Category Archives: International Adoption

healing childhood trauma

Hello everyone. In this post, I wanted to talk about childhood trauma. To heal childhood trauma, it’s important to understand how trauma affects a child’s development. So, that’s where we’ll begin. If you have not yet read my last post on adoption and preverbal trauma, you can check it out here. Today, I’ll present a very brief overview of brain neurosequential development and how trauma affects this process. I am a trainer and educator to fost/adoptive parents on complex developmental trauma, attachment, and TBRI®.

First, let’s talk about childhood trauma. You can go to this link to learn more about adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, and the impact of negative experiences on an individual’s lifelong health and wellness. We know that children in foster care and children in orphanages have suffered trauma, and their ACE scores are high. The very fact that they are in such institutions is a trauma. Children in foster care typically come into care due to neglect, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, domestic violence between parents. Kids in foster care and kids who have been adopted experience separation, loss, and grief, feelings of abandonment, instability, and have often not been provided with the kind of sensory diet that promotes healthy development. Additionally, many kids in foster care have experienced multiple placements. Prolonged exposure to one or more of these factors can lead to complex developmental trauma, which psychologist Bessel van der Kolk describes as “the experience of multiple, chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature (italics and bold added).” Complex trauma impairs social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Dr. Karyn Purvis, Developmental Psychologist and Co-founder of Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®), described six early risk factors that influence the way children from difficult backgrounds think, trust, and connect with others: 1) Difficult pregnancy – the birth mother has experienced medical problems, drugs/alcohol, crisis, or other trauma. Persistent and high levels of stress throughout pregnancy affect the infant in-utero. Stress response chemicals in an infant’s brain can remain for up to a month after the mother gives birth.  2) Difficult birth – a difficult and traumatic birth is risky for lots of reasons, including perinatal hypoxia, which can lead to mild neurological insult. 3) Early hospitalization – children who experience early hospitalizations often experience painful touch rather than nurturing, comforting touch in the first days of life. 4) Abuse – the brains of children from abusive backgrounds have been trained to be hypervigilant, or always on guard, to the environment around them. 5) Neglect – children from neglectful backgrounds, e.g., orphanages, often suffer from the most severe behavioral problems and brain deficits. The message they have learned is you don’t exist. 6) Trauma – this may include witnessing an extreme event, like a natural disaster or 9/11, or any number of traumas in the child’s life. A child’s developmental trajectory will change as a result of trauma.

brain 2

As you probably already know, different parts of the brain have different functions. Author and psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Siegel, says the brain is like a two-story house. Emotional reactivity, motivation, attachment, and the “fight, flight, or freeze” response are regulated in the downstairs brain. This is where the brain stem and limbic system are located. I’m not going to discuss all of the structures in the brain, but will highlight the areas that pertain to this discussion. The limbic system is involved in emotions and motivations related to survival, including emotions that are pleasurable, e.g., eating and sex. The upstairs brain regulates executive functioning, thinking, planning, control over emotion and body. It’s where the cerebral cortex or “grey matter” is located.

When you experience a strong emotion such as fear or stress, your downstairs brain sounds an alarm, and a stress response is activated. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight or flight response. This causes certain physiological responses to occur in your body. Think back on a time when you felt frightened or stressed. Your heart and respiration rates increased, your pupils likely dilated, and the blood flow to your muscles increased in preparation to fight or flee. This is a survival response. Other parts of your brain are off-line when your stress response is activated. In other words, thinking clearly or executing a well-defined plan become much more difficult when your stress response system is activated.

Now let’s talk about brain neurosequential development. The brain develops sequentially from the bottom to the top and inside-out from the brain stem to the cortex. Our downstairs brain comes much more developed at birth than our upstairs brain. Each part of our brain develops at different times beginning in-utero and continuing to adulthood (the brain is fully developed around 25-years of age). An infant’s brain stem is the most developed region of her brain. When distressed, she needs a responsive caregiver to help her regulate. She has a need and expresses it through crying, fussing, or raging. The need is gratified when a caregiver changes her soiled diaper, feeds her, provides movement, skin-to-skin contact, speech, and warmth. The parasympathetic nervous system helps to put on the brakes and calm the body once the distress has passed. All of these actions serve a very important purpose – to teach the infant how to self-regulate. We refer to this dance as the arousal-relaxation cycle.

