Warning: Adoption May Be Detrimental to Your Health

In a separate post, I mentioned tangentially:

I was writing up my piece on trauma because of a conversation with a friend and fellow adoptee; we were comparing stress symptoms, and discussing the health effects of stress. There is something disturbing in the idea of a body in a constant state of “fight or flight”, such that it destroys itself. Perhaps this is just a slower version of suicide; the body’s irrational final decision, overriding the objection of the rational mind….

I spent October and November writing about adoption thinking I was doing something cathartic; turns out not so much, to such a degree that I’ve advised myself to take a step back from it all. At the same time, I’ve spent the last six months playing dietary games trying to beat back a “pre-ulcerous condition” (I seem to have won this battle for the time being; if I never eat cabbage again it will be too soon). Perhaps the place I find myself compounds the day-to-day stress, and it’s not fair to lump it together with adoption issues, nor force that burden on others.

But my question is: Do you ever get the feeling that the stress of searching, seeking reunion, dealing with reunion, writing about adoption, etc. is causing physical symptoms, above and beyond the psychological? How do you deal with that?

My other question is: How do you handle the awful (and stressful) moment when the doctor asks you whether there is any “family history” of [fill in symptom(s) here]?

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9 thoughts on “Warning: Adoption May Be Detrimental to Your Health

  1. Doc office I write “adopted” and slash the area with the pen. Have done so for many years, just a piece of info- no more than that.

  2. Absolutely. Ulcers when I was younger. Auto-immune disorder and allergies now. Fight or Flight – adrenal overload. YES!

  3. SInce I did not search, but was found when 18 years old, I have had to deal with flight/fright response all of my adult life of 40 years. Many illnesses resulted: autoimmune, bladder/kidney infections, colds/flu, digestive problems, nausea, vomiting, muscle tension, back problems. Adoption stress, oh yes.

  4. PS – I hope it doesn’t matter if I am White. I am a domestic American adoptee and do not have the same issues as adoptees for which this blog addresses. My ethnicity was not known to me. I was told my ethnic background when I was 18, which differed somewhat from what I was raised. Still, being told “German, Scottish, Swiss, French, Polish, English” is a shock when I was raised “English, Polish and Italian”. There is some question to Native American and Jewish ancestry, from what i was told in recent years, by several adoptive and natural family members. This should be interesting to research. The question of religion comes into play as well. Raised Catholic, protestant ancestry with Catholic, but could be Jewish. So, can I still comment here?!

  5. I have learned over the years to smile sweetly and answer according to where I was at in reunion. Once it was “I’m adopted, I know nothing” now it’s “I’m adopted, I don’t know much about my parents”
    I have no doubts that searching is very stressful as is reunion and it’s outcomes. I have spent several years of very ill health trying to work out why and when it began. I’m sure we adoptees are almost predestined by the circumstances which surround our conception and birth to have problems with our guts. So many adoptees have gastro-intestinal problems and ailments and conditions which relate to stress in early development in utero. There is much to learn about this area of our lives. I hope one day it will be properly taken up rather than those of us who are ill trying to piece together what has happened to us an d how to solve it.

  6. I would say that being adopted has adversely affected my health in too many ways to enumerate in a comment here. In a nutshell, my mother passed along a hereditary blood disorder that put me in the NICU for the first six weeks of my life. MDs took it seriously when I was a child and teen because my APs were on it, but I never had a hematologist (which I should). I was always very healthy *despite*.

    Then in my 30’s, a confluence of searching and other stressors required surgery related to the blood disorder. It should have been routine but instead put me on a path of pain and chronic problems. MDs wanted health history. I couldn’t give much. I became an RN to try to manage this, psychologically and practically, especially after my elder son was born with the same blood disorder.

    It turned out (after three blood clots that almost killed me) that I had another blood clotting disorder that must come from my father, so I searched for him and found him last year using 23andMe, despite incredible odds. But the stress of it all has been hobbling: my anxiety has been multiplied exponentially. I don’t even sleep anymore.

    I am relieved now to be able to fill out more of my family medical history, although bits still dribble in as I speak to more people. I wish there were a more concerted effort to explain to me or remember. This is my *life*. They all have each other and that knowledge bank. I am alone.

    My primary care MD and my psychiatrist diagnosed me with PTSD, not helpful perhaps, but descriptive. I *have* been through trauma with this medical nightmare. Lack of information can kill you. Stress can kill you. The ridiculous idea that parents have a right to “privacy” from their children fills me with such anger I cannot speak. That “privacy” kills.

    I am “better off” medically now for knowing some things, but the horse had already left the barn. I had to fight far too hard to get here. I am heartbroken for all those adoptees who still do not know their health histories. It’s a crime.

  7. The auto-immune reply above catches my attention. Symptoms that are quite phantom such that the doctor says, “there’s nothing wrong with you”. The body deciding it is its own worst enemy, because the mind has done the same thing.

    Stress can kill you, indeed.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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