In recent times I’ve been looking at the relationships in my life, what they are like, who is involved and how do they serve my needs. I was adopted 47 years ago and I always; well as far back as I can remember, felt different, not connected, and alone.
I don’t necessarily mean this in a very sad way but that’s just how it was. Over the years I have worked very closely with the adoption world, I have spent time in the company of adopted adults, natural mothers and adoptive parents, both personally and professionally and that sense of disconnect from family is a very common theme. The pain that runs through adoption affects all those involved, and throughout the years there have been precious few professionals who have adequately been able or willing to recognise it as anything that is real or tenable.
I thought when I had my own child that I would be happy, and although I was happy to be a father and delighted and proud to have a son it didn’t satiate that deep seated need. When I got married and was loved for who I was I thought that that would make me happy, alas that deep seated need to belong didn’t go.
When I eventually decided to trace my birthmother I knew that this was where my happiness would be found, NO, Mary did not want to know and I felt massively rejected again. So I buried all this deeply inside me and started to eat my emotions. I would eat them happy or sad, no matter what, I would turn to food to satisfy this unseen need. Before long I had become morbidly obese and no closer to feeling connected, happy, loved, appreciated or wanted. Although everyday there were those who loved me and wanted me and who appreciated me.
For many years I buried myself in other adopted peoples issues, this helped me cope with not understanding my own and gave me a sense of being wanted. This was not a good place for me or for many of the people that I worked with as I was as unable to help them emotionally as I couldn’t help myself.
Around this time I started my journey back into education, I studied counselling, psychology, disability studies, suicide studies, social care, addiction and equality. It was all of these allied with a course about attachment theory and practice that finally led me to understanding why I was the way I was. I read the works of Bowlby and Ainsworth and looked at how our very early attachments affect us into adulthood. The notion that depending on how your parents were parented could have a very real effect on you as a child fascinated me. It is now something that I use in my work, it is something that all helping/care professionals should know about and take cognisance of.
So am I better, more whole, healed, more loved, NO, but I now understand that how I feel about me is much more important than how anyone else feels about me. I now know that people can’t reject me, I can feel rejected and that is something I can control. I now surround myself with great people, People who love me for who I am, I work for an organisation that cherishes its staff and service users, I give of myself to others because it makes me feel good not because I need to, I love and am loved.
I have lost people out of my life, My dad and two sisters are no longer talking to me, I have left my door open for them. My birth mother, Mary or my sisters and brothers have not contacted me, but I am happy so very, very happy. I love my wife Nuala more than ever and I am beyond proud of our son Dave. Life is a challenge, meet that challenge head on !!!
Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, Social Justice Ireland and the YES Campaign for Children.
All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.