To Have Space for Myself

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here. My last entry was April 21st, which was my farewell drinks with colleagues from work as I quit my job as a Mental Health Nurse the day before. There was no obligation of fulfilling my one month’s notice & I was given the choice to have my last day at work at any time from when I tendered my resignation. I have never knew such a thing was remotely possible. In my birth country (Malaysia), this would be unheard of and utterly impossible.

I titled this post with “To Have Space for Myself” because, I’ve never had space for myself. The truth is, I have only recently realised that I’ve lived my life, not knowing that I was living it based on expectations set by my late mother (my father was never really present, he was indifferent and let my mother call the shots for most of everything) and based on what I thought are pragmatic choices. There is nothing wrong with making choices that are pragmatic. It only becomes problematic when EVERY DECISION you make is a pragmatic one, slowly eroding your sense of self and the eventual erasure of who you could have been if you were given a chance to have some ‘space’ to blossom.

I’ll be turning 43 this November and since quitting my job, I have been given the ‘space’ to blossom to be the person I could have become, but, I am truly lost as I have finally realised that I have no self. I don’t know who I am, what I want, or what I need. I have been so conditioned to not want to want anything for fear of crushing disappointment as well as the core belief that I am not worth anything.

What I am trying to say is that, I am so blessed to have this opportunity to have ‘space’ to figure myself out, to grieve what I have lost and to make sense of all the abuse inflicted on me growing up. This whole notion of finally accepting that the abuse was really bad, is still a notion that I struggle to embrace because I have truly believed that what happened to me was not at all that bad and I must have been such a bad sister/daughter that I deserved it all.

This post is dedicated to my spouse for always being there for me. I can very surely say that you are the only person that has shown love and kindness that I never thought I deserve.

Letting People In…

A trauma brain is a brain that is reactive and vigilant all of the time, affecting the way we regulate our emotions, heightening our sense of anxiety and making it hard to trust anyone. Scientific data shows that traumatic stress can reduce the functioning of the prefrontal cortex that is responsible to assist us to analyse and think logically, regulate and interpret emotions, control impulses and solve complex problems.

I’ve been unable to write anything the past 4 to 5 months because my mental health has been deteriorating. There has been so much going on at work, mostly interpersonal relationships with my colleagues, that has been very challenging because I find it very difficult to set boundaries and be assertive, thus, to avoid conflict, I bend over backwards to avoid it at all cost, making me a people pleaser. My therapy sessions the past months have all been about interpersonal struggles at work, feelings of utter helplessness in my inability to set boundaries and be assertive.

I started this blog entry with an ambition that I was going to write a long one this time around since my long hiatus, but, I don’t think I can manage it, so, I am going to cut to the chase. What I really want to say is that I now have insight that all my interpersonal struggles the past couple of months, validating as it is, was exacerbated by my trauma brain. Everything gets amplified, and thrown out of proportion. I know now because today is my farewell with my colleagues as I have made a very difficult decision of resigning from my work as a mental health nurse to focus on myself… to pause and focus on my recovery. It still feels like I have given up at this point, but I am certain that I’ve made the necessary decision because I am in a really, really bad place. My colleagues gave me a bouquet of flowers and a hand made card, which was painted in watercolour by my associate charge nurse! (the profile picture of this post is the handmade card) and lots of hugs and encouragement. One of my colleague reminded me this: “You are walking the talk as how we always tell our clients. You’re not giving up because you know, that you will never say this to your client. I am so glad you have made this decision to focus on yourself to heal.”

What I’ve realised from this is, “I need to let people in… I need to learn to trust again… it’s time to stop keeping people at bay.”

5 fun things to do

I came across a new app developed in locally in New Zealand called Groov. It’s an extension from their parent app, Mentemia. It’s been helpful to keep me grounded. I’m going to see if I can try these activities that they recommended.

sharing.mentemia.com/shared/linkid-5-fun-things-to-do-by-yourself

There is Kindness in this World

Sorry for going quiet for almost 3 weeks. Works has been hectic and stressful since I started 40 hour work weeks since March 1st. I will try to write more often. But, it might be quite scattered for the next couple of months until I find my footing again, juggling a psychology paper and full time work.

When you have a childhood that is riddled with abuse, I guess, it’s only natural to grow up untrusting and cynical about everything that happens in life. Growing up, I craved acknowledgement and acceptance and was willing to bend over backwards for anyone who was willing to be my friend. I would go out on a limb to help a friend in need, never expecting anything in return. I learned to never ask for help, because I believed that I wouldn’t get any. The voice in my head would tell me: “Your own parents don’t even care for you, what makes you think that a friend would want to help you?” Despite believing this, I would still help those that I consider as close friends, because I know what it is like to not feel loved. I did not want my close friend to feel unloved, uncared for as well.

As a young adult, I eventually started to realise that my insistence of helping and always being there for my close friends at the expense of my own needs, was not a healthy way to maintain friendships or romantic relationships. My need to feel accepted and loved was so strong that I sacrificed my own needs to fulfil needs of those that I care most. Since moving to NZ, I have not had many opportunities to foster close friendships. I used to think that it is mostly due to cultural differences, but, lately, I am starting to realise that I have erected a wall in my heart, not wanting to feel ‘abandoned again’ by close friends that I have experienced most of my life. This feeling of ‘abandonment’ is probably just my inability to logically process or look at situations in a different perspective. Most times, I get blindsided by my amygdala (emotional brain), which takes over and the pre-frontal cortex (rational brain) gets stifled and muzzled. It all boils down to my anxieties about social relationships and what is expected of me to be a good friend.

My work has been stressful, but for the first time in my adult life, have I experienced genuine support and care for my well-being from my work colleagues. Since my depressive episode mid of 2020, I have been open to my colleagues about my mental health struggles and they have offered support and assistance on a daily basis, always checking in on me and asking how I’m coping with work. It still all just feels very surreal to me, and my cynical mind goes into overload, my critical/suspicious voice in my head tells me that these gestures of support can’t be sincere. But, I think tonight, I am going to bury this voice away into the deep recesses of my mind and accept the kindness that is being shown to me on a daily basis and to practice gratitude. Also, at the same time, I am going to allow myself to grief for the lost childhood and to feel the sadness that I feel because my parents did not extent the same kindness to me as how my colleagues have the past couple of weeks. Things are getting better.