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.

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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.

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.

The parent anti-oxident

“They gave birth to you …”

“I’m sure they mean well….”

“They love you very much….”

“They will come around….”

Things people will say with very good intentions to help console those that are estranged from their parents. I have hoped and prayed that my parents would come around. I have tried my very best to let the fact that they gave me life, loved me and tried their best to wash away my negative feelings. I have let go and forgiven many times only to realize I haven’t really let go or forgiven completely. None of this has been half-assed. I have honestly been working my pretty little ass off.

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Yet, here I am. Again, at a crossroad, between a rock and a hard place, whatever you want to call it – its the hardest place, most painful place I have ever had to be. And I hate having to come back to this place again and again after I have done everything I know how to do to work through my feelings and move forward. Like seriously, how many fucking feelings do I have? Because they just keep coming, and each one is harder than the first.

The precursor was anxiety. I spent two years working through my anxiety disorder to discover other underlying emotions. The first layer I faced was guilt and shame. I worked through that and improved my self-esteem and self-worth. That was a lot of work over a lot of years –  but I did it!! And I am now a proud assertive woman. 🙂 Then, came the anger and rage. This was harder than guilt and shame. But again, I worked through it – in therapy, on the subway writing in my journal, meditating, taking breaks, talking to people, crying in the shower, talking in my sleep, sobbing in my sleep, exercising, self-soothing, taking supplements, eating healthy, praying, reading etc. Like I said, I really worked hard. Then, came some empathy and forgiveness. What a relief! I could reconnect a little and let go a little. Right until the disappointment from my parents present actions pushed me right back into anger, rage, and a new layer of emotion – grief.

So here we are. Grief and loss. No my parents are alive not dead. But apparently, my childhood sucked so bad that they might as well be dead – at least that is how my body is physically reacting. I don’t want that, but my body is grieving the loss of my healthy and alive parents! How messed up is that?

Then the criticism I experienced my whole life sets in. I must be a bad child. I must be over-sensitive. I mean they gave me life and loved me and did their best. How is it that I can logically get that, want to forgive them, but the forgiveness does not stick? Am I just a resentful, vindictive, parent punishing small person? I didn’t think I was, I mean, I give all the time to others, like literally majority of my life I am giving to others. So, seriously, what the fuck??

Then eventually all the work I have been doing begins to pay off. Its not me its them. Society is wrong on this one. We have a culture of silence about talking about how loving, caring, well meaning parents can screw up their children. How? Because of low or no emotional intelligence, inability to manage their own stress/life, own insecurities and unresolved issues, lack of resources, unwillingness to seek help, unwillingness to acknowledge that they could be wrong even with good intentions, unwillingness to give up the blame game or victim mentality. In other words, because they were never brave enough to face their own shadows or resolve their own baggage, and somehow thought they could raise another human being, without the shadow or baggage impacting their child. Well, I’ll be honest, either thats just really dumb, illogical, careless and/or selfish. Yes, having a child without being emotionally prepared for it, puts you at risk of being a toxic parent.

So now what? I go on the internet to google ‘how to work through your estrangement with your parents’ and many other similar searches. Almost all the links are for parents who’s children have cut them out. Poor parents, here is how to cope if your child doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Really? Even google is telling me that the world thinks its the child’s fault. REALLY? So after another round of self-criticism, I finally come back to the realization that the internet is wrong – again only because now I have been working my very pretty little ass off. Seems like its gonna get really pretty before I find some resolution. 😛

But there is good news. YAY!! I love posts with a happy ending too (its the Bollywood, rom com lover in me ) I have done the hard work to find one book that looks promising and so far it has really been helping. The audio version is going to be my mantra to and from work. Its called “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward. I hope Susan is forward thinking enough to help me detox out of this mess. But I am prepared for a disappointment like some other books I have read. But at least I have some hope again, and its going to be back to the workout of my life – working and working so damn hard, all because – lets face it – I had lazy, flabby assed parents!!

Chit Chat.

Inner Child

The last few weeks have been difficult for me. After four years of therapy, my therapist and I came to identify that there is still a lot of healing to do. Although, I have learned that it is not my fault, processing feelings is complex – just when you think its done, another layer appears.

