115 [Healing Series] Anchored with Macy Oosthuizen, LCSW


Full show notes: https://www.adopteeson.com/listen/115

Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye

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(intro music)

Haley - You’re listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. I’m your host Haley Radke, and this is a special episode in our Healing Series, where I interview therapists who are also adoptees themselves, so they know from personal experience, what it feels like to be an adoptee. Today we are going to meet a new to Adoptees On therapist, and do a hybrid episode. We’re gonna hear her story and then dive into some wisdom on identity development and how to feel connected. Let’s listen in.

I’m so pleased to welcome to Adoptees On, Macy Oosthuizen, welcome Macy!

Macy – Thank you so much Haley!

Haley - I’m really excited! So you’re gonna share your story with us, so why don’t we get started with that?

Macy - Sure! Um, first I just have to say I’m so honored to be on the podcast. The members of our South Florida support group and I have been fans since the beginning, so I just wanna thank you for that.

Haley - Aw, thank you! That’s great, love that.

Macy - So my story starts I guess with the adoption at one month old. I was adopted from Spence-Chapin Agency in New York City, in 1970. The peak of the baby scoop era. I was adopted into, you know, into a couple, I was the oldest child, their first child, to a couple in New Jersey and I have a younger adopted brother, from Bogota Columbia actually. And he is also a therapist.

Haley - Really?

Macy - Yes. In New Jersey. And even though I was in the baby scoop era, my first parents were actually on their honeymoon when they relinquished me. And my mother was not single or young, or too young, or financially struggling, she was 24. He was 27. He was from a wealthy, large Catholic Mexican family. And it’s like, it’s just a kooky story, but um—

Haley - Wait. They were on their honeymoon?

Macy - Correct.

Haley - Married, together, when they relinquished you.

Macy - Relinquished me, yes. So the information that I got was that they got pregnant while engaged and decided to bump up their wedding and make it earlier. And they married when she was four months pregnant, near their home in Mexico City. And they lived in Mexico City, Mexico. And they kept the pregnancy secret from everyone. And a friend of the family had given them a trip around the world to use as their honeymoon, right? Must be nice. And while on their months long honeymoon, and her pregnancy continued, they actually tried to arrange my adoption in different countries in Europe. But no one would give them the time of day and would kept sending them along and saying no, we don’t take babies from married couples on their honeymoon. And they found an agency in London, England actually. And that agency said, you know what, we have a sister agency in New York City, and my mother was an American Citizen, a dual, she had dual citizenship, grew up in southern California. And they said, since she’s American citizen, why don’t you go to this agency in New York City, they will take care of you, you’re gonna have to go early though, they’re gonna wanna talk to you, you know, extensively. But they’ll probably help you. And so they went to New York City and later I had found out that the London agency kind of wired Spence-Chapin and said, this is the strangest situation we’ve ever come across. And essentially like, good luck with that. You know, with working with this couple. And so they traveled to New York City, a couple months before I was born, to meet with the agency and they were still on their honeymoon, so they were still calling home and pretending that they were off skiing in the Alps and doing all these things. And the story they were telling the agency was that since I was conceived while they were still engaged, they were concerned I would be shunned as he was from a very prominent Catholic family in Mexico City. That was the story that they were saying. And so after they relinquished me in New York City, they immediately, and I mean the next day, they went back to Mexico and pretended like nothing had happened. So the agency then told my adoptive parents, what they said, the agency said that I was European, quote unquote, and didn’t tell them anything about them living in or being from Mexico. And that my first parents were two, what they did say was that my first parents were two kids from Columbia University who got into trouble, quote unquote, and were not ready to be parents. So the agency lied and I grew up not having a clue, and my parents, my adoptive parents not having a clue. And when I was 26 years old, like, you know, as we do, as adoptees, the stirrings start happening and I’m really, you know, questioning who I am and where I come from. So I petition the agency for my non identifying information. Which is the crumbs that we get as adoptees, right?

Haley - That’s a good way to put it, crumbs.

Macy - Yeah, like they throw us a couple of crumbs about our identity and hope that this will help us and meanwhile that just threw me into, like a tailspin because when I got this information, you know, you get this letter. And it just so happened to arrive, I had asked for it in like, February of that year and it arrived like exactly the Friday before Mother’s Day which was 26 years to the day that my parents brought me home. So I just thought that was really strange. But anyway it arrived that day, and reading that letter, I was like, completely dumbfounded. My whole world came kind of crashing down and to find out my parents were 24 and 27, and on their honeymoon just totally threw me.

Haley - So this was a letter that they had written?

Macy - No, this was the letter, like Spence-Chapin had sent me, ‘cause when I said, can I please have my non identifying information they said, oh yeah we’ll write it all in the letter for you.

Haley - Oh okay, okay, okay.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - Okay, oh my gosh.

Macy - And that was the letter. So I got it and it was like, that letter to me was everything. Like I had waited my whole life to find out like who I was, you know. And, you know and I really got the story, like you can get on board with kids in college you know, and oh, like, I’m on board with that story. The story, the other story of them being 24 and 27 and on their honeymoon, and I was 26 at the time, so I was thinking, I wouldn’t, no way, if I was on my honeymoon, be giving up a baby for adoption. Like this doesn’t make any sense to me.

Haley - Well and also, like, when you said they were traveling the world. I know it was a gift but it sounded like they had means. Like this wasn’t like—

Macy - They had means, oh yeah.

Haley - This was not a financially impoverished couple.

Macy - Absolutely no, they had a lot of means. My mother didn’t come from much, but you know, his family was wealthy, they had, they definitely had means. This was not a financial situation in any way.

Haley - So bizarre.

Macy - Right? Well it gets a little kookier. But anyways. So you know I kind of, I went into emotional tailspin. You know I really just did not have anything to hold on to. And talk about, you know I was feeling completely just like, literally like floating off into space. And so I grabbed on to a first husband that wasn’t the healthiest situation for me. And I just grabbed on to all kinds of things that were around just hoping it would help me feel anchored and nothing really worked. But, so because this information was so shocking and like I didn’t know what to do with it, you know, I mean, I was also raised Catholic. So part of me really understood some of that. But like, this was you know, it wasn’t 1950, you know. I just couldn’t really wrap my brain around it. Now looking back on it now, it feels and seems obvious why they gave my up. But the funny thing is it didn’t click with me at all. Because it turns out I was the result of an affair.

Haley - Okay.

