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182 - Avoiding Dysfunction For My Mental Health
Episode 18224th September 2022 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:36:56

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David, from San Jose, CA said when he was a kid he knew he was talented and smart but his gifts didn't seem to measure up to his adoptive parents expectations. When David learned he was adopted the news, left him wanting to find his birth mother rebelling and challenged to control his behavior.

In reunion, David found his paternal family, but similar elements of dysfunction in their family and drastically differing opinions prevent him from getting any closer. This is David's journey.

Who Am I Really?

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Cold Cut Intro


I felt rudderless. Even though I didn't know a name for it, which they called the genetic mirroring and seeing yourself in your parents or your parents seeing themselves in you, there just wasn't any of that growing up. And I, and I sense my parents' disappointment that I wasn't turning out to be the kid that they had hoped I was gonna become.



and challenged to control his behavior. In reunion, David found his paternal family, but similar elements of dysfunction in their family and drastically differing opinions prevent him from getting any closer. This is david's journey



[00:01:57] David: Even though I was the oldest, she [00:02:00] was you know, , she took my place as sort of the golden child. So my sister came along and so I was the oldest, she was youngest. My brother was in the middle.


[00:02:19] David: Yeah, so it's, it's interesting. So so in school, , they tested kids and I think it was around the third or fourth grade. And and that's when they would separate the I guess average kids from the gifted kids. And, you know, my parents were really they really wanted a gifted child, a child that was super smart and.

sted, she, she was gifted. So[:

She was the smart one. And, and I don't remember what they like. They, they said, you know, he's the musical one or he's the good citizen. And I felt really that my self worth was being measured on how my, you know, what my perceived intelligence was.


Like you may have been, I don't know, artistic or outgoing or whatever, did you still


[00:04:30] Damon: And how about your brother?

Did you, and he sort of at all bond as the adoptees kind of versus the, the natural born child to your parents?


And, and it's it's with no small irony that my mother was also like the PTA president in charge of just say no to drugs. Oh my gosh. Wow. Yeah. So while she was offered her PTA meetings, my brother was getting stoned at a neighbor kids and, oh my gosh. And I was in my room you know, basically drunk.


[00:05:54] David: Well, I have no idea what that meant chose chose me. And then I had another mother that [00:06:00] she was morally unfit.

I can't, I can't believe somebody tells a, a kid morally unfit, but anyway, She, she said she was morally unfit to care for me. And and my first response was, well, let's go look for my real mother. Cause I mean, it just made sense to me. I mean, well, you know, we need to go find her And then, I learned really hard and fast to never do that again.


[00:06:29] David: Oh, my mother exploded. She felt that I was questioning her motherhood and that I was the most selfish self-centered little boy in the world.

And what did you think and what did I think? Yeah, I mean, I was terrified


[00:06:50] David: mother though?

bout it, but you know, I was [:

Cuz I felt like, I felt like love could be severed at any moment. Wow. Say the wrong thing and then that's it.


[00:07:28] David: Yeah. No, my dad so I'm so I started to have behavior problems.

hocolate all around my mouth.[:

you're stated there, like what, what, yeah. What, and they, why are you? I'm not lying. I didn't do it. And they're like, what is all that around your mouth?


[00:08:18] David: oh my God. I mean, they were really beside themselves. They were like, what. Is wrong with you. And that was the whole thing what's wrong with you?

Mm-hmm why are you, why are you broken? You're like the broken toy. We, we thought that we were gonna get this really priceless gift.


We're expecting him to be the product of people cut from similar cloth as themselves.


Like any attention was better than no attention. So negative attention was something that I. I don't wanna say addicted to, but it's this, it was like this cycle that I couldn't get out of. And my dad had a heart attack when, , when I was 12 and he was like 40, and my mother said that my behavior problems caused it.

And if he died that she would never forgive me.


[00:09:58] David: It was 12.[00:10:00] Not only that, but she shook me up in the middle of the night to tell me that it was like, I don't know, probably two or three o'clock in the morning.


[00:10:09] David: Yes.


[00:10:13] David: Yeah.


