Peace Talks, For One

Not being an international diplomat of any ranking, I’ve never attended a round table peace summit. I’ve watched President Bartlet broker a peace deal on The West Wing, and over the years I’ve tried to talk a few friends down from dissolving a friendship over a misunderstanding, but peace talks aren’t really in my skill set. Or so I thought.

A while ago, I think it was in a conversation on Facebook, I was chatting with some people about self-esteem and I was saying that I’m not a slave to negative self-talk. Someone in the conversation said they’d like to hear more about how I got from where I was – fearful, full of angst, and struggling against crushing negativity and diatribes of worthlessness reverberating around my skull – to where I am today – no longer really bothered by a negative internal narrator.

Could I explain the way things changed? Do I even know how or when it happened?

It’s been the subject of much reflection, not because I think there’s a six-step e-book on overcoming negativity in my future, but because I believe it is absolutely VITAL for our well-being, individually and collectively, that we shake off the crippling doubts and self-loathing a lot of us seem to battle with.

Here’s the one thing I know for sure about it – it is a long process. For me, the road has been winding and often arduous. I didn’t go to bed one night berating myself and wake up the next day an entirely different creature. Anyone who promises you that is bullshitting you. And themselves.

As I’ve reflected on getting from there to here, I have been genuinely surprised by remembering some of the signposts and milestones along the way. It seems so strange to really have to dig around to unearth things that seemed so epic and life changing when I was going through them. There’s good news there – things that feel huge and insurmountable in your life now may one day be all but forgotten.

So, how did I change?





peace talks

I held peace talks, for one.

This was no well-catered weekend at Camp David – my peace talks were ongoing, undignified, dehydrating, and scary as hell.

Honestly, I cannot articulate the sheer terror I felt as my greatest fears demanded my attention. It was primal, guttural and something I couldn’t speak about at the time, or for a long time afterwards.

The key thing that I believe allowed me to come through this season, which lasted for several years (there go my quick fix six-step e-book sales down the toilet), was that I gave myself permission to bring the dark unspeakable “truths” I’d been tormented by into the light. I wouldn’t say I rolled out the red carpet for them, because there was still a shitload of resistance as I came undone, but somehow I was ready to question things I’d always believed.

I was prepared, tremblingly, to entertain the idea that perhaps I’d been wrong about the life sentence I’d convinced myself I was under – a sentence which I believed I “deserved”.

I guess in the simplest terms, I allowed myself to ask “what if?”.

What if I was wrong about the harsh, demanding expectations I had of myself?

What if I was someone who wasn’t broken beyond repair?

What if I could think differently about my experience? Could I redeem any of it?

What if I didn’t need to get over it, but to embrace it?

What if I could stop feeling lost, or like damaged goods?

What would that look like?

What might that feel like?


My name tag for the peace talks says Annette/Sara, Adoptee.

I was born to an unmarried teenager in the late 1960s. I was put up for adoption under circumstances I know little about. Strike that, I know nothing about them. Not a thing.

Until I was in my late 20s I didn’t even know my mother’s name. I still don’t know my father’s.

Being an adoptee isn’t rare; thousands upon thousands of other people share that fate, especially in the era I was born in. Being an adoptee isn’t something I have ever been ashamed of, though I know it feels shameful to others. I have always known, it’s not a secret in my family.

I grew up in easy breezy 70s suburbia, so I have no complaints there. Actually having to write “no complaints there” is the kind of thing that pisses me off most about writing about adoption. Saying anything other than that I’m grateful or that adoption is such a selfless gift or any of the myriad of ‘always look on the bright side’ clichés people espouse, often isn’t well received. I feel like I need to defend my position from the get go. I don’t, I know. But I want to be understood.

Adoption is the Ground Zero of my wounds.


We all have our own obstacles to overcome. The things I have faced (and continue to face) may not be the same as the things you’re facing, but I believe the root of most of our struggles are variations on some common themes. We feel damaged. Broken. Stained. Unworthy.

People we love and trust may tell us these things are true of us.

We may tell ourselves they’re true.

