Where Are You, Childhood?

Readers,

As I grow and test the waters during this 25th year of my life on this earth, I’m coming to more realizations about my childhood and my present state of being. Typically, these are not pleasant realizations. They often involve some comment made by a person that hits me below the belt, and I have to ask myself why I’m so hurt and offended. Or perhaps I’ll explain a little about my childhood to someone and they look at me with full eyes, open their mouths to speak, and a sympathetic voice rushes out, pressing upon me their deepest sympathies for what I suffered.

Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that I was suffering anything different from anyone else. For a while, I thought that my home life was standard and that everyone had a father and mother like mine. It wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I learned how fathers could be gentle and loving. It wasn’t until I was 23 years old that I realized that sometimes mothers can be too close with their children, and actually prevent them from being fully free to live their lives as children. When your mother has no friends of her own and no therapist, and you are the child she deems “able to handle it”, you are exposed to an onslaught of information you had rather not known.

This was a part of my childhood. Throughout my life I have been included in conversations I wanted no part of, told secrets best kept hidden, and forced to carry the burden of being “the strong one.” I was considered the strong child, the stable child, the one that is most reliable and able to carry weighty information, whether that’s about the family’s financial situation or about affairs and divorce talks. I heard them all. My brother was not exposed to such information. My parents needed someone to vent to and I was chosen. At the time it almost seemed like an honor. ‘Wow. Mom and Dad think I’m strong and capable. I must be. That’s why they’re telling me all of this. I can handle this. I can.”

I couldn’t handle it. Because I was given this information, much more was expected of my behavior and my personality, which was being shaped by the inappropriate confidence between my parents and myself, ironically enough. I had to be stable, for the sake of my family. My grades needed to be excellent. My friendships had to be healthy. I needed to be happy and well-behaved, giving no lip. I had to make sure to remind myself that I wasn’t allowed to tell my brother the secrets I was forced to carry inside.

I had no one to talk to about what was told to me.

Is it any surprise that at 14 I became irritable and angry with my mother? That at 15 I became depressed? That at 16 I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks? That at 17 I became depressed again and almost suicidal? I wasn’t allowed to be broken. So all of that pressure erupted inside and completely broke me.

Of course this one childhood issue didn’t cause all of the aforementioned mental and emotional distress, as I was a child of an abusive home and well-acquainted with darkness, but it definitely contributed to my suffering.

I didn’t realize any of this until I was 23, sat in front of my therapist and she called my mother a word I’d never expected to hear: manipulative. I immediately rejected that term. My mother? No. We were friends. We’d always been friends. That’s why she told me everything she told me throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I tasted the word for a bit and decided that it didn’t apply to my mother.

Two years later, at 25, during my second therapy session with a new therapist, she asked about my childhood. I threw everything at her, letting my words spill over and fall onto each other. At the end of it all, I said, “So, they would tell me these things because my brother needed to be protected.”

“But what about Gabby?”

Tears rushed to my eyes and I blinked them away. She was right. What about Gabby? What about Gabby’s childhood? Why couldn’t Gabby be protected from the things her older brother was protected from?

I feel the repercussions of this childhood trauma to this day and am just now beginning to work through it all.

I wish I had some words of wisdom to close this post with, but I don’t. I’m left only with the question that haunts me when I think about my childhood.

What about Gabby?

 

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

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Suffering for a Decade with an Undiagnosed Chronic Disease

Readers,

I have painful periods. No, really, they’re awful. I know there’s this new movement of trying to love your period and embrace it in all its glory, but I simply can’t do that. Why?

I have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a chronic, treatable but not curable, debilitating disease. Tissue that is meant to grow in the uterus grows outside of the uterus, on the ovaries, even throughout the pelvis and up toward the lungs. Doctors are unsure why this disease exists.

Endometriosis is mysterious disease. The average time for diagnosis of the disease is 7-10 years.

For me, it took 10 years.

For years I would visit my pediatrician, then my primary care physician, and then three gynecologists complaining of the same symptoms. In fact, by the time I saw my third gynecologist, I brought with me three full pages of symptoms. After reading the symptoms, she immediately diagnosed me with endometriosis.

My symptoms?

 

Heavy periods

Blood clots while menstruating

Intense pelvic pain

Fatigue

Dizziness

Missing work or school the first day of my period

Heart palpitations

Anemia caused by menstruation

 

My gynecologist doesn’t think it’s necessary to do the surgical procedure needed to officially diagnose endometriosis; she thinks I have enough symptoms to feel confident in her diagnosis.

I’m on birth control now to stop my periods.

I aim to see an endometriosis specialist hopefully sometime during the next couple of months and I want the surgery to confirm the diagnosis.

I hope they can remove the excess tissue, easing my pain and helping me become more able to have a baby and have sex with no pain.

 

Endometriosis can cause painful sex and infertility. That breaks my heart.

Women readers, if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT FOR A DIAGNOSIS!

Gabrielle G.

When Past Pain Resurfaces (Apologies)

Readers,

Have you ever experienced a total God-moment out of nowhere that you absolutely never expected? I certainly have. Just yesterday, God showed me a few incredible things about His character. I’m still asking God why He did this yesterday and not before or even not at all, so we shall see what He reveals as time progresses.

