Author Archives: moonchild

adoptee singer-songwriter

Hello folks! How’s it going? I wanted to introduce a fellow adoptee and singer-songwriter, Ferera Swan, whose new single release, “Second Time,” will debut on February 1st.

second timeFerera Swan, is an artist, adoptee, and advocate who intends to use her musical talents to bring greater awareness around mental health, trauma, adoption, foster care, and victim abuse. Her own adoption journey inspires her songwriting and will truly resonate with other adoptees. Ferera learned that she was adopted at the age of ten, and like many adoptees, felt the ache of unanswered questions. This she channeled into songwriting.  She wrote her first song at age 12, then quickly moved on to compose her first cinematic score, “Serenity,” at age 14. “Serenity” was eventually performed by four different orchestras during her senior year in high school. Her original piece, “Lighthouse,” was featured as a soundtrack in the film documentary, Swim for the Reef, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (2016) in France. Ferera’s music has been featured in soundtracks, film festivals, and she has written with hit makers including Pam Sheyne (co-writer of GRAMMY award-winning Christina Aguilera’s ‘Genie In A Bottle’).

Ferera’s debut single, “Second Time,” is a deeply personal work and was written for her birth mother following their reunion. This event once again sparked feelings of great loss and woundedness. Swan says: “By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we inspire others to be curious about their own pain. Together, we spread the kind of love and healing this world needs.” 

To learn more about Ferera, visit her website and blog, soulnotes. Please give the sneak peak below of Ferera’s song, “Second Time,” a listen, and be sure to grab a copy or stream it on February 1, 2019!

“Oh, you’ve shown me everything I need to know about you
Now I finally understand just why I’ve been without you
How can you say you love someone you don’t even want to know?”
– “Second Time” lyrics

Connect With Ferera Swan: Website  | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramYouTube | Soundcloud

year of the pig

Top of the morning to you! Are you ready for the Year of the Earth Pig? Chinese New Year is on February 5th. Per Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Earth Pig 2019 is supposed to be a year of joy, benevolence and relaxation…Hmmm…as it marks the end of a complete rotation cycle of the twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac. This encourages us to take a well-deserved break and evaluate the previous years. Well, I’ve definitely thought about how much I want to make this a different year than 2018. How about you?

I’ve begun the first days of 2019 practicing yoga every morning before work. I’ve failed so many times in the past two years to regularly make time for exercise, which I attribute primarily to fatigue and a lack of motivation. I’ve been told over and over again that exercise helps fight that fatigue. Well, it worked when I was in grad school; however, once I entered the professional work field, prioritizing my health went down the tube. Anyway, I’m determined this year to be fully in control of my mind, body and spirit. No more blaming work or anything else for a lack of good health, spiritually, physically and emotionally. I’m focusing on bringing more joy into my life via music, creativity, yoga and learning. 

This morning during yoga, I felt anxiety right at the center of my chest. I set an intention for clarity and creativity and to let go of judgment and self-doubt. I’m facilitating a training over the weekend with two of my co-workers, which always brings some stress and anxiety. This calls for preparation, clarity, and flexibility because things just don’t always go the way I anticipate. I feel much more confident when all of my ducks are in a nice, pretty row; however, often life calls for flexibility and to go with plan B. 

As I begin my day, I hope to keep a steady heart and peaceful mind. I hope to accomplish what is meant to be accomplished, even if it isn’t quite what I initially set out for. May you also have a day and year full of peace, clarity and joy even amidst the mess that is so often our lives.

 

letting go of 2018

Greetings from sunny La Jolla, California! I hope that you’re enjoying this holiday season, whether with family and friends, or alone, and making time to recharge. My family and I had a quiet Christmas with some close friends. We watched Die Hard after eating lots of sweet potato casserole and apple pie! Now that was a blast from the past! Lots of laughs.

It’s been refreshing to soak up the sun, get in some retail therapy and eat at some super fun restaurants in San Diego. We found this great place called Sipz Vegetarian Fusion Cafe in North Park. Great vibe and fantastic vegetarian faire. North Park city block was lined with boho boutiques and trendy restaurants. And this morning, we ate brunch at a quaint little cafe called Farmer & the Seahorse. There was an old vintage silver RV right in the middle of the restaurant. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed spending time with my daughter and having all this time off from work! I could get used to this kind of life.