No wonder you didn't feel safe with her. Sounds like she had some really


Mm-hmm , I mean, we, you know, looking back now I can see it for what it is, but at the time , she was a danger to be around. And so I sort of lived in these like various trauma states, like freezing and fawning or, you know, trying to stave off her anger or, or I would fight, I would fight with her.

I would [:

[00:11:17] Damon: It was just a constant flow of Physical or emotional, verbal threat. Mm-hmm to your response, like you can't beat me down and, and rebellion, it sounds like, is that correct?


Wow. Cause I couldn't, they couldn't deal with it. I think I sort of had to shape up or that was gonna happen cuz I wasn't keen on going off the boarding school either. Cause at least with my parents, it was a known entity or a known quantity. You know, it may not have been healthy and, You know, dangerous, but at [00:12:00] least I knew what I was getting. If I got into a new situation, it'd be a whole new set of things I had to navigate.


I admit I have a lot to learn about the community, but what I do know is young people know early in life, what their sexuality. Gender identity or what other characteristics about themselves are . I asked david if during that time of rebellion in his life he was also contemplating his sexuality?


Like it's a dirty, horrible lifestyle. And you're, you're destined [00:13:00] for death. And I mean, it scared the shit outta me. yeah. But yeah, I'll tell you what, I mean, it was like, oh, damn. I mean, it was it's, you know, these kids today, they have no idea what it was like back then. There was no trans, there was no non-binary, there was no, you know, there was no choice.

. I mean, I didn't even know who I was as far as identity.

My, my whole existence was about survival. Like either at home or school or, , my whole life was about navigating danger. And so as far as my, you know, my identity or my sexual, well, that wasn't even, I couldn't even go down that road at the time. And in fact, I had to have girlfriends in high school because that's, that's what you do.

ot having a girlfriend. So I [:

[00:14:11] Damon: Compared to San Diego, San Francisco was a whole new universe of possibilities, but David said he wasn't connected to his sexuality David was excited and scared about moving, but he knew a few people from high school who had also moved to the bay area. He admitted that while San Francisco was full of opportunity. David's experiences up to that point in life left him with a lot of room to grow


I felt rudderless. Even though I didn't know a name for it, which they called the genetic mirroring and seeing yourself in your parents or your parents seeing themselves in you, there just wasn't any of that growing up. And I, and I sense my parents' disappointment that [00:15:00] I wasn't turning out to be the kid that they had hoped I was gonna become.

so I was, I lived in a lot of shame.


[00:15:19] David: sister's red hit? So when, when we were young, when my brother and sister and I were young, we looked identical and my mother.

So as we got older, you know, my brothers, sister, and I got older, my parents aged, you know, it became apparent that we were not related that we're just kind of thrown together and I go back and I look at pictures of us and I just think like, we just all look like a band of misfits

brother is sort of smiling, [:

Like we are just sort of this captive audience for a photographer.




You know, there are so many things now that I've sort of connected that I couldn't connect back then because you couldn't really even talk about adoption. You couldn't talk about your feelings around adoption. Adoption was supposed to be, you know, win, win, win, win, win, you know, so it never, you know, speaking about it, I become, so it becomes so hammered into me did not make that connection.

or I had headaches. I never [:

[00:17:19] Damon: oh really? Wow.


[00:17:35] Damon: So recall that at seven or eight years old, David was told he was adopted. Learning he had another mother out there he responded with


[00:17:46] Damon: Which was immediately shot down with a violent outburst from his adoptive mother. David said he's dealt with low self-esteem and depression throughout his life. So he never felt emotionally ready to launch a search for his birth [00:18:00] family. He didn't want to deal with the possibility of projection and he wasn't sure

would be as accomplished as his birth parents would have He didn't think he'd be enough if he found them. David had read the book, inheritance where the author, Danny Shapiro learns. She is donor conceived. For Dani to have learned something so deeply revealing about her conception made David wonder what there was to discover about himself as an adoptee.

David was in his sixties at the beginning of COVID. So he assumed it was unlikely. He'd find a biological parent, but he wondered if he might locate a half sibling. David was in a good place mentally. So he took a DNA test and joined DNA detectives.

