Content Warning: anxiety, trauma, parental trauma, abandonment
I write this first simple letter for two sets of eyes: our younger selves, and the people we choose to be, despite the hurt.
As I get older, I begin to understand the importance of taking the time to do check-ins with yourself, whether it be weekly or daily. Modern life works ridiculously fast and brings about an immense amount of pressure, now more than ever. I personally know how trauma can blanket someone’s life at any point, and most times, it comes without warning.
If I were getting to the root of it, my first bouts with anxiety and trauma truly began when my parents left me in the Philippines with my relatives after living in New York with my family. I was an only child for a good six years until my sister was born (in hindsight, it was simply for financial purposes, mom, and dad needed to save their US dollars in order for us to have a better life). I recall waking up at dawn, seeing all their bags packed, saying they’ll be back soon while I cried my eyes out. Tears poured out for days and days, up until my first day of school in an unfamiliar country and a language I barely understood. I know from an outside perspective, the logic behind their actions outweighed my “feelings,” yet it lit a fire under my abandonment issues tailgating me all these years. From that point on, I never fully trusted my parents again, especially my dad. After four years, my siblings and I moved back to New York to pick up where we left off, as if nothing changed. Meanwhile, all I knew of them were two familiar people who would attempt small talk on the phone and visit us once a year.
And then we rebuilt! Or, at least we tried to.
Believe it or not, my life so far wasn’t all that bad. Quite the contrary! Surface happy, anyway. The whole time, I knew I harbored an enormous amount of guilt, because despite telling myself I’ve forgiven them — my head wouldn’t let me forget. I shoved the pain so far down, I had no room to realize it affected every relationship and friendship in my life. Sure, it turned me into someone strong, self-reliant, and empathetic, but also temperamental, mouthy, and broken. In the old days, they had you committed, now you’re just “quirky.”
At the end of the day, all this awfulness in my past still fills me with gratitude for what I have now, and what to look forward to. I remind myself that I am the shift that betters my outlook and relationships; as long as I accept that, self-love isn’t just unselfish, it’s deserved.
Now, don’t forget to breathe.