Macy - Right? And so my mom and her husband or fiancé were engaged, they had a fight, an argument or whatever, she decided to fly home to her parent’s in southern California and decided to take some time to cool off and while there, she met my actual father, had an affair with him, and then her fiancé flew to southern California, wooed her back to continue, like, let’s continue our wedding planning, and brought her back unknowing that she was pregnant. But he knew that there was an affair. So went back to Mexico, and oopsies, there’s a baby. And so instead of, so what I found out also, is that her husband said, let’s raise this baby as our own, like no problem. And even when I went to, I eventually found the doctor who delivered me. And he said I will never forget your parents. And he said, you know, it was weird. And he said, I told them, that they cannot leave you here and that I will write a letter to say that you are premature even though I was 9 pounds, I was almost 10 pounds, I was a large baby. But he said you know, I will write a letter saying that you’re premature and so that you cannot leave this hospital without this baby. And my mom, when I reunited with her, did confirm that story, I mean she told me the story without me even prompting her. So she just was hell bent on not having me. Not raising me.

Haley - Did she think her husband would just like hold it over her or something? Even though he was willing to parent? I mean.

Macy - I have no idea. Because from all accounts, he’s the sweetest, he seems like a very sweet man. And I just, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know what was going on in her brain. Because even my birth father, or you know, my birth father said, hey if she had called me from New York and said, by the way I didn’t tell you but, you know, he said I would have come and picked you up. He said, I never, my family would not have been like oh no, this is a horrible thing. Like they were very open and he said I would have come and picked you up. In no way, you know. So it doesn’t sound like from any different sources was she getting the information that she had to do this. This was, I think, an internal thing. She was from a very unhealthy family. And I think that informed her decision quite a bit. And I don’t know what she thought. But the whole scheme of the honeymoon and everything was so elaborate. It just, it’s a little bit shocking. And actually preparing to talk with you today, I went and read over some stuff and it was things I didn’t even remember reading the first time. I had, I have some notes that actually I got from the agency or whatever, but anyways, but you know it’s shocking what her, how far this scheme went. But when I, I didn’t reunite with her until I was 37. And they had used fake names during the whole process. So it was really hard finding them. But I reunited with her when I was 37 and after she moved back to the states with her third husband and my younger half-sister, and she went on to have two kids with that first husband. And when I met her, she told me those two kids were my full siblings and she kind of continued that whole story. And I kept saying like, something isn’t right, you know, but she really wouldn’t, she wouldn’t give it up. I found them because the private investigator I had hired found in the society pages, Mexico City Society Pages, a picture of what looked like me on my wedding day. And they had, turns out they had used the same first names but fake last names. So, and the newspaper, it was an extensive huge article about all the famous people at their wedding, and et cetera. And in the article it corroborated a lot of the non-identifying information that I had gotten from the agency about how many brothers and sisters and family members and things like that. And that’s how I found them and then you know, I kind of also sat on that information and waited til I felt like I was ready to you know, to contact her. But I was reunited with her for 10 years and that entire time, she kept that story going. And I would beg her, please tell me the truth, I really need to know the truth. Like, this isn’t, I don’t know, doesn’t fly. And I got to meet and I still have a relationship with my two siblings. And talking with my brother, I said, you know, I begged him to do a DNA test with me. And he put it off for 3 years. I think he knew you know, but he was so kind and gentle and nice to me. And I don’t think he knew how to tell me. So he did the DNA test, and it came back we were half siblings. So that’s when I knew something was going on. And coincidentally, not coincidentally, but through that DNA test, I also did Ancestry at the same time, DNA. And I got connected to a bunch of second cousins. And I couldn’t figure out how they were related to me. And after the second, you know, my brother and I coming back as half siblings, I realized, oh, this man is not my father who I thought was my father for all this time. Which put me in another tailspin. But I recovered from that and I reached out to these second cousins on Ancestry and realized they were from my father’s side of the family. And I found my father within like 2 weeks of knowing that this man wasn’t my dad.

Haley - So you were in reunion with your first mother.

Macy - Yep.

Haley - And for like 10 years, before you did this DNA test with your brother. Who turns out to be only half.

Macy - Correct.

Haley - Oh my gosh.

Macy - I know.

Haley - Okay so you find your dad.

Macy - I find my dad, and he explained everything to me, and I was like, oh. You know, he told me the other side of the story.

Haley - So did he know?

Macy - No he had no clue. He had no clue. Except when I found her, the thing, okay this is what really gets me going. When I found her 10 years ago from that point, now this is just last year by the way. So like, this is fairly recent, I’m just saying. But when I contacted her 10 years ago, she apparently called him and said, I think you have a daughter. And he was like, wait, what? ‘Cause he never had any other kids, and nobody in his family had kids. Like his sister never had kids, nobody had kids. So he was like, oh my gosh this would be amazing, this is fantastic. And so she was like, you gotta do a DNA test and just swab your cheek and send me the Q-tip and you know. And so he was like okay and so he did that and nothing ever came of it and she never called back and he was like, oh I guess it’s not my daughter. And she sent me a DNA kit for my, I don’t know, I think it was my 38th birthday. And said, just do this DNA test and don’t ask any questions. Well, Macy doesn’t do well with don’t ask any questions. And meanwhile I had been asking her for a year like, I need the whole story, like please could you give me the whole story. I don’t know if it was a year or two at this point. But and I said, you know, if you could please tell me the truth and then I’ll do the DNA test. So she wouldn’t tell me the truth so I was like, the DNA test is either because you’re just trying to stir the pot, or you think there’s a reason why this other man is not my father.

Haley - So when you eventually contact your first father.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - He did have an inkling only because she had reached and asked for his swab like 10 years ago, but hadn’t contacted him after.

Macy - Exactly.

Haley - Oh my gosh.

Macy - Yeah. So I had, so after that I contacted my mom and to say, you know, hey. I found him, he told me everything, I hope this brings you peace, like this isn’t a secret you don’t have to keep anymore. And I thought it would really bring her peace. And that she would feel free, that all these years she wouldn’t have to keep up this story. And instead she just got super angry and responded with, well now you found your father and you no longer have a mother.

Haley - Oh!

Macy - Yeah. So I was like, oh. That’s tough, you know, I was kind of prepared. Because our 10 years was a really, was really hard for 10 years. You know I really struggled connecting with her. We look so much alike, like physically we are very, very similar.

Haley - Well you said the wedding picture in the newspaper looked just like you.

Macy - Yes, oh my gosh, exactly. And so physically we are exactly the same, or look very, very similar. But personality wise, you know I really struggled connecting and understanding and I really wasn’t getting it. Like am I really from these people? Like this is just not making sense to me, but I kept squishing myself into a, you know square peg into a round hole, trying to make it fit. Because as adoptees, that’s what we do. We find the people and it was great confirmation that I looked like somebody. But she didn’t have crazy hair and she didn’t, you know it was all these things that I was just so, and I was a super artistic kid. And she was crafty, but not artistic. So there was a lot of things that when I found her, you know, really, really confused me.

