GOT TRAUMA? Write it out…

Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.

Oscar Wilde

Last night I couldn’t sleep. As I lay there in deep contemplation of all that has happened in the last few years I thought about Finding Heart Horse and The Wall of Secrets and the traumas held between their covers. Many of them had been buried so deep and were so painful I couldn’t bare to think about them for years. If you are familiar with my books you  know about The Wall of Secrets.

wall-of-secretsI hid my secrets, my traumas in the drawers for years.  It was the only way to survive. To disassociate until I was able to deal with the immense amount of pain I knew was wrapped around each trauma. I didn’t know if that time would ever come or if I would be strong enough to push through to the other side. I did and I was.

I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for a long time and mindfulness is one of the most important practices Buddha teaches. Also, one of the most challenging.

Sati-Buddha chose this word for Mindfulness meaning “to remember”

There are two kinds of memory:

implicit: which is learning a skill and remembering automatically, like riding a bike.

Explicit: narrative memory, functions through self-awareness accessed thru thought, not body

Trauma is implicit memory. Fight or flight. It encodes itself in the mind and body.

Mindfulness is not only being aware of present but also how trauma embeds into our daily experience. Re-remembering also means bringing that which is disassociated back into the self. It’s recognizing , rejoining something into consciousness that has lurked outside our awareness.

First, I was set afire by the process of finding my birth mother. The primal wound was let out of its cage. I found myself curled up in fetal position many times howling like an injured animal. A guttural sound coming from a place i didn’t know existed. I didn’t understand then what was happening to me. The drawer that held that first trauma had been opened and one by one the rest were beckoning me to open them.

I’m sure everyone around me would tell you that I was an emotional disaster, reacting, reliving without recognizing. I also had a biological family that I so desperately wanted to fit in, yet had just met. It wasn’t until I completely crashed, partly because my mast cell disease had taken over my body and partly because I was so traumatized I was unable to function. No one recognized either, including myself. I had many labels cast in my direction trying to explain things, none fit.

Trauma isn’t held in normal memory because the feelings associated with them are unendurable. They never make it into the part of the brain that makes sense out of emotional experience.

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As the Primal Wound which is our first trauma is based on the neural pathways deep in the amygdala, they operate outside the influence of conscious thought. In an instant trauma can hijack our mind, destroy our awareness. It slips us out of time, no past, no future when one is overtaken by it. It feels like it is happening now. This was Buddha’s philosophy as well. We colour our experiences thru prisms of our own mind. Unresolved trauma waits patiently for opportunity to express itself. Unfortunately, it can be enacted with little self-awareness.

As I was writing, for eight years I lived, breathed every moment of my traumas. I was now in contact with biological  family that constantly reminded me of what I was not part of. The pain of hearing stories, seeing pictures knowing I was missing, had missed 50yrs of being a daughter, a sister, an aunt. For the books, I surrounded myself with visual reminders of old wall paper, pictures, furniture. I felt each moment. I smelled the smells, felt the pain. At times overwhelmingly so. I knew each drawer must be cleared out. There would be no more secrets. In order to find my authentic self, my freedom I had to walk, crawl through the world of traumatic pain to get to the side where peace lived.

As the Buddha taught mindfulness he was aware as psychotherapists are today that trauma encoded in implicit memory could become objects of meditation.

Mindfulness creates a container for our pain. By moving our ego’s to a neutral place of observation we can heal. As I wrote, I collected my dissociative elements and brought them back into self. It’s a very humbling experience but one of relief and healing. As I now hold my traumas in my awareness I can move forward in peace.

Write it out. Even if its for no one but yourself it’s transformative and healing. Come on. Pick up that pen, tap those keys. You can do it.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION; Mind, Body, Soul and Website

So, I know you have been wondering where I have been these last weeks. Right? IMG_5149Let me tell you.

I’ve been everywhere and nowhere.

Easy part first. Slowly I’m creating this blog into a better, more accessible, website. I did say slowly didn’t I?

Mast Cell Wise its been a rough time. Plenty of anaphylaxis, the insertion of a PICC Line which will lead to continuous medications via a CADD Pump and weekly hydration, not to mention the injections of Xolair monthly. My body is tired..very tired. The pain at times unbearable. I have hope that these new trials will provide a better quality of life. Hope is a wonderful thing,. even when you are clinging to it by your fingernails as we often do.  It keeps us going.

