A week and a half ago, I got an email from my father that contained 17 full sentences. I counted; my father has never said that many words to me in the span of one conversation throughout my entire life. The email evoked a lot of emotions: gratitude for the care he expressed, sadness at the struggles he experienced and how they affected our relationship, and annoyance that I had to email him first for him to send me this information.
I developed a sense of my father’s personality early on in my life: hard-working, intelligent, and a free thinker. Continue reading
Growing up, I often told my grandmother that I wished she were my mom. She would laugh in her soft way and tell me that I was silly for saying that, though looking back I wonder if she had been pleased to hear that from me. My wish made sense to me as a child: my mother was emotionally abusive and yelled at me all the time, whereas my grandmother practiced nurturance and compassion in every moment, so of course I would want my grandmother to have more years to live and to raise me over my biological mother. I question now whether my younger self felt life’s unfairness while making that statement. Why did the universe give me such a horrible mother when it could have given me my grandmother as my mother instead?
I felt a somewhat similar sense of unfairness this past Mother’s Day weekend, about a week and a half ago. Continue reading
The other day I encountered someone whose behavior reminded me of my mother. They engaged in love bombing and projection, using compassionate words in a way that came across as coercive. When I recognized the similarity to my mother, I felt my body tense up and a slight fear uncoil in my stomach. I remembered how much my mother terrorized me day after day as a child and how little power I had to stop her.
I feel proud of myself because I chose to disengage. Continue reading
After experiencing my mom’s abuse as a child, I knew around the age of 12 that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people and making a difference. Over a decade ago, as a kid, life felt arbitrary and meaningless – like, what force decided that I would be born into a family with this cruel and dysregulated monster? Somehow I decided to create my own purpose: if I could not control the circumstances of my birth, I would take charge of my destiny and devote myself to empathy and compassion.
Now, at 25, life feels replete with opportunities to help others. Continue reading
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
My grandmother passed away last year on December 20. Sometimes I shrug off her death. “Yeah, she was like my actual mother, so it’s sad,” I’ll say to a friend, “but it’s fine, like I’m fine overall.” I like to use the word “fine” a lot, because it helps me avoid how not fine it is to lose the person who had loved you the most. Or I’ll point to my planner and say, “Yeah, it’s tough, but I did this therapy session, and this research meeting, and that class reading, so it’s okay. Sad, but okay.”
But sometimes grief and loss and mourning are not okay, and no matter how much I want to embody put-togetherness, I just have to feel that shit, that not-okay-ness. Continue reading
Two nights ago I wrote a review of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, an epic book about four friends growing up together in New York City. One of the four, Jude St. Francis, suffered extreme sexual, physical, and emotional abuse throughout his childhood. As an adult, Jude works as an ambitious and renowned litigator. In addition to his handsomeness and his intellect, he forges several deep and tender friendships. However, Jude’s trauma continues to haunt him. He cuts himself in egregious ways to numb his psychological pain. He views himself as someone who only inspires disgust. He refuses to open up about his past. I write this post because Jude’s struggle reminded me a lot of the emotional abuse I suffered as a child and my personal battle with the scars it has left behind. I write this post to prove that hope exists for people like us, for people who experienced what no child should have to.
I slept with this book after I read it. I kid you not. You can check out my review for more detail.
A lot of the conflict in A Little Life stems from Jude’s inability to accept care from those around him. Continue reading
And if you know someone who’s grieving, do not say: “Call me if you need anything.”
In my most recent short story, the main character, an adolescent male named Luca, jumps off the roof of his high school after hearing about his best friend’s death. He feels responsible for her passing, which contributes to his suicide attempt. Luca has a lot of emotional problems; he wrecks havoc amongst his peers to satisfy his twisted sense of morality. Continue reading
My grandfather has stopped eating, and I feel nothing.
I grew up with my grandparents; I shared the basement of my house with them. I remember sleeping with my grandmother as a toddler, the way I would hold her hand and rub the skin between her fingers as I closed my eyes. Continue reading