Haley - So did that really end your relationship with her?

Macy - Oh yeah, I haven’t spoken with her since.

Haley - Okay.

Macy - Yeah. And you know, it don’t I don’t know what else to do there. I still have a relationship with my brother and my sister although it’s very, I’m sure it will get back on track with them. You know I wanted to give them some time. And my brother and Macy - I are very similar in personality and he was somebody that I really connected with. So when I found that we were half siblings, it really crushed me.

Haley - So this happened like a year and a half ago?

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - This estrangement? Okay, and then so everybody knows because your brother, you guys had done the test, so he knew, and you kinda thought he might have known before.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - And how about your sister? Like how did they all find out?

Macy - Well I called my sister to tell her, she still lives in Mexico with the guy I thought was my dad. So she lived, they live in the same house actually. And so I called her and skyped with her actually and said, you know, can we have, can we chat? And she’s okay with, I mean, I think she also knew somehow. But she was, you know both of them have told me, you know you’ll always be our sister, which is nice, and that’s what I really needed to hear. I just think that I don’t know, it just makes me kind of crazy that I spent 10 years not knowing this man and in the meantime, in those 10 years, my grandparents died. They died actually the year, just really soon before I contacted him. And nobody in his family, he and his sister are the only two kids. And neither of them have children so I was the only grandchild. And he’s like, they would have loved to have known you. So, you know, that’s the way it goes, you know, with our story.

Haley - Those secrets.

Macy - Right.

Haley - Come at a cost. Wow. Hey, wow. That’s a, that’s a wild and crazy story.

Macy - Yes.

Haley - I was not expecting most of that. Is there anything else in your story that you wanna touch on? That I didn’t ask you about?

Macy - Yeah, no, there’s so much, there’s literally so much. But that’s, you got the gist and that’s really what’s needed.

Haley - Okay. Just checking. So you’re an adoptee obviously, and you’re a therapist. How did you decide to go into therapy?

Macy - Well you know, when I was a teenager, I was going through some stuff. And I told my parents, I need to speak to someone. My parents were saying that I was out of control, I wasn’t doing anything, like I was just breaking curfew. Which to them, was like crazy, you know?

Haley - Shocking.

Macy - It was shocking, yes. And they said, okay, yes, we’re gonna send you to someone. And actually.

Haley - I’m sorry. We’re gonna send you to someone so you don’t break curfew.

Macy - Yes, ‘cause this breaking curfew thing. But you know actually I just remembered this story that I had not remembered up until just now and talking about this, is that I actually stole a shirt from a store while shopping with my mom. And I, like when I tell you I'm the goody two shoes, everybody calls me the rule follower. Like this is the most shocking. To me I think that was what I was doing to cry out to say I needed help. And what’s hilarious is my mom and I like, our thing was shopping, my adoptive mom and I and lunching and those kinds of things. And so we were at the store and we’re trying on tons of clothes. And it was the 80s so, forgive me, but it was a neon yellow and aqua polo shirt, like a rugby shirt, ok?

Haley - Mmhmm.

Macy - And I tried it on and she’s like, what do you think and I'm like, nah I’m not gonna take it and I put it in my bag and brought it home. And totally stole it. I went back to the store and confessed and they were like, okay weirdo. But you know like, nothing happened but anyways. But before that all happened, I left it on my floor in my room. In the middle of the floor. And like I'm a very neat person, I don’t leave clothes on the floor. But I clearly left this in the middle of the floor. And in our house when you come up the stairs, my bedroom was right at the top of the stairs. So it was just there for my mom to see. So I think it was my way of saying, I need help but I don’t know what’s going on with me. And so I think that, now I just remembered, that was the catalyst. That and the curfew breaking--

Haley - Okay.

Macy - Was her saying okay you have to go talk to someone ‘cause now you’re stealing things and I was like well, you know. And she made me go back to the store and everything’s fine with the store and everything. But I mean looking back, I was having identity development issues. But at the time I had no clue what was going on and I was feeling so detached from everyone and everything in my life. And at the first session the therapist said to me, oh your parents tell me you’re adopted and I said, oh yeah. I don’t have any issues with that at all. I'm fine. And he said, oh okay. And literally just dropped it. And then he went on to tell me, at the end of the session, that I was the most well-adjusted, articulate teenager that he had ever met and that I don’t have any problems and that I don’t need therapy and that my parents just need to relax. And it was like, oh. Darn it. You know? And I was so confused. Because I felt like something was really wrong inside, you know, and then what ended up happening, is that I internalized that, that I must be just a bad person. And that began years of self-esteem issues and self-loathing. And excessive partying at that point in college and things like that. And what I really needed him to say was, oh, you’re adopted? Adoption is everything, you know. You may not realize it but this is why you feel unanchored and disconnected. Here’s what we need to work on. And so, while I did go on to do therapy at a few stages in my life, you know. My first marriage was kind of falling apart and I was experiencing distressing career confusion, and stuff. Therapy was helpful but I never thought the therapist really truly understood what I was going through. And like they kinda got me through the marriage problem and career problems. But I never got to dig deep you know, into that. And so later in life, I decided to go to graduate school, after my younger brother went to graduate school to become a licensed clinical social worker. And he said to me like, this is so you, you have to do this. And I was like, yeah, you know, I had been going to a support group for years and that saved me.

Haley - Like a support group for adoptees?

Macy - Oh, for adoptees, yes, in New Jersey.

Haley - Really!

Macy - Oh yeah, it was, and it was not, it was a triad. I guess the old term, we’d call a triad group. But it was adoptees, adoptive parents and birth/first parents.

Haley - So how did you know to go to that?

Macy - Oh.

Haley - ‘Cause Macy, the therapist is like, oh you’re fine. You said, there’s nothing to do with my adoption, it’s fine. And he was like, you're right. So how did you know you needed that?

Macy - So if we go back to when I was 26 and got my non identifying information, I was just grasping at anything. And we got this like, flyer in the mail from Spence-Chapin that said they were holding a panel for adult adoptees and you know a discussion panel of post adoption stuff. And I was like, my adoptive mom said, do you wanna go? And I was like, yeah, okay let’s go. So she and I went together. And I didn't, it was literally like, I think of a cartoon character, your brain explodes. Like my brain exploded at that panel. And there was a woman there, Betsy Forest, a therapist who was also an adoptee, she was always, end up becoming a mentor to me, but I saw her and she used the word adoptee. And I was like, oh, I'm an adoptee! Like I didn’t even know that word, you know? And then they used the word birth parent. And you know now, depending on what you wanna use, but that was, I didn’t even realize. Like I felt like I was born from a building. I really, I knew intellectually that I was born from a woman, but emotionally it didn’t feel that way. And so seeing these people talking about their experiences, like just blew me away. And afterwards, I was like, a stalker and I ran up to Betsy, and I said, tears streaming down my cheeks, and I was like, I'm an adoptee too! And she was like, oh. Yes, like I think she was used to it, you know. And I was just like, I, I, I! And she was like, you’re new right, you’re kinda just like—

Haley - You’re new!

