Re-parenting my inner child so I don’t react negatively to triggers

It was kinda crazy to see my article published on Zula because I’ve enjoyed watching their videos. I never knew they did articles too but in our interview, the writer specifically asked me to talk about my therapy experience.

I wondered why, and then I remembered that many of us in Singapore still think that going to therapy is a shameful thing.

Just to clock in an update, I’ve definitely become much clear-minded after just a few months of therapy. When recovering from gaslighting and narcissistic abuse, it’s very common that the target walks away from a relationship not understanding why whatever happened, happened the way they did. A narcissist knows what they’re doing. They know that they’re manipulating you. They sieve out your insecurities and use it against you, and when they can’t get what they want, they either attack you into submission/ silence or they devalue and discard you.

I’ve written about the anger stage where I was in, and there was so much anger with myself that I had to process through. Then came a bout of depression – inability to enjoy life, lack of appetite, feeling disconnected, inability to focus on conversations and tasks etc etc. I only went through mild depression so I’m glad it didn’t get worse than that, although I’ve also been learning that the recovery journey will be full of ups/downs and triggers.

What are triggers?

A trigger is any word, person, event, or experience that touches off an immediate emotional reaction. It’s like being startled by a noise: The noise is the trigger; the startle is the response.

Our reactions to our emotional triggers are often excessive, lasting longer than what makes sense for the event. It’s as if we’re still jumping at the sound of that slammed door hours later.

Not all triggers are negative. They can also stimulate joy or happy memories, like when we smell a flower that reminds us of a place we love or see a photograph of an event where we felt happy. Still, we usually use “trigger” to describe negative stimuli — those that set off sadness, anger, or fear, as well as hurt, shame, and despair.

https://experiencelife.lifetime.life/article/13-strategies-to-deal-with-your-emotional-triggers/
https://natashaadamo.com/emotional-triggers/

Now that I have been building up genuine love and confidence in myself, I can feel a huge difference in the way I respond to triggers. After being heavily traumatized last year, every trigger could invoke a big reaction in me. Every trigger would send me into weeks of despair. I would struggle with eating, sleeping, focusing on conversations and I would drown myself in work or exercise to neglect my pain.

Now, thanks to therapy, I’ve learnt that triggers are signposts that tell us something about ourselves.

Not all strong emotional responses are trigger reactions. If you receive news about the sudden death of a friend or relative, it is sane and sensitive to react with shock and grief. Your body experiences an automatic change in heart rate, breathing, pulse, brain synapses. This is not something to be avoided, nor is it healthy to try to control it.

A psychotherapist lists nine categories of triggers:

https://experiencelife.lifetime.life/article/13-strategies-to-deal-with-your-emotional-triggers/

How are they formed?

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/trigger

Certain triggers happened recently that tested me and thanks to Marco, a good therapist (Rella) and a close circle of good friends and family members, I recovered fairly easily. It wasn’t without a few days of feeling super down / lousy / angry / sad. But once I sat with my inner child and let her cry it out, I began to feel much better.

This is not to say that I didn’t feel the urge to react, but the difference is that I took a step back, asked myself difficult questions, and then decided what the best course of action was. I responded instead of reacted.

Why would triggers remind us of our trauma?

For the last 18 months, so many traumatic events happened and each time they hit me like a tsunami. Now that I’ve started learning how to re-parent my inner child through therapy, events hit me more like waves. They don’t topple me over, but break against me and fall gently away. After a process of acknowledgement and confiding in my circle of trust of course. Like my mum says, ” If your anchor is firmly placed, no matter how hard the storm is, your boat will survive it.”

Rella did a few exercises with me during our therapy session and asked me some questions to also help me recognize that my inner child was the one who needed to be soothed as well.

This inner child inside me went through certain traumatic events as a child too and never learnt how to deal with them.

To help me figure out what my inner child went through, she asked me a few questions and got me to jot them down.

What was going on around the 5 year old Jane?

Were you bullied as a child?

What happened? How did the bullying happen?

What did Jane do before the episode, during the episode and after the episode?

How did Jane feel?

Is there any emotion that seems to scream out to Jane now?

Misunderstood by?

Who do you need understanding from?

What does being understood means to you?


https://theholisticpsychologist.com/what-is-reparenting-and-how-to-begin/

As much as I love and thank my parents for an awesome life and childhood, I must admit that when I first read this, I wholeheartedly agreed that my parents only knew how to raise me from their own level of awareness at that time.

It’s the same with grown adults anyway – They only know how to treat you from their level of awareness. We don’t quarrel with 5-year-olds and blame them for throwing tantrums. They don’t know any better. They’re reacting to emotions they feel inside but can’t express properly. A parent’s job would then be to educate them and help them through with this process.

However, conscious parenting is not a luxury that many parents of the older generation could enjoy – including mine. But i have to say that I’m so proud that even in their 50s and 60s, my parents are constantly learning. They’re constantly listening to what my brother and I share with them, and they’re always learning to become better parents.

When as children, we go through trauma and are not taught how to deal with it, these traumatic events (whether big or small) will then leave untreated wounds on us, manifesting into insecurities, communication problems, identify confusion, feelings of low self-worth or even personality disorders (like narcissism).

Certain events that happen to us adults can make us feel the same as when we felt them as children. Our reactions to these said events are then based on how we used to feel as children. “They’re behaving like children” – is something we’ve all heard when we want to describe dealing with people sometimes. That’s because they ARE. But it’s not that they’re being childish or that they aren’t mature in other aspects, it’s mostly because their childhood trauma is still carried in them.

https://gstherapycenter.com/blog/2019/10/25/how-to-nurture-and-reparent-your-inner-child

During our therapy session, Rella taught me some self-affirmations that helped me to redeem myself from the triggers. She also helped me to see why my bullies did what they did, and to figure out their intent. Once I realized that what they really wanted deep down was something I could never give to them, my anger faded and I began to calm down. The sweatiness in my palms went away, I immediately started feeling hungry and also sleepy (I hadn’t eaten or slept properly since the triggers).

