Who makes you happy ? You !!!


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.

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23 thoughts on “Who makes you happy ? You !!!

    • Thanks Carmel, I have found over the last ten years that laying my life open is very empowering, if people know the truth about me from me then no one can lie about me, if that makes sense

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  1. thanks for your words, adrian. i have an adopted daughter and it’s good to get your perspective. i hope she is on the same self-empowerment road as you. i can lead her to it, but she must walk it alone.

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    • guide her to some of the great books out there, there is as far as i know attachment for dummies which will be a good place to start to understand the effect adoption can have on us at a subconcious level

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  2. Very honest and moving read Ado, All the time i know you I see this big happy guy, its amazing how we never have a clue what really is going on in others hearts and minds, and that you are in a great happy place now is great to know x

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    • thanks rachael
      i think it would be honest of me to say that i have always been happy , but only to a point, my friendships and work colleagues have always been happy for me, its my personal life that has been difficult, but out of difficulty comes growth..thanks again xxx

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  3. What a beautiful blog Adrian. So sorry to hear of family disputes amongst you ,your sisters and dad, I hope one day everyone learns to let bygones be bygones, live in peace ,forgive and be happy within yourself. Life is too short not to realize that.

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    • thanks for taking the time to reply, im trying to keep it real mostly for myself but if it challenges or inspires someone to change then thats a double bonus x ado

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  4. A very open, honest and laid bare piece, delighted you are in such a happy place. Sounds like you have done a lot of work to get there. Very happy for you. I very much enjoyed reading it, well done and look forward to your next one .. 🙂

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    • thanks babs, it is my goal in life to be an open book, i believe that i own my story and if i tell it truthfully then thats it.the adoption world is a difficult one for most to navigate but i hope that me being open will allow others to be open too

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  5. Lovely post Adrian, very much more open than we often expect men to be, well done on your honesty. You don’t wallow, and you’re not one of the aggrieved adopted, you’re seeing the realities and dealing with them. Proud to know you, Sam

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    • thanks sam, trying to keep it real, i get very fed up with the adoption haters, i dont agree with adoption as a concept, i would rather see different grades of legal guardianship, but i will keep fighting for openess no matter what, and if that takes me to be honest and open then thats what it will be…

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  6. Moving piece Ado . Your am inspiration to everyone that has had the privilege of knowing you. Both yourself and Nuala have always been so supportive during my mothers past trials and for that I will forever hold you both in such high esteem. And I also am very indebted to you both for listening to my own emotional ramblings. Sometimes we all need a friendly ear. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing my mother such compassion and for listening . You are blessed with a lovely wife and a great son , but all that know you both are also blessed. Keep up the great work you are doing for those less fortunate than ourselves . You will always be a friend of mine. Thank you for sharing this post.

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