Anniversaries: Celebrating a different way

My Biased Perspective of Past Holidays

Holidays make me feel crazy an inadequate most years.  Also scared.  This is the time of year when everyone is “on a diet” or “off a diet” or “going crazy with the shopping and the parties and the party planning” and “making travel arrangements”.

People compete with each other to get the hottest trend item or have the best, most talked about party.  Everyone talks about gifts they’re buying or getting, vacations they’re going on, and the stress of holiday cheer.

Too many people.  Too busy.  Too loud.  Too much anxiety-provoking, stressful environmental factors in the outside world this time of year.

A New Goal: Fun, Relaxing Holidays

I was raised to believe holidays were about spending time with loved ones; enjoying good food, conversation, and games together.  Or for introverts like me, spending time around family, listening to conversations while playing puzzles or relaxing with a good book.  It meant helping my aunts and uncles cook and set the table for family dinner.  Or playing elf on Christmas morning at my grandma’s house and seeing everyone enjoy their gifts.

Those are my best and most favorite memories  of Christmas.  And they all happened before I turned 8 with my father’s side of the family.

These days, I don’t decorate or go to parties.  I do send messages to my friends and cook something good for myself.  Then relax with some books and movies if I’m not sleeping the day away.

But this year, I’m trying something different.  Since letting family back into my life, I have more reasons to be thankful and to celebrate.  I also have more triggers to cope with.  But I live far away from my friends and family now.  And connecting with them is not as easy as before.

So I’m reinstating a tradition.  Holiday cards.  By snail mail.

My only problems?  The cards might not all arrive in time.  I had stamps.  But not enough.  Friday was not a day I could go out – my cold decided to clear out and left me exhausted – and left me without enough stamps.  Then I realized I didn’t have enough cards.  One more…that’s all I need.

Fingers crossed I can get stamps and a card tomorrow.  With luck, the cards will be in the mail and delivered by Saturday.

Instead of blame & shame, a positive reminder of life’s surprises


Thanks for reading

Anniversaries: A birthday and flashbacks


Another quote from the Power of Positivity website (via Facebook)

Ever since moving to my new home, I’ve been recovering memories during sleep.  This is difficult because the memories come as dreams and sometimes interfere with or interrupt my regular sleeping.  That means I’m not getting as much rest as usual even though my sleeping habits have not changed.  Sleep deprivation and its resulting symptoms set in.  And I stop wanting to go out.

This quote resonates a lot with me because the exact scenario happened more than once as I reclaimed independence from my father.  His birthday was last Thursday; a few days after Labor Day; two week’s after my mother’s birthday; a little more than one month before mine.  In the past, memories of the trauma and abuse from my father were hazy and blurred.  Nothing concrete except feelings and fragments.  Now, I am remembering.  And the more I remember, the more I realize how covertly abusive he was.  And not just to me.  To my mother and brother too, but in different ways.

Sometimes I think my parents fed on each other’s negativity and enabled each other to be more abusive and destructive in our family system.  Maybe that is co-dependence; maybe it is something else.  But whatever the case, dad took out his frustration with my mom’s refusal to get consistent treatment and care on me.  And he put all of this projected hopes and dreams for the future on my brother.

And when I moved so far out of their control that they couldn’t force me into compliance anymore, my parents & sibling went out of their way to control how everyone else in our family system and community saw me/treated me.  None of those people are safe.  Not when they all see my mom and ask her how I am.  Not when they ask my brother, father and maternal relatives the same questions instead of asking me.  Not when those people tell lies and make up stories about me that I can’t refute or deny since I have not idea what they’re saying.

The persona they created for me lives on in many minds.  The truth of who I am is a mystery wrapped in an enigma both to me and everyone in my circle of trusted people.  I’m still learning who I am.  I am still becoming the woman I aspire to be.  Like an onion, I have to peel away the layers of denial, amnesia, trauma fragments, and disguises that kept me safe in order to find the authentic person underneath.

