Tag Archive | adoption

PTSD and being burned out

Many nights I have problems sleeping. At certain times of the year I get particularly restless in relation to the deaths of my natural parents. I have severe anxiety due to that loss, and the separation from my family. There are flashbacks in the form of dreams that come from deeply rooted memories. I’ve always been burdened with sadness and depression, having great difficulty concentrating in school and now with things in my adult life, inability to trust others, and a seemingly never ending feeling that my life isn’t ever going to be any better than this. I exist detached from other people, struggling with close physical contact, such as hugs, feeling uncomfortable in social settings, crowded places and queues, and feeling this emotional numbness whilst at the same time my heart seems hard and sore.

I’ve been told that if my PTSD is not treated, things will only continue to get worse. This is no good, so I do whatever I can do: seeking help, writing down my feelings in this blog, trying to help myself heal this way. I read every book I come across on the subject of adoption issues, and really, really try to do this because it’ll hopefully help me find the inner peace that I’m seeking.

The key word is abandonment, a feeling that keeps gnawing in the back of my head. Although I try not to think about it, it’s always there, this vague echo of an unfathomable loss at a young age, ringing with a series of countless traumatic experiences, and a frightened little girl’s efforts to try to adapt to it all.

I had a very abusive childhood, which has resulted in a complex PTSD, making every day of my life a test and a struggle, I’m exhausted by stressful situations, I don’t handle things as well as before, and my mood is turning all the time.

So now I’ve reached a point in life when I feel that I’m running on autopilot. I burned out my batteries when I was little, when I had to grow up fast and take on responsibilities that no child should have to. I annihilated myself just to try to please the world. To survive I became a quiet, easily manageable child who took care of things that my adoptive parents should have handled themselves, just to be accepted. I feel burned out, with no energy left, and some days I wonder how I’ll make it through the day. I feel very tired and sad, and often feel like crying all day, or lay in bed and just sleep to escape from the world. Even writing in my blog seems so hard at times. I never thought that working with my inner child would be so tough.

And it’s not easy being labeled for my mental condition either, but it’s better to know why my life is this way. It’s part of being true to myself, and has allowed me to make many important discoveries in this emotional Pandora’s Box of mine, since I’ve had all these symptoms for as long as I can remember, without knowing it was PTSD.

Much of my recent progress is thanks to a very special person who has helped me a great deal, the only one who has said “I’m proud of you,” which made me cry. And yet this person is a stranger, but also a friend who reached out for me in a Facebook group. How can I ever repay you? I wish to express the greatest gratitude from the bottom of my heart.

~ Khara

In memory of Appa

This post has been updated with new information. See the box at the bottom.

I wonder how the social worker at Holt could sleep at night in 1970, after sealing my destiny. He did his job and went home that day, exhausted from all of his work. How could he play God? When he wrote down lies in my journal, I’m sure that he followed rules. Holt must have had guidelines about what to write into the journals in order to make them seem real enough, just to make the work efficient in order to make money fast. They had to maintain the number of kids to be adopted at all times, and of course it was better to have as many as possible, and since the orphanage earned more on overseas adoption than in domestic adoption there was always an incentive to send kids abroad to make room for more.

I wonder if the workers at Holt Children Services feel the weight of their conscience when they know that they have falsified so many journals for so many adoptees worldwide. I’ve wondered many times whether the same social worker that received me in 1968, who sat in his office when my father came to bring me home again, some day in the early Seventies. He must have told my father the biggest lie ever, that he had to go and look for me at another orphanage in Korea even though he knew that I had been sent abroad. So my father began to search after me at many orphanages, all over Korea, a search whitch lasted for several years until he died in sorrow and despair. When he handed me over to the orphanage, he was not told that he would never see me again. If they had told him that, he would never have let them take me.

So here I am today, an angry and sad adoptee, wanting to tell the world that a huge injustice has been done to me, and to my Korean father who was desperate to get help for his children in need. This has also affected my oldest sister’s life, because she too searched for me for many years. She was still only a teenager when she started to search, after she promised our Father on his deathbed that she would continue his search after me, so that we sisters could be together. She too longed for me for so many years. She is my hero. Only after our reunion in 1986 she has had peace in her heart.

This was not the act of a father who wished to abandon me, but the opposite. He loved all of us children, but he needed help in a difficult time to make a better life for us all. It was only 16 years after the Korea war ended, and our mother died suddenly, so help was greatly needed. My story is not unique, but rather a typical sad event that this sentence fits perfectly: Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It hurts so many, and affects so many aspects of our lives. Today we sisters have very little contact because of difficulty with language, difference in culture, and the fact that, although we are family by blood, we are also strangers to each other.

Adoption adversely affects everything in life. We lose our parents, most importantly our mother, which leaves deep emotional scars; the primal wound. But we also lose the life we were meant to have, our heritage and so much more. All I can do now is pick up little pieces here and there, in an attempt to reconstruct my story from the past.

As tragic as our story is, if conditions in Korea had been different back then, this would not have happened to us, my sisters and I. To put things right for the future, it will be necessary to change both the welfare system and the general attitude towards adoption, and hopefully with time the adoption business will end.