SOULSEARCHING

Life on a couch allows one plenty of time for contemplation, meditation and wonder. I have dates set up for readings at library’s, interviews being organized. I need to do these things because, as you know, the books are for Covenant House, Vancouver. The kids, my kids, our kids.

I get worried I won’t be able to honour my commitments and try to stay conscious and awake to my true feelings. Self betrayal comes easy for adoptees, well everyone, but adoptees especially. It can be a habit we don’t even know we have. As adoptees we were born without our truth which you need to be your authentic self. The discovery takes time, energy, search, fragmentation from reunion or discovery and then rebuilding on a stronger foundation.

What do YOU want for a change?

Go with your feelings. Ask yourself when and with whom do you swallow your truth. Why do you swallow your truth? Why do you hide your authentic self? Do you give in to others easily? Why? Are you not worthy of being true to yourself?

Having lived a life of search and discovery I see clearly now as my authentic self. That little whisper of a voice you hear, that sense of spirit, intuition…it belongs to you. That is what you need to tune in to, pay attention and listen to. Overtime, if you don’t follow that inner wisdom, you will feel a loss of energy, power and a sense of spiritual deadness.

Have you given up your own personal story for that of another?

Have you sold out yourself?

Behind that.. lies the voice of fear. Don’t let fear run your life. Ask yourself questions, face fear straight on.

People may judge but in the end it is yours to live, just yours. Embrace yourself and your story. Time passes quickly, life changes. Find your authentic being.

Live loud and strong.

As I contemplate my recent losses, my recent discoveries, my new normal in the physical/medical world, I know I’m now living from my heart and spirit.

David Whyte, the poet reminds us that the soul would rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s.

Times will present themselves where you are given the option of which direction to go.

Which will you choose?

Another Paragraph …or Two

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Above you will find the Hay House Radio Interview I did for Finding Heart Horse

I thought I would post another sneak peek for those that haven’t read it. Remember, the proceeds go to Covenant House, Vancouver, B.C.

There is always hope.

This is from the prolog About A Horse. You can find the first part in my previous post Finding Heart Horse…one year later.

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When my parents took me to visit my aunt and uncle who lived on a farm, I quickly and quietly made my way into the world of the barn where the horse’s lived. I would nestle into the golden straw, inhaling the fragrant honey dust, as hours magically disappeared. Listening to an orchestra of barnyard sounds while enveloped in the dusty air brought me a perfect peace.

It was into that perfect peace that my Heart Horse first made his appearance.

Just as if he were a real horse, my Heart Horse danced and pranced and snorted with joy. Sometimes when he was afraid, I could feel him inside my own heart, racing around frantically, as if to warn me of pending danger. Other times he stood quietly in the grass, munching on crispy red apples and appearing deep in thought, as if to just let me know he was near. And sometimes he galloped wildly free of restraint, tickling me with his unrestrained joy. But those happy and free rides were rare. Mostly he stood guard.

Old Uncle Willy understood my love of horses. He understood my connection to them and my ache to be closer to such a strangely forbidden desire. Uncle Willy always seemed to know where to look for me whenever we went to the farm. And he always seemed to know to look for me, when others hadn’t thought to.

One morning when I was huddled under a mountain of straw in the corner of Ginger’s stall; Uncle Willy came looking for me. He found me hiding there, buried under a pile of golden grass and crying, as Ginger stood over me with her warm breath tickling my neck as if to say, everything will be okay.

I was hiding in there because my cousin had told me, yet again, that I wasn’t real family. It seemed that each time she said that, it hurt a little bit more. Sometimes she even said it front of my mother, but instead of telling her to stop telling such awful lies, my mother would just agree. That really stung. And it made me sad.

I wasn’t sure what they meant by not being “real” family, I was just as real as they were, but I was sad that they even thought such a thing. After all, I had the pictures. My parents holding me when I was a newborn, teaching me piano when I was a toddler, posing me in front of furniture or houses or relatives to take my picture when I was a child. What could they possibly mean that I wasn’t real family? I didn’t understand at all, but I knew that there was something about me that was different. I just had no idea what it was.

