Throughout my career, I worked with patients who have experienced anxiety, but I never know that I would become my own patient...
My mother is physically and psychologically abusive toward me. Her mother and father were the same way toward her and her sister, and I’m sure their parents were abusive to them as well. The unfortunate reality is that no one openly talks about abuse in South Asian families. It gets internalized generation after generation to the point where people may not even realize when it’s happening.
My mom has been abusive to me since I was in high school, but I never saw her that way. I thought she was just like every other mom. Strict, micromanaging everything, threatening me, never letting me enjoy myself, provoking me so that she could blame me, and it goes on and on. I thought it was normal for years. I thought every college student ended every phone call with their mom by yelling and crying. I thought experiencing depression and anxiety-induced from my mother was just part of life. That’s how internalized it was.
I knew something wasn’t right. I cried for hours and hours after having a conversation with my mother where she told me to kill myself. I called up my then-boyfriend and asked, “I have a question. Based on what you know… would you consider my mom abusive toward me?” He stayed silent for a moment before uttering, “…yes.” This was a turning point in my relationship with my mom – labeling it, putting a name to it, and finally realizing that this was abusive felt SO good. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t being overdramatic, and I wasn’t weak. My situation was painful, horrible, and incredibly real. When I went to my first therapist and explained everything, she helped me to come to terms with the severity of the abuse and to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
For a while, all of that helped. I was actually happy. But then 2017 hit and my mother returned to the States after staying in India for a few months. She brought her sister and her elderly mother. I thought this would be good – the abuse would be lessened with more family around, right? I was sadly so wrong. That’s when the physical abuse started. Arguments would lead to fistfights where I would end up bruised up and crying in my bathroom. For months, I was concerned about my safety. I felt homesick in my own home. The greatest confusion for me was that my grandmother, who has been nothing but warm and loving toward me, would never say anything to stop my mother from hitting me. She would sit in silence as it happened in front of her eyes.
I’m in a place now where physical abuse is no longer present, but the emotional abuse still is. While it’s still difficult to handle situations with my mother, talking about it candidly with people who care is what helps the most. I share my story in the hopes that others who are dealing with abuse in any way know that they are not alone and that they can get through this.