Personal / Psychiatry

Being Me

{Chino, California}

My group therapy session last week left me feeling rejected, embarrassed, sad, self-conscious, and angry (all in that order).  Somehow, I became the focus during group and the subject matter stirred up emotions of being an outcast preteen, which I thought I’d outgrown.  I didn’t have very many friends in elementary school.  Kids often made fun of me and singled me out for various reasons (one was related to race since there weren’t very many Asians at my school at the time).  I clearly still remember the boy who called me names as I was shooting hoops by myself on the playground as he repeatedly told me to go back home to China (I am Filipino).  Apparently, as I experienced during group therapy, the memory still effects me with just as much emotion today as it did when I was a kid, which sounds ridiculous especially since I’m a grown adult who has accomplished so much in my life.  Yet, I’m sure we all have memories as a child that we either vividly recollect, suppress, or completely block out of our minds due to the pain they once caused.  As much as I hated having these feelings come to the surface, I trusted in the therapeutic process and knew that re-experiencing the emotions would lead to greater insight.

Now that one week has passed, I felt different going back into my group therapy session this weekend.  I was able to consciously separate the feelings I had as a kid from the grown adult I am today.  During group, I shared the wave of my emotions I had experienced in the interim, as well as how my cultural background and traditional upbringing impacts my communication with others (ie, in Filipino culture, assertiveness is often viewed as being arrogant and disrespectful, whereas in American culture, assertiveness is often expected and rewarded).  The outcome was a sense of validation from my group cohort, for they wanted to understand the reasons why it’s so hard for me to talk and express my opinion during group.  Sure, I had to feel like crap and relive components of the hurtful experience, but the outcome is that I’m able to distinguish how those deeply ingrained feelings continue to impact my interactions with others today (ie, fear of feeling misunderstood, withholding my opinion due to fear of being judged, feeling prone to scrutiny, etc).  There’s something therapeutic about being consciously aware of the origins of your emotions, whereas prior to this exchange, I felt out of control of the emotions as they were triggered.  I realize that I’m not the self-conscious, shy kid I used to be.  During my latest group therapy session, I recognized my ability to let down the walls that I had built to protect myself from criticism/judgment.  The ultimate outcome = feeling more open to being myself.

As a result of this experience, I have even greater respect for those in therapy.  It’s not easy processing painful emotions and many have experienced far more difficult and traumatic events in their lives compared to me.  For anyone who believes that therapy is designed to make you feel good after each and every session, you’re wrong.  Therapy takes far more work and courage than anyone can even imagine.

Photo by Marlon Santos

12 thoughts on “Being Me

  1. So proud of you (and that’s a beautiful picture, btw). You are oh so right, knowing where all the emotions come from is so relaxing in a strange way. I guess it’s because only then are we fully conscious of the fact that we can process things in a different way and not just react like we always do. Sounds like you were able to give your bullied pre-teen self a voice. I’m happy for you 😉

    • Yes u are absolutely right about the conscious part and being self-aware to why we react the way we do sometimes. And I appreciate how u said I was able to give a voice to my preteen self 🙂 You are going to make an excellent psychiatrist!

  2. The beauty in being transparent is that others find comfort in relatability! You will find it to be much easier to serve others when you are not above seeking support yourself! Love it!

  3. Wonderfully expressed. I remember you writing that you very seldom talked in the early grades, so I can well imagine that getting in touch with your feelings about this experience was painful for you. And also a sign of your personal strength to be able to deal with it now. I’m assuming that this one experience was so important because it was representative of your experience of grade school? After all, your “muteness” (I think the word you used earlier) pre-dated this experience. Also, I’m glad you felt validated by your group–both that they could give it and that you felt good about receiving. That’s the Freud part. Now, on to fashion. I don’t think I’ve seen a lovelier profile shot of you. Very nice. 🙂

    • Yes, it’s so strange and surprising how painful the experience was to re-experience it in my present life…it’s as if I got in touch w/ my child self and was able to tell her it’s okay to be yourself. Psychotherapy, when effective, is amazing in that sense. And thanks for your comment about the photo 🙂

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