Uncle Willy seemed to understand why I was crying, but he didn’t ask me about it. Instead, he told me a story about the Rocky Mountains and the wild horses that lived there. With his soft and comforting words, my uncle told me all about how magnificent it was to see a thundering herd suddenly appear in a lush green valley in the mountains. What Uncle Willy told me that day in the barn gave me the strength and desire to survive the cruel and hurtful comments of my cousin.

“Claire, you wouldn’t believe how amazing these horses are!” he told me. “They sound just like a train going by at a hundred miles an hour when they come galloping out of the mountains. Their manes blow behind them in flashes of black, silver and gold, like flying flags!” I listened to Uncle Willy’s fantastic story, enthralled.

“Tell me more, Uncle Willy! Tell me more!” I pleaded.

“Oh, it’s amazing, Claire, just amazing. You can even hear the different types of snorts and whinnies—they sound just like they’re talking! Then all of a sudden in a gust of wind and dust they’ll be gone. But . . .” and he looked left and right, like he was about to tell me a secret, then lowered his voice to a near whisper, “When they’re gone, you’re left with a feeling of magic. You know what it’s like to be free and wild but still be a part of a family. A really big family!” The images Uncle Willy conjured completely enchanted me, and I’d practically forgotten my cousins’ spiteful words.

“I tell ya girl,” he added, “Someday you have to go there. It’ll change you forever.” I watched as he got a faraway look in his eyes and sighed as if he were there that very moment. I snuggled into the straw and closed my eyes, wishing I were there, too.

“Someday,” he promised me, “when you’re older, you can go there. You’ll see for yourself how beautiful those horses are. And here’s the best part!” He smiled, and then said, “If you can catch a wild horse, it’s yours! It will belong to you and only you for the rest of its life. That’s the rule.” Uncle Willy tousled my hair and pulled me upright with a grin. “Come on, now. Let’s go inside and get some ice cream!”

I couldn’t believe my ears. If what Uncle Willy said was true, and it had to be or he wouldn’t have said it, I could actually have my own horse some day! I brushed all the straw off of my clothes and went back to the house with Uncle Willy for two big bowls of chocolate ice cream. But I couldn’t pay attention to anything else he said. All I could think about were those wild horses.

As excited as I was about pursuing wild horses, in the weeks and months that followed I knew better than to talk to anyone about my dreams. I had learned how quickly people will snuff out your dreams if you say them out loud. So I buried those words inside my Heart Horse, assuring him he would have company some day. He whinnied softly inside my heart, swaying back and forth as if to say, we will wait, we will wait, we will wait.



FINDING HEART HORSE Memoir of Survival…..one year later

You must declare who you are in public. Public declaration is the highest form of visioning.

Neile Donald Walsh

(That’s the quote from chapter 15.

My Soul Is Not for Sale)

Yesterday Facebook sent me a “memory”.  It was pictures from the book signing at the Hay House I Can Do It Conference in Vancouver last year..exactly a year.

Arriving home from that conference I was ill. Very, very ill with my mast cells taking over pretty much every system in my body. It was also the year of Summer in the hospital. In honour of FINDING HEART HORSE, Memoir of Survival I will post a few lines of how it all began…..

About a Horse

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            I always wanted a horse. I’ve wanted a wild horse, a Palomino horse, an Appaloosa horse, a racehorse, a pony horse and even a miniature horse. I would have settled for a rocking horse, a stuffed horse or even just a picture of a horse when I was a child, but even those small pleasures were prohibited. And so it was that when I was eight years old, I gave myself my own horse, my imaginary Heart Horse.

I’ve had this strong attraction to horses for as long as I can remember. Like a magnet, they have always pulled me in and held me close. They appear in my dreams and on blank pages in my sketchbook. They calm me when I’m disturbed and excite me when I’m bored. My nose longs to inhale their warmth and my fingers crave the feel of their soft wet nuzzle. My eyes are drawn into their own dark, all-knowing eyes and I immediately feel an inexplicable connection. This must be what it feels like to be loved, I think, whenever a horse looks into my eyes.

I never want to leave their safety even if they are not real. But when they are real and standing there before me, it is all the more astounding. How can such a powerful animal be so gentle, and such a gentle beast so beautiful, I wonder.

There is a magical essence I feel when I am with a horse. It’s as if they know me and love me just the same. They see right into a person’s soul and know immediately who they are and what they need.

