Adopted People and Illness. Anne Heffron

In an earlier post, the one about adoptees and suicide, I wrote about astronauts. I had been thinking about bodies and skin and protection, and I had been thinking about the enormous amount of time and money that went into keeping astronauts alive when they walked on the Moon.

And yet, as far as I can tell, no money is spent on protecting the body of a child that travels from one universe to another. If you follow the logic of how babies are transferred from one mother to another (or if no mother is involved in the adoption, then to a father), we as humans should be able to land on the moon and walk its craggy terrain naked. But that’s ridiculous! you say. It’s not the same at all. There are too many differences between the Earth’s atmosphere and the Moon’s. The astronauts would never survive!

And, clearly, you’d be right. The astronauts would not survive if they walked the Moon without the support from all those members of NASA back home, monitoring the astronauts’ well-being, and all the protective gear the astronauts wear that cover every millimeter of skin.

I am arguing here that while I survived the transfer from planet to planet, I will die at a younger age than I would have if I had stayed home.

I am going to tell you a secret: I am convinced I have M.S. And alzheiner’s. And some sort of degenerative spinal disease. And skin cancer.

Part of my brain is so anxious because it knows I am dying and that I am not getting appropriate care. It has been like this my whole life, and I am wearing out my system because if my brain tells my body it is in trouble, my body is going to believe is and become sick. My stomach and guts are a mess. I’m so used to being in intestinal distress that I forget to remember most people aren’t in pain all the time. Most people don’t plan their day based on toilet locations.

If you know an adopted person, ask after their health. Don’t just ask one question because, while not every adoptee has physical maladies because of the stress of relinquishment, I would confidently argue that most do. The thing is, most of them also think the illnesses, the skin conditions, the degenerative diseases, are just part of their lives. They don’t know that almost every other adoptee has a comparable problem. The older you get, the less able your body is to fight your brain, and the faster the slide to illness becomes.

My friend reminded me the other day that when we were little kids she used to sit on the edge of the bathtub while I pooped because it always took me a while. She told me my poops were different from hers and so she always wondered why mine came out in hard pellets while hers were more like a snake. My parents never would have thought to relate my problems pooping with my adoption. Why would they? No one was saying anything about this.

Now, at 55, my poops are a different story. I’d pay to have them be in hard pellets. Going out into the world with this body of mine has turned into a kind of Russian Roulette. Will I be okay? Will the wave come out of nowhere and twist my guts and make shitting my pants not an if but a when?

I thought I had my guts under control this past year. I was so proud. The world was my oyster because I could walk around and not worry Am I okay? Am I okay now? and then something happened—I have no idea what, and I was back on the shit train, and I was—okay, I am—secretly convinced that this was—is—probably my last year on the planet.

I was talking to Pam Cordano about all of this today, and we made a pact: for a year we would not believe our brain when it told us we were sick, in trouble, dying. We would commit to eating cleanly for we had both gotten sloppy with our habits; we would avoid processed foods, sugar, and alcohol and we would up our physical activities. We would put blinders on to the voice in our head that is so terrified that we are dying. For a year we would ignore the voice and see what happened.

This is no small thing. It’s sort of like we have been news addicts for years and have made a pact to turn off the TV, the radio, to put away our newspapers, to stop having other people tell us the condition of the world. We are taking control of our bodies and we are going to treat them like temples. I have never gone into a temple or a church and screamed that the sky is falling or that my ingrown toenail is going to turn to gangrene soon. Why? Because I feel safe in a temple or a church. I feel cradled by spirit and by all the bodies that came together to build the structure.

I am not sure I could face facing these problems alone. As soon as Pam and I agreed to do this together, to change together, something in my body and mind shifted. I do not have to rely solely on my own strength. I can lean on Pam and she can lean on me and we can feel supported and encouraged and seen together.

Change is not called a party for a reason. It’s not a party, unless a party involves, in addition to laughter and community, freak-outs and tears and boredom and fear.

Hold on.

Maybe change is a party.

Maybe adoptees are astronauts. Maybe we do need better equipment, more attention, more medical care when we are shifted from Planet A to Planet B.

Not maybe.

We are. We do.

What are you going to do about it, Kaiser? What are you going to do about it Stanford? Harvard? John Hopkins? What are you going to do about it, all you adoption agencies who so willingly serve as the middleman in the sale of human beings? What are you going to do about it, couples who have unprotected sex and who are not ready to keep a child? What are you going to do about it, rapist? What are you going to do about it evangelical preacher who condemn abortion?

Know you are putting naked bodies on the Moon.

Know there is blood on your hands.

Adoptees are sick. They are dying.

And they, we, need help.


I am writing as if every single adopted person feels the way I do, and we all know that this is impossible. They don’t. I had a point to make, however, and for the past three years that I have been deeply steeped in the world of adoption, I have seen more adoptees who suffer from some sort of physical malady than those who don’t, and that is the place from which I am writing. I am not writing to hurt those who do not suffer. I am writing to get help for those who do.

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