My Therapy Stories (#3) – Abandonment

What is the impact of abandonment issues on our mental health? Here is my therapy story, and the kind of inner child healing I experienced with self-care.

Growing up, I faced a lot of abandonment issues.

The earliest memory is when I was 5 years old, and a Brazilian girl in my apartments announced that today was her last day. She was moving away. And it turned out, she was mad at me about something.

I had no clue why, but she went ahead and made fun of me infront of our friends. It was embarrassing but I wanted to rectify this. She was very dear to me. So I tried apologizing to her. But she pushed me away and left.

I never knew what became of her. I’ve forgotten her name and her face. But that was my first taste of rejection and stayed hidden in my subconscious for decades to follow.

As I grew older, there was a recurring incident of being kicked out of my group of friends. It was always a group of 4 or more girls, and somewhere down the line, I would be asked to go sit with someone else, or that I wasn’t wanted in their conversation.

In short, I always ended up alone. And this abandonment affected my self-worth over a period of time.

As a consequence, my introvert nature revealed itself in a deeper capacity. I started hanging out with one friend at a time. Groups made me uncomfortable and unwanted. When I didn’t have that ‘one’ friend, I would resort to being alone and doing my own thing.

It wasn’t until I came to college, that I made a lasting group of friends. Infact, when everyone showed up at my wedding, it was truly a healing touch for my wounded inner child.

Wedding, Friends, Happy, Abandonment, Celebrate, Therapy

How I Coped With My Abandonment Issues

Because of several childhood incidents, which I also talked about in the first two parts of My Therapy Stories, I became a people-pleaser. I had low self-esteem.

So, I constantly seeked people that validated me, for the things I did for them.

I tried to retain friendships by being extra nice as a person. It was as though I was always over-compensating for the friendship I lost at the age of 5.

I would make it a point to always go talk to the new kid, or the quiet kid. Because I knew how it felt to be left out.

I would spend hours making handmade gifts on birthdays, going out of my way to help my friends in whatever way I could. Emotionally, morally, financially. But I rarely ever experienced the same affection back for me.

My love for DIY was often extended in making handmade b’day cards.

I felt confused and unloved.

There were moments when all the heartbreak and abandonment had me second-guess my self-worth. But once I evolved from this behaviour, I was able to resolve a vital question on my journey towards Self-Love – do I love ‘too much’?

Inner Child Becomes Outer Rebel

People-pleasing combined with an introvert personality also led me to always be the good kid. Even when I didn’t like something, I never spoke up. Later, I became aware of this, and started rebelling and being defensive.

I would refuse to do as I was told. This lasted for a while, only until I started making sense of the importance of creating healthy relationship boundaries.

Through therapy, I learned that two people in a dialogue can both be right, and yet disagree. Someone’s opinion doesn’t invalidate mine. And I can be the mature one to hold space for both of us.

Ofcourse, I still sometimes struggle to do what someone else wants me to, because I feel scared that I am conforming again. The sense of righteousness within sometimes shows itself and gets in the way of having a happy conversation.

This is also why I am often called assertive and inquisitive. I have extensive discussions, and I want my mind to be able to do something without feeling invalid for how I feel.

But the lesson is clear to me. You have to believe in yourself first, you have to be your biggest supporter, not just the biggest critic. Everyone else’s approval comes after that, never before.

Concluding Thoughts

Abandonment is a common fear that can lead to insecurity, lack of self-worth and a big impact on the kind of relationships we enter. So many times, we hold on to less-than-healthy people because we are scared that we will be alone once again, if they leave us.

Dealing with my fears helped me close the loop on such relations, and step into healthier, fulfilling dynamics.

So, I encourage you to reflect on your own childhood memories, and identify the patterns that created who you are today. Is the fear of being abandoned a part of your story too?

Read More : My Therapy Stories – Inner Child Wounds

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My Therapy Stories (#2) : Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem can be effected by a number of things. Health was my reason. Here’s what therapy revealed for my well-being and confidence levels.

