It’s truly refreshing to blog again after a few months’ hiatus. It has been too long, but now that I am settled back into internet life with working wifi, it is time to get typing.
Here’s a list of things that happened this summer:
1. Worked at Camp Ramapo
2. Moved houses (again)
3. New laptop (Mac, finally)
4. Got accepted to a study abroad program (China in February of next year!)
5. Realize the importance of community
I’m still working through many emotions – I have to type out my feelings or I will go insane.
After working at a summer camp for kids with Behavioral disorders and on the Autism spectrum, I feel as if I have gained the confidence to communicate with people and expect a degree of respect and appropriate behavior from them. Before I launch into the anecdotes of valuable lessons learned from working as a camp counselor at a special needs camp, I have to own up to something I have been experiencing, long since I was a child.
This summer has taught me to raise my voice because it is valuable and worthy, and so many people – children and adults have worked together to create a loving community together at the camp where I was lucky enough to be a counselor.
It’s time to say it. I am a survivor of emotional abuse.
I didn’t realize how to identify what I was going through when I was a child because I had always felt this pervasive emotion of “otherness” tied to my culture, tied to my immigration status, tied to my sexual orientation.
I always knew I was different, but due to expectations of my culture and people I talked to growing up, I attributed what was going on at home to my own personal inadequacies and carried a huge sense of guilt and shame.
The only types of abuse I was familiar with learning about were physical and sexual; in being unable to identify with the stories of abuse I learned about, I could not name what I was going through.
The culture I grew up in emphasizes respect of one’s elders and love for one’s family above all else. Chinese culture is also patriarchal, so sexism exists and extends into certain families. Since Classical times up until the Cultural Revolution (which Communism in theory taught equality of the sexes) and modern times, boys have been valued more than girls in families.
Of course it’s important to note that every family is individual despite sharing a culture, but I am writing from my own experiences and interactions with other Chinese families in my community.
My family had a hierarchy where my younger brother was at the top and no matter what I did, I would always be at the bottom. I was told over and over that I was “stupid”, “ugly” and “fat” at a young age until I graduated high school. I was humiliated by my father’s reading my journals in elementary school and taunting me with my words, then asking about certain events in rage. He was emotionally manipulative – one instance would involve him speaking to me kindly, then in the next hour he would hurl verbal abuses and throw water in my face.
There were no conversations – if I tried to argue, screaming would take place and in the end, my father would always be right despite my attempts at reasoning. There was no reasoning with my father – though his relationships with my mother and brother were different, he would still act similarly with them; he would swing from kind to angry and vindictive multiple times the same day. He didn’t humiliate them to the same extent that I was, but he would still use verbal abuses and yell while focusing on one of our mistakes i.e. forgetting to lock the front door for a longer time than it deserved.
On the surface; at church, at social gatherings, it seemed like my family was tight-knit. Many parents complimented how blessed my family was to have a son and daughter: a sign of prosperity and fortune in Chinese culture. My parents made sure to parade me and my brother at potlucks and dinners at friends’ houses, praising us for our accomplishments to any parent that would listen, even arguing over which child would be more successful in parents’ discussions of their children.
At home, I lived in fear and felt powerless to do anything. I dreamed of running away but was put off by the rage I would face from my father if I did. I dissociated often and started to cut my wrists when I was in middle school. I became depressed and stopped eating regularly at 14 and constantly thought of new ways to end my life. I never attempted to end my life because I was too fearful to. I used to attribute that to my sense of personal failure, but now I am grateful I never attempted to take my life.
Although I feel that I have made some progress – I have come to realize that I am worthy and deserving of love and kindness and have a supportive community at school and work, “home” can never be the home my friends return to. I have created distance between myself and my father, and am never at “home” for too long. Home is not a place where I feel safe emotionally. In fact, it never was. I dream of the day I will live alone, away from my family.
I hope that naming my negative experience will lead me to the long process of healing.