What happened during therapy was that I sat with my 5 year old self and learned how to calm her down.

I identified the emotions that were triggered in me and I acknowledged them.

Rella taught me how to just sit with myself, find where my trauma is held in my body, and use a ‘tapping’ method as a form of release.

What I’ve also learnt the most from this incident, is to remember to see ourselves through our loved ones’ perspectives. If they truly love and care for us, they will tell you as it is and not hide the truth from us.

My support system immediately got into action and wanted to protect me from making mistakes I would regret. They helped me realize that I was reacting to a trigger, and not responding in a way I would later on be proud of.

Your tribe is a reflection of who you are. If you want to be better, keep better company around.

People who tell us what we want to hear and not what we should hear, are not thinking for us.

I’m thankful for all of you who constantly inspire me to be better. I don’t need to feel like the bigger person, but I can always strive to become a better person.

To first be vulnerable, You need to feel safe

Marco something wise to me the other day.

“Yes of course, if you spent the same amount of energy loving people who deserve you instead of people who don’t, man……life would be more beautiful that way”

To me, I also recognized that he was telling me “Hey, instead of getting upset by people in your past, why not try to be present with me?”

One time, we had a quarrel. And at the end of it, when we were making up, he told me “I just want you to know that you can trust me.”

I didn’t understand it then. But recently, certain wisdom has reached me so I can understand his words better.

He meant to tell me that with him, I never have to doubt I’m in a safe space. He meant to tell me that I can be completely myself with him.

              For the longest time, whenever a trigger occurred, I would always crawl back into my shell like a hermit. There, I would stay until I’d feel better enough to enter society again. There, I’d rest my mind until I felt decent enough to respond to people with respect. When Marco and I first started dating, I couldn’t trust him. Not didn’t want to, but I physically couldn’t. I couldn’t and still don’t really trust myself.

              What Marco wanted me to know was that he was now here in my life, fully committed to loving me.

              After we talked about the some triggers, I spoke with my friend Rella who’s also a therapist. I told her “It’s happened again.”

She walked me through some questions to help me find answers within myself.

At the end of the session, she gave me a little tip “ Marco is someone you can feel safe with, so don’t run away from him”

Her wise words immediately shed so much light on what he’d been trying to tell me before.

              We decided to go to the beach, to get some movement into the body and move through whatever triggers I was/am processing.

At the beach, the most spectacular sunset greeted us. The sea was calm, a couple of nudists were swimming, the water was nice and warm and beauty surrounded us in folds.

It was hard for me to feel sad or angry in that moment. Beauty and appreciation for life just overwhelmed me.

Marco and I stood hip to hip and it was just so nice being held and to be seen by him.

I thanked him for what he did earlier, and told him that I finally understood what he had told me once.

“I understand now what you mean when you asked me to trust you. You’re telling me that I don’t have to carry my load all alone anymore. That you’re now here to help take some of that load off me.”

“Yes, exactly. I’m here.” (And a bunch of other mushy stuff ending with a solid kiss 😉)

              I could understand what people meant when they said “To love is to forgive”

At the end of the day, I know my truth now. I know who I am. And I know why I am the way I am. I see my flaws and my strengths clearly. And I need no one to approve or to tell me that I’m courageous. I know I am. I’m proud of myself for choosing to be brave instead of a coward.

I’m not at the stage yet where I fully trust and have real confidence in myself. But I am definitely starting to love myself properly. It helps to see myself from Marco’s perspective. It helps that someone else can see me and love me.

It also helps that he doesn’t defend me to anyone. He lets me do that for myself. He doesn’t need to speak up for me. He trusts me enough to know that I’m growing in my own journey. He doesn’t want to mark me as his territory and control all I say or do, he just wants to love me – all of me.

I should just let him. Its nice to finally be properly loved by someone.

The support we “need” from family

My Grandma just passed away. It was a very unexpected event, robbing away many of our wishes to say a final goodbye. But that’s how death happens most of the time doesnt it? We rarely have the chance to see someone off in their final moments. For many of us, we are born into this world, into our mother’s loving arms, but we leave alone. In those final moments of breath, I wonder what was going through my Ah ma’s mind. I wonder if she knew she was going to die.

She died in her sleep – at home, at night, very peacefully. My Ah gong found her in the morning, called the family over and everyone took turns to say goodbye.

When I woke up in croafia to the many missed calls and messages, it took me a while to register the news. Over the next few days, I let the moments of anguish take over me and sobbed whenever I felt like it.

In crying out for Ah ma, I kept saying goodbye to her over and over again – so that reality can start to sink in.

When a sudden death takes away a loved one, its the people who are left behind who go into a state of shock and grief. “Why? How? Should I have? I thought I’d see her again.”

I took Ah ma’s passing really well, mostly because I believe she’s gone off to a better place. I’ve been such a good friend with grief and sadness now, that it greets me like an old friend, patting me on the shoulder for comfort.

I can now very clearly separate my own interests from my wishes for her, and because I wish for her the best in this world, my missing and longing to see her again is secondary. I suppose this is how we comfort ourselves, but putting someone else’s needs before ours, so that we don’t focus on our own “selfish desires”

Still, it definitely got me thinking, that this is now my reality. By choosing to leave Singapore for the next few years at least, I’m choosing to miss many important moments in my family’s life. In one way, I’m no longer in their lives. No longer in their routines. No more Saturday blading sessions, no more random weekday dinners. My only chances of interactions or creating new memories will have to wait till I go back to visit, or when my family comes to me.

I had this impending dread before I left Singapore, that me leaving would put a distance between us – my family/friends and I. That thought saddened me quite a bit and made my previous stay in Singapore pretty depressing.

Now that I’ve accepted the fact better though, I’ve begun to really see what it means to lead your own life. One thing that people don’t really talk about – is that walking your own path can mean leaving your support system.

With the gift of technology, its true that we can still have as many conversations with our loved ones, but there’s a bitter fact that in walking our own paths, we sometimes need to settle for the fact that our families will never truly fully support our decisions. I’m lucky because my immediate family does, and I happen not to really care what any one else thinks.

