Holidays: Celebration with a Twist

Anniversaries: Celebration with a Twist for Chinese New Year

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Unnecessary Comparisons & Competitions within Family Traditions

Holidays of any kind are rather stressful and triggering for me. Chinese or Lunar New Year is one that twists me up with glee and anxiety in equal measures and has since I was a kid.

Glee because I got to openly celebrate this part of my culture at home, in school, and pretty much anywhere without the usual jeers and harassment. Plus the food was always incredible and filled with rare treats our grandparents spent weeks making for all of us. The hong bows (red envelopes with money) were less interesting to me, even after I got older and better understood the concept of “free money”.

Anxiety because it meant spending time around relatives, neighbors, and other Chinese people who compared me with my brother and cousins (and found me lacking), treated me poorly because of where my parents were in the family hierarchy, or ignored me completely. I looked younger than my age, was too smart for my own good, and acted clumsy/socially awkward compared to my socially adept, taller cousins who looked and acted more mature than their ages.

Then there are the traditions and rituals involved in preparing for the Chinese New Year holiday – some that stay the same from region to region, and others unique to family mini-cultures – that actually starts on New Years Eve with dinner. That can take up to 3 weeks of advanced preparation with all the cleaning, organizing, decorating, food preparation, and cooking involved. Finally, the celebrations may start on the evening before, but they last for 4 weeks. And each day of the first two weeks have specific traditions involving travel, visiting, receiving guests, and so on.

College Drama: A hick’s traditions passed over for a green card?

Then, once in college, I met a young man from Hong Kong through a college dorm neighbor. I want to say we were friends, but it was more one sided than that. She liked having me around because my “pathetic” existence boosted her self esteem. Plus I was at least as smart as she was so our academic accomplishments became a competition she strived to win. Since I didn’t care, she often did win.

But that’s getting away from the point. She practically worshipped this young man and wanted to stay friends with him, but he was having trouble with his green card and ability to stay in the US. Before I met him, she asked me about my heritage and how I celebrated holidays with my family. I answered her questions and reached out to other family members for more details if I didn’t have an answer. It was a good excuse for me to re-connect with that part of my culture.

A few weeks later, she came back and told me his opinion: my family and I were a bunch of hicks from the country because people in the city don’t celebrate like that. He called us country bumpkins and other terms I can’t remember.

Maybe if she waited until after asking me to go out with him and consider marrying him so he can get a green card and stay in the US before telling me that, I wouldn’t have been so rude to him when we met. Then again, maybe I would have been just as rude – but less annoying and a lot friendlier during his dorm visits.

Either way, that was the beginning of the end our our pseudo-friendship and another reason for me to hate holidays. Not the first time someone proposed marriage that way even if it was for other reasons, but it was the last time. And yes, both experiences soured me on the idea of relationships and marriage – especially with an Asian man.

Celebration with a Twist

Holidays: Celebration with a Twist
Happy Year of the Rat! Reclaiming another holiday

I do my best, but cannot follow everything. The traditions I know best have been passed down from my grandparents to their children to their grandchildren (i.e. my brother, cousins, and me). Even within that large circle, some traditions have changed with people marrying in and bringing their own holiday traditions. My father’s side of the family decorates different from my mother’s side of the family. And each of my mother’s married siblings follows a blend of each side’s food and decorating traditions.

Planning my move during Chinese New Year wasn’t intentional. But the apartment came available at the right time and for the right price. I had the money mostly saved up and a plan to cover the rest of my other expenses. Plus the act of packing up my old place to move in to the new one constituted cleaning the whole apartment and discarding anything old, broken, unwanted, or holding me back with the end of the year – part of the holiday preparation 🙂

While I couldn’t decorate the new apartment with traditional good luck and prosperity symbols, I was able to do some laundry, change my sheets, shower, put on clean clothes, and cook a small meal with the basics of a traditional dinner on Friday evening. Then rest quietly until bed time and spend Saturday relaxing or napping as I let my body heal from the physical stress of packing + working + coping with many triggers and 0 down time all week.

