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*Trigger warning* -- Should I tell?

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Saranoya

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Some of you may have read some part of this story already; maybe even some of these exact words.

I'm posting it again, because I've been noticing that really, I'd like to share this with someone in my "real world". I feel like many people regard me as a somewhat "incomplete" grown-up. I have no partner and no children, therefore to them, I am something of an eternal, carefree teenager. Or worse: I'm physically disabled and have epilepsy, so I'm not truly grown up because I will always need someone else to take care of me.

In reality, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself the great majority of the time. And I believe that I have lived through more than at least half the people I know who are older than me. As Abraham Lincoln once said: it's not about the years that are in your life; it's about the life that's in your years.

Now the question is: *is* this "too much information"? How would you react if someone that you've known for a few years but aren't really intimately close to, sent you something like what I've written below?

***

These are a few of the things that you already know about me: I come from [censored]; I’ve studied at the University of [censored]; at some point, between the years in [censored] and the years in [censored], I ran away from home; and I have a daughter.

These are a few of the things that you didn’t yet know about me: my daughter and I have the same father; the first person I tried to talk to about that, was unable or unwilling to listen; therefore, I decided to give birth anonymously, at a French hospital just across the border.

Years later, right before the start of my fourth year at university, I completed a four-week internship at an institution that, fifty years or so ago, legitimately could have been called an orphanage. In 2006, though, there were very few if any orphans there. It was meant to replace or complement the family home, for children with parents and relatives, but without a safe place to go.

On the first day of that internship, I met a little girl with blonde curls and blue eyes. In her too-wise-for-her-age gaze, I could easily have recognized my own daughter’s, were it not for the fact that she was a little over a year older than Nel. But just like Nel, she had been left on a maternity ward by her mother, shortly after birth. And unlike Nel (I hoped fervently), she had never known what a true home is like.

She turned five years old on the Wednesday of my third internship week. There was a party in the living room: cake with whipped cream, a present, music and candy and children’s games. All the bells and whistles. Yet the little girl with the blue eyes and the curly hair was crying.

Most of the kids in that place received visitors once in a while. A lucky few had at least one parent who looked forward eagerly to every moment they could spend with their kids. Others were visited by grandparents, former foster parents, friends, or extended family. Only one girl never, ever received any visitors at all. Her list of family, friends and acquaintances contained just a single name: the name of the mother who had chosen to leave her child at the hospital.

Thus, on the occasion of this girl’s fifth birthday, I paid her a special visit in her room; strictly off-limits to outsiders, except for that one time. We drank tea from porcelain cups. There was music, and milk with cookies. And I gave her a present — one that I wished I could have given to my own child.

For four weeks, I played soccer or catch with the children, in the big square behind their big house. I enjoyed the sound of their breathless laughter, the way I’d never enjoyed the sound of anything else in my life. I was the referee in all sorts of games that had been invented on the spot, with rules invented on the spot, and seldom the same at the beginning of a game as at the end. I negotiated their fights, dried their tears, and put invisible bandages on small pains and sorrows. When someone became so scared, so angry or so withdrawn that no magic spell or potion seemed able to help anymore, we went and fed the chickens, just the two of us. And every night, I fell asleep in tears. Tears for all those children without a family, and maybe, just a little, for myself. But above all: tears for my daughter. My daughter, who perhaps had been condemned as well to a life without a mom or dad; without friends and family; without warmth and love; without a true home.

In September of 2013, I began studying at university for the third time in my life. I eventually did finish the first degree, because that was expected of me. But I never really used it. How could I have? How could I explain to other people how to manage their own families? How could I be among those to decide someone else’s right to raise their own offspring? How could I judge the conditions in which a child should best grow up?

For years after that — after the internship that, in many ways, both began and ended the professional path I ultimately decided not to pursue — I found it extremely difficult to ponder questions like those. Wasn’t my own child at least as devoid of a home as all those institutionalized children? Hadn’t just as much injustice been done to her? Had not her roots been cut off abruptly? I didn’t know. I hoped, of course, that the answer to all of those questions was no. But there was no way for me to know. And so, I thought, perhaps it would be better not to ask those questions anymore.

After my daughter was born, for days I lay in my hospital room for one — a bubble that protected me, for a little while, from the cold and harsh world outside — just staring at the ceiling. At that point, I had hope for Nel, even though she was really, really small. There is a name for it, I know now: dysmaturity. Sometimes, that’s even worse than prematurity, which is the direct cause of my own physical disability. But luckily, Nel did breathe on her own from the get-go. It put my mind at ease, at the time. Small, but kicking ass, I thought. Perhaps I was too optimistic.

