Power of Vulnerability

I have recently come to re-discover the power of vulnerability and I have to say, after overcoming the anxiety/shame mountain associated with this type of choice, I am surprisingly feeling more happy, grateful, peaceful and connected. 🙂 🙂

 

Some History on Me

When I was young, I was very timid and shy. Reflecting back now, I was anxious back then as well due to the circumstances of my life. As I went to high school, and stayed in the same school for more than a year for the first time and was surprisingly accepted instead of bullied, I began to discover what friendship is really like. It was amazing to me that these wonderful people liked me, accepted me, and wanted to get to know me better. Whether acquaintances or long term friends, I was very lucky to be in an environment, for the first time, where I could begin to explore who I was.

I learned that I loved to share. I was curious, caring, affectionate. And most of the time, this vulnerability was met with care and compassion. But after my friendship with my best friend fell apart, the person with whom I was most vulnerable, I became guarded but still open to the possibility of positive friendships, just maybe not ones where I was completely open.

Through university, I eventually formed friendships, often keeping my deepest darkest to myself and only sharing the good in my life. Slowly, I began to share with some close friends that I saw all the time, and many years later I became more vulnerable even with the deepest and darkest. But again, after the end of another friendship where I was the most vulnerable version of myself, I started to wonder what I was doing wrong. Was I sharing too much, was I expecting too much, was I too overwhelming?

 

What I’ve learned Since

Maybe yes. Maybe for some, my vulnerable self was misunderstood. And yes, maybe at times I expected too much from my closest, and maybe yes, I needed to learn to self-soothe so I wouldn’t need others as much. But ….. these are all expected growing pains of people with trauma and attachment issues.

But although it was important to learn these things, being more guarded, independent, self-sufficient came with cons too. Although I did not ‘overwhelm’ others, which I have now learned was more-so my perception than theirs, I also did not share my inner-self with them. And people who truly love me, as corny as it may sound, want to see what’s inside.

Due to circumstances, I re-opened myself up to potential rejection, and became my transparent self again. I felt scared and afraid that I would lose friends if I became too comfortable and shared too often, or be judged/misunderstood like in the past. But I had been too strong for too long, and gave into asking for help.

And to my surprise, I was encompassed in so much love, care, affection, understanding, non-judgement that writing about it now, couple years later, still brings me to tears. The healing power of allowing my true self to show, the good, bad and ugly, allowing myself to not be perfect, to share my not so diplomatic/politically correct thoughts, was not only freeing and uplifting but also just so beautiful.

The happiest times in my life I now realize were not those because I was young or stress free, but because I was optimistic, present and vulnerable.

Connection with others, taught me that vulnerability is an amazing thing. I touched others in my time of need, and allowed them to help me heal. We all healed together. I became even more close to those I considered as family, and this connection is invaluable to me. For a person who has been ridden with shame due to abuse most of her life, this was another experience where I healed and was reminded that I deserve respect, unconditional love and affection.

And most importantly there is no shortage of love  in this world.

Brene Brown’s research is quite accurate for me. Vulnerability is an act of everyday courage and brings connection, gratitude, love, joy and peace into our lives.

Chit Chat.

Minimalist South Asian

As time has been passing on, and I continue on my journey in life, I have developed a lot of positive values 🙂 YAYY!! 🙂

minimalismOne that has been so helpful, is really practicing minimalism. Given that I am an organizational freak …. that is how it started. After having to organize my things all the time, I began to realize how much time and energy was being sucked up by just maintaining my things!

After reading ‘the power of now’ by Ekhart Tolle and ‘the art of tidying up’ I further realized how focusing on these items was not only taking energy and time, but space in my mind, my life, leading to more stress, less happiness. And, the more I reflected, the more I realized that many of these items were not bringing me happiness but were a form of attachment to something from the past.

SO — over the last 1.5 years, I have gotten rid of more than half of my wardrobe, jewellery, etc. I’m still working on my shoes ……shoes…..  I love my shoes that I never wear 😛 😛 Like I said, its a work in progress 😛 And I am loving the increase in peace of mind I have gained with the loss of items. I am loving the time I have to put towards myself, the de-cluttering of my mind, thinking more clearly, being more present, being less stressed, and of course, doing less chores!!