As I have reflected on 2018, I’m glad to let go of a rather difficult year. Worries about loved ones and mental health challenges, people pleasing, health scares and losing our beloved dachsund, Peppermint, in November caused intermittent fears and anxiety. There are always worries about finances and relationships. I enjoy listening to podcasts about living a life with more ease, creativity, mindfulness and gratitude, but it’s not always so easy. I have much to be grateful for, and with all the terrible things that have happened in our world this year, I have nothing to complain about. Yet, fears have a way of rearing their ugly heads.

I don’t set New Year’s resolutions, but I do plan to focus on a few things in 2019 in the hopes of becoming a healthier person physically, emotionally and spiritually. I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama recently that I love,

“We are, you might say, ‘brainwashed’ into thinking that money is the source of happiness while what we really need to know is that inner peace is something that comes from within.”

Inner peace for me comes from better self care and self compassion. I did not do a good job of either in 2018. Life is short. We must make the most of everyday and live as though it were our last. I hope to glow in 2019 with peace, despite the challenges that life inevitably brings. More yoga practice, intentional self-care, creativity and mindful eating. May 2019 be your healthiest, happiest and most abundant year yet! ❤️

extraordinarily ordinary life

I’ve been a little under the weather this week and have been out of the office, lazing around watching Netflix and drinking lots hot tea. There is much value in slowing down, although I don’t recommend getting sick in order to do so. When I do get some down time I too seldom realize how fast life is going and that I’m spinning out of control. In those moments, I try to slow down and look for things that bring comfort. So this morning, I tuned into the NPR All Songs Considered Podcast. Wow, so soul-inspiring. The song list included: 1) John Denver: “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” 2) Tom Adams: “In Darkness,” 3) Sharon Van Etten: “Come Back Kid,” 4: SOAK: “Everybody Loves You,” 5: Miya Folick: “THingaming,” 6) Jason Lytle: “Color of Dirt,” 7) J.S. Ondara: “American Dream.” I loved all of the songs, but the song that stood out to me this morning was John Denver’s, “Poems, Prayers and Promises.” Talk about a song that just sucker punches you right in the gut.

Poems, Prayers and Promises” resonated with me deeply. Perhaps it has to do with getting older, but lately, I’ve given much thought to the days of old, reflecting on raising my daughter, going to graduate school and even further back to high school and college. Reminiscing about easier times. When my daughter was growing up, I taught piano, primarily to young kids and a few adults, so I could be home with her. I often felt pressure to get a full-time job to supplement our household income, but I’m glad I didn’t give in to it. Life was much slower back then, as being a mom was my biggest role and my most favorite role ever. My daughter is now in college, and I’m working full-time, trying to obtain clinical licensure. Ugh. The chapters related to raising a family have closed. New ones have followed. I’m not particularly enjoying the new chapters. On most days, it feels like a grind. At my age, grinding is not particularly fun.

I guess it’s taken me this long to realize that after all of the graduate school, student loans, goals and achievements, I’m pretty disillusioned and tired. And more importantly, I realize that all of the misplaced ambitions were primarily to gain a sense of self worth and significance. After a lifetime of feeling invisible, one desires nothing more than to be seen and heard. Adoptee stuff.

What I’m learning is that life is so much more valuable than achieving. It’s about enjoying every minute of it and letting go of *!@# that brings you down. I’m still working on working on that , and I wish that I could impress it upon my daughter, who is starting her life as a grown up. She is doing so well, despite many challenges in her beautiful, young life.

Motherhood taught me a lot about life and love and ease. I guess that’s why I miss it so much, not that I don’t continue to mother, it’s just different now. This is what I know: Hold the people and things you love the most close to your heart everyday. That is why I so desperately want to go back to Taiwan. To see my birth family. Alas, there are always obstacles. Yes, there is something to be said and learned from achieving and making a difference. But life is short, and you cannot go back. Do what makes you happy, and don’t let naysayers dissuade you. Surround yourself with others who support you and your dreams because God knows, life is not easy. I wish that someone had told me these things when I was a young.

