There are moments in my day when I feel so consumed by anxiety that I am unable to feel physically present. At those times, I live so much in my head that I forget to breathe in the fresh air surrounding me. As a result, focusing on one sensation or thought I am experiencing can seem impossible. I often begin to question my capabilities, which results in my inability to grasp control of my overwhelming thoughts.
I was 13 months old when my parents and brother flew to China to bring me home to the United States. Raised in a Jewish interracial family—my parents are Caucasian and my older brother, adopted earlier, is Cambodian—I started questioning my identity in seventh grade. My world began to shatter; I wasn’t sure where I belonged. Daily stressors triggered my latent feelings of being powerless as an infant. When my emotions overwhelmed me, I isolated myself, often contemplating ending my life. I needed to learn stronger coping strategies to move forward.
Throughout high school, I developed an interest in finding out more information pertaining to my birth history. The process was very emotional for me, and I became both angry and upset by the lack of knowledge I have about my biological history, and the lack of knowledge others have about adoption in general. I had to accept that I have preverbal trauma from being separated from my birth parents, and allow myself to feel, in order to speak openly about my journey. I began writing about my experiences with mental health struggles in my blogs and music during my sophomore year, which was freeing and which helped me overcome the emotional barriers I had previously felt. Last November, I wrote an op-ed for National Adoption Month which I was honored to have published in USA TODAY. I felt a sense of healing through talking openly about adoption, as well as educating others about the impact it has on adoptees.
I started my freshman year of college in the fall of 2022 at Temple University, which was my first choice. The many changes to my lifestyle, including living in Philadelphia rather than Fairfax, Virginia, where I grew up, were a huge transition in my journey. Finding communities where I could express myself fully and developing relationships with others who understand my experiences was important to me. I have already found communities in college that have welcomed me and introduced me to others who I can relate to. As soon as school started, I joined Active Minds, a club and mental health nonprofit organization which has programs nationwide. The bi-weekly meetings are a safe space I know I can attend, and I strive to make others always feel like they are seen and cared for. There have been multiple days when I needed time to practice self-care, and the club has been a resource for myself and others to recharge. It encouraged me to begin meditating and practicing yoga regularly to help with keeping myself centered and in a positive mindset.
I also became heavily involved with Temple’s Asian Student Association where I have met others who I can call, “my home away from home.” Within the organization, I am a participant in the mentorship program, and I am grateful to have made a connection with my mentor, who is also a Jewish, Asian adoptee. Most of my adolescence I believed I didn’t fit in, and I hadn’t met many people with a similar family structure to relate to. Lately I have felt more secure with myself, and my connections with those who are similar to me have helped me appreciate and embrace being unique. Taking care of my mental health and setting myself up to form strong bonds with others has proven to be crucial for me in maintaining a healthy well-being. I no longer feel alone in my struggles, and know I have resources and people to lean on when I need them.
By taking chances each day, I gain trust in myself to follow my passion. My efforts to have greater self-awareness each day have helped me accept that I have pre-verbal trauma from the relinquishment of my birth parents. My mental health activism drives me to continue sharing my story, serving as a role model for others. Allowing myself to be vulnerable has broken down the stigma for others to know they are not alone. I plan to continue using my voice to form new connections, always believing I have the power to make a lasting impact.
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