A search angel reached out to help sort out his matches on his family tree


[00:19:00] It had not been stricken. Wow. So my birth name was on this document and I, I completely blanked this out, but I did join Alma. And put my name into a registry to see if I could find my birth mother and at this time she was still alive.

away until passed away until:

[00:19:27] Damon: David was 50 years old when his adoptive mother handed him that document with his birth mother's name on it. But commercially available DNA testing, wasn't an option. So his search wasn't as efficient back then as it was in 2020, when the search angel helped David sort out his family tree. David's highest match was his first cousin.

The child of one of his birth parents, brothers, or sisters.


And you know, some of the people would blow me off, but anyway, as it turned out, no, but they had lived in Richmond, Virginia, and they had a, they had a beach house in Virginia Beach, which is next to Norfolk. Anyway, we started exchanging photos of,

her father and her uncles, one of whom was my father. And then we started looking in these pictures and we're going like, oh my God, we look alike. . I think that, that was even more impactful than, than just finding a match to actually see the physical evidence which was the, core of what I wanted.

in my hands and, look at the [:

And so anyway, finally , we narrowed it down to her father was deceased and the other uncle was deceased.

And the last one that could possibly have been my father she sent me pictures of him and it was just like it, it took my breath away. I mean, I wanted to cry, but I couldn't, I, I was like paralyzed at seeing this person because we looked so much alike when we were, when he was younger, when we were both the same age his face was the same face. I mean the same, same sort of expression, the same hair.

He had almond shaped eyes like I did. The chin was the same.

ing this moral pronouncement [:

oh yeah, yeah. Like it was weird. It was like, she said, well, you know, he's a lawyer, so you're gonna, he's gonna cover up his tracks. Oh my gosh. So you won't find him, but I mean, she really, it wasn't even like, well, what was his part and all this,

right. When the questions come up, but like, how did I get to be in adoption?

It's almost immediately, here's what your birth mother chose with little to no consideration for whether a birth father even was part of the equation, let alone whether he was part of the decision. It just, just, it's almost like we're

immaculately. It's like, they were just sort of incidental.


David learned he has three half sisters, two of whom are twins. Apparently the girls have never gotten along so when david came around he ended up in the middle of their mess

One sister is like somebody who's been chronically ill, all of her life. Like she's always got something wrong with her. Anyway. She, about the time that I found them, this sister had to go into the hospital and she was really sick. And so these sisters would call me up every day and give me progress reports on the sister.

Now you have to understand I've never met these people. Oh wow. I don't even, know them. I mean, really. I mean, we're gen I mean, we're genetically related, but we're strangers. Right? Right. Like they're dragging me into the middle of their dysfunction and their animosity towards each other.

s well. He said this and she [:

I never would've, you know met these people in a sort of quasi reunion. But I wanted to meet her because she was the closest thing. I mean, besides my sisters, but she was the first closest full-blooded, you know you know, relationship to my father. So there was some spiritual significance in that for me.

I see, I see this was a, a means by which to. Be in proximity to your father, if you couldn't actually meet him. Right. Correct.


[00:24:49] Damon: , fascinating. What was she like?


people, but I felt like she was giving me this connection. Like these ancestors are yours. Wow. You know, they're your ancestors. And so I, for the first time in my life, I felt anchored to something greater than me. I mean, another person, like I that there's this history, you know, of people coming to this country and you know, the hardships that they faced and, and where they ended up in this country and where they migrated. . , it's not just finding your birth parents


Parts of his paternal family showed their true colors And they're not people David wants to know. Given their ideological division, David doesn't see how they could have anything in common.

Unfortunately, there's nothing in those relationships for him.


I mean, I went to this reunion and only two people asked me anything about my life. [00:27:00] Really? Yeah. . Like nobody was, was interested. And I kind of know what that was all about. I mean, I have, I have a very comfortable life. I have a great support network.

I don't, you know, need to you know, I'm not looking for acceptance from these people, but I did, you know, I have to say, I really did. I really wanted to be accepted by these people. And I really tried. And, it was really when the George Floyd murder happened, that's when all the cards came onto the table.