One day I hope to have clinical Iicensure. I’ve worked so hard for it, yet it feels as though it’s beyond my reach. I truly hope that it has not all been in vain, as things that are most valuable do not come by way of a diploma or a degree or clinical hours. There are moments in time I wish I could redo; nevertheless, life is precious. Your life is precious. Every single minute of it.

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

world mental health day

Today is World Mental Health Day. Let’s talk about it.

It’s estimated that one in five people experience a mental illness in a given year in the U.S. That’s 43.8 million people, or 18.5% of the population. I found a catalogue of great stories, commentaries, interviews and videos that explore mental health issues across a breadth of fields globally on Culture Trip. Check out all of the stories here.

Culture Trip is a global tech startup that inspires people to explore the world’s culture and creativity through innovative technology and a global network of local content creators. It was founded in London in 2011 by former academic psychiatrist Dr Kris Naudts and was named by Forbes as one of five fast-growing UK companies to watch. Naudts says, “In my experience, mental health challenges make you more empathetic and creative, more resourceful. Mental health challenges are a strength. Talk about it.”

Among the stories, Culture Trip speaks to award-winning author Matt Haig about his experience with depression and how sharing his story helped him on the road to recovery. We investigate how hysteria still influences women’s medical treatment today and we look into the scarcity of support in the testosterone-charged world of professional football. We meet elderly birdkeepers tackling loneliness in Singapore, attend a London supper club for people experiencing disordered eating, and learn how virtual reality is revolutionising mental health treatments. I especially love the article on the best free mental health apps for anxiety, stress and depression. Check them out!

Wishing everyone good mental health today and everyday.

Free Help:

Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255

songs that saved my life

We all have that one song or songs that have helped us through tough times. This afternoon, KROQ 106.7 in Los Angeles featured songs from a special playlist called, Songs That Saved My Life. The playlist features artists performing covers of songs that helped them through a personally challenging time. This compilation benefits mental health and suicide prevention charities. Songs That Saved My Life looks to engage current artists with cover versions of those songs and share those stories with the world. Currently, this project benefits Crisis Text Line, Hope For The Day, The Trevor Project, and To Write Love On Her Arms.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. In my last post, I shared research that shows adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. alone and the 3rd leading cause of death for 15-24-year olds, after accidents and homicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there is a crisis text line that offers free, 24/7 crisis support in the U.S. Text HOME to 741741, or just follow this link. You can also go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here, or call at 1-800-273-8255.

Visit the Songs That Saved My Life website where you can see all of the artists who contributed to this compilation. The playlist will be available for purchase on November 9th, but you preview some of the songs on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

mental illness awareness week

Millions of Americans struggle with a mental health condition. Mental illness affects us all, directly or indirectly, whether through family, friends, or co-workers. Though it is widespread, mental illness is still frequently misunderstood and stigmatized. Research shows that adoptees are more likely than non-adoptees to attempt suicide.

Although it’s suggested that a majority of adopted individuals are well-adjusted, adolescent adoptees experience a greater risk for disruptive behavior disorders, and to a lesser extent, internalizing disorders (depression, withdrawal, anxiety, loneliness) than comparably aged non-adopted individuals. 3 4 In young adulthood, adoptees have increased odds of being diagnosed with substance use and other psychiatric disorders relative to non-adoptees. Furthermore, research examining Swedish national cohorts,1 2 revealed that both intercountry, or international, and domestic adoptees were at increased risk for even more serious indicators of maladjustment, including suicide attempt and completed suicide, compared with non-adopted individuals.

Keyes, Malone, Sharma, Iacono, and McGue (2013) at the University of Minnesota studied the risk of suicide attempt in adopted and non-adopted offspring in the U.S. The results of their research have become well known and oft-quoted. Their research indicated that the odds of a reported suicide attempt were four times greater in adoptees compared with non-adoptees. You can read the research article in full here.