More insidiously, we may receive these messages without anyone ever saying a word.

Some of us can’t recall ever feeling anything but a sense of not measuring up, or the pressure of nagging perfectionism, which can never be satisfied, no matter what we do.

For some, there’s a moment in time where things shifted, and the battle began.

We can’t become what we imagine is acceptable. We try. We fail. We berate ourselves. We try again. We fall down. It’s a vicious, exhausting, demoralising hamster wheel.

When that struggle begins with questions about who you are, and whether you deserve to be here at all, well, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re fucked.


By the time I was willing to pin on my name tag and sit down to ongoing peace talks with myself, I had been keeping company of people who were showing me what an examined life looked like, and I didn’t even realise it.

Until that Facebook conversation I mentioned earlier started me thinking about how I got from there to here, I had completely forgotten that my initial and excruciatingly painful forays into examining my wounds happened in the same building where I’d been shown what living a radically honest life looked like – in AA/recovery meetings.

Funnily enough, those meetings were held in the church I attended at the time, but they had a totally different candour about them than anything I’d ever known. I loved them.

I can count the number of times I have felt truly at home with a group of people on one hand, and those meetings were one of those times.

Something about that ethos of recovery, of fearless and frank self-examination, must have sunk in, because what I do remember is a shockingly seismic shift in my thinking about how adoption had marked my life.

Looking back, I can see now that the pain of that season was as much about reframing my mindset, as it was about dealing with the tentacles of adoption. I was lost and overwhelmed by the conflict I was in. I oscillated between feeling grateful, broken, chosen, and rejected. I was in hell.

I had been absolutely, steadfastly determined to “get over it”. I mean, I was an adult, adoption was something that happened to me so long ago – there was no way I should still feel all the things I felt about it. It was kind of pathetic wasn’t it? At the same time, I felt broken in half by it, and totally incapable of recovering. My mantra was: suck it up, get over yourself, move on. Don’t cause (more) trouble. I was horrendously insensitive, even cruel, to myself.

I slowly, slowly came to understand that I didn’t have to “get over it”, I didn’t need to move on or suck it up. I needed to embrace that adoption had marked me, but it couldn’t  define or destroy me without my permission. It happened to me. It is a fact of my life that I cannot change, that I didn’t choose or cause and which I don’t have to shy away from or sugar coat the impact of.

So how did I overcome my obstacles?

I started by giving myself permission to feel whatever came up.

Slowly.       So very slowly.




Then I started responding to my feelings. Out loud.

Whenever I would berate myself, or demand something ridiculous of myself, I got into the habit of rebutting whatever accusation or insult was being hurled. Out loud.

I would say something like “I am allowed to feel sad/angry/bruised by this. I am allowed to express that. I choose to show myself kindness. That’s okay.”

Whether I felt angry, sad, misunderstood, or heartbroken – I told myself that was permissible. I didn’t believe myself for a while, but I just kept saying it.

Sometimes that felt utterly ridiculous, and it was two steps forward, two steps back in the early days. Reprogramming a critical narrator takes a lot of time and energy.

So I practiced – I practiced compassion and kindness towards myself. It’s sad that it took me so long to discover that compassion can be directed internally as well as outwardly, but what a gift that discovery has been.

Life changing, perhaps even life saving.

I also realised I was grieving. That one took a while to swallow. Quite a while.

I would (and still) often tell myself “You’re alright. You’ll be okay Nettie. Be kind to yourself.”

And I will. I am.


I don’t know what obstacles you are facing, what burdens you’re carrying, or how they got there.

I do know they are heavy and exhausting.

Your lot in life is not to spend your days apologising for the space you take up, or trying to make yourself invisible. There’s no external, standardised measure of being “good enough” for the inner critic, and there’s certainly no such thing as perfection.

What there is, for all of us, is compassion.

You’re probably already someone who practices compassion for others. That’s a generous choice.

The truly radical choice is to offer that same compassion to yourself.





Can you see your name tag?

Are you ready to attend your own peace talks, for one?

I hope so.

