Readers of this blog understand that change is difficult for many adoptees. It triggers feelings of fear, rejection and instability which are rooted in the separation from the birth mother. An adoptee’s predisposition to be hypersensitive to change makes sense considering their fractured life history.
My time-line reveals no similar cracks in continuity. Raised within the family into which I was born, I never feared that they’d “reject” or "abandon" me. I never wondered about the possibility of an alternative reality which could include different parents, siblings, names and, identities. Like a barnacle on a wave-tossed shore, I felt securely attached. I relied on family to witness, support and encourage me as I labored to handle any challenges and obstacles that came my way. I knew who I was and where I fit in the continuity of the family timeline. My people were survivors who understood hard work, difficult times, financial struggles and, the sucker punch that an unexpected health issue could deliver.
In spite of this time-tested sense of being reliably steadied by family ties, I’ve never been a fan of change. It unsettles me and sucks up energy and focus. I prefer the familiarity and security of routine. Plus, I’m an introvert, so I crave quiet and solitude to recharge my “batteries.” I also carefully guard my privacy and personal information.
All of these thoughts came to mind when an adult adoptee recently confided to me the angst and worry that a recent doctor’s appointment triggered within her. The medical history form which I find simply irksome to complete, slaps her in the face with a sharp reminder that she lacks the medical history knowledge which I take for granted. I know the significant risks in our family for heart disease, dementia, cancer, etc. Because I know the facts, I can take appropriate action in terms of diet, medication, and monitoring. I only have to worry about a specific set of facts.
My adoptee friend on the other hand, has to worry about the entire universe of medical risks. Unlike my health risks which are identified across generations, her fears are "unbounded" because anything is possible.Does breast cancer run in the family? Alzheimer’s? Melanoma? Heart disease? Diabetes? Multiple Sclerosis? The reality for her is she does not know. And so…she worries…a lot. She pleads for early screening for breast cancer.
And is denied.
And so she worries even more.
She suffers from an unusual array of health issues yet has no way of knowing if these symptoms are part of a family pattern or if they are indicative of genetics, stress, environment, occupational hazard, etc. Should she avoid certain things? Should she be engaging in other pro-active practices to help stave off the family risk? Who knows?
Not her doctor.
She doesn’t think this is fair, or wise or, medically sound. She wants access to her family history, identity and people. I agree. So does the Donaldson Institute who is spearheading a national movement #OBC2020. Check it out and join the movement to restore these basic human rights to adult adoptees.