Macy - You’re new in the whole process, right? And I was like, yes! And she said, you have to go to this support group. And I said, okay, what? And she wrote it down for me. And she was like, you have to go, it’s everything and I went and I literally cried, I think it was once a month. And I cried for I think, the first six months like, bawled my eyes out, barely could get three words out. And cried every time. And just knowing that oh my gosh, like, there are people who get what I'm talking about and I'm not crazy. And they told me to read the book Lost and Found by Betty Jean Lifton, and when I read that, I was like, oh my god! There’s people out there who get this! Who understand it! And it just began my whole like, I completely opened up. And I think through that, well my brother went back to grad, Betsy became a huge inspiration to me. I think at that time I realized I wanted to be a therapist. But I didn’t, I still, feeling, like as adoptees we’re such chameleons, you know. I was living someone else’s life. The time I was married to my first husband, he was a huge personality, and I jumped on his coattails. And so that I didn’t have to pay attention to my stuff. And my parents were big, you know they had big careers, very big careers. And my mother was a research scientist working for a big company. My dad was a commodities broker. And so I thought like I too had to work for a big company and get the gold watch, you know what I mean? And I just didn’t realize that I could actually say I wanna do something different.

Haley - So your brother comes to you and is like, you gotta do this. What did you say?

Macy - I said, you’re right.

Haley - Oh?

Macy - I said, you’re right. I knew it. And my brother and I, I adore my younger adopted brother. He has been my, he’s been my therapist all through life. I'm gonna actually tear up talking about it. But he’s such a good person and he’s been such a light in the dark times for me. And so, ooh, I didn't expect that, getting a little emotional. But when he said that, I just felt like he gave me permission, you know, to be who I truly was meant to be. And becoming a therapist has felt more like a calling than a vocation, you know? Or a career. And that’s really, and when I went to graduate school, it was like, all bets are off. Like here comes Macy. Like, look out. You know, like I just went. And it really felt so right. And I just know that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. And it’s hard, I think, for us adoptees, that we don’t get, you know it’s really hard for us to find that voice.

Haley - So how long have you been a therapist now?

Macy - Not that long actually, but it’s been I guess 5 years.

Haley - Okay.

Macy - 5 years, yeah, and I joke, I feel like it’s been longer because I've had a support group during that same time and I’ve facilitated support groups for about, over 20 years and would mentor people. So it feels like longer, but officially, you know, 5 years.

Haley - Officially with your practice.

Macy - With my practice, yes.

Haley - But yeah, wow. Okay, okay. So you have said a few things in this interview. You said you felt like you were floating off into space at one point, that you were grabbing on to anything. You used that word unanchored. What did that really look like for you and can you talk more about that? Because I think the unrootedness, the unanchored feeling is really common for a lot of us.

Macy - I agree. And when I work with adopted teens and adults now, you know I tell them, it is painful to have an identity that is based on rejection and loss.

Haley - Wow.

Macy - Yeah. And so you know, that’s our beginnings. And we are not really allowed to honor that and to really other people don’t really wanna honor it and people wanna skip over it. And it’s kind of like when, Darryl McDaniels talks about like having your chapter, like needing your chapter 1, you know. You need that first chapter. So when I say this to them, and then I say I bet it feels like sometimes, sometimes you feel like a boat that someone just untied from a dock and sent adrift. I mean people just look at me so relieved and they’re like, yes, that’s what it feels like. And they look at me like I just told them the secret to the universe. But it’s like someone who just gets it and then I’ll go on to say, that they feel so disconnected from their family but they love them and it’s confusing and it is, it’s so confusing. And it’s so layered. And I think it’s important to understand that this rejection and loss sets the foundation literally for the relationship to ourselves, to the world, and with our partners and friends. So that beginning, sets the tone of how we relate to ourselves, how relate to our partners and friends, how we relate to the world. And if the attachment piece of our adoptive parents, if they’re confused by us being so different from them temperament wise, or whatever, it’s sometimes it’s completely unconscious, it’s not something that they’re thinking about, but there’s this subtle rejection or not understanding of who we are as babies, that can just layer on top of the whole thing. So this is why we feel unanchored and this is why we feel adrift. And I use the phrase in my therapy work and in our support group, I’ll say, oh it’s a thing. And I use it as a way to validate adoptees and their experiences, to help adoptees know that they’re not crazy. This is something that adoptees commonly experience to your point. And I'll say yep, it’s a thing. Like feeling unanchored. That’s a thing. And there’s such a weight lifted when we know we’re not the only ones. One of the things, I'm a very visual person, I was an artistic person and it always helps me to visualize something and it kind of gives me something to sort of, I guess, anchor myself to, right? And so one of the visuals that I have keep coming back to is that, I’m the boat and our parents are the dock. And this can be your birth parents, this can be your adoptive parents, you know, we can look at it multi different ways. But let’s just call it our adoptive parents right now. And that at times, we can be anchored to that dock. I don’t know if you know anything about boats, but they have to have like the front and the back end, kind of, sometimes are anchored, depending on how the, it is. And if there’s a storm and that boat is anchored, you're good. You’re there, okay fine, I’m not going anywhere. But if there’s a storm and that anchor comes undone, for whatever reason, or that mooring comes undone, then you’re gonna be set adrift. And it is not uncommon for us to feel like someone has set us adrift. And this can happen, it happened to me again when my adoptive mother died, I felt completely, I felt like worse, like that I was, before I would be adrift and just still be in the marina. And they could just bring me back. But when my adoptive mother died, I felt like I was in the middle of the ocean. And there was no one coming to get me. And then I think also if we think about it from our birth parent perspective, is that it is just not a natural process to take children away from parents. And the people we’re given to, smell strange, they sound strange. Especially international adoptees. This is not a language you’ve been hearing in utero. This is so strange, everything is completely strange. And so we are adrift and it’s almost like trying to get on the boat while the boat is not moored. So the adoptive parents, trying to board that boat and trying to bring it in. And you know, that makes it very difficult for us and I don’t know if people really get the gravity of that. Is that we feel this on a cellular level, we feel this sense of unmoored, unanchored, on a cellular level. And like, you know, essentially, every person in the world wants to know that they’re seen and they’re heard, and simply recognized. And speaking very generally, when one is raised in a biological family, you have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera, who are mirrors. And they reflect back parts of ourselves. So like you would, you know if you’re raised in a biological family you can say, oh I see I have my grandfather’s nose, my aunt’s laugh, my mother’s sense of humor, my father’s musical ability, oh my cousin and I both love to play sports, and you spend your life checking in with these people subconsciously and telling yourself, I’m okay, I belong. This is why I am the way I am. And that’s essentially that mooring that’s keeping us tied to the dock as people who are raised in biological families. And Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, he spoke about the importance of this checking in our healthy psychosocial development. And when I studied him in graduate school I just kept thinking like, well what about adoptees? Because we don’t, when we go to check in, we grew up not having these mirrors or reflections and we desperately check in with our family members and what do we find? Nothing, you know? And we don’t find any similarities. And that also helps with this unmooring feeling, you know, with this unanchored feeling. Because you’re constantly looking and checking in and seeing, you know, is there anything that I'm like. And then if there are similarities, you know if we do find something that we’re like, I mean people would say to me, oh you’re tall just like your father. And I would wanna say, it’s just a coincidence, you know what I mean? It’s not, you know what I mean? We have nothing to do with each other biologically. And you feel like a fake. You don’t feel legit. And so—