The adoptee community has lost a number of adoptees to suicide, including Phillip Clay.  Phillip was deported to his birth country, S. Korea, because, through no fault of his own, he never obtained U.S. citizenship. He had lived his entire life in the U.S. He ended his life at age 29. There are ongoing advocacy efforts being made related to adoptee deportation. It is with great sadness that I also include Kaleab Schmidt, age 13,  Gabe Proctor, age 27, Emilie Olson, age 13, Thaddeus Farrow, age 27, and Jane Trybulski, age 14, who tragically took their own lives. There are others.

sentimoji-share

October 7-13, 2018, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. It was established in 1990 by Congress. World Mental Health Day is Wednesday, October 10, and National Depression Screening Day is October 11. To take an anonymous screening for depression, follow this link to helpyourselfhelpothers.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or experiencing suicidal ideation, please take the screening and reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources. Support can also be found in adoptee groups – many can be found on social media including InterCountry Adoptee VoicesAdoptees from Asia, Adoptees On, Adoptee Suicide Prevention Overcoming Odds, and a Korean-American Adoptee Suicide Prevention Campaign. Additionally, check out Koreanamericanstory.org.

The more we bring awareness to mental health conditions, the more we take down the stigma and misunderstanding. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life, and I have loved ones who struggle with the debilitating effects of anxiety and depression daily. It is real, and it’s ongoing, sometimes despite medication. Support from others is essential. Just listening to someone who is struggling and validating their feelings provides more support than you know. Please help to educate others about mental health by openly discussing what it is and how to get help.


1 Hjern A, Lindblad F, Vinnerljung B. Suicide, psychiatric illness, and social maladjustment in intercountry adoptees in Sweden: a cohort study. Lancet. 2002; 360(9331):443–448.

2 von Borczyskowski A, Hjern A, Lindblad F, Vinnerljung B. Suicidal behaviour in national and international adult adoptees: A Swedish cohort study. Social Psychiatry  & Psychiatry Epidemiol. 2006; 41(2):95–102

3 Juffer F, van Ijzendoorn MH. Behavior problems and mental health referrals of international adoptees: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2005; 293(20):2501–2515.

4 Keyes MA, Sharma A, Elkins IJ, Iacono WG, McGue M. The mental health of US adolescents adopted in infancy. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. 2008; 162(5):419–425.

attachment and attachment styles

In this post, I’ll discuss attachment and attachment styles, including adult attachment styles. This will be a very broad discussion of attachment because it’s such a complex subject!

We know that children who are in foster care and/or have been adopted experience disruption in primary attachment relationships due to relinquishment, abuse, neglect, multiple placements, etc. The separation of a child from his/her first or natural mother is the most significant disruption. The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton-Verrier is a great resource for learning more about the significance of this initial disruption in an adoptee’s life.

Attachment can be described as “a reciprocal process by which an emotional connection develops between an infant and his/her primary caregiver.”2 It influences the child’s physical, neurological, cognitive and psychological development and becomes the basis for development of basic trust or mistrust.” It shapes how the child will learn and relate to the world and others. In other words, attachment is the give and take relationship between the child and parent primary caregiver. It is critical to a child’s healthy behavioral, social, emotional and neurological development. Healthy attachment teaches a child to trust and to form healthy relationships throughout his/her life.

I will not discuss attachment theory fully, as there are a plethora of textbooks and articles written specifically on that. Suffice it to say that key researchers include John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, and Vera Fahlberg. Bowlby believed that a child’s healthy psychological development was dependent upon a safe and functional relationship with a parent or caregiver. Bowlby theorized that attachment begins in infancy via a bond between the child and the most present, attentive caregiver. This first relationship forms the basis of the internal working models for the child, influencing his or her thoughts, feelings, and expectations with regard to future relationships. Mary Main developed the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI), which is widely recognized as the tool for assessing adult attachment. And Vera Fahlberg is a doctor who formalized the arousal-relaxation cycle, the positive interaction cycle and claiming behaviors in the early 1990s. She wrote A Child’s Journey through Placement, which is a standard training textbook for child welfare workers. Many others have stepped forward and contributed to attachment theory over the years.