Some people are just overly susceptible to falling sick and all other kind of health issues. Growing up, I was one of them. This is part 2 in My Therapy Stories and I’m here to tell you about how inner child therapy boosted my self-esteem.

Growing up, I always felt so much guilt and shame, because my immunity wasn’t great. Constantly falling sick meant missing important events and opportunities. It’s funny and saddening at the same time to recall some of the things that shaped my image amongst people (and in my head too).

HEALTH (& GUILT) IN CLASS

I missed a lot of exams, took a lot of ‘half-days’ where my dad would have to bring me back early from school. I felt grateful for him, and yet quite ashamed of myself for constantly causing him this inconvenience. More and more, I tried to be independent and to not need my parents for anything.

Rarely, this was the case. So you can imagine the guilt-ception that followed. And the downward spiral of confidence levels and self-esteem.

This one time, when I was about 9 years old, our class went on a field trip to a house-turned-museum.

class, school, cole elementary, boise, Idaho, children, classroom, class photo, health
A cute class photo around the time we went on our field trip, back in 4th grade.

I was so sick that I puked in the museum’s non-usable toilet. Yikes! Post that trip, one of my classmate’s parents commented, about how sick I always am. A face of disapproval and disgust accompanied her words.

In a session of Writing Therapy, I recalled this particular incident, which as a child became the root of my ever-increasing guilt. I was made to believe that I was inconvenient.

Another time, once I was back in India and a lot older, one of my teachers sympathetically told me that she thinks I should get some kind of special ‘havan‘ (an Indian ritual to please the Gods) done to free myself from all the ailments.

This same teacher went ahead and down-played my responsibility as a House Caption (to a Vice), just because she thought I’m always sick and won’t be available to take on the role. Thankfully for me, the Captain became one of my best friends, and we also had a good laugh about the situation.

selfie, ryan, school, yellow, smiling, happy faces, health, well-being, self-esteem
A selfie with the ‘Captain’ for Yellow House. She’s one of my best friends till date, so jokes on you, teacher!
Self-esteem? What’s that?!

Even as I continued to grow up, I continued falling sick and missing out on a lot of things.

In college, we planned the first and last trip, us friends. As you can probably tell by now, I didn’t go, because my health gave away, last-moment.

Sure, my friends were supportive, and also cracked a few jokes at my dispense, but internally, it can become exhausting never being able to rely on yourself.

For the longest time, people held the impression of me as the girl that always falls sick. That label, the one I appalled the most, clung on harder with each passing year.

BUT DID YOU DIE?!

No. Things finally took a turn when I began working.

Work was flexible – I could work from home if I wasn’t feeling well. By the end of my 3.5 years stint, I was barely ever taking time ‘off’ and I was in much better health.

Also, I had two adorable roommates that took care of me when I needed to be mothered. One would get me food, the other would bring back medicines on her way from work. They showed me that it’s okay and natural to fall sick. And that I am lovable, regardless of how well my white cells can fight.

health, healthy, roommates, selfie, happy friends, together, anniversary, celebrate, bangalore, smiling, self-esteem, confidence
A selfie on our one year roomie-versary in 2016! Love heals everything, even a weak immune system 🙂

When I first started living with my roommates, I would carry a sweater, umbrella and allergy pills even if we were going out for a dinner date. Simply because I didn’t want to fall sick. I used to carry a mask and stay miles away from anyone that remotely had a cold, because…. well.

HOW LOVE SHOWED ME MY SELF-WORTH

Ofcourse, there were some really ‘down’ moments, such as the time I cancelled my own birthday because of an Irritated Bowel, or the time time I booked a trip but couldn’t go because of the same irritated bowel.

By the end, however, I was able to laugh at my sickness and honour the downtime. These were opportunities to reflect and rejuvenate my health, both mentally and physically.

There was a particular incident where I fell and my foot’s ligament tore. This meant months of bed-rest. And a big ‘no’ against visiting the water park.

