Thursday, January 16, 2014

Love and Attachment

From the moment a person is born they are making connections, falling in love, creating attachments. Ideally, skin to skin contact and breast feeding should be done as soon as the infant is born. This is because from the second a person takes their first breath they are testing the new world they're in and learning whether or not the environment is to be trusted. Due to circumstances my biological parents couldn't control the first five months of my life I didn't have a consistent home. When I was about five months old I was adopted by my aunt and uncle who have raised me as their daughter ever since. 

Growing up I had a huge fear of being alone. I remember being 4 and still feeling as though every time my parents left they would never return which I now know developmentally should dissipate between 2.5-3yrs. I have (too many) vivid, traumatic memories of the times I thought I was abandoned as a child. I would have complete meltdowns if my parents were 10 mins late to pick me up- believing wholeheartedly they had left me because I wasn't good enough. 5-6 years old! This constant fear of abandonment combined with a preschooler's egocentric mentality created a belief system within myself- if I wasn't good all of the time everyone would leave me. Twenty years later I'm still battling this belief. 

My second semester of graduate school I took pediatric health assessment. We had to conduct a 10 min presentation about different developmental stages. The assignment was to explain how the developmental stage affected children from infancy to early adulthood. I chose attachment and bonding because I had recently had a difficult break up and wanted to understand why I created such intense attachments to individuals. I learned a lot about myself just by understanding how my brain worked. The most crucial time for attachment and bonding to occur is the first 6 months of an infant's life. Aha! The first 5 months of my existence were inconsistent. I would spend some weeks with one relative, another set of weeks with another. This inconsistency the first 5 months of my life still affects me to this day. 

When relationships don't work out or I'm rejected it shatters my world to a certain extent. At around age 10 I came to the conclusion that I was adopted because I wasn't good enough to keep. I didn't even want to be loved by my biological parents I just internalized their rejection, and used it as another example as to how unlovable I was. When I was 13 family members decided it was time I knew my biological mother actually planned to have an abortion when she was pregnant with me. Oh. Cool. Melodramatic tween Tania internalized this further. 

Since I was 6 my number one goals was to get married and have a family. Ask anyone- I was going to have 6 babies (because that's how old I was when I was asked) and live happily ever after with my big family. At 6 years old I was fantasizing about having my own family full of people who were going to love me. Attachment and bonding is no joke. Ineffective bonding leads to ineffective attachment which leads to ineffective love. Last week I had a patient who's mother was abusive and just… so full of hate and anger. When the baby was touched he would let out these angry, frustrated screams. Screams a baby who has seldom been held makes. I held him and talked him through his tantrum until he relaxed. 1 month old and angry at the world. 

When I teach my parents about attachment and bonding I teach them from a place of experience. A teen mom asked me the other day, "My daughter doesn't ever want to be alone, she wants to be held all the time." I explained to her that infants are supposed to be held until they naturally don't want to be held anymore. By holding an infant all the time it doesn't "spoil" a child, it creates a confident child because that child knows they are loved and cared for and can therefore trust their environment. Children naturally pull away from their mothers to explore the world. When it's time to explore (for example school) the children with stronger attachments are better at the transition because they are confident their parents are always going to be there for them. Where as well into grade school I panicked if I didn't see a family member waiting for me at the end of the school day.

I'm 26 years old and rejection still feels like a personal attack. Cognitively I know better. It feels like I'm constantly getting rejected but it's because I'm constantly going after the same type of man. 

So if you learn nothing else today remember to hug your kids a lot because if you don't they'll have really dysfunctional relationships. 

That was a joke. 


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sorry not Sorry

Adults are constantly telling children to apologize to one another, the children then do it begrudgingly because honestly how often does an adult apologize to them? We grow up with this concept that adults don't apologize so when we become adults we refuse to apologize like the generation before us. 
Saying "I'm sorry," doesn't need to mean you've done anything wrong or that you're relinquishing power- it simply means you value a person and their feelings more than your pride. 

For the record, "sorry you feel that way," isn't an apology. 

