A Letter to My Childhood Self

Dear 11-year-old Ghadeer,

You have been through so much trauma that you actively block out. You tell yourself if you don’t think about it, you won’t feel anything towards it. You were a child but you were so afraid to have emotions. You were a child but you weren’t allowed to be one. You weren’t allowed to listen to kids radio stations, you barely could watch kids channels. You were exposed to adult TV and music way too young. I don’t know how you learned about sex but I suspect it was through abuse.

You felt guilty for existing. You fantasized about bleaching your skin color because you thought only white people could have loving families. The truth was that you grew up in a predominantly white suburb, and that’s why you knew so many white people with loving families. Your friends were allowed to be kids and had supportive parents and siblings. It had nothing to do with your color or their color, baby girl. I know that you couldn’t put the blame on your family, so you found a way to blame yourself.

Your mother telling you that whiter children are cuter hurt you. Your mother telling you to marry someone with blue eyes and blond hair hurt you because you know she only cared how your children would look. You grow up to have a beautiful daughter who is half Mexican and she has gorgeous olive toned skin, just like you. She has dark brown eyes and dark brown hair and she is absolutely perfect in every way.

You were physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abused growing up but your parents invalidated you by saying that it was just siblings playing. Your brothers were just being boys. You felt so much pressure to be a girly girl because that’s how you were taught girls should be.

You were so young and you felt so ugly. You had a lot of things you wanted to change about yourself. You grew up thinking as long as you have someone who loved you unconditionally and passionately, you would be fine. The truth is that you needed that from your family so that you could learn to do it on your own. Your parents told your brothers they would grow up to do big things. Your parents told you that you will grow up to get married.

You saw so much so young. You needed to process things that you had no idea how to process. You were a child. Children can’t process those huge things. You needed your family to help you but you didn’t have that. You were raised by narcissists and they made you feel like your feelings didn’t matter, but they did matter.

I am here now. I know you are living inside me and you are still hurting. I am here and I am going to hug you every day and remind you that you are loved and you are perfect and that your existence is a blessing, not a burden. Your appearance isn’t the only thing you have to offer the world. You are funny and sweet. You were a little obnoxious but that was because you were searching for the attention you didn’t receive at home. I forgive you for that. Your true self loves making people laugh and smile. Your true self has a heart of gold. Your true self gives people too many chances and ends up hurt but does it over and over, just to make the lives of others easier.

Baby girl, you’ve been through so much. There was so much trauma and emotional neglect, so much bullying, so many mean people at school and at home, sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental and emotional abuse, and so much more that lots of people never have to experience in their whole life. You keep a lot of it to yourself because you don’t want anyone to look at you differently. You have no idea the magnitude of how bad the issues you have are. You are raising yourself. A child should never have to raise a child.

I don’t even remember a lot of what you went through because your innocent child heart couldn’t bear the thought of it all. You simply trained yourself not to think about the horrible things and now they are gone from my brain. That’s okay. I know you are protecting me from a lot of information that I’m not yet equipped to handle.

I want you to know that I love you. You were always so fiery and energetic and everyone tried to put out your flames any chance they could. I’m so sorry that you didn’t get the chance to meet anyone who understood you truly. I’m sorry that you grew up alone because your family was never there for you and because you struggled to maintain friendships through all of the moving and mental health issues. I’m here for you now. It’s okay to be so energetic, you were just a child. You get better every day and you are learning to love yourself.

Thank you for surviving until adulthood, I know it was so hard. You can heal now. We are gonna do great together.

Controlling Emotions

As someone who suffers from Major Depression and General Anxiety, I know well how difficult controlling emotions are. Emotions are powerful. You feel them but they’re hard to control because they’re inside of you. Here’s a question I ask myself regularly: Why do you want to control your emotions?

Emotions exist inside of you for a reason. Even the ones that feel over dramatic. Those ones are typically a trauma response. For example, if you’re in love with someone and they take a bit too long to text you back. The normal response would be to be patient and not over think it. However, for someone who’d been cheated on in the past, or someone who has abandonment issues, this can feel like the end of the world. I’m someone with abandonment issues and I have to regularly remind myself that their life doesn’t revolve around me. I need to be patient. I need to stop trying so hard to read between the lines when there’s nothing there and I need to take things as they are.