In the end, I was able to reclaim another holiday the trauma had taken away from me.

A new home.

A fresh start.

An auspicious new year.

HAPPY 2020 YEAR OF THE RAT

Thanks for reading.

Halloween Fears or Autumn Fun? Leaves, pumpkins, apples, hay rides

Anniversaries: Halloween Fright = Autumn Fun?

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My Favorite Month and Season

October is my favorite month for many reasons – not including it being my birthday month.

The leaves start changing color. The air cools down and smells crisp. Apples are in season. Love fresh apple cider – cold or hot with cinnamon – as an autumn treat. Soups and stews are back. Pumpkins. Hay rides. Fall festivals. All that and more.

Autum is my favorite season because it reminds me of home and hearth. Safety and refuge. In summer, there was nothing to break up training or life with the cult except taekwondo. In Autumn, school started. 8+ hours of my day in a place I get to listen and learn – and yes those were my favorite activities.

But it’s also the beginning of my “bad season” when symptoms get worse. Read on to learn why…

The Dark Side

School was full of bullies and feeling outcast. At first, it wasn’t my peers bullying and harassing me. It was the school’s vice president and some of the other teachers. Later on, some of the “class favorites” (mostly girls my age) continued with the bullying and gossiping whispers in class. The boys and other kind of bullies left me alone when they realized I wasn’t an easy target to push around physically.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. For the first 3 years at school (kindergarten – 2nd grade), I never got away from the monsters. School principal was one of them. It’s also part of the reason why the vice principal didn’t like me or any of the principal’s other favorites. But she only picked on me (reasons listed below)

School – torture outside of learning

From kindergarten until 5th grade I was the only Asian student to go through the entire school. Other Asian kids enrolled after me, but not before or during my time there. The vice principle (also my fifth grade home room teacher) did not like me on site. Once she told me in private it was because I represented everything she hated – pretty, short, Chinese, smart – and that I wouldn’t get any “special treatment” while at this school.

The other girls didn’t like me for a variety of reasons. Part of it was my fault though. I didn’t fit in with them, share any similar interests, or try to fit in in any way. Plus, the dissociation started early and led lots of people to think I was a liar and kind of ditzy because I couldn’t remember what was going on as it happened. Nor did I “dress like a cool girl”.

So you get the idea, right? A bookworm, nerdy, quiet, nice girl who seems kind of shy, dresses funny, whose costumes get made fun of by lots of people, and hates attracting attention because it usually leads to shame or humiliation is an easy target for bullies at school.

Bees and Other Weird Things

Oh and even back then, odd things happened to me. Once, between third and fifth grade I think, our windows were open on a hot afternoon. The bees were buzzing in and out everywhere trying to get some shade. We were required to participate in class, so I raised my hand. I knew (or thought I did) the answer or maybe had a question. But I was distracted by the breeze and tickling sensations on the palm of my hand.

My attention was on the chalkboard, and I focused so hard on the answer that I didn’t notice when the teacher and rest of class went silent. They were all staring at me, and I didn’t understand why. Not until the teacher asked me to look up at my raised hand. She and many of my classmates were afraid of bees; some might have been allergic too.

And none of them had ever seen bees playing with a human and not stinging them. Yet that’s what the 3 bumblebees and 1 yellowjacket were doing. They were grazing my hand to get my attention. Sat quietly on my palm as my hand closed over them once or twice in reflex. Let me brush my fingers against their (bumblebee) soft body fuzz. As soon as I looked up and acknowledged them; then spoke a quiet response; they left back out the windows and were not seen again.

It wasn’t the first time I had been surrounded by insects or had them leap on to my legs/arms/body during outside gym and recess classes. But it was the first time to happen in doors. And also something to make my class mates not want anything to do with me.

But the biggest reason the girls especially didn’t like me was because I refused to use the bathrooms during break time after kindergarten. I would drink the minimum necessary to stay hydrated in school and hold my bladder until I got home. Or if I was taken out of school early, hold it until I arrived at the next location.