However, I’ve been receiving many messages about people fearing the most important thing – disapproval from their family to do the unheard/uncertain thing.

Many have shared of the obstacles in their paths and it would be juvenile to tell them they’re making excuses for themselves. It’s not an excuse when you fear losing your family over something you’re not even sure is what you want in the first place. Their concerns are completely valid.

I started to think about what it means to not have approval or support from family, for any big decisions in life.

Having family criticise our choices, show disapproval, threaten or blackmail us for wanting to live life differently is essentially an alienating act. They may not realize they’re doing it, and from their perspectives it might even seem like we’re rejecting and alienating them.

I’ve been traveling around for 1.5 years and my Ah gong has never said a peep before. However, since Ah ma died just recently, he started thinking differently, and just 2 days ago, told me to come home.

“why don’t you come home for a while…. Your home is here. Why are you traveling around for so long? Its time to come home. If anything happens to us, its more convenient for you to be here. If anything happens to you, we can also take care of you.”

But Ah gong, my life is not in Singapore anymore. I don’t enjoy life there.

“are you joking? How can you say that? Your family is here. Your home is here. You are Singaporean. Your home is in Singapore.”

I try to joke my way out – but ah gong, many years ago, my ancestors came from China to make a better life in Singapore. Maybe that’s what I want too? To make a new life elsewhere?

He wasn’t having none of it. “those ancestors are long ago gone, I am your ancestor and I’m here in Singapore now.”

Ah gong if you miss me just say la, I tease….. He finally breaks and say “yea of cos I miss you.”

Before we ended the call I shouted Ah gong I love you!!!! He didn’t reply so I said “you have to say it back!” “I love you!!” he chimed back.

This is how I’ll choose to deal with my family. To acknowledge their concerns but also stand firm on my decision – because this is my life and ive lived too long of it trying to please people around me. I know I come from a very comparatively supportive family so I’m lucky. So I’m wondering how I would deal with a difficult family who either threatens to disown me, and violently disapproves of me doing anything.

I know this may be easier to say than to do, but I would think it’s all the more reason to ensure that what you want to do, is firstly justified by yourself.

We can have many obstacles come in our way, but when we really feel stuck in our lives, and want to explore other options, it’s the will that matters most.

The overarching principle I adopted when I first left Singapore – was to focus on myself. Perhaps its because my grief and broken heart were so big, I couldnt care less about what my family thought. I didn’t actually think to ask them for approval. I put my needs first, in order to heal. I had to do that, if not I would have crumbled even more.

By building up a strong shield around myself against anyone else’s perspectives or well meaning concerns, I created a safe haven for myself. One where I cried in, got angry in, showed my most vulnerable self in. All to myself, all with myself. I became my own support system, and my own best friend.

I would say – to those who find it hard to convince your family of certain decisions you want to make – to communicate with them better. Yall know I’m not a professional, but here’s how my thought process led me to choosing my path in life.

1. Change your way of communication. Instead of leading with defensive statements, always start with “I feel”, “what you said makes me feel”, “I hear you and this is what I feel”.

2. Focus on your Why’s and explain them to your family. Sometimes, all our family want to know is whether we have a plan or not. Their worries stem from a place of concern.

3. For families who depend on your financially and emotionally, I’m sure you will find solutions or actually already have solutions in mind. Sometimes it might mean having to make peace with “abandoning them”. But even if it’s just to travel for 6 months, that time you’re carving out for yourself is important for your mental health. So that you can be a better support system for your family.

4. Communicate more with them. If a dialogue often leads to arguments, try writing what you feel in a letter to them. Use other mediums. It might seem awkward and strange but hey, that might actually catch their attention better, so they know you’re actually serious and you want to make a serious case.

5. Have a mediator to help you. With people we love the most, we sometimes have the least patience for them. Having a mediator is a good way to ensure both parties can peacefully express themselves without letting things get out of hand.

Everyone’s situation is different, so of course the ‘solution’ will be different.

What I feel though, is that I’m now finally living my life the way I want. Its not the fact that I’m in croatia and not in Singapore. The location is not the constraint – but my mindset was.

In the past, I would always prioritise my family over anything else. I don’t think that it’s bad to do that, but if in doing that, you compromise too much on what you want, and how you feel, causing you to feel depressed and empty all the time…..its worth considering when you want to save yourself.

If you are running on empty, or feel like you’ve been empty for a long time, it’s time to reconsider your priorities. When we’re full of happiness and zest for life, that’s when we can genuinely live life to the fullest. If we want to love people around us the best way they deserve, its really important for us to first be in love with our own lives.

The effects of one person’s happiness can very much spread to your loved ones, causing a positive charge to be passed around to people you spend time / communicate with.

Similarly, if we continue running on empty, and don’t do anything about our unhappy lives, what usually happens is that we sow seeds of bitterness in our lives. Have you ever wondered why you get annoyed/irritated easily? Have you yourself gotten very impatient with yourself? Do you sometimes catch your bitterness in life manifesting in ugly behavior towards people you love? These are all signs of being burnt out in life.

I remember when my Ah Ma was alive, that my Ah gong was constantly yelling at her. They’ve been together for 60 over years, and towards the last decade, especially after both of them stopped working, my Ah gong’s patience with her ran empty and he kept taking things out on her. If my Ah Ma had not been more patient or understanding, more fights would have happened. They were already sleeping in separate rooms for many years, but were dependent on each other for companionship so forced themselves to tolerate each other.

How sad is that? When you can’t control your behavior towards your lived ones, and yet run out of time to make amends.

Running on empty hurts you, and people around you.

The sooner we realize that our actions and behavior will cause either positive or negative charges in other people’s lives, the sooner we will want to take charge of our own. The only thing we can control is our own lives, and what we do with it.

Either way, know that you’re not alone. My friends and I have started a telegram group for anyone who’s been looking to leave Singapore for a while, to either travel during covid or work as a digital nomad. Feel free to dm me on ig so I can add you into the telegram group.

