As in the title above, I am in the process of telling my dad I go through therapy.
In Korea, it was deemed almost taboo for someone to go to a therapist for psychological reasons. They thought anything that was psychological was either considered a sign on weakness or insanity.
Well, these days people are taking it much more seriously- and I personally know many people who go to the therapist on a regular basis: yes, including me.
It was hard to open up to my mom and dad about this, because the first time I told them I was suffering from depression– which was way back in my teenage years, they didn’t take it very well.
My mom burst into tears. She asked me if I was out of my mind- and asked me in such a mean way “that I have it pretty good, and that I don’t understand what real suffering is.” To be honest, that is just one of the bad episodes I have with her.
These days, I’ve been dropping hints about my mental issues:
I take sleep medication, because I can’t sleep.
I can’t take the subway when it is crowded- I sometimes faint and often freak out.
I go to therapy to talk about these problems.
Of course- I didn’t “put a label” on it. And when I start talking about it, my dad starts to shut his mouth. He’s not ready for it, or possibly, he thinks its not an issue that I should be worried about- because ‘people have gone through that without medication or therapy for AGES’, and I can too.
I’ll never really know what he’s thinking, because he never really talks about these things with me. But one day, I hope he’ll realize that this is just a part of who I am.
After my mom passed, I brought home two foster cats to my dad’s house. This was after I had changed all his furniture, got him a new bed, and moved back in with him. (Just for a while)
My dad spent a lot of time sleeping- which he doesn’t do often… and a lot of time drinking his sadness away. Of course, I was there with him every night- doing the same.
There was a limit to the things I can say to him. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what I could say. Sometimes, even among family- you will find that there are no words to describe your emotions. Especially when you’ve been trained to lock your emotions in for over 50 years.
Lunar New Year came and went- we prepared my late mom a meal for the holidays (Korean ancestor worshipping tradition) and on the last day of the holiday, I brought these two fuzzies home.
Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to bring two new family members to our house in a state of grief. But I believed that we learn to heal by helping others heal. My dad and I needed a sense of empathy, a support group telling us it’s okay to be… well… not okay.
None of our human family members told us this. They told us to be strong. They told us to move on. They looked at our grief as a sign of weakness- something they can just rush past when clearly that wasn’t possible for the both of us.
What I learned from these two
Lesson 1: It’s okay to feel uncomfortable.
When Yulmoo and Chapssal first came, they seemed fine. They ate, ran, and used the bathroom. But just when I thought they were adjusting, that night- they soon became agitated and scared. Chapssal (I’ll call him Chap for short) meowed the whole night, and Yulmoo (I’ll call her Yool) hid under the sofa for the whole day after.
I think sadness and fear don’t necessarily show up as we predict they will. Sometimes, we feel okay- then we find out later that we really aren’t. And that’s ok.
My dad and I were okay with the cats being so- and maybe we should let ourselves be okay with not being okay. Even if we said we would be.
Lesson 2: In time, you will learn to love and trust again.
Must have been hard for them to come out of hiding. Even as small, fearless kittens- you can’t really force them to come out of hiding. It’s something that cannot be done by force.
But when they did come out from under the couch and stop crying- they learned to resume their daily activities, even started a few fun kitty fights with each other.
They learned to trust their environment and the situation they were in. Chap and Yool gained the confidence to start being themselves again.
Lesson 3: There are better days coming.
This isn’t the end for Chap and Yool. They are going to find a better home- and a loving family. For them, coming out of their fear and sadness was just the beginning of a new story.
Sure, they won’t go back to the old, warm house and family that rescued them. But that is in the past. There are better things waiting for them, and with every passing day, that day becomes closer.
Lesson 4: We always have each other, and sometimes it doesn’t require words.
Lastly, they’re always there for each other. That’s all that matters. Though they are parted from their rescue home, they still have each other to help each other get through it.
They don’t really say much, to be honest. They just sit there watching TV together, grooming each other, and eating with each other. Sometimes- it’s just the fact that someone is there for you that counts.
My dad and I, Chap and Yool spend more and more time laughing and playing now. It’s amazing what emotional change two foster cats can bring to us. I know that we may not be their forever home- and if someone else comes along to adopt them… we might need to say goodbye.
But for now, we are going to enjoy the time given to us- and just let ourselves be who we are, and look out for each other, for all of us- just like these two do for us.
Heading back home after a day with my family, stress levels were high.
Literally any song on the radio could bring me to tears that day.
I also noticed that everyday things were all memories of loved ones. People that I would soon lose.
I found that looking at those things would one day bring me tears of joy or tears of sorrow, grieving over what once was there.
Mango Juice: My grandma still keeps shit tons of mango juice at her house. She didn’t even know what mango was until I came and lived with her. It was the only juice I would drink as a child, and she still remembers how much I loved it. Seeing juice boxes and 1 liter bottles of mango juice at her house still makes me a little teary.
