At three or four years old, I sat alone on the carpet in our Chinese immigrant home in San Francisco, never knowing when anyone would ever come home. Locked inside, lonely, feeling abandoned.
My parents were doing the best they could to provide for our family in a foreign land, but we were poor and I was often neglected—not by choice but by necessity.
It hurt. A lot. Or at least, it should have. But I repressed it and didn't allow myself to feel the pain. However, this repressed pain came out later in life. My childhood trauma and the passed down generational trauma from my parents haunted me in my adulthood. Their past trauma living through war and revolution became part of mine.
It wasn’t until I sadly lost both parents by the age of 33 and then became a mother that I came to heal a lot of my past trauma. Like a phoenix I rose from the ashes of grief to rebuild and create a new life in my son—a new generation.
I’m incredibly honored that I recently got to share my story with a badass, authentic, and strong community of fellow moms on the Not Safe For Mom Group podcast in the episode: “I’m Breaking The Cycle of My Family’s Generational Trauma”
I spoke with NSFMG founder and podcast host Alexis Barad-Cutler about the complexities of growing up as a child of Asian immigrants. The overwhelming pressure to perform, to be an obedient daughter, to be a good girl. The tough love parenting. When I was a kid, nothing I ever did seemed good enough for my mom. She'd call me fat, dumb, and ugly. This, in combination with my past trauma, led to severe self-worth issues in my life.
All my life, I sought validation from my parents. Then they died, leaving me in the deepest pits of grief wondering whether I'd ever find the worth and validation I craved. Their heartbreaking deaths from lung disease and cancer have been my genesis story. Only after they died was I able to see how much they struggled as immigrants, and how they didn't have the proper resources to meet my needs as a child. They too, had suffered through trauma in their own childhoods.
The bulk of my healing has been recently, after becoming a mother. As I mention in the podcast, “Motherhood is very triggering. But one of the gifts is that motherhood is also deeply healing. It gives us a chance to reach back to our past selves. It gives us a chance to gain new perspective.”
I also talk about rage. That dark, intense, destructive taboo rage. It’s postpartum rage that is re-triggered trauma. Rage that stems from existential exhaustion as a mother. Rage from my repressed sadness and anger as a child that I never felt safe to express until now. Rage inherited from generational trauma passed down from my mother who suffered horrors during the Cultural Revolution in China, and hurt from generations before her too.
I do not want to pass down the rage and hurt to my son. It terrifies me that I could.
But you know what? I’m healing. I'm finding my self-worth. I’m going to therapy, rewriting past narratives that no longer serve me, and finding compassion for my younger self and my immigrant parents.
We can be the generation that makes a difference. We can break the cycle.
To hear more of my story, and to learn empowering life-changing tips for your own healing journey, please listen to the Not Safe For Mom Group podcast here: “I’m Breaking The Cycle of My Family’s Generational Trauma”
Cheers to healing and breaking the cycle.
With love and light,