Friday, January 3, 2014


Growing up I was a sensitive kid… who is now a sensitive woman, ha. I cry at the drop of a hat, I probably cry at least twice a day. My mom always tried to drive this out of me. Stop crying and get angry instead was the motto of my family. I ended up combining the two for a long time. When I was younger I cried because I was in pain now I cry because I can relate to the pain of others. Thankfully I don't hurt as much as I used to but it took a lot of time and effort to get to this point. It also took lots and lots of painful experiences. 

I read when I'm upset; psychology books, books about obtaining healthy relationships, books teaching me how to accept myself. I also watch a lot of seminars on youtube and netflix. I read articles about other people who are in need, psychology reviews- I'm constantly educating myself because I spent the first 25 years of my life being miserable and I don't want to do it anymore. So when I'm upset because life gets confusing I immerse myself in education so I can understand. I read a book last month that gave me very good advice, "seek to understand THEN seek to be understood." It's helped me a lot. Every book I read emphasizes the importance of not taking other people's reactions personally but it didn't click until I read that sentence. Empathy is kinda my thing :) But what happens when the other person doesn't want to be understood? It's super frustrating but it's that person's decision whether or not to let people in and I have to respect their wishes. 

I hate not being able to understand things. I love learning and am always looking forward to new, interesting information. I love people. I find them fascinating and want to spend the rest of my life hearing their stories and learning about why they are the way they are and helping them with their consent. Opening up to someone is terrifying. To open oneself up and allow another to see who you really are, what you've really been through is difficult. That's why people are so closed off. The reason I was so sensitive as a kid was due to my vulnerability. I was able to be truthful and honest with my feelings even if it was embarrassing and painful. When people hurt me I let them know they did. 

The first week of November 2013 I went to an open house at NorthEastern University because I was interested in their Child Psych Nurse Practitioner program. When I was speaking with the Child Psych Nurse Practitioner from the school I discussed with her how I love working with children because of their openness and resilience. She explained she was conducting a research study with individuals from the ages of 5-25 who have come from abusive homes, foster care, homelessness, anything traumatic to discover the difference between those who were resilient and overcame their situations and those who were not. Being that I had a difficult childhood, a painful adolescnece and very destructive young adulthood I found this research study very interesting and have been trying to look back within my own life to find the difference between myself and my siblings who have not quite found their path yet. Then, I watched Brene Brown's presentation, "The Power of Vulnerability," and it clicked. 

During the presentation Brown stated that the difference between people who were resilient and happy and people who struggled and suffered was one variable; worthiness. The people who had a strong sense of love and belonging believed they were worthy of love and belonging. The resilient people also had other commonalities; courage meaning to tell the story of who one is with their whole heart. Compassion for themselves first because if a person isn't compassionate with themselves they won't be able to be compassionate with others. Connection but only as a result of authenticity- being honest and true about who we are and having others accept that. The biggest factor seen in resilient people is the ability to not just be vulnerable but embrace vulnerability as necessary and what makes them beautiful. These are the people who say, "I love you" first. People who struggle in life pull away from vulnerability associating it with pain and uncomfortable emotions such as grief, rejection, etc. By attempting to numb the uncomfortable emotions we end up missing out on the happy emotions too because vulnerability is the foundation for connection. 

I'm not afraid of being vulnerable. I've gotten my heart broken and my feelings hurt plenty of times before and I'm sure it will continue to happen throughout my life. I'm a nurse. I've witnessed death and have seen it come for 6 month olds and 89 year olds. I watched my grandfather waste away from cancer and then have the terrifying experience of witnessing my brother endure chemo. The reason I became a nurse was not to cure disease- that's what a physician does, the reason I became a nurse was to ease people's suffering. I knew I wanted to be a pediatric nurse when I was 8 years old. I was in 3rd grade and one of the children who attended our school passed away from cancer, we were planting a tree in his honor. I was close to the front with a clear view of the boy's mother's face. I watched her tears roll down her cheek and the pain she was in. I didn't know how to help her but I wanted to, I wanted to spend the rest of my life making sure little boys didn't die so mommies wouldn't be sad. Witnessing that mother's vulnerability allowed me to empathize with her which then motivated me to chose the path I'm on currently. 

