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.


Mama Nabi said…
Oh. My. I'm so sorry you've been through this - I do hope he finds some comfort in his life... it's just terrible. I also hope you find comfort away from this...
zoe said…
Oh, Margie...I don't even know what to say. I feel so sad that this man has had such horrible expeiences, and I wish him peace.

For what it's worth, I think you were absolutely right to reach out...and to pull away when you did. You did the most that any caring individual could have done in your position. I'm sorry.
Dianna said…
I'm incredibly sad for this man who's life has been so affected by his negative adoption experience. I'm also sad that he felt like he had a right to pull you into his tailspin. It must have been very painful for you to participate in his descent.

I think it's important to note that his adoption happened in a time when most a-parents were encouraged not to speak about the adoption. His a-parents did not have the resources that a-parents have today, and most likely buying 'a few Chinese baubles' was their sincere effort to reach out and connect with their child's heritage, without any guidelines about how to do so.

I hope that he finds some peace. And I hope that you feel at peace with your decision to stop contact. You're very strong.
suz said…
Unlike Dianna, I dont find any need to validate or defend or explain the wrongs of his adoption or his adopters. The boy was traumatised. You gave him validation. You attempted to him and be his friend. Who cares about his adoptive parents or what happened in the 70s. It was about him as it should be.

As you friend, I can say I am sorry you went through this. I also moderate a list for Kurtz agency adoptions. We had a very troubled young man as well. VERY wealthy adoptive family, VERY mentally ill boy that was clearly bought as yet another material possession to round out the infertile wealthy family. He was brilliant and as a such, very dangerous. I removed him from my list when he started harassing other first moms (clearly projecting his own anger that was meant for his own first mother). I kept in contact with him for a bit and then he stopped communicating.

If you havent already, I recommend posting some sort of disclaimer on your list indicating that it is not a substitute for real therapy and professionals. I did this with my list. I can send you the copy if you wish.
Anonymous said…
Oh my goodness. I read this post with a pounding heart. How sad. How upsetting. How awful for you AND for him. What pain! You really opened up to him and clearly he needs so much more. What a sad, tragic story.
Susan said…
That last comment was me: I didn't mean it to be anonymous.s
joy said…
oh Margie, I am sorry for you, I am sorry for him.

I had a friend in real life, that my best friend actually brought to me, like here Joy can help, except, I couldn't, and he shot himself. It is so awful.

He had no sense of humor, I mean that probably sounds inane for me to say, but I think laughter saves lives. I do.

I am sure this was very hard on you, I hope you are kind to yourself.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this story. Your strength in dealing with this situation is inspiring, including the wisdom to let it go. J.
Deb said…
Margie, this is a terribly story. How awful to live the life he describes, and how difficult for you to be caught in the periphery of it. It was a true act of compassion for you to have done what you did-- and a true act of good sense to cut it off when you did.

I do want to make one comment, though: I think it is an injustice to lay all of his problems at the feet of adoption. No doubt adoption contributed, perhaps significantly, to his troubles, but these situations are rarely unifactorial. And he holds siginificant responsibility for having chosen not to get help, with his depression and his drinking and what sounds like a personality disorder. I work professionally with people who struggle with many of these issues (even without adoption thrown in). From your description, this individual was actively resisting help. It took a long time for me to realize that if I was the person working the hardest to achieve improvement and recovery, that meant we were never going to get there, and it wasn't my fault (except insofar as my efforts relieved them of the responsibility for their own mental health). This individual is seriously disturbed, and it is not your fault, nor your responsibility to fix it. Indeed, it is not within your power to do so.
MomEtc. said…
How devastating. It sounds like his life has been a nightmare and he can't seem to summon up the resources to work through his experiences. I agree with the previous poster that it sounds like there's a lot more going on here than just an adoption gone wrong. I give you a lot of credit for hanging in there and trying so hard to help him. I think you did everything you could. I'm praying that he's getting help on his end.
Margie said…
I'm seriously worried about this young man, because he is clearly suicidal but doesn't seem to recognize how serious the situation is for himself.

I've wondered if his problems would have been as severe if his a-parents had been more supportive, or if they had lived in a place where he had had more contact with Koreans, or if he had known other KADs growing up. I have to believe it would have helped, although given the depth of his emotional distress, it seems likely to me that he would have still had issues.

I have to wonder what the Korean agencies were thinking when they allowed him to be placed where he was. He said in an email that he was one of 76 Korean KADs in England. I don't know if that number is correct or not, but I do know the number is small. That has to have been incredibly hard for him, given the level of racism and the lack of a-parent support.
weigook saram said…
How heartbreaking. I will echo what another commenter said, and say that I think you were right to reach out to him, and right to end contact when you did. I hope he finds the help he needs.
Kahlan said…
This post just breaks my heart. :( :( :(
How terribly sad for him and painful for everyone. You did the right thing. I pray he does get help and finds his way out of that horror.
ani said…
I can not imagine how much pressure that must have been on you. and the level of fear it must have placed upon you. I am so sorry. I hope things settle down.

Margie said…
Update 11/3: I've received four emails from separate individuals who have been harrassed by this individual, whose pattern was the same or nearly the same with them.

Because of the violence of the threats he has made to harm his first parents and others, I took the advice of a commenter who emailed me privately and have sent a complaint to the US internet crime reporting site. Although I doubt there is much they can do, I felt it would be irresponsible to ignore the possibility that this young man might snap and truly harm someone.

I will also alert those moderators of Korean adoption lists that I know that may not be aware of him, and let them know what has happened. That way, if he looks for membership on those lists he can be blocked.

I really feel for him, but after hearing some of the things he has done in the past, I recognize his illness is far beyond my power to help, and without help he could be a real threat.

Thank you all for your help, I appreciate it very much.

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