In my last post, Healing Childhood TraumaI discussed the arousal-relaxation cycle and how it influences the attachment process in the infant’s first year of life. In a nutshell, an infant expresses a need through crying, fussing, or otherwise raging, which causes her stress response system to become aroused. Her caregiver meets the need, and the infant relaxes. The child’s parasympathetic nervous system helps calm her body once the distress has passed. This dance between infant and caregiver occurs multiple times throughout the first year of life. The signs and symptoms of attachment problems develop as a result of the way a child’s parent/caregiver behaves toward her, environmental factors, and her own particular psychological traits. If a child’s caregiver is unresponsive toward her needs or inconsistent in meeting her needs, she will be at risk for attachment problems. Unattached children have difficulty relating normally to others. For example, it’s common for foster and adoptive parents to report that their child is manipulative, lacks a conscience, or is unable to show genuine affection, when these behaviors are very likely the result of insecure attachment and significant trauma. It’s important to recognize this so that the child is not punished repeatedly for bad behavior, but rather the most appropriate interventions and parenting strategies are sought and learned by the parents. The child does not have it in his wheelhouse to respond in behaviorally/emotionally appropriate ways because brain wiring and neurochemistry have been greatly altered by trauma. Essential areas in the brain that control executive function, common sense, emotional control, etc. are underdeveloped and must be healed in order for change to occur. And this takes time…I’ll say more about trauma and attachment sensitive parenting strategies in another post.

Attachment Styles

Mary Ainsworth pioneered an experiment called the Strange Situation Test. This test was developed and is used to examine the pattern of attachment between a child and the mother or caregiver. The results of the experiment were categorized into four specific types of attachment: Secure, Insecure/Avoidant, Insecure/Ambivalent, and Insecure/Disorganized. Parenting styles are associated with each of these types of attachment. The Insecure/Avoidant and Insecure/Ambivalent attachment styles are interchangeable with or otherwise known as the Anxious/Avoidant and Anxious/Ambivalent attachment styles.

Secure Attachment

Children with a Secure attachment style have a caregiver who consistently responds to them when upset. The infant cries and learns to trust that a caregiver will be available to respond to her needs. Children secure in their attachment go on to have healthy social functioning, have fewer behavioral problems at school, and can become competent leaders within their peer group. They grow up into adults who trust that they are worthy of receiving love, are able to give love/care/nurture, negotiate their needs, and remain autonomous.

Insecure Avoidant Attachment

In Ainsworth’s studies of mothers and infants, observations showed that when some infants became distressed, their bids for comfort were rejected by their mothers. The mothers of these babies were also uncomfortable with close bodily contact. The behaviors exhibited by these infants were later categorized as Insecure/avoidant. Avoidant children do not have caregivers who consistently respond to their needs. When activation of their attachment system leads to painful rejection, infants may develop a strategy where their attachment systems are activated as little as possible.2 These are infants who learn not to cry when they have a need. Avoidant infants and adults appear to suppress activation of their attachment systems, or in other words, have trouble seeking care.

In laboratory studies of babies separated from their mothers, observations revealed that some babies did not seek the mother for comfort or even interaction upon her return as most infants do2. These infants rather actively avoided the mother and became focused on toy play. Avoidant children learn to turn defensively toward self-soothing behaviors, e.g., a play activity, due to past painful rejection when expressing a need.

Evidence demonstrates that avoidant children tend to mask negative affect and replace feelings of sadness with a smile.2 These children often avoid adult eye contact, thus precluding any comfort or reassurance an adult might offer. Although avoidant children may feel and display sadness, they may do so only when there is no child-adult eye contact or when an adult is not present.

Data shows that individuals with an avoidant or Dismissive Adult Attachment style  have trouble seeking or receiving care and giving care. For example, they may fail to share their concerns with others, and may, in fact, withdraw from others as they become more anxious. A number of other studies report that avoidant adults are less likely than secure adults to seek support in response to stress.