I don't know how else to be but vulnerable and honest with people. It took great amounts of self control and practice to learn to not going around trying to connect with everyone I meet. I've gotten very hurt because with vulnerability comes the possibility that someone will use a person's trust against them to cause them pain. Ultimately I learned from even the painful experiences. Especially from the painful experiences. I'm constantly getting told by friends that they don't wanna hear my "poopoo caca" meaning my ideas and thoughts on psychology or I get an exasperated sigh followed by, "Can we NOT have a deep conversation right now?!" I could let that discourage me but I don't. I'm passionate about something, I'll eventually meet someone who appreciates that. In the mean time I'll continue being myself and encouraging the people around me to be real, honest and vulnerable as it's the only way to truly connect with people. 


Friday, December 27, 2013


In nursing school they emphasize the importance of silence. Sometimes nothing needs to be said. It's something I found easy to do with my patients. I observe people a lot, the ones who don't like it say I "psychoanalyze" them. I'm not trained to psychoanalyze people, I'm simply observant. I come from an emotionally abusive household where I was to be seen and not heard. My days depended on my parents' mood; if my dad was happy it was a good day, if my dad was upset the day would be spent arguing and yelling. When I would misbehave when I was little my parents would get me to behave by telling me if I didn't they would abandon me. Haha, I wish I was joking. It created in me a chasm filled to the brim with abandonment issues it's taken me until now to get through. 

The silence nursing school described was healthy silence. The silence I experienced within my personal life was manipulative and angry. When I was younger silence was everywhere; at the dinner table, in the car, while playing… My parents are good people… now. I forgive them for who they were then because they didn't know any better. I know that for a fact because I had/have the privilege of knowing my grandparents. The older I get the more family secrets are uncovered and the more I understand why the people around me are the way they are. It's so easy to be judgmental and criticize but if I'm honest with myself I dunno what I'm doing half the time! Life is about trial and error. The people around me don't listen to what I have to say because all they see are the mistakes I've made in the past. Oh, and that I'm a woman; all crazy and unstable. 

I was always a daddy's girl. My dad always showered me with love and affection, he protected me and loved me. He was also really scary. I remember hiding in the closet crying when I was 3 or 4 because he was fighting with my brothers. Their teenage years were scary… It was like he saved all his love for me and then spent the rest of the day taking out his anger on everyone else around him. Growing up loving a "monster" has probably been the most beneficial and detrimental things to happen to me as a kid. I knew there was kindness inside of him, I had seen it. I knew he possessed love; I felt it. My dad has been my biggest teacher in compassion, not because he shows it to others but because I had to have it to love him. I had to come to terms with the fact that my dad was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My father spends his time in silence and I love my father so I would spend my time in silence with him. I hated his silence. 

This resentment of silence built up within me during my teenage years. Until finally I couldn't be silent anymore. My mom had a lot to do with it. She wanted me to be stronger than her. Don't worry my mom messed me up plenty too :) but she taught me not to be afraid of my dad because she would always have my back. She would tell me to speak up for myself. Unfortunately my father was a tyrant who's first response was always "no." What it created was an incredible negotiator but also someone who has to stand up and yell every time an injustice is felt. I've decided to take this drive my parents collectively created within me and use it for good such as activism. 

I can't keep my mouth shut when I see or feel an injustice. I have to relearn silence within my personal life. I almost got arrested because I couldn't keep my mouth shut when an officer towed my car for no reason (seriously no reason, I got cleared of everything minus the towing costs). When I feel an injustice it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to hear how I feel about it. Because I react this way often the people closest to me have learned to tune me out. So the last 4 months or so I've remained silent because if you can't respect me I don't have to talk to you. There was no debating, no yelling or name calling I just withdrew and said, "Okay, I'll give you your space." In silence people have time to reflect, time to recognize their feelings and see how they could have handled things differently.

