Transitioning from Control to Peace

I find myself reflecting on the year as 2021 is quickly coming to a close. This year was filled with many hard things. Many things that spiraled out of my control and brought up a lot of hard things to reprocess as an adoptee.

The word Control keeps coming to the forefront of my mind as contemplated how I wanted to write this excerpt ending a year of many things in order to embrace a new year of excitement, new growth and new experiences.

Control and all that it encompasses; the lack of it, the fight for it, the pain of embracing it or letting it go, everything about it. That is a feeling and experience that many of fellow adoptees can relate to.

This year brought the feelings around control that I thought I already processed and moved through. However, like many triggers, it landed me right back to the beginning of a healing journey I thought I had achieved and mastered. As a therapist, this is not a new phenomenon. I know that healing is not linear, I know that as we experience new things and move through life stages, we are left to reprocess the past differently. We are tasked with continuing on the path of growth. However, when the face staring back at you is not your client, not your young adoptee or foster child, not the different types of families that want to help their family unit heal and their child feel safe. No, when the face staring back at you is your own reflection, it hits much differently. The year of 2021 was my mirror and each experience whether it was ugly, joyous or painful, was a step towards growth. Growth that has led me to become a higher, more fulfilled and more humbled woman in the making.

When I feel out of control, historically it triggers feelings of anxiousness, instability, and a gut wrenching sensation that challenges my feeling of safety. Lack of control can bring out feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. Growing up in a home filled with physical, mental, emotional and medical abuse, I never had a grasp of myself. I never had control. This year brought all those feelings up as I was faced with pivotal life altering events out of my control and that forced me to face the fear of “what if” straight in the face.

I made the choice to end all contact and communication with most of my immediate adoptive family. This was a matter of health, personal safety and healing. It was not a want, it was not to slander, it was to protect myself, my children and my own peace. That choice was in my control.

However, like most families who struggle with enmeshment, co-dependence, and unhealthy boundaries it left me with the pain of having to release the notion that I could hold my narrative and truth close and that others would respect that. I could not control my immediate adoptive family choosing slander my name, tell the “truth” that they could manipulate and bend it to those who who hear it and believe it. I could not control that although I made the settings on my personal social media private and deleted most of my immediate adoptive family members, there were still individuals who made it past my instinctual security measures and due to this these indivudals screenshot personal pictures of my children, Facebook posts about the anniversary of my first mother’s passing and the award that I worked hard to achieve. I could not control that these Screenshots then made it around the family like in group messages set up to talk negatively about me. I could to control that this was done by individuals who wear a veil of Christianity, saviorism and faith to hide what is really in their heart.

So I packed up and I moved myself, my husband and my children. No one received my address except for my brother and his wife and a few other family members not within my immediate adoptive family. This was out creating a space of peace. A space of safety.

However, I could not control the harassment of those I care about, those that I am still in contact with being bothered, bullied and criticized for an address that these individuals in reality would never even need, contact or not. To this day, almost a year later, I have to preface before giving my address out that I will only give it if it is kept in confidence and remains private.

Two what has this year forced me to face?

This year forced me to face the fact that I can’t control how or what anyone says about me or to whom. I have learned that by defending myself, I am not doing anything but prolonging an unhealthy exchange of back and forth. I have learned that I don’t need to defend myself to the people who matter, because they know me.

This year forced me to face the fact that I can’t control that my action of leaving the abusive, enmeshed, narcissistic habits that I was raised to believe is normal and “right” for a family, also meant I was leaving behind nieces and nephews, many of whom were adopted and who are now hidden behind the narrative and lies being spun to keep them from seeing the truth. Many of who I wish I could be a safe haven for, the safe haven I never had. I can only control what is mine. I can only control that my house will always be here for them and I hope that one day they will find the door open and come in with no fear of judgment knowing my arms and heart are open and ready to love and be there unconditionally.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them, ever. I am grateful that there are some of my beautiful strong nieces, nephews and others who have found the door and know that it is there for them, always open and always welcoming. I am grateful that there are others left within the mass of chaos who can look out and provide unconditional love and encouragement, something I did not have.

This year forced me to face the fact that I couldn’t control the trauma of the near death car accident I experienced as I was on my way to provide therapeutic services to a post adoption family I was just beginning to work with. An accident that I was able to walk away physically fine but that I struggle with on a daily within my head and each and ever time I get into a vehicle.

This year forced me to face the fact that I couldn’t control the multiple police vehicles showing up officers jumping from those vehicles, guns drawn at what I believed were victims of the same crash I was involved in. Voices raised so loud it felt more deafening then blow of the other car smashing into and catapulting over my own little car. I couldn’t control that as I sat in a state of shock, the police were breaking the windshield and dragging the young men out, straight through the jagged shards of glass, no care to check if they were critically injured as their vehicle laid on its side. No, with guns still drawn, voices still raised I felt paralyzed.