BUT, to be expected, is resistance. I am getting resistance from the south asian culture. With wedding season coming up, I am getting resistance from family members who want me to want to buy new clothes, dress up like a super model, and to like it. This is not who I am anymore. Yes, when I was younger, I enjoyed feeling like a fancy princess, wearing clothes only once with matching jewellery and shoes. Now, I have a lot of indian clothes to donate, as no matter what the rationalization, they just don’t get worn enough! I truly now feel bad for the clothes 😦 Not to mention, the potential child labour that goes along with it and impact on the environment.

So, I am doing my best to fight the confusion, the push back, the peer pressure to fit in and be materialistic as well. But, the joys I get from minimalism far out way the pleasures of dressing like a princess. I still love nice things from time to time, but I put my energy into versatile items that will get enough wear out of it. Until then, I am enjoying wearing my dresses to Indian functions as well as out for dinner. And some versatile indian clothes that I will wear for years to come, in limited numbers, is what I am focusing on. And the interesting and ironic part is that although our culture overtime has become focused on grandeur, our various religions continue to encourage minimalism! So spirituality all the way, there are clear benefits for increasing peace, time and meaning in life. 🙂 🙂 🙂

What do you think?

 

Chit Chat.

Losses and Gains

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Shock. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Sadness. Acceptance?

I have been working hard to work through my grief and the stages of grief, which is more of a cycle then stages.

I have a new client at work, who has experienced a lot of loss. Grief work. I have minimal experience, but good supervision, yet still having doubts. How do I stay with my client and their grief when I have a hard time staying with mine?

Sigh. I will get through it, I will because I work really hard at being a good therapist. But sometimes I get so tired of how hard I have to work. I have to work through my emotional stuff, which makes it harder when I am going through difficult stuff.S

So what am I grieving? 

For quite some time now (over a year), I have come to recognize that my parents, although they do love me, and try to do their best, which I sincerely do believe they do, are none the less, toxic parents to me in many ways (as this too is a spectrum).

This has been really difficult for me to accept. I have now been able to accept that yes, my parents are dysfunctional/toxic but they too came from very dysfunctional families and quite honestly, the south asian culture (maybe like other cultures), encourages an unhealthy enmeshment with your parents. We are not encouraged to grow up, be independent. We are not seen as individuals with our own identities, we are often seen as extensions of our parents. That is the difference between growing up in a culture that is individualistic versus cultures that are community oriented – it impacts how you develop your sense of self and later on in adulthood, how you individuate from your parents ….. or rather don’t individuate from your parents.

So what does all this psychological mumbo jumbo mean???

It means that ….. my whole life, I have always prioritized what my parents feel over what I feel (if I was even aware of my feelings), I have worried more about how my decisions/choices would impact them (i.e. would they be uncomfortable, disappointed etc), than how I would be impacted by not being my true self. I have let myself be small so that my parents wouldn’t be uncomfortable. I have allowed them to believe that I am more ‘indian’ in terms of values etc. and hidden my more north american values/side of me – with the intention to not make them uncomfortable. And that is really just the tip of the ice burg.

I have now been embracing my true self, as a whole – both my north american and south asian sides of me. The smart, educated, out of the box thinker side of me as well as the one that still fits in the box of what an acceptable indian girl is. This has resulted in a lot of discomfort, shock, anger, grief. I have seen sides of my mom that I never thought could be there. I never thought I would experience so much pressure to stay in the box as I have.

But there is hope. I have recently come to truly understand my parents, their limitations, the potential reasons about the way they are, the limitations of my culture. I have also come to realize that I can set boundaries, I can move away from unnecessary guilt, and move towards acceptance.

I accept who I really am now and I accept who my parents can be and who they cannot be. I don’t like it, but I accept what I cannot change. I also feel motivated to make changes/raise awareness re: the cultural barriers and how it impacts our emotional development.

 

Chit Chat.

Acceptance & True Love

Today was a good day. I spent the day with my future in laws and then with friends at a baby shower.

Today after a very long time, I found myself reconnected with my true authentic self. The self I discovered when I first moved away from home, the self that was fully present and happy in the moment. I was happy in the moment today. It was such a nice feeling!!!!

For the last three plus years, I have been grieving …. even though I didn’t know it 100%, I have been grieving the loss of my birth family. They are still around but I have lost any expectation I could have from them, as I have been consistently disappointed by them.

But, I have been in denial, I have been shocked, I have been angry and depressed. I have even tried to bargain with them, find ways to get my needs met. I have tried every possible equation that could equal validation, approval, acceptance. But these are three variables I will not have (from them).