Sending my thoughts to you, you, you, you and you.

Sadness is a blessing

When I set down the intention to face my trauma and go through the healing process…….I didn’t imagine the amount of sadness that would overwhelm me.

You know when you’ve committed to a pirate ship ride in a theme park?

It looks doable……. you watch groups of people do it while you queue for 45 mins. Even though you’re afraid, you psyche yourself up anyway and tell yourself “It can’t be that bad”.

Your turn comes, you’re actually excited!!! You buckle down, choosing the back row because Hey if we’re gonna do this shit, we might as well do it ALL THE WAY.

The ride starts, people start whooping, and you start to wiggle your legs in excitement, hands relaxed by your side. You can feel the adrenaline getting ready to have a party, and you quickly contemplate if you’re gonna be putting your hands up or not.

A mere 10 seconds later, you’ve gone through the first swing and you’re starting to regret your choice. You feel a nausea start building up in the pit of your stomach and you start looking left and right at other people, who seem to be doing COMPLETELY FINE while you’re freaking the fuck out.

By the time you’re on the 3rd swing, your palms are soaking wet, you can taste the FIVE GUYS burger you chomped down for lunch and there’s no way you’re getting out of this without throwing up on someone. You really wish you hadn’t taken the back row now.


It’s a light-hearted metaphor to explain how I felt/still feel during the “depression stage” but hey – that’s how I cope. Bad humor, watching documentaries about how the world is going to end, and wishing it happens. 1 hour later, I start watching David Attenborough tell me how we should be saving the world because I feel guilty I wanted the world to burn up into ashes.

It’s a difficult place to navigate – sadness.

The crying…………..is so erratic. I literally cry at the most unexpected times.

I’m so glad I work from home……..because I would be so embarrassed and would basically be “having period blues” for 3 weeks straight.

Also, repeatedly listening to sad songs doesn’t really help, but it’s still better than listening to happy songs that you’re not feeling either.

I definitely feel better today……….after a combination of different things.

Therapy. Eating gelato. Talking to my friends. Getting a full refund for a flight i was gonna take but not anymore. Killing it at work. Meeting new people and getting inspired. Working on a passion project. Binge watching ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘The Bold Type’. Having Marco in my life. More therapy. More conversations. Long walks while dog sitting Mr Spock for 4 days (I think it was more like him human sitting me). Listening to Su lee’s songs. Reading up on narcissism and understanding why my ex’s actions severely contradicted his words. Eating more gelato. Watching funny videos. And last but not least – writing.


I’m not sure if anyone can understand this. But when i start writing, something takes over and I’m no longer consciously writing. Not really.

The words take over, and I let myself emote through my writing.

Sometimes, I would read my posts just a day after, and not remember what I wrote. I surprise myself with the amount of clarity I seem to have, because I swear………on a day to day basis, it does NOT feel like that at all.

I still read a lot of my old posts, just to track how I was doing back then vs now and it still appalls me to know I wrote those things.

I suppose everyone expresses themselves differently. Some of us hold podcasts, some of us dive deep into art, some get tattoos, some sing, some dance, and some write. I’ve found that writing is my easiest way of expression. It might not be the best way, or the only way – but it is the easiest for me.

I encourage all of us to find your medium of expression.

Sometimes, even just writing out my pain would make me feel better. Of course, most of those posts are kept in my drafts. But yes. I would almost always feel better – even just a teeny bit helps sometimes. Something to make you feel like you’re the most useless person in the world.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to note down this one hour of me not feeling so sad.

I had a rather down day yesterday, leading to a lot of sobbing, not enough eating, and relying on friends for comfort. This morning, I woke up feeling pretty numb still, to everything. And then somehow, through the day, things have gotten a teeny tiny better.

🙂

I have just a bit more hope now, that I’ll start feeling much better soon.

Can’t wait till this persistent dark cloud over me will decide to pass over. For now, the forecast still reads – Cloudy with a chance of sadness. At least we know forecasts are hardly ever reliable.

Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Our pain makes us who we are

The first time I ever really liked a boy was when I was 15.

He and I were family friends. We went on fishing trips together, and knew each other since I was 9 and he was 10.

At 9 and 10, we didn’t know anything about love. Just fun and games.

We connected really well, and always had fun together. We stuck together like glue, constantly around each other from day to night, at least during those fishing trips.

We didn’t meet again till I was 15 and he was 16.

This time, we saw each other differently. This time, we weren’t kids anymore.

The first time we kissed, was when we had all fallen asleep on the same bed after playing card games.

In the middle of the night, he rolled over towards me and I happened to face him too.

Barely awake, I felt him kiss me and our emotions took over. He had a girlfriend then, but I didn’t care.

Later on, he would reject me. Telling me that he didn’t want to break up with his girlfriend because he felt that she was more compatible for him. He loved her – he said. I asked “Then why kiss me?”

He never answered.

It happened again a few months later. This time, so stupidly romantic, under a sky full of stars and in the middle of the ocean, where we could hear only the waves and a light breeze.

Stupidly after, I felt like a fool. Again, he made it known that he was choosing her over me. Again, I felt like I wasn’t good enough for him. Again, i felt completely used.

I never got over those feelings. Those memories stayed and haunted me for years to come. Every time i bumped into him during funerals or coincidentally on the street, he would avoid me. Unable to even look into my eyes.

He’s married now, to that same girlfriend and they have a child together. He probably never ever thought of me again. And I wonder if he ever knew how hurt I was. I wonder if he ever knew how much impact his actions made on my life. But of course, how could he? He was 16.

————————————————–

Later on in life, I would go on to date jerk after jerk, cheater after cheater. Boys who displayed the same emotional unavailability. It almost felt like my heart sought them out, so it could be broken over and over again.

I dated some good ones too, and then didn’t know how to love them and ended up breaking their hearts. I cheated too.

