By Daniel Harrison





Many years ago an old indigenous healer having heard that I was adopted told me that everything I built would keep collapsing until I finally came to terms with my foundations. Some years later a writing mentor told me that it sounded like a curse, I agree with both of them.

Oh great river that has brought me to the sea, to face the mirror of who I really am, that lonely old sun making black and white circles over the ocean in the hope that love will find me one day and make be a boat for the journey homewards. But it is more than that, it is more than just love that I need, the very heart of my foundation is rotten, there is nothing there, I have no confidence in who I am, I have no confidence in my foundations.

Every time I try to rise up my confidence collapses, I have no confidence in myself, in where I came from whatsoever, in fact I am at war with where I came from, I have tried to obliterate and do away with where I came from in the hope that this would give me self confidence. Every time I try to move forward I panic, I feel a deep pain in the centre of my chest and I just collapse and as I collapse the self-hatred starts in, I want to end, I want to kill myself, I want to do myself in, I want to take that knife and plunge it in the centre of my chest and just end it because the pain is so intense.

There are plenty of people out there who would say that that is just because my adoption was not a great experience, well was adoption a great experience for anyone? A beginning marked by being given away by the person who is supposed to love, treasure, and respect and look after you that was not exactly a great start to the big even called my life.

Then being told that I could not trust my emotions, that my emotions were wrong, that everything was fine, it was fine to just remove my mother, remove my family, just fine for me to lie about it, to lie to myself, to act as if this was my family, to deny my wound. Is it any wonder that I have no confidence in myself, in my emotions, in how I really feel, in the society that I live in, in the people around me staying and not abandoning me? Is it any wonder that I struggle to clearly articulate my needs, to find confidence in who I am, to know where I am going, to make a decision, to feel empowered when everything has been set up to deprive me of exactly this?

Is it any wonder that I struggle in a world that is made up of families, where people seek assistance from their families, find their sense of belonging in families and I do not belong fully to any family. Is it any wonder that I struggle with confidence, with a shattered foundation that for years on end has left me feeling ashamed of where I came from? Your mother gave you up (what a euphemism that is), no this has no effect upon you at all, how dare you speak out like that, how dare you voice that emotion, you are so ungrateful.

I am drowning in an ocean of self doubt, in an ocean of regret, in a bottomless ocean of loss that was never allowed to be voiced. Is it any wonder that I put all my needs to one side in a relationship where a person did not love me back, put all my needs to one side in a bid to please that person, and saw that as normal? Destroying the foundation that I had built in order to disguise my total lack of self-confidence in my foundation, in where I came from. Is it any wonder that I do not have confidence in my lovability, in who I am deep down inside, that I struggle to be at one with myself, with who I am, with how I feel, with this pain so deep inside that I cannot remove it from my bones, my stomach, my head, my heart.

Is it any wonder that I feel like a second class citizen who has had to beg for his records in various offices, has been lied to by the state, by his adopted parents, by his mother. How can one believe in anything at all when all has been turned upside down, all guarantees are gone, when the unspeakable can happen at any point

Take it from me abandonment is not good for one’s self confidence, for ones sense of self worth and it does not matter how much sugar you add to the equation, your mother had not choice, it does not help the spoonful of medicine go down. Telling me that it is sad that I am so sad, hurt, angry, and lonely, pissed off does not help either. That is just isolating me, trying to shut down the truth, to shut down how I feel by saying that it is something to do with me when it has nothing to do with me, it has got everything to do with being abandoned.

A person wrote many years ago that I had taken my adoption to heart; I had taken it personally as a personal attack on me. This is true, I did, nobody told me otherwise, what else is an infant supposed to think, my mother left me but I know that it was not my fault? Now as I grew up nobody sat down and told me there is no need to look for love through being perfect, through shoving down your emotions, through not talking about your adoption, I knew the score and I played it. The score has still not changed, what I find most insidious about closed adoption is how I am the rescued one, the damaged one, from bad goods rescued by the good people, this is in magazines, it underpins our society and every time I speak up well the crowd who have never experienced adoption shout you down.

One can say that it does not matter where you come from, let me assure you it does, I had no mirror looking back at me in fact I spent most of my time looking at these strange people acting badly asking myself who the hell are these people and where did they come from? What is their history? Come to think of it, it did not help that their daughters had free access to the cupboards, to new clothing, could be as untidy as they wanted, whilst we had no such privileges. Now that cannot be good for ones confidence, for my self esteem but don’t you dare isolate me, abandonment is not exactly good for anyone’s self confidence is it not?

When growing up I used to try to outdo this problem though academic achievement, sports achievement, being good, acting as if I really belonged to my adopted family, my father is rich and soon. He wasn’t really that rich, just delude, he would come out with chestnuts like if you are not good you will not inherit half a million dollars. One could say without a shadow of a doubt that his self esteem had been shattered by his father and he was doing his best to offload his problems onto myself and my brother instead of his daughters. Once could also say that the man is insufferable, indeed on my adoption records they were worried about adopting out twin boys to a man who seemed to be psychotic, but boys were hard to adopt out in those days and so what to do with twins? We got the worst of a bad deal.

