I spent my entire life thinking, or telling myself, that my adoption didn’t matter to me. My parents told me about it as soon as I was able to understand, and as far as I was concerned, they were my parents.
However, I was never particularly close to them, and I wasn’t able to love them the way they loved me.
They both died in my 20s and as I managed to get on top of my depression in my thirties, I started to feel an increasing amount of guilt that I wasn’t able to show them the love that they deserved.
When my birth mother got in contact, and I eventually agreed to meet her, I used the relationship as a fresh start. I opened up to her about the issues I had with my mental health, let my guard down, and allowed her to be close to me.
The relationship ended after three years with me accusing her of being an emotionally abusive narcissist that is responsible for my mental health breakdown – setting me back 10 years of progress,
Recently, I have been trying to reflect on the issues I had as a child and my failed relationship with my birth mother. I started to wonder if other adoptees had any experiences like mine.
When I posted about my issues with mental health, ADHD and ASD, it was pointed out that these issues sound a lot like the problems other adoptees struggle with, in the form of relinquishment trauma.
What is relinquishment trauma/adoption trauma
Relinquishment trauma, also known as adoption trauma or adoption-related trauma, refers to the psychological and emotional distress experienced by individuals who have been separated from their birth parents or primary caregivers due to adoption or other circumstances. It is important to note that not all individuals who have been adopted will experience relinquishment trauma, as each person’s experience is unique.
Relinquishment trauma can occur when a child is separated from their birth family, often during the early stages of life. The trauma can stem from the loss of the child’s biological connections, disruption of attachment bonds, and the emotional impact of being removed from familiar surroundings and caregivers. The child may experience feelings of grief, loss, and a sense of identity confusion.
The trauma can manifest in various ways and may impact the individual’s emotional well-being, mental health, and overall development. Some common symptoms and challenges associated with relinquishment trauma may include:
- Attachment difficulties: Individuals may struggle with forming and maintaining secure and trusting relationships due to early attachment disruptions.
- Emotional and psychological issues: This can include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, feelings of abandonment, or a pervasive sense of loss.
- Identity and self-esteem struggles: Adopted individuals may grapple with questions about their identity, sense of belonging, and a desire to understand their biological roots.
- Grief and loss: There can be ongoing grief and a sense of loss associated with the separation from birth family members, cultural heritage, and a sense of personal history.
- Developmental challenges: Relinquishment trauma can impact a child’s development, including cognitive, emotional, and social aspects.
It is important to recognise that not all adopted individuals will experience relinquishment trauma to the same extent, and the presence and impact of trauma can vary widely from person to person. Providing a supportive and understanding environment, access to therapy or counselling, and open conversations about adoption can help individuals navigate and heal from any adoption-related trauma they may experience.
Can a child adopted at birth suffer from relinquishment trauma
The current belief is that while it is possible for a child adopted at birth to experience challenges related to adoption, including emotional issues, it is less likely for them to suffer from relinquishment trauma. Relinquishment trauma typically refers to the emotional distress experienced by individuals who were separated from their birth parents or primary caregivers later in life, often due to adoption or other circumstances.
Children adopted at birth are generally placed with their adoptive families shortly after birth, which means they do not experience the same level of separation and loss as those who are adopted later in life. However, it is important to note that every individual’s experience is unique, and there can still be a range of emotions and challenges associated with adoption.
Some adopted individuals may grapple with issues such as identity, belonging, or a sense of loss, even if they were adopted as infants. Factors such as the quality of the adoptive family environment, openness about adoption, and the child’s understanding of their adoption story can influence their emotional well-being. Additionally, as adopted individuals grow older and become more aware of their adoption, they may have questions or feelings related to their birth family and their adoption story.
Adoptive families can provide support and create an open environment where children feel comfortable discussing adoption-related issues. Professional counselling or therapy can also be helpful for both the child and the adoptive family to navigate any challenges that may arise.
Do I have adoption trauma or not?
A lot of my problems match those that suffer from adoption trauma, but is this just confirmation bias on my behalf?
When you read things like Primal Wound, a lot of the anecdotal stories relate to the adoptees’ desire to reconnect with the birth mother and how profound that pain is. But I didn’t experience that.
I am not interracial, I was told about my adoption at a young age, I had no other childhood traumas that I am aware of. I don’t believe my birth mother drank or used drugs during childbirth, and she is generally healthy.
There is clearly a genetic predisposition to problems, it seems my birth mother and sister are definitely ADHD, so it is understandable that I am. But that doesn’t explain all the other problems.
While I may not have adoption trauma for definite, my therapist and I have agreed to continue therapy more of a focus on CPTSD and developmental trauma. Whatever my problems are, they seem to align with these two issues.