Haley - Can I ask you about reunion then? Because you said, your first mother, you look so alike, but you were like, nobody has my crazy hair, or, you know?

Macy - Right.

Haley - What was that experience like for you then?

Macy - So that, funny that you say that because it reminds me of this story. I'm gonna go around and I’ll come back. But this story makes me think of when I was about 5 yrs old, I was with my adoptive family and a stranger came up to me and said, oh look at your hair. I used to have crazy, wild, red hair which I mentioned before. And my adoptive family all have straight black hair. And I said, oh I'm adopted! And my mom jerked me away and after an awkward silence, the stranger left and my mom said, oh we don’t dare, we don’t air our dirty laundry.

Haley - Oh!

Macy - To strangers. And I was only about 5 and I thought, oh. I'm dirty laundry. And my hair also has been a thing my whole life. Like it’s very different and very wacky and until, thank everything for keratin, but I've been able to tame it. But it was really wild and crazy. And anyone who knew me growing up knew I had this Diana Ross hair on a white girl. Like it was just crazy. And it was huge. It was crazy hair, it was the 70s too, so there was no hair products to help me or straighteners, or anything. And so when I met, when I found my biological father, he sent me a picture of him as an artist. And he was doing street art and like drawing chalk art or whatever on the street. And he was in the newspaper. And he had this huge afro. And like this white guy afro. And this crazy hair and I thought, oh my gosh! There it is! That’s what I've been looking for. And it started that feeling of anchoring for me. And actually getting to know him, his personality and my personality are very similar. And we have the same really dorky sense of humor, and vocabulary, we have the same words. I found out we use the same planner you know, like, it’s, but it was just very anchoring for me and helped me really like ground myself and say, okay, I am not so floaty anymore. You know, I actually do come from somewhere. We don’t always get that, you know? So we have to find ways to anchor ourselves. That’s the tough, that’s the tough stuff.

Haley - Well yeah, I was gonna ask you. So for people who don’t have that, what are some of the ways that adopted people can find anchoring or rooting or feeling grounded? Whatever kind of lingo you wanna use there? What are ways we can address that?

Macy - Well one of the things that I do, that I have done for a really long time before non-identifying information, before that kind of stuff, is I do a morning writing meditation. Every morning. And what that is, is a way for me to get out all the gunk, that unconscious gunk that I know is keeping me, and actually that unconscious gunk we tend to fling at other people if we don’t get it out. It comes out in our relationships. We can fling it all kinds of places. And so that, just all you need is 10 minutes. You sit down. And if you get a journal you really like, I don’t particularly get fancy journals because they intimidate me and then I don’t do anything. So I get like really, literally, spiral bound notebooks. Like cute ones, but nothing too fancy ‘cause people have given me fancy journals and I'm like, ahh! And I feel like I have to perform in them, you know? So I get just a regular spiral bound notebook and you put your pen down and you literally don’t pick it up for 10 minutes and you just, whatever’s in your brain, you write out. So you’re like I don’t know what to write, this is so terrible, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I have to sit here for 10 mins. And you do that for 10 mins, but if you do that every day, you eventually get to a place where it becomes this outlet and stuff comes out that you’ll be like, whoa, I had no idea that was in there. So I have found for me, and I use it a lot in working with my clients, that it really helps us ground ourselves and get our some of that gunk so we’re not flinging it at other people. And I got this from Julia Cameron, she wrote a book called The Artist’s Way. And I don’t know if anyone else has talked about it but, it’s one of my all time favorite books and it’s essentially like an 8 week program that you can do for yourself. Or 12 weeks? I’m not sure, but anyways, you can go through it and she has you do these writing morning meditations. She calls them morning pages. That’s where I got the idea from, many moons ago, and it has helped me tremendously. My clients say it really helps them. If you’re into it, it’s a great way to anchor yourself. Because we can let some of that stuff really get in between us and our relationships. So that’s one thing. And then what I also love for anchoring is yoga. I am a big yoga person. I'm in the middle of getting certified as a yoga teacher, in Kali Natha yoga which is a small branch of yoga but it has really been wonderful for me, because it kind of pulls a bunch of different yogas together. It has chanting and meditation, breath work which is key, and also traditional yoga poses and stuff. But any kind of yoga I find, helps you connect with your body, it helps you listen to your body, ‘cause a lot of us as adoptees, sometimes unanchoring can show up is us not paying attention to our bodies. We kind of shut that whole thing off. Like no, no, no, you don’t get a voice. And part of it is, we’re so used to searching the environment for clues, that we don’t realize we have all these clues of what’s going on within us. That body work really to me, is just brilliant. And really helps you kind of connect with who you are listen to your body more. And the other thing that I love is an app called Insight Timer. And it’s a meditation app but you don’t have to meditate traditionally, everyone thinks you have to sit in like a lotus pose and ohm and everything. You can literally just sit in your favorite chair and, but there are guided meditations, there are five minute meditations, there are 1 minute meditations, there’s thousands and thousands of meditations on there. And when we get quiet, that’s when we hear our soul speak. And so I find that any time we can just get quiet, and listen to our soul, we can then anchor ourselves. And reanchor ourselves and not rely on others to anchor us. Because sometimes we climb on to a relationship, sometimes we climb to friends, and we look for these anchors everywhere. But really we have that responsibility to anchor ourselves and so then the other people around us, then feel anchored.

