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.