I was no longer guilty. I enjoyed that day at home, colouring (therapeutic, by the way) and eating pizza. Now I knew better than to blame myself for a situation in which not much could be done.

shiva, coloring book, pencil colors, trident, children's coloring book
The coloring activity I did when I was stuck at home with a ligament injury. Cute coloring book for kids (and adults), eh?

Sometimes, therapy is simply a loving, conducive environment that lets you be you! Those 2 years taught me a lot about love, especially self-love. And that falling sick had nothing to do with my self-esteem.

THE LAST STRAW

When I fell sick before my wedding, it was embarassing.

It was naturally a crucial time, and everything was falling apart for me. I wasn’t sure I would make it to my own engagement event. This was my trigger point, and I hit another all-time low.

My parents stood by my side and unconditionally supported me; telling me that it’s okay and that it doesn’t make me a weak person, just because I fall sick. I have the right to fall sick and be taken care of. My then-fiancee, was sweet and kept insisting that he’d come see me, inspite his own anxiousness.

Everything turned out great in the end, yes. Infact, it was like a miracle being able to actually enjoy my wedding. As though now, I was as good as new!

couple dance, therapy, healing, health, smiling. morni, engagement, sagar vasundhra, bollywood, confident, self-esteem
A still from our engagement party, where my husband and I danced at the Bollywood number, Morrni. We had a blast!

Much later, in a one-on-one session of counselling/healing, my healer helped me release more of this guilt and shame. I finally let go out a huge, deeply-rooted roadblock that was responsible for effecting my self-esteem.

Ever since, I practise affirmations to remind myself that my body is strong, and that I should be proud of myself for all the things I DO successfully do on all my good days.

Sometimes, therapy is just a reminder for ourselves to take it easy, and to let go of the performance pressure.

Final Thoughts

Physical & Mental Health are closely integrated. Once I started releasing myself from the guilt and living in a mindset of wellbeing, I started noticing a significant improvement in both spaces. My confidence level is like never before. and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. 🙂

There are a lot of ways in which we heal, and this is an attempt to show you the benefits of investing in what the world still ‘stigmatises’. Therapy.

Therapy isn’t for sick people. It’s for people that want to become healthier.

Read More : Inner Child Wounds

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Inner Child therapy for Self-esteem and confidence : My therapy stories

My Therapy Stories (#1) : Inner Child Wounds

Beginning 2020 with a very personal, monthly series, called My Therapy Stories. Let’s break the stigma!

With all the talk about mental health, I decided to put together a new series about my experiences with therapy. The first aspect of my story, begins with inner child wounds from my time at school, and the ripple effects it had all the way through adulthood.

I hope to encourage more people to step up and take therapy as a lifestyle choice. And NOT something to look down upon. Let’s break the stigma!

DISCLAIMER : These stories aren’t always pleasant and they might trigger the parts of you that want to be healed too. But, I promise they have happy endings. And I hope these endings will inspire you. 🙂

Also, none of this is to disrespect or blame anyone. I am only recounting my experiences as a child, but also discussing how these experiences were healed.

How Schooling Effects Mental Health

My family and I stayed in the United States for a few years. Then, we came back to India, the motherland, once I was in 5th grade.

vasundhra, family, childhood, grand canyon, inner child,
Our family trip to the Grand Canyon, from nearly 20 years ago!

Growing up, my school life in India really challenged my mental health. While in USA, I was acing my classes, in India I wasn’t even in the top 10 (though yes, Indian classes are much bigger in ratio).

I often missed playing outside because even after school, I’d spend hours in tuition for all the subjects, catching up with the education system. There was a lot of culture shift. I struggled especially because I also had to learn to write Hindi from scratch, several years after other kids were already quite good at it.

Another difference? Getting told-off in Indian schools for my “poor handwriting” or “sloppy diagrams”.

I remember being asked to go home with the class topper’s notes and practice writing like her!

I didn’t realise things like these even mattered, that these qualified for a reproaching, until I started feeling the embarrassment flush in my cheeks for it infront of the whole class.

