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020 – I Don’t Silence Julie Anymore
Episode 2014th August 2021 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:36:47

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Michelle says growing up she felt very different from her adoptive family because she looked completely different from them. When she was a teen she embarked on a voyage to reunite with her birth mother, traveling back to the UK where she was born. Seeking some of the basic answers to her identity and acceptance by her biological mother, her trip was going great, until the neighbor came over and asked who Michelle was. What happened next became a pivotal moment in Michelle’s quest to discover herself.

But the acceptance and love that Michelle was looking for were still out there and they came from a person that she didn’t even know existed. She located her half brother in Spain, and was able to he relay the final emotions of their dying father, bringing some peace to Michelle.

The post 020 – I Don’t Silence Julie Anymore appeared first on Who Am I...Really? Podcast.

Michelle (00:03):

And climbed back as a teen. I just remembered, I don't know how to do this, but I know that these people aren't the ones to give me my truth and I'm either gonna find it myself or I'm gonna die not knowing, and I wasn't willing to live a life not knowing.

Voices (00:25):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:37):

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 meet Michelle. She told me she grew up feeling very different from her adoptive family because she looked completely different from them. Michelle reunited with her birth mother as a teenager traveling back to the United Kingdom where she was born. She was seeking some basic answers to her identity and acceptance by her biological mother. Things were going great for them until the neighbor came over and asked who Michelle was. It became a pivotal moment in Michelle's quest to discover herself. But the acceptance and love that Michelle was looking for was still out there and it came from a person that she didn't even know existed. I asked Michelle about her journey and what adoption was like for her growing up. Michelle starts us off with the events that brought her into this world. Her parents weren't able to keep her. So Michelle was placed in foster care and it was there even in those early days where people placed judgment about her existence.

Michelle (01:39):

Well, I was born in England. I go back to that because it's really part of the whole journey of identity for me. Uh, I was born in England. Mother was British, father was Spanish. Um, I was a product of their affair. My mother at the time was married. She had three children and my father was single, a bachelor. They had an affair. I was the product of that and it was quite a scandal actually at the time. And I was secreted away into foster care. My birth father said he didn't want to be a father, didn't want to raise me. Birth mother had a choice to make, you know, she couldn't keep me. And she looked to keep her family intact with her husband and her three children. In foster care in the U K I was labeled because of the circumstances around me. You know, it was labeled in my foster records, illegitimate dark, because I had the coloring of my birth father peculiar looking because I was very much, you know, was identified as an ethnic child.

Damon (02:40):

You saw all of this information in your records?

Michelle (02:43):

Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've seen it in my foster records.

Damon (02:47):

That's fascinating.

Michelle (02:47):

And you know, it's, it's interesting because I don't know, you feel that even if you aren't given it in the, in the beginnings, you know, even if you don't see it in black and white, there's something about the judgment, um, that you feel, I think even at the youngest of ages, you know, you can feel that negativity surrounding you and you can definitely feel the weight of judgment.

Damon (03:10):

You can feel how you're perceived.

Michelle (03:12):

You can feel yes, how you're perceived. And so a lot of that fell on my young shoulders.

Damon (03:18):

Michelle was adopted by Americans and brought to this country to be raised. Her appearance made her feel different and she was often reminded of it. But her inability to share more about her heritage made her feel incomplete.

Michelle (03:31):

But I look like no one in my family. I had long black hair, big brown, almond shaped eyes, Mediterranean skin. My family was Caucasian, fair skin, blue eyes for the most part. And I did. I stuck out and people would ask, well, where are you from? And I just remember feeling so different. And I also remember feeling such a, uh, such an overwhelming sense of being silenced because I didn't know how to answer the questions because I really didn't know. I knew a certain amount of my history, but I didn't know all of it. And so there were pieces and holes that left me feeling disempowered and certainly far, far away from what would have been a true identity. My name was changed upon being adopted. My culture, you know, shifted, uh, my family shifted, everything changed. And in that space is quite a void.

Damon (04:30):

Michelle's adopted parents had two biological sons of their own, but her mom really wanted a girl. Her American parents tried to adopt while living in Taiwan, but it wasn't until they lived in the UK that they found their daughter. Unfortunately, as Michelle grew older, her mom used some damaging language about Michelle's adoption that made Michelle feel like she always had to be at her best. To top it off, her distinctive appearance, contrast it against her family members, set her clearly apart from them, a constant reminder of her adoption.