I remember one particular boyfriend I had – who went completely ballistic after I tried to break up with him. We were 21, and I was in the US doing a summer job. I was young, in the US and in a long distance relationship that I didn’t really want. I tried breaking up with him but instead, he came to the US to try and patch things up. He demanded that i concede to his demands and requests. He later on hacked into my emails, tried to blackmail me and also extorted money from my mum. He spread all sorts of crazy rumors about me and basically traumatized me for months. Once, he even found me in school and pretended nothing had happened – asking me for a hug hello.

I thought he was the worst guy I would ever date. I thought wrong. Clearly, I hadn’t learnt my mistake.

I have however, been someone else’s jerk too before.

One time I dated the sweetest guy. I kinda knew I didn’t love him the same way he loved me. But I liked the attention and it was too good to resist. I was young, and he was giving me everything he had. Even after finding out that I cheated on me, he forgave me very quickly and wanted us to work things out. It was only after that I told him I didn’t love him the same way. I had taken the easy way out – to just ruin things before they properly end. I too, once was a coward.

Even with my marriage, there were so many things I could have done better. I think deep down, a part of me wasn’t ready to be married. I remember having that sinking feeling of making a mistake. I even woke up on my wedding day crying, worried that I was making a wrong move. Back then – I cared too much about how other people thought. Back then, I was too blind to realize I wasn’t living a happy life, and I wasn’t living life the way I wanted to. Should I have been more honest with myself, we would have never gotten married so soon. And maybe we could have had a better parting that we did. It’s not that I didn’t love him. I remember loving him so much I would have given up just about anything.

But I married him for all the wrong reasons, none of the right ones. We were so incompatible……but I thought love could fix all of that.

I married him, subconsciously thinking his “love” for me would fix my past abandonment hurt. I believed his lies for so long – because I clung on to the hope that he was not like the many who had just wanted something from me, but never willing to give more than they took. I wanted so badly, for him to finally be the one, who would choose me instead of someone else.

I wanted him to be the one, who would never let me go.

And that is why, I married him for the wrong reasons. I went into a marriage, wanting my past hurts to be fixed, longing for someone to just choose me always. I thought that by standing in front of witnesses, it would finally convince me that I’m worthy of love. I was so foolish. I was so naive. But now, the pain has made me learn so much.

The should haves, could haves, would haves in life are far too many.

But it made me think.

When do we realize that our self worth doesn’t depend on someone else’s love? What does it take – for us to realize that love has to come from within?

I wonder, if there was a time in my life, that I could look back upon and realize all of my toxic relationships happened mostly because of that feeling of abandonment. Could I have learned of this fact sooner?

Whose fault is it?

In which part of the vicious cycle are we stuck in?

What role do we play?

Are we the first person to make someone else feel abandoned, used and unappreciated?

Are we the asshole who can sniff out a desperate heart, and selfish enough to take advantage of them?

Or are we the lost one who is just constantly shuffling between toxic and more toxic people?

When do we stop and put a band-aid on a wound before letting it rip apart again?

I think that all of us, no matter which role we’re playing now, can wake up and stop lying to ourselves.


It might be hard at first, admitting that we’re not in love with the person we’re with. It might be even harder if there are children involved. It’s always tricky.

But if we do realize and are self aware that we’re hurting people around us, then I hope we also recognize that love is a choice.

We might have fallen in love with our partners years ago, and have since forgotten how that felt like.

We might have fallen in love with someone, who later on changed to become someone else. We have a choice to leave or to stay.

We might be emotionally mistreating our children or our parents, holding grudges against them, for things they hold no fault for, except for just existing. Many of us are unaware of how much our parents’ actions affect us and how much our actions impact our children.

It’s a vicious cycle. Pain breeds more pain. Hurt people hurt others.

When does it stop?

When do we make that decision to break that cycle?

What must happen, before we hit rock bottom and it’s all too late?

It’s cliché, but I feel that the power of love can always overcome the power of revenge. Revenge can only ease our pain temporarily, but never really fill us up with happiness.

I’ve heard people say: The best form of revenge is to lead a happy life.

I say no to that. Don’t pursue a seemingly happy life just to rub it in the noses of your perpetrators If you’re in despair, BE in despair.

Don’t pretend like you’re okay when you’re not. Ignore everyone else, and do things for you. Take care of you first. If you’re in pain, you have to treat that wound. Don’t even think about anything else first.

We may not realize we’re doing things out of rage, we may not understand what we’ve done in the name of vengeance. But I do feel that everyone deserves to feel heard. Everyone deserves to let their pain be known.

Love however, might sometimes mean putting yourself first. Loving yourself first. If we don’t know how to love ourselves, how can we love someone else? Loving ourselves can come in so many ways and forms, but the intention you set must be clear.

It starts by being honest with yourself. “How do you feel today?”

I wish I had been more honest with myself, but then again, my pain makes me who I am today.

My experiences in life will continue to grow me as a person.

The best thing my pain gave me was self-awareness. It also taught me how to love myself. I have so much more love for myself now, that it’s much easier to love others around me. It’s much easier to catch myself having bad thoughts of others and correcting myself. It’s much easier to forgive and empathize, and remind myself that everyone is just carrying their own trauma around.

I’ve learned so much about myself and I’m only learning more.

My ‘bottom’ was thankfully, just a divorce without any children involved.

But there could have easily been a child.

For those of us, who now realize we’re stuck in this cycle, contributing to the pain of someone else, or being the recipient of toxicity and abuse –

What will your rock bottom be? Before you pull yourself out? When does it become too late?

i’m sorry for your pain

I was talking to a new friend of mine. And he shared with me how his parents denied him after they found out he was gay.

His family was very religious, and they didn’t understand his coming out. They didn’t understand what he was trying to explain to them.

At 17, he made the brave decision to come clean and tell his family that he was never going to get married in a church, that he would never have children, and that he can never live up to their expectations.

At 17, they denied him. On the surface, he attended every family function. But his parents never stopped badgering him to go for counselling, to go for confirmation classes and they never stopped hoping he would “change his wretched ways”.

