Adoptee Imaginings

by: Becca Dragon

Let’s be clear, we are talking about THIS adoptee, lest you feel that urge to remind me I don’t speak for ALL adoptees. Yes, got it. But, upon talking to my dear adoptee friend, Cherish, we thought this might spark interesting conversation to see if we have more commonalities among other adopted folk.

When I was a child, I had some pretty specific imaginings. I hesititate to call them “fantasies” as that would imply something “positive”. Most of these imaginings were fear-based. Deep seated fear of complete annihilation. But these imaginings were also the source for my imaginative expression; in play with friends, in secret daydreams, and in storytelling. As I got older, they became the source of passionate interests that cause me to spend hours, days, and weeks down a rabbit hole of learning. They were the fodder for essays and hours curled up with related books. Let me explain:

As a VERY young child, the first imagining I can remember is “orphanage”. I was obsessed with “playing” orphanage, being parentless and homeless, and having a different name. This imagining turned into what I actually told my classmates in first grade….that before I was Becca, I was “Mitzi”…in a home with other orphans who were abused and starved (this isn’t true, although I desperately wanted it to be). And now, I am “Not Mitzi” (eventually I thought this would a great name for an all girl alternative rock band).

With my friends, I controlled the play. I orchestrated elaborate blanket orphanages, and told my friends to treat me horribly while I secreted food and compassion to the other “orphans” (dolls or friends) against the wishes of the evil Orphanage Director.

Don’t get me started on Little House On the Prairie….this adoptees favorite book in the series was “The Long Winter”. I pretended I was eating The Last Potato probably a thousand times.

Enter the Cold War imaginings. I snuck a peek (when I wasn’t supposed to) at the beginning of the movie “The Day After”, a TV event that horrified a generation of us. Living on Capitol Hill in DC, we knew we would be the first to go. So, I lay frozen in fear that at any moment the mushroom cloud would disintegrate us to smithereens.

Following this imagining was my holocaust obsession. I spent hours once at the Library of Congress taking photographs of photographs (old school screen shots for those born post 80s) from the Holocaust for a History Day Project. From this imagining, I had a brief period when I told friends that my ancestors were killed in the Holocaust, and this is why I had to be given away, as my family was displaced, ravaged, and poor (it didn’t matter that the dates didn’t match up, I though people wouldn’t notice). I used to imagine myself (and actually wish) that I was in Germany with a yellow star on my tattered cardigan being lined up into a cattle car.

Ghosts. Oh, the fear of ghosts….and the kidnappers and the random shootings. Granted, I was being raised in DC when it was called “The Murder Capitol of the World”…so I had reason to be fearful (I remember a time when there was 5 shootings within a 10 block radius within just a couple weeks)…but it consumed me. I was always looking behind me, in a constant state of panic that I was going to meet my demise.

High School introduced me to the enticing world of Dystopian Literature. Finally, my constant mental creations of annihilation found their home in books like “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Farenheit 451”, “1984”, and “Brave New World”. I read them again and again (and still return to them at 47 years old…give me a good dystopian book or movie anyday).

Early 20s marked the beginning of my obsession with all things Religious Cults. I went into a Scientology Mission and took their personality test. The whole time, I knew that I was actually in danger of joining. I was wired to join things that I actively knew were BAD and DANGEROUS. Thinking of joining or taking on this thinking gave me a sense of self-control that I did not feel otherwise. (I didn’t join, but I have gladly immersed myself in shocking/distasteful beliefs and thoughts because the feeling of being surrounded by such horror brings me a strange comfort. If there is a shocking belief system out there, I have likely spent time studying it in depth to try and get to its core.)

Even as a young mother, I still had a deep desire to live in these societies/circumstances, or to study them. Although they were obviously horrific in every way, there was comfort for me to imagine myself as a part of or victim of these things. I still can spend HOURS watching cult documentaries and reading dystopian Lit. I have even done one/two better…I have gone INTO the cults and made friends with the people inside. Don’t believe me? I have a few of those friends (who have since left) maintain their friendships with me and follow me here.

***I love walking the line between belonging and rejecting…it is my happy place, and I have a compulsion to walk that line.

I am just way too comfortable being close to the all consuming fire of circumstances, groups, and systems that involve a complete destruction of identity and the construct of a false one. If not the destruction of identity, then the imagining of annihilation through death, being taken away, or just vaporized into a mushroom cloud. Wonder why?

(NOTE: do not insert into my story “wow, she was such a miserable child obviously something very wrong”…because this would be untrue. I was a generally happy, vibrant, and extroverted child who enthusiastically enjoyed most of her childhood. Remember, we are complex beings with MANY layers.)

When talking to my friend, we realized we shared a lot of the same thoughts, imaginings, mental preoccupations, and obsessions. For her, though, a lot of her imaginings were rooted in the Evangelical Tribulation. She was petrified of being “Left Behind”. Thankfully, I was spared such material to fuel my annihilation obsession…but that didn’t stop me from finding other nourishment for my visions. So, we posited, “is it possible that despite our radically different upbringings (her Conservative Evangelical, and me Progressive Agnostic) we still were somehow wired through our experiences to have these pre-occupations, fears, and illusions?

And…is it possible that these imaginings give body, form, and context to an underlying fear of Extinction of Self? Could it be that my obsession with the orphanage, the ghosts, the Last Potato, the cattle cars, the red capes of the handmaids, and the SeaOrg are just the containers into which I have been trying to stick my struggles with relinquishment, belonging, and identity?

We wondered out loud if this could possibly be part of the brain of the relinquished making sense of our original interruption? That first Giving Away (and potentially subsequent traumas) when our cells were immersed in that adrenaline and cortisol bath of a perceived self-annihilation? Perhaps these imaginings were us trying to make sense of our ingrained body experience in the only way a child knows how (the Imagination)?

So, we decided we wanted to ask our community if they could relate. Do you? Let us know.

***I will go ahead and pre-empt another objection (because I can just hear it coming)…YES, non-adopted kids have fears too. You don’t have to be adopted to be obsessed with cults and the Holocaust. If you are quiet and respectful, you get the PRIVILEGE of potentially watching adoptees making sense of THEIR OWN LIVES AS LIVED THROUGH ADOPTION. And you might learn something. If you are not adopted (or if you are and don’t relate) and tempted to comment as such, please read THIS article first:

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