Arousal-Relaxation+Cycle.jpgWhen abuse and neglect occur, it interrupts the arousal-relaxation cycle, and consequently, affects the attachment cycle. This leads to serious problems in the development of personality, which has long-lasting effects into adulthood. When the cycle is not completed and repeated, difficulties may occur in very critical areas, including social/behavioral development, cognitive development, emotional development, cause and effect thinking, conscience development, reciprocal relationships, parenting, and accepting responsibility. Furthermore, positive or negative experiences that occur during critical or sensitive periods of brain development alter the development in that particular area, which cascades and alters other areas of the brain. When children experience repetitive activation of the stress response system, their baseline of state of arousal is altered. The child lives in an aroused, hypervigilant state, ill-prepared to learn from social, emotional and other life experiences. She is living in the minute and may not fully appreciate the consequences of her actions. Her brain stem has “muscled up” in fight, fright or freeze mode, as any part of the brain that we use most often is the part most developed. Her ability to control her emotions and body and behave in ways we consider age appropriate may be severely compromised.

As a side note, two Yale pediatricians, Provence and Lipton, found that if caregivers did not meet the needs of infants quickly, they stopped crying within a period of 30-60 days. The infant learns that no one comes. She has lost her voice. Despite the absence of crying, the baby may still be hungry, scared, soiled, or in pain. Additionally, she is likely to have high levels of cortisol, or stress hormones, released in her brain, though outwardly she may appear to be calm and not at all distressed.

Infants and young children need to feel safe. They use attachments with their caregivers as models for future relationships. Caregivers are a secure base from which infants can explore their physical and social worlds. As you can well imagine, children who have histories of abuse or neglect very often have not experienced felt safety or secure attachment. This sets them up for attachment difficulties with foster and adoptive parents and difficulties in relationships with others.

There are numerous theories and therapy approaches directed at parenting and healing children who have experienced trauma, including abuse, neglect, grief and loss. I will delve into this in later posts, but a good resource is Attachment Theory in Practice: Building Connections Between Children and Parents edited by Karen Doyle Buckwalter and Debbie Reed. There is a chapter at the end of the book called The Voice of the Adoptee written by adoptees Faith Friedlander, Clinical VP and co-founder of Kids and Families Together, and Melanie Chung-Sherman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist. Finally, an attachment-based professional/parenting resource that includes adoptee voices!

We know that traditional parenting does not work with kids who have experienced trauma. With deep fear comes a desperate need for deep control. It’s a survival strategy, as these kids do not know to do anything better. The way they think, feel, learn, process the senses, and interact with peers has been profoundly altered due to trauma. Their stress systems stay on, and the smallest thing or a transition can cause a meltdown. They fight or flee. They have lost their voice. Timeouts, spankings, and lectures are not effective and may further traumatize the child. There is hope. Parents must become healers and help repair their child’s brain by creating the proper environment for change. The brain can adapt and new behaviors can be taught and learned. In the next few posts, I’ll offer more resources. Stay tuned for an overview on attachment and attachment styles in my next post.


Featured Photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash

Keck, G.C., & Kupeckty, R.M. (2009). Parenting the hurt child. Colorado: Navpress.

Perry, B. (2005). Maltreatment and the developing child: How early childhood experiences shapes child and culture. Retreived from http://www.lfcc.on.ca/mccain/perry.pdf.

Provence, S., & Lupton, R. C. (1962). Infants in institutions. New York: International Universities Press.

Purvis, K. and Cross, D. (July 2013). The healing power of “giving voice.” Retrieved from http://www.adoptioncouncil.org/files/large/f7bb17e8fba418b

 

adoption and preverbal trauma

I am often confronted by fost/adoptive parents who question the impact of adoption on a child adopted at infancy. “What can an infant know or remember?” they ask. In this post, I’ll discuss this question and adoption as trauma.

In Nancy Verrier-Newton’s book, The Primal Wound, she writes,

Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events, which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the biological mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the “primal wound (p.1).”

