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Welcome to the Adoptionland Carnival, Next Stop: The End.

by Laura on May 30th, 2014

This guest piece comes from Jodi Gibson Haywood, a fellow adoptee writer. I thought her post was simply amazing, and wanted to share it with you.


"Unfinished Puzzle Shows Solving Problems" by Stuart Miles,

“Unfinished Puzzle Shows Solving Problems” by Stuart Miles,

Dear Adoptee Contemplating Suicide,

I have been where you are. That dark corridor with nothing but locked doors on both sides and no way out. You turn a corner hoping for an exit and only find yourself back where you started. You search for a light to guide you and it blinks out before you can reach it. You trust someone to lead you, but they grab you and spin you around until you forget which direction you were trying to move in. You look for answers, but the blindfold only gets tighter.

Welcome to Adoptionland. For your adoptive parents, it’s an amusement park. Bright flashing lights, loud music, one fun ride after another. Midway games. Jump through a series of hoops and we’ll let you choose a prize from the top shelf. Any kid you want. They are here to be chosen!

But the carnival wore you down long ago. Too many loud noises, crowds of strangers, clowns in face paint and actors in masks. Nothing seems real any more. The rides ended, and you’re stuck in the fun house with its distorted mirrors and fake exits. You open a door and find only blank wall on the other side.

You just want to go home, only you can’t remember where it is.

You want to claw off the mask they put on you, but you’re afraid nobody will want the creature behind it. The people who left you on the midway to be claimed by some strange couple, they might not recognize you if they do come back for you.

Or they might not come back at all. The carnival barker in the loud striped coat and outdated bow tie told them you’d have a better life here, and they believed his line.


The “Dark Place”

I have been where you are. I know that dark place.

I’ve sat at your desk in school and been forced to write another name on my class assignments, a name I have no connection to, and it feels like a forgery. You might know your true name, the one you had at birth, and your fingers itch to turn that pen in a different direction to write it. Or you might not know it, and every time you write their name, you wonder what your own was.

I’ve stared at the face in your mirror and wondered who I look like now, who I resembled as a baby, and who I will turn into as I age. If my complexion will ever clear up or those unwanted pounds will melt away. What I might die of, and if knowledge of my medical history might delay or prevent it. I wonder if the guy who asked me to the junior prom might be my own long-lost brother or cousin, and who else I might be unknowingly related to.

I’ve tried to explain to teachers, youth workers, DMV employees, why I don’t have an original birth certificate for that class trip, short-term mission trip or my driver’s license. That all-important document that proves I was actually born and didn’t land here from another planet. Because sometimes it feels as if I did. An alien waiting for the mother ship to return someday.

I understand that dark place. You desperately want out, yet much of the time you don’t want to speak out against the people who locked you in Adoption Prison in case they make it even worse. Jailer outside your door. Bread and water once a day. Ankle monitor when you go to school or leave the house for any other reason. They might even have you rehomed – back on the shelf at the carnival, which could be better or worse, but nothing is more scary than that unknown future.

Maybe you’ve tried to explain the dark place to somebody, how there’s only one way out of Adoptionland and you’re pretty certain nobody will miss you. They think you’re crazy for feeling that way, without trying to understand what you want to escape from, and abandon you to the medical professionals.

That “White Place”

I’ve been in that white place too. At least in the dark, you can hide. In the white place everybody can see you, and those who don’t ignore you, treat you like you’re insane or two years old or both. They leave you alone to scream it out, offering no comfort at all. They lock you onto a bed, face up, arms and legs stretched away from your body, exposing your most vulnerable places. And your body remembers how it felt in another white room back in the beginning, exposed and vulnerable and separated from the safe haven of your mother. How you screamed yourself hoarse and she never came back to you.

And just below the surface of your screaming, the knowledge that you have been abandoned one more time, maybe by the one person on earth you trusted, refuses to stay pushed down. How could they leave you here all alone?

Especially when you’re not crazy. Not really. What most professionals would classify as a “disorder,” is simply a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. Adoption is an unnatural trauma, something that messes with your sense of identity and your ability to build and maintain relationships.

“Who do you think you are?” They ask. Not an easy question to answer when you’ve been adopted. You don’t know who you are or where you came from or any of the things most people take for granted. Some days you wonder if you’re even real, or just exist in your own imagination.

Adoption trauma compounds the usual adolescent questioning of who you are, where your identity lies, where you’re going in life. The teen years are when you separate yourself from your parents and prepare to strike out on your own path. The trouble is, you’ve already experienced that separation from your natural mother – and maybe your father and extended family, too – and you may have spent your entire adopted life wanting to separate, or at least distance yourself, from your adoptive family.