But I have many other variables in life that I am grateful for. I have amazing friendships, an amazing chosen family, amazing in laws, amazing boyfriend. And I think, its ok to say, I am quite awesome too 🙂

What’s most awesome and amazing, I think, is that I am finally more and more often in a place of acceptance. Hooray!!!!!! I don’t get so angry/depressed when my parents and brother do what they do. Now, more often than not, I can detach, I can say “oh there it is”, I can even see the irony or humor in their illogical actions.

I think more and more often, I accept that I don’t need their validation, their acceptance, their approval. More and more I feel, I don’t need that from them because, u know what, if in 32 years (now you know my age :P) they couldn’t figure out how awesome I am, yet hundreds and hundreds of other people could, well then, quite frankly, why do I need THEIR acceptance, validation and approval?? I have it from many many many other people, who can see my authentic self, appreciate it – maybe even be inspired by it. But if these three individuals want to control me, tell me who to be, judge me, maybe even oppress me, and basically stick me in a box – well then, I’m better off spending less of my time and energy on them.

 


 

Love is patient, love is kind …. you know the rest. The point is, love is unconditional and accepting. If they can’t do that, then sure they ‘love’ me but they don’t really love me in the true sense of the word. 

Sometimes, I may feel sad again or angry. But, I hope that more and more, I will continue to accept that, I have love. I have acceptance and validation. Most importantly, I approve of myself, and I don’t need anyone else’s! 

I have a lot to be grateful for. No one’s life is perfect. I wasn’t given a birth family that I wanted. But even in that there is a silver lining. 🙂

 

Chit Chat.

My Writing Journey ….

 

writing-imageI began with reading like everyone else. But since grade 1, I was the kid that had to come home and immediately do her homework, read the books assigned etc. I loved school and the stories.

I wrote reflection papers and in Grade 7 received honourable mentions about my insight into arranged marriages by my social studies teacher.

I found my love of poetry in Grade 9, and by Grade 10 I was accused of plagiarism by my English teacher because my poems were so good, I couldn’t have written them, since I could not write an essay to save my life. 😛

Through these poems, I first started to put words to the abuse that I felt. The one at monsterstood out the most, was the one I titled “the monster inside me”. I was so afraid someone would find this, that I folded it into the tiniest rectangle and hid it in the crack between my dresser and mirror. Back then, I felt debilitating shame about the fact that I was abused, I didn’t know yet, that is what it was called. I just felt like an evil child, that no one had yet discovered, because I was so sweet and loved by others.

Then, I discovered journalling, and in writing, for the first time, disclosed that I was sexually abused to my parenting teacher, for our journalling project. Thanks to her braveness, I learned that its still abuse even if you became aroused. I then slowly learned, I wasn’t a monster or an evil child. (Thank God!)

Since age 16, I have been writing in my journals. I then started a blog. When it became popular amongst people who knew me, I felt vulnerable/exposed and shut down. I did not write for many years, until I decided to start this blog, this time keeping it anonymous. Again, when I received validation and views, I again, began to feel exposed, fear and doubt creeped in.

writers-blockI will be honest. I have let fear keep me from writing. But I have also been connecting with my authentic self. She loves writing, she is very creative. She can paint, dance, sculpt, decorate, you name it. So now, I am going to try my best to be brave again, and continue with my journey of writing, because it is also my journey of authenticity, self-expression, and joy from sharing my true self with others. 🙂

Please leave a comment if you have any advice for me on how to overcome this type of writer’s block!!!!!

Chit Chat. ♥

Take it from a social worker: Why you need to consider this before having babies …

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As a thirty something year old woman, I am often assumed to want to have babies and that this will be part of my life goals. And I too, have incorrectly made that assumption about others – oops! 😛 As I have never made a decision without thinking about it almost obsessively, I have also never regretted my decisions. Yay! So, this won’t be any different. 🙂 🙂 Your decision shouldn’t be made without asking the tough questions either.

If we know parenting is such a difficult feat (and rewarding for many) why do we assume everyone would and should be a parent? I think we should encourage people to think about this decision. When a person says i don’t want to have kids and the response is ‘are you sure’, it should be equally if not more relevant and acceptable to have the same question posed to people who do want kids. Its not an insult, you should be sure, prepared as much as possible.

As a social worker/child and adolescent therapist for the last seven years, I have heard many many stories of loving parents not having the resources or knowledge or even emotional management skills to really manage raising a child that can feel secure and happy. Attachment theory will tell you why that is so important.  And then there are the parents that for many reasons were never prepared or fit to be parents – and that always breaks my heart – the pain in the hearts of these children is so grave and damaging – and I have seen that be present even for people that don’t have a history of abuse/neglect – usually due to attachment related difficulties. A good book is called “The Attachment Connection” and I encourage anyone thinking about babies to read this.  