The girls all thought I was stuck up and too good for the school bathrooms. No one ever asked me why – or if they did I probably refused to answer back then – that I can remember.

I never used the bathrooms (girls or boys) because that’s where the school principal and his cronies liked to take their favorite students for “special classes”. Every time I used the bathroom someone was waiting for me. It got me a reputation for being late. And made me paranoid about using public and guest bathrooms for the rest of my life.

Halloween Scares – Apes, Brides, and Scary Masks

I hated halloween, dance recitals, anything that got me attention for many reasons.

One big reason: it gave my mom a chance to dress me up, put makeup on me, and parade me around like a show dog.

Other big reason: it brought up triggers and feelings of shame because my mom liked to dress me up in girly costumes that only made me look “beautiful” or “pretty” or “precious” or any of those other words that judged me on my appearance and behavior.

One year, my mom dressed me up as a bride in a white satin bridal gown and veil for Halloween. I must have been about 6 or 7. She did my makeup and got me white shoes to wear with it. Back then, kids were required to wear their halloween costumes to school for the halloween party. Then dress up again for trick or treating after school.

Mom got lots of compliments about how beautiful I was. How I “looked just like a real bride”. How well she did my makeup. and other comments. I was embarrassed the whole time and tried to hide. My goal for that year – be a clown or a ghost for halloween. But she made me a bride. The neighbors were so stunned, they gave my brother and me extra treats sometimes.

Then we got to a neighbor’s house with what looked like a stuffed Ape or Gorilla sitting under the split entry house – near the front door. I didn’t want to go there. That ape/gorilla felt real to me. It stared at me the whole time we walked up. Just as we rang the bell, it came to life roaring at us.

I don’t remember what happened after that. Or the next halloween when mom made me wear that costume again.

But I do remember being forced to wear that bride costume when my owner and his buddies initiated me into group sex for the first time. That was so popular, they created a whole halloween special for clients and would dress us all up in varying costumes the whole month of October after that year. Would have been 1988 I think.

Learning, Dissocation, Imaginary Friends…my best survival coping strategies

Yup. For about 20+ years, I spent most of my time living in a state of dissociation (aka day dreaming) and studying while talking to imaginary friends. An island of one who only came out to fulfill class participation rules and make temporary, fake friendships. I was honest about it. I was mean when necessary. I wish I could have been different, especially to the few girls who tried to be nice to me since we were all misfits.

But that wasn’t safe. Or possible. Because anyone who befriended me became a target for something.

These days, I spend Halloween hiding in my apartment. I do my best to avoid any large gatherings or places where people of all ages will dress up in costumes from mid-October to Halloween.

And when that doesn’t work, I bring books, headphones, and my sensory grounding strategies with me.

At home, I cook a delicious meal or get takeout. Then rent a movie or read a book. Go to bed early.

AVOID TRICK OR TREATERS AT ALL COSTS – gratitude for apartment living there.

Then meditate and pray that all the self care and coping strategies will help me keep my memories when the bad season of dissociation and flashbacks take over my self
(starts any time between August and October; settles in by November; stops around May…sometimes)

Halloween 2019

This year is different. I am still staying inside. Still cooking something interesting. And still renting a movie.

I’m also writing this blog post and finishing the details to set up my business – a business that will allow me to continue blogging here and offer more coping strategies outside of what gets shared here (aka survival mode) – and offer other kinds of resources too.

Turtle time is real by the way. I started planning this business 7 years ago. Launched Untangled Connections 4.5 years ago as a test run to see if my business would be viable. Announced the new website and business last May to guests here. Continued posting about seemingly random topics. Then took a partial sabbatical – which I will explain next month.

Thanks for continuing to check in here; really appreciate it.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: When People Avoid You because…

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Life is awkward on the best of days. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding oneself in unknown situations. Other times there is something going on, and people who care avoid you for their own reasons. Or you avoid them. No one communicates. Or everyone communicates without really saying anything aka addressing the cause(s).