A horse was the only thing I ever put on my Christmas list when I was a child. It was a huge request I realized, when even the smallest desire was always denied. Gifts were considered indulgences that would only spoil a child, and toys were just distractions from my chores. When I would receive a gift from someone, it almost always disappeared, relegated to a hidden box to remain out of sight, or given to another child who was considered more deserving.

But I never gave up my quest to find a horse of my own.

more to follow …..

THE WAY OUT….IS THROUGH

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.”

ORIAH

I was talking to a friend last night about our daily struggles, our adoption trauma that never ends, my little blind dachshund that is declining in health, my own declining health. Facing my own mortality, loss of what used to be a different life, loss of a mother, loss of a family. Loss of my friends in Nepal and so many other lives.

So many losses, so much pain. From the past, the present and the soon to be.

IMG_1034Instinctively, we try to avoid pain. It’s ugly and messy. In fact, these experiences come to teach us that joy and sorrow are two sides of one coin and you can’t have one without the other. Give yourself a shake, open your eyes to your dark nights of the soul. What is the lesson? What wisdom do they bring? What healing do they offer?

THE WAY OUT IS THROUGH

Actually, it’s the only way if you want to grow and move forward. I was thinking about my books this morning and realized I never talk about the rapes, the near death experiences, the violence, abuse and the effect it has had on my life. It is the way of psychiatry to dig deep, unearth those wounds and heal them…walk through the pain. I’ve gone that route but there is also another to see trauma.

In the Buddhist way it’s simply called The Realistic View.  How easy is that? Did you know that Buddha himself began his journey spiritually after losing his mother at a young age and experiencing great trauma? His prescription for the end of suffering is outlined in The Four Noble Truths. Realistic View held an important place. It became a critical component of what became to be known as The Noble Eightfold Path.

The reason I mention this is that The Realistic View means/says that trauma, in any of its forms is not a failure or mistake. It’s not something to be ashamed of, not as sign of weakness, and not a reflection of inner failing.

Its simply a fact of life.

This is the kind of post that can go on forever and I will continue taking about the path that takes you through to the other side to a place of peace in many posts.

Buddha’s prescription was one of self investigation and mental discipline.

Mindfulness and clear comprehension

You don’t have to be a buddhist to get to the other side with this method. It’s for everyone who wants to grow and move forward from trauma. This is the simplest explanation of what the Four Noble Truths are.

1.Life has inevitable suffering

2.There is a cause to our suffering

3.There is an end to suffering

4.The end to suffering is contained in the eight fold path

So often, I hear people saying things like: I just can’t take any more. I can’t continue to live like this. I don’t have a life. I’m in so much pain.

Adoption, reunion, rapes, abuse, mast cell disease, so many things to experience and live with at once. I’ve said all of the above myself.  It’s a fine line between everyday life and trauma. I can only speak for my own journey when I say Trauma is the way into the self, and the way out

To be free, to come to terms with our lives, we have to have a direct experience of ourselves as we really are, dark side, warts and all. The freedom the Buddha envisioned does not come repression, holding onto thoughts and feelings or from abandoning our suffering self; it comes from learning how to hold it all differently, holding space for ourselves and others and not getting attached to the many stories/traumas we carry.

MINDFULNESS AND CLEAR COMPREHENSION

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An Interview with Adoptee Author Claire Hitchon #flipthescript

So honoured to have been interviewed by Author Lara Trace Hentz. Namaste

Lara Trace Hentz

Have you ever wanted something so badly it was all you could think of? All you could talk about, write about, dream about. Claire did.  She wanted a horse.  Finding Heart Horse is her journey and her search for her Heart Horse. It takes her from being “the girl most likely to succeed” to a life on the streets of Yorkville in the late sixties.  As an adopted child she had no identity, no history, and no place where she “fit.” Her years on the streets lead her into many dark places, where she began to add more secrets and traumas to her already large collection in the wall of secrets.  Life changed quickly in those days, from peace and love to war and violence. She went along for the ride not knowing where it would lead, just knowing that she had to find Heart Horse.  If you know anyone…

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So What Happens Now?

 I thought someone stole my life. At the time it was real.

Each hospitalization steals a piece of who I used to be, each reaction possibly  a death sentence. Between adoption reunion and a rare mast cell disease I feel like I’ve been fighting a war or working on one of those fishing boats being tossed around like feathers in an ocean of power.