Good luck, friend.


Annette xx

I’m no expert in any of this, I’m just telling my story. If this post raises difficult issues for you, please, talk to a trusted friend, your GP or call one of the many services that exists to help people through difficult circumstances. LifeLine 13 11 14. 


36 thoughts on “Peace Talks, For One

  1. I am in awe. Your intelligence is both high & broad. You write a truth in a way I’ve never seen done more clearly. Peace talks to yourself. They are the most valuable talks ever. Denyse


    • Thank you Sarah, I am really glad I didn’t rush to write this…. and without being asked about the topic it might not have come out this way at all. Blogging is definitely a collaboration.


  2. this is so good Annette!
    clear and concise and full of wisdom!
    this is an e book hun! … love it!
    quite a few years ago I went through some major clearing of “stuff” using the practises of
    “the journey” by Brandon bays similar ideas of compassion/forgiveness self and others!
    interesting! … heaps better since then!
    “you’re ok,I’m ok!” susan Jeffers??
    enjoy your life! and keep expressing I say! love m:)X


    • I remember those kinds of books being hugely popular, strangely they never really appealed to me – wasn’t ready, not my style perhaps – however we get there, the important thing is that we do isn’t it? : ) thanks M


  3. This journey to self-love – you are so right. Its a slow arduous road, but so worth the commitment. These days, after 4 solid decades of self-loathing and self-criticism, the words I hear from myself most often are, ‘you are doing the best you can’.

    Peace talks.
    I love it.


  4. What powerful, concise, truthful writing. If you talk to yourself the same way you write, I imagine you can overcome anything.
    Forget the e-book, perhaps you should be chairing those round table peace summits!


    • I’m not ready for the international diplomatic corps quite yet!
      Thank you so much for your kind words about my writing. It means so much to me that people get something from my blog.


  5. This post is beautiful and perfect and generous and all of the good things Nettie.

    “Adoption is the ground zero of my wounds.” This is one of the most powerful sentences I have read in some time Annette. You write about things in a way that says everything so expressively yet so concisely.

    Thank-you for these beautiful words you wonderful woman you 🙂


  6. Just perfect, every word, just like you, as you are. There just comes a time sometimes when you’re just ready to walk through the door to those peace talks and when you do change happens. X


    • It really is about willingness I think Trudie, and a conspiring of events, and readiness and definitely for me – a softening of my stubborn, prideful heart really helped.


      • Thank you Annette for sharing a part of yourself that many will find extremely helpful. I too have experienced a similar awakening of the senses. When I finally hit rock bottom and I was failing to stem the tide of unwelcome dreams and thoughts I stopped struggling against the rip and decided to swim with it. I began to allow the images of a dreadful childhood in, I allowed every tear to flow, and every pain to emerge. It did not come all at once, but over years. And whilst is occurred I made sure I only had supporters who were willing to understand my madness for what is was, the healing process. For anyone to move ahead in total peace they must first allow the truth of the pain a voice. Once that has happened then one can identify the injury, the cause and effect. By doing this we can discover the lies, through the things said and done to us that imprint our inner negative voice. By discovering and challenging the lies, we begin to change such negative dialogue and replace it with truth and positive talk and response. What we are doing is retraining the brain and a form of bio-feedback. I noticed that even physical responses changed the way I thought, as long as it remained opposite to the negative frame I had formed from a life time of abuse. I am an adoptee who suffered horrendous abuse by both adoptive parents I know positive change is possible. The negative words in your head cannot destroy you, they are only wrong messages implanted by others, We have the power to not only to delete them but replace them all together.