He’s 32 now. He’s getting married in Germany soon, and they’re planning to have a baby through surrogacy. His family is still in touch with him, but he no longer feels that they’re his family. By denying him, they have chosen to put a distance between them and him.

Who’s wrong, and who’s right?

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I recall another memory of my childhood friend, whose father had 2 families. His first wife knew about the mistress, but accepted it as a matter-of-fact. She even once bought him a shiny red car, so that he would stay. Barely a few years later, he met yet another woman, married her and had a baby – 23 years younger than his second daughter.

Two daughters took their family fate very differently. The eldest one was always closer to her father, and she supported him by attending her step-sister’s birthdays and school events. She got married very early on, moved out and left her younger sister with their mother.

After being abandoned a second time, their mother fell heavily into depression, and never was the same again. She just couldn’t find joy in life anymore.

—————————————————–

My own grandmother, was sold as a baby – for $12 Singaporean dollars. Her adopted parents were lovely people, and also adopted another two children. At 19 however, her father suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving behind his wife, my grandma, and her two step siblings.

A week after her father’s passing, her mother died of an aneurysm, after having cried for 7 days in a row. Her heartbreak killed her.

At 19, my grandmother became a mother, father, and an elder sister. She no longer could think about herself. She had to learn how to survive and thrive as a young female in 1930s-40s of Singapore.

Very quickly, she learnt different trades, and converted each skill into a business. She rented a shophouse in tiong bahru, teaching people how to sew on the 2nd floor, and teaching people how to do floristry on the ground floor. She also learnt that investing in a payphone would be good in the long run, and collected a good side income from that.

My grandma survived and thrived, raising 2 step children, and later on 4 children, mostly all on her own.

But her insecurities never went away. She ended up marrying a man who was not worthy of her.

Till now, even after 60 years, she still suffers verbal abuse from him every day, and she’s still living with her decision of marrying a man who behaves like a child.

————————————————————————-

I share these stories, so we can learn from them

Everyone has suffered through something in their lives before. What we cannot control, is what others do to us, and how tribulations surprise us from time to time. No one can cheat death, heartache, or grief.

But what we can do, is control how we respond to life. We can decide if we want to let them cage us in an unhappy cycle of hurt and hate. Or – we can decide to transform all of that pain and rage into beauty. Beauty in the form of extending compassion to others. In the form of apologizing when we’ve done wrong.

We can choose to become better human beings, by righting our wrongs, and deciding that from this day forward, we set intentions to be better. To listen better, to empathize more, and to put down our egos and place ourselves in the other person’s position more.

We forgive those who deserve forgiving. And we work on loving people around us more.

As much pain as we hold, it gets better when we share it around, and when we know we’re not alone.

love is the answer to all?

I have a confession

I think the reason why i feel so much guilt from our marriage is because I gave up on it first.

I was the reason he ever met someone else. I told him to take a month off the marriage so that we could both date other people, and see if we wanted to choose the marriage. to be honest, even if he didn’t leave, i would have left as well. he just beat me to it.

and so, i think the person i need to forgive, is not him, but myself.

i thought that venting and ranting was going to help, and it did for a bit. but really, the person i have to forgive – is still me.

a good friend told me to “forgive that you gave your freedom away”

I could go on and on and on about the things that he did. i could rehash all the traumatic memories and replay them in my mind over and over again.

but if i were to be completely honest with myself – it doesn’t really matter.

Things have happened. Words were said. Actions were made. No matter what, I cannot keep blaming him for things. I also cannot keep blaming myself.

I’m not entirely proud of my own faults too. So what i’d like to do, is to forgive.

Just in general, be more forgiving towards myself. Have patience for my anxiety to pass.

To those of you who have been writing to me, i just want you to know that you’ve been a great help, and that i really enjoy hearing all of your recovery stories. I love that you’ve reached out, to let me feel less alone.

thank you.

finding a name for how i’m feeling

I know i’d never truly been so low before, until i started googling for answers like “how to recover from trauma” and “how to make the numbness go away”

compared to last year, it’s been slightly more difficult to make sense of my emotions and feelings. I’m usually able to sync in with how i’m feeling and understand why.

last year, i was able to pick myself up pretty easily. just going to parties, or sitting in nature, or taking a long walk would usually help. when i say help, i mean that i started sleeping alot better, eating well, and getting back to feeling great and happy.

this year, after acknowledging certain truths about my ex, and finally putting down rose-tinted glasses to look through, it’s been much harder for my mind to protect myself. i’ve awaken. i’ve pulled out of the matrix, and i can no longer go back to making excuses for him, and using “love and compassion” to explain his actions and behavior.

when the things he says differ so greatly from his actions, and this repeats in a consistent pattern, even a fool would have to be dumb enough not to realize he’s not who he says he is.

i had a conversation with one of his exes last week, and we compared notes.

just knowing that he exhibited the same behavior with me, as when he was with her, made me feel much better about myself. for so long in the relationship, and even after the marriage ended, i felt that it was my fault. i felt that i could have done much better.

i put alot of blame on myself, and told myself that “well if you hadn’t done x, maybe he wouldn’t have reacted by doing x”

but no. i was in denial. for 1.5 years. it was much easier when i could do something about my pain. because i put the blame on myself. so then it felt like i could do something to make myself feel better. i could forgive him. forgive myself. that felt easy enough to do. i wanted to forgive – but how do you forgive someone who isn’t even apologizing and asking for forgiveness?

i look through my messages with people about him, and i see now, that even after realizing what he’s done to me, i still protected him. i still made excuses for him. i still wanted to treat him with compassion and love. why?

the trauma multiplied by folds, when i was bullied so incessantly by his behavior after the marriage ended.

his personality flipped 180 degrees. he became a complete stranger to me.

i think the shock from that was strong enough to numb me out for the first 6 months at least.

if i go back and observe my own reactions to what was going on, i wasn’t myself at all. my mind went completely into a defensive mode. it needed to cover up the truth from me, and veil things up until i was strong enough to deal with it.

