Little Black Box

I had a really good day yesterday. I brainstormed with my writing partner and we did excellent work. I did a massage on a client I love and felt good about how relaxed she felt when I was done. I had a Write or Die class and I was, yet again, amazed by the hearts and guts and brains of my students. I was also amazed by my own capacity as a writing teacher. I felt good about my abilities. I know what I’m doing. I help people express themselves, and I see how powerful this gift is.

Here is where I start talking about adoption. Now, the morning after the good day, I can feel the hangover starting. The little black box of despair is kicking in, and I can feel myself sliding into trouble. This is where I want to buy something to boost my struggling self-esteem or eat cookies to get a surge of sugar love. If drugs and alcohol did for me what they did for many people, I would be a drunk or a drug addict, but mostly I walk up hills to try to escape the pain of the box.

What? You don’t know what the black box is? It grows in the body/mind of adoptees when they are relinquished. While the non-relinquished infant grows an autonomic system based on the mother music of you are home; we are one; you are safe; the relinquished infant develops a different system: it’s a little black box that is largely (enormously, egregiously) overlooked by the medical community because those folks went to the School of the Lucky Adoptee when they were learning how to heal people, and in this five-minute class they learned that adoptees were lucky to not have been aborted and that all is well because good people adopted these children. This is a survey class so there is no discussion of the term “good people”. In this class, it means anyone with a pulse. So the adoptees are lucky. Let’s move on to plantar fasciitis.

When I was applying to colleges, my parents took me to a college counselor to help me find the right school because I was a bit of a problem. I tested well and had a high IQ, but my grades didn’t reflect my abilities. The counselor asked me to tell her three good things about myself and I couldn’t think of one. She told me to come back the next week with a list, and all week I tried to write down three things, but it was like trying to poop when you haven’t eaten in a long time. I had nothing. I looked forward to the appointment, though, because I figured the counselor would tell me three good things about myself. I couldn’t wait to see what they were.

And then when I saw her, she didn’t ask for my list.

I needed to know what was good about me. My parents told me I was good, smart, loving, special, but these words didn’t go in. I heard them, and I believed the words were true, but they didn’t cover up the steady feed of the black box that mainlined into my guts and brain: When you were born, your mother gave you away. You don’t really exist. You shouldn’t even be here.  You are worthless.

My friend has a 16-year-old son and the boy is disappearing before the man’s eyes. The boy is struggling with school, with his relationships, with his performance on the track team. It’s hard enough to be a teenager, but to be a teenager who was adopted is really something. Especially because you have no idea that adoption may have anything to do with how you are feeling or behaving. All you know is that you are a train that is rapidly careening off the tracks and everything your parents and your counselors and your teachers say to you just makes you feel worse about yourself. It’s not helpful to be lectured about potential when you are being poisoned from the inside.

That’s enough for now.

I’m going out to buy a cookie.