In all these years, I have never truly connected with my inner child. Whenever I talk about the abuse, which is rare, I talk about it as if it happened to someone else. I was shocked to discover this, I never realized this before, I talk about it very matter of fact, very disconnected. The fear of facing the grief, of facing any left over feelings of shame/guilt, and therefore the fear of connecting with my inner child has been terrifying.  I have finally come to a logical place, been able to move past my abuse and I don’t want to lose it all….

As I began to connect with this part of myself – emotions rushed in. It felt like I was nine years old again. Very weird feeling, to be a fully grown woman and feel unsafe even in your therapist’s office. Logic isn’t what can explain the feelings of the inner child. But these feelings, so old but so real, like time had never passed. I can’t do justice to these feelings with words, I wish I could. But its the first time I have truly felt speechless.

And for the last two weeks, I have been speechless. Unable to comprehend, unable to explain to others, unable to journal or meditate. I have found ways to sit with my feelings but its been a world wind. I guess, I finally opened that pandora’s box, when I allowed my therapist to take control of the session, and stopped rejecting her help with this topic. Although I’m glad to move towards healing, another part of me is screaming, what was I thinking, giving up control again? Which is ironic, because I too am a therapist, and a good one too – yet being in therapy is never easy – no matter how much you know.

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After a lot of tears, numbness, dreams, reflection and reading, I have come to realize a few very very important things:

  1. When I imagine my inner child at the time of the abuse, and I imagine soothing her, talking to her, connecting to her (as recommended for healing), I feel so incredibly guilty – and that is after I am even able to move past the numbness and connect. Guilty for ignoring her all this time, guilty for ignoring all the signs that she needs comfort.
  2. As I overcome some of this guilt, I realize that she is a wonderful child. She was so smart, so wise, so courageous, so positive and so skilled and doing her best to protect herself, protect me.
  3. As I learn to connect, I feel her intense grief, but also realize this is my grief. Mostly, for allowing myself to treat myself so poorly and reject the one person, who protected me – my own inner child.
  4. As weird, uncomfortable or illogical it may feel, learning to comfort myself and talk to my inner child, has been allowing me to feel some sense of happiness in a way I can’t explain. It is like gaining back a relationship I had lost, filling of a void that I forget is empty since I have been so good at filling it with other meaningful relationships.
  5. I continue to learn that my inner child, my authentic self is very special. She is very smart, beautiful, funny, caring, loving, able to think of others even in the worst of times, she is a very gentle soul. She truly amazes me, how at age 9, she could be so wise and giving. This brings me to tears because I have ignored this fact for over 20 years. I have allowed myself to constantly criticize and constantly shame myself.
  6. I have realized my inner child does not deserve the treatment I have been giving her. She doesn’t deserve to constantly feel like she has to be perfect, to prove that she is a good person, or to constantly desire approval/love from others. She deserves to just be and be celebrated for her courage, for her amazing self.

A big sigh of relief and a sigh of sadness. I will call this the happy-grief feeling. I am happy to know my  inner child. I never truly felt special, although I am lucky enough to have people tell me this all the time. A part of  me always doubted what they said. Maybe a relationship with my inner child is the only way I can truly fill this void. I think I realize the hardest part of abuse, is losing yourself, because every child blames themselves. What I’ve learn is that its easier for children to believe they could have changed something than to realize that it was not in their control, this is very scary as a child; to be in a world where you cannot change/control the horrible things happening to you. And it is even worse when your abuser blames you and emotionally manipulates you into thinking its your fault. And that is what my grief is about, for myself and for all the other children in this world who suffer.

As hard as that is for me, and I do feel that sadness quite often, I try to remind myself that I am one person, and I do my best to help others recover as I continue to recover myself. I have come a very long way and now I have the privilege of being able to heal fully, to be able to afford therapy, to be able to be supported by my partner, friends, co-workers, and my supervisors. I am truly very blessed. I hope that as I keep healing, I can continue to advocate, raise awareness about what it is like to recover from abuse, and help people truly heal and not just cope indefinitely. As I previously said in a post, I am trying to prioritize getting better vs. getting by.

 

Chit Chat.

Waves

 

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The beach has always been my favourite place. I always described it as the crux of life, where the calm meets the storm, where both parts of our life come together in harmony.

For me, the beach is THE definition of life: the crashing waves unto the calm and stable sand. The uncontrollable waves, with the capacity to be beautiful, calm, peaceful or scary and destructive. And the control and stability of the sand, which is always there after the storm. For me, the balance between the two, no matter how ironic, has been the beautiful oxymoron of life.

