Tag Archive | childhood

When I Was Four

People tell me I look like a doll in this picture.

I must have been about four years old, sitting in my adoptive parents’ home, trying to be the good child that they wanted me to be, but never doing quite well enough to earn their approval. They didn’t hesitate to tell me how much I had cost them, so certainly they deserved something for their efforts?

If I was four, then this photo must have been taken in 1973. Meanwhile, in South Korea, my real father had been looking for me for three years, ever since he discovered that I was gone from the children’s home where he had placed me temporarily. Going from orphanage to orphanage, he followed dead trails and searched up one dead end after another. In another year he would himself be dead, and he’d never discover what had really happened to me, or where I had gone. I had no idea who he was, or that I was wanted somewhere else. We never saw each other again.

It was around this time that I first began to notice that I looked different from all the other children. Those around me mostly had blond hair and blue eyes. I was the only one who looked like me. So I asked my adoptive mother about it.

“Nonsense!” she’d always say. “You look just like everybody else. You’re no different at all. Now stop asking stupid questions, and leave me alone.”

But I kept looking at my own face in the mirror, at the differences that were clearly there, even though she said they were not, and I asked myself what was wrong with me.

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Amygdala

Amygdala: A pair of organs in the brain that, among other things, act as a thermostat. In the head of a person with PTSD, the needle is stuck in the high anxiety position. We relive the trauma over and over again, through nightmares, and through avoiding anything that we know may trigger the memory and the emotions. When we don’t have nightmares, it’s because we have trouble sleeping, because we can’t stop thinking about the trauma. We re-experience the fear and anger we went through during those events in our lives.The amygdala works overtime in people who have PTSD. We lose interest in things that we used to enjoy, and have difficulty trusting others. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Among the more common things are suicidal thoughts, aggression and irritability, avoiding places and anniversaries related to the incidents. Flashbacks, triggered by smells, sounds or emotions. Dizziness, chest pains, headaches and gastrointestinal distress. Some people carry these things around their entire lives.

This is me in a nutshell, basically, and it makes me so tired and emotionally worn out. But at last the various aspects of my health, both emotionally and physically, are coming together like pieces of a puzzle, and I now know what I’m dealing with: PTSD. What’s crucial now is to have goals to work towards, big ones or small. Right now I want to find something I can enjoy, learn and really feel that ‘I can do this’.

It takes so little to trigger the feelings. A while ago I saw a little girl who was picking flowers in a field, as we were driving by. It instantly brought me to tears, because it reminded me of my Inner Child who loved to pick flowers. I remember how I proudly offered to my adoptive parents those neatly arranged little bouquets from my tiny hands. But they weren’t good enough. To them they were garbage, and they simply threw them away.

I remember feeling happy when I picked those wild flowers in the field, my heart bounding with joy when my friend blew dandelion seeds at me, and how we blew on dandelions together and made wishes when the seeds flew away on the wind. Two girls from two different worlds; she was as light as the day, while I was as dark as the night. But we became soulmates, and still are today. It’s strange how tiny things can stir the feelings so that they become huge waves from the soul in an ocean of sore and raw emotions, that can send you instantly back in time to earlier stages of your life, making you relive all those horrible moments of fear and anxiety as, in my case, a little child.

I remember how I used to hide, so I wouldn’t be a burden or remind my adoptive parents more than I had to, that I needed food, clothes, even clean ones now and then, or perhaps a chocolate too, if they weren’t too drunk or too angry at me. I remember loud, angry voices, yelling, the sound of doors slamming, swearing, ugly, evil words at me or at my adoptive mother. How I used to lie in my bed at nights, look at the moon and wish that I could run away and never come back. I remember the feeling of having been beaten, how hurt I was, though mostly on the inside.

I was afraid of my adoptive parents, who really ought to have been my protectors. They caused me so many issues that are still with me as an adult. So my brain is always on high alert, afraid that something bad may happen at any time, and I’m constantly exhausted by it. My common sense knows that I should be able to turn the anxiety off, but my emotions, my instincts and my inner child don’t, so my body is working overtime. PTSD is all about what happened to me, not what’s wrong with me.

Signing off for tonight.

~ Khara

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

Summer by the Willow

Dear Sunniva.

