Why living away from home made me realise the dysfunctionality of my own household? – Shivaani Rajannotyourwife1214
Hi, My name is Shivaani and I currently live in Sydney, Australia. I had the opportunity to live abroad for more than 10 years in India, Netherlands and Australia. I had relocated 6 times and now I am based in Sydney in the middle of a muggy summer of 2021. When I arrived here, I had the most freedom that I ever had in my entire life. My survival instinct was to quickly make friends, so I did not sound lonely when I talked to my parents. I did make friends, but my motto of ‘living life to the fullest’ were misused. I used that freedom to party and being overly concerned about my looks. Life then decided to throw me to an isolated corner. I entered a relationship at the end of 2017 and things were going okay. Couple months later, he said he was unhappy and we decided to break up. We kept seeing each other thereafter, and I knew I was a toxic relationship.
By the end of Dec 18, I got pregnant. I was petrified and felt helpless in that situation. I informed my boyfriend then, where in return he bitterly responded, ‘Oh it’s not mine’. My world fell apart. I was shocked and shattered, that my world stopped moving for a good 5 minutes. My heart raced and my melanin skin cheeks were beaming.
Subsequently, I thought the only way to receive support was to tell the truth to my family. My family recited our values of ‘Behind every lie is a underlying truth”, and I didn’t want to lie. I was not coping well with the accumulated stress, so I confronted my family with my heaviest heart. The first couple of reactions were throwing demeaning labels, “Slut, what are you doing in Sydney, having an orgy? You are so stupid, abort it”. That day was the loneliest day I ever felt. My only support system were totally against me. I was confused, guilty and shameful.
Fast forwarding to a year later, after moving back to Sydney and submitting 357 job applications, I was offered a job as a mental health worker. I promised my family that I will be able to thrive in Sydney. Although it was stressful living in a place where I was walking on eggshells and had no space to breathe, I took this opportunity to heal. My room became my safe space. I started learning more about shadow work. The year of 2020 was an eye opener. It led me a pathway full of awareness in many unresolved, misogynist, traumatic experiences. Here is what I slowly learnt during my healing process:
- My family depicts that seeking help is for the weak, especially mental health. They had associated mental health = being psychotic and shut away in an institution, portrayed in many old-fashioned movies.
- Everything is dusted under the rug. Any hardships? Don’t talk about it, deal with it. I remember expressing over a Skype call on our weekly catch up that I was feeling ‘depressed’. The next thing came by was a comment stating, ‘You’re a psychologist, how can you be depressed?’.
- Seeking constant validation was a constant disconnection to my authentic self. I always strive to seek my father’s validation. I had a determination to prove him wrong that I was not ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’.
- Relocating 6 times had its pros and cons. Pros were adapting to new culture, lifestyle and meeting new people. The cons were losing touch with people whom I previously bonded well with and readapting to a new culture and lifestyle.
- Body image was a major issue in my household. My siblings and I were picked about our bodies .Comments like, “Oh you have put on so much weight, lose weight or else you won’t get a man”, “Sit properly, like a girl”
- Punishment and physical abuse are not the same. My household’s emphasis on punishment meant beating the ‘eff’ out of you. When I started working in my current company, I learnt all the punishments that I had experienced should have led to legal repercussions.
- When I reflected on my past relationships, most of my partners were reflections of how I felt about myself. Being a perfectionist, constantly fearing, and accepting the bare minimum of any attention, but deep within all I wanted was to be seen, heard and felt.
However, I started reflecting the goodness in my journey despite all the hardships that I had experienced. Here is what I am learning from my ongoing healing journey:
- You are not alone. Although all experiences are unique and emotional pain is immeasurable, just know that you are not alone.
- Acknowledge that our elders, past and presents were brought up in a different era. They had equally suffered and survived from receiving the bare minimum. Empathise with their hardships, but be aware to discontinue the patterned behaviour.
- Educate yourself on coping with vulnerability, stress, and trauma. Gaining knowledge about myself led to learning my attachment styles and coping strategies. Reach out to health professionals (e.g. counsellors, psychologists) where you are provided a safe space to unlearn unhealthy patterns and relearn healthy patterns
- Listen to your body. Your body will react differently in familiar and unfamiliar situations (e.g. fight, flight or freeze). How your body reacts is an indication on when your boundaries are being overstepped and needs to be addressed.
- My journey has driven me to be too independent. The process now is unlearning to be a perfectionist and learning to accept my imperfections.
- Most of us lacked emotional regulation and safeness. Explore how you wanted to be loved such as hugs, caress, affirmations etc. For example: When I get triggered, I instantly visualise my current self-hugging my younger self, acknowledging her pain and assuring that we are going to get through this.
- Healing can be really tiring and it’s okay to take a break. Reach out to activities/hobbies that is relaxing. My go to activity is listening to music, going for a short getaway, writing and catching up with friends.
- Hold space for yourself and others. Spent time alone to reflect and rest.
- My adult self-morning mantra is by reciting a phrase: “I deserve being loved and authentic to myself and others around me, and I deserve a loving, safe and healthy relationship” This has helped shift my perspective on how I wanted to be valued and be respected.
- Lastly, you deserve the same amount of patience and kindness you provide for others, to yourself.
By Shivaani Rajan