resolution

                      s543

Unresolved feelings. Loose ends. Throbbing scars. Heavy silences. Suffocating gloom.

There are the things that come to mind when I think of my hometown.

Last week, I went back to my hometown partly to visit an old friend, but also to seek resolution, to breathe new life into a tattered story left hanging, to re-acquiant myself with an older version of me, one that I have been trying to deny for years after I left. If I were being honest with myself, I have been trying to prove to myself, and to those people of my past, that contrary to what I was made to believe by everyone around me, that I am worth something, that there was more to me than what they believed.

But I see now that that was a fool’s errand. As I sat at a coffee shop, staring pensively out of the window at the glum clouds and barren desert, I arrived at the conclusion that has been staring at me in the face for a long while: what I am looking for is not in the place where I grew up.

Resolution resides within myself.

Case in point. I continue to live out my past in the things I do, the decisions I make, the way I perceive the world, myself and the people I encounter. The fears, detachment, anger, voicelessness, inner suffering, despair… these things live inside of me, and nowhere else. The only logical conclusion then is that the healing I seek therefore must be instigated from within.

Since I was young and up until I was 21, I lived a numb existence and hated myself, mechanically tearing wounds into my heart and soul in the way others have done to me. Despite all that has passed, my resolution became clear to me. I must love myself and believe in my worth in its entirety. I can only become whole if I accept all parts of me, including those parts of my past that I hate and attempt to forget or reject. I must put each piece of me back together, and say, “You did the best you could with what you had. You hung in there. I love you and accept you, exactly as you are.

We cannot self-actualize, reach our potential, be who we are meant to be, until we accept and love our whole selves. Before I thought moving on and focusing on the present and future were all that mattered. Yet to embody true self-love, you must accept everything about you, including your past mistakes, failures, and all of those “ugly” bits, and tell yourself, it is all beautiful. I am beautiful. And I accept all of these imperfections as perfectly me. I can still do so much with my imperfect self.

Telling ourselves this is difficult if we do not readily believe it. But it is part of the healing process. We fake it till we make it.

For the rest of my visit in my small, desert hometown, I held onto young Anna’s hand with gentle care, and kept reminding her that no one else defines us now. Not our past, all those people we knew, or even this town. We are in control, and we are beautiful. We’ve got this.

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The Day I Almost Killed Myself

                               field light

Writing this story is not, by any means, a simple feat. To memory, I can only recall telling this story two times in my life. I still continue to feel fear at how people may respond to one of the most painful moments of my life. But Maya Angelou once said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you… and I am beginning to realize how accurate she is.

I was eleven years old. During that time, I was an outcast, a “loser,” a black sheep, a reject. Coming from a poor, immigrant family, my parents could not afford me nice clothes or shoes to wear like all of the other “cool” kids. My mother forbade me from wearing make-up. And it did not help that I was a little socially awkward, and the only “Asian” kid in my class. I stood out like a sore thumb, and people picked on me and made fun of me daily, though I did not know them and they did not know me. Although I had a group of friends initially, they soon ostracized me for reasons unknown and began to pick on me too. I had no one. And the thoughts that reverberated in my mind were, “What did I do to deserve this? Why do people hate me so much? There’s nothing I can do to stop them. I’m hopeless. There is no one. I am alone.”

My parents were always at work, and my siblings abhorred helping me… because one of the family rules I had growing up was, “Don’t ask for help. Figure it out yourself.” So I had no one to turn to. No one in my life to help me, to tell me that someone’s treatment of you didn’t define who you are, that it was fucked up what they did to me. That I was beautiful, not ugly, stupid and weird like the kids at school were drilling into my head.

One day, after a group of girls in my neighborhood had thrown rocks at me for the umpteenth time, I remember I was sitting on the couch in our living room, sobbing and crying, drowning in my pain. I was home alone and thinking, “Is there no escape to this? Will this be my life?” My thoughts turned darker as I sunk deeper into my depression, sadness and pain, and I begun to consider something that no person should ever consider, especially one so young. I want to die. If I kill myself, the pain will stop. If I kill myself, I can finally escape.

And so, I went to the kitchen, tears still streaming down and stinging my eyes. I let out a sob as I opened the drawer and pulled out a kitchen knife. I pricked the sharp tip with my finger, my view getting blurrier. Gripping the handle, I thought of stabbing myself deeply in the heart, with the intent of meeting Death and ending all the agony and suffering. It is the only way. Please God, just let it end.

But as I raised the knife slightly closer to my chest, my vision was suddenly blinded by a translucent, white light. It was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had in my life. Clouded by the fuzzy white, I heard a voice, strong and clear, ringing in my ears: Anna, put the knife down. Do not do this to yourself. Put the knife down.

To my very bones, I knew and recognized that voice as God’s.

Instantly, the urge to drive the knife into my heart vanished and I slowly placed the knife back in the drawer. The pain was still beating heavy, but it became evident then that I could not follow through with my intent. One moment there, one moment gone, I knew God had just intervened in the precise second that I needed him, when I wanted to give into my demons and take my life. At that time in my life, there truly was no one to turn to in my world. But I was never alone. I realized later that in His intervention, God kept me from making my most fatal assumption. He saved my life.

This is my untold story. This is one of my deepest pains, bare and open for you to see. I’ve held it inside me for fifteen years of my life, afraid of others’ judgment. But I no longer wish to hold it inside anymore, and have the shame eat at me, perpetuating my agony. I hold no shame, and I own my pain. Although I did not know this at the time, the pain was molding and shaping me, turning me into the sensitive, insightful, compassionate person I have grown to become. Although I still struggle with my demons as a result of my experiences, as C. S. Lewis argues, pain shapes us into the person we have the potential to become, like a piece of silver being refined in the fire. We are made perfect in our suffering, even though many times when we are in our suffering, it is difficult to see. For me, it was very difficult indeed, and I was so young. But that did not deter Him. He came for me before I could give up.

But this is not a story of shame. It is a story of success. Because I am alive today, dedicated to making a positive impact as a therapist, and with my words.

For anyone who also has an untold story inside them too, I urge and encourage you to speak up. Speak out. Do not let the shame, guilt or pain take the wheel of your life, keeping you bound. Your experiences are completely valid, regardless of what anyone says. There is a purpose, a function to your pain. And you are not alone. Please tell me, and others, of your story. You deserve to be attended to. You have a voice that deserves to be heard.

I am a survivor. I am a fighter. And if you are alive today, reading this, so are you.