And when times are bad; when the switching is almost constant; when the depression sets in, I remember this quote.  And then I go to sleep.  My alters come out and do what they need to do; sometimes we cry; sometimes other chores get accomplished; sometimes exercise; sometimes we have lucid dreams.  A day might pass.  Two days might pass with a few wake-ups to use facilities, get a drink or food, etc.  And then, our mind relaxes into restful sleep.  And I/we awaken feeling refreshed.  And the cycle starts fresh again.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversary: Family Reunions, Birthdays & Shame


End of July and most of August are typically the time of year when out-of-town relatives stay at my aunts’ houses and visit for a long family reunion that ends with the maternal grandmother’s birthday.  Some used to stay with my parents, but that changed sometime when I was in college.  This is speculation because no one ever told me anything, but I guess my relatives couldn’t face the truth of who was acting out against (aka abusing and scaring) their young children.  It’s easier for them to blame the scapegoat than to face a reality they refuse to acknowledge.

Why this anniversary is so scarring

But back to family reunions.  As scapegoat, I was mostly ignored or bullied by everyone.  And made to be the de facto babysitter as a young teen to keep me separated from the rest of my age-mate cousins and younger brother.  I didn’t mind because that gave me something to do with my time.  As I got older, though, so did the kids.  And the next generation of young children came from my older cousins – people who didn’t trust or like or respect me – and other relatives by marriage who didn’t want my help.  So I suddenly had nothing to keep the anxiety away.

And that generation of children were raised to treat me the same way as the adults.  And they did it with relish.  No one scolded them for being mean or indulging in bad habits around me, so they constantly made up ways to antagonize me.  And then with the silent treatment and shunning from the adults, I basically had no place to hide at family reunions.  No one to offer empathy, compassion, friendly conversation, etc.  And no place to go and cope with my anxiety or triggers.  I was on a stage with bright lights pointed at me all the time; they used every word, every gesture to humiliate and condemn me.

Typical Response

Dissociate, not leave the house, feel hyper-vigilant and scared all the time, stop sleeping, have nightmares, miss time from work, have panic attacks, severe body pain and memories, get sick, pass out, not eat, etc. for days or even weeks.  Lose time, lose memories, switch and practice self harm.

Response in new environment

Some disturbed sleeping, lots of anxiety, some flashbacks, lots of shame and tears, problems with my digestion and visit the bathroom a lot, increased body memories and body pain but not so much that I stay home and am incapacitated.  Some switching and reckless behavior – but that is more due to mistakes and learning a new environment that the shame capitalizes on than anything deliberate.

I am:

  • still working 5 days a week
  • going out with friends
  • active on the blog and website
  • going shopping/cooking/to restaurants
  • exercising
  • decorating my apartment
  • keeping in touch with safe family and friends (another post)
  • Utilizing my coping strategies (especially the hotline) while I try to find a provider here
  • making and keeping appointments for graduate school, scholarship research, etc.


The 2 months of anniversaries are tough.  Remembering how I was treated brings back lots of negative feelings that are hard to accept and cope with.

But being here in my new place, I truly feel safe and able to move beyond the typical fear.  Yes, it hurts.  yes I cry a lot.  Yes my body loses control sometimes.  Yes I feel aggression rise to the point where I scare myself of what could happen.

But it all goes away much faster.  I can let myself cry and experience all of these sensations instead of blocking them out.  And because of that, the pain and fear and anxiety lessen each time.  And each experience takes less out of me too.

So yeah, I’m still in rough shape.  The shame overwhelms me and causes me to apologize and over explain and feel terrible about good decisions.  It is constantly messing with my mind.  But I can get help from the hotline and my friends; they listen and help me find self-compassion through validation and reality testing.

I need my quiet evenings and 1 day a week of staying inside.  But I can spend that time being productive and happy (either doing something or doing nothing) instead of out of my mind with fear and disorientation.

