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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It’s Alive !!

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say,

but what we are unable to say.

Anis Nin

I’ve been away for awhile….again.  Those uncontrollable mast cells have gotten the better of me lately.  I had planned on topics for several blogs in relation to the first memoir Finding Heart Horse.  Many exciting things are happening.

Today I realized as soon as I sent the final cover edits in…the book went live!

Today the cover reveal

If you haven’t read Finding Heart Horse, memoir of Survival  you need to.  The Wall of Secrets, memoir of The Almost Daughter is the sequel.

THE WALL OF SECRETS

MEMOIR OF THE ALMOST DAUGHTER

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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

It’s THAT DAY again….

ImageI want to wish that little girl Happy Birthday today.  I want her to have a cake with candles, friends and presents.  Balloons and laughter.  I want her to have a family that loves and celebrates her birth.  I want her to have all the things I never had when I was “her”.

Birthdays are supposed to be a happy time, but they represent a day of loss, rather that celebration for most adoptees.  It’s usually a day of celebration of birth and it should bring joy, but it doesn’t.  No matter how old you get, its a reminder and a connection to the past, to the loss of the birth family.

My birthdays were never really celebrated as a child.  The only criteria for a cake was if a relative happened to be coming for some reason and then of course…what would they think, if there wasn’t a cake at least.

When I ran away at 15 yrs i never told anyone when my birthday was.  Not a soul.  I would disappear in to a drug induced sadness and hide  somewhere in a back alley and cry with the pain of loss and aloneness.

In my isolation i would wonder, if she was thinking of me.  if she even remembered giving birth to me and wonder why she wasn’t looking for me.  Part of me wondered why I always sunk into the depths of despair.  Why couldn’t i let it go and just forget “the day”.  Nancy Verrier calls it “an anniversary reaction”.  Why on earth would one want to celebrate the day they were separated from their birth mother?

Most of us didn’t talk about “the day” or what it meant until we found others who also felt the same way thanks to the internet and books written about adoption.  I mean, really, if you don’t feel you exist to start with….what’s a birth-day?

I celebrated my daughter’s birthdays with great joy and special themes and parties and it was wonderful to see her and her friends laughing and celebrating the day she was born.  I tried to imagine how that felt.  Having no reference, it was impossible.

It wasn’t until a dear friend who knew my thoughts about birthdays decided to have a 40th party for me.  With great reluctance and a few shots of reinforcement, i arrived to find a banner strung around the room with all of the celebrations I had never experienced.  Birthdays, graduations, baby showers, Xmas‘s.  The normal celebrations that people enjoy every year.  I was overwhelmed.  To see in writing all of the celebrations i missed was the reality I had avoided.  On the other hand, to know someone was trying their best to make up for my years of loss made my heart warm.  It was only with alcohol’s disinhibiting effects that I could laugh and celebrate with the people who were there.  They didn’t know i was crying on the inside.

The pressure society puts on people to celebrate these events is huge.  For adoptee’s who try to accommodate the societal expectations. or familial expectations it brings great anxiety and depression.  No one would understand the need to hide.  I recall many attempts at celebrations as I got older and the more pressure…the more i wanted to run.

We tend to minimize celebrations with “oh,  it’s just another day”  “I don’t care” and yet the pain lives on in our heart stemming from the primal wound.

When you begin to search, the healing begins.  During the process you give birth to yourself and it isn’t so much the end result, as the search itself.  When I found my Birth Family I discovered my Birth Mother‘s birthday was only five days before mine.  I gave much thought to that wondering how that must have been for her.  I can’t imagine.

 When I moved across Canada to be close to my new family our birthday’s arrived within a month of my arrival.  The expectation by everyone was that I would be thrilled to celebrate this years birthday.  If I close my eyes, I can see the looks and feel the anger and confusion when I didn’t want to participate in dinner and cake.  All I could do was sob.  Sob with grief over the birth not recognized, all the birthdays lost.  All the celebrations missed and the years spent without a family.

Years have passed, healing takes time.  Slowly, year by year I have been able to acknowledge my birth and all that it meant.  I have been able to celebrate in small ways for myself.  I no longer avoid the day and lay in fetal position wracked with grief of what never was.  It takes time, lifetimes perhaps.

This year, I am honouring all that  little girl above went through,  I am lighting a candle for her and reassuring her she is loved and wanted on this earth.  Each birthday she never experienced I will feel with compassion and love.  She does exist.  She deserves to be loved and celebrated.

Happy Birthday to all of the Lost Daughters and Sons

Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being…

But by integration of the contraries.

Carl Jung