Michelle (05:01):

So, there's no doubt that I was wanted, you know, um, very much so by my mother for sure. And I know by my father too. But, um, I think all of that was just expressed differently. I grew up in a family where my mother would say things to me like, I saved you from that situation. And so I had a sense of needing to be always grateful and in some ways always perfect in her eyes because I was convinced as a child and for a long time in my life that imperfect things get sent back and perfect people get sent away. So the, the quest for perfection to always be seen as perfect, grateful, always striving to make others proud, being a pleaser, those behaviors quickly I think came into, uh, into play in my life.

Damon (05:55):

Wow. Can you give me an example of how that happened?

Michelle (05:58):

Well, I would never, you know, number one, I was always very hard on myself. I wanted to just be the best because I really felt like if I was the best and whatever that meant to me at that time would, would equal safety for me and security. And so I wanted to make the best grades. I didn't want to disappoint. I wanted to be the best in school and my ballet company or you know.

Damon (06:19):

You wanted to be good enough to be kept.

Michelle (06:22):

I wanted to be good enough to be kept. And so that became my identity is the girl who is striving everyday in every way to be good enough. Even though deep down inside she could not figure out why she felt so unworthy of love of being adopted even life. To be quite honest with you, I just felt like, well sometimes maybe God makes mistakes and I'm just one of those mistakes and I'm just going to have to figure out how to live with that identity.

Damon (06:51):

I was going to ask with regard to your mother's remarks of I saved you from that situation? Did you perceive that as her sort of saying, I'm a great person because I saved you? I've heard some people say that their parents made these offhanded comments accidentally. Uh, but some people made these comments very, very intentionally and I was kind of wondering which one you felt your mother fell into.

Michelle (07:17):

Well, I think sometimes it would depend on the situation. Um, I think when she made that particular comment to me, I think she very much knew what she was saying and I think it was a way of correcting me in some way or shifting me back if, if there was ever, maybe if she saw me as not acting as if she would like me to do or there was a behavior that she was not pleased with, she would remind me. And I think what that did for me, it, it, it would put a little fear into me that, okay, what she's saying is she saved me from something and in this moment I am not pleasing her. And so if she saved me from something, then there's the risk that she could send me back to that. I don't think she meant it. I don't think she ever had a clue the overriding impact that would have on me emotionally and mentally.

Damon (08:08):

I understand.

Michelle (08:09):

To live in that kind of world where you feel things are very fragile, love is fragile.

Damon (08:15):

Michelle said her mother's words ultimately made her feel that her love might be conditional. Making that love fragile in Michelle's mind. She got the feeling her mother felt she had done something exceptionally altruistic for taking on another child. But her mother also expressed her love for Michelle.

Michelle (08:31):

I think my mother did feel that she had done something exceptional in adopting me. You know, people would say that like, what a good person you are for taking her in. Um, they would say, people would say to me, what a, what a lovely thing your parents have done. And so I do, I do remember my mother saying, well, we're, we're, we're, the ones were really blessed. I remember hearing her say that as well. So I'm, you know, I, I never point fingers of judgment. I, and I do believe that everyone does, you know, for the most part, the best that they can in the situations. But I think it's, there's a level of awareness that I'm trying to help, um, within this conversation of what it feels like to live in the skin of adoption and how we perceive things versus how others might perceive what they're saying or what they're doing.

Damon (09:24):

Yeah, I could see how her comment could have been completely innocent and, um, and possibly factual to be honest with you. You know, it's entirely possible that she did save you from a very challenging situation, but the choice of words, the moment at which it said, and as you've said, the backdrop of your own emotions as an adoptee who already feels like you don't look like your family, you could see how just without the precise careful selection of certain words at the right time could go awry.

Damon (09:55):

Michelle's adopted parents both passed away just a few years ago in 2016 she says she really healed a lot with them during her journey in her loving family and she knows they would want her to be open and honest in sharing her story for the benefit of other adoptees. Michelle conveyed the challenges she had feeling validated in her existence when she questioned why her first family gave her up and her adoptive father seemed to change after her arrival.

Michelle (10:21):



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