Adoption is a traumatic event that occurs in the life of a child. As Verrier-Newton explains, separation from a child’s biological mother is a loss that is imprinted upon the unconscious mind of the child. It is stored as an implicit memory. This is also known as preverbal trauma or preverbal memory. The child is torn away from her biological mother and placed in the arms of strangers. Though the assumption is that the child will not remember any of it, psychologists now believe that children remember their birth and the following events, including relinquishment and adoption, up to age three. The infant is left with fears and anxiety with no way to verbalize, express, mourn, or contextualize her feelings. According to Debra Wesselmann, MA, LIMHP, “Implicit memory bypasses language and involves procedures and internal states that are automatic.” Infants and young children can feel emotions, but cannot place them in context. There is no narrative.

When a child experiences such distress, the only way she is able to cope is through crying or reacting to physical touch and anger. These coping strategies can manifest in overt expression or a marked lack of expression. An infant may cry in response to distress or rarely cry and be perceived as a “good” and peaceful baby when she actually feels quite the opposite and may be hurting. She may respond by recoiling from human touch or may become too attached to the sensation, displaying indiscriminate affection toward others, even strangers, as she matures. A child may express her anger through tantums – yelling, screaming, kicking, hitting, spitting, pulling hair – or withhold emotional expression.

According to adoptee, Karl Stenske, every adopted child falls into one of these two categories. She will either act out, or she is quiet, adaptable and compliant. The degree to which the child falls into either category is individual. In any case, adopted children have experienced ruptured relationships, hope, and trust. Some adoptees who act out will go to extremes, e.g., run away from home, threaten fost/adoptive parents, rebel academically and behaviorally, or even attempt suicide. In a study published in 2001, adopted teens in 7th – 12th grades were more likely to have attempted suicide (7.6% vs 3.1%) and to have received psychological or emotional counseling in the past year (16.9% vs 8.2%) as compared to their non-adopted peers.

The child who acts out may attempt to initiate some form of rejection from parents, teachers, peers and others to prove that she’s unlovable. She may reject others first in order to avoid being rejected. The acting out child is often perceived as “difficult” by her parents and others. Parents, teachers, and counselors may not associate the behaviors with trauma, and therefore, “lay down the hammer,” which in fact, only exacerbates the behaviors and trauma wounds. The compliant child, though not seen as having any outward problems and perceived as well-adjusted, is often overlooked and not given any form of counseling or assistance in healing from emotional wounds. This child, however, is just as much at risk and may be experiencing similar distress to the child who is acting out.

These two behavior types may present at various ages, although adolescence is a common time for them to reach their peak. Furthermore, some kids may actually experience both behavior types, alternating from one to the other depending on the environment and individual trajectory through childhood and adolescence. In my own experience, I was very much the quiet, compliant child. When I reached adolescence, however, I rebelled academically and in every other way. Though many teens rebel during adolescence, I attribute most of my emotional turmoil and acting out to adoption-related issues, including identity confusion, rejection, and a desperate need to fit in with my white peers.

Still, when presented with the above information, some remain skeptical. After all, what can an infant remember? Research strongly suggests that a baby is able to recognize her mother’s voice. Within a few days of birth she begins to recognize familiar faces, voices and smells and is drawn to them. She is able to discriminate her mother’s voice from those of other voices. If you are a parent and have biological children, think back on the time when your baby sought your presence, sought your face and smile, was comforted solely by you. How could we not assume that an adopted baby recognizes the loss and separation from her birth mother, despite her inability to narrate it? I argue that she does recognize such loss – she knows abandonment, sadness, and hurt. Though healing can and does occur, she carries that loss with her the rest of her life.

Stay tuned for my next post when I discuss healing childhood trauma.


Photo by Luma Pimentel on Unsplash

Verrier, N.N. (1993). The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc.

Stenske, K. (2012). What can a tiny baby know? Retrieved from http://www.theadoptedlife.com/angelablog/2012/11/20/adoptee-view-what-can-a-tiny-baby-know.

Wesslemann, D. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.adoptionknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Wesselmann-Preverbal-Trauma-ppt..pdf.

Taiwanese American cultural festival

May is winding down, and boy has it been a busy month. May is officially recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Celebrations occur throughout California during the month including the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival, which is held annually in the Bay area. TACF is sponsored by Taiwanese American Professionals-San Francisco and Taiwanese American Foundation-No. California. This year, TACF featured a collection of nearly 50 works by authors, writers, poets, and creatives who are Taiwanese American or have ties to Taiwan, and guess what? My book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity was one of the works featured! For the entire list of books showcased and brief descriptions of each book, visit Taiwaneseamerican.org.