Haley - Wow, it’s very wise, very wise words, Macy. And you know, I like that idea of being responsible for our own grounding because you don’t know who’s coming in and out of your life, right?

Macy - Right.

Haley - You know, I don’t wanna be morbid but you know, people die, right? So you—

Macy - No, absolutely.

Haley - So the person that you can rely on is you. And hope you can be a trustworthy person for yourself. And I think that’s part of, probably part of the work.

Macy - Absolutely.

Haley - Alright. Wow. Anything else that you wanna tell? That I didn’t ask you about?

Macy - No, I think the only other thing is, I love support groups. I have one here. If you can find one, I think they’re a great way to really connect with others, that’s another way of grounding, I think of, when we have those connections, those meaningful connections who get it. You know, people who just understand, we don’t have to explain ourselves 100 ways over when you’re in those groups. If it’s an online group, if it’s an in person group, however you connect with people, that’s another way.

Haley - And where do we find your group that’s in Florida, right?

Macy - Yes! We are in South Florida, in Boynton Beach, Florida. And we have a website called, you can find us at www.floridaacts.com.

Haley - And you guys meet monthly and you’ve been going for a long time.

Macy - We’ve been doing 5 years, so this is our 5 year anniversary in February.

Haley - That’s awesome.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - So good. Well, another place you can find in person adoptees support groups, is Adoptees Connect.

Macy - Correct.

Haley - Which is great, we have an Edmonton chapter here, which I run with my friend John. Yeah, in person is so special. Okay, I didn’t prompt you to give recommended resources? But all of those tips were your recommended resources.

Macy - Yes.

Haley - And I wanna just give my quick recommendation, is a fairly recent new list on the website growbeyondwords.com. and it’s a directory of adoptees who are therapists. And you are on this list, Macy, along with many other familiar names, people who have been on the podcast before. Yes there are of course all the, oh my gosh, the legal speak at the top. You know, of course you have to vet therapists before you sign up to work with them, but this is so cool. This full, adoptees that are therapists list on growbeyondwords.com. And I’ll have the link for that in the show notes. And if you are an adoptee who is also a therapist, you can send in your information to be included on this list. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and I really enjoyed your insights about the unanchored part that we can so often feel. And I think that metaphor can be so helpful for people to picture ourselves as the boat and you know, what we’ve experienced. Again I think we mentioned this, just having that validation, like, this is a thing, is so helpful for us, so thank you Macy.

Macy - You’re welcome, thank you for having me.

Haley - Absolutely! So we shared where we can find your support group, but where can we connect with you online?

Macy - Oh yes, you can find me through my practice website which is centerformindfulfamilies.com and you can contact me through there and see more about the work that we do. We are also play therapists and work with young ones as well as adults and teens. And you can also email me at Macy.oos@gmail.com. And those are the two ways you can get hold of me.

Haley - Perfect, thank you so much.

Macy - Thank you so much. It was such an honor being part of the podcast, thank you.

(upbeat music)

Haley - Thanks so much for allowing me this time with you. I am so honored to be in your earbuds every week so thank you. Wherever you’re listening, if you are listening on your commute or on your, I was gonna say on your commute or on your drive, same thing, walking the dog, washing dishes, however you’re listening, I so appreciate it. And I don’t take it lightly, the honor I have to be able to share these really beautiful interviews with you. I am so grateful for my guests and how they open up their lives to us and give us this intimate view of what it looks like to be adopted. It’s such a treasure and yeah, like I said, I don’t take it lightly that I get to share that with you every week. I have some updates for what summer is gonna look like for Adoptees On. And I’m gonna be sharing that with you next week. But for now, I just wanna say a big thank you to my monthly supporters, I wouldn’t be able to do this show without you. If you wanna join them you can go to AdopteesOn.com/partner and another amazing way you can support this show is by telling just one person about the podcast and the impact it’s had on you. And if you know someone that’s adopted, I would love it if you would share this episode with them. Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.

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113 [Healing Series] Boundaries Part Two with Lesli A. Johnson, MFT


Full show notes: http://www.adopteeson.com/listen/113

Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye

This show is listener supported. You can join us and help our show grow to support more adoptees by going to AdopteesOn.com/partner.

(intro music)

You're listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. I'm your host Haley Radke, and this is a special episode in our Healing Series where I interview therapists who are also adoptees themselves. So they know from personal experience what it feels like to be an adoptee. Today is part two of a boundaries Q&A we did with Leslie Johnson. Let’s listen in.

(upbeat music)

Haley - I’m so pleased to welcome back to Adoptees On, Lesli Johnson. Welcome Lesli!

Lesli - Thank you, thank you for having me!

Haley - Okay, we have already done one episode about boundaries and we had so many great questions, we have to do another episode. But why don't we just start out, give us the Coles Notes version, what is a boundary, and why do adopted people, I mean most people do, but adopted people in particular can struggle with boundaries?

Lesli - So I define boundaries as a way of talking about what works for us in relationships. So setting expectations. So boundary sounds like real rigid word, but talking about expectations in relationships. What works, what doesn’t. Boundaries don't have to be rigid. They can change over time, and I think, like we talked about in our last episode, that having and setting boundaries can sometimes be difficult for a person who was adopted and I think in part because some of our earliest experiences were so out of our control. So many decisions were made for us without our having any input and so I think that gets sort of set in the brain as, well, we don’t really get a say. We don't really get to have a decision or a say in what happens. So I think that, and that’s simply not true, but I think that is sometimes why it's more difficult for people who are adopted to set personal boundaries.

Haley - Thank you.

Lesli - Sure.

Haley - Alright, let’s dive into the questions. So first we’re gonna talk about some questions that have to do with just navigating our relationships with our adoptive parents.

Lesli - Okay.

Haley - First one. “I have a lifelong struggle with my adoptive mom respecting me and my boundaries. How do I stay strong and encouraged? I know the boundaries I want but it’s hard to defend them.”

Lesli - I can relate to that one. I think being able to, and I’m just assuming this person is an adult. I think having the conversations, repeated conversations, especially if adoptive mom isn’t able to hear them, can work. I also think, I said in our last episode, you don't have to act out your boundaries, but I think part of it can be, you know if you’re saying something and you're setting an expectation of a relationship, you may have to follow it through with action. You know, mom we’re not, like I dont wanna talk to you, I can’t talk to you every night, I can’t check in with you, I’m, you know, that’s not possible. And then being able to not pick up the phone or, you know, and that sounds harsh. But I think that's a follow through of a statement. I'm not gonna be able to take your call every night just so that you know I'm okay. I’m okay. And then being able to act on that.

Haley - So the line that I, you know, just like, oh my gosh, pushed my button in here, “It’s hard to defend the boundary.”

