Dad’s most important mantra for me or anyone important in his life is to have a voice. We all have it, but not all of us use it.
It’s not hard to find my voice when life was good. But when life was rough, my first instinct was to bottle up and pretend everything was okay. That pretty much was how I was raised. When problems came up, everything was “fine” so that I was not a bother to anyone else. To intentionally worry someone else was considered rude. It was an odd way of being polite I suppose. No wonder mental health was one of those most overlooked aspect of one’s well-being in a lot of asian cultures.
Looking back in my life, there were a lot of problems that could be solved if people were to simply speak up. Admitting that they need help or admitting that they feel lost or confused or frustrated or any range of emotions is a huge step towards effective communication. Took me a while to finally see the importance of that voice. Certainly took a lot of patience on Dad’s end to get me talking about my real problems. It’s not fair that a lot of times he knew what I was struggling with, but would wait for me to find my voice first before he offered any advice or comfort. But during those time of struggle, I slowly learned to recognize my emotions from my thoughts. I learned to set aside those emotions and convey my thoughts. Things that truly bothered me and steps to solve those problems.
It wasn’t easy initially. In first year or two, I’d find my voice through my emails to Dad. Often times when I spoke to Dad about certain difficult subjects, I get choked up with emotions or I blank out because the noise in my head would prevent me from having any coherent thoughts. After my evening chat with him, I’d spend some quiet time to reflect on what I wanted to say. Writing those thoughts down definitely helped. So I kept at it. Day after day, weeks after weeks. As time went on, I wrote less and less. As I start to understand more of myself and the way I think and feel, I find it a lot easier now voicing my problem and concerns. It’s freeing in away because I can share my burden with someone else. I am not expecting Dad to solve most of my problems, but for him to understand and empathize is enough support for me to find my own answers.
Dad often said that I don’t need to fight a battle alone. I just need to use my voice and help will be there when needed. Am I perfect at finding my voice now? Hell no. I am a girl afterall.