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Standing in Your Truth, Adoptee-Style

by Laura on August 8th, 2013

If you’ve been following this blog or if you’ve met me, then you may be aware of my “issues” with mental health.

And by issues, I mean, I completely lost my mind in what was diagnosed as a bipolar breakdown in 2001. Enough is enough already Laura, we get it!


In the ensuing years, I worked as a sales person for a medical device company. It was a fast-paced, stressful job that I really loved. I didn’t tell anyone about my bout with mental illness because I didn’t want people questioning my ability to handle responsibility.

I knew I was stable and sane, and I’d made peace with having spent time in a mental institution. It wasn’t as if I kept the secret through all parts of my life; my very close friends and family knew.

Mental illness wasn’t only issue in play. As an infant, I had been given up for adoption. In the State of New Jersey in the late 1970s, adoptions were closed, records were sealed. Birth moms were told to hide their pregnancies and after relinquishment, to get on with their lives.

When I did reunite with my birth mother and her family in 2001 (a few months before the delusions began), I didn’t feel 100% accepted in my biological family. In fact, my biological father wanted nothing to do with me. It took ten years for me to feel comfortable revealing these very personal details. Nevertheless, I always knew I wanted to write a memoir about these reunion experiences, along with the story of my recovery.

In doing, so, I’ve learned something unexpected: How to stand in my truth.

It’s so much clearer up here, free from the adoption fog!!

Emerging from the fog and standing in my truth

Being honest meant acknowledging how I hurt myself and others. It meant not putting my head in the sand, not living in denial, not ignoring or otherwise avoiding uncomfortable realities. [I admit I’m not 100% there yet.]

The difficult task is worth it. In endeavoring to stand in my truth, I’ve freed myself from guilt, and the overwhelming weight of outside expectations. It’s a continuous process and is by no means a one-time event. I’m no expert, I offer only the steps that I found helped me with living a more open, free life.

1. Let go.

Get over the personal shame: face it, own it. Whether you have to say it to yourself in the mirror, or write it down, acknowledge the secret.

2. Make a plan.

Figure out something you believe may solve the issue, or at least bring the secret out into the light-of-day. This can be something as small as admitting your perceived bad behavior, sin or secret to a trusted loved one.

It can be as large as announcing it on your blog (been there, done that!). But the very action of making a plan … even if it never ever sees the light of day, can be freeing. Having something in your pocket that you know you can do is empowering.

With an action plan, you defeat the impotence of inaction.

3. Think about fall-out.

It’s all fine, well and good to dream of sky-writing the secret. But there are always consequences. What’s the worst case scenario? What might happen? What are the concrete positives–in addition to clearing the air and standing in truth (positives which are not to be taken lightly)?

4. Make peace.

You may stand in your own truth, but you can’t force others to do the same. Sometimes telling your secret shows others in a negative light. Sometimes it’s not worth a ruined relationship, a ruined reputation. Sometimes it is.

But, you can’t change others’ reactions to your truth, so you have to be ready to face the possible consequences. You may have to accept that someone you wish would change … may never be willing or able to do so. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you have to live in secrecy and lies.

Give yourself time to decide whether or not you will take action.

This is a waiting period, in which you let everything simmer and cook. A day, week or even a month won’t make a huge impact on a secret you may have been carrying for years. The benefit of a good night’s sleep, some mental and psychological distance from your plan can make a huge difference in giving you the strength to move forward and stand in your truth.

5. Follow through.

Even if you decide not to go through with it; you have still made forward progress. You weighed the pros-and-cons and made an informed decision. Eyes open, feet firmly planted on the ground. That’s huge. Even if you don’t shout it from the rooftops, standing in your own personal truth is amazing and freeing.

For me, it’s the only way to find a peaceful, happy life.

P.S. And even with all of this I still struggle with anxiety and depression. Fun times.


  1. Gaye permalink

    The fog feels so comfortable because you know no better or other way. Out of the fog and you feel for the first time. Pain and happiness. Whole, yet longing for what you've lost. But really alive for the first time. A smile not only on your face, but from deep within. And it is a small step thing, bit by bit, but so much pride in each little step. :)

    • larahentz permalink

      Exactly Gaye. I felt nothing prior – nothing. When I worked on myself (therapy), the fog lifted, just as Laura and yours did. It's a miracle we survived dead as long as we did.

