Don't abandon me after reading my long newsletter :)

Dear readers,

Hello! I hope you are as good as one can given the times we live in. I want to start by sharing my website which was possible because my friend Matt was so diligent and worked so hard. He had been telling me for a few years that he wanted to document my work and I was thrilled and cooperated initially (last year) and then gave up. I got in touch with him again for the website because I needed it for a British grant I was applying for and he made sure it was up in time. I am so grateful to him. Please do look at it and let me what you think.

Moving on, I recently asked my Instagram community about their fear of abandonment and put up this post

A post shared by Indu Harikumar (@induviduality)

The answers were so revealing. I could see myself spelt out in so many of the replies. In my DMs, someone wrote in saying, “ I feel I am not the only one like this. I don’t want to be like this. I hope we are able to overcome past trauma and be who we are.” In the answers there was also someone who talked about creating scenarios so that their partner wouldn’t leave them and I couldn’t understand how. To which someone replied, saying, “Oh I’ve seen people make up ‘cancer’ so they can manipulate their partners, even friends. At least three times in my life.”

And I was reminded of the time when someone I dated told me how as a child someone had tried to kill them. I didn’t ask why but immediately felt protective. They had called on the nurturer in me. And when the nurturer is called into action, I feel validated and useful which is a need of mine. Years later they’d tell me that they had lied so they could have my affection. It was a long relationship and I felt cheated that they had lied. But it was also one of those relationships in which I prided myself as the most honest person alive but would constantly use illness (real and fake) to make sure they don’t leave. Much later when I thought of this incident of them lying, I told myself that that must be the only way they thought they could get my affection and it didn't feel that bad because I did it too.

Humans are so fragile while we pretend that sab changa si. Or are humans fragile because we pretend sab changa si?

Moving forward, I have been reading Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families by Dr Charles Whitfield. In the book, the author who is a physician and therapist talks about how the inner child is wounded and stays wounded and shows how to differentiate the true self from the false self. The chapter I was reading while asking folks about abandonment was called The process of grieving in which Dr Whitfield says,

“A trauma is a loss, whether a real loss or a threatened one. We experience a loss when we are deprived of or have to go without something that we had valued, something we needed, wanted or expected.”

In the chapter, he talks about the dangers of unresolved grief.

Unresolved grief festers like a deep wound covered by scar tissue, a pocket of vulnerability ever ready to break out anew (Simons 1979). When we experience a loss or trauma, it stirs up energy within us that needs to be discharged. When we do not discharge this energy, the stress builds up to a state of chronic distress. Kristberg (1986) calls it chronic shock. With no release this chronic distress is stored within us as discomfort or tension that may at first be difficult for us to recognise. We may feel it or experience it through a wide range of manifestations, such as chronic anxiety, tension, fear or nervousness, anger or resentment, sadness, emptiness, unfulfillment, confusion, guilt, shame or, as is common among many who grew up in a troubled family, as a feeling of numbness or “no feelings at all.”

I also struggled with labelling my family as dysfunctional, given they did (and do) all they could within their means so that I have a better life than they did. They loved me, all my material needs were met, fun was taken care of, I was kept away from danger, I had an education, I had opportunities, I survived and thrived.

But then emotional stuntness is something we all have, individually and as families. We will never know what another person’s emotional needs are. Even when well intentioned how we behave and what we say may hurt folks in irreparable ways. Sometimes we may not have the bandwidth or the understanding and we will hurt close ones and others knowingly and unknowingly. Young children may not always have safe spaces to express their fears and emotions and when they did they may have been belittled. Parents / caretakers may not have had the time, one of them may have been an alcoholic or had a temper, was abusive, shouted, didn’t know how to deal with their emotions, was absent, was dead, was busy and pretty much everyone had their own traumas, mostly unresolved which they also passed on to their children.

So with that sorted, I thought of documenting my losses as the book suggested. And so many things came up, things I didn’t know I was storing or that I was so hurt by them. I write this not as an accusation or to blame others but to let these free and allow you reader to reflect on your own losses.