Thank you, Ho Chie Tsai, for gathering this wonderful collection of books highlighting Taiwanese American storytellers. I wish that I could have attended the festival and seen the display in person as well as all of the other festivities. I’ve put several of the books on my to-read list.

If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book, just follow this link.

Here are some photographs from the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival 2018!

Photo credit: Anna Wu Photography

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elevate adoptee voices

photos-by-lanty-597554-unsplashSince last November, I’ve had the privilege of connecting to many other adult international adoptees around the U.S. via a podcast I hosted called Global Adoptee Talk. Some participated in my podcast and others did not. Nevertheless, just to hear and share stories was incredibly validating, and I appreciate the supportive community that we’re a part of. Unfortunately, I had to let go of my podcast before it even had a real chance to get off the ground due to increasing demands at work and the lack of time and energy I had to keep up with editing/interviewing. I am always inspired, grieved, saddened, angered, and motivated by the many adoptees stories I hear – motivated primarily to elevate adoptee voices in whatever shape or form that may take. It’s always important to be mindful of the fact that though an adoptee may have had a positive adoption experience, there is still undoubtedly loss, trauma, and frequently a longing to connect to his/her cultural roots. That may mean searching for one’s birthparents or birth family or traveling to one’s country of origin, learning the language, and/or connecting to other’s who have similar backgrounds and experiences. It doesn’t go away – it may ebb and flow across the span of an adoptee’s life, but it’s a part of our makeup, it’s part of our DNA and hard-wired into our brains, literally. I don’t have time to go into how separation from birth mother is trauma, but suffice it to say, there is research that supports it. Acknowledging that adoptees have a vital role in the future of how adoption occurs and are given a voice is crucial.

I work in foster care and adoption, and it’s not always easy as an adopted person. Whenever there is an adoption, it’s very difficult for me to celebrate knowing that first there was loss – loss for the first mother and child. When reunification occurs with the child and birth family, my heart makes a little leap, as reunifications are rarer. When they do occur, it is a celebration.

Despite the challenges of working in foster care and adoption, I have the opportunity to work with some resource or foster families that get it to the extent possible in their circumstances- the trauma, the loss, the necessity of keeping birth connections in the child’s life. Families are trained in TBRI, and we talk about loss, trauma, and attachment from the very first clinical interview. I don’t want to villainize every foster/adoptive family out there, as I know some foster/adoptive parents who attempt to understand the loss and trauma adoptees experience. Even so, I dare say that it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude of what being in foster care or being adopted means if you have not experienced it first hand. I observe things through the lens of an adopted person, not as an adoptive parent or case manager or supervisor, and my thoughts and opinions sometimes differ from those I work with. This work gives me an opportunity to educate foster/resource/adoptive parents. Not every family who comes through gets approved to continue the process for multiple reasons, and that’s a good thing.

All in all, I’m sad to let go of my podcast, but I have hopes of one day picking it back up, as time allows. I miss that connection to other adoptees. There are plenty of super podcasts out there. Right now, I’m digging a couple of podcasts related to intuitive eating, health, and nutrition. One is called Food Heaven, and the other is Food Psych. Two of my favorite adoptee podcasts are Adoptees On and Adapted. The Rambler was also a favorite, but the show closed earlier this year. All of these podcasts are available on iTunes – listen in – it’s totally worth it.

I sure learned a lot while producing my podcast and am super grateful for those international/transracial adoptees that I had the opportunity to connect with. Adoptee voices are truly making their way to the forefront of discussions on adoption, as they should. Let us continue to build a strong and vibrant community, inclusive and respectful of all adoptees and their unique stories.

