March 13, 2021, is currently the last time I got to see my youngest daughter, Natalia (name has been changed). Had I known what lay ahead, I would’ve hugged her forever and slept at the foot of her bed that night.
In writing this, I’m filled with a rainbow of emotions that span a spectrum of feelings. Everything I identified with, that defined me as Joy, was ripped away from me overnight. Not by strangers but by my own family, who only two weeks prior were supporting my journey to getting back on my feet. On a side note, I grew up in an incredibly dysfunctional household, which led to a warped sense of normalcy and unhealthy behaviors. I can see this now in hindsight, but it took quite a bit of therapy to fully grasp it. Unfortunately, my mother has an unusual disdain for me and since I don’t subscribe to her unhealthy, narcissistic based behaviors the wrath I’ve endured has been dark.
This story has many layers to it, too many to include here, as the bones of my experience and what I’ve gained are enough for this share. I will say I feel that my survival and success are nothing short of a miracle. That miracle came from a direct relationship with God, no religion attached, just pure love and light. Because I know my truth, I can share what I’ve been through without shame. I’ve done the work to heal the aspects of myself that reflected a version of me rooted in trauma, anxiety, and dysfunction.
Covid times were and have been hard for everyone. We were all forced into uncharted territories that created a survival state of mind for so many. My dad died in April 2020 in a sudden & traumatic way. He was my greatest friend and an incredible father. His loss sent me into a deep state of grief I thought I’d never get out of. At the same time, Natalia was grieving her grandfather, whom she had gotten so close to in his last months. She was also grieving the loss of her friends, school, and social life. A recipe for anxiety and depression.
Let’s fast forward to March 1, 2021. I was now relocated with Natalia on my brother’s property. It was a transitional place for us. Natalia had now been doing remote schooling for almost a year.
She’d gone from middle school to high school without experiencing the physical changes from one institution to another. She missed 8th-grade graduation and freshman orientation, all experiences everyone before her took for granted. Natalia was now to go back to school physically and I was beginning to come out of my grief haze. She was struggling academically across the board, even in P.E., so I got her a tutor to help.
I resolved to become stricter now that we had to get back on track. I began to enforce work habits, and consequences for attitude and unfinished work. Mind you, for the last seven years up to that point I was a full-time single parent. In my mind, I was doing the best for Natalia to succeed and if I had to be hard on her then it was something she’d thank me for later in life.
Tension grew between us, we were not seeing eye to eye and our communication had become unhealthy. I take full responsibility for not taking the lead in those interactions. I had yet to do the work to do and be better. Our last disagreement was loud, upsetting, and mutually disrespectful. To be clear, it was never physical, just verbal. Although that doesn’t make it less abusive or justify my behavior.
That disagreement led to Natalia telling my siblings she felt unsafe with me. That prompted them to report me to CPS, which led to a closed case. I was desperately fighting to get Natalia back while living in a motel. Please note California laws are contradictory regarding parents’ and teenagers’ rights. I felt like I wasn’t going to survive this. Most of my family (including my older daughter Darshani (name has been changed)) had turned against me in a way I couldn’t have imagined. EVER. I prayed hard for guidance, strength, and the resolve to survive this no matter how it looked. I vowed to be the light in the dark no matter what, who, or how. I started therapy right away, and that was a huge lifesaver. One of my best friends took me in and helped me get a job. Then I got another. For almost a year I lived with a Korean family and learned a great deal. They gave me a sense of family and warmth. During this journey, my goal was to keep myself busy in the most productive ways so I wouldn’t spiral into deep sadness. I could sink or swim, I chose the latter.
You see from the age of 22 to 40 my whole identity revolved around being a mom. I had learned from a young age that being a mom meant sacrifice, selflessness, and unconditional everything at the cost of yourself. It took this experience to realize that it was a bunch of bull shit to oppress mothers from being happy, fulfilled humans.
I began to heal in ways I never imagined. I got certified as a paralegal. I did several yoga teacher training courses. I volunteered for organizations close to my heart. I spoiled myself in ways I never had, because as a mom I was always in survival mode and never felt like I deserved anything other than my basic needs met. I learned that I could have two conflicting emotions at the same time. I could be grieving all my losses while consecutively celebrating my successes. I forgave myself. That was rough but necessary to achieve the next level of healing. I found a love for boxing and working out in ways that supported the strengthening of my mind as much as my body. I started playing tennis again. I treated myself to nice meals. I began to love myself in every way, even the parts of me I was and am still healing. I will say during these last 2 years I’ve never stopped reaching out to both of my daughters.
My focus is on Natalia in this story but both daughters hold my heart equally. Natalia is also younger, and I’ve missed most of her high school years, which hurts bad. All this time I’ve never stopped trying to communicate and get both girls back in my life. Calls, texts, emails, physical letters, social media, Venmo…I got creative. In December, Darshani, my eldest, reached out that she wanted to reconnect. It was one of the best days of my life. We are in the most incredible place right now. We’ve done a lot of healing and forgiving together. She sees and recognizes my changes. I took accountability for my shortcomings. I acknowledged the validity of her feelings and experiences without judgment or defensiveness. Natalia has cracked the door open; I see a beam of light coming through. I trust in the Divine plan.
As I conclude this I am filled with gratitude and pride for how far I’ve come. With tears gently streaming down my face, I rejoice in becoming the best version of myself for myself, my daughters, and humanity. I’ve chosen the hard route for all of us, for my ancestors and our generational traumas. In sharing my story, I choose to be an example and to give others hope.
Be the light and darkness will cease to dominate you.
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