These days, most babies that go to adoption are from unmarried single mothers, where many of them have been pushed, bullied, threatened or tricked into giving up their newborn. Korea needs to move into the 21st Century and stop looking down on those women, remove the shame of being young, unmarried and pregnant, and a single mother.

Korea, my homeland, my heart cries for the way in which you regard people who don’t follow the masses. There’s even still racial discrimination. Get a grip, and please change for the better. I feel ashamed for the land where my heart belongs; the Land of Morning Calm, please earn your name once more, be tolerant and helpful instead of breaking apart mothers and their children through unnecessary adoption, messing up their lives forever.

Many of us who were adopted as very young are now grown up, we’re looking into our past and digging up our true history, and uncovering old sins of the adoption system as we do so. Hopefully the world will see us, and learn that the adoption industry is cruel and unloving, and that by adopting children, the new adoptive parents are supporting that industry. Today, many are working to end the adoption business, to rouse consciousness about the fates of adopted children. This is my only comfort when I think back at my first two years in Korea, and my abusive childhood here in Norway. I hope that it has not all been for nothing, that many will read this and help tell the world that we are too many who suffer the consequences of adoption.

I feel that my Appa would have been proud of me, if he had known that I am trying to change the world in this little way; to make it so that no more children will have to experience the ocean of tears and grief as we sisters did, and I still do. That no-one else will be separated for the rest of their lives.

My dear Appa: rest in peace. You probably died in 1976, when I was 8 years old here in Norway. If I had only known then that you had come to take me back home. I wonder if you would have recognized me; a very shy, frightened, sad little girl, carrying too many burdens on her shoulders. Would you have seen the sorrow in my eyes, would you have eased my pain, and would you have loved me as much as you did my other sisters? In my heart I know the answer, I will always treasure you.

~ Khara

Update: In the time since I wrote this post, I have found out that my father died in July of 1974, not 1976 as I previously thought, at which time I was five years old, not eight.

Plain, Honest Facts

Now and then I have to take a break from my adoption issues. I need to feel that I’m alive, happy and content, even though my life is like a roller-coaster ride.

There are days when I have lots of energy, I’ll be baking and doing the house work like a tornado. Then I can do what I love the most, to go fishing, find myself a nice place to relax, watch the waves, feel the warm sun and listen to to the ocean and the seagulls. Those are moment that I treasure, that I feel like I am one with nature, and feel really alive. To be there by myself, enjoy my tea and sandwich, maybe listen to music on my mobile. Sometimes others come to try their luck with the fishing, and we’ll have a chat about the weather or whatever springs to mind. But mostly it’s me and my thoughts, and I will think of my dreams for the future.

I really wish for a new place with a garden, where I can work with flowers of all kinds, from roses, marigold and daisies to Japanese lanterns, grow strawberries, rhubarb and herb plants, and have fruit trees with apples, pears, plums and cherries. And in one corner I want a big magnolia. I plan to have a bunny who can graze on dandelions and clovers, a little dog to follow me everywhere with its tail wagging, and my cat will be climbing the trees.

Other days I just have no energy to do anything at all. I just want to sleep and forget about my past. Those days are like dark tunnels, and I can’t see any light at the end. Even something as simple as taking a shower seems almost impossible, let alone doing housework, or facing other people.

I’m diagnosed with severe depression, as well as post traumatic stress disorder due both to being adopted and to having a difficult childhood. I’m prone to mood turns, and can go from cheerful to deep dark with little or no warning. I have this sore and unbearable empty feeling in my heart, which makes me restless and temperamental. If I was alone I would slam my fists on the walls and scream and howl with despair. I am so sad that my heart could break into thousand pieces over the painful past that keeps coming back to haunt me over and over. It’s more than 40 years since I came to Norway, and I still struggle with being adopted.

What did I inherit from my biological parents? My looks and personality, my sense of humour, compassion for others, some of the ways in which I see and do things. And what did my adoptive parents give me? Anger, hate, despair and depression.

It’s said that we are shaped by the environment in which we grow up. I’ve had to grow protective shields against the verbal and physical abuse during my childhood, shields that now lock me in and make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to relate to people around me. I hope to peel this protective layer off again, like an orange, to allow the real me to emerge and take control of my own life; to be a person with lots of energy, spend time with friends and family, have barbecue evenings, cook and bake, talk with like-minded people about the big questions in life, from stars, planets and the Universe, to closer matters like adoption; to be myself, and know that I am good enough and appreciated for the person that I am.

It’s time for my inner child to come through, to shine and feel that she has accomplished what it takes to be free. Then she would be brave enough to say that “I can do anything, and I am good enough!”  Then her handcuffs would at last come off, and the smile on her face would shine like a million stars.

In Norway, foreign adoption is still seen as the old cliché, that it is a beautiful, generous and noble act, and that adoptees should be grateful for having been saved and given a good life here. Even in 2012, Norway is old-fashioned when it comes to adoption issues. We need raise consciousness about this, and learn from people like Nancy Verrier, Paul Sunderland, Joe Soll and others who know what kinds of issues foreign adoptees struggle with every day of their lives.