 I still have a life only its very different from the one I had planned for retirement. Different from the one I anticipated as I worked my way down my “Places to Go Before You Die” list. Different from the strong, physically fit nurse running on concrete day after day. Different from my friends and family. Different

Thing is, I have a life and I am grateful.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?.

How does one manage, adjust, accept and live in the new world around them.

ACT AS If YOU KNOW

A few years ago before I got so sick I was at a retreat where the teacher used that phrase frequently. If you were asked a question and were stuck for an answer the normal reply is,”I don’t know “Thats why I’m asking you.” He would slowly curl his lips up in a smile and say, “Well, I know you don’t know. but if you did, what would the answer be?’ Immediately, people felt a shift and an answer became apparent.  You had it all along. It’s that simple.

I have had many times, many major times in my life, that in an instant, my life changed. These major life changes demand adaptation. Until you get re-grounded, Act As If You Know.

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When you experience major life changes such as we do in adoption reunion, serious life threatening illness, anything that comes out of the corner swinging when you least expect it, there are a few guidelines I’ve found quite helpful.

1.Change is part of life. Feelings of grief, sadness, anger are normal when experiencing a loss. Give yourself permission to feel that way but with limits. A day, a moment, a brief accountable time. Sit with the emotions but don’t stay there.  There’s no adaptation if you don’t move forward. You stay in a place of helplessness  and personally, i’d rather be in a place of hope and growth.

2.Take off the mask.  You know the one.  The strong, independent fearless warrior we like everyone to see. Let people see the real you.  The vulnerable, the frightened you, so greatly in need of help. The you that wonders if you’ll make it through another day. Only when others can see the real you are they able to offer help. Through vulnerability comes courage.

3.Remember you aren’t the first person to experience change and you won’t be the last. You Are Not Alone You always have yourself and you are surrounded by the energy of the universe, spirituality and love. Open the door just a crack and you will find many others feeling the same way.

4.People aren’t mind readers. They don’t know what you need, what you want and many have no idea what to say or do in your particular situation. Be specific and you will find people feel relieved because they had no idea and will gladly support you. If they have to guess, they feel helpless, just as you do. Empowerment comes from knowing.

5.Change takes courage but our ability to adapt is incredible. You need to believe that you can adapt and you will. Now that I have O2 24/7, it’s taken a great deal of adapting, inventing, climbing over obstacles I could never have imagined. You will find solutions for whatever is standing in your way. We are survivors.

6.Don’t lose hope. I know there are days it seems futile and the dark places try to pull you in but don’t go there. There is something, no matter how small, that you can grasp like a rope of hope.  Hang on, the ride is wild but know in your heart it will be alright, just different.

7.This journey, be it illness, death, adoption, reunion, whatever it is, is traumatic and it will change you forever. It changes how you see life and deal with things and right in the middle is the learning, the knowledge, the courage and strength you didn’t know you had. What’s happening around us, to us doesn’t change us as human beings. Stay centred and grounded and remind yourself you are okay.

Start right where you are now, in this moment, just accept it without comparison to your past life. We adapt. We survive. A habit takes 21 days to form. Neuroscience tells us our brains have extraordinary capacity to rewire patterns so get out of your own way. Meditate, walk in nature, listen to music, write.  Do what you must so you can see what’s around the next corner.

ACT AS IF YOU KNOW

Who Stole My Life?

Imagination is the first step toward action. You have to be able to hope before you move forward. Otherwise, you are always acting out of fear.

— Gloria Steinem

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I’ve been missing.  Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn’t. I did.  I really noticed. I missed my writing, my friends, my life. I’ve been in and out of the hospital. Yes, the Mast Cells have been dictating my life…again, still.

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Not long ago I was in India walking the streets of Dharamsala. I remember the energy of chanting with the Monks at Sherab Ling Monastery questioning if perhaps I was finally home, and if I should stay.You could touch the energy it was so powerful. It felt so right. I remember the smells, the people, the traffic and chaos. I remember this last part of my life.

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Way before that…I had a life. I remember running miles on concrete floors as an RN, handling life and death, split second decisions while multi tasking a hundred other things at the same time. I loved it.