Thanks for reading

Anniversaries: a letter to my father

Dear Dad,

It’s been four years since I left, and seven years since you shunned me.  Happy Father’s Day from the daughter who never meant anything too you.  The daughter you “loved and spoiled” until your precious son came into existence.  The daughter you hugged and cuddled until your wife’s tantrums made you stop.  The daughter you sacrificed to keep peace in your household.  The daughter you threatened to keep away from your mother and siblings if they interfered with how she was being raised.

Do you remember me at all?  Did you ever love me or see me as a human being?  When you touched me and played secret games with me as a toddler, did you know you were sexually abusing me?  Did you care at all?  When you caught your wife treating me the same way, did you try to stop her?  When the religious people came to “babysit” me or the contractors spent “private time” alone with me, did you try to stop them?  Was the money worth selling your daughter?  You treated my wounds and protected me from your wife’s physical abuse, but you let me be your housekeeping slave.

Did you enjoy having sex with me?  Did you enjoy forcing me to service you?  Did you enjoy punishing me by starving me?  Did you make me get good grades because you cared or because pride wouldn’t let you have a dumb daughter?  Why did you force me to do my brother’s homework?  Why did you punish me for getting a bronze medal in a Tae kwon do tournament?  Because my brother didn’t win or get a medal?

Mostly, though, I want to know why you let your wife hurt me and say terrible things about me.  Why you ignored me and also said terrible things about me.  Why did you sell me to the cult?  Why did you let my pediatrician rape and drug me?  And why did you rape me?  Blame me for getting pregnant?  Try to keep me a child and a slave instead of becoming an independent young woman?

I will never know the answers to these questions.  Every day, the fog of denial dissipates more.  And I realize my whole childhood was a lie.  You never cared about me.  You never wanted to see me.  You never acknowledged me unless I was useful.  And you taught me to hide my light or risk being rejected.

I loved you unconditionally growing up.  You were my super hero and number one favorite person.  I admired you and wanted to be like you.  You could do no wrong back then.  Not even mom, hard as she tried, could change that.  Then I hit adolescence.  My body changed.  I wasn’t your little girl anymore.  Other men tried to take my attention away from you.  And you hated that.

I grew up.  Started my own life away from you.  You couldn’t control my life anymore.  And I realized the painful truth.  You don’t care about me.  Funny, but I still love you.  You are my biological father even though you are not my dad.  I call you “dad” out of respect for the food and shelter you provided me growing up.  Nothing else.

Who is my real Dad?  Uncle Teddy is my dad.  He loved me and cared about me; taught me lessons about respect and boundaries; bandaged my scrapes and dried my tears.  My real Dad died when I was eight years old, and I never really got over that.  You never forgave me for wanting Uncle Teddy to be my dad either.  The night we learned of his death is the first time you raped me.  It killed you that I wasn’t a virgin, but how could you know Mom and Dr. D had been raping me for two years before that?  And of course it was my fault for letting them rape me.

But life is different now.  I gave you 29 years of my life in exchange for raising and sheltering me through childhood and adolescence.  You gave me the courage to walk away when you shunned me.  Now I am my own person.  Not your daughter anymore.  Part of me still grieves for the shattered illusions.  Part of me rejoices in the freedom of saying Goodbye forever.

And this is goodbye.  Good bye biological father.  You don’t have a hold on me anymore.  Good bye Dad.  I love you and miss you always.  Never again will I forget you.


Anniversaries: Body Memories, Pain, and Anger

Some Background

There are very few holidays that my family and relatives did not celebrate.  To be more American (I guess), my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins embraced every major US, religious, and Chinese holiday they knew about as an excuse to get together, eat, and celebrate.  Those gatherings were full of family members, family friends, neighbors, co-workers, and their children.  And also full of danger for me.

Days off from school meant more time being abused by my mother and other perpetrators who came to the house.  Holiday parties and family get-togethers were times I got bullied and humiliated by my relatives and their friends.  Mostly verbal, sometimes physical, always emotional when I was compared to my sibling/cousins and found lacking.  Sometimes physical, sometimes verbal, sometimes sexual, always emotional when I was taken to private rooms by adults.