Yes, there is hope and help available for children who have suffered accidentally – but reversing the damage is no easy feat – and sometimes these children die before they can heal. That is the worst part of my job, somehow overcoming the pain that this individual was in so much pain that they ended their life through suicide or accidental overdose. 😥 Please do not underestimate the impact emotional abuse has on a child! I see more clients who have experienced emotional abuse than sexual abuse, yet the impact on them is the same. How? Because abuse is abuse, it is qualified as such for a reason!! (More info here). Whether physical, sexual, financial or emotional, abuse causes grave damage – and they cannot be rated on a scale of “not so bad” to “disgusting”, as people often want to do. Yelling is emotional abuse, even if a mild form. Your job as a parent is to manage your emotions even if your child is frustrating you to no end. If you don’t do this, you will damage your child’s sense of self worth, which is one of the most difficult things to change. Self esteem and self worth are not the same. If you want to know more click here.

When we hear something this depressing its easy to assume that won’t be my child or anyone’s child in my circle of friends – and the idealistic and optimistic part of my soul whole heartedly believes that too. But having children and raising them well is very very far from easy. So wouldn’t it make sense to be as prepared as you can be to make the biggest commitment of your life? Unfortunately, no one gets training in even the basics when it comes to parenting in ways to keep the child’s emotional well being in tact. If you found a way to access this knowledge – I applaud you!!!! I think it is necessary and vital that  we get comfortable talking about how parenting even with good intentions and love could damage children, so that we can prevent it from happening as often.

But even around child bearing and parenting we have a culture of silence. Don’t tell another person how to raise their kid! I’m honestly going to ask why not? What if I know something you don’t – what if what I say might help your kid? Do I have to be a parent to have a viable opinion? Do I have to be a doctor? What if its not an opinion but fact? Everyone has been a child and knows how their parents strengths and weaknesses impacted them. As long as you are empathetic and respectful, I think everyone should share their feedback regardless of their parental status. What I have learned from my seven years as a social worker/therapist, is that the best way to be the best parent you can be, is to do the emotional work before you have the child, make an informed decision about pregnancy, be open to support even if you don’t think you need it as a parent and don’t isolate people from giving you feedback just because they are not a parent or a professional

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What I am saying may sound judgemental, I can assure you I am not judging parents. I understand and see the complexities of raising a child everyday in my job. I help parents see these too as I work with them. To be able to do this, I empathize with their struggles and help them improve. And even at home, I go through feelings of sadness and frustration because I see that this is not easy on the parents or the children. Unfortunately we live in a world that doesn’t make parenting easy on multiple levels, including socio-economic status, the increasing gap between rich and poor, the stagnant wages,  work stress and burnout, aging parents, bullying at school, managing living expenses, the strain on marriages, isolation …. I could go on and on.  It is hard enough to meet the child’s physical needs and provide for them and secure their future! And as much as I truly empathize with this, it is all the more reason to consider how you are going to meet your child’s emotional needs through all these challenges: because let’s face it – more and more youth are going to therapy, and rates of youth suicide are increasing. These are consistent stats across North America.

