“One night, I received an email from someone I didn’t know. ‘I’ve known about you all of your life, and I’ve looked for you for years,’ she said. She told me that she was my biological half-sister from my birth mother’s side. It was very overwhelming. To think that someone had been looking for me for years was extremely shocking. I had never thought that someone would be searching for me, let alone see me as a part of her family. That night I tossed and turned, thinking about what I would say to her, and wondering about my biological family for the first time in a long time.
I have always known that I was adopted when I was a few days old. Growing up, my parents had always told me how my biological father held me the day of my adoption and that I was very special to them. I have very loving, secure, and strong parents and a brother. They are genuinely wonderful people. But all through my life, I had struggled with anxiety and depression. I tried to fight it to get rid of it on the surface. I thought it was just the way I was. I didn’t know that there was more.
Last year I started seeing a psychologist regularly. By pure coincidence this psychologist turned out to specialize in adoption. I honestly think it was God’s doing. Working with my therapist, I realized that the separation from my biological roots has affected me more than I ever thought. I’ve always been an anxious person. I like to know what’s coming next, and I don’t do so well when plans change at the last minute. I remember in early elementary school I would cry when there was a substitute teacher because the usual teacher was gone. In high school I had social anxiety and stuck to my best friend to feel safe. When we started college and she made more friends who she became close with, I felt rejected, and I lashed out and hurt her. There have been numerous instances in my life where I have felt anxious, rejected, or left out.
No psychologist in the past had ever asked me if I was adopted, or considered that as an adoptee I may have a special blind spot that needed to be looked at. It was a relief to know this. Things about me started making sense. A piece of my mental health puzzle was put into place. Knowing why I acted or felt certain ways helped me process my emotions in a much healthier way. I started actively working on identifying and accepting my feelings. I got friendlier with my depression and anxiety instead of fighting them, and I worked on building a toolbox of coping techniques and practiced using them when I needed them.
I was finally able to see that I had an unknown wound and that some of my issues may stem from this unknown wound, my ‘Primal Wound.’ Babies can display object permanence and separation anxiety as early as a few months old. How could a newborn baby, before developing a sense of self, demonstrate the distress of being separated from a biological mother, the only secure attachment the newborn had ever known? Reading my mom’s journal of my first few months with her, I learned I was a fussy baby, and I could see shadows of my primal wound.
I also learned how my parents observed and followed me, paid attention and responded to me, and let me grow up by my own time table. They love and have faith in God, and they love one another. I grew up in the atmosphere of that love. The adoption was truly the most beautiful and wonderful thing that could have come out of the unfortunate circumstance; so beautiful that it overshadowed the fact that I even have a wound I need to grieve.
My parents used their love, patience, and faith to form a new secure attachment, but the wound is still there. They are the best parents they can possibly be, but it is still there. They can give me all the reassurance and affirmation in the world, but it is still there. The wound is sharp and deep. It is profound and raw. It is permanent and everlasting. The wound is always going to be there. It is going to keep reverberating in every connection I make until I look at it, bring it to light, put adult understanding to it, and make meaning of it. My parents will always be my parents.They are the bright stars in my life, supporting me in my journey of working through my pain and grief and understanding my primal wound. I was ready to find out more about myself and my past. I wanted to.
With the help of my therapist, I mustered up the courage to contact my biological father for the first time. I sent him a letter with delivery confirmation so I would know if he received it. I watched my phone for days, and finally got the notification that it had been delivered to him. I felt excited, but worried about reopening his old wounds. I was hopeful, although concerned that it might cause him trouble. I felt at peace and nervous, knowing this is something I must do while fearing that this might disrupt his life and his family. The next day I got an email.
From him, I learned how difficult my adoption was for him. It had affected him deeply and everlastingly. He said, ‘As a writer, I found writing about it to be helpful and cathartic. In 1991 I wrote a poem about you entitled ‘Yours.” When he submitted the poem to the Illiad Press National Author’s Registry, he won an honorable mention award. ‘And now, 29 years later I have the blessing of giving it to you,’ he said. ‘I wrote this poem about you and so now I give it to you as your own. It is yours.’
Stunned, touched, and moved, his words resonated with me deeply. It gave so much more weight and meaning to my anxiety and depression. I also learned that he has struggled with anxiety his whole life. My mental health puzzle felt even more complete. Then I realized each person in my life that has encouraged and been there for me is a source of hope for me- a star. Like stargazing, one by one, new understanding becomes a pathway to greater self-compassion. I wanted a reminder of my sources of hope. I also wanted to remind myself that there may be sources of hope that I haven’t found yet. This is how yoursnadia.com was born. Using the theme of stars in the night sky, I started making jewelry. I used a gold star for the hope that I’d found, and a black star behind it for the hope I hadn’t discovered yet.
This June, my girlfriend and I met many of my biological family members in person for the first time. The moment I saw each of them, we hugged. We immediately got along. I felt comfortable talking to and being near each of them. I was able to give each of them a Nadia’s Hope gift, as they have become some of the most important stars in my life. It has been a thrill for me to compare the similarities between my biological family members and myself. One night when my sister and I were sitting by each other, my birth father said, ‘You have the same feet!’ It sounds silly, but it was so interesting for us that we took a picture. We are now working on getting to know each other and spending time together.
My life is not perfect, but it does not have to be. Looking for and finding the stars in my life has given me strength to lovingly live with my mental health struggles. Reading some of the letters my dad exchanged with my biological father just after my adoption, I can see two selfless loving parents, communicating openly and vulnerably, while going through their own journey to work through their pain and grief.
My biological father wrote, ‘Frankly, letting her go has been a very painful experience as I’m sure you can understand. On more than one occasion I have considered bringing her home to live with me and raising her myself. However, deep down inside, I know that it is the will of God for her to be with a loving mother, father, and family. I know in my heart that you are that family.’
In his response, my dad said, ‘Not only do Suzanne and I enjoy hearing about your thoughts and desires for Deanna, but we are confident in years to come, these thoughts will be a source of comfort and insight for Deanna.’ And these thoughts are now one of my sources of hope, as I continue with my journey to work through my wound.
I hope that other adoptees will be able to access information about their birth families, and that they and their adoptive and biological parents will have the courage to look through their pain, grieve their losses, and find their stars in life. And I hope that my story can be a star for anyone that is reading this. I hope and trust that we can all be stars for each other, just like my family is for me.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Deanna Swanson and Agatha Lee. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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‘Did she feel guilty abandoning me in a parking lot? Did she wonder about me? For the first time in 30 years I thought, ‘I have to find her.’: Adoptee reclaims identity in search for birth family
‘Do you know why your REAL parents didn’t want you?’ They wonder how much I ‘cost.’ Truth is, love has no limits. Family is not confined or defined by blood.’: Transracial adoptee details journey, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’
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