1.5 years later, i’m ready to tackle the truth.

that there is no justice that i can ever get from what happened. there is nothing i could ever have done to prevent him from doing what he did.

that instead of thinking he had no choice but to behave this way – he did have. and he made the conscious choice to do so again and again. he’s been doing it for years with other women, and i was no different. i was just another person. just that i was stupid enough to actually marry him.

his actions had been so clear and consistent – so obvious of narcissistic behavior. but my love for him had blinded me completely of it. my insecurities made me believe that he truly loved me. even if he really did think he loved me, i don’t i ever quite believed it because i felt he wasn’t self-aware. i think that’s why i always felt a slight uneasiness with him. that’s why i never quite believed him when he made promises and told me he loved me. i always felt that he wasn’t 100% himself, that he had a wall up with me but i never knew why.

what i should have asked myself – is whether i did really love him? the answer is probably yes, if not i wouldn’t be feeling so shitty right now. at the end of the day, i’m also just dealing with a completely broken heart.

months and months of me asking “what’s wrong?” and “what can i do?” led to naught conversations because he always reassured me that everything was fine. maybe on some level, he really wasn’t even self-aware enough to know that he was lying.

but after all the drama, shouldn’t he know by now, that his inability to heal from whatever past of his, is directly hurting people around him? this blatant truth that he realizes, and choose to ignore in order to protect himself, is the exact reason i make myself continue therapy.

i don’t want my trauma to ever turn me into a person like him. i don’t want to hurt anyone else that i date.

i wanna be capable of loving someone freely and openly again.


when you google “trauma recovery” and “stages of grief”, denial is an important barrier to overcome. and then the rage comes and overwhelms you. i could identity rage. and i was happy to acknowledge it.

anger is fun. anger is empowering and liberating. anger is giving yourself the power to feel invincible.

but lately, i’ve lost the joy in my hobbies – i don’t feel like painting, i’m lagging behind my italian classes, i can’t muster up the energy to work out, and i can’t seem to enjoy anything.

i feel a huge layer of numbness.

and that’s when i understand how difficult the depression stage can be. it makes me think of all the other people out there, suffering from depression as well.

i don’t think this is the first time i’ve felt this way. I remember feeling this way back in singapore – when i realized i wasn’t happy pursuing other people’s goals. but then i got myself out of the situation and i could then start to feel better.

with this, it feels like someone else put me in the ‘waiting room’ without an agenda, without a timeline, and without a way to leave before going for the appointment. i can’t go back and i can’t go forward – i’m just stuck in a void.

but in writing this down, i also remember how strong i’ve been since D-day. i have to remind myself how i picked myself up again and again and again over the last year. and this phase is only but one.

i have to remind myself that i’m not alone. and that there are millions of people out there – in collective hurt. and that if they can do it – so can i. if i can do it – so can we.

there’s definitely comfort in having a support system – and i’m so grateful for mine.

i’m penning down the journey of my healing process, so that i can look back on it in future, and know that it’s possible getting through anything else. because i’ve done it once before.

trauma and grief wear many hats – they come in many different forms. and we all just need to learn how to recover from it. we all just need to learn how to be kind and patient with ourselves.

we all just need to find an activity to do while sitting in the waiting room.

even if it doesn’t feel like something i wanna do – it feels right that i take care of myself well now. it feels right to flood myself with love. and i let people around me love me.

for anyone else experiencing a hard time in your life – i’m holding your hand through this. and thank you for holding mine.

riding high on a low

coming out of a bubble has its perks

but it also brings down the walls of my mind

i’m no longer protected by lies that i fed myself

im now confronted daily with the truth

truth of my own weakness to allow past insecurities

to manifest into trusting someone completely vicious

i always thought he was just weak and needed me

needed my love and my strength

when in reality, he’d been pulling the strings like a puppeteer

finding my fears and using them against me

i gave up everything for him

but what was ‘everything’ when i didn’t even want any of it?

was it my ‘everything’ or just what I thought was all I was capable of achieving?

i hadn’t yet believed that the strength was always inside me

the same one others see, and yet i never recognised

now i see, that he walked into my life

to show me just how delusional i used to be

i needed him to tear my world down

so that i could go find my reality

i’ve sat with my pain for so long

that i didn’t even recognise it as a stranger anymore

she became like an ex classmate

someone who knew you since way back when

but not really relevant to your life anymore

im reveling in this new high of feeling low

because i know it will only transform me further

one who becomes even more self-aware

and will continue eliminating my ego

i don’t yet feel grateful

but i know i am alive, and full of reasons to celebrate for

and this pain i feel will eventually be channeled into something

greater than myself

Till then, i’m trusting the process

I take calculated risks – and no I don’t receive alimony

I roll out my yoga mat. And I spend 15 mins meditating. Meditating is a new practice I’m picking up and it’s becoming an enjoyable routine.

I walk to the first living room, which is my office space and I start checking my emails. Marin my housemate peeks in and asks “coffee?” I nod yes and carries on speaking to a teacher I’m interviewing for Learner Net.

My phone pings me and I see someone ask me on Instagram “I would really love to have your life, but how?”

I ruminate on this question for a while……and I keep trying to think. How can I share more?

The thing that troubled me is that I wasn’t sure who to write for. After reading the hardware zone comments, and some other comments on various social media pages, I realized one thing.

That my story divided readers by class. Or it accidentally alienated people who came from a lower income class. That fact stung hard. I didn’t want that be the point of my sharing.

I’ve been writing and re-writing this so it makes sense to me – the messaging I’m trying to put across.

And I keep thinking about the people who inspired ME to change my life. And when i picture their faces – few of them are better off than me (socio-economically). Most of them just took a leap of faith, and made it work. So i started seeing a pattern in all of them – me included.

It’s not about what we don’t have, but it’s about making use of what we do have.

I could sit here and talk about all the disadvantages of being female, being asian, etc etc and how it would have made me fear traveling as a solo female. But I’ve never once felt that those limited my opportunities or choices. I always just looked at how I could make use of my resources to get what I want.