In those long nights in which, eyes wide open, I counted specks on the white cardboard tiles above my head, I imagined that Nel was already underway to her new mom and dad — her real mom and dad. I imagined a nursery high under the roof of an old-fashioned farmhouse, with wood paneling along the walls, where Nel spent the night in her own bed for the first time. I imagined a rocking chair painted red, and with sheep’s skin draped over it, where she was gently rocked back to sleep after every bottle. I had hope for my child. Hope was my mantra.

My hopes were crushed when, during an improvised birthday party in September of 2006, I was confronted with a rather harsh reality: not all motherless children really get a second chance. Certainly not if they are motherless children with the kind of history that puts their long-term health in serious jeopardy.

But you have rekindled my hopes. By pure coincidence, you happen to have a daughter who was born on exactly the same day as mine. By pure coincidence, you are also the mom of an adopted African child: a motherless child who, as far as I can tell, did find a real home.

These days, I imagine that Nel has a mom like you. One who lovingly washes an eleven-year-old’s hair, even though she knows full well that a girl that age is perfectly capable of doing such things on her own. Who studies French, or geography, alongside her daughter, because it’s easier with company. Who goes to work when one of the children is ill, but would much rather have stayed home. And who gets her near-teenager to take care of unpleasant necessities by saying: if you don’t want to do it for yourself, then do it for me.

So now, with you telling me that you feel guilty for having left me out on the street, tired and weak but apparently alert after a seizure, I wonder whether I should let you know about all this. You had to catch your train. At the other end of that ride, your twelve-year-old daughter was waiting for you to pick her up from band practice. The choice was between leaving me to fend for myself, and keeping her waiting out in the cold. It’s the kind of decision that isn’t even a decision, as far as I’m concerned; hardly worth pondering for the thirty seconds it took me to write this paragraph.

And yet, apparently, you feel uneasy. So I want to say: you’re not helping me, or yourself, by feeling guilty about something that is in no way your fault. If you really want to help me, then do what I can’t. Take good care of your kids. Give me hope that there are places where babies without moms can find good homes, no matter how they happen to have come into the world.

But maybe, that’s just too much information.
 
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Kerome

Kerome

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Well, you ask how I would react. First, I'm glad I am reading this, rather than hearing it in a conversation. It makes it easier somehow, and gives you time to compose your thoughts. I'm sorry for what happened to you, it's not right. But I am glad your baby lived, many orphans have decent lives in this day and age. And I'm glad you finished your degree, many with your background might not have.

I hope you are not going to let your background stop you from having a halfway normal life, with lovers, a job, good friends, and all the things we all have as our heritage, from philosophy to art to exercise and sports. You deserve these things and a shot at happiness away from your past.

Should you tell? I think I would put it away in a mental cupboard for a while, a good few years, until I was ready to talk about them to my partner or a close friend. And take the chance to live a normal life for a few years.
 
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Saranoya

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Hi Kerome,

Thank you for your response.

It strikes me that you seem to think I can just one day decide to have "a normal life", and then it's going to happen. I don't think it is quite that simple.

I have a job, and I am working towards a different (more meaningful) one, in education. I have good friends, great colleagues, a social life, and hobbies like music (I play the piano) and seascouting.

I do not have a partner, and I don't think that's going to happen for me any time soon. I have a visible disability. Those who will consider me as a potential partner, because the idea of "having to take care of me" for the rest of their lives doesn't scare them away at first sight, will tend to do exactly that: "take care of me" for the rest of their lives. But what I want is not a caretaker. I want a partner. I am not helpless. Far from it

There's also the fact that I've only ever fallen in love with women, since I was old enough to understand what falling in love is. That, right there, is a whole other layer that seriously complicates things.

So I'm left sharing who I am (or not) with people I consider friends ... or with strangers on the Internet.
 
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Unique1

Unique1

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Hi Saranoya

I am so sorry for the sadness you have obviously experienced. I have to say, how beautifully written this is.

Would I tell? Is this too much information? It's a difficult one, because I don't feel you deserve any further pain than you have experienced and opening up about anything that is private to you, can mean you are making yourself more vulnerable. Having said that, it could help you and whoever you are telling. It all depends if you are ready.

I think I would tell, depending on who it was.
I really wish you well.you deserve in life to do whatever you wish to do, and to succeed .
X
 
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Saranoya

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I'd like to say explicitly that I very much appreciate any response anyone is willing to give. That's why I post here, after all. I know none of you can solve my problems for me, but I'm sharing with strangers to see how they react, maybe so that when I do decide to share "for real", I'll have some clue as to what to expect.

