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.

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.

I am a girl

Today, I am feeling a lot of emotional pain. I am really struggling with my parents and their gender roles. I am very sad, I feel broken and I don’t know how to accept that my parents will never treat me equally because I am a girl.

I have been working very hard for 21 years to undo all the childhood drama that entered my life. I have become an admirable, respected woman in my profession and my personal life. But, my parents still can’t seem to fully understand that I am not the typical brown girl – and I don’t want to be – nor will I ever be. That just isn’t me and I love me, and I don’t have any intentions of changing that just to appease my parents.

Loving your parents in this culture comes with a lot of obedience, if you don’t do what your parents want, as unwanted as it may be, there is an immediate sense of guilt – that you have been raised to feel. It has served a purpose in our culture, the guilt/shame has successfully ensured that many remain within the confines of what is acceptable. Constantly, I battle this shame/guilt and then ask myself is this what I really want or am I trying to appease my parents, because somehow then they will accept me and I will feel loved again?

I truly do miss being loved by them – in what I thought was an unconditional manner. With age, I just can’t see my parents the same way anymore. I see more and more flaws, and I see less and less desire to try to be better. My mother may always make passive aggressive comments towards my amazing partner and she may always stare him down just because in their eyes he is not good enough for me. Why? Because he is short, dark and not earning a six figure income.

Every time I am around them, I realize more and more how superficial they are. In all the comments they make – that is how they have lived their life – I have NO idea how I somehow managed to have a mind of my own and actually decide to dedicate my life to helping others and living simply – not materialistically.

Maybe in the eyes of my parents, I am not a success – based on their definition of success. Maybe I am doomed to always be the black sheep because I will marry someone they don’t approve of. Maybe my brother will always have it easier, because he is a boy and now that he makes a lot of money, he must know what he is talking about. Maybe he will always be respected and given unconditional love because he found a way to find happiness that my parents can live with. Maybe, they can accept that he lives with his white girlfriend and treat her very well, while they will always be awkward at best with my down to earth boyfriend just because he doesn’t look the way they want him to or have the bank account they want him to have. Maybe, just maybe, there is a 1% chance that they will come around, that they will accept my boyfriend eventually. Maybe I will always be a black sheep and I have to accept that my choices are too overwhelming for them.

The emotional pain remains. It comes and goes in waves, but never did I realize how difficult it is to see the worst side of your parents and to see them to be the cause of your pain. After all the forgiving and accepting of their mistakes, all the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on therapy, after all the emotional work I have done to let go of most of my hardened anger and resentment, I find myself back in a place of a lot of pain and back in a place of intense anger. I wish I didn’t need to feel accepted by my parents. I wish they could be more respectful towards my boyfriend. I wish that they could truly understand who I am and why he is the one for me. But for now, I guess my wishes will remain unanswered and unfulfilled.