That doesn’t mean those emotions need to be bottled up and pushed away. If you have trauma in your past and are susceptible to these over reactive emotions in response to little things, I recommend discussing this with the important people in your life so that they know where your emotions are coming from. Instead of acting on emotions, just feel them. Don’t make them stronger, but don’t push them away. Just sit with them. Meditate on them. Meditation is a difficult practice to get in to, especially for someone who’s thoughts are constantly racing, but it really is an incredible tool to utilize. There are many guided meditations on YouTube as well as tons of apps for guided meditation. If you don’t want a voice in your ear while you meditate, Google meditation frequencies and things to help you stay focused.

Why sit with your emotions? It’s important to remember that emotions are temporary. They come and go. Allow them to exist. Pushing them back only makes them come back stronger. What is the worst thing that can happen if you sit with your intense sadness or anxiety or anger? Don’t act on these emotions, or you’ll typically dig yourself into a hole. Sit and don’t question the emotions. Don’t ruminate on them. Just feel them. Describe to yourself what it feels like in your chest. Is your anger red hot like a fire? Is your sadness dark and cold? Does your anxiety make you feel like there are bees buzzing in your chest? Notice them. Imagine the emotion spreading from your chest to all parts of your body. The emotion will spread over you and it will become more and more intense and eventually peak. As you come down from the emotion, you might learn something about yourself.

This is something that’ll take practice. It’s not something that will be easy to master but when you do, you will be in control of your emotions, rather than allowing them to control you. There are no good or bad emotions. They are simply emotions. Just as happiness comes and goes, so does sadness or anger.

Don’t allow your ego to get in the way of relationships. Assuming everything is a slight towards you will only ruin things. I’ve been guilty of doing this. Many times, actually. But it’s something to work out of.

I’m thinking about doing spooky Friday blogs. Let me know if that’s something of interest.

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Let me tell you why you should support the BLM movement

I know what you’re thinking. “Ghadeer, you haven’t blogged in over a month, and what does this have to do with parenting or mental health?” You also may be thinking “ALL lives matter!”

I haven’t blogged in over a month because I’ve been in a hurricane over hectic chaos since my last blog post. Since before that, if my last few posts didn’t make that clear enough. However, that’s a story for another blog post.

Yes, all lives do matter. Nobody is saying lives that aren’t black don’t matter. But here’s the thing: black lives are disproportionately impacted in terms of police brutality. Let’s look at the facts.

According to the US Census Bureau, 13.4% (source) of the United States population is black. This does not include mixed race black people (you guys are important too, I just don’t want people to use the argument that mixed people can pass as another race sometimes because you know they will). And yet, black people make up 38% of the incarcerated inmates in the United States right now (source). So I bet your argument for that is that they’re more violent or more likely to commit a crime. I am here to tell you that you’re very wrong, my friend.

A great analogy I heard was that if you have a bowl of marbles. Let’s say you have 100 marbles. 13 of those marbles are red. What if I told you to pick out ten marbles? If four of the marbles you picked out were red, that’d be extremely unlikely, if they were distributed evenly. You’d probably have to be looking for them, right? Black people are more likely to be wrongly convicted (source)(source)(source) and are specifically targeted by the police.

I have a million and one conspiracy theories on how the United States continues to segregate black people and destroy their neighborhoods in order to force them to commit crimes to survive, however, that’s beside the point and there aren’t facts behind that.

If my facts on the statistics of race in prisons and wrongful convictions of black people aren’t enough to sway your opinion, let’s stop talking about that. Let’s talk about police brutality. I, as well as many others, are well aware that police brutality happens to people who are not black. Pulling out a few random instances of police brutality towards white people isn’t going to change anything because everyone knows that happens. My thoughts on that:

  1. Maybe police are way too powerful and need to be knocked down several pegs.
  2. Black lives matter because they are EXTREMELY more likely to be victims of police brutality (source).

