by Michelle Riess
Hi everyone! Writing has always been therapeutic for me but writing about my adoption is no longer providing me with the peace or clarity it once brought–in fact, it is doing the opposite. While I am happy that I have reached so many other late discovery adoptees through this website, I can no longer justify sharing so much about my deeply personal experiences in such a public manner when it creates so much additional anxiety for me. Sadly, this will be the final post on this website. I will keep this website online indefinitely, but I feel like I need to make some final comments and close out this chapter of the story on my own terms. I will be as brief as possible, but anyone who knows me understands the difficulties I have with summarization. (lol)
The purpose of this website has always been to share my story with other late discovery adoptees. I have never set out to make anyone from my life (past or present) look bad—that has never been my intention (outside of the attorney that arranged my adoption—he should have been debarred and sent to jail!) If the facts of my adoption story make anyone look bad, that is not my fault.
In January 2018, I made a clear decision to walk away from my adoptive father because the pain was too intense, and the depth of the manipulation was four decades too deep. As difficult as it was, I have never regretted that decision. Even after all that has transpired, I do not have any hatred or anger in my heart towards the people who raised me, or for any of the people I was once very close to who are no longer in my life—even if they continue to harbor these negative feelings towards me.
For four decades, my place in the world as a baby, a child, a teenager, a young woman, and eventually a mother was artificially filled with lies and a fabricated backstory that tended only to the needs of the adults around me, and never took into account my unique needs as an adopted person. I acutely felt those discrepancies within myself even if I couldn’t articulate it or understand why I felt the way I did. I was repeatedly and wholeheartedly programmed to believe that these issues were my own, and that there was just something wrong with me from day one. Obviously there was much more to the story than I could have ever imagined.
The impact of these internal conflicts regarding who I felt like I was ‘supposed’ to be, and who they programmed me to be–versus what I felt inside biologically–is still deeply felt. It’s been over four years since my discovery and I still continue to systematically deprogram myself from learned behaviors of the environment I was raised in. Therapy has been helpful, but my friends, family and other adoptees have been the most important factor towards reclaiming my genuine self. I look at my biological family, especially my three sisters, and I can clearly see the full version of myself that was always just below the surface yet always kept just out of my reach—it’s heartbreaking and frustrating. Until my discovery, my brain was the product of the environment I was raised in, while my heart & soul were the remnants of my biological family–I was some kind of bizarre hybrid of nature and nurture. No wonder I always felt so conflicted, anxious, and lost. It’s like my life prior to my adoption discovery was the game Monopoly but my adoptive parents gave me the instructions and game pieces from Candyland and expected me to turn out completely normal; I could go through the motions and play the game the best I could, but none of it really made any sense and I didn’t understand why. I was set up to fail.
Despite the clear facts of my adoption and the circumstances of my adoption discovery, it is mind blowing to me that any rational person finds the choices I’ve made regarding my adoption discovery to be “appalling”, “wrong”, or otherwise just a reflection of what a “terrible” and “ungrateful” person I am. (I used quotes here because those are actual comments people from that part of my life have made on this website & in messages over the past years about my “selfish” “childish” decision to part ways with my adoptive father.)
Anyone who considers the facts of this situation with an impartial mind should come to the same conclusion–that the circumstances of my adoption were wrong and the fact that I was never told about my adoption during my early childhood was wrong. This isn’t about whether or not my adoptive parents were good people—they were not ‘bad’ people—even if many of their behaviors and choices over the years were. I’ve also proven repeatedly that it wasn’t a matter of “just how things were back then.” The fact that my adoptive parents chose to spend a lot of money on me and provided me with ample material wealth during my upbringing also does not excuse their decisions or make any of this hurt less (a common grievance aired by my defectors–lol!) This is about four decades of lies, questionable behaviors, and deep manipulation and brainwashing at MY expense—including 17 years of which I was a minor. That is inexcusable. I’m not even getting into the other issues that existed within my adoptive household because it’s not even necessary to consider that in support of my decision. The bottom line is I was completely and unquestionably justified in walking away from this part of my life.
Anyone who comes to a different conclusion about these circumstances was either directly involved with the ongoing deception in my life, is involved in a similarly shady situation in their own life, is closely involved with one of my adoptive parents, or is simply not looking at the facts objectively. I can’t think of any other logical explanations.
After considerable thought, I’ve decided that I will no longer write about my adoption on this website or on the Riess family’s Facebook page because it feeds my deep-seeded issues with anxiety and fear. I’m also choosing to no longer read/share stories about other people’s DNA discoveries because it also tends to set off my C-PTSD. As much as I want to continue sharing my story and engage in conversations about adoptee rights and DNA testing, I cannot do so at my own expense. I will, however, keep this website active because I know it has been useful to other late discovery adoptees over the past few years—which was always the main purpose for sharing my story publicly. I have been contacted by many new late discovery adoptees who are just learning the truth about themselves, are feeling shattered, and looking for someone who deeply understands their pain. I will always be here to help these individuals navigate those confusing and traumatic first few months.
Perhaps at some point in the future I will revisit writing about my experiences with adoption, but for now, this is the end of my public story. Over the past three years, this little website has had over 50,000 unique visitors from all over the world! I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out to us in support of our story, and to those who have shared with me deeply personal details of their own adoption discovery. I’m also so incredibly thankful for my biological family who have welcomed me and my children (and cats) into their big, beautiful family without hesitation.
To the people from my adoptive past: Despite the past, I wish you all the best and all the happiness that life can bring. My life has moved forward in dramatic fashion and I sincerely hope that you will continue to move forward past all this as well. I am thankful for the life I had with all of you, even with the problems that arose, and thank everyone who has ever been in my life for the experiences and knowledge you’ve given me–good and bad. More than anything, I am simply thankful to know the truth about myself and my true origins. My life makes so much more sense having these important details and knowing my biological family. I feel broken but at the same time more whole because of this experience.
“Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” –M. Hale