Phase II: School Bullying… Becoming an Outcast

I don’t mean to be a problem… but it seemed that I was. My existence, begun in such a starkly different way than other kids, in a place where “difference” breeds contempt, and tolerance is given to ONLY those who comply with being a carbon copy of the kid sitting next to them. Where was there a place for me?

The story of my adoption failed to yield comfort so my adoptive parents invested in a book, “The Chosen Baby”. The idea that I was “selected” placed a significant burden on me that I was much too young to appreciate. I had to be perfect…. That was how people became “chosen”. It was a tall order whose very words created expectations in my new family as well as it did with me. I was genetically different. My needs would be different. My adoptive family EXPECTED me to fit in as if the adoption never happened. That was a set up. One that neither my adoptive family nor I could foresee.  Differences between me and the biological daughter they birthed a year and a half after my adoption just accentuated my difference.

 

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ACT I:

It was 3rd grade when my secret got out.  The anxiety that had been created in me about my adoption spilled over and I looked for solace in ANYONE who would feign understanding. 

“Your mother never wanted you,” a blond haired classmate of mine screamed at me from across the lunchroom table, “she threw you out with the trash.”

I held back the tears.

ACT II:

“Time to line up” our teacher yelled at my classmates.

“Ewww,” several of them shouted, pushing each other away from the place behind me, “she has cooties!”

I stood silently, numbed by the insult.

ACT III:

As I approached the school grounds, a male classmate of mine walked up to me…  “We don’t want anyone like you in our school,” he told me sternly as he punched me in the stomach.

I slumped over, the breath leaving me, with tears streaming down my face.

ACT IV:

A neighbor watched as the antics took place on the playground (and did nothing to stop it). She went to my adoptive parents and let them know of the amount of bullying I was enduring…  I was sent to a psychiatrist.

“What would you do, “ I asked him as I sipped the tea he brought me, nibbled on the crackers and  commenced to draw on the blackboard in front of me, “if a little girl walked from door to door…” I drew a door and linked it with a chalk path, to another and another. “And she came to your door and asked you to take care of her because no one wanted her, would you?”

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PHASE I: The Imposed Taboo of Illegitimacy… Selling babies to the Highest Bidder

I don’t mean to be a problem but….

I always felt it is interesting that our culture insists on imposing restraints on human behavior and function that seem to put us at odds  with our bodies. Our children are reaching sexual maturity earlier and earlier, yet, our society has become more and more complex, placing artificial value with currency as the means to acquire goods and services for everyday needs. Inflation and the devaluation of the dollar, along with the hording of wealth by the upper 1% has meant that it takes longer and longer to acquire the monetary stability to ensure the proper care of the next generation….

So, young girls go on the pill to limit their fertility so that they remain available for male sexual appetites without consequence. When they are caught pregnant before establishing legitimacy through marriage, both mothers and children are punished through poverty, their extended families often feeling the economic hardship and stigma along with them.

For some families, those with more assets and financial reserves, the hardship of “unwanted pregnancies” is forced squarely on the shoulders of the women who choose to carry their children to term. In my day, before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, that meant being sent away to birth alone in a “home for unwed mothers”. That is where my life began…

In December of 1960, my mother became pregnant.  My father was in his junior at West Point and my mother was a pre-med student at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. My maternal grandfather was Superintendent of Reading schools and had been appointed by the Kennedy administration to help in the implementation of Special Education services across the country. My mother’s condition was not welcomed. She was sent away in shame, as many young women were at that time, to give birth in secret at the Florence Crittenton home for unwed mothers in Wilmington, Delaware. There she was kept on a strict diet, her belly swelling with a white baby that ultimately would receive top dollar for the Lutheran Children’s Services.

Shortly after reuniting with her at the age of 20, my biological mother relayed to me this story… “The girls would often sneak out to the local convenience store to buy candy and treats.” She took a breath as if the very utterance sucked the air out of her lungs. “One day I was coming out of the store when two little boys glanced my way, laughed and then spit on me,” the tears began welling up in her eyes. As she continued her voice broke with the effort to hold back the rage of emotion trying to release from the back of her throat, “There I was, a pre-med student with a 150 IQ.” Again there was a long inhalation, as if breathing itself had become painful. “They spit on me… because I was pregnant.” The tears began to flow freely.

My birthmother breast fed me the first three days of my life and then handed me over to a social worker who placed me in my adoptive parents’ home two days later.

The panic attacks started when I was about a year and a half and were triggered by the story of my adoption. Somewhere in my body I knew I had suffered a significant loss; her voice, her smell, and the taste of breast milk. All of that knowledge had been imprinted on my body. There were no words at that time because the information was received in a pre-verbal state…. The violent temper tantrums I began having, writhing in agony, were met with beatings. The foundation needed to misunderstand and misjudge who I was and who I could be had already begun!!!

Trauma, American Style: The Socialization of Indifference

Much like the 1970’s show of a similar name, this expose will consist of multiple vignettes, a new one each week. Each will give insight into the way traumatic events insidiously leave their mark, alone and then as a culminating repertoire of experience. They are REAL life events that begin to tell a story of the making of a victim of trauma.

Many of you may find these stories disturbing. The fact is that trauma is an experience that links us all. Whether it reaches diagnostic criteria becomes irrelevant when events like these have the power to color the perception of ourselves and the world around us.

Many of you have dissociated yourself from the traumatic experiences of your life… “I am like a duck,” you tell yourself and others, “I just let those things roll off my back.”

Then you begin to take notice as the emotions spill over, your body seemingly too small to contain the amount of feelings that you have pushed down into its depths…. Standing on the sidelines of the Memorial Day parade you find yourself choking up, the tears streaming down your face. On another occasion while watching a television program you find yourself welling up with anger, and begin screaming at the television.  Sitting at the dinner table you experience a growing knot that you feel in your stomach every time you watch and listen to your son chew his food.

Each one of these REACTIONS tells a story… not about what you are witnessing, but about YOUR life story. Each one of these moments consists of emotional learning that is non-verbal. These are events that have NOT been explored and so therefore remain submerged until you come face to face with similar situations. Then old feelings begin to rise in the new situations that you find yourself….

We are living vicariously in this culture. Removed from the emotional connection to our own lives, we re-experience the spillover of our lives in the feelings generated through the observation of “others”. We react to “others” by projecting our own life issues onto them… Overcome with the emotion that we buried, we use our station of privilege; of parent, or, of “professional” to judge those in a subservient position and often comment about how they SHOULD think, feel, act, and behave. Given our place of privilege we then can act as we wish, often mirroring the patterns of behavior that we victimized us in the first place, and that through denial, we failed to learn.

I don’t mean to be a problem but…..