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.

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.

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.