In 2013 I learned who I was and what I wanted out of life. I also healed from so much pain from the past. People close to me tell me I still have to change, this annoys me because 1. let's first acknowledge all the positive change I have undergone and 2. I never said I was done changing and growing. I debate their need to point out the changes I need to make because it feels unfair that they can't acknowledge all the good I do and am and that they would think I was so dumb. My debating usually leads to them giving me a superior, "See what I mean" look. So this next year I will relearn silence and let my actions speak for themselves. When people want to hear what I have to say they'll come to me. Until then I focus on myself. 

2014 will be another year of progression. A year of not taking shit personal. A year of being fearless because fear only leads to suffering. I've suffered enough for 10 lifetimes, I'm ready to  soar through the rest of my life smiling, loving, caring and sharing my good with everyone I meet. I'm ready to let go of the past. I'm smiling as I'm writing this because it's happening right this second. When I learn lessons I learn them well. I'm tired of feeling angry. If I want to change the world with love and compassion I have to let go of my defensiveness and instead try to understand others so that they can understand me. 2013 was about healing my soul, this next year will be about healing my body and exemplifying my values and beliefs. People don't believe what I tell them because it doesn't look like I follow my own advice so instead of arguing with them on how I live honestly I will instead remain silent and allow my actions to be my voice. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I know who I am and I know I've handled every obstacle that has come my way. I'm proud of myself. That's really all that matters. 

"Happiness is the result of love coming out of you. No one else can make you happy." Don Miguel Ruiz   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Honesty, Love, Respect and Kindness

This weekend two of my friends married each other! It was a really joyful occasion and so much fun! I gave the blessing which was an amazing honor. I look back at this year and I feel so blessed! Weddings used to be bittersweet for me because I used to compare myself to everyone else and then feel inadequate because I didn't like myself very much. Last December I made a goal:

This year, I will learn how to love myself.

Then I set out on accomplishing that goal. I consulted with other professionals, peers, books, classes, documentaries. 

Growing up, "I don't know," was never an acceptable answer because only stupid people didn't know stuff and we weren't stupid. Looking back, my parents had the best intentions but what they created in me was the fear of being honest. Becoming a nurse has been the best decision I've ever made. As nurses we are encouraged to be honest and say, "I don't know," when it's followed by, "but I will find out." Then you look for the answer because you promised your patient you would. After 18 years of not being allowed to say… anything, it was a hard habit to break.

It took me until I was 25 to say, "I don't know how to love myself… but I will find out." Then I did. That's slowly becoming the second best decision I've ever made. I really couldn't be happier with my life and more proud of myself.  

Like I said, weddings used to make me feel lonely and bittersweet because I would spend the night in my own head feeling insecure. Last night I was happy to be at the singles table; I had a wonderful time all because I decided to figure out how to love myself. I looked stunning, I made lots of friends, and had an amazing time living in the moment instead of my head. For the first time in my life I don't feel lonely. My life is bursting with love. All I can say is you get what you give if you demand it. I treat others AND myself with honesty, love, respect and kindness; I expect the same in return. If individuals don't want to abide by that then they don't have to be part of my life. I used to be afraid of being honest and having standards, not anymore. 

Honesty is so important when healing from emotional trauma. I had to look at my whole life with blinders off and recognize where I went wrong so I could learn from my mistakes. If a person isn't honest with themselves then they're just lying. I used to lie to myself all the time. Looking at myself and my life for what it is now and accepting it, warts and all, has made me so much happier than lying to myself pretending everything was fine. This year I set out to love myself and I accomplished that goal. Pretty badass :)

I am bursting with love and happiness :)   

Monday, December 9, 2013

But Why?

Beginnings are always difficult for me so I will start with… Hello… I'm Tania. Since I was little I loved asking questions and finding out why things are the way they are. Today, I'm 26 years old and I am still little, for the good Lord did not grace me with the gift of height, and still asking questions and figuring out why things are the way they are. I don't have all the answers, sometimes I have very few, but I'm willing to look for the answer and for me that feels like a good start. My reason for starting a blog is to share my ideas with others and find understanding in this ever-changing world by exchanging information in a respectful, compassionate way.