Maybe you remember the garden. From the terrace beneath a wall covered in big, red, beautiful roses – occupied with lots and lots of busy bumble bees, and filling the garden with their scent – there was a perfect view of the huge willow at the other side of the lawn. On late summer afternoons you would hear the light rustling of branches in the wind, the buzzing of bees and the calls of seagulls high above, and feel the last warm rays of the setting sun as evening was drawing near.

If you entered through the willow’s curtain of branches you might see a pair of little girls, giggling and playing with their favourite toy animals; one with hair as black as night, the other as fair as sunlight. I was the darker one, and my little white bunny was so soft and cute, with long ears that were pink on the inside. She had a pink nose, too, and around her neck a pink ribbon, tied in a bow. My friend had a brown teddy bear that would growl if you turned him upside-down; his ribbon was wide and elegant, and a slightly darker brown than he was. I remember I found that growl of his quite fascinating.

We would stay underneath the willow’s branches and play, hidden inside this tiny but comfortable world of our own, sitting on a big blanket upon the grass. We’d bring lemonade in cups with straws, and biscuits or cookies on a plate. Our dear little toy friends would drink toy milk from toy bottles; we’d pretend they were our babies, and dress them up in all sorts of clothes. Picture, if you can, a brown teddy bear in a pink ballet tutu and pink ballet shoes, trying for dear life to hang on to his dignity, or a little white bunny in a red dress with gold buttons and a white bow ribbon on top of her head. Many enchanted hours were spent beneath those branches.

Later, when the cups of lemonade were empty, and biscuits were gone, we would venture further into the depth of the garden, to the big old apple tree. This late in the afternoon, with the sunlight mostly gone, the mosquitoes were awfully busy, but we hardly noticed them; we were quite busy ourselves, competing about who could eat the most apples. They were deliciously sweet, and we ate and ate, throwing half-eaten cores around and eating some more, until we were quite stuffed and couldn’t bear to even think of apples, not until the next day when we would return to this banquet with renewed vigour. By now it was time for me to go home, so we said our good-byes and good-nights with tired but happy smiles. We were best friends forever, and still are.

Sunniva and TeddyOne such evening, as I went to bed, I realised that I had left my bunny by the willow, high up on a branch. We had put them both there, holding paws and leaning against each other,  so that they could enjoy the view of us raiding the apple tree. But we had not intended for them to stay out all night. I was sad, and a little lonely, and I just couldn’t wait for the morning to come soon enough. As soon as I woke up I ran to my friend’s house to check if my bunny and the bear were still waiting where we had left them. They were, and I grabbed her and hugged her silly, thrilled that we were together again for a new day of adventures. Then I whispered in her ear that I was terribly sorry, and promised that I would never ever forget her again. She would go wherever I went, held tightly in my right hand so that I would not lose her.

That bunny was you, Sunniva. We were inseparable, you and I, and we went together through good times and bad. Now you sit in your favourite spot on the bookshelf; on your belly is a mark like a hole from my thumb, after I held you so tight for all those years, through thick and thin. You’ve almost lost your head, your nose is gone and the fur on your tail has worn off, but you are still one of my most precious friends in the world, because you belong to my inner child.

Sometimes I see those two little girls in that tree, sitting on the high branches, feeling the mild summer breeze, watching the stars twinkle and dreaming of flying. When I look at you, I can still hear the echoes of laughter and voices from a long, long time ago. They are gone, but not forgotten.

And you are still here.

Love,

Khara

Dandelion Dreams

On painful days I would slip away to a quiet, solitary little world of my own; down at the beach with a piece of string and a handful of blue oysters for bait, fishing for the little crabs at the bottom. Catch and release.

When the tears, sorrow and anger rip through the soul
Hurting and disgusted
Missing that Off–button
To stop the emotions that come drifting
The sense of being helpless and trapped
Hate it! Want to forget!
All that which my inner child had to suffer
The insecurity, the fear, the sense of being a burden, unwanted

Hope, like a dandelion seed on the wind, destination unknown
Of finding that happy life, full of laughter and smiles
Where are you, inner enchanted world of mine?
Where did you go, little Khara?
She would laugh and rejoice in the smallest of things
Great little treasures of there and then
Study the Universe in an oyster’s shell
Seeing her mirror image in a handful of water
Watching with glee as the crab nears the oyster
Laugh with endless joy when it is caught
Then give back its freedom, to come back and get caught again

~ Khara

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.