Growth in Parts

The author as a 2-3 year old girl in a red dress with a white apron looking at the camera

Me, at 2 or 3

I am growing, and learning, a lot, this summer, at a rate that oftentimes feels overwhelming, and when I feel overwhelmed, I’ve learned that a big part of grounding is writing through it.

I recently got myself back into therapy, and am working with a wonderful Asian American female therapist who sees and gets me in a way that is profound and affirming. Whenever she says, “That must have been really hard for you,” I get emotional. I mean, I am getting emotional writing about her saying that because I feel seen in those words.

It was hard for me.

Sometimes, it is still hard for me.

And so often, the hard parts, the hard feelings, the loss, the mini-traumas, the major-traumas, are the moments that I’ve swallowed, hidden away and masked, in a desire to move forward.

My therapist asked me, in one of our first sessions, to spend some time drawing the different feelings and emotions I was experiencing over the time between sessions. I had been feeling a lot of anxiety recently (we are, after all, living during a pandemic, and for people with trauma history and experiences of sudden loss, nothing is more triggering than a situation in which you experience a complete lack of control) so I thought that would show up predominantly in my drawings.

But, what really showed up, was overwhelming sadness, masked as frantic movement to get things done.

I am so sad.

I have been so sad.

I have been carrying this sadness for such a long time.

It is exhausting, hard, and destructive.

There is so much weight to this swallowed, silenced sadness that is protected by an image of incredible strength, competency and hard work.

It had become overwhelming.

And then I saw it, in my own sketches.

So, we worked through an exercise based on parts therapy, which, as I understand it (and clearly, this is not my area of expertise) helps parts of yourself that are stuck at certain ages (your inner child or children) come to resolution, or at least, be seen and acknowledged for what they felt or are feeling, as it’s triggered in your current life.

And here’s what I realized through that work:

  • I’ve struggled with being seen for so long, since I was little, with feeling like the work I’m doing will be accepted by people I want to like me.
  • I’ve struggled with not knowing how to play the right game, with feeling like people are too busy to see me or talk with me or play with me.
  • I have felt alone in the midst of so many people I wanted to be in community with.
  • I have internalized that all as not being good enough.
  • It is at the core of my sadness.

But I’ve also realized this:

  • I can be responsible for my own healing. I can heal myself (with support and community, of course, but also by paying attention to the little me).
  • At the core, I have always been and will always be a survivor.
  • I don’t have to swallow my sadness anymore.
  • There are people who do love me, just the way I am, and it’s okay to let them in.
  • When my sadness surfaces, often what I need more than anything is to pause and be with it.

Doing this self-work (self-care, self-preservation, self-sustainability) is not easy, and it’s a process. I see myself getting triggered all the time. I still am engaging in hard-to-break harmful patterns of overworking and negative self-talk. But, I am hopeful. And grateful to the community that calls me into all of my work.

The process of change and transformation is not linear, straightforward or easy.

No one said it would be.

But, I am nothing if not committed and hard working.

Only this time, the goal is pushing towards liberation, for myself, my communities and in my work.

It is time.

Growth in parts.

Towards this goal.

One thought on “Growth in Parts

  1. Thanks for sharing. For those of us in the academy who wrestle with mental wellness and illness, it is good to know we are not alone.

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