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.

fitness-girl-23854273

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.

maxresdefault

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

 

cropped-obit_header_beach_footprints.jpg

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.

istock_000016583987small

 

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.

c44cd0cf86eaa4364e41f51af89a70a9

 

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.

 

 

HOPE

download (1)

Hope

Hope was something that I felt I had lost. I also came to realize that hope could also be dangerous. Always having hope that my parents would come around, that they could grow, learn, become better and more importantly that they wanted to do this, was hope that always gave me strength. Until it didn’t. Hope became the glimmer I always looked for, only to be constantly disappointed. In this hope, I made many decisions that if I knew differently, I would have lived my life differently. In the hope they would come around, I remained more attached to the idea of being the daughter they would approve of and hopefully, accept and love unconditionally. But as I faced reality and the devastating pain that came with this reality, my hope began to disappear. Now, I sat in my bathroom shower bawling my eyes out, crying until I could no longer breathe, feeling the strongest physical pain I have ever felt in my heart. Without hope, I did not know where to go, what to do, I had no direction. Without hope, this pain felt like it would consume me and moving on felt necessary but all I could see was darkness, with no direction of how to escape the pain.

Then a new hope appeared. I still don’t know how I got here, but eventually the pain began to subside. But it did not subside until I surrendered to allowing my pain to express itself, validating my emotions and accepting that for now, I may not have answers but I would have to continue to try to move forward, no matter how directionless. As I began to reconnect with the present moment, I began to appreciate what was present in my life that was positive, that gave me love and acceptance. As I began to look around, I started to think of acceptance differently. I accepted and loved myself, my friends, boyfriend, coworkers, employers and even some clients accepted and loved me! There is acceptance all around in my world. Yet, the emptiness and the hole in my heart still often remains. Being present, recognizing everything that is going well, has begun to bring back hope into my life. A hope that I can become attuned with my own needs and practice self-love and self-acceptance. A hope that all the love and acceptance from others can fill the empty part of my heart in different ways. A hope that I can be happy and move forward in life, no matter how my parents behave now or in the future. Now, when my parents do what they do, I am no longer as upset or attached to it. I don’t expect them to be better human beings, to change, to grow or to even love me unconditionally. I accept they love me, but I also accept that they love me in very flawed ways. Their humanity no longer has as much of an impact on my humanity, my self-identity. It has been a very very rocky road, and it is no where near over. But, I have been holding on, now I see that my pain is beginning to end, or at least diminish.

Chit Chat.

Pre-Occupied

download

Pre-Occupied: verb. A matter or subject dominate or engross the mind of someone to the exclusion of other thoughts. – google dictionary.

Attachment: theory. A deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space – simplypsychology.org

It was a Wednesday like any other Wednesday. I was sitting in another attachment training, reviewing what I had already learned in the last two years of these monthly trainings. As the newer staff were catching up on what attachment really looked like in our clients, I was reflecting on what my attachment looked like with my parents.

Two weeks prior to this meeting, I made a very important step towards self-disclosure about my sexual abuse to my parents. I disclosed smaller but important concerns that had lead to anger/resentment. These events had left me feeling uncared for, as my emotional needs had not been met in these circumstances. Needless to say, it went poorly, with minimal validation or closure and most of my fears of my parents’ inabilities were confirmed.

However, here I was at work, in a more emotional place than usual. I listened to what I had heard many times before, but something interesting happened. I had an overwhelming emotional response. In my mind, all I could see were memories, flashes and the feeling that everything was clicking and making sense. Click Click Click …. crap crap crap!

I just discovered another layer of trauma that I did not really accept I had. Wonderful! Time to find the immense energy it will take to work through this layer, when I am already feeling emotionally tapped out, trying to keep it together every day, trying not to break down crying on the subway, trying to be there for my boyfriend in his time of need, and trying to continue to be the best therapist I can be as I listen to those who have it much much worse than I ever did.

After a sobbing session (or three) in the work bathroom, I feel a wave of relief. Through my overwhelming sense of grief and pain, I feel a sense of acceptance, peace and understanding seeping through. I begin to feel calmer. I remember other times I had these moments of difficult realizations of why I was the way I was or why my life was the way it was. I remembered, the best therapists are the ones who went through trauma. Working through this, really understanding how much attachment affects all your relationships, how even with good intentions you could screw over all your relationships – how that feels, how it is experienced, how helpless one feels knowing this, then how to finally change it and over come it – can only be another beautiful gift I can give to others.