That ends up with: confusion, hurt feelings, breaking of relationships, etc.

In my case, I learned a long time ago that people are transient guests in my life. The more they learn about me, the less they want to be around me. On rare occasions, I do meet people and build long term relationships outside of professional ones.

But I can count on 1 hand the number of true friends and loved ones that I interact with more than 3x a month – whether by phone, email, or in person – who have earned my complete trust and respect.

More often than not, people read this blog out of general interest and then start avoiding me in real life. Or they make friends with people who dislike me for some reason and start avoiding me in favor of the “new” people. Or have some other reason to “ghost” me as younger people say these days.

That used to hurt a lot. I didn’t understand what about me made people react this way.

Then I realized the problem was not with me, but with the other people.

You see, something about them made interacting with me uncomfortable. Instead of acknowledging this and working with me to figure out a solution, they denied anything was wrong and avoided me or blamed me instead.

How did I figure this out?

Not on my own. Over the course of my recovery, in counseling sessions and self-improvement workshops, this lesson has been reinforced many times.

I am who I am. I change constantly because life is change. Most of the time I am willing to compromise and work with people. Other times, I flat out refuse to change in order to conform or fit in with cultural norms or peer pressure. But I always try to be respectful and accepting of people as they are even if they don’t return that courtesy.

And because I practice unconditional love and acceptance for all beings, I can accept and forgive people who act and react to life with avoidance, denial, blane, or rejection.

They are who they are and coping with life as best they can. When it happens, no hard feelings.

People come and people go. Feeling hurt or blaming myself only triggers shame and guilt for something that is not my responsibility. I asked questions. I tried to make it right. Did my best. Now it’s over and done with.

I wish those people well and move on.

Other people have told me that attitude is harsh and mean. Maybe it’s true. But trying to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore…how is that healthy, good, or (insert your word here)?

My only goal is to live my life full of unconditional love and acceptance. For me, that brings out the best qualities in life: joy, fun, prosperity, safety, resilience, strength

And allows me to weather the worst life sends my way.

I hope maybe this story will inspire you, my guests, to reflect on how you can take control of your choices by changing your attitude and intention towards yourself, life, and others.

It’s not easy. It’s a continuous work-in-progress, a life-long endeavor. But it can truly change your relationships for the better like it did (and coninues to do) mine.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Strategy: Internal Family Systems explained by Psychology Today

Internal Family Systems Therapy – From Psychology Today magazine.

Recovery is cyclical.

Trauma never goes away, but the patterns and symptoms it leaves inside ebb and flow depending on context, experience, and life.

For a while, our system was stable.  We were in a good place and able to work on other coping challenges that required attention.   Challenges that interfered with living in the outside world.

Now, a lot of these challenges have changed into coping strategies, techniques or learning paths for future references – i.e. resources.  The others are tangled with issues not ready to be addressed yet, so have moved to the background for now.

And it’s time to focus back on adapting our family system.  My alters and I, we, are ready to start working on integration, self-awareness, and creating ways to live in both worlds. That means trying new coping techniques with our counselor and revisiting past ones too.

Why Internal Family Systems therapy? – it coincides nicely with the whole/parts theory of personality and is what our first trauma counselor used to help us get sorted.  Plus, it’s great for helping people learn to cope with feelings/thoughts/opinions that seem overwhelming or conflicting without shame or guilt or anxiety.

Maybe it will help you too.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Options for coping with Bipolar Disorder

Neurofeedback and BioFeedback are Effective Bipolar Disorder Treatment Neurofeedback has been used effectively in the treatment of ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and other mental health disorders. Utilize neurofeedback with a licensed practicioner. It helps you develop powers of self-control and concentration. It strengthens your mind, contributing to recovery. Neurofeedback gives you needed support from professionals,…

via Bipolar Disorder Self Help — Sad N Blue

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder and is open to new options, please read and share.

Thanks for reading.