One day i’ll start a series, and share my friends’ stories with you, so you can hear it from them.

Today, all I can do, is share some details that the RICE article didn’t cover, so it hopefully helps.

The one question that keeps coming up is – HOW DO YOU AFFORD THIS?

Before I got this job at Learner Net, I wanted to just continue volunteering.

When I first quit my insurance job, my main goal was simple.

Find what you love Jane. Find what interests you. Find what you’re passionate in – and follow that longing.

I went back to giving private tuition, I also started teaching toddlers and babies to swim at Jump! school. Twice a week I worked at Playfacto after school centre, taking care of children. Twice a week, I worked at Adler’s hostel as a receptionist. I also worked at Ah sam cold drink stall as a waitress/bartender.

I went back to basics. I went back to what I remember loving. I didn’t care that these jobs were ‘less desirable’. I didn’t care what society deems as jobs suitable for NUS graduates.

From when I was 14 to uni, I worked in service-oriented jobs. And i loved them. I worked in Starbucks, in restaurants, in sentosa as a segway guide, in events, a tour guide with Dynasty and even as a lifeguard in Morey’s piers (in the USA).

Even during my insurance days, the thing I loved the most was servicing my clients and helping them achieve their financial goals. Till now, most of them still keep in contact.

I’m a people person – I just didn’t know what else was out there that I could learn from.

Volunteering on Workaway was huge fun for me. I loved mowing the lawn. I loved babysitting. I loved sanding down bricks. Of course, I knew that I didn’t want to do these things forever. But i loved these experiences and what I was learning from them.

When I left my insurance career – it was very clear to me that my 20s and early 30s are for me to grow my skills, expand my network and grow as an individual. I wanted to learn how to be more resourceful.

I didn’t feel that just by sticking to one job I disliked could do that for me.

Every experience we go through is an opportunity to learn about ourselves. And I wanted a variety of experiences.

So before I got my current full time job, my plan was to do volunteering and find paid jobs where ever I went. It could be waitressing, it could be babysitting, it could be doing copywriting. It could be teaching English. It didn’t matter. I was ready to do whatever it took to earn a small income in exchange for a life of adventure.

In the end, my current company came along and offered me a job. They even accepted my request to move to Europe and work remotely from there.

Now. How do you afford it? – this question is really asking so many things.

Jane, how do i still plan for retirement? How do i afford housing? How do i still give my parents allowance? How do i still pay off debts? How do I still pay for holidays?

I can’t give you a solution because it’s your life. But this is why my current life solves many things for me.

When I was living in Singapore doing insurance, I earned a more than decent amount of money.

But not only did I not like my job, I didn’t enjoy living in Singapore either.

I’m not a city person. I would choose living in Sabah or a rural village, or a small town somewhere, over a bustling city ANY DAY.

That’s why I know that moving out of a mega huge city like Singapore was a clear choice for me.

What many of us think is necessary to be happy – is not for me.

What makes me happy, is being able to learn about cultures and history, picking up new languages, connecting with people from different backgrounds, learning how other societies have been shaped due to so many political and socio-economic differences.

I’m an explorer at heart, and so traveling around slowly and experiencing living in different countries excites me.

Also, because Singapore is such an expensive city to live in, I didn’t have much disposable income when I was living there.

Now, because my rent is lower, my food is cheaper, alcohol is cheaper, standard of living is cheaper, I have more disposable income. I can save more than 60% of my salary, and I’m living large. If I was living large back in Singapore, I couldn’t save so much money. Having more disposable income means having more money to invest.

I know many Singaporeans rely on CPF to plan for their retirement but personally, I’ve never trusted CPF as a safe vehicle to provide for my retirement income.

My rent is now between $350 to $500 sgd a month. In Singapore it would be at least $800 – $1000 for the same kind room. Close to city, good room size, includes wifi and utilities etc. That’s an additional $300 a month I can use to invest.

I love drinking wine/alcohol. A decent bottle of wine in Singapore is $20. Here it’s $5.

Back in Singapore, I always felt the need to escape. So i spent alot of money on holidays. I travelled very frequently. Maybe 4 or 5 times a year.

Now, because I’m living in foreign countries, there’s no need for a holiday. Every day is a holiday. Every day is an adventure.

I don’t worry about retirement, because I don’t see Singapore as the only alternative to retire in.

I could always live in Lombok, buy a piece of land there and grow my own crops. If I really wanted to, I could sign myself into a retirement home in Thailand or China, where you can mix around with other retired people and enjoy a luxurious retirement life. There are just so many other options out there, that we don’t know of. Because we haven’t explored what’s out there. And we think that the media tells us everything we need to know.

I didn’t know about volunteering opportunities until I was traveling. I definitely had never heard of the concept of working 8 months a year and then 4 months backpacking. My point is, there is so so many types of lifestyles and solutions out there, that I don’t know about.

If I had given into fear, and stayed back in Singapore, knowing that I would spend more unhappy than happy days there……I wouldn’t have known of all these different alternatives.

My standard of living has become more affordable and the quality of my life has increased by folds.

I understand that many people have considerations.

My parents wouldn’t support me. I have children to consider. I’ve already gotten to a point in my career that I can’t waste it. etc etc.

Please don’t get me wrong.

The point of the RICE article is not to encourage everyone to come out and live life like me.

The solutions to my problems cannot be the same for yours.

My point is to consider what your problems are, figure out if there are really no alternative solutions. Because sometimes there are, but you’re holding out on them because of fear.

It could be a job change. It could be deciding whether to break up an engagement. It could be deciding whether to go to JC/Poly. It could be deciding whether or not to give your parents allowance. It could be whether to get a divorce. It could be how to speak to your boss for a promotion. It could be a career switch. It could be deciding to have a child.

We’re all facing crossroads and different phases of our lives.

In sharing my story, I’m showing you that when you face your fears, and you change your perspective on things, sometimes the solutions become less scary. You have more confidence to believe in yourself and make the decision that feels right, even if it scares the hell out of you.