I did not mean to give anyone the impression that they "just don't understand", or that I do not value their input. I do.
 
Kerome

Kerome

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I have a job, and I am working towards a different (more meaningful) one, in education. I have good friends, great colleagues, a social life, and hobbies like music (I play the piano) and seascouting.
Then you are already better off than many people that wander through here - you've managed to gain some distance from your problems, have built up a life within which you function quite well, and have some optimism and spirit to react against your disabilities and past. That's an achievement to be applauded, it truly is. Many people take decades to get there, and many others never do.

what I want is not a caretaker. I want a partner. I am not helpless. Far from it

There's also the fact that I've only ever fallen in love with women, since I was old enough to understand what falling in love is. That, right there, is a whole other layer that seriously complicates things.
Then perhaps this is something to pursue. I think my advice - of leaving the past for what it is - and focussing on making as much of the life you have as you can, still stands. Melancholia is the enemy, and if the people you love are women, then so be it. Lesbianism is mostly accepted these days, is it not?

I think that in itself is a big enough challenge to be getting on with. :) I think that once you have found a significant other to share it with, it may be a good time to unlock the box of secrets from your past and share them again.

So I'm left sharing who I am (or not) with people I consider friends ... or with strangers on the Internet.
Which I think is brave, authentic, and likely to be therapeutic, so I am happy that you have taken the step of telling some people. But you should be aware that if you tell anyone who knows you already, a friend from your circle of colleagues perhaps, about these things, it will change their perception of you. You will probably go from "brave friend with disability" to "girl who was abused and left her baby". For some it may not matter so much, but I can imagine people being very split on the subject.
 
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ramboghettouk

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my experience is tell someone at work ask them to keep it in confidence and it'll be all round the office, at least your in a position to hide it and it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb
 
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Saranoya

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Melancholia is the enemy, and if the people you love are women, then so be it. Lesbianism is mostly accepted these days, is it not?
Lesbianism is not the problem, except in that it makes the dating pool that much smaller. And as someone with a disability, it's already a challenge, for reasons I explained above. The problem is not that I don't (want to) fall in love with a woman. The problem is that very, very few of them can love me back.

You should be aware that if you tell anyone who knows you already, a friend from your circle of colleagues perhaps, about these things, it will change their perception of you. You will probably go from "brave friend with disability" to "girl who was abused and left her baby". For some it may not matter so much, but I can imagine people being very split on the subject.
Well, the fact is, both of those things are true about me. Those who can accept the "disabled but brave" part of me but not the "abuse survivor" part, and all the ugly choices that entails ... it's not that I don't want those people as friends, but sooner or later, they *are* going to disappear. I can't play a part forever.
 
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Irone93

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I will tell you how I responded: I teared up. No one, no one should have to go through what you went through (and are still going through). I think this is part of the problem with the medical model applied to human psyche. You can't fix it, it won't be better. You can only do the best you can, but others want it fixed and so do we but things don't just get undone. I'm not saying you can't have a better day, of course you can. But I am repulsed by the notion many have to fix you (or anyone who has experienced such abuse). I feel like the world should be cut down in your behalf. It's not right, and to carry the additional burden of the world blaming you for the results of abuse is sick. All we can hope is one day things will be set right. Birthing your daughter and giving her up was brave. Don't assume that her life is one of suffering. You kind and unselfish was her first moments and she is likely flourishing and had you to thank. Don't assume the worst.
 
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Saranoya

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Hey Irone,

I want to thank you for your outrage on my behalf. It is comforting to know that there are people out there in the world who truly understand how devastating it can be, first to go through something like that, and then to have to carry it around as a secret for a decade or more.

But I will say again what I have said to you before, on the other thread: it is not true that "things will never get better". Things are a million times better for me now than they were =the day I gave birth. Part of the reason I'm having trouble keeping the secret is because I feel guilty about the life I was able to build because of it. Part of me thinks I don't "deserve" this. That people should know me for who I really am: girl who was abused and left her baby. I'm not sure it's wise to throw it out there, but I know it's what I'd *want* to do, if I were brave enough.

I do know one thing for certain, though: going through this helped make me into the person that I am today. Wisdom does not come before experience. Were I to take this experience out of the equation, I'd become a completely different person. I'm not sure I want that. I am nowhere near perfect, and yes, I have my scars, and some of them are deep and potentially life-altering. But I'm OK with who I am. I think that's the key.

Find a way to be at peace with who you are, Irone, and everything else will fall into place. You won't need to be "fixed" anymore.
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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It's hard to know how the person who you intend to send this to will react.