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NOW THAT I HAVE STRESSED YOU OUT, HERE IS SOME HOPE!  😛

  1. They say it takes a village to raise a child. So embrace that village!! There are many articles and supportive websites to help parents. But also, let people into your village that don’t have children. You may be surprised at what they objectively can notice and share with you, because they are not struggling with the fear and guilt parents struggle with. They can be a very important support as well as other loving parents.
  2. Don’t leave it at, well this is how my parents did it and I turned out fine. Remember the times when you hated your parents? You may have forgiven them, but I bet there is something you wish they did differently. Be a better parent, don’t aim to be adequate, because what you think is adequate, may not be. Your child is not growing up in the same world you did, it is not the same, don’t forget that.
  3. Reflect, reflect, reflect! What ever method works for you, you need to have time to reflect on your emotions and work through them. Otherwise, you will work them out on your children. Its not because you are a bad person, its because its human nature. There is such a thing as the subconscious – you cannot be aware of everything you are thinking and feeling without hard core, regular reflection.
  4. Prepare yourself financially and emotionally for this child. Discuss difficult questions with your partner before you go off birth control. For example, how will you manage the increased stress in your life that comes with a child? How will you continue to nurture your relationship and communicate with each other when you are feeling neglected or disconnected? How will you support each other in doing self-care? How will you reach out and ask for help when you are struggling? How will you improve your current emotional struggles/weaknesses and remain committed to this work for the next 20 years?
  5. DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL DURING PREGNANCY. Often, your doctor will not tell you that alcohol causes brain damage, because once you have already done it, stressing you out won’t do any good. They will just tell you not to do it again. Do the research, you will see that there is no consensus on a ‘safe’ amount or time to drink alcohol, but there is consensus that alcohol causes brain damage. And the most damaging time is often before people realize they are pregnant due to the rapid growth of the baby. However, some articles also suggest the first two weeks may be all or nothing.  Also, keep in mind, many learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder have unknown causes. Yet, the rates are increasing in children. So, why take the risk?  (More info here on FASD). If you are trying to get pregnant, you should not be drinking alcohol. Make an appointment with your doctor before you begin trying.
  6. Have friends/supports in place where you can share your struggles freely. If you believe in “keeping it in the family”, you may be doing harm to your child, because it will be very difficult to be 100% honest about your feelings. You need to have support, you need to have a safe place to gain validation and constructive criticism. You may also have to budget for therapy at some point in the 20 plus years you are supporting your children. That only makes you a stronger role model and parent for your child.
  7. Don’t stop doing research on parenting and child development. Yes, its hard to find the time. But with today’s technology – you have a lot of resources. There are a lot of audiobooks available that you can listen to, free workshops in communities. Also, balance this with a plan so that you can manage your fears.
  8. Celebrate your successes!! No matter how small, don’t forget to practice gratitude and celebrate your accomplishments and hard work. If you have made it to the end of this article, you are already doing an awesome job!!! Give yourself a round of applause and reward yourself, because you have done more than most parents. Keep it up!!!!

Optimism

I had a good meeting with my father and my boyfriend after one whole year. It felt amazing to be able to be myself and really enjoy his company and connect like we did when I still felt like his special daughter. Then, I completely put this meeting out of my mind for the most part.

Learning to heal from emotionally toxic parenting is a difficult process. But I made some progress. With a lot of support and coaching, I was able to set my expectations aside before the dinner and keep them aside after the dinner. I was able to enjoy the moment without allowing myself to fall into a cycle of worry or cycle of hope. Expectations that the next meeting would go as well or that this is the beginning of our reunification as a family would have happened very subtly in the past. But, I have been able to notice when I dream of a reconnected family. I bring myself back to reality and remind myself of my boyfriend’s very wise words: Optimism is not expecting positive results or outcomes in the future, Optimism is knowing that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And with these precious words, my healing continued without falling into the pitfalls of anxiety over rejection or the hopefulness of reconnection.

Many weeks later, I still feel balanced. YAY!!! I feel that I have been grateful for the moment, also minimized the punishing of my father and increased the empathy towards him more often in the last few weeks. It has been hard to not continue to be angry and punish, as that gives me a sense of control; there is someone to blame and hold accountable for my bad childhood. But holding my father accountable is not 100% accurate or fair as he was not the only sinner nor the only one who caused me harm.

As a child we need to know who is to blame. We need to know because we are helpless and need to know who to trust to take care of us. As an adult, that keeps us in the role of the victim, never developing the identity of a survivor in charge of our destiny. We as adults, have to trust ourselves, maybe God, maybe our partners, maybe just maybe, our ability to make good decisions. We have to meet and take care of our own needs. So there really isn’t need to blame, although it does give us the illusion of control and frees us from the anxiety we feel for being in charge of what happens to us. Sigh – can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I often want to blame others. I want to blame parents. I want to blame the world. Because this is a pretty shitty world we live in – all too often it is shitty shitty shitty. People, on a regular basis, make bad decisions, bring life into this world and are completely unprepared for it. And as a result, at least 50% of the adult population has serious issues – attachment plus trauma or abuse – at least  attachment issues. So of course, it is hard for me as a social worker – my heart breaks with every child that has their emotional needs neglected. I see the emotionally stunted adults everywhere – they are everywhere – usually unaware of the cause of their problems, weaknesses and even poor choices. Sigh. I wish I could yell at the top of my lungs and set people straight – but we live in a corrupt world that is only driven by short term goals, not long term consequences. Sigh again.

 

So, I am going to continue to let go and remind myself that it is not my problem. But at the end of the day, all I can do is my part. Once I have done that, there is nothing else to be done. I need to enjoy my life, the little good that does exist in life – I wish for more of this, and wish for God to save our children.

 

Chit Chat.