Insecure Ambivalent Attachment

Ainsworth observed that mothers of Insecure/Ambivalent infants were inconsistent in providing care. Sometimes these caregivers were loving and responsive, but only when they could manage, not in response to the infant’s signals. An infant whose mother is sometimes responsive, but at other times, preoccupied or overwhelmed, may develop a strategy to stay near the mother at all times.2 The infant cannot count on her mother to monitor her needs. She may cling and vigilantly monitor her mother’s availability in case some need arises. The infant/child takes on a disproportionate share of the burden in maintaining the connection. As a result, hyperactivation of the attachment system occurs.2 These infants/children may show extreme distress on separation and difficulty in calming upon reunion. They may display angry, resistant behavior toward the parent. The negative emotionality of the ambivalent child may be exaggerated and chronic, as the child recognizes that to relax and allow herself to be soothed by the presence of the attachment figure is risky – she may very well lose contact with the inconsistently available caregiver.2 The child may have trouble maintaining boundaries between another person’s distress and his own. Furthermore, the child may feel that the only way to gain care is by sending exaggerated signals of need.

This hyperactivation in adults with an ambivalent or Entangled Adult Attachment style manifests as an insatiability for closeness to others.2 These adults may have a desire to merge with a significant other. They portray themselves in relationships as ‘preoccupied’ and may be particularly upset by relationship breakups. The heightened desire for closeness reflects an impairment of the attachment system. Ambivalent adults may expect others to fill all their needs; thus, they have difficulty negotiating needs and remaining autonomous. They may be codependent or threatened by another’s desire for autonomy. Obviously, this behavior can lead to ambivalence and resentment in both the individual and the significant others in his life.

Insecure/Disorganized Attachment

Children with an Insecure/Disorganized Attachment style have had experiences of maternal/caregiver behavior that is so frightening or unpredictable that they are incapable of developing an organized, strategic response to it.2 Their attachment systems are behaviorally disorganized. The child has no pattern for how to relate to her caregiver. She may behave erratically with toys and might prefer a stranger over her caregiver. These infants may demonstrate a high-pitched cry and/or shriek.

Children with a disorganized attachment style may have the most severe difficulties related to seeking care. Frightening behavior by a caregiver activates simultaneous competing tendencies: to flee to the parent as a safe haven, and to flee from the parent in response to alarm. In this paradoxical situation, there is no organized behavioral strategy available.2 The infant/child is in a terrible position, as neither proximity-seeking nor proximity-avoiding is a solution, and the resulting behavioral responses become freezing, disorientation, and/or disorganization. The adult with a disorganized, or Unresolved Adult Attachment style, has difficulty giving and receiving care/love/nurture, negotiating needs, and remaining autonomous.

In Summary

It’s important to know that these attachment styles are fluid. You may see features of yourself in each of the attachment styles, or may notice that you lean toward one attachment style with one person, e.g., your spouse, and a different attachment style with another, e.g., your mother. This is normal, the point really is to notice and gain awareness.

None of us has a perfect attachment style. Learning and understanding which style I lean toward has given me incredible insight into why I behave as I do and why some of my relationships are more difficult than others. As a younger adult, I was often told that I seemed aloof, that other’s did not feel connected to me, and that I lacked facial expression. Can you guess what my attachment style is?

Upon reflection, I recognized that I did not have a strong attachment, if any at all, to any one person during infancy, as I was in an orphanage for the first four months of my life. My relationship with my adoptive parents was not emotionally close. They provided for all of my physical needs, but I did not feel connected to either of my parents. I loved them, but I had great difficulty expressing my needs and showing affection. My adoptive parents were ill-equipped to nurture a strong attachment. They did the best they could with the knowledge they had, which was pretty minimal. This insight has empowered me to be more intentional in how I interact with certain others in my life. It’s also helped me to understand how important it is for fost/adoptive parents to understand attachment, and furthermore, to get appropriate training and education. I hope that this very brief overview of attachment and attachment styles is of benefit to you and gives you some insight into your own particular style.

                                                                                                                                               

1 The Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children (ATTACh). Retrieved from http://www.attach.org/about-us/attach-accepted-definitions/.

2 Cassidy, J. (2001). Truth, lies, and intimacy: An attachment perspective. Attachment & Human Development, 3(2), 121-155.

Featured Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash