I am not sure if I am one of the oldest people to have my story on this website, but I sure feel like I am. Which is unusual because I constantly feel young. I hear that a lot of my adoptee support network groups.
My experience might not be relevant to a lot of readers. After all, I was adopted in the 1980s. And some folk never have the opportunity to be adopted. I was never fostered so I can’t possibly comment on that, but my experience of adoption was of becoming a new person. That may sound like a dream come true, I mean, how many people would like to start anew? But I found it a struggle, and it was a struggle that took decades to voice.
I love my family. I feel lucky to have them, even on days when they wind me up. I don’t blame them for what I felt back then (and what I still sometimes feel today) but I cannot help but feel they caused a lot of unhappiness in my life through no fault of their own.
And that’s the crux of my anxiety and depression. It is hard to say ‘you have failed me’. I feel guilty and ungrateful. I hear the well-meaning yet ignorant voices of people with no experience of care telling me how I should feel. I am always the person who has to listen, even when it’s my story being told.
Being an adoptee is a constant performance; declaring unending gratitude for things non-care experienced people take for granted. Thanking people for showing love and affection to someone who is not their own, congratulating them on their impressive feat of taking on somebody else’s child. Standing by with a smile on my face as people applaud my parents’ skills. Feeling anger at the term I tried my best.
What is your best? Burying my history because I’ll adjust better this way. Moving area so people won’t guess my back story. Blaming my anger on growing pains, puberty or my cranky quirky personality. Loving me unconditionally…
…that thought cuts through my anger and a stream of tears trail down my face. I am loved. And there’s only so long that I can carry my anger.
Whatever gripes I have with the care system, we do try our best. But we do things wrong, we are under-resourced, we make a bad judgement call, we miscalculate, we follow the wrong directions, we mess up. My parents were clueless, they saw a child they wanted to protect in me and listened to what everyone told them was best to do. They listened to other people instead of me.
It’s a new century now. And my voice is out there in the world. Adulthood was the best gift I was given, and for a long time I hoped I’d never live to see it. When adulthood came, I pretended my youth never existed, I thought if I ignored it I’d heal. Because that worked so well for me in the 1980s, after all.
My story is not trying to paint a bleak picture of the future – because trust me, the future is pretty cool. Rather, my story was hidden for so long that I felt alone, at times I didn’t believe I existed. I spoke to nobody about my feelings.
I don’t want to say nowadays things are better – mostly because it makes me feel ancient, but also because I don’t know how things are now. But I do see websites like this, and campaigns to raise awareness of care-leavers experiences. I see more discussions about wellbeing and I see folk calling each other out for harmful behaviour. There is an openness that I did not see in the 1980s.
If you are reading this, you are doing better than I ever was. You have identified a support network for care experienced folk while still in your youth. So I cannot help but know you are destined for great things, because if you already know and share your story you have truly stepped out of the shadows.
About the author
Nina spent time in care in the 1980s.