It has been many months since I have written anything here. I had not intended to let so much time elapse, but I felt a strong need to go inward and process. It has been a tough year. One of the toughest of my life. It has been filled with much sadness and yet also much hope, most significantly in the deepening of old relationships and the flourishing of new ones. I have been absolutely blown away at the response I have gotten to the things that I have posted here. Especially the love and support I received after posting my last piece in which I opened up about my father’s suicide attempt and my experience of processing it. My intention and hope with starting Pure + Wild Journal was to connect and build community and collaboration. I could never have imagined the depth of connection I would make through sharing my experiences, especially the difficult ones. The relationships and collaborations that have already come to life through this platform have been more nourishing and strengthening than I could have ever imagined. I cannot overstate my gratitude to all of you for that.
This year has been filled with facing difficult and heart-wrenching realities, many of which I had tried for years to avoid. This year I have spent much time learning to let go. I have attempted to give myself the time and space to fully allow my grieving process to unfold, even when it feels inconvenient, all-encompassing and never-ending. One of the big themes that I have returned to over and over again is my attempt to discern what I can change and what I should accept. One of the biggest revelations has been and I continue to set the intention to fully embody the notion, is that, while our families, biology and experiences certainly shape us, they do not define us or our capacities for change, growth, happiness and fulfillment. I have spent much time and energy grappling with the fear that my family lineage of anxiety and depression makes me biologically doomed. It has only been recently that I am coming to fully understand and grasp that anxiety and depression are not singularly biological OR situational. They can and usually are a complex combination of the two. For many years I thought “Well of course I have anxiety, everyone on both sides of my family has it, this is just part of who I am.”
However at some point I began to know, or maybe always knew in my heart, that that’s not the whole picture and it isn’t a life sentence. So I set out to find some answers, to “get to the bottom” of the source of my anxiety once and for all. In doing so I came up with some fascinating information and realizations. I delved into research on the topics of intergenerational trauma, anxiety and depression and neuroplasticity and mindfulness. This coupled with my work with a new therapist with whom I have been fully delving into my childhood in a way that I had never done before has been pivotal in my understanding of the roots of my anxiety and depression. It has been very eye-opening and filled me with much hope that I don’t have to be imprisoned by my biology or past experiences.
One of the most affirming and useful works I have come across is Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal. One of the points that I found most relevant to me was Nakazawa’s explanation of how childhood adversity and toxic unpredictable stress can actually wire a person, even one who was not genetically predisposed to anxiety, to have a heightened anxiety response. She explains that people who have experienced childhood adversity undergo an epigenetic shift in childhood, meaning that their stress-response genes are altered by those experiences. What was most eye-opening to me about this book was the way it described childhood adversity. In many ways I had a happy childhood. I grew up with an immediate and extended family who were exceptionally loving and supportive of me and all of my endeavors. I was not abused. So to me, while I knew much of my family’s dynamics were dysfunctional, I hadn’t thought of what I had experienced as trauma. Recognizing and accepting that growing up in a chaotic household with a chronically depressed father was in-fact traumatic has been a pivotal point in my healing process. Taking a big-picture view and considering how my parent’s experiences in their childhoods shaped the way that they parented me and my brother has also helped me understand how dysfunctional patterns get passed down from generation to generation. This has enabled me to be more compassionate towards them as well as being mindful of the things I would like to do differently when I am a parent.
As I have begun to peel back the layers of fear and anxiety and come face to face with the deep wells of sadness, disappointment and anger that reside beneath, which I have been carrying for so so long, I have found much hope and freedom. Without question, this has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. It has also been a huge relief and makes me optimistic that the past does not have to dictate the future.