1. I am 7, I take the school bus. My classmate and friend R also takes the school bus, she keeps place for me and my sister. Pepsi is being launched in the country. R gives me a sticker that says : Pepsi — The choice of the young generation. She gives my sister a similar one and one of Fido Dido. I am her friend, the one who talks to her and the one she talks to, we share tiffins, we copy notes for each other and yet my sister who she barely talks to gets two stickers.

(I see this pattern in a lot of my adult friendships and relationships. I am scared someone will be picked over me. Sometimes I am not interested in the person who does the picking but it still makes me so anxious that someone else will be chosen over me. And when I am the one who they have an active relationship with, someone who is giving, someone they love and who loves them back, someone they share their time and trauma with and someone who soothes them and then they go and pick someone else over me, I am plain devastated. It is still like the pain of that young child who got just one sticker despite being the friend.)

2. At home, my sisters get along like a house of fire. They talk in P language, they share secrets, they make ambitious plans for the future. My eldest sister takes my middle sister out on walks. I am not allowed. I am the youngest. I cry and plead but that makes no difference. I feel hurt and excluded. When I complain to my mum and she intervenes, I am told I am a cry baby. Sometimes they let me in, I try every trick so they let me in but mostly I don’t belong in their world.

(I don’t know if this is similar to the one above but I also find myself constantly proving myself especially to people who are just not interested in me.)

3. Jumping to when I was 22. I am on Yahoo Messenger and some random person messages me with, “Lauta de mere maa ke kangan.” I don’t talk to strangers but this I know as a dialogue from a Govinda film called Jodi no. 1 (Now I know the film is terrible and I also know that the dialogue is from Mother India) which I have seen twice with this person I grew up with. Both of us loved it. She is the last person I grew up with to move abroad and I miss her. I write back to the person on Yahoo Messenger. We talk later. My middle sister is in town. We are going to Pune. I tell this person — I’ll be in Pune. He gives me his number. My sister says — call. I call. We meet on FC road, I think at Vaishali. Sister and I leave, we agree he is cute and funny. He and I become friends. He and I become really close friends. He is affectionate and super caring, we laugh a lot. We have the kind of friendship when I think, he knows, like we are some kind of mind reading twins. I feel secure. He has a girlfriend. I am falling for him. I tell him and think we shouldn’t talk. He thinks his relationship is his problem and we should talk. Later, he breaks up with his girlfriend. We get together. We both know our friendship is precious and if the relationship doesn’t work we will prioritise our friendship. I spend a night with him. I am happy I come back home, it is a Sunday. Monday I know I am blocked, he won’t take my calls, he won’t reply to my emails. Years later we get back in touch. Recently, I asked him why he just disappeared and told him how hurtful it was. I didn’t know what I had done wrong

He said, “I realised you didn't want me, you only wanted to prove to me how good you were. I couldn’t make sense of it. I left. I am sorry.” I can’t quite remember what transpired between us when we decided to get into the relationship but I have heard from other men that they feel they can’t bring any value in my life. I do everything myself or know how to do it better or am constantly giving, constantly showing them the way. I wish I had known this earlier but I would still not know what to do with it because this is who I am. Proving. Proving again. So you don’t leave.

4. Going back I am in secondary school, I make friends with P. P is two years younger, she lives in the independent house next to our building. We hang out and watch Andaz Apna Apna multiple times. We think we are superior because we listen to English pop music. I feel secure with P because we don’t have another friend in this equation. In school she has her friends and I have mine but that doesn’t bother me. I know where I stand. We discuss our futures and what we will do when we grow up. She thinks I should do fashion and we discuss starting a design store together. After 12th I go to fashion school and I also hang out with a bunch of boys. Most of the times I am the only girl. They come home. Her mum sees me with them. I assume she doesn't approve. She stops talking to me little by little. I am beyond upset but she won’t tell me what went wrong, I stay upset for years.

5. I am 14, I get my periods, my mum tells my sister to talk to me. She refuses. My mum tells me how to put on a pad. I am confused. I am told I am a big girl now and I can’t jump into my father’s lap when he comes home after work. I feel I am being watched. I hate it. I hate the change and the confusion.

