望子成龍, Thriving Despite My Demons
In my freshman year of high school, I fell into a deep depression. During the beginning of my high school experience, I wanted to create something for myself that was positive and genuine. While trying to channel something positive, I found myself being bullied by my peers because of the way I talked and looked. I was just coming out of the closet and trying to understand my sexuality and whatever it means to be “gay.” Coming out of the closet came with the responsibility to come out to my family one day, and with that came the concern that they might not want me anymore. All this on top of just being a freshman in high school was a lot for me. In the midst of trying to balance that with family, school work, and peer pressures, I had a meltdown. I began doubting my self-worth and even questioning whether I deserved this life or not. I was pushed to a point where I began hurting myself, and consequently hurting others around me.
It was also around this time in freshman year, when my mom opened up about her marriage. My mother and father immigrated to America from China in 1988. My father divorced my mother in 2000 and left her alone with 2 kids to feed and no money. She also had to take care of her parents, my grandparents. She told me about how my father had been abusive physically, emotionally, and financially. She said her parents-in-law were not supportive of their marriage and encouraged my father to leave my mom. During this story, I distinctly remembered a time when my mom was driving me to school and she looked into the rear-view mirror and said to me, “我不想做人了.” (This translates into “I don’t want to live anymore.”) At the time, I was too young to understand what she meant. But now I know that she was saying she did not want to live anymore. Realizing that years later made me feel heartbroken. Even as her son I was unable to help her at such a desolate time in her life.
But that also led me to see that if my mother was able to beat her depression and re-start a successful and happy life without her ex-husband, then I owe it to her to beat my own demons. I began going to therapy and openly talking about my issues. It was hard to allow myself to feel too vulnerable because I was raised according to the strict gender expectations of men in Chinese culture. We were taught to be dragons, powerful creatures that breathed fire and ruled the skies. The idiom, ”望子成龍,” would be used to hope for one’s son to be successful in life. However, in therapy, I learned that the only person that can keep me from being successful is myself. I learned to stop letting other’s comments get to me on a personal level and to take time for myself to recuperate mentally and emotionally after stressful times at school. However, I did not do all of this in one therapy session. I still continue to attend therapy sessions today, in an ongoing effort to better my life mentally and emotionally. I learned that you can never perfectly achieve these things and it will be a continual struggle to deal with one’s own inner demons. I understand that the goal is to not defeat one’s demons but to learn how to live with them, a lesson I will carry with me for a lifetime.