“Well, Ghadeer, so-and-so had a run in with the police and they were very mean to him!”

That’s very unfortunate. How would you explain the fact that in the 1098 people murdered by the police, 24% of them were black? How do you explain the news headlines every few days showcasing the name of yet another unarmed, innocent black person being murdered?

“George Floyd had a counterfeit $20 bill!”

Does that warrant being killed? Is carrying counterfeit bills worth the death penalty?

“He had underlying health conditions!”

Perhaps he did. However, his official autopsy reports that those underlying health conditions didn’t cause his death. Even if they did, that shouldn’t excuse the fact that a police officer knelt on his neck while he cried out that he couldn’t breathe for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Even if his underlying health conditions killed him, there had to be some correlation between the fear and stress of the situation and his sudden abrupt death. That’s ignoring the fact that asphyxiation was the cause of his death.

Before I continue, I’ll say I have very controversial views. I’m pretty radical. I’m not here to argue because no one can change my mind on this but I, personally, believe that no one who is not official military personnel should be able to use a gun, and even military personnel shouldn’t be able to take them home. I don’t believe anyone needs such a dangerous weapon, not even the police. I believe the police should be required to get a degree in criminal justice, as well as taking classes on psychology and coping, in order to obtain a badge. They should be trained to handle situations with unarmed civilians without needing a gun. The only compromise I’d make to that is that police should be required to have special training and a strict licensing procedure to get a gun, and that they shouldn’t be allowed to carry them around. They can keep them at the station and if they are absolutely needed, they will be allowed to bring them out.

I realize those are radical beliefs that I’ll never see come to fruition, at least not in my lifetime. I think that in the future these ideas won’t be so radical but I know I won’t live to see it.

Rioting was what enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1968, after Martin Luther King was assassinated. The Boston Tea Party was a riot. Stonewall was a riot. I could continue. People were peaceful protesting until everyone chose to ignore them. Colin Kaepernick was shamed for his peaceful protesting.

Why is it okay for the United States military to drop two bombs on Japan to end a war, but it’s not okay to riot in order to end centuries of racism and oppression? Listen to me. Why is it okay to hate someone SOLELY based on the color of their skin? Why is that okay? Why is it okay for the police to murder 12-year-old Tamir Rice for playing in his yard? Why is it okay for G**** Z**** (censored because he needs to be forgotten) to murder Trayvon Martin, who was also a child at 17? Why does that man have FANS who ask him for AUTOGRAPHS????? The toll the world is taking on my mental health, as well as I’m sure many, many others, especially those more directly impacts, is why this belongs on my blog. That, and the fact that I paid for this and I can do whatever I want with it.

So PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD just say black lives matter. STOP saying all lives matter. If you say all lives matter and you end up with cancer, I’ll make sure to burst into your hospital room and remind you that there are other terminal diseases. Why is asking for racial equality in 2020 a radical point of view? Go to a protest, donate money if you can, spread the word, do whatever you can to support the cause.

I’m rooting for all of you. Be on the right side of history. Please.

Healthy Relationships

Everyone knows the importance of healthy relationships. But how do you distinguish a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one? And how do you know whether it’s an unhealthy person or an unhealthy situation?

Loneliness begins in oneself. It feels like you have no one around you who cares about you, like the world is spinning so fast but you can’t keep up. This kind of loneliness actually stems from a lack of satisfaction in your own body, rather than from others. Of course, humans are social creatures and we need to interact with others in order to survive. However, feeling lonely even in the presence of friends or family often comes from depression. Depression is ugly that way; it forces you to feel so alone even surrounded by people who love you. In your head, they don’t. In your head, you believe that every little thing has a meaning. If someone doesn’t return a phone call or respond to a text message, it feels like they don’t love you anymore. I get into this habit of ruminating, remembering all the times they did return the call or respond to every text. It’s an unhealthy thought process to be in.