Now I have come to a new understanding of waves – emotional waves. Waves of emotion that I cannot control. Fun times (insert sarcasm here) …. another thing to get use to that is not in my control. But I do often tell my clients to accept their emotions, give their emotions room to breathe, and validate their emotions. Easy enough? hmm….

But after a therapy session, all I want to do is say, fuck! no more waves of emotions please, I’d like to close the door on this now and not come back until next week – k? But of course our emotions don’t work that way (insert tears here). They are physical and live in our body, coming as a wave, and we have to acknowledge its existence, tolerate the wave and ride it out …  I guess I better take some surfing lessons 😛

I will continue to think of the waves of the beach to calm me every time the waves of grief, rage, and other unexplainably intense emotions come my way. I will try more often and try my hardest to not be a hypocrite as I recover from my own trauma and help others with theirs.

Wish me luck,

 

Chit Chat.

 

Push, Pull, Avoid

I have been avoiding and pushing people away. I have been very very busy. Things just keep coming up, very very important things. And shouldn’t people understand how hard it is for me, how difficult it has been for me? Shouldn’t they understand that I can’t fully be there for them right now?

I hear myself talking more often than I want to about my physical health condition, my pain, my emotional overwhelm, how I’m just dealing with one thing after another, trying to make it through one day at a time. Years have gone by, one thing after another keeps happening.

As I am healing, I am noticing that things have changed. As I have wanted the world to stand still until I can emotionally catch up and be present again, others have moved forward, or so it seems. They too, have had one thing after another, and to my surprise, I had no idea. The guilt arrives, OMG, have I been a terrible friend? Did I become preoccupied with myself again, with my emotional challenges, my unmet emotional needs or with saving people who had it worse than me? I hate to say this, but today I realize, that although not intentional, partially, at minimum, the answer is yes.

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Yes. I have often been pre-occupied with myself for the last few years. Yet,  when I realize that I didn’t catch something about another person I care about – intense guilt follows.

Yes. I want to get my emotional needs met – they have been ignored for so long. Yet, I push you away when I think you are being clingy or invasive, then try to pull you back when I think I’m loosing you.

Yes. I want to know that you will be there, even when I give mixed messages. When I want to tell you that I need help, but instead I signal that I am okay; or worse, when you actually believe me and don’t further pursue – I feel slightly, if not greatly rejected.

Yes. When you consistently pursue without avail, I reject you and label you as being clingy or invasive – even though I am terrified of being labelled ‘a clingy burden’ myself.

Yes. I have unfortunately created a no win situation, or at least a very very difficult map to navigate. If somehow, you have figured out when I push you away that I want you to pull closer and also how I push you away differently when I want you to back off – congratulations, you must be ridiculously intelligent and/or extremely invested in me.

Yes. If you can figure out my roadmap, I feel loved and safe – the anxiety subsides. Yes, I also know that this is an unfair expectation – and I am terribly sorry.

Yes. I don’t want to be this complex, moody or difficult. So I hide it from you. I find ways to calm myself down, rationalize with myself and work through my anxiety that tells me that I am not loved, worthy of love or that I am being rejected.

Yes. I learned this in my childhood, mostly from my mother. When I truely and genuinely expressed my emotions to the fullest extent, when I demonstrated my affections to the fullest extent, I was rejected, minimized or criticized. Yes, sometimes I was labelled ‘clingy’ and sometimes made to feel like a burden.

Yes. My parents also had unhealthy attachment styles, and difficult relationships with their parents. Their cultural norms also make it acceptable to treat children in this manner – because parents can say anything, and children’s job is not to get offended.

Yes, I am terrified of you knowing this about me – terrified that you will think I’m crazy. I feel paralyzed by this pattern that I have recently discovered about me. I haven’t gotten to a place where I can begin to feel sane.

Yes, I am the one who is judging myself, rejecting myself, criticizing myself. Most of the time, my wonderful friends, you are there -ready to support me.

Yes. I am grateful. I am grateful for all those that make the effort, that fight for me, that care for me, that believe in me and never give up on me.

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As uncomfortable as it is for me to accept that I push, pull and avoid, I hope that knowing this now, I can begin to undue the damage and reverse another layer of the cycle of emotional abuse.