Empty Cereal Box

Views From Inside an Adoptee

April 16, 2006

Panic Mode

I'm in permanent panic attack mode, so terrified that something could go wrong, a deep uneasy sense that has something to do with abandonment and loss again. It devours me every time someone I care about leaves the house, goes on a trip, changes lifestyles. I used to come home from school and if I didn't see my amother immediately, I'd panic and run around the house nearly blind with terror crying until I found her. But as an adult, I push it down and keep it to myself because running around crying and hyperventillating would be "childish." Because I would never dream of hampering anyone's life plans. And anyway, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't understand if I said what I go through. It's a sick feeling that tightenes the whole center of my being, as if I'm about to turn inside out.

When those in my family aren't home and I hear a siren, the same things happen. I fear the worst. And nothing anyone says or does can take it away, not comforting, not reason, nothing. Until I see or hear from the missing person agin. It's like I go into suspended animation, barely able to breathe. It's not a nice way to live, but it's all I know.

I just talked to my older daughter K on the phone. On June 6 she is flying to Guatemala. She will stay there until July 27 working at Ix Chel Farms with medicinal plants and learning traditional Mayan natural healing. She's in the process of getting her master's degree in ethnobotany, or medical anthropology. She wants to study indigenous plant medicine for women's health, particularly menstral dysfunction and pregnancy. She will finish her degree in about two years, where the program will also award her Ph.D. I'm so proud of her because she's done most of the hard work and financing on her own. My guts are twisting and I just think I'm gonna barf.


Anonymous Manuela said...

First time I've ever been here... found your site through my stats...

What a painfully poignant post this is... siiggggh... as a fellow adoptee... I know only too well, the pain of reliving separaration anxiety.

I don't know how to fix it... I wish I did... all I know how to do is reach out through the blogoshphere and send you my understanding.

Much affection...

Blogger Kippa Herring said...

I'm so sorry about the panic and separation anxiety.
I do think that there are particular innate tendencies in everyone. Although I wasn't adopted, I live my live in panic mode and in constant fear of impending loss. I always been that way. But I'm sure that where such tendencies and vulnerabilities already exist, being adopted will exacerbate them considerably. There's due cause. The original loss is real as opposed to imagined.
Arrrgh. I just can't imagine double the trouble.

K sounds like an amazing young woman. No wonder you're proud of her.

I hope the gut twisting eases.

Blogger Marie Jarrell said...

Thanks for your comments Manuela and Kippa. It's really a crappy way to live. Why do I have this idea that this separation anxiety can be clinically "treated" in nonadoptees yet adoptees are pretty much ON THEIR OWN. I wonder how we can we separate what's a common tendency in a lot of people and what's particular to being part of the adoption triad?

Blogger Kippa Herring said...

"Why do I have this idea . . . yet adoptees are pretty much ON THEIR OWN."
Maybe adoption makes people who are inclined that way even more conscious of the existential void than they would otherwise have been.

So, we're (supposedly) all the same species (one sometimes wonders about that), and no man is an island, etc, blah. But given that on the cellular level, the gap between the primary caregive (usually mother) and adopted child is wider than between bio-related ditto, it's a crap shoot whether that child has ended up with a (reasonably to good) compatible surrogate family or not.

My guess is that 'most' of what we call 'personality' is inborn. Some people are just naturally more easy-going and communicative than others. it's a two-way thing - responsive children more likely to = responsive parents, and vice versa. Like I said, I suspect adoption tends to exacarbate certain vulnerabilities that a perosn may have.

I do think that if an adoptive mother is able to "get a feel for"/empathise with the child in the early stages of development, the kid's more likely (not inevitably) to be responsive and grow up feeling reasonably secure. And if such a parent finds it difficult to pick up on cues, the child is going to sense that too, and (though again, not inevitably) feel things are freaky and skewed with its world. And I think the odds are greater for that to happen in an adoption scenario.

"I wonder if we can separate . . etc"
Don't know. I've often wondered that too. Probably not. It's such a tangled web of neurons.

Blogger Marie Jarrell said...

I'm just now reading Peter's Acts of Resistance blog and the feelings that his words stir up make me shake. Like I'm reliving my own past in technocolor. I can't begin to express my appreciation for your insightful comments and for the presence of others in the triad in the blogosphere.

Blogger Kippa Herring said...

Me, insightful? It's me who's grateful for the insights I glean from people like yourself.
Peter's blog is excellent. I respect him a lot.

Blogger Annabelle said...

Your daughter's study program sounds amazing. I have the same thing with sirens, I always wonder if they're for someone I know...


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