late discovery

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I found out I was adopted at 21. I was told by my boyfriend who I had met through my next door neighbours. I found out that my cousins all knew, that everyone in the street knew, that my best friend knew. This knowledge was devastating. I felt a fool. Every basis of trust that I had developed throughout my life was undermined and proven false. My life from then on felt like I was living in a constant panic attack. Huge anxiety and depression. I have since been diagnosed as suffering long term PTSD.

While this knowledge was a huge shock it also made sense. I didn't look like others in the family and I had always felt that there was a larger conversation going on around me that I was excluded from. I developed poor body image problems at a young age and had dreams of shrinking away to nothing. When I looked in the mirror I couldnt really see myself and became obsessive about comparing my features with others around me. I became convinced I was the ugliest person I knew and as a result underwent plastic surgery at 18 yrs of age. These problems became even worse after discovery. I have no doubt that my adoptive family contributed to these problems through their lack of communication skills and in my mothers case, a disfunctional narcissistic personality. Nonetheless, I believe growing up in a climate of secrecy and with no one around who mirrored my appearance or personality traits had a severe effect on me. My parents (my mother in particular) had no ability to see me as someone who could be different to her. Every time I tried to assert my independence or pursue my own interests I was rejected. I think she really believed that an adopted child was as good as her own child and interpreted that to mean that I should be like her in every way. For my mother this meant a complete inability to accept difference. When parents use secrecy to protect themselves from stigma, they sentence their children to a twilight world that stunts development.


My experience involves parental secrecy of my adoptive status and my discovery of this at age 21. I reflect on the effect secrecy had on my childhood development and the ability to effectively build body image and a secure personality. Attched Link to my PhD thesis and other published material.