Lesli - Right, so hard to defend.

Haley - And so what you’re saying is, we may need to do some follow through if people aren't respecting what we’ve asked them to do or not do.

Lesli - Yes, yes, exactly. And I can give, I mean that phone call example is one from my own and, and it is very hard to defend. And my mom is not alive anymore so she’s not gonna hear this. But she had a really difficult time. Her anxiety prevented her from being able to soothe herself and well into my adulthood, she needed to talk, she felt she needed to talk to me every single day. And while sometimes that worked for me, it often didn't work for me. Especially as I started to just, I didn't necessarily want to, ‘cause it felt more like a check in, like are you okay, are you okay? And so I had to have that conversation and say, you know, I’m okay. You know I’m almost 30 years old, and I don't need, you don't need to make sure I’m safe at home each night so you can feel safe. You know, if that makes sense. And I did it gently, at least the first few times. And then I had to just not pick up the phone. And so she, she had to learn to soothe herself.

Haley - That’s such a great example, thank you for walking us through that. And I like that this writer says, I know the boundaries I want, you know? So then I think it’ll be easier for them to be like, okay, if this line is crossed, then this is what I'm going to do.

Lesli - Yeah.

Haley - Okay next. Similar, similar theme I would say. Okay here’s the question. “I’m in a reunion with both bio parents and siblings and it’s been amazing, we’ve become very close. My only issue is with my adoptive mom. She’s supportive of the reunion and encouraged me to search for years. But she keeps pushing to meet my birth parents. I haven’t even met everyone yet. I keep trying to tell her, this is not about you, it’s about me. But she’s not getting it. I don't want her involved at this stage, maybe not ever. She and I have a strained relationship. She has a history of crashing my boundaries. I feel like if she met them, she would make it about her and the sacrifices she made. And ultimately say something unintentionally hurtful or embarrassing. Every time we talk, she’s bringing this up. How can I set the boundary in a way that isn't hurtful to her, but is maintaining my comfort level with her involvement in my reunion?” Oof.

Lesli - That’s a big one, that’s a really big one.

Haley - I think maybe some other people can relate to this too.

Lesli - Yes, I think so too. I’ve heard this story a lot. And it was a very detailed question and this person was answering some of my thoughts as you kept reading. My initial, before you finished the question, my initial thought was, can he or she have a conversation with their adoptive mom, and ask, kind of, be curious about why they want to have such a part in the reunion. Is it really curiosity? Then as you read on, it sounds like there’s more, there’s something underneath there that this person is protecting themselves from. Meaning, a fear that mom is gonna make it about her, that she’s gonna say something you know, hurtful. So my suggestion would be to just continue to say, mom, this is still a very new relationship for me, and these are new relationships that I’m forming and that’s really taking up my brain space right now. And I want to continue to build these relationships and I’ll let you know when I want you to be a part of it. And again, I think the theme I keep hearing is, how can I maintain my boundary without hurting the other? Sometimes that’s impossible, I think. You know, I think I don't know that, because if adoptive mom wants to meet birth parents, and the adoptive person is saying I don't want mom to meet birth parents, someone’s not gonna get what they want. And they're gonna be hurt or disappointed. That’s okay, that’s okay.

Haley - That’s okay? How do you get to the point of feeling that’s okay? ‘Cause we don’t wanna hurt people's feelings.

Lesli - We don’t wanna hurt people’s feelings but, okay, so, if this person let’s her, right now, when he or she is feeling very conflicted about bringing mom into reunion, sets that boundary and says, you know, not right now. I’m still in the early processes. If they don't set that boundary, who then is going to be hurt? I think they are, for compromising what they're trying to really establish as feels best for them.

Haley - So we gotta be brave sometimes.

Lesli - Sometimes we’ve gotta be brave.

Haley - Okay, okay. Let’s get, thank you. Alright, we’re gonna move on and talk a little bit about money. So that’s super fun. Here we go, here’s the question. “My adoptive mom owes my husband and I a lot of money. We never really truly expected her to pay it back, but she claims it’s for groceries and other things, but she has social security income. It’s been since her husband, my adoptive step dad, died. Is it realistic for us to talk to her about paying us back? Or never lending her money again? I said no from the beginning but she called my husband instead. Now he’s fed up like me.” Ooh, there's a lot in here.

Lesli - There’s a lot!

Haley - There’s a lot of little notes in here.

Lesli - Yeah, that’s a really tricky question to answer just based on that. Because it does sound like there’s lots of boundaries being broken that mom doesn't call the person who wrote this, but goes through the husband. And I think of course, I mean my, off the top of my head, my answer is of course I think it’s a conversation to have. And I think they could say, can you start paying us back 5 dollars a month? Or 5 dollars a week or, you know, something just on principle. But yeah, I think it’s a fair conversation to have.

Haley - The other thing though, this line in here, “we never really truly expected her to pay it back.”

Lesli - Right, I guess I would wonder, if they conveyed that to her.

Haley - Yeah.

Lesli - Did they say we don't expect you to pay it back? And then now, are wanting it back, or hoping--

Haley - See to me this question is almost like, the husband and wife need to have this conversation.

Lesli - Yes.

Haley - And decide what their boundary as a family unit is.

Lesli - Right.

Haley - And then decide are we gonna have this conversation with my adoptive mom or not? And et cetera.

Lesli - Right, I agree with you, I agree with you.

Haley - Right. Okay, another question about money. And this is from a international adoptee. “This year I had to set some financial boundaries because my bio family who live in another country, assume I am rich. They respect this boundary and understand this is not the kind of relationship I want with them. However, I”m scared it stops them from updating me on certain things because they don't want their hardships to sound like asking for charity. I do want to help in a sustainable way but I realize that sometimes money is the only way I can help due to our geographical distance. My main question is, how do I set financial boundaries with bio family if they're much lower income than myself? And also, how do you set these without feeling guilty?”

Lesli - That’s a tricky question too, and again I guess we’re getting just a piece of the puzzle. I guess my questions would be, what stage of reunion are they in, what kind of relationship do they have? Does giving money, could that be part of the relationship? Is it a new reunion and, this question feels like there’s a lot more than just being able to have a hard, fast, answer. And again I think it’s a conversation. You know, if there is the ability to give money and it feels okay and it feels okay to the recipient, I don't see a problem with it but I think there has to be conversation around it too. I can do this for, this amount of time, or I can only give this much. And not based on what the person has, but actually what they feel comfortable giving.

Haley - Well it changes the power dynamic, right?

Lesli - Sure, yeah.

Haley - Just when you’re saying that if you’re higher income and especially in international adoption, I’m not sure what country this other family is from. And how do you have a real healthy relationship when there’s like this shift in power.