This year forced me to face the fact that I couldn’t control the lack of information and care given to me as the victim and casualty of a high speed pursuit on the back roads in Chester County, PA. I couldn’t control that I knew nothing of what was going on and no one came to check on me for a solid 5-10 minutes as I sat in my broken totaled car shaking, traumatized and forgotten. I couldn’t control that while I sat alone, there were multiple officers from multiple jurisdictions and from two separate states that failed to see that at the end of this high speed pursuit, left me, a victim of their chase traumatized and in a totaled vehicle, lucky to walk away with little to know physical injury but unaware, in shock and alone by myself.

The panic of not knowing what I should do, feeling frozen and yet shaking uncontrollably at the same time still returns when I see cars in my blindspot, in my rear view mirror, pulling up to turn or when I slow down at a stop sign. The effects of my PTSD from this accident are still very fresh and woven into my everyday life.

This year forced me to face the fact that while I sat there shaking in my totaled car, my thoughts were racing between calling my supervisor, the family I was en route to see, and my husband. I was also thinking I need to find my phone and record because I don’t trust the people who are here to protect and serve.

This year was a reminder that I can’t control the color of my skin, and I couldn’t control the color of the young men’s skin in the other vehicle. All I knew in those moments were, these young men were men of color, and I was a woman of color. Racing through my mind along with all the other disorganized thoughts due to the traumatic event was the fact that just mere weeks earlier the prosecutors began their opening arguments in their case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police offer charged with murdering George Floyd. It was across every news station and the topic of conversation in most households regardless of the side people placed themselves on. It was on my mind as a person of color and it was on my mind as I witnessed what I witnessed after being hit over 60 miles an hour as I sat at a stop sign. I couldn’t control that.

The year 2021 reminded me that I can’t control many things and many things will never be in my control. As an adoptee this is wholly triggering, especially coming from a negative adoption experience. As a child, I had no control and part of my abuse was not only control of my narrative but also chemical and medical abuse. The trigger of being out of control radiates the feeling of helplessness through my bones as if I was transmitted back to a time when I was living a reality of fear and vulnerability as a child.

However, 2021 also showed me that things out of your control are not always negative. It provided me the space to begin to lean into the uncomfortable feelings and push past them. To regain the control of my body and feelings instead of allowing the past to claim what rightfully belongs to present and the future.

This year allowed me to uncover some of things that bring me peace, things that move, things that glow and things that grow. This year taught me that in order to fully embrace the peace that each of these thing bring, I also have to embrace the fact that I will never be able to control them.

My plants, the embers and flame dancing in my fireplace, my children as they grow and navigate a world that radiates love, acceptance and wonder. A world I did not experience at their age. I leaned into and accepted that these things are peaceful and beautiful and completely out of control, and that is ok, in fact it is just perfectly right.

This year showed me that control is in my grasp and I can exercise it in the ways that are right for me when it is right for me. It also showed me that control is not meant to be kept close and tight. Instead, control is meant to be an effortless exchange and dance between freewill, peace and protection.

I controlled my exit from the unhealthy habits, generational trauma and continued abuse that has rippled to the next generation of those I love. While I cannot control the treatment of those I love, the narratives that are being fed or the pain that is pulsating through each hurt and broken adult directly into the children that they feel is their right to control. I can control my stance in the pillar of a generation collapsing under the pain, expectations and trauma of those generations before them.

I can control the door to my safe haven and extend the invitation for all who reach a place of wanting to enter, even if its for a brief moment to bake a cookie, have some tea or watch the fire dance in the fireplace as they experience the peace, love and encouragement that I worked hard to make the backbone of my home.

So, what has this year taught me?

This year taught me that I control my own rhythm. This year taught me it is ok to let go of the control and to take a break.

This year taught me that I deserve a break and there is absolutely no shame in putting myself first and accepting the rest I worked so hard to experience and embrace. It taught me that my hard work isn’t only to provide solace to my children, my husband, my family, my friends, my clients or my community. It is also to provide myself with relief and peace. This year taught me that it is ok to say I earned a moment to pause in my own silence and tranquility.

This year taught me that I always had had the power and it led me on a path of constructing the bridge that now connects my passion with my purpose and fuels my drive to stand tall and firm in what is morally and ethically right. This year taught me that I am able to make a difference in a way that fills me up without shattering the person I have worked so hard to grow into and become. This year taught me I am strong enough to bear the weight.

This year was the year of healing and paving the path to next year, my year of taking flight. My year to soar into my destiny without the weight of expectations, perfection or holding onto the problems and pain of the generations that came before me. This next year is the year I choose to build a healthier experience not only for my own children but the children of their generation and the generations to come. This next year is the year I choose to continue my path of social work, therapy, counseling, education, consultation and enlightenment around adoption, foster care and the lived experience as both an adult adoptee and adoption professional.

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Published by Stephanie Oyler

Stephanie is a Licensed MSW professional who specializes in the area of adoption and foster care. She is also an adoptee herself. Adoptee LIT is a space created for education, advocacy, personal insight/experience and guidance in the sphere of Adoption.

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