Focusing on the Present Moment

Firstly, I just want to say that this is going to be a short post. I have not have time to really sit and write; to just ponder and write. Juggling part time study and full time work is much more of a challenge now then a year ago when I was in a better headspace.

Today is my last day of the Easter weekend holiday. I am glad that I have some time off work, but the anticipatory anxiety of going back to work tomorrow, has started bubbling up since Sunday morning. I do like my days off, but at the same time, it is like a double-edged sword because I feel at edge, almost untethered, knowing that I have to function and face work until the weekend arrives again.

Saturday morning was supposed to be a relaxing and calm day, because I finally convinced myself that going for a short hike nearby would do me good. Unfortunately, I was not able to enjoy the hike at all, my mind would not quiet down. I tried grounding myself to the sounds of the birds and the feel of the breeze on my face, but it did not work. What was supposed to be a calming and mindful outing, turned out to be a stressful one.

Since then, I keep berating myself for not being able to just enjoy the present moment. Little things would bring my thoughts back to my past and my mind would start to feed into the self-loathing and feeling unloved.

Focusing on the present moment sounds simple enough. But, really, it does take a lot of effort to make it work. Sometimes, it doesn’t not work at all. I guess I just have to keep practicing.

Note: the photo was taken during the hike at Taeri Mouth.

Spiralling

I took time off work today and yesterday. Firstly, it was mostly because I am physically and mentally exhausted. Work has been extremely stressful the past 3 weeks, due to shortage of staff. Shortage of staff is a norm more than an exception in my department, due to a multitude of reasons that I won’t talk about here. Essentially, I have been the only nurse at the moment, juggling between clinical work, supervision of student nurses and a new graduate nurse, facilitating groups and administrative tasks. I have fallen back into my coping strategy of just pushing through and numbing myself, and it is starting to unravel me.

Since Monday this week, I can feel myself slipping back into a depressive state. My mood has been low and I feel flat. Concentration is bad and all I can do is distract myself with watching Netflix and vaping. This is not a good sign.

I have a follow up consult with my psychiatrist tomorrow and I am considering to discuss the possibility of her signing me off for a 3 day work week for the next 3-4 weeks. I think I need to slow things down. But, I am not sure if this is going to help.

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.

I Am Loveable

As the kilometres tick along as I ran earlier this evening, my mind drifted to my childhood and bad memories started flooding into my mind. The podcast I was listening to started to drone on in the background, my breathing becomes shallow and fast, while my legs continue to turn, my cadence increasing.

My father has tried calling me 2 weeks ago, and I ignored it. It was the second day of Chinese New Year, and I think he wanted to send me good wishes for the new year. This year, I opted to only wish him via text on WhatsApp. It does sound like I am a terrible daughter, for ignoring his calls and not wishing him in person via a video call. I am trying not to beat myself up too much about it because I no longer want to do what I am obliged to do. I want to be in control over my mental well-being and not let anyone muck that up. I did not even respond to his voice message on WhatsApp informing me that he has remitted some ‘ang pow’ money into my bank account. It is my money to begin with anyways. He lives off the rent money from my house in Malaysia and pocket money from my other two sisters. Reading what I am writing all sounds really bad. I have to admit, the voice in my head that tells me that I am an ungrateful daughter, visits me each time I feel angry and resentful towards my father. I try hard not to self-flagellate, but that voice in my head haunts me.

This whole idea that a good Chinese daughter will bring honour to the family still rings true. I think it is an antiquated virtue that does not relent, no matter what. The more I process what happened long ago, the more I realise that I no longer can keep being the filial Chinese daughter to may father. I have to contend with knowing that I have done my duties as a good daughter, caring for both my late mother, as she succumbed to cancer and to my father, when he suffered a heart attack soon after my mother passed. I must believe that this is good enough for me to rid the pangs of guilt I still feel whenever I feel angry towards my parents. It is all a paradox to me.

So, what were the memories that flooded my mind when I was running earlier? What is was, simply put, was that I am still coming to terms with the reality that I was an unwanted child, an after thought, an accident baby, as I have been told by my mother so many times: “We didn’t plan to have you after your brother. But, then, papa and I thought, maybe you’d also be a son.” Instead, I am their daughter. Such a disappointment.

I have to believe that I was loved. But at the same time, I know that if I continue to hold onto this belief, I will never feel the pain from being unwanted. As my therapist reminds me: “We can’t heal without feeling the feelings.” I am loveable, I am loveable, I am loveable. This will be my new mantra from now on.

When to Maintain Boundaries in Relationships

I recently felt the need to block a close friend on a chat messaging app because our friendship has started to feel tenuous and strained. I do feel some sadness that our friendship has come to this, but, I have decided that my mental well-being is more important at this stage of my life than in trying to maintain this friendship. I have tried my best to be a supportive friend to her/him, but, I think I have fell short to fulfil her/his expectations of me and what friendship means to this person.

This post is my way of reaching out to this person because I do not feel I could unblock her/him and say what I needed to say to her/him in person. As this person is a friend I trust, I have shared my blog with her/him and I hope she/he will get this message. I wish you well and I hope for the best in your life’s journey. But, I think it is best for me to keep a boundary of distance between us for an indefinite time.

