Attachment Disorder -
The "Child's" Point Of View
by Kathy Gordon
I am 52 years old and finally in a position to try
to sort out the misery and pain I suffered as an adoptee. I believe that
I bonded with my birthmother and rejected my adopted mother from
infancy. I am just beginning to entertain the concept that perhaps my
adoptive mother really did love me.
As an adopted child I went through many vicious
battles with my mother. I wanted to connect with her, but I wanted to
connect with her on my terms. I totally blamed my mother for my
inability to get my needs met, and the war was constant. I was
thoroughly unhappy and I don't think a day went by until I was in my
twenties that I didn't toy with the idea of suicide on a daily basis.
When a child's self-esteem is very low, the last thing he needs is to be
compared to someone who is achieving well or to be put on an agenda for
My mother often withheld affection as a tool to
get what she wanted. "If you love me you will..." or "I don't want to be
around you if you're going to act that way..." I wanted her attention,
praise, and love, but I was also very self contained. I relied on her
for my physical needs, I did not allow myself to rely on her
emotionally, and therefore her ultimate weapon never worked. The more
she withdrew, the more obnoxious I became, and the more she struggled
By the time I was 5 or 6 her attempt to love me
had pretty well burned out, and we settled into a very destructive
pattern described in AA literature as the "Persecutor, Victim, Rescuer
Triangle". I added compulsive overeating and showing off to my
repertoire. My adoptive mother made it very clear that I was fat,
obnoxious, and ungrateful.
I was so sensitive to her every glance that I
could instantly tell when she was ashamed of me (which was most of the
time). Her own low self esteem caused her to be overly worried about
what others would think of me (and ultimately of her) and further
enhanced the dynamics. My longsuffering father worked all the time was
pretty nonexistent except at the end of the day when he would get a full
report of how bad I had been. Then he would tuck me in and have to
listen to my side of how mean my mother was. Nobody ever won.
I had a brother who was 7 years older than me,
also adopted. I guess he was a handful too, but unlike me, he was the
shining star of the family - good grades, football scholarship, handsome
and personable. He also molested me when I was 7, so I knew that he
wasn't all he was cracked up to be. Since I was so estranged from my
mother, and because we weren't encouraged to "tell" back then I settled
for talking about it with my cousin because I knew she told everything
to her mom. This may be the one thing she never "told". There was no
intervention, and I felt further betrayed and alone.
My mom appeared to be depressed all the time,
and it probably took a huge effort for her to even get up in the
morning, not to mention having to square off with me every day. I
believe now that she suffered from clinical depression, but as a child I
internalized he moods as being my fault. By the end of her life she
finally got medication which allowed her true sweetness to come out, but
by then there was no hope for us to establish any kind of relationship.
Even though I understand her better now, the pain of guilt, rage and
rejection I suffered as a young person is still very real.
The pain your adopted child feels is just as
great and just as long lasting as your own, but regardless of how they
push you away, they will always need your love, and as much as they
are able they will love you back. The stronger you are, the better
able you are to take care of yourself, the more chance there is
that you and your child will survive this battle of wills, but don't
give up and withdraw your love.
I appreciate my adoptive parents who gave up so
much and worked so hard to try to make things "right". I'm sorry for all
of us that it never was "right". Many adoptive parents have gone beyond
the realms of "normal" sacrifice to raise unloving, ungrateful,
children. Some have even put their biological families at risk to
shelter an "outsider", but we "outsiders" never forget that the place
made for us in an adoptive family is never truly ours.
You have not failed by trying. You have learned.
If you are exhausted, depressed, and feel your situation is hopeless, I
am here to tell you things CAN change. The earlier you seek
intervention, the better. If you find yourself in the "Persecutor,
Victim, Rescuer Triangle" with your adopted child and other family
members, get help immediately. You can see what alienation is doing to
your child, but perhaps you don't see the damage it's doing to you and
those around you. Attend an Al-Anon meeting to gather the literature
they provide. The mood swings and manipulative behaviors of some adopted
children are very similar to techniques used by alcoholics.
I have worked with children very successfully all my life, and I
am good with them because I can almost always sense where they're coming
from (especially the disruptive ones). I've made my living as a
professional clown for the last 16 years, and I can enjoy myself and get
the instant love and feedback I need through my work. I am still a
controlling, manipulative attention seeker, but now I get paid to do it!
One thing I always tell my audiences is, "Sometimes it is better to be
kind than to be right."