Although I haven’t posted in awhile, I’ve been writing – not creatively, which is where my attention is going to be turning over the next few months (more about that later), but in a strange email correspondence that I think is important to share with everyone. It’s a situation that anyone who blogs or writes or maintains some kind of individual or organizational internet presence might encounter.
And now that it’s over, I can tell you it was a little scary, and incredibly sad. But I can't imagine what it was like for the person who lived these experiences, and who will go on living them long after this becomes a distant memory for me. I share it so everyone can see how high the stakes are when adoption is handled carelessly.
A couple of months ago I received an email from the mailbox for a discussion group I moderate. It was from a Korean adoptee in the UK, a young man who had joined the list not realizing it wasn’t for adoptees only. He requested to be removed, I complied, and sent him a short note in response.
He wrote back, apparently wanting dialog, and told me a little about himself. I again responded cordially, and this appeared to be enough in his book to make us friends. Very soon, I began to receive long messages describing what was a horrible childhood – he had been adopted in the 70s; there are very few adoptees in the UK so he had had little contact with other KADs throughout his life; his parents were abusive, knew nothing about raising an adopted Korean child and didn’t try to learn; he had a number of medical issues that made his current life challenging; he worked, but wasn’t happy in his job.
But after the pleasantries ran out, the emails began to include hate-filled diatribes – against his first parents (with his mother especially singled out), his adoptive parents, the British, the Koreans, the KAD community, but most of all, against anyone white.
I explained over and over to this young man that I myself was white, that I was an adoptive parent, that I was much older than he, thinking this would stop the communication. But it didn’t. A pattern began to emerge – emails during his daytime would be long and filled with descriptions of his city, his job, and the racism he encountered every day; emails late in his night would be shorter, describing the violent acts he hoped to one day inflict on his first family and on all white people; these would be followed by apologies that explained his words away with alcohol.
I also noticed that if I didn’t reply to his messages within a day, I’d receive several emails angrily denouncing my false “friendship,” and saying that I, like every other person in his life, was abandoning him. I’m not sure why I didn’t just let the communication stop at this point, but there was something so desperate in this young man’s messages that I felt the need to reassure him that my lack of response was only because of my inability to keep up with email, and not because of him.
And then I received an email stating tersely that his adoptive mother had died. His adoptive father had already passed away, so this was the last connection to his adoptive family, save a tenuous relationship with his aunt. He wrote about his discussions with the attorneys handling her estate, explaining that she left nothing but debt. It was clear he was going into a tailspin.
Some time after that, he sent an email indicating that he’d been found overdosed on the stairs of his apartment building. He had spent several nights in the hospital, but under the UK’s national health plan wouldn’t be able to get into therapy for several weeks. He swore the overdose was accidental. The hospital released him without additional support.
From this point forward his messages became more erratic, more desperate, more frustrated. He needed professional help, not an email correspondence with a middle-aged a-mom on the other side of the Atlantic. I continually urged him to seek a physician’s care, and he continually told me that he couldn’t get an appointment for weeks. I told him over and over that I had serious fears that anything I wrote to him might do him more harm than good.
This continued for a week or so until one Friday or Saturday night around 11 PM, as I sat writing at my PC, I saw an email from him pop into my mailbox. Subject: Bye-bye. Ok, I thought, he’s finally recognized that we need to terminate the communication. But that’s not what he meant at all – the email was a suicide note, an incredibly sad, desperate message indicating that he had had enough, and he was going to finally kill himself.
For the next several hours I pleaded with him to call a suicide hotline, I searched in vain for one online, he emailed, I emailed, until at last he agreed to go to bed and see a physician the next day. And on the next day he emailed again, saying he would indeed seek a physician on Monday, but of course on Monday the news came that he couldn’t get an appointment for weeks.
Now I was truly afraid – afraid for him, afraid for what my communication might do to him, and frankly afraid of him. I began to back off a bit, writing less and less about anything except the need for him to seek help. He fell back into the old patterns, the daytime epistles, the nighttime rants, the apologies.
Finally, about a week ago, one of his late night diatribes included some of the most violent, most brutal, most hate-filled imagery he had written. It was graphically sexual and reveled in the torture he imagined he would inflict on those he hated. I decided I had had enough, and wrote him a message saying that he had gone over the top, and that the language and images he used were simply unacceptable to me. Of course, what followed were a string of accusatory emails making it clear that no one told him what to say, and telling me that I, like everyone else in his life, had failed him.
And with that, this correspondence is at last over. It’s clear he will not be writing again, as he typically wrote every day, and it’s been almost a week since the last messages. In honesty, I must say I’m relieved that I no longer have to face the images he’s presented to me for the past months. But I’m incredibly sad for him as well.
Pushing 40, he is clearly someone who has never in his life – not one single time – felt at ease in his own skin. The rejection he feels from his first parents and the country of his birth is gut-wrenching. His frustration with his adoptive parents, who were so bumbling that they considered bringing him a few Chinese baubles sufficient support for his heritage, and his hatred of all white people, fueled by the constant presence of racism, consume him and literally make it impossible for him to live with any sense of joy or satisfaction.
I hope he finds help and is able to come to terms with what can only be described as a life of unimaginable pain. But even as I write this, I know it’s not likely to happen. I fear that this is one life that adoption has claimed entirely.