Let me give you some context. Three years ago, around this time, I was preparing to head to India for the summer. It was my first time overseas. It was my first time flying alone. It was a time of so many firsts! Anyone who knows me in my daily life knows that I’m enamored with Indian culture. I know a lot about Indian culture and I’m proud of that fact. I’m typically more adept at discussing the differences that various Indian cultures have (yes, there’s more than one), than I am discussing Puerto Rican culture. To be quite honest, not many things interest me about Puerto Rican culture. Perhaps it’s because I was raised with it, or maybe it’s because I’m half Puerto Rican, or it might be because of my lack of Spanish fluency. Regardless, it doesn’t excite me as much as Indian culture. So, I typically show my love for India through my daily actions, never intending to “show off” my culture knowledge, but simply to partake in the things that bring me joy and the things I identify with. I don’t see myself bound to Puerto Rican or German culture. I see myself as a cultural chameleon. I find myself much more in Indian culture than any other culture and that’s absolutely okay. I think it’s given from Providence.

Some of these cultural practices I do include watching Indian movies, eating Indian food (with my hands), visiting Indian grocery stores, listening to Indian music, and trying to learn bits of Hindi, Bangla, and Malayalam (my favorite Indian languages). Well, I also like Tamil but I don’t know anyone who speaks it and I definitely can’t teach myself that language. Super complex and linguistically challenging. I line my eyes with Indian kajal. I enjoy adorning myself with Indian jewelry that I purchased while in India, or have been given as a gift from Indian friends. I let my love for the culture be known.

Right about the time before I left for India in 2015, I received an onslaught of discouragement and attack from people around me. Some friends subtly discouraged me by saying “It’s really dirty there.” or “The water is so bad. You’re going to get sick.” This came from someone who had only visited India for two weeks and had used toilet paper the whole time. Sorry, but I can’t trust your cultural competency when you choose to use toilet paper in a country where that’s not the standard. You really have to go out of your way to avoid that cultural practice.

Some attacks were much more direct. My brother screamed at me and told me I was going to a “disgusting country” with “disgusting people” and I was “going to get raped.” He also said that my “trip will not do anything” and that I was “just wasting my time.” Immediately I knew that was a Satanic attack and that the enemy was using my brother to discourage me. Those of us who know Scripture know that John 8:44 tells us that Satan is a liar and is the father of all lies/liars. Subsequently anything that a demon says is also a lie. I recognized this attack as a demonic attack and knew it wasn’t true. Yet, my heart broke for my brother. To be used by Satan to attempt to discourage me about India was a terrible experience for him. He couldn’t remember what he had said ten minutes after the attack ceased. This attack only strengthened my resolve: I was going to India and God was going to work miracles in and through me.

Now, one attack in particular was especially confusing to me because it came from someone I didn’t call friend. As a professing Christian, she and I became acquainted through my university’s ministry group, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We knew of each other and had a couple of conversations but nothing too deep. We had no real intimacy as friends. One day, shortly before leaving for India for the first time, I received a slew of Facebook messages from this woman, attacking my love for Indian culture. She essentially said that I’m weird for loving Indian culture and I should love my own culture. She went on to say that I potentially have a mental illness because I love Indian culture. What?! How does that make any sense? I was so perplexed and told one of my best friends about it. She encouraged me and said, “Gabby, this is just another Satanic attack on your life and Satan wants to deter you from going to India. Don’t take it to heart. It’s clear that God wants you to go to India, which is why Satan is attacking you this hard.”

Sage words!

This was three years ago and my trip to India did indeed completely change me and inspire me to pursue God’s call for my life in cross-cultural ministry. Although I never forgot this woman’s words, I had forgiven her a long time ago. Yesterday, I received an Instagram message request from this woman and clicked on it. She went on to give me a lengthy apology for what she had said three years prior. She told me that she was praying and God led her to apologize to me.

This led me to stay awake for several hours that night and ask God “Why did You want her to apologize now? What does this mean for my future? Talk to me, Jesus!”

I still haven’t gotten that answer yet, but I know God will show it to me in time.

 

Readers, never give up on people. I’ve had about two experiences like this where people apologize for prior misdeeds much later. It’s always a pleasant surprise when I receive those apologies. But, friends, don’t wait for an apology because it may not come. Just give it to God and let it go. I know it hurts, but don’t choose to keep that pain in your heart. Forgive them even before they apologize. That’s grace.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

When Friends Betray You

Lord, this is difficult. I know that all of you have experienced betrayal at some level, in some way. We all know what this feels like. Yet, it hurts just to talk about it.

Without going into too many details, I was recently betrayed by a friend who has been my sister-in-Christ for three years and roommate for one year. We’ve seen each other through sickness, heartbreak, family drama, money issues, school stress, other friendship drama, etc. You name it, we’ve been through it together.

What caused this betrayal? I’m sure she feels betrayed by me just like I feel betrayed by her. But why did this happen in the first place?

I honestly don’t know all of the particulars. What I do know is that when it comes down to a person’s survival, they will choose themselves over you even if that subjects you to danger. Even if it’s not morally right, they will choose themselves.

Some people are a little more aggressive than others and they will protect themselves in such a way. Others, like me, are a little more subtle and willing to be put out for the sake of a loved one.

 

What hurts is that after three years, a friendship has to end. Betrayal happened. A love destroyed. Sisterhood abolished.

 

I hope some day we can reconcile, but we may not. What hurts the most is that sisters-in-Christ are no longer friends-in-Christ.

 

“When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win we know the pain reminds this heart that this is not our home” – Laura Story

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.