Lesli - Right.

Haley - Especially if, this writer obviously doesn't wanna come across as like, I’m the savior and I’m rich and I’m gonna help you out of here. It’s not like that.

Lesli - No, it sounds very genuine and sincere.

Haley - Yeah. That’s a tricky one. But I think a lot of international adoptees who’ve reunited, probably have had some of these similar thoughts.

Lesli - Right, right.

Haley - So it’s interesting question to think about. Okay we are gonna shift and just talk more specifically about, I asked right at the beginning, you know, why do some adoptees feel like they struggle with boundaries so much? And just, these are things that happen on and off in our personal life. So I’m gonna ask you for some general tips and some other little one off questions. So I think this will be a little bit more rapid fire.

Lesli - Okay.

Haley - Okay, so first. “My spouse talks at me, dumping all his job related stresses on me, help!” Yikes, that does not sound happy or good.

Lesli - No.

Haley - So what do you do? Your spouse comes home and is always dumping on you. What’s the boundary there? How do you deal with that?

Lesli - I would express how that, what that creates for me. So honey, I know you have had a hard day, but when you come home and the first things, the first words out of your mouth are criticisms about your coworkers and your hate for your job, it really destabilizes me. So I’m just wondering, it’s not that I don’t want to hear about it, but I’m just wondering if there’s a way that we can first connect and then talk about our days a little bit later. I mean, when I work with couples, I hear this a lot. And I talk about you know, shifting gears. So how can you shift gears from work to home? Sometimes that’s sitting in the driveway and listening to your favorite song, sometimes it’s you know, when you get out of the car, before you go into the house. It’s walking around the block and intentionally saying to yourself, that I’m shifting from work mode to home mode. And sometimes that can, with that intention, can create a different mindset as you walk through the front door.

Haley - That’s great thank you. Okay, next question. “I do two things, overshare and yet don't let anyone get too close. Is this a boundary issue?” What do you think, Leslie?

Lesli - I think it could be a boundary issue, it could be a relationship issue. That person has a lot of insight though, that they're able to know that about themselves. So I think sharing is a way to bring people in however, it sounds like this person also has the awareness that they, that that feels scary to them. So whether it’s a boundary issue or not, it certainly sounds like a topic to explore further.

Haley - You know what when I read this question I thought, this is, they gotta go back and listen to the Implicit Memories episode I did with Dr. Julie Lopez, because it sounds like maybe there’s a trigger there that you need to look at.

Lesli - Like sharing is, you’re bringing people close, you’re bringing people, you’re creating a sense of intimacy but then it sounds like something gets triggered that there’s sort of like, the flee. Sounds like some attachment stuff.

Haley - Yeah. Okay, so that’s my advice, go watch the, not watch, go listen to the Implicit Memory episodes with Dr. Lopez and buy her book and I think she’ll give you some insight.

Lesli - I’m reading that book right now, it’s so good.

Haley - So good, super good. Okay, along the same lines, next question. “I feel I owe my bio and adoptive mom any information they want. How do I handle this?”

Lesli - Again, so insightful. And that’s the first, that’s the first step, once you shine the light on these things, you can really start to peel away the layers. I would just explore that. Why do you feel that you owe your adoptive and your birth mom anything they want, any information they want? And what are the things that you question sharing? Making a list of those things and then starting to slowly keep those to yourself. That’s where I would start.

Haley - That’s good. Okay, so as we wrap up, I’m hoping that you can give us a few tips, think it’s like a skill building thing, that those of us who struggle with maintaining our boundaries or seeing where our edges need to be, can really, we really need some help in this area. So can you give us some strategies and ways to say no?

Lesli - That’s a good question. Some strategies and ways to say no.

Haley - Well when people keep saying I feel like I overshare or you know, like a lot of the themes of some of the questions that we didn't even get to, are very much things where I’m like, oh my gosh just say no.

Lesli - Yeah.

Haley - But I've worked on that a long time.

Lesli - I have too. And I think it’s a muscle. So let’s think about no as a muscle. And we have to start to build it. And I would say just starting, even just maybe saying no to yourself. No, no, no, and then starting to practice with little things that don't really make a difference. So someone asks you to go to a book reading. And you think normally you would say yes, because you say yes to everything. And I’m not saying you say yes, Haley, but this is something you don't really, you’re kind of ambivalent about. But normally you would say yes. Just say no, just say, you know that doesn’t that’s actually not gonna work for me. And then sitting with, and if you’re a person who isn’t used to saying no, then sitting with what comes up. And jotting down, what are the feelings. Oh I’m gonna say some possible feelings. Oh, that person’s never gonna ask me to do anything with them again. Maybe they don't like me, maybe they're disappointed. And just slowly again, exercising that muscle. And I’m guessing for some people, their no might sound like, initially might sound like, uh, maybe. Or, not right now. Or no, but I could do it next time. But after a time, being able to just say, no that actually doesn’t work for me but thank you so much for the invitation. Or, no I don’t want that or I don’t care for that. But it’s a muscle and again if you think about our early experiences, we didn’t get to say no. We didn’t get to say no, I don't wanna be taken away from my birth mother. No, I don't wanna go to that next foster family. No I don't wanna live here. So honoring that little part inside of us that didn’t get to say no. and that doesn't meant that we’re going to start saying no to everything. But something doesn't feel right or we simply don't want to do something, and if it’s okay not to do. I’m not saying no, I’m not gonna pay my taxes. But just honoring our expectations of ourselves.

Haley - And we get those choices and we can have healthy boundaries. And just because you’ve been struggling with those things doesn't mean that you can’t learn how to develop those.

Lesli - We absolutely can, that’s all neuroplasticity stuff, we can constantly change the way we respond and think and it’s absolutely doable.

Haley - Great, that’s great, that’s a happy note to end on, I think. And I think just having these conversations and learning more about strategies and I mean, that’s just so important for us. Thank you so much Lesli, I really appreciate your wisdom on this area. Where we can connect with you online?

Lesli - You’re welcome. And you can connect with me at my website, www.yourmindfulbrain.com, Instagram @yourmindfulbrain, and Twitter @LesliAJohnson.

Haley - Thank you.

(upbeat music)

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted questions for the two boundaries Q&A episodes. Make sure you’re following us on social media, so that the next time we do a Q&A episode, you can ask your question. We are on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and links to all of those are in the show notes and over at AdopteesOn.com. I’m also so thankful for our monthly Patreon supporters without which we would not be able to make the show for you every single week. So, thank you so much. If you want to partner alongside of me, and our monthly supporters you can go to AdopteesOn.com/partner to find out more details about all the benefits of supporting the show.

Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.