      • Kerri, thank you so much for joining the conversation.
        It just horrifies me that anyone could harm a child. It’s unfathomable to me. You’ve clearly come through the fire and I think your last few lines encapsulate what we both know is possible – negativity can’t destroy us, and we do have power, even though at times I’m sure we both felt utterly powerless.
        I wish you continued healing and power in your life Kerri x


      • Thank you Annette, I appreciate your kind words of support. I don’t know if you are aware of the National and State apologies for former forced adoptions here in Australia. I played a very active role and gave evidence at the senate inquiry. Very few adoptee’s spoke openly on their experience of being abused. Yet a study a few months later exposed thousands have been abused. I went public with my story in 2008 it was overwhelming and at times very scary thing to do. But I found the more I spoke up about what had happened to me the more the courage grew within me. I was very surprised to hear certain mental health professionals words discouraging me in speaking up. In their view they believed it would be detrimental. I had to go against the flow, no matter how uncomfortable I felt at the time. I knew that the core of my pain was due to be adopted, a silent grief I was never allowed to acknowledge nor express. It beat at every cell and the denial and silence was killing me. The Secrets from my childhood abuse also had to be dealt with. Finding my voice with truth and honesty, no matter how gruesome the detail, eventually made me stronger. Since I spoke out I have come across some new information by the psychologist society who have taken on a new set of guidelines regarding DID and DD (dissociative disorders) they realise that expression of pain is imperative to healing. Which is a complete flip of past practices, where the victim’s were drugged into oblivion and or prevented at every step to open up and embrace their inner core. DD takes more lives than other more seemingly severe mental illnesses. PTSD is also now being addressed in the same way. Suppression of past traumatic events are now seen as counterproductive and victims are now being encouraged to embrace the pain, to work through it and then let go. Just as you and I have done. it is important to note for safety reasons here: if anyone does endeavor to pursue unearthing the content of ones pain, it is always best to seek out others who will support you in the process. Seek out only doctors, other professionals and friends who understand why you are doing it and will support and help you through your darkest days. Anyone who is negative to your endeavors need to be locked out, or kept at a safe distance as they can unhinge you and delay the healing process. Annette, I love the unique way in which you have approached this subject and wish you all the very best for the future. Your thoughts and words have power to help heal many.


      • I went to both apologies. Such significant days, and emotionally taxing days too. Thank you so much for jumping into the topic here. I think telling our stories is powerful stuff.


  7. This is beatiful description of your truth, your path and your journey. Thank You for sharing Annette. “Adoption is the ground zero of my wounds”, for me this is such a powerful image portraying not the just the primal wounding but also its aftermath. Just so precise! 🙂


  8. What a powerful post Annette. The best I think I’ve read. I think you get to an age/stage in your life where peace talks are crucial. I’m at this stage right now in my life and slowly but surely getting there. Annette I really think it’s time you wrote a book. I’ll do the cover design for you!! Much love. xx


    • Cover by Deb, I like that idea!
      Thanks so much Deb, the talks started for me quite a few years ago, but whenever they happen (and I think they can happen more than once in a lifetime), they can be a bit testing. Hang in there! Remember, KINDNESS is key.


  9. Annette, you definitely have a way with words!
    I am one of the fortunate few (apparently) who hasn’t had a difficult life. I grew up in a loving family, my parents loved each other and all of us kids and supported us, especially emotionally.
    And yet, as a mid-thirties mum, I still face the same inner dialogue and wonder where that came from and why I face it now, when I don’t recall it in my earlier life.
    Thank you for the time and effort you put into crafting this post. It is touching, haunting, relatable, and gives a lifeline of hope – a way out of the endless cycle of self-doubt and berating.
    Now to make the time and courageously face my own peace talks!!!


    • Thank you so much xxx I think we all feel pressure at different times, whatever our upbringing. We’re always growing and facing new things. Hopefully!


  10. Whew.. That was a read indeed and a great one. What a start to life and what a concept to be primepresidentministerpeacemaker of your life.. love the concept, great post.


  11. What a massive post. So deep and insightful. You really do have a way with your words Annette, and the process that you were able to articulate is really helpful to read. I love it how you wrote to get suck it up or get over it. I thought that for years and then i embraced it. All of it and the way that i felt. And i started healing. Thank you for such a wonderfully written price. Right there. oxoox


    • I think everyone struggles – and when we are able to, there’s a lot of power in working through the stuff that bombards us. What’s true? What’s not? Who do we say we are? That’s the most important opinion.


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