So take two boys whose confidence in love, life the universe has been shattered. Add them into a family that already has two biological daughters who are quite young. Mix them in with two young parents who either had a family like a warzone (my father) where he was always compared to his golden brother and my mother who had a shadowy history that included parents dying young, alcoholism and being brought up by her sister whom I thought was her Aunty. We have a recipe for disaster. I also found out much later that she too had adopted out a daughter. Even the adopted families could not help but be touched by this major industry.

Once can see that the odds were stacked against me. So much so that I have to laugh in a knowing laugh or perish kind of way as I swim around the emotions of this shark infested ocean with a major problem, I was never really taught how to swim through my emotions, instead I was taught to please and deny them. I did my best, honest, indeed I keep kicking myself for not putting enough effort in, kicking myself, why don’t you get up, start again, but how does one start again when I have no confidence in where I came from?

Adoption has put me into situation after situation that has chipped away or simply wholesale removed my self confidence. It removed my self confidence right at the beginning by telling my adopted parents that adoption will have no emotional effect on my brother and I. So here we were, two emotionally damaged kids being adopted by two adults who were for all intents and purposes emotionally crippled children themselves. We did not stand a chance. I am struggling to articulate just how damaging it is to deny a wound so deep, so crippling so immediate, to deny its effect upon a person is to invalidate a person’s very existence, is to erase a person’s emotional compass, and is to deny a person access to the deepest level of their being. I cannot overstate this; it is as if my insides, my very essence had been soiled, removed, rendered unclean, off limits to myself and then to rub salt into the wounds ones ancestry is denied, knowledge of who I am is taken.

I had been reduced to an orphan trying to work out ways to survive in a hostile world that denied my emotional existence that drove me to only live from the outside, by seeking love, by prostituting myself by pleasing others. My tapu (sacredness) had been interfered with, I was alone, vulnerable, confused, with little or no confidence, not understanding why I had been placed in this terribly painful situation but knowing that I needed to be brave, that I needed to heal it. I tried to heal it by sacrificing my needs, through achievement but this of course could never heal or remove the fact that I had been crippled inside, hobbled, and terribly wounded.

Sharks swim in oceans, they seek out the vulnerable, they seek out the wounded, and they can smell the blood of the weak, the exposed wounds. And that is exactly what happened. My adopted father and mother, she allowed him to do this, offloaded their problems onto us. In my quest for love, as a little boy I was sexually abused by a man called Sonny along with my brother at the tennis club, we were in search of love, any love at all, we were vulnerable to the world, alone, away from our family, broken hearted, grief stricken, blaming ourselves for what had happened, lacking in self-confidence. Our grandmother searched for us when we were five (she had also adopted out a son) which is why my mother thought it was such a good idea, my grandmother was not allowed access. If she had of found us I am sure that it would have made a difference for my brother and I. This was at the time that he really went off the rails. She must have known. As for my mother she had a terrible childhood with step sisters and a step brother, she always felt that her brother who was adopted out much have got the better end of the stick, he did not. But this belief is what drove her towards her adoption decision.

This lack of self confidence has led to years of trying to build a life, and as that healer pointed out, that life constantly collapsing on the altar of a rotten foundation. This has not exactly done wonders for my self-confidence, one of the worst aspects of adoption had been for me the fact that I blamed myself for my mother giving me up and spent my life trying to make up for this. When this failed I branded myself an unlovable failure. At the core is myself, trying to come to terms with myself means looking squarely at the massive hurt that I have built on in a bid to cope with adoption. Like a good boy I have tried denying this ocean of pain, you can’t, it’s a constant reality. This pain in turn had driven my behaviour; all my failed attempts to build have been my attempts to come to grips with this loss, this massive loss in the face of a society that denies it, that denies my grief, my existence, my realness. This denial and all the wreckage of my attempts to deal with it has completely done in my self confidence, it is such a long and a hard road to heal because I simply do not have self confidence, confidence in my emotions, in where I have come from, in my families, in the state that legislated against me and made me an outsider, in my not being rejected, in my lovability.

You can call it the perfect storm. It even enters into the spiritual realms, if there is a God, well what kind of God is this, given that I am dealing with a life that from the moment of my conception removed me of my self-confidence. Months of my mother thinking about giving me away cannot have done much for my self-confidence even before I entered the world and was wheeled away into the brave new world with nothing to make me feel safe. I was born into massive disappointment, I was born into a massive crisis of self-confidence, I was not born into joy. My existence, my birth was not a time of celebration, indeed the trauma of my birth has hobbled me like a ball and chain, is it any wonder that as soon as I try to get up the perfect storm hits, I collapse and want to kill myself?

The pain is not something that I can wave a magic wand at and make it go away. This crisis of self-confidence is real; I have been dealing with it all my life as best as I can. Trying to come to terms with my foundations with who I really am in the face of denial by my adopted parents and of society as a whole about the true cost of closed adoption, don’t single me out, face the facts, this system is terrible, it did not work, and it has extracted an awful lot of pain from the people who have undergone this unfortunate experiment.
I am still in search of self-confidence but at least now I have the courage to admit it

Posted Within These Walls 13.12 2013 Facebook group