by Photos by Lanty on Unsplash

Past episodes of Global Adoptee Talk are available on iTunes

 

a crazy little story

jared-rice-388260-unsplash“Oriental Express.” The words leapt out at me in dark green letters as I tore away at the wrapping paper. There was some “oriental-like” design in the background in pink, yellow, and purple. I stared at the license plate in my hands in horror. It was Christmas morning, 1980. Across the way, my dad sat in his favorite recliner, a broad smile lit the corners of his whiskered face. He was clearly pleased with himself. I was a high school freshman. I don’t recall what exactly I said in response to the gift, but I distinctly remember the embarrassment and confusion of it all. The pained expression on my face, I’m sure made it just as confusing for my dad. He thought that the personalized license plate specially ordered just for me was something his adopted daughter would love and appreciate, but just the opposite occurred. It was like a punch to my gut, a painful reminder of my differentness. There was no way in hell I was putting that on my car. All I truly wanted was to be and look like everyone else around me. Neither my dad nor mom understood the internal struggle that tore me up inside – a conflicted self, confused, shamed by my appearance, but even further, a suffocating separateness that was like a heavy cloak. They had never heard of the terms, “adoption trauma,” “cultural identity,” or “birth heritage,” and really, back in the day, what adoptive parent had? Clearly, no one understood the implications of trauma and separation and loss on the development of an internationally adopted child. The license plate sat on my dresser collecting dust for a little while, but eventually I hid it. Who knows where it ended up or where it is now.

I am fifty-one years old, and yet this event is still so vividly etched in my mind. My struggle with identity has lessened dramatically since that time, yet at my core, I still struggle occasionally with those same misplaced feelings of inferiority. I’m just better at identifying them now and managing them in a healthier way. I tend to be an overachiever and perfectionist, which is exhausting. I think other adoptees have this same tendency to one degree or another. I feel and sense things more acutely than maybe the average person, say for example, rejection. As a result, I’m a people pleaser. I go out of my way to win people over, which is good and bad. I tend not to deal well with strong emotions like anger or conflict. It stirs up those same feelings of fear, insecurity, and distrust. In my work, I am constantly placed in those types of situations. Yet, I can pinpoint those uncomfortable feelings now and am not paralyzed by them. Though I still don’t like the presence of such strong emotions, I can sit with them when confronted. It’s not easy, and it takes me awhile to process them. It takes time to let any negative emotions go…I am not good at letting go…but I try, and I try to learn from the process so that I can grow.

Feeling grounded is super important to me. After dealing with conflict, I’m always off-balance and have to work at getting back into a more positive state of grounded-ness. Music, art journaling, and writing help tremendously as does yoga. The practice of yoga is so centering and helps me focus on connecting to my body. I highly recommend it. Perhaps I’m writing about this now because work over the last month has been especially challenging, and I am growing my clinical skills. Dealing with our line of work is “not for the faint of heart” as one of our directors shared.

I have grown to embrace my cultural heritage and identity, yet the struggle is never really over. I continue to work on accepting me just the way I am – making peace with myself, my appearance, my professional aspirations, right here in the moment. That’s probably why I love yoga so much. The practice promotes acceptance, which is truly not an easy task. I continue to struggle with perfectionism and overachieving in almost everything I do. I’m not great at self-care, or perhaps I just need more of it! Why can’t there be 3-day weekends?! And I’m constantly working on gratitude. My experiences have made me who I am, just like everybody else, and I accept that my parents were not able to help me with the things I struggled with the most. I have many regrets about our relationship and wish that I could have been more involved in their lives as they aged. Time is short. But I was still working on my own internal struggles. It was really selfish as I look back, but I didn’t know any better. My parents did the best they knew how. One thing they did do well was model generosity and care. And that is a tremendous gift. I can’t undo the past, yet in the future, I hope to get better at being okay with it. And I hope to get better at practicing generosity and care towards myself and others. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

 

 

author event

IMG_2882Happy Lunar New Year! 2018 is the year of the Yang Earth Dog. According to Chinese astrology, there will be a strong masculine energy in 2018; however, the element of Earth and the sign of the Dog is going to temper this to help create a gentle, fun-loving vibe throughout the year. Right on. I could use a little gentle and fun-lovingness this year!

