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131 – I’m More Confused Now, I’m Broken
Episode 13117th October 2020 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:55:27

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Elissa, from Hilton Head, South Carolina, said never bonded with her adopted mother. She did find a second home with her horseback riding coach and the horses she adored. 

Finding her biological mother gave Elissa a glimmer of hope that the woman stokes and extinguishes in a torturous cycle. 

Speaking with her birth father only once, she confirmed the story of his own paternity, but Elissa never heard from him again. 

Relying on her husband, the first person she’s shared real love with, Elissa wishes reunion didn’t leave her so confused and feeling broken.

This is Elissa’s journey. 

Elissa (00:03):

I am that 37 year old woman now who is dying to be hugged and held by their mother. Like, I need that moment in my life. I feel that I deserve it and I feel unbeknownst to her. She deserves it too. Beause I know that she's carrying this huge darkness over her, that she has the chance to make. Right?

Damon (00:31):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I'm Damon Davis. And today you're going to hear from Elissa in Hilton head, South Carolina, Elissa never bonded with her adopted mother, but she did find a second home with her horseback riding coach and the horses she adored. Finding her biological mother gave Elissa a glimmer of hope that the woman Stokes and extinguishes in a torturous cycle, speaking with her birth father only once she confirmed the story of his own paternity, but Elissa never heard from him again, relying on her husband, the first person she shared real love with Elissa wishes reunion. Didn't leave her so confused and feeling broken. This is Elissa's journey. Elissa was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania then adopted out of the children's home orphanage in Pittsburgh.

Damon (01:42):

Every summer. Her parents took her to the children's home summer picnic, where she kind of questioned why they were there. Elissa learned she was adopted at about four or five years old, but she really didn't grasp what adoption meant until she was around six. She said her adoptive parents weren't very communicative about her adoption or her birthday. So she's always questioned both. Most importantly, she didn't look like them and never really felt like she fit in with her physical appearance, nor did she feel that internal synchronization, that many biological families feel for one another. Elissa never really bonded with her adopted mother and her adopted father was often working.

Elissa (02:27):

I found out that I'm 72% Italian and my father, my adopted father is also Italian. I do have some similarities with him, but I have very dark olive skin, Brown eyes, Brown hair. I look Italian. My father is kind of short. He kind of has hazel eyes, you know, salt and pepper hair is, all I've ever known him to have. My mom, um, came from a Jewish family. She also was adopted and she had blue eyes, fair skin and blonde hair. So physically I didn't look like them. And none of my behavioralism in me mimiced any of them. It's like everything they tried to make me to be. It just didn't feel natural and almost kind of felt like a put on, like I can't explain it.

Damon (03:13):

Tell me, so what kinds of things did they try to introduce you to that? Just didn't stick,

Elissa (03:21):

Uh, you know, the old, like tap ballet, um, sports. The only thing that stuck I stuck with was horseback riding. And I think that was because unknowing at the time it allowed me to bond with something. It allowed me to have my own personal relationship with someone or something that I had, you know, the stay and, you know, I always felt like I never knew where I came from. So it was like, it was my first identity. Basically. I was able to have my own first relationship with myself, through my relationship with my horses. And I became very close with my horseback riding teacher. I lived with her, um, up until I was 13 when we moved down here. So I would say up until from 10 years old to 13, I lived with her.

Damon (04:09):

Elissa started things off by telling me that nearly everything she's revealing. She learned only a year ago and as an adult of 35 years old, but check out the timeline of what she just said. She was told she was adopted when she was about five years old and roughly five years later, she went to live with her horseback riding coach. But before we get to that, Elissa described life at home.

Elissa (04:34):

Living with my mom was not your, not any girl's dream. You know, we never had the bond, never did hair makeup. You know, she never talked to me about life. If you know what I mean? Um, she always had someone taking me to school or no, someone tutoring me. She's a stay at home mom. Um, as an adult, now that we're able to talk about this, we were very disattached from each other. I was kind of rejecting her. She was rejecting me. Um, like I said, I loved her, but I didn't love her. I can't separate those two words. It's more of a feeling. I knew that I had to love her. She adopted me. I was, you know, thankful, grateful for all of that, but it just wasn't your mother's touch. I can't say it any other way.

Damon (05:27):

Oh, what you've said makes absolute sense that you weren't connected and bonded and it sounds like she inserted a lot of people to fill in spaces that you needed. Right. Where she in I'm in. I'm trying to be careful with my words, because you've also admitted that you were possibly rejecting her too. Therefore I don't want it to make it seem like she was just putting up a shield to say, here, deal with these people. Right. If you were pushing her away when it to schoolwork, then of Course she would get a tutor. And if you're pushing her away in this place, then of course she would try to find someone else to like help you through this thing. So I don't want to sort of vilify her unnecessarily, but that's really interesting. Yeah.

Elissa (06:13):

I agree with you. It's like me being my own mother. I have a daughter and I'm a mother, I believe in mental health. My parents in that generation didn't believe in mental health. They figured cause they were doing everything right as parents that I would come out right as a kid, but little did they know how much of that was not their fault? Um, I'm going through a lot of, you know, mental health issues right now with no separation, disattachment, you know, personality disorder, all of that, because it was never resolved as a kid. It was never spoken about it was never handled. It was always, you know, they were financially there for me a hundred percent, but they weren't the best that given that unconditional love. And I think it was a 50, 50, like you just said, I wasn't all, you know, warm and fuzzy either.

Elissa (07:03):

And it wasn't an intentional thing. It just, it did not feel natural. It felt almost forced at times coming from my mom, my dad and I had a different relationship.