Even before that…I had a life. I remember jumping out of bed in anticipation of what my day would bring. What wondrous and fun things my little girl and I would do that day.  I remember laughing and dancing in the kitchen while baking cookies with her. I remember her giggles when i acted silly.

Even before that…I had a life. I remember riding my bike from East Toronto to West Toronto and not being tired. I remember skinny dipping at “The Farm” in Northern Ontario at midnight, candles floating on logs and jugs of peach schnapps, fish nibbling at my toes.  I remember laughing until I cried, jamming in the farmhouse, playing Teddy Bear’s Picnic to the bears on the piano way out in the wilderness all alone and joyous in just being. I had a life back then. A big life.

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Who Stole My Life? Where did it go and when exactly.

I had a life, a good life.

Erich Fromm says:

A mothers love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. If it is there, it is like a blessing, if it is not there, 

 it is as if all thebeauty had gone out of life. 

For adoptees that is just reality.

Not long ago I found my birth mother and siblings. After a lifetime of searching I found my family. I was so excited to begin a new life in a family, in my family. Sadly, my birth mother passed away before we had a chance to be mother and daughter. My siblings have history that will always be their’s. I understand that.  I thought we could build a history and make memories. Apparently not.

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Every time I go to the hospital I lose a bit of myself. Health changes quickly, time is precious and treasured. As I write this, I realize I did have a very big life. If you’ve read my two memoirs:

Finding Heart Horse, Memoir of Survival

The Wall of Secrets, Memoir of The Almost Daughter

 you will see how much life I packed in to a relatively short time. Perhaps that’s why I feel lost. I’ve had to drastically change the way my life works.

I’m creating a new vision for my life.

It wasn’t stolen after all, it’s just changed.

I’ve come full circle.  My plan on retirement was to work with Street Kids and now with the books and working with Covenant House Vancouver, I’m doing just that, only in a different way.

My day was spent on the couch feeling quite ill and in pain but imagining scenarios for many things. Imagination nourishes us spiritually while creating dreams that feed our soul. Forget the fears and the voices from the past and live from your heart, even if it has to be from the couch. I used to live from ego and now I live from my soul. The pain of the past years has given me this gift.

With gratitude Im taking my life back.

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No-one Will Ever Define Me!

Von speaks the truth. People need to hear the truth….Anyone listening?

The Life Of Von

An adoptee writes at the conclusion of her article on the birth of her sister’s baby – “One thing’s for certain: No one else’s reaction to “It’s a girl!” will ever define me again. That’s my job — to show the world who I am and what I can accomplish.” Inspiring words!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-eldridge/teen-adoption-story_b_6153526.html?utm_hp_ref=teen-blogs

To which a mother-of- loss tweets – Only 15 but has a strong voice. Listen!

My query is –  What does ‘only 15’ mean? Isn’t that demeaning of a young person? The MOL somehow seemed to think it a compliment, as ‘so many take longer to come out of the fog’! Words are so powerful and need to be used so carefully. It would appear that the whole message of the article was lost, even though the intentions were surely good ones.We each take our own time, let’s not…

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Interview by Karen Pickell from Lost Daughters

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2015

We Are Not Our Story:

An Interview with Author and Adoptee Claire Hitchon by Karen Pickell from http://www.lostdaughters.com
I recently reviewed Claire Hitchon’s latest memoir, The Wall of Secrets, in addition to its predecessor, Finding Heart Horse (you can read those reviews here). Claire’s life has been affected by adoption in profound ways, and I thought she might be able to give important insight to those of us who continue to struggle with processing trauma from our own adoptions.

I am grateful to Claire for the open and honest answers she’s given to my questions on difficult topics. There is encouragement here for all of us. It is soothing to hear Claire’s words.

How did you become comfortable talking about the difficult circumstances of your childhood and adoption? What types of reactions have you received from others, both inside and outside of the adoption community?

I survived by disassociating at a young age from the pain of abuse, rapes, and street life. The Wall of Secrets was a real wall in my parents’ library. I carried it in my mind until my adoptive mother passed away and I found my biological family in 2003. I could relay my story to anyone and not feel anything, until then…then the drawers started flying open and my worst nightmare became real.

It wasn’t until I began to write that I actually crawled into the places that hurt the most. I relived each and every secret. It was the most painful journey I’ve ever experienced. It was as if, once I found my birth mother the secrets had to be hauled out, one by one. I was already fragmented from reunion and all the secrets had to be dealt with in order to become whole and healthy. I went into seclusion, exhausted and physically ill. There were many times I wondered if I would ever reach the other side.