Uptil this point, I had always been known for my sincerity and diligence, and had never been called-out so blatantly. Never being very sport-oriented to begin with, now, my academic intelligence also came into question.

Inner Child Therapy for School

Recently, in processing my childhood through Inner Child Healing work, I unblocked some strong feelings of incompetency and guilt.

I realized the reason I never cut myself slack after growing up, was because I felt bad for not being able to prove my worth in school. I felt like I needed to work even harder, and that’s what my college and work life saw – grinding, extreme grinding.

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An intense capture from one of the workshops I attended back in college. Haha!

My parents never once asked me to do better, but I felt the guilt of not being good enough. I felt like I was letting them down.

Who knew, these thoughts weren’t coming from within me, but from a different source? Overtime, kids start believing the thoughts to be their own. And bam! Down goes their self-esteem.

Infact in 10th grade, right before my Board exams, I had a panic attack and started hyperventilating. I had to be rushed to our physician, and she made us realize that I was overwhelming myself with performance pressure.

Hypnotherapy helped me uncover and heal this guilt, after a decade! I’m also slowly learning to allow myself time to relax and enjoy, and to stop taking life so ambitiously.

How Creativity Helps Mental Health

My creative and artistic side rarely got the encouragement it should have, the way US schools provided kids.

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My Idaho state project as a kid, where learning and creatvity went hand-in-hand.

Infact an art teacher scared me to my very core, one year. She seemed crazy, a woman that yelled at us kids for forgetting our art supplies or for not painting as per her standards.

I too, got a LOT of heat from her once, and I became deeply terrified.

There was another rather mean, intimidating dance teacher who often yelled at me in front of other classmates, because I was too shy to dance freely. I probably looked incompetent inspite being trained in the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam

Bharatnatyam, dance, vasundhra, solo performance, stage, tabla, Indian, Classical dance, inner child, creativity
One of my Bharatnatyam performances in Boise, when I was 8 years old.

Inspite studying from an academically sound school, many of the teachers were daunting, and mean to kids except the ones that scored perfect grades (not me). The rest of us were constantly reminded how we’re not good enough.

It never occurred to me to discuss this at home, seeing that this was a culture that everyone faced with me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some really sweet teachers. But there weren’t that many. Nope.

Trying to cope with all this, I missed out small hobbies, like completing my Bharatnatyam Arangetram and even smaller things like watching Harry Potter.

Inner Child Therapy for Creativity

Working on my childhood through therapy taught me to provide myself those experiences now, as a grown up, and to cherish my hobbies even if they are childish sometimes. In otherwords, ‘reparenting’ myself.

Only recently, in August 2019 did I, as a 25 year old adult, watch the Harry Potter series! What a classic.

These have all been tributes to my younger Self. Afterall, don’t we owe it to ourselves to live the quality of life we want to? It’s never too late!

This process is called reparenting. If you’re interested, do look it up (until I can plug in something written myself, haha).

Healing is also how I gained the confidence to dance front-row for my Salsa performance in office. And it was what empowered me to perform a Bharatnatyam-fusion at my engagement, whose video you can watch below.

I didn’t have that kind of confidence growing up. My heart was always pounding even though I had done several stage performances before. But now I do feel relaxed and capable of being carefree while on stage. And I’m proud of myself for coming this far! 🙂 

I also continue to expose myself to various art and recreation classes, that keeps my inner child happy and thriving.

Concluding Thoughts on Therapy for Inner Child Healing

I didn’t have any of these memories consciously. To me, I felt like my childhood was rather relaxed and happy.

But when you go into therapy, it turns out, you can uncover a lot of hidden pain that at the end is the reason your personality and choices are the way they are.

For me, spirituality and psychology have been a blend in my healing. They have both equally and substantially provided to my happiness quotient.

As Spirituality teaches us, we may not be responsible for what happens to us, but we alone are accountable for our healing.

So, the best thing that happened to me, was learning how to forgive each and every teacher, because they did teach me a lot, even if it wasn’t the kind of lessons my parents enrolled me for.

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Image courtesy : Pixabay, shutterstock