A person who has self-compassion and is comfortable in their own skin is able to connect with people when they can, so that they don’t feel alone. Allowing yourself to open up to people who love you is a form of self-compassion. When you choose to phone a loved one to vent and cry and tell them all of your feelings rather than sitting and ruminating on your own, you’re choosing self-compassion. When I say choice, I know it’s very, very difficult to choose self-compassion to the point where you might not even feel like you have that choice. Old habits can be hard to break. It’s even harder when your brain is convincing you no one wants to hear it. In a healthy relationship, people won’t be angry or upset with you for venting. If they are, then they have their own problems to sort out and wasting time on them is pointless while you recover. If you genuinely feel like you have no one to talk to, there are crisis hotlines, walk-in therapy offices, free venting services online. My email is available in my contact page and I’m here as well.

When you come from a traumatic environment, you can feel drawn to unhealthy relationships. When your background is full of people who manipulated and abused you, you’re drawn to it because that’s what you’re used to. I came from a toxic family and was drawn to my ex because, while he wasn’t as bad as my family, he was still familiar. He was manipulative and he gaslighted me frequently. Very early on in our relationship, he convinced me I’m a liar, even though I hadn’t lied about anything and I didn’t even know why he said that. But I believed him.

Another form of unhealthy relationship is the gambling relationship. This person is so kind and sweet to you, exactly what you need from a partner, and then the next second they are completely cold. You feel desperate to get that feeling back. You stick around because the highs are so, so good, like winning the jackpot at a casino. You think if you keep putting in your money, you’ll win again. The truth is, you lose more in the end.

When toxicity is all you know, all you’ve ever been surrounded by, it’s so hard to develop healthy relationships. When I find people that make me happy, I tend to become clingy and smothering because I’m so afraid to be abandoned again. That can actually drive people away. Unhealthy people are often hurting themselves, whether or not they realize it. Unhealthy people are attracted to unhealthy people. Someone afraid of abandonment can become clingy and possessive, or it could be the other extreme, where they will push people away. Either way is unhealthy and stems from past trauma.

So how do you know when you’re developing a healthy relationship with someone? The best advice I can give you is go with your gut. If you’re with someone who doesn’t constantly hurt you, that you feel like you can be yourself around, that is a healthy relationship. In all relationships, there are disagreements. However, there is a huge difference between shouting and berating each other and calmly talking it over. If your friend or partner shouts when they’re upset, that’s a red flag. A response to shouting could be “We can talk about this when we’ve calmed down.” Or, “Why don’t you step outside for a bit and we can talk about it when you come back?” Proceed with caution. If an angry person is prone to violence, I highly recommend ending that relationship. They are an unhealthy person and they need to seek out help. That’s not safe for someone with mental illness to be around.

The opposite side of the spectrum is for you to be conscientious of how you impact the relationship. It certainly isn’t a one-way street and no one is perfect. My unhealthy behaviors I’ve stated above; becoming clingy, possessive, smothering. I also struggle to trust people. I can be clingy and stuck on them and they could tell me they love me and I won’t believe it. Unhealthy behaviors are hard to get out of, especially when they stem from past traumas. If you become angry and shout and insult the other person, take a step back and reevaluate. These are things you can unpack in therapy. Where does your anger come from? Can you get your point across in a calm manner? If you say things you don’t mean while you’re angry, think about how much you love the person. When you aren’t angry, will you regret what you’ve said? How will it impact the other person? I’m not a therapist, nor did I study psychology for longer than a semester in college. However, this kind of anger isn’t healthy in a relationship.

Sometimes you might have a healthy relationship with someone, but they exhibit unhealthy behavior at one point. It’s important to distinguish the difference between an unhealthy person and an unhealthy situation. Like I said, people aren’t perfect and everyone has things they need to heal from or past traumas. People can slip up and exhibit unhealthy behavior. A healthy person will calmly and sincerely apologize, acknowledge their mistake, and make an effort not to make that mistake again. An unhealthy person won’t acknowledge their mistake, or they might feel like they don’t need to apologize.

There is so much more to talk about in terms of unhealthy relationships versus healthy relationships so I will likely make more posts on the topic. Feel free to email me if there’s anything you’re interested in me talking about as well.