Baobab Trees and Gypsophila: My moms favorite plants. She was a curious soul. Mom would be fascinated by how the baobab had roots on their tree tops. She loved The Little Prince. She had a wonderful, childlike innocence. Mom also loved Gypsophila. She loved them more than roses. When people gifted her with a bouquet, she would tell me how much she loved the white little bulbs that supported the beauty of the roses.
Small things hold so much meaning when linked to beautiful memories. It reminds me of so much more than just a certain period of time or an event– but more of the person and the people they used to be.
I have never really learned to express other emotions rather than joy and sadness. I cry when I am sad, angry, jealous, tired, and even when I am bored. Most of the time when I cry, I am alone. Sometimes, I am with my lover. Sometimes, I’m just black-out drunk and in the middle of a parking lot. (True story from just 2 months ago)
I always knew I was a sensitive person. But it’s not just about things that happen to me though.
It’s like I have the ability to see through people’s words and expressions, feel their pain, their anger, their shame. And even if the moment passes for them– I am left with a baggage of emotional waste that no one asked me to carry. Who do I go to then? No one. I keep it inside. Sometimes it inspires me, sometimes it drags me down, and sometimes it gets me to trust things and people that should not be trusted.
I often ask myself, why?
Am I that incapable of controlling my feelings? Are my feelings something that just cannot be tamed? What is wrong with me? Why do I always care for other people more than I do for myself, and try to get into things that I’m not capable of handling? Am I an empath, or am I just dumb?
I wonder if there are more people out there in the world who think the same way I do. I would love to join a healthy community where I can share my feelings and emotions with people who understand me. When life becomes a shitshow, would be nice to have a family who go through the same things I do, see life from my point of view, and where I could feel safe and accepted.
There is nothing wrong with my family now, and I love them so very dearly. What bothers me though is that I feel ashamed to let my true self show, even to myself when I’m around people I love. I sometimes neglect the part inside of me that keeps screaming for attention. I also neglect my fears and sadness, no matter how hard I try to face them.
My mother was an actress her whole life. She was a strong woman who took care of herself and her family. She was caring and compassionate, loved by all those around her. I had a strong emotional bond with her, growing up with her in the States, just the two of us. We shared many memories. Though she relied on me as both a daughter and a husband figure, we still made it through. A few years back, she started suffering from an illness that cannot be named or proven by doctors to this day. We don’t know what exactly is wrong with her, even through multiple check-ups and thousands of dollars spent on useless medication and therapy. What we do know is that the symptoms of her illness resemble Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, though her MRI and CT scans prove otherwise.
Just 3 or 4 years ago, my mom started tripping and falling on stage. Her coworkers and our family thought that these were merely a few mistakes– that she had started to lose her eyesight due to old age. When things started getting worse, she would fall down flights of stairs and even refuse to walk around in the house due to her dizziness. Things escalated quickly, and our whole family was struggling to adapt to the changes that were happening.
Me and my dad had an awkward relationship growing up. My mom’s illness caused us to bond in a way that we had never before, and pushed us to our limits both financially and emotionally. We missed her, the wife and mother who was ever so strong– the person who would share her passion for acting, the woman who had gone so far to live her life to the fullest, the mother who would do anything to give her daughter a chance, all gone.
The saddest part of dementia is that my mom no longer resembles the person I loved most dearly. The memories I have of her get fainter every day. Most people would think that this is too harsh, especially in the cultural background where I come from. But every time I look into my mom’s lifeless eyes, it kills me a little bit inside. She remembers very little about recent happenings, my graduation, my first post-graduate job, my boyfriend of 3 years, the pets we had together… My dad and I have started to acknowledge that we may never have her back. We still love her nonetheless, but this love is a different type of love that requires much more patience, much more empathy, and much more responsibility.
The family has changed so much since my mom’s illness. We have a different bond now, somehow stronger and so fragile at the same time. It has triggered me to become vulnerable in everyday situations, and every time I am reminded of my family– tears come to my eyes. I have never known heart-wrenching pain until now. Now, every weekend I visit my parents’ house, I feel a sickening, heart-wrenching pain that I cannot even describe in words.
I have grown a bit accustomed to this lifestyle now, saying my goodbyes every time I think of her. But even still, our family is in a process of denial– I think. We still hope sometimes that she will one day miraculously recover from all her illnesses. That she will start to walk, have regular conversations, eat dinner with us at the dining table, and hold us in her arms, telling us that we have done so much for her and that she will be okay from now. The toll that dementia has on its patients is hard enough as it is, but the pain the caregivers and family members go through is a pain that those who have only heard of can hardly fathom. I plan on keeping a log of these events, as I know one day that this too will be a precious memory for me.
For all the caregivers out there, let’s stay strong. Have our breakdowns and tantrums, but get back up knowing that some part of what we miss so dearly is still somewhere deep inside. It sucks to have to say goodbye to someone who is still very much alive. But I keep wanting to believe that every moment is a precious one, despite the sadness and frustration.
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