6. I am 16 and meet my best friend in junior college. She is stunning, popular and yet loves me. I lash out when she forms friendships with other girls, she mostly makes sure she doesn’t make me upset. We have a deep, deep friendship. When we move to different colleges, we still keep in touch. We don’t have social media but intuitively know what’s happening in each other’s lives. When her mum wants to start a business and she calls my father for advice. When she gets her periods while in college one day, she comes to my house and changes, she wears my clothes. Fast forward, we are 23, she is getting married. I know she will invite me. We run into each other at a store, her mum and she tell me about all that they need to do for the wedding. They don’t invite me then but I know they will but they don’t. Years later, I send her friend request on FB, she ignores it. I have no clue what I did to deserve the rejection.

7.

I am 17, I am mostly clueless about what to do. I want to go to fashion school. My father is easily my favourite person in the family, he vehemently disapproves. He tells me, “You are a good student. Why do you want to be a tailor?” He allows me but constantly reminds me that I have wasted my life. This rejection stays with me, I always feel not-so-smart. It is not just him but some of his friends also put me down. It is hurtful especially coming from someone I loved so much.

8. In fashion school, I don’t do too well. My illustration teachers like me, the others don’t. I am in the third year, everyone is going abroad to study, mostly to London and NY. My father tells me, “Go to mecca of fashion - go to Milan.” We are discussing future plans with our teachers, I tell them about Milan. They think of me as lazy and not too talented. One says, “You didn’t do anything here, what will you do there?”

9. I am 18 and friends from college and I are in a rickshaw in Pali Hill. This girl says her nipples are erect because it is so cold. I say, so are mine. She says, “you have them or what?”

Phew! There are so many instances and so many ungrieved losses that I seemed to have stored, I hope to clear some of the clutter slowly. While on this journey, my friend introduced to the videos of Briana Macwilliam who is a creative arts therapist and talks about insecure attachment styles. After the first video where she explains stuff so lucidly, I started by taking a quiz on my attachment style and some of my traits according to quiz were:

  • You are accustomed to a lack of love in your romantic relationshipsand fall into people-pleasing mode. 

  • You tend to give too much, and wait around too long for the reciprocation of loving feelings. 

  • You take on more than the Lion's Share of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in any relationship because you think if you are responsible for something going wrong, it must be within your power to fix it.

Now that’s totally me, so I started following her content and found a vocab. I found out that I have a need to be useful, so I do a lot of emotional labour for friends and then I expect them to pay back but they rarely do causing so much strife. Now I am realising they are playing into my need to feel useful.

I give what I want to be given but rarely do people get my memo. I also feel I am so preoccupied with both romantic partners and friends leaving me and get into this mode of constant pleasing and putting on a show of how amazing I am. I put in a lot of effort into my friendships and romantic relationships and want people to match my efforts. Even when they tell me and show me that they will not dump me, there is an underlined fear of abandonment and the fear of not being good enough.

Recently when I was in a relationship and after a long time I had let someone in, I was constantly anxious that it was going to end and I had made the wrong decision. Finally when I told them it was not working for me, I was suddenly so relaxed — better bowel movements, better skin, hair and no more constant anxiety if this is following the path, the ideal path which will make feel secure.

As I am growing old, I worry that partners will have less interest in me and I am going to end up alone and I found this from Briana so powerful.

“With age I am graced with the ability to make discerning selections when it comes to partnerships and I know I will have my pick because I know that the world is full of magic and endless possibility. Any time I get stuck in either-or thinking I can always access the wisdom of my inner being and find a multitude of alternative options. because of this ability I know I never have to settle in partnerships because I have built a community of friends and loved ones that confirm for me every day that love is always available to me in a variety of forms. I feel worthy of love and confident in my uniqueness as a singularity in the world. There is only one me. And this acceptance of myself allows me to understand and receive the love and regard of those who understand how special I truly am and deeply appreciate that about me.”

Watch this by Briana.

Also, if you find my work interesting, useful, lovely, etc and would like to support me, you could buy me a coffee here. Every coffee is for $5 that gets credited to my a/c


Thank you for reading. Take care of yourself.

Love,
Indu