      • Laura Dennis permalink

        Thanks, Lara!! Yes, I agree–the fog can be so enjoyable and yet confusing, and perhaps ultimately devastating …

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Yes! Well said, Gaye — small steps and pride — both are so important!

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you :)

  2. Starr permalink

    You forgot to mention how "standing in and sharing your truth" can be of such benefit to others…as your transparency has been for me.

    Upon reunion with my birth father, I helped him carry his shame (the "secret" baby-a.k.a."me") for over twenty years just to stay in relationship with him. Of course there's always a cost of doing such things and there definitely was. It ate away at my self-esteem (what little I had) and left me feeling out of control of my own situation/life. I suffered anxiety and depression as a result.

    Through counseling, I realized that I really didn't HAVE to go along with my birth father's wish for me to remain his "secret baby" and that as a basic human right, I deserved to be known at least to my siblings. So after much thought (and futile conversations with my birth father) but against his wishes, I took action…amazingly in pretty much the steps you describe in this post. I considered the "fall out" with my birth father but hoped for the best.

    The result of my "coming out" as a secret baby were not the makings of a fairy-tale story but nonetheless, I never regretted it. It's been almost two years since I have made contact with all four of my half-siblings who knew nothing of me and since my birth father has spoken to me. The amazing result is that although the new relationships with my sisters and brothers are still uncertain, my self-esteem and feelings of worthiness are on the rise simply from standing in my truth. It's so empowering to simply put your story out there and live authentically in your own experiences. Some will judge me for what I did, others will gloss over the situation and completely ignore the implications of how it's impacted my life but I no longer internalize how others react…I instead internalize what standing in my truth has done for me.

    Thank you Laura for standing in YOUR truth and providing an example and process for all of us try for ourselves. Although painful…it's the best, most freeing thing I have ever done for myself. Still a work in progress of course…but I am on the right track :)

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Starr —
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words … you are SO right, by reading about other's experiences with standing in truth, we feel empowered to feel confident in our own. (Aren't we humans funny that way?) I can totally understand what you're saying about your birth father … You pursued your truth and your half-siblings, and that IS your right!

  3. larahentz permalink

    Brave post, well said!

  4. holly permalink

    Boy can I relate to this. Thank you!

  5. You are my favorite blogger, today. (Maybe always :)

  6. iwishiwasadopted permalink

    I've started my own blog, but I worry that it's too self serving. It's just me and my feelings but I think I come off as a cry baby. It has helped with my pain though, as if I let it out into the air so it doesn't hurt me as much. Your blog, and all the other brave adoptees out there inspired me. Thank you.

  7. Lavender Luz permalink

    You are inspiring. You your book and your space here.

  8. eagoodlife permalink

    Good one!!! May we all stand in our truth, today, tomorrow and be there for the next generation of adoptees.

  9. I know this post was mainly about adoption fog, but for me, a really rockin’ chickie with bipolar disorder, there is an unveiling of truth there too. It was a long process for me, but now, not keeping the secret of what can feel like a defected brain, I have been able to foster more meaningful relationships, be true to myself, and help others. Shouting, “This is me!” From the rooftops is a grand gift to give ourselves when addressing adoption and mental illness!
    Love this post!

  10. Kimberly permalink

    As a mother who relinquished her son in 1990 and has been in reunion with him for the past three years, also a psychiatric registered nurse for the past 14 years, I applaud your efforts of breaking the stigma of mental illness and also bringing awareness to the true feelings that displays throughout their entire lives. Both topics are SO needed to be discussed openly and as honestly as one would discuss high blood pressure or diabetes.

    Since meeting my son I definitely saw signs of mental illness and had him see a psychiatrist where he was diagnosed bipolar. He also was pretty heavily into substance-abuse which now he finally realizes or admits that it was in part due to trying to fill a void that he didn’t know why he had At the time. He will now tell you since our relationship has grown the voyages and filled with love.
    He is now dealing with the backlash of that with his adoptive mother who is very insecure and is afraid of losing her son. That makes me sad for both of them. She is a good mom and he loves her and I’m just sorry that after three years he still feels like he needs to choose sides to make us both happy. I tell him to stick with what I told him in our first few contacts, “parents first”! I’m not going any where.
    Sorry, I got off topic there, lol!
    Keep blogging! I love reading your point of view, interviews, and your book!
    Thank You!!!!

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