~ Khara

The Scarlet Letter A

The Scarlet Letter A: Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW, PLLC, teases her upcoming podcast with some thoughts about “rehoming”

After catching up with Kevin, he asked me about my new endeavors as an adoption therapist, branching out with my own private practice, etc., when the topic came up – adoption disruption/dissolution and the new term being used now, “re-homing” or “re-placement.” (As most can imagine, these terms were not coined by adopted persons.) I got Kevin’s response immediately – dead silence, followed by a candid remark that only he can deliver. [read more]

My background, in a nutshell

Anyone can see the smile, but the deep sorrow in the heart is invisible. I arrived in Korea ten years too late to meet my father, the one person in my life whom my heart treasures so, who I had hoped so much to see again.My mother died very young, when I was only a few months old; I lay beside her in the bed when she passed on, and my screams made my sister come running; my mother’s arm had fallen on top of me so that I almost couldn’t breathe. Because of this, I have had difficulties ever since with clothes and blankets that cover my throat and up.

Father spent the last years of his life searching for me, and told my oldest sister before he died that she had to keep trying to find me, that we sisters had to stay together and look after each other. My mother died only 33 years old; my father was 42 years old when he died, eight years later, from grief over losing my mother and me.

My sister had a hard life, she even managed to earn money and buy a place for our parents to rest in peace. Although our relatives knew that the four of us children were starving and very lonely, they did not help. My sister told me that she gave me water with a little sugar in, and that was all she and my father had to feed me as a baby. Therefore I was delivered to an orphanage, but it was never meant to be for always. Father came back for me one day, but by then Holt had already sent me to Norway. So thanks to Holt, instead of being reunited with my father and my family, I got a childhood filled with so much sorrow and problems.

I was two years old when I arrived Norway in 1970. I grew up being a slave in the house, a servant, being the one person you could hate, beat up, the one that you could lay all your frustrations upon. I was called no good, bad genes, a whore, retarded and I was also one more mouth to feed. I was a kid who had to be quiet, not heard, or else I got yelled at and beaten up. I was always afraid of my adoptive father, who was a psychopath, and my adoptive mother was also afraid of him because he beat her. But she stood by him, yelled at me, and she was the one who beat me up. They both sure loved drinking, they took lots of medicines, and the cigarette smoke lay so thick throughout the house that you could easily have cut the air with a knife.

From the age of three I had to walk to and from kindergarten all by myself. One day I fell and hurt my knee, which started to bleed. I ran home, but was afraid. My mother got very angry, though she washed and dressed the wound. Then afterwards she followed me back to kindergarten; she drove the car slowly, and I had to walk beside it, crying while she yelled at me through the car window the whole way.

A few years older, overcome with sadness, I thought seriously about taking my own life. I wrote a list on how to do it; I could take some of my mother’s pills, or a knife, or just walk down to the sea nearby and drown myself. I felt that I was no good, not perfect enough for my parents, never had been and never could reach the level of  perfection where I would deserve love in their eyes; they never loved me with their hearts. But I know that my real father loved me in his heart, God bless him.

I had friends, but I could never even wish for what they had; every once in a while their parents would give them something, like a chocolate or a little toy, or just a hug or kind words, because they were loved. All I got was yelling and beating, and I wished so badly that someone would help me, anyone, but nobody ever did. Even friends of my parents saw things that made them wonder, and think that perhaps not everything was as it should, but none of them ever even picked up the phone to call for help, because they enjoyed too much the friendship and the ever popular parties that my parents would arrange; they couldn’t just turn their backs on all that fun and alcohol.

So here I am today, and my heart cries because now I know that it was not I that was no good; it was my upbringing that was no good, and that ruined my childhood. I was just a little girl who came to Norway by a huge, terrible mistake, and I was shown no love, no mercy. My adoptive parents even told me that they used their house mortgage to pay for me. I was just something to show off to friends and neighbours while I was little and cute; later on I became just a big burden. I had to be grateful to them for saving my life, and for all they had done for me; given me clothes, given me food and a place to stay, or else I would have been dead. And God knows how many times during my childhood that I really wished that I was dead.

I am not thankful for coming to Norway; I never asked to be brought here, nor for the roof over my head or the food on the table that my abusive adoptive parents took such pride in giving me. My gratitude is for those few people in my life with whom I have shared happy moments, those who cared about me and brought a glimmer of happiness to my soul, even if just for a moment now and then. I was a stranger in a foreign land, with a soul already full of baggage; a shy and frightened little girl, all alone, half a world away from home.

Tears run down my cheeks, it still hurts so badly to write it down. Every day my mind echoes with memories from childhood; Khara do this, Khara do that, or else … So many bad things happened. I was traumatized when I came here, and my inner child is still traumatized by a life in fear, not understanding why everything in life was my fault. Why I was never good enough, why I deserved a life like this one. If I didn’t have my belief in life I surely would have been dead. In a way I feel as if a part of me is dead, inside. My memories and grief will never end.

So this is a short part of my life’s resume … Therefore I am an angry adoptee but most of all I am just a little sad girl who misses her APPA!.

Love, Khara.