content warning: self-harm, suicide
I have been thinking a lot about adoption lately, as I prepare for my next trip to Korea in October. despite the fortuitous chapters of my story, trauma is present between the lines.
I remember getting this tattoo. my Korean name, a reclamation of sorts. and I didn’t flinch when the needle touched my skin.
It’s a strange compliment when tattoo artists or doctors note that you have a high pain tolerance. They don’t realize I started self-mutilating when I was 13. Cutting my ankle with dull scissors.
Adoptees are told we are “lucky.” Therefore, any indication of unhappiness might be seen as ungrateful. When your feelings are invalidated long enough, they start becoming less palpable.
The world didn’t grant me permission to mourn the intangible losses (of my birth family, culture, language, history, name). Instead, I created a physical wound as a release. an excuse to experience pain and grieve.
Healing is a perpetual journey. The scars fade, but never disappear completely. 37 years old, and (no matter how much my head knows otherwise) my heart still fights every day to feel chosen. worthy. enough.
September is national suicide prevention month. a study published in the journal “pediatrics” found that adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted people.
Additionally, a meta-analysis from “children and youth services review” about adoptees’ mental health revealed higher levels of depression and anxiety than in non-adoptees.
When adoptees ask you to hear us, it isn’t vanity. It is a basic need for belonging and understanding that society has stolen. The power of our lived experiences is why so many in dominant culture have tried to silence us. And it is why I continue to share mine without shame or hesitation. Stories can save lives. Listen to #adopteevoices.