These past few months have been really tough for me. After graduating from college in September 2019, I moved back home to be able to save up for graduate school and also to provide care to my father who is currently battling Stage IV Kidney Cancer.
I had a solid plan, and I was completely motivated to crush my goals the first few weeks. Even though I was an emotional roller coaster, I was doing pretty okay. But then my dad had to change from immunotherapy to harsh chemotherapy treatment. My mom had surgery a few months previously and had to go back to work in December. I picked up her duties at home including cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, and taking her to her therapies when needed.
I can’t pinpoint where the chaos started. I had been on birth control for three months when I began to have mood swings, changes in appetite, insomnia, uncontrollable bleeding, crying spells, depression, and anxiety.
My dad was hospitalized a couple of times, and now has more medical conditions impeding him from feeling better such as high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, heartburn, acid reflux, vertigo, and of course the effects of psychological stress.
My brothers have gotten busier, so all of my dad’s appointments, medication pick-ups, and court-related obligations have fallen upon me. I had been trying intermediate fasting for a few months but when my doctor asked me to stop being on the pill because of the debilitating symptoms I was having, my hormones began to have a mind of their own.
I had applied to doctoral programs in clinical psychology and two masters programs. I only got accepted to one program, a doctoral program in Northern California. I had to miss the interview because I had to take my dad to the emergency room that morning and missed my flight. Aside from all of this, after four years of being told to see a therapist, I began therapy in March 2020.
Right off the bat, she insisted for us to work out and process the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. She diagnosed me with Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which became a downward spiral to more stress and insecurity of my own self-worth.
But for me, the issues weren’t the things going on in my life. I didn’t know how to cope. My body was in shock. After the Shelter-in-Place Order was set because of the COVID-19 pandemic, my body felt like it had just finished running a marathon at a full sprint. I was tired and drained. But what hurts the most was that I felt so misunderstood.
No one in my family had ever earned a college degree or pursued higher education. So they were confused about why I spent so many hours studying for the GREs, my applications, researching for schools, and having meetings with my mentor to ask for advice.
I didn’t really have any friends. And for the few that I did have, most only had severe anxiety or depression, but not PTSD. My symptoms and coping mechanisms were different. My emotions were different. The way I went through and processed traumas were different.
Currently, the most painful thing though is that my boyfriend has asked for his space away from me. I don’t blame him. I see how I became very overwhelmingly needy of his company. But when he compared me to his friend, that when he talked to her they never talked about anxiety or negative topics, I was hurt. I know that everyone is going through something, so I know that her life most likely isn’t a ball of sunshine. But it made me feel like he didn’t see the bigger picture. He didn’t see the layers of the pain, trauma, insecurity, anxiety, and depression that I was trying to navigate. I was trying my ultimate best with what my mind and body had space for.
My brothers visit once or twice a week. I know they’re stressed and worried for our dad. I know my oldest brother is a workaholic because it’s the only way he knows how to cope. I know my other brother stress-eats to feel better. But yet, we never talk about what we feel. We’re three locked boxes scared to face the pain together as a family. I don’t think they know how much the situation has stressed and hurt me.
At home, I’ve been providing my parents’ daily meditation to hopefully bring calmness into our home. I try to stick to breath work, visualization, loving-kindness meditations, and positive affirmations. The sessions always go well. But the positive energy cultivated is very short-lived. My parents go back to their habits of trying to hide away their pains and discomforts. I completely understand why they do it. I wish they knew that I want to talk things out with them. Heal the wound together. But it’s not part of our culture, so I don’t know-how.
The other day my mother told me about how my great-grandmother had been raped. My mother has been sexually abused by a family member, and I was sexually abused at age 4 or 5. I’m not sure if my grandmother had been sexually abused, but I can only imagine that she has. The weight of this sits heavy on my heart, but because I know that since I’m the only one in our lineage that understands trans-generational trauma, it’s my responsibility to heal their invisible wounds passed to me through their womb so that it no longer continues in our family.
Hmm…maybe it’s not so much the feeling of being misunderstood that feels painful, but the loneliness that comes with having this different kind of life.