How has your 2018 been so far? I’m referring back to the Gregorian calendar now. Mine has been incredibly busy! My caseload at work has doubled since last July, which is actually not a bad thing. It just means I have a working lunch at my desk, and I’m more tired than I’d like to be. On the downside, I don’t get to the gym as often as I’d like because I’m too tired 😦 Anybody else have that annoying problem?? My commute to work is about an hour, so by the time I get home, I’m exhausted and hungry! Then all I want to do after a typically unhealthy dinner is binge on TV (because I’m too lazy to cook). I  watched the entire Grimm series in about a month and a half. I do miss that show! This morning, I made it to Vinyasa yoga and ate a healthy breakfast, thanks to the holiday off. Three days to the gym in a row is a miracle! I also bought some new blended essential oils, now brand Cheer Up Buttercup! and Peace, Love & Flowers at Sprouts. I have one of them diffusing as I write this post. A little self-care goes a long way.

Besides life at the job, I’ve also been producing a monthly podcast, Global Adoptee Talk. My weekends are spent interviewing other adoptees, then editing the recordings, which takes several weekends. GAT is a podcast about the experiences of international and transracial adoptees. I interview adoptees, and we discuss topics such as identity, loss, and blood ties. I just posted my fourth episode where I interviewed a fellow Taiwanese adoptee. Cheers! I love listening to podcasts on my way into work and typically tune into Adoptees On hosted by adoptee, Haley Radke, in Canada. It’s an amazing podcast! I especially love her Healing Series episodes. You should really check it out. I continue to learn a lot about podcasting and could certainly tell you what NOT to do! It’s a labor of love, and though it’s a lot of work, the best part of it is talking to other international adoptees and hearing their stories. There is nothing like the support of another adoptee who just gets it. In coming months, I’ll be talking to a couple of international adoptees who are also psychotherapists and will share their expertise on specific topics. Looking forward to some really great learning and growing opportunities!

On other fronts, I’m heading to Arizona on Friday for an author event where I’ll have the opportunity to discuss my book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity. The event will be held on Saturday, February 24th, at the Downtown branch of Chandler Public Library.  My book is featured among three other books and female authors in a series called “Women’s Voices.”Kneaders Bakery and Cafe in Chandler will be providing light refreshments. A big shout out and thank you to Ted Liebler, a librarian at the Downtown branch, for making this series possible! I’m so excited to visit Arizona! It’ll be my first trip back since we moved to California in November 2016. Can’t wait to go to Peixoto Coffee and Pomegranate Cafe. If you’re in the area, please stop by the library to say hello on Saturday!

Folks, I’m wishing you all a great week. If you have the day off, enjoy, and thanks for reading my post! I’m going to kick back and binge on some more TV. I just starting watching Humans on Amazon. It’s just a shame that we don’t have every Monday off!

 

 

friday five

mark-adriane-259950Hello folks. It’s Friday, December 15th, exactly 10 days away from Christmas. Are you ready? I’m getting there. Actually this year, I’m ahead of the game – we have a tree. This time last year, we were living in temporary housing. There was no tree, no Christmas decorations, and I was having a super hard time adjusting to the empty nester way of life. And it was freezing in California! Not so this year – we’ve been experiencing 80 degree temps, and sadly, many have lost their homes due to uncontrollable fires northwest of Los Angeles, near Ventura and Santa Barbara. Last night, we heard the news of a fire engineer from San Diego who was killed while battling the Thomas fire. Evacuations continue as fire teams struggle to contain the blaze. My heart goes out to Cory Iverson’s wife and family during this difficult time. I don’t think things could get any worse than losing a loved one during the holidays.

It seems that there is news everywhere that’s downright depressing. Friends, family, and people I’ve never met going through hard times. How do you cope when things look grey? I, in no way, am comparing my life to those who are experiencing truly heartbreaking circumstances, but I definitely feel sorrow when I hear of other’s suffering. I work in a profession that day after day is troubling. The way I look at things is frequently skewered due to my own conflicts and personal life experiences. Here are five things I’ve been doing lately to help me keep from feeling discouraged:

  1. Listen to music
  2. Listen to podcasts
  3. Pray
  4. Read
  5. Movie therapy

Music is the cure for everything. Spotify is like my best friend. Absolutely no conversations needed that might end up making you feel even worse in the end! It’s free, or you can upgrade, which I highly recommend, so that you can listen to the songs you want to hear, any time. I created multiple playlists and follow dozens of others. Lately, I’ve been stuck in the 80’s, so my Classic Rock playlist has been my go to. It’s an upbeat playlist, and I never get tired of listening to classic rock. But I’ve also been into Show Tunes, ALT, Acoustic, and She and Him Christmas. Zoey Deschanel rocks. This is my Acoustic playlist. It has an introspective, self-reflective kinda vibe and is the kind of music that, for me, inspires creativity.

