The other day I felt sad and a little ashamed about how little I know about Vietnamese culture and history. After joining a Slack channel consisting of a bunch of radical leftist Asian Americans, I read messages from a lot of these folx about how understanding their ancestry and familial roots helped in their healing processes. These messages and some of my own introspection over the past year made me wonder: how did I get so disconnected from my own heritage?
My lack of cultural understanding related to my Vietnamese heritage feels rooted in my abusive childhood. My mom yelled at me and gaslighted me for several hours a week, every week, for the first 18 years of my life. This experience motivated me to focus on healing, including healing from my disordered eating in my adolescent years and my PTSD in my college years. Throughout high school and college, I read a ton about Psychology, active listening, self-compassion, etc. in addition to going to therapy. My desire to practice healing as a therapist stemmed from more than my own experience with abuse though; I wanted to provide to others the compassion my grandmother gave to me. I also always loved understanding people and analyzing interpersonal relationships.
So I ignored a lot of my Vietnamese heritage and focused on more mainstream mental health practices. Continue reading
This past weekend I read Lan Samantha Chang’s novella “Hunger” and oh wow did it wreck me. The story follows Min, a Chinese woman who marries Tian, a passionate and mercurial violinist. They later have two children. To provide a short summary of what unfolds: Tian’s undealt-with family trauma and his failure to secure a permanent job – anti-Asian racism plays a huge part in him not securing a job – escalates to the point where he continuously verbally abuses one of his daughters and essentially neglects the other.
In the throes of reading this story, I literally struggled to sleep. Continue reading
Filed under Books, Personal
I grew up in a household with constant conflict. My mother yelled at everyone for the smallest infringements, ranging from my brother for looking at her the “wrong” way to me for walking with too much bounce in my step to my father for wearing a t-shirt outside instead of covering his psoriasis-affected skin. I remember sitting in the basement listening to every creak of the floorboards upstairs, to see if I could sneak into the kitchen to get some orange juice to drink without having to see her and risk her wrath.
Now, I live in an apartment on the basement level where no one screams at me. My life feels conflict free. Though I do love me some drama and gossip, I wanted to write a blog post to celebrate this quiet period of contentment in my twenties, because as writers we tend to gravitate toward the bad stuff, the pain and the conflict and all of that. I want to capture this time of great self-love and love of friends and love of community, so I and others can look back on it when
I write blog posts about my future crushes inevitably disappointing me I grow older.
I saw this tweet on my timeline the other day and I thought, like, relatable. Except I am a therapist, and I’m working toward the idea of going toward what gives me pleasure (e.g., stability in the face of a white supremacist patriarchal society).
I feel like writing a list exudes an air of not caring enough to invest the energy into not writing a list and writing in paragraphs instead. But, I subjected myself to a Hemingway seminar in undergrad so now I get to do whatever I want after surviving that misogynist homophobic dumpster fire’s writing. So now, a list of some great life things in this period of stability, contentment, and happiness: Continue reading
I turned 24 today, huzzah! In some ways it feels surreal that I have spent 24 years on this earth reading books, obsessing over pop stars, and over-disclosing about my life on the internet. Though this year has had its share of downs, ranging from encountering aversive racism in my professional life to falling for an emotionally unavailable man on the internet, it has also contained several ups. On the whole, who knew that the weird, not-so-socially-conscious high school kid who started this blog would transform into a
similarly weird, similarly extra red-haired therapist icon who went to therapy himself and figured out his life and worked through his trauma?
To celebrate 24, I wanted to write a list of 24 things, people, etc. I feel grateful for. Continue reading
As a gay man, I learned a lot about unhealthy relationships through consuming queer media. I loved Justin and Brian’s relationship when I watched Queer as Folk in high school, though now I see how Brian’s character acted in abusive ways both toward Justin and his own friends. When I read and watched Call Me by Your Name as an early grad student, I felt repulsed by the relationship dynamics promoted by the narrative, the glorification of a relationship that entailed little to no healthy communication, boundary setting or conflict resolution, or clarity and mutual respect. I suspect that queer narratives may adopt these unhealthy relationship norms from toxic heterosexual/heteronormative relationships. So much media perpetuates the trope that we should chase a romantic flame – especially a man – even if they are emotionally unavailable, do not treat us well, or are outright manipulative or abusive.
I do not spend much time on romance and dating and men. That said, I have found myself within unhealthy relationships and relationship dynamics, ranging from my abusive mother and neglectful father, to the emotionally neglectful male friend I wrote about in an earlier post, to a few crushes I harbored on guys, to even a few former friendships with women. I feel so sad and angry that our society teaches us about valuing our work and careers and pursuing the heteronormative path of marriage and having children, yet it does not teach us much about what an actually healthy relationship looks like, between parent and child, friend and friend, or partner and partner. Since the fall out of my most recent crush, I have thought a lot about what my expectations for myself and others in healthy relationships. They look kinda like this list my therapist gave me several months ago: Continue reading
Four years ago, a man I loved broke my heart. We met as freshmen hallmates at my undergraduate college, his room at the end of the dorm and mine more toward the middle. We grew into close friends after a few intimate conversations and decided to room together our sophomore year. In the early spring semester of my sophomore year, he told me he did not want our friendship anymore, that he would never care about me as much as I cared about him. He said that I cared too much about him. He said I expected too much.
Now, I understand he took advantage of me throughout the friendship. I remember one of our conversations early freshman year, while walking down Colonial Williamsburg at night fall, the air crisp and fireflies illuminating our path. At one point he told me that he felt impressed by me because I cared so much about people, because he himself struggles to actually care about people. At the time, I found this inspiring: wow, he struggles to care about people and wants to learn how, that’s so deep and self-aware. So, over the next year and a half, I tried to teach him. He would fail and I would feel hurt. I took on the role of his therapist instead of asserting more healthful boundaries. He saw before I did that he would never meet my expectations, so he ended our friendship.
“He literally told me from the start that he doesn’t care about people, which is like, the reddest red flag that’s ever been red,” I told my therapist the other day. “I was so freaking stupid for having ever trusted him, for caring about him.”
My therapist said all the right things: that it wasn’t my fault because I didn’t know as much about abuse then, that I’m so much more empowered and self-aware now. Yet I struggled to believe her. Continue reading
I always wanted to run away from home, from my abusive mother and her screaming fits and mood swings. In high school, I put my head down and worked hard so I could get into a good college and escape. I did run away from home once. I wrote a blog post about it, too. Then, I got into a great college and left at long last, only to run head first into a disturbing relationship and PTSD.
Fast forward five years and countless therapy sessions later. Continue reading
My grandmother passed away last Wednesday. I stayed with her in the hospital a few times in the days leading up to her death , though she had been sick for awhile at that point. She had Parkinson’s disease. Over the last few years, she lost the ability to walk. Over the last couple of months, she lost the ability to breathe without the help of a machine. Despite this physical decay, I have a clear picture to remember her by from an earlier time in her life: when she raised me, protected me, and loved me unconditionally. Continue reading
“What would you tell your own client?” my therapist asked me. “When you’re in my position, what would you say?”
I uncrossed my legs. My whole body shook, and shivers ran up and down my legs, my arms. Over the past year, my therapist and I had started to uncover the abuse I experienced at the hands of my mother. Though I had made tremendous progress, talking about the abuse still made my skin crawl, like the past lived and moved inside of me, tiny slivers of memory ready to burst into flames at any moment.
“I would tell them it’s not their fault,” I said. Continue reading