Damon (07:16):

And what was that like?

Elissa (07:16):

Um much better. However, he was never home when he was home, I was in the garden, the pool, we were skiing. We were plowing the driveway. You know, I was his little son that he never had. You know, he spent time with me where my mom really never did and she wouldn't really never admit to it, but you know, she was always present. But the one-on-one, you know, I was the only child too. So you would have thought mother daughter relationship would have been a little different, you know, in the perfect, you know, American, traditional family,

Damon (07:49):

Right. Or at least just a little more precious in a female to female bond, perhaps something. Hmm. Hmm. So you found out around, you said four or five or five or six or something

Elissa (08:05):

Between four and six. I found out when I was four, but understood it more when I was six

Damon (08:08):

Okay. And what did you understand when you were six? You feel,

Elissa (08:14):

I understood that I was, you know, lucky to be here. I understood that I was lucky to be, you know, given this chance to live this life with this new family, but what I didn't understand with why, like, if any adopted, could have ever been told the truth, once they understood why it was done, I think it would resolve some problems from that point on and to, you know, later life. But the unknown is like the most torturous thing ever. The not knowing was it no aside black market baby, was it, you know, against her? Will, was it good, bad, ugly, or indifferent? That right there bothered me my whole life. Just not knowing

Damon (08:56):

Earlier Elissa told me that she had taken horseback riding as a kid and that she went to live with her horseback riding teacher. I asked her if she remembered much about the transition to living with her coach, she said she recalls more of the story now because she reconnected with her riding coach two years ago when her journey to find her answers first started

Elissa (09:16):

When I left Pittsburgh at the age of 13 and moved down here, I hadn't been back there. It was too hard for me to go back there. Um, and she basically told me the reason she kind of, it happened over a period of time, me staying there, you know, I would say over a couple of nights and then a week and then every other week. Uh, but it was more or less because she was tired of taking me home to an empty house. My dad was working and my mom wasn't there and I'm the only child. And shouldn't be that way. I didn't know at the time, that's why I was there. I thought it was just cool because I got to live with this lady that gave me all the attention in the world and I was right there in the backyard with all the horses. So that was really cool to me. So it didn't, I didn't put the two and two together until two years ago when she told me why she kind of did it.

Damon (10:04):

Wow. That's incredible of her. Her what's her name?

Elissa (10:08):

Yeah, a Fran

Damon (10:10):

Fran. Wow. What a huge heart did she tell ? What's your sense of where was your mom if she wasn't home?

Elissa (10:20):

I don't know. I mean, I have no idea. Um, cause every time I always saw her, she was at home. She could have been golfing. She also had a problem with drinking, um, that she would never admit to. And I don't really want to make this about her drinking, but that right there in itself was the reason I blamed at this functionalism in our relationship. She wouldn't admit to it that way because of course she would see it a different side. Um, but I'm more emotional than she is to begin with. She kind of has a flat effect. Mine is, you know, I'm nurse Betty I'm. I have a big heart just because of what I wasn't given. So I tried to make up for it that way.

Damon (11:01):

So at 10 years old Fran with the big heart sees that Elissa is going home from horseback riding to be alone. So she started offering for Elissa to stay the night. Then one night became two nights a week and it just became easier to stay at Fran's house. Her house became Elissa's home. When did you realize, like I'm Staying I'm staying here, like I'm not going home. How did that go?

Elissa (11:31):

Um, it didn't ever hit me like that. It just gradually became the thing. Of course, you know, I would go home and stay periods of time, but I would call my permanent residence with Fran because, um, I was also going to horse shows and she would take me and this conversation that we had two years ago, she told me that there was a group of me and three other girls that all their parents would be there. And my parents wouldn't. So she would have to be, you know, on the sideline, not as much, not only as my trainer, but as my mom. And they would seldomly come when they did it's like they would come for like a short period of time and then leave.

Damon (12:12):

Huh? That is fascinating. Yeah. Do you remember being in the show CNM and then seeing them go?

Elissa (12:20):

Yeah, and it, it really didn't bother me. I was kind of, I was happier with them from afar. You know, they, they loved better from far. I, they were older, they weren't younger parents. So, you know, when I was in my, what, 10 years old, they were probably in their forties. Whereas my friend's parents were in their early thirties, you know? So their generation was much different. And you know, I grew up much different than any of my friends than my parents lived a very like formal life, very routine. And my friends, families had like multiple siblings all over the place. Like mine was regimented, you know, it was just too programmed, almost like they didn't know how to just go with the flow and parent that way they had to, I don't know, stage or something

Damon (13:14):

At 13 years old, Elissa's dad retired from the plastics company. He co owned out of nowhere. Elissa's parents moved her down to South Carolina with them and that's where her rebellion began. She said her mental health changed, but her parents didn't seem to notice. Elissa hated moving to South Carolina. At that time, she had to leave her surrogate, parent Fran and her friends, the wonderful horses behind she was in between seventh and eighth grade. A horrible time for transition for a child, especially a shy, quiet child, like Elissa, who never did well with change. Her parents were off playing golf and Elissa was left to cope with it all by herself.

Elissa (13:57):

They never really took the time to see, you know, how I was doing. They didn't look at the Cardinal signs with my behavior, changing, getting in trouble. You know, I'm not a bad kid. You, you don't just wake up one day and choose to be that certain circumstances drive you to do unnatural things, uncommon things maybe for help, maybe for attention. But I didn't get that. I just got, you know, let's close our eyes to this.

Damon (