Today I am 44 years old and just beginning to get to know me. I was placed for adoption immediately at birth and went into foster care. Because I was born with congenital dislocated hips (a genetic issue; my great-grandmother was also born with it). The story that I was given was that I went into foster care, then my biological mother had to take me back to her home state because of my medical issues. Back in Michigan, my biological mother and grandmother took me to the hospital in a nearby city and left me there. In order to take me back to Michigan, I was given a name that was recorded on my original birth certificate. While in the hospital in Michigan, I was put in a body cast. I was written off; the doctors said that I would have no type of life. I’d be in a wheelchair and never walk. Only one nurse in the hospital spent time with me. The others fed me and changed my diaper, of course, but no one but her held me. In December 1967, I went home with the nurse and her family as a foster child. They kept the name that I was given by my birth mother.

I was with them for 11 months. They had tried to adopt me, but for whatever reason kept getting put off by the agency. In November 1968, I went to live with my new adoptive parents and family. They changed my name. My adoptive parents did everything right, short of getting my psychiatric help immediately, which probably was a huge unknown back then. They always told me that I was adopted, what my name was (first name only– that’s all they knew), that my foster parents wanted to keep me and loved me very much, that I was special and chosen, etc. Still, I knew I was different.

At around age six, I remember telling my mom that I had bad blood. My teenage years were a living hell, as were my early adult years. Not because of anything that my adoptive parents/family did, but because of how I felt inside. My mom helped me search for my birth mother, which was relatively easy and went very quick. I won’t go into great detail here, but things went okay for a little while. Then when I was 19, things got very bad. Mental illness runs on my birth mother’s side of the family; that was very apparent. Ultimately, I had been abandoned and rejected by my biological mother again– this time as an adult. After multiple psychiatric hospitalizations throughout my teenage and adult years, I found myself in a dual diagnosis treatment center in North Carolina and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder with Major Depression. I was also addicted to drugs and alcohol. This first became an issue when I was 15 years old.

My adopted dad passed away in 2002, and my mom in 2004. In 2006, it was time for me to find the foster family that I’d longed to find. In the process of finding them, I reconnected with my birth mother; this time at her request (she sent me an email). In April 2006, I finally found my foster family and went to meet them in July. In September, my kids and I moved to Florida to be close to them. In 2008, we moved back to Michigan. In the process of all this, I became a compulsive gambler. When I was at the casino, it didn’t matter who I was. I’ve tried getting honest answers from my birth mother, and it’s clear that’s not going to happen. I’m in the process now (which I’ve started before and never followed through) of trying to get my adoption file open. My understanding is that it’s going to be in uphill battle, particularly in Michigan.

I’ve been in recovery from gambling for almost two years. One of the steps in the program is going back to your childhood and looking at everything. I’m now understanding that many of my issues came from the first three months to eighteen months of my life. For one and a half years, I had one name. When I was adopted, I didn’t even have that! And I always wondered why I felt alone. It’s because I don’t even know me. In the process of trying to get my adoption file open, I’m also thinking seriously about getting back into therapy. I think I’m going to need it. I guess I just want to know if I’ll ever be normal. Will I ever be able to feel close to another person? Will I ever know who I am? Will I ever be able to trust? These are things I’ve dealt with all of my life, and I am hoping beyond all hope that at 44 years old, I can finally begin to learn who I am.