Let Yourself Feel Anger & Not Feel Guilty About It

For many years, I have not allowed myself to feel anger towards my parents for choosing to look the other way when I told them about what my brother did to me. What I felt mostly was sadness and disappointment in their indifference and their inability to comprehend what I have said to them. I was 16 when I told my mum what happened. Prior to telling her, it took me days to process what the meaning of the word ‘incest’ meant after I looked it up in the dictionary. When I first saw its definition, ‘sexual intercourse between closely related persons’, it was confusing to me. My brain could not make sense of what I used to think as play time with my brother to something that was actually wrong. Everything that I used to believe was turned inside out with this news article

Their only son was too precious to them and they would not allow anything unsavoury to blemish him. The word ‘incest’ was not known to me. I first saw the word in a newspaper article that covered a case of a grandfather that raped his 6 year old grand-daugther. Before that article, I believed that it was normal for older brothers to ‘play games’ with their younger sisters. It never occurred to me that it was unusual.

They could not comprehend or imagine their son doing that to me. They chose to shut me up by saying, “Don’t tell anyone.” I was 16 when I told my mother what happened. I agonised for days, thinking of words that I could use to tell my mother what happened, and school became a hazy web of existence since I realised what my brother did to me was incest. My body is there, but my mind was preoccupied with thoughts that what happened to me throughout my childhood was twisted, ugly and revolting. I felt sick.

So, yes, I am finally angry. I can finally feel angry over what my brother did to me and for my parents’ inaction. I no longer need to minimise and find excuses and rationalisation to make sense of what has happened. It is not my FAULT…. it never was!

Festive Seasons – Chinese New Year

I’ve missed work again today.

I had a breakdown this morning, sobbing at the breakfast table.

Feeling utterly overwhelmed

Wounds of the past, festering

Being brought back to the past

Preparing for Chinese New Year dishes for offerings and reunion meals

I hear my mother’s taunts of my incompetence as I tried my best to do her bidding in the kitchen.

“Not like that, you’re not slicing garlic right!”

“Make sure you don’t burn the garlic!”

“Turn the fire down!”

“Hurry up!”

How I’ve buried all these hurt

It’s festering now, pulling me down

Old wounds bleeding fresh again

Paralysing me, more tears

I missed work again

I feel defeated, a failure

My mother was right, “You never do things right!”

Filial Piety – Part 2: The Analog Clock

I have just realised that I should have mentioned that my posts can be triggering for some of you. It just never crossed my mind until recently. So, I will start of each blog if the content would have descriptions that could be disturbing to some. This is one of them.

As I have promised, this is part 2 of Filial Piety – to what end? that I wrote last week and had to stop because I could not continue writing at that point because it dredged up too many emotions within me that I could not contain if I continued to write it. I am now very aware to confront my troubled parts in piece-meal sizes so that I am able to be in control of how much I am able to process at one point and not risk re-traumatising myself with those buried memories.

From the age of 4, my mother would sit me down on the carpet in the living room and tried to teach me how to read an analog clock. I remember feeling overwhelmed and I just could not grasp the concept behind what each number on the clock meant. I got confused about the function and meaning of what the shorter hand was as compared to the longer hand. The numbers on the face of the clock always looked jumbled in my head each time I looked at it. I tried really hard to pay attention and make sense of the repetitions made by my mother, where she hoped that by repeating what those numbers meant would magically be imprinted into my mind. To my mother’s dismay, my tiny mind could not make sense of any of it, and she would berate me, “You’ll never learn this. Why are you so stupid!” Stupid – Somehow, I learnt the meaning of this word straightaway. It was then that I started to believe that stupid, was what I am.

Filial Piety: To What End?

According to Confucius, filial piety is the virtue of respect for one’s parents and elders. This virtue is also embedded in Buddhist and Taoist teachings. All cultures have some form of this expectation in varying degrees, but, it is more pronounced in cultures that are more collectivist in nature.

I remember fearing my mother’s rage for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories were when I was 2 or 3, my mother would sit me on the potty and leave me there for as long as she needed to complete her tasks in the kitchen. As she busied herself in the kitchen, I would play with a locket that my grandmother gave me. It was a black stone shaped into an eggplant, attached to a gold ring, where the chain would lace through it. I remember that I would suck on it as I sat on the potty and wait for my mother to be free to wash me. I would not make a sound as I quickly learnt that if I did, my mother would yell at me to be quiet. So, I would sit, suck on the black stone locket and wait patiently while watching my mother in the kitchen, waiting for her to glance over, but she never did. By the time she picks me up from the potty, my bum was already quite numb from sitting on the potty for so long. She would wash and dress me and leave me beside a small transistor radio. I loved that thing. It was my priced possession. The first one that I got was a red one and when that broke, my father bought an exact same one but in black. It had a retractable antenna and a dial at the top beside the on-off switch that you turn to set the frequency. I remember just sitting quietly beside the radio and listen to music as my mother went along with her house chores everyday. Music was my friend, my solace.

I do remember happier times when I was a toddler, even after the sexual abuse started. The fondest ones are the ones where I would sing and dance along whenever my favourite songs get played on the radio. Being able to do Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk was my favourite move and I relished the attention I got from the laughters of my father and sisters. In those happy snippets, I remember that there were no hearty laughters from my mother, only a smile carved on her face each time, while my brother was always absent.

I think I would need to continue this post for another time. I think I need to pause and contain my distressing emotions while I write this part of my life. I’ve decided to still publish this unfinished work because I feel that I need to get this out there. There will be a part 2 of this post at some point when I am ready to reopen my containment ‘vault’ and process through this part of my life in writing.