrown around just because the doc’s couldn’t figure things out.  Oh how I wish I had known.

Life has changed drastically,  It’s a loss of what could have been, what you thought life would be,  Another grieving process to endure.  One that although difficult to grasp I’m grateful to finally have the answers or at least the diagnosis.  Everyday is a challenge.  Every day is the unknown.  Will I crash today and need to epi?  Will I have to go to emerg yet again?  Can I go to the store without throwing up or having to run to the bathroom?  Will the pain ever ease enough to sleep?

Thank goodness for a spiritual practice that allows me to be in a place of acceptance.  A place that gives me space to just sit with the pain and let it go.  A place that lets me know there is a brand new 24hrs on its way.  It is another opportunity to educate so others don’t spend 50yrs wondering what’s wrong.  It’s an opportunity to understand what’s really important in my life.  Right now….that’s heading to the couch with medication in hand.