Normally, I don’t remember anything that happens between January and May.  Sometimes the memory loss starts as early as Halloween.  Normally I start to have problems just after Thanksgiving.  But always, by mid-January, I will wake up one morning and not remember what happened for 2 weeks or more.  And the memory loss continues.  Notes, reminders, calendar appointments are viewed with confusion.

Before this year, I would have said that not many holidays and anniversaries occur between January and May.  So why do I experience traumatic memory loss, body memories, and severe pain every year during those months?  Turns out, I was wrong about the holiday part.  Here is the list of holidays I’ve participated in so far:

  • January 1 – New Year
  • January 18 – Martin Luther King, Jr. day
  • February 2 – Groundhog day
  • February 8 – Chinese New Year (lasts 14 days as part of spring festival)
  • February 10 – Ash Wednesday (beginning of Lent)
  • March 13 – Daylight Savings
  • March 16 – St. Patrick’s Day
  • March 20 – Spring Equinox

Coming up are: Christian Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Tax Day, Jewish Passover and Orthodox Easter, Cinco de Mayo (for Spanish class in middle and high school), Mother’s Day, and a variety of birthdays in May.

What this means to me

It means that I am always in physical pain from body memories.  From my head to my shoulders, tension seeps in and causes migraine worthy pain that won’t go away on its own.  From my shoulders to my hips, all of my joints, my stomach, and the muscles in between ache and knot up.  From the legs down, my knees, heels, and and muscles swell, knot up, tighten and cause sharp pain.  On a scale of one to ten, I am usually between 5 and 9 every day.  On bad days, I get as far as 12.

And with the pain comes anger.  Anger from remembering.  Anger from frustration at my inability to get relief without causing more pain or damage to myself.  Anger at the people who hurt me so badly that I still feel the echos in my body decades later.  Anger at remembering the past and not forgetting.  Anger that my alters have had to cope with this on their own for decades because they were too scared to ask the rest of the system for help.  Anger at feeling helpless to cope with the pain in healthy ways.

So now everyone in the system is present and accounted for.  No one is stuck in the past or trapped by the memories anymore.  What we remember now will not be forgotten.  That is the best part of these last few months.  It also gives me hope that all of us will survive this and come out stronger for it.  I will learn to cope with my part and be able to help the others with theirs.  The other alters will learn to cope with their parts and be able to help me too.  That is our goal.

But the anger is fierce.  And with the pain and anger come the voices.  The voices telling us to give up, give in, grovel and go back to our parents.  I try hard not to listen and pay attention.  Most of the time, I can tell they aren’t real.  The other alters are not as lucky.  They have a hard time discerning which voices are real and which are from the trauma.  So many times, the anger wells up and thoughts of vengeance and killing tempt me to be reckless.  I think about calling my family members and yelling at them.  I think about going to their houses and killing them.  I think about writing them scathing letters and mailing to their homes.  And not just my family members, I think about doing this to the other perpetrators in my memory too.

Because Lent was a time when many Christians and Mormons gave up something for 40 days.  And the perpetrators in my life used that as an excuse to beat me and sexually abuse me without skin to skin contact as punishment for tempting them to break their religious vows.  The perpetrators; what a name for those men and women who paid to use me.  And the more I remember, the more places I remember being abused.  The more valid reasons I have for not wanting to visit churches, synagogues, religious houses, elementary schools, bathrooms, public recreation centers, etc.  I wasn’t safe anywhere.  And I wonder how I got into such a predicament.  But then I remember: a well established pediatrician, an elementary school principal, a cult within a cult of Mormons soliciting people door-to-door with free babysitting and bible study classes, and a greedy mother.

Is it any wonder why I hate this time of year so much?  Oh well.  I am trying coloring books again.  Maybe it will help, maybe not.  At least the negative association is starting to fade, so I can add the coping strategy back to my tool box.

Thanks for reading my rant.