That’s normal. Their expectations of you may be unrealistic. In fact, the concept of you instantly bonding to them as you would to your natural parents is unrealistic. That sense of detachment, of floating off into space with no cord binding you to your genetic family or history, is a normal consequence of early separation from your natural mother.


A Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

Interestingly, both adoption and suicide have been described as “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Things can change. The only difference is that somebody who chooses adoption for their child will live to regret that choice. With suicide, the survivors are the ones left with regrets.

I’m not going to say it will get better right away. I’ve been there myself. It takes time to fight your way out of the darkness, to distinguish that glimmer of light, to push and kick at it until it turns into an opening wide enough to break through. Sometimes the most important discovery along your journey is not the way out, but the companions who walk alongside you and help search.

Because you’re not alone. Adoptionland has a way of making you feel isolated and misunderstood. That’s the worst illusion those funhouse mirrors can create for you. The reality is, many of us have been there. Many still are. When your eyes can’t see the light, listen for the footsteps alongside you – and keep on moving forward. You’re worth it.

*  *  *

JodiJodi Gibson Haywood is an international adoptee raised by relatives, reunited with both parents; wife, mom, stepmom, writer, marathon runner, recently returned to college to complete a psychology degree, with the goal towards a career in post-adoption therapy.

To read more from Jodi, check out her Facebook page, Attachment Unavailable, and be sure to click “like.”

Thanks so much, Jodi, for this essay!


  1. pammcrae permalink

    Wonderful essay! I owe the internet (Facebook) everything, well, not everything, but a whole lot. It enabled me to find my first son (born 1968 & lost to adoption , found 2012) and connect with the vast community of people affected by adoption loss. I was alone with the most important fact of my life for 44 years. It is wonderful to feel less alone, more understood, and finally accepted, and I wish the same for others. I wish I had known then what I know now (understatement). I would have been a far better mother to all my children. Ignorance is to blame for so much suffering, and we need to do all we can to get the truth about adoption out into the open. This essay will help do just that.

  2. eagoodlife permalink

    Thank you for telling it how it is! Now we hope the many will listen and understand or at least try to understand, not patronise us or equate their experience with ours.

  3. iwishiwasadopted permalink

    Good one! I've so been there. If not for my wonderful children. They literally saved my life many times.

  4. EmJay permalink

    So beautiful and spot on, Jodi. Why not just float away …when you don't feel tethered to anyone, anything, any family. But finding strength in numbers, finding your tribe is important. Meeting other adoptees who "get it" is crucial.

  5. kym permalink

    Yep, I've been on this carnival ride too. It took me all over the world, many exciting adventures. The "funny" thing – I wasn't running away, my lion trainers and carnival masters took me everywhere because I was compliant and didn't "cause scenes" against them, only for them. In retrospect, I believe my ability to be "compliant" is what saved me from getting institutionalized when a-mother wanted to shake me up to distract herself from her own never-addressed reunion worries.

    I recently suggested it would be a "nice gift" if they helped pay for my airfare to visit my home country again. "Amusing" responses to say the least – very predictable from people who like their offlings to be compliant and go everywhere but home, except at their beck and call.

  6. Lori permalink

    Nothing great or unique about this post. We read it all before on other adoptee's blogs. Not great advice for an adoptee feeling suicidal either. The best thing to do is find a counselor who is also adopted or reach out to friends. Or tell off the people in your life who piss you off. Empowering.

  7. Yan permalink

    I was never abandoned to the medical professionals — the real reason I didn't do anything about my desire to leave it all behind was that if I fucked it up and failed, I'd be drawing attention to myself. And then, they would all know.

    I think I wanted "away" more than I wanted out. So I stuffed it all down so far it didn't come out again for more than 10 years, and buckled down to "getting away." I did get good enough at away that I'm not sure I'm doing well on figure out how to stop.

  8. Janis permalink

    Disagree that parents who choose adoption for their child live to regret that decision. My view is that they make a life affirming choice for their child when they are unprepared, or unable to provide well for their child. There are also many adoptees who feel that although they were born to one set of parents and raised by another, blessed to have two sets of parents who love them, even if they are not actively in their lives.

    • In regards to adoption, mothers do not make a "life affirming" "choice". If a mother has support – emotional, financial or otherwise she is not going to choose to hand over her child. If she doesn't have any support, then she is handing over her child out of desperation. That is not a choice. It takes multiple viable options in order to weigh those choices and make an informed decision. If adoption is the only road left available it's not a choice.

  9. guest permalink

    suicidal adoptee..i can relate..looking for support i hope to find..i feel less alienated when i read this blog..Laura Dennis, i love your writing etc..thank you for your courage and honesty etc..i wish everyone much courage!

  10. findingchristopher permalink

    Janis – I absolutely regret my "choice". There was/is nothing life affirming about losing a child to adoption.

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