• Melissa K. Nicholson, LMSW

When We Tell Our Story, We Change The World

I never knew how difficult it would be to put my adoption narrative to the world until I was invited to be a guest on a podcast for AdopteesOn. Of course I have told people about my adoption story before. Those being close friends, past therapists, and even a few select clients whom I felt could have benefited from a certain aspect of my life and how I coped.

But there was something about preparing this brief narrative for an audience... knowing it would be broadcast internationally for many, many listeners to hear... After the past few years of mindfulness meditation, I noticed a change in my body. My shoulders and neck tightened. My face flushed. I felt a huge lump in my throat. I felt fear that was triggered by shame.

Why It's Difficult: Shame Drives the Bus

As an adoptee in a closed adoption, that's how my story starts. In secrecy. Secrecy is motivated by shame. Shame is essentially this feeling that you are inherently flawed or defective. And as Brené Brown puts it, shame leaves us feeling "unworthy of love and belonging."

What makes disclosure more difficult for adoptees, is when people tell them that their feelings and/or reactions are wrong. For example, at the time of my search/reunion, I was told by someone that I was "being selfish and inconsiderate" of my adoptive parents. The message being sent here is: "if you really loved your adoptive parents, you wouldn't be searching."

The idea that I was disappointing my adoptive parents (which I was unaware of at the time) is a major shame trigger for me. ("If I disappointed someone, therefore, I must be 'bad'... there must be something wrong with me").

After lifting part of my past that had been locked in secrecy for years, and people telling me how I 'should' be feeling and behaving, I felt conflicted, isolated and was silenced.

It's almost as if my story took ahold of me instead of the other way around...

The Antidote to Shame

"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." -Brené Brown

When thinking of Brené Brown's work on shame and the power of vulnerability, I thought of myself taking back the power of my own narrative. And how this taking back of one's narrative can be such an empowering experience and essential in the healing process of adoptees*.

Like Brené says, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to show up and be seen. I see this every day in my office just by my clients showing up and walking through the door. By going onto the stage, we are opening ourselves to the wonders of change.

Are you struggling with sharing your own narrative? When you have someone to share your story with who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive and healing can happen. Please feel free to contact me at to click here to schedule an appointment today.

*Please note: Your history, your story and your past are for you to tell. There may be people who, in telling your story, may do more harm. Please click here for more on Brené Brown's tips.

#adoption #adoptee #shame #storytelling

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5300 Northland Dr NE, Ste F

Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Licensed Psychotherapist

Trauma-Informed Yoga Educator

Tel: 616-795-0181

Fax: 888-972-8639


© 2017 by Melissa K. Nicholson, LMSW. | Licensed Psychotherapist in Grand Rapids, MI | Kent County, Michigan