Each rewrite became a bit less traumatic and finally, the parts I had disassociated from were spread out in front of me in words, including the primal wound of adoption. Only then could I speak freely and without hesitation knowing I had dealt with, processed, and accepted all of it. The story that had been inside me, poisoning me, was now nothing more than words between the covers of books. I was no longer my story.

I’ve received various reactions, more positive than negative. You’re in a place of complete vulnerability when you share a story such as mine. I decided those that judged were not the people I wanted in my life anyway. Reactions have been from absolute horror and shock and being told, “Things like that are best left untold” from an older woman at a book reading, to tears of gratitude and validation that one is not alone. I’ve had women of my generation open up about their experiences with narcissistic, mentally ill mothers, comments from young adults about finding hope, to people unable to listen or read as it is a trigger, a piece of their pain not yet processed.
Have you connected with other adoptees who also experienced abuse in their adoptive homes? If so, have you discovered any commonalities in how adoptees who have been abused process that trauma throughout their lives?

I’ve been able to connect with others in various settings. I was an RN in psychiatry for over twenty years and many histories of patients held the secret of adoption in them. Most of us survive by disassociation from abuse suffered at the hands that were supposed to care for and love us. We tend to self-medicate when we get older with alcohol or drugs, not realizing the core issues of our pain. A disconnect keeps us from being re-traumatized or even loved. We live from a fear-based place. I’ve seen some that act out and then there are those of us who crawl up inside and just go on, carrying the pain until we are ready to look at it, if ever. There is a need for search even if it doesn’t lead to reunion for most of us to face our initial trauma, the primal wound. All adoptees begin with the initial trauma of loss. You can come from an adoptive family full of love and still experience similar issues; the abuse is just another layer to dig through.
As an adult, you cared for your adoptive mother for many years until she died, which seems remarkably compassionate considering her treatment of you. How were you able to reconcile your complex feelings toward your mother during that time?

I held on to the hope that things might change for many years. We all want our mothers to love us, adopted or birth. I realized nothing was going to change so I had to find a way to care for her without destroying myself. I had to work and I had a daughter to raise. I was a practicing Buddhist, yet finding compassion for her as my mother was beyond my abilities then. I had to look at her as a psychiatric patient, nothing more, just an ill person needing my care. I was an only child, there wasn’t anyone else, my father had died years before. I felt an obligation as one human to another. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to find forgiveness and also compassion for her.
Did you receive an explanation from your birth mother about why she relinquished you for adoption? If so, were you satisfied with her explanation?
Claire Hitchon
No, unfortunately my birth mother was quite ill and also emotionally detached when I met her. My understanding is that her mother insisted she give me away. This was in the early 1950s. She was twenty-five years old, not a young girl. She went on and had two more girls and a boy and kept them. Her mother even moved in with them to help. I have no words.
In The Wall of Secrets, you discover that your birth mother had two other daughters. What is your relationship with your sisters today? Have you been able to develop a close connection with them?

Yes, she also had a son. The two sisters and I share the same father although she wasn’t married at the time. I grew up, as I mentioned, an only child. To find siblings was beyond my wildest dreams. So many synchronicities and similarities we immediately connected. (This is so very painful to even think about.) Unfortunately, trying to integrate into a family after fifty years of absence is difficult. I looked at reunion as a chance for the whole family to heal and grow together. I found my birth mother and lost her. I found my family and now they are lost as well. The second and third rejection only magnifies the pain and loss of not growing up with them. Adoption affects everyone. History won.
What advice would you give to other adoptees who have experienced abuse or disconnection from their adoptive families? What has been most helpful to you in coping with and recovering from the trauma of your early years?

Understanding that it wasn’t your fault is huge. To know that all babies are born innately pure and none of us deserved the pain handed down from generations past. As adults, we have to take responsibility for re-parenting our inner child, healing the wounds and discovering that we are not our story. We have to break the cycle for our children. You must clear your life of toxicity no matter who it is. Leave the negativity behind and create the life you deserve. One filled with love and acceptance of self.

Thank you Karen Pickle from the amazing website http://www.lostdaughters.com for this interview.

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