Yeah. And that's when I could see who they really were. And it was just like, there's nothing and this, but fortunately this was after they reunion. So I was still able to, you know, meet my, meet my aunt. But you know, I really don't, I don't have anything to do with him now.


[00:28:08] David: , she really didn't wanna have anything to do with them. And I see that a lot with these. Lost kids find their, you know, missing relatives, you know, I really thought that all these people would be thrilled to hear from me, like, oh, a new cousin. That's so exciting. Well,, I was a stranger to them. I mean, I was lucky. I I'm blessed that, you know, that I had that time with my aunt and really got to know the family histories.

but the fact is, you know, like most of the people , I messaged on ancestry didn't even respond. I mean, it's like not everyone sent it genealogy. And, and I think that people who weren't adopted may take that stuff for granted.


having been through this adventure. reunion and , , you know, meeting people that you hope to be accepted by that you ultimately are not,[00:29:00] how are you doing?



And I don't know whether I should mention this or not, but I did decide to try medication last fall. Which made a huge difference. I mean, I started to see a therapist and a, psychiatrist and and what, you know, what I'm on is really working. That's great. Yeah, in conjunction with seeing a therapist and, and really, I don't live in this constant state of defensiveness or worry or worried about what people think about me or I try and limit my time on social media.

gram accounts because I just [:

And then, you know, I realized that I just needed to you know, pair that down so that I could keep my balance.


Family life love, relationships, politics, whatever the thing is [00:31:00] like there's all these issues. It's holidays. Mother's day father's day. Yeah. The, you know, the religious holidays that are all triggering for folks and to be engaged and in it at a high level all the time is it's challenging. And you know, this is part of the reason that I started to break the, who am I really podcast up into

Seasons is because I needed to be able to step away for a while. , as you've said, there's the triggers that you get from hearing and adopted person speak about. The issues they faced and I'm, I try to be really empathetic with folks, but you also then get very emotional with them, even though you didn't live it, you, you can empathize and you can feel it.

And and I need to take a break and refresh myself too, so that I can be, a stronger host going forward. So I'm


[00:32:00] Damon: yeah. Well, I'm glad you're in a good place.

You know, there's a lot of folks, you know, you sort of hesitated to mention taking medication but I think, we're in a space of. Accepting that mental health has a lot of different elements to it. It's accepting that perhaps your brain needs a little balance with a medication.

It may be that you need exercise to increase some of your other hormones. It's food. It's, you know, detox from online media. It's being outside and being in nature. Oh, you know, there's


Like for instance, my, one of my grandfathers died in an institution because he was alcoholic. . Another one committed suicide. I mean, those things make their way down. But if if I don't know [00:33:00] that and I'm sort of living without, you know, all the information I need to make, you know, rational decisions then, , I might have, taken better care or been more cautious, earlier in life, but you know, a lot of it's that genetic component that we just, just don't have.

But yeah I exercise every day. I eat really well. I eat, you know, my vegetables get, get outside yeah, on the medication, but it's not just like throwing somebody on medication.

Okay. That's it. You know, you've got your pills. You can go on your way. No, it's like, you have to do all these other things too.


And sometimes we need help with that stuff. So I'm glad you're getting it. And that's really cool. Yeah. Thank you. Well, thanks for being here with me today, David. I appreciate it. I know you're mad, busy, so thanks for taking time. [00:34:00] it was really good to hear from you and good. We could finally get, get scheduled to make yeah,


Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. Yeah, my




[00:34:19] Damon: David grew up under paternal pressure to be something he wasn't with his feelings of self-worth and love attached to how intelligent he tested to be. His adoptive mother seemed to suffer from an undiagnosed mental illness, which added to the rebellious teenage years David had at home

When his mom handed him the adoption documents with identifying information about his birth parents. He was, he wasn't able to do much with the information in that era before DNA testing and all of the online resources at our fingertips today.

o similar to what he grew up [:

prevent him from investing in getting to know them more. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens in reunion. We find our biological families and realize our differences will keep us apart.

I'm Damon Davis. And to hope you found something in David's journey that inspired you. Validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you?

To have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am i