Jo-AnnaFounder of KIND Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health First Aid England Instructor, Workplace Wellbeing Consultant and Trained Counsellor

I would describe adoption as a beautiful but complex gift.

I was adopted as a baby and have a wonderful mum, dad, sister and furry brother (Harvey.. the cat). I grew up in a gorgeous little chocolate box village, learnt to horse ride, loved musicals and Barry Manilow (blame mum!), and was a happy child.

When I was about eight, I was bullied at school for being adopted, and then again when I went to secondary school. I think through the 80s and 90s it wasn't fully understood that being adopted can be hard for all concerned. Things were not always spoken about as openly as they are now. 

I always conformed, in all areas of my life; school, work, home, relationships, friendships, which I now understand was due to a fear that if I didn't then maybe I would be rejected in some way. I am now in my 40s and only just really discovering my authentic self, finding that peace and being confident that no one is going to "give me back" or "give me away" if I voice a thought or opinion that is different to others’. 

My birth mum (tummy mummy as I call her) had a very traumatic time. She had to give me up through no fault of her own. She was only 17 and didn't have control over her decisions. I often thought about her and wondered if I had a brother, I had a strong sense I did, but didn't know until I wrote an article for National Adoption Week nine years ago. It was published on the Friday evening and by the Sunday evening I had found that I did actually have a brother which then led me to the rest of my birth family - I was NOT expecting that but it was a truly Disneyesque turn of events.

I have a wonderful extended family which I am truly grateful for, but it hasn't always felt so Disney over the past nine years due to a huge mixture of emotions from everyone involved once the dust had settled, not least me.

I carried a lot of other people’s feelings on my shoulders and that often weighed heavy. As an adopted person you can feel all kinds of things; guilt, sorrow, insecurity, fear, anger, which you don't always feel able to express in case it upsets others. The triad (adopted person, adoptive parents and biological parents) of adoption makes for a complicated set of relationships. All feelings should be heard and validated but aren’t always, which can cause misunderstanding and distress.

After a difficult few years in my 30s where I was completely overwhelmed with what was happening and not wanting to share with my nearest and dearest for fear of upsetting someone, I developed some pretty unhelpful coping strategies. This led me to spiral, so I sought counselling and it really helped me unpick and process some of my feelings. 

I live with my fiance and our little dog. I changed the whole direction of my career after my own challenges around five years ago and now run my own wellbeing business. I finally feel (most days) comfortable with who I am, what I bring to the world and where I belong, but it has taken a lot of twists, turns and wrong directions to get there.

Life isn't always easy, and we shouldn't need to pretend it is, but the key is communication, patience, understanding, kindness and most of all love. I feel that love, in whatever form it comes, really can help conquer all. 

Return to the 50 Faces page