Personally, my reaction is one of compassion. If you gave me this letter, I wouldn't judge you for what you said at all, nor would I feel you had burdened me. I would want to do anything I could to help you and i'd tell you that you could talk to me any time.

But, that is my personal reaction. I can't imagine anybody why anybody would react badly towards you for this letter, but then again, there are some cruel people in the world.
It is really brave to be telling your story and to talk about such painful experiences.

I think you should weigh up the pros and cons of disclosing this to someone. What's the worst case scenario? What is the best case scenario? Is it worth taking the risk?

I'm sorry if this reply is a bit disjointed. I just couldn't read your story without responding in some way.
:hug:
 
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Saranoya

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Hey SomerSet,

Thank you for your response.

I've already told this person (the person my letter is addressed to) that I have a daughter. I was very nervous after I'd sent the e-mail telling her that. She is an adoptive parent. Who knows what she thinks of people who give birth only to abandon their offspring? The African child she adopted had to go on a diet for the first year after she got here, because she'd been fed far too little at the orphanage where she came from, and the rich foods over here were accelerating her development to the point where she was hitting puberty at the age of five.

So there is a risk. That she might hate me. Because I waffled between "I want to take care of you" and "I won't even acknowledge you exist" for long enough that my baby came out way too tiny. Because I didn't feed myself like I should have, all throughout my pregnancy. Because more than once, I hoped for a fall that would end it all.

Then again, if she didn't hate me after having learned of the existence of my abandoned child, chances are she won't hate me any more if (or when) she learns who the father is. And I do want to share. I do. Maybe not with her, maybe not with my entire world, but with someone. Trouble is, I can't seem to find that "someone".
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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Then again, if she didn't hate me after having learned of the existence of my abandoned child, chances are she won't hate me any more if (or when) she learns who the father is.
You're right. She hasn't judged you so far, and rightly so.
I do believe we as human beings are all here to learn from one another and we also, mostly by accident, teach others. There's a chance you could enrich her own experiences by increasing her understanding of how difficult it must be for someone to put their child up for adoption.

And I do want to share. I do. Maybe not with her, maybe not with my entire world, but with someone. Trouble is, I can't seem to find that "someone".
It's really difficult, but I would say if there is some doubt inside you then perhaps you should take some time to really reflect before you come to a decision.
I can't imagine how hard it must be for you and how long this secret must have eaten you up inside.
I really want you to find that "someone" who will be supportive and that you find the experience of talking about what's happened a liberation and a weight off of your shoulders.
 
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Saranoya

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Well. I knew this story was going to get a tail, somehow. And so it did.

Exactly one week ago today, you sent me an SMS. It said: I worry when you come to your lesson alone. I worry before, I worry during, and I worry after - especially when I have to let you go home on your own. The implication, of course, is that you don't want me to come to lessons anymore, unless I can find someone to come with me.

Which I have. I've found someone who wants to be my driver every Wednesday, for now. And I've worked out a long-term plan, to make sure that you'll never have to worry again about me getting home safely after a lesson. But in the process, I have given up the freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want. Now I can't come to lessons at all anymore, unless I'm escorted.

And here I am, once again: half-grown, in your eyes. You apply the same rule to me that you do to your twelve-year-old daughter, when you tell her: "I don't want you to go home from band practice on your own." Twelve-year-old girls have moms who say that kind of thing to them. Twelve-year-old girls live with their parents, who decide after much deliberation whether or not it's OK for them to go anywhere (like out to eat a sandwich) on their own.

But when I am at a sandwich bar, where the person at the counter looks past me and my wheelchair, and asks the next guy in line what I want (because surely, I can't be here all alone, can I?), I'm not even a twelve-year-old out to lunch without a chaperone for the first time in her life. I'm a three-year-old toddler, incapable of expressing her own preferences.

And no, I don't live with my parents anymore. I haven't since before I was legally old enough not to. You believe that because I insist on being independent, I must not care very much about my safety. But you're wrong. I became independent at a younger age than most, because it wasn't safe for me not to. And since then, I've kept on trucking. I can't go back to depending on anybody, because I don't trust most people not to take advantage.

So now, I have another story that I want to tell you. The story of how, at seventeen, I chose to become a homeless person. Not just because I was a difficult teenager and my mother got fed up with me (as I've implied to you before). But because I actually felt safer on the streets than in my parents' house.

Instead, I will probably just tell you that I haven't been a child in a very long time, and so I would prefer not to be perceived or treated as one. Which, of course, is also true. Just not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And once again, I become something less than the full person that I am, because people like you, who live in a different world, can't deal with the entire picture.

I understand. I do. But it's a lonely life, this way.
 
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