Listen to podcasts. Three months ago, I didn’t know what the heck a podcast was. Clearly, I was behind the times, as podcasts are particularly popular these days. There are a handful of adoptee-centric podcasts that I really dig: Adoptees on, hosted by adoptee, Haley Radke; The Rambler, hosted by Korean adoptee, Mike McDonald; Out of the Fog, hosted by Ethiopian adoptee, Kassaye MacDonald and Pascal Huynh; and Adapted, hosted by Korean adoptee, Kaomi Goetz. Please stop by my Resources Page to get the links to these awesome podcasts. I also listen to Second Wave, hosted by Thanh Tan. Second Wave is a new podcast from KUOW Public Radio and PRX where Tan talks about how the Vietnam War is still affecting the Vietnamese community. She just wrapped up Season One. I also like the The Actor’s Diet podcast, hosted by Taiwanese actress, Lynn Chen. If you’re a foodie, you might like this podcast. Chen struggled with an eating disorder in the past, as did I, so I can totally relate to her obsession with food. Others I enjoy are NPR: Fresh Air and Books and Boba, a bookclub dedicated to books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. You can subscribe to all of these podcasts on iTunes. I recently started my own podcast, Global Adoptee Talk, and will be posting episode 2 soon. I was inspired by Haley’s, Adoptee’s On and Mike’s, The Rambler. This podcast is seriously a work in progress – podcasting is like a full-time job, and I already have one of those.

Pray. Well, I’d like to say that I feel like prayer always works, but I frequently feel as though I’m praying into a deep well. I’m sure that I don’t spend enough time praying, and I certainly could work on patience, definitely not one of my strong suits. That’s all I’ll say about prayer for now and will come back to it in another post.

Read. I used to be a complete bookworm, but I’ve slowed down a bit, mostly because I’m so exhausted at the end of the day that I can’t stay awake to read. And furthermore, when you get to be my age, reading in dim light is no longer an easy task, even with progressive lenses. That being said, I’m dabbling in a few books at the moment: The Colour of Time, an adoptee anthology published by International Adoption Service Australia; Fish Heads & Folktales, a memoir written by Korean adoptee, Peter M. Moran; Don’t                , or You’ll look Puerto Rican!, a work of fiction written by one of my besties, Ruth Lucas; and Parenting as Adoptees by Adam Chau and ed. by Kevin Ost-Vollmers. My favorite genre is fiction, specifically magical realism. Just haven’t had time to get to the library.

Movie Therapy. Okay, this is an actual therapy, folks. It involves the ‘therapist-directed’ viewing of movies for therapeutic purposes. Apparently, the combination of thematic elements, such as music, dialogue, lighting, and images, has potential to evoke deep feelings in viewers, allowing for personal reflection and providing new perspective on external events (https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/movie-therapy). There you go. I’m not seeing a therapist at the moment, but I definitely see how catching the latest installment of Star Wars is therapeutic. I’ve got a list of movies I’m prescribing myself to see during the holiday break – The Disaster Artist, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Shape of Water, Justice League, Blade Runner. I’m not even sure if some of them are still in theatres.

Anyway, I hope this holiday season you take care of yourself and your loved ones. Consider getting a little ‘movie therapy’ in, or listen to a new podcast, or read a new book. Do something that makes you happy, and share it with others. Happy holidays everyone and stay safe.

Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

 

new podcast

Hsiao_Ling_H-Logo-Final-3000x3000It’s rare that I write two posts in a row these days! I wanted to share with you a new podcast I’m launching soon called Global Adoptee Talk, a podcast about the experiences of international and transracial adoptees around the globe. The podcast will feature 1:1 interviews with other international/transracial adoptees, and we’ll discuss topics related to international adoption, race/culture/identity, search and reunion, and mental health. Please stop by to visit my new site, GlobalAdopteeTalk.com.

And, please share the podcast with your adoption community! I’m off to work now…Thank you so much for visiting Global Adoptee Talk!