To give you a brief history on myself I am a Hispanic woman, first generation American, a pediatric visiting nurse, and recently endured the most chaotic, uprooting three years of my life. Through first hand experiences I've hurt, learned, accepted, and evolved all for the better. 

Life is traumatic. Through my experience as a nurse I've seen babies born and have been there as the elderly have taken their final breath; both experiences intensely beautiful and intensely painful. That's life- one giant contradiction. Take a second to realize we're on a big rock spinning in circles around a giant ball of fire in an endlessness of darkness. I'm not making that up- the Earth is in space, we revolve around the Sun, these are facts. How crazy is that? I look at that and say, that doesn't make sense! But it just is and we continue our lives everyday never thinking about it because we accept it and move on. Life doesn't always make sense. Sometimes people are cruel, unfortunate experiences happen to us but through acceptance and understanding we can move on and continue our lives without letting things affect us so deeply. 

I love to understand. I ask so many questions because I truly want to have an understanding of a subject. I'm sure in college I annoyed people in class with my constant questions and participation but if I was going to learn something I wanted to understand it the best way I could. I was donned a teacher's pet many times over but it was because I took personal time out to speak to my teachers and professors to further my understanding. Go figure that teachers like students who enjoy learning :). Through my constant openness to new information I was able to do much more than gather the facts I requested, I unintentionally learned how to create connections with people. 

Looking back I realize how many of my teachers and professors treated me like a peer rather than a child. Through our discussions after class, one on one, they would open up and tell me about their lives, their experiences and how they got where they were. As a kid I thought I was weird because I really did want to create positive relationships with my teachers. I thank my endless need of approval for that but what ended up happening was magical and it's a lesson I only recently learned. Understanding and respect is made possible through open, respectful communication. My teachers treated me like an equal because I respected them and brought new ideas to the table they had never considered. Through open, respectful discussion I was able to understand and be understood. In this age of technology basic social skills have been lost. We don't know how to interact and empathize with one another anymore. Social events cause many people immense amounts of anxiety. We live in a time where we take our freedom of speech for granted and only use it to judge and hurl hateful words at others. This has to change. 

To learn, a person must be willing to confront the truth and accept the answer even if it makes them uncomfortable. They must also be willing to share and accept information in a non-judgmental way. This is a struggle for most people because our convictions are what makes up our everyday lives. Remember when you were a kid and you learned something new and it just blew your mind in the most exciting way? "You mean the moon isn't made out of cheese?!" Somewhere along the line we lose the excitement and openness to learn new information because our fear of being wrong gets in the way. 

For some reason when we get to a certain age we convince ourselves that we have to know all the answers and if we don't it means we're huge failures. So when we don't know the answer we feel defensive and lash out just because we can't admit that we don't know something. So many times when I was growing up my father would tell me I couldn't do something or go somewhere. I would ask why and he would respond with, "Because, NO! Because I'm your father and I say so." As a kid this would infuriate me and make me feel small but I would always confidently retort back before storming away, "That's not an answer!" As I grew up, my father and I butt heads because I wanted to understand and he was unable to communicate. What I didn't know then which I know now is that he couldn't communicate because he didn't know how- he was never taught and is too stubborn to admit it. Now that I'm older I understand that "Because I said so!" means, "Because I love you and I'm scared you'll get hurt. Because losing you would be devastating to me." But only through having an open-mind, love and compassion did I come to understand him.  

What I'm trying to do with this blog is share information and insight through personal/professional experience, research and real individual's anecdotes. All I have ever wanted in life is understand why things are the way they are and use that information to help others. I chose my profession to help ease the suffering of others. As I grow older I recognize that individual's (myself included) don't know how to communicate with one another or cope emotionally. There has been a complete lack of focus on individual's mental and emotional wellbeing in this country. I want to do whatever I can to change that. I'm starting with a blog. So… That's why.