For now what I have learned is that accepting that I have a preoccupied attachment and maybe even an avoidant attachment is very difficult. But for years my friends have said to me, sweety, you need to think less, you think too much. Meaning, I am very worried, obsessively worried when I don’t need to be. For years, I have felt helpless, overwhelmed by my own thoughts, felt stuck in anger and resentment. I have had a very hard time forgiving then maintaining forgiveness. I have had a very hard time not talking about, thinking about, writing about my trauma, my childhood. I have had a great internal longing to work through all this so I can finally heal and stop being captive to my past, my trauma, my thoughts. I always thought this preoccupation meant I wasn’t healed yet from my abuse. What I did not realize is that this preoccupation began before I was abused.

Parents pass on their attachment styles to their children. My parents are pre-occupied and avoidant people. I am both pre-occupied and avoidant. I have developed secure attachments and have learned to be less pre-occupied and almost non-avoidant with friends. But the closer the relationship, the greater the attachment to that person, the more this learned attachment pattern is triggered. Why? Because the greater the internal connection to another person, the greater the fear of rejection/fear of not getting your emotional needs becomes – and the fear begins to feel overwhelming, suffocating, debilitating. Without lots of work, any person feeling this way will then revert back to what they subconsciously learned from their parents, because when stress levels are that high, humans cannot think clearly. As a result, in various ways, people with an insecure attachment (i.e. pre-occupied, avoidant, disorganized) will create the rejection they fear. Either I avoid and push away, or I become so pre-occupied with the relationship that I appear needy/clingy, or I become so pre-occupied with my past that I miss things in my present. I miss important signs, signals, I forget important conversations, I begin to appear selfish, self-involved, uncaring, ungrateful. None of these help relationships, and the ones we love the most are most at risk of having to deal with this.

Sigh.

I am learning, trying to learn, to accept that this is what is happening for me and has been happening for me. I see a pattern of how this played out with friendships that did not workout and ex-boyfriends. I am learning to accept this is NOT my fault. I learned this from my parents. They learned it from their parents. Unfortunately, very few people in the world, much less in India where invalidation is a normal occurrence, have a secure attachment 100%. But, now hear I am. Beginning a new chapter of my journey, to now uncover this layer of maladaptive attachment behaviours that I keep repeating even though, I never ever wanted to be like my parents. Subconsciously, I am already like them, and now I have to undue what I learned while still finding a way to not resent them for the damage they did to me because they were damaged as well.

Thanks for your support and visits,

Chit Chat.

Gender-isms

shutterstock_3146139

Gender-isms are the subtle comments, the caring messages, the seeming compliments that are often said time and time again until you are shaped and moulded to be the desired version of your gender. Also known as the ‘good little indian girl’ phenomenon.

I could list hundreds of disempowering comments my mother has made towards me that has let me know that as a woman, I am less than. And that my ambition to be an equal, is at times, an inconvenience to her.  The theme that remains is that education for a woman only serves one purpose – to catch a more educated (translation: rich) man. But pursuing a career, thinking about having other desires besides having children are only things men can consider. These are non-options for women, and if women pursue their non-options then it is justified to break them down by using emotional manipulations. Again, I could list hundreds of comments that reflect this attempt to control me and mould me back into what a woman should be.

The most ironic comment reflecting this was when I was much younger, my superstitious mother who believes in gurus being able to predict the future found out that as per her trusted guru, I would achieve what ever I wanted to achieve. Amazing news right? Nope. She came home, listened to these pre-recorded predictions and let me know that would not be me. That my brother would achieve what ever he wanted to achieve but my fate would have me working on and off and struggling with work. She determined that although this guru was someone she once trusted – he could not possibly be correct about my future because I was a woman, aka, weak, aka meant to stay home and raise babies while my husband ‘took care of me’.

Although it sounds endearing when my parents say that they just want to make sure ‘I am taken care of,’ the sad reality is that just again implies that I am weak. But of course, my brother does not receive this endearing response – because I guess penises must be magical objects that give humans strength. And silly me, all this time I thought strength was derived from will power, but I should have known that the real problem was that I just needed to get myself a dick. As our indian culture loves irony, ironically that would just result in even more discrimination.

So what to do? How do we ‘less than’ humans make it through this world? Do we convince ourselves that we are comfortable with what we have been shaped into? Or do we fight and then accept that we will feel incredible guilt, debilitating shame and disownment or at minimum, constant rejection of our choices and abilities to make our own choices?

Gender-isms are also known as no win no win situations fuelled by tradition and culture.

Chit Chat.