The ACTIONS: 7 Steps To Powerful Change

The ACTIONS: 7 Steps To Powerful Change

The Fear Inside Me

“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue

to reach out.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

I have many fears. They present obstacles to anything I do

in life. Besides facing society-at-large, I have to face my

own fears—fear of failure, not being good enough, not

having enough time, and losing loved ones. In fact, I have

asked the following question many times in my life: “How

come some people naturally succeed while others

struggle?”

The older I get, the more I realize that fear tends to take

over our ability to think clearly and rationally. Often, we

fear what we do not like or what we don’t know or

understand. However, when we fear irrationally, we

unnecessarily trigger adrenaline and deplete our adrenal

glands. Even worse, our irrational fearshold us back from

experiencing life fully and enjoying the presentmoment.

Although I tend to think of myself as a courageous,

mentally strong person, for over forty years, I had many

fears. I was timid, self-conscious, and shy in any social

situation. I felt inferior and never realized it was a major

problem. I let my life happen as it came along, and for the

most part, that’s whatI was taught in my early childhood.

I know everyone has experienced fear in their life, but let

me share one specific experience with you: A few years

ago, I lived in the fear that my mother, who was in her

eighties, would become ill and die. I hoped her death

would never happen, but it did. I lost my dearest loved

one!

Part of overcoming fear is learning how to face it. It took

me years to realize fear was what had prevented me from

being happy and feeling good, so instead of immersion in

the grief of losing my mother, I converted it to nurturing

and love.

My Depression Affected My Family

The wonderful woman who had raised me for over forty

years, my mother Phuc Tran, fell ill in 2011. Let me tell

you, watching the people you love suffer is one of the

worst experiences imaginable. All you can do is stay by

their side, hold their hand, and try to help them smile

through the pain. As for me,I sat next to my mother’s bed

every day until the last day of her life. Every day, I

replayed memories of her in my mind, which caused me

great distress and anxiety.

I was in despair and tried to bargain with God to give her

ten years of my life. After all, she had taught me the

importance of filial loyalty—as the Vietnamese proverb

says, “The debt we owe our father is higher than

mountains, and the debt we owe our mother is as

inexhaustible as water flowing from its source.”

However, God did not answer my prayers. I felt I had

failed my mother. I felt guilty, hopeless, helpless,

dejected, and worthless. So, I became angry, irritable,

resentful, silent, and secretive.

I lost myself when I lost my mother. It seemed liked

everythingI had once hoped and dreamed for was now out

of reach. Her death took such a major emotional toll on

me, I broke down physically, mentally, and spiritually. I

suffered from profound despair, sleeping problems, loss

of concentration, lack of energy, and low libido.

My mother’s death also directly affected my family. Right

after their grandmother’s passing, my eight-year-old son

Grant and ten-year-old daughter Victoria lost interest in

activities and schoolwork, got tired and gave up easily,

and withdrew from friends and family.

More specifically, Victoria felt worthless, rejected, and

unlovable. She suffered from acute depression. When she

was sad or irritable, I tended to take her mood as

disrespect for me. When her energy was low and she

lacked interest in anything, I thought she was not trying

hard enough or just being lazy, so I became frustrated or

angry with her. Those were difficult times for us.

Furthermore, my mother’s death also took its toll on my

relationship with my husband Christopher who was

working six days a week, ten hours a day at that time. I

hardly saw him at all. When the children were at school

during the day, I was at home by myself with four dogs

who became my best friends. However, my grief tore me

and my husband apart. We had arguments every single

day, and sometimes our anger and silence could last up

to a week or more. There were times I thought of getting a

divorce and going to a Buddhist monastery, shaving my

head, and becoming a nun.

Butwhen Ilookedat my two beautiful, smart children,I had

to ask myself who would take care of them. What would

happen to them if we separated? Maybe, their father

wouldremarry, and his new wife would take care of them,

but then what would happen ifshe didn’t like them? I felt

no one could take care of children as well as me, their own

mother.

Divorce would have traumatized my kids. Was that how I

loved them—by bringing more pain to them? And

because I was not aware of the signs of depression, I let

my illness and my daughter’s illness go untreated. I did

not admit anything was wrong with our emotional and

physical states. I went on my life like everything was fine

when it wasn’t.

It Took Me Years to Reclaim My Life After

Trauma

As an only child without any cousins, aunts, or uncles in

America, I did not have anyone to talk to about my

suppressed emotions. I did not know anyone I could

reach out to for help. Although I have a godmother who

is very close to me, she was in the same boat: Her mother

passed away at almost the same time as mine did, so I felt

I couldn’t approach her. (As I write this book, another

tragic event is taking place in my family. My godfather,

the dearest friend of my deceased mother, has been sick

in the hospital for two months, and recently, they

transferred him to a hospice care facility. Any day could

be his last day.)

Everyone deals with loss differently. As for me, I became

quieter, angry, more forgetful, and had trouble keeping up

my normal routine (e.g., preparing the kids for school and

cleaning the house). I was depressed to the point I was

unable to stop blaming myself and thought that life wasn’t

worth living anymore. My godmother, on the other hand, is

the complete opposite. She’s feisty and loves an argument.

As for my daughter, who I mentioned earlier, was

suffering from acute depression. We had a terrifying

incident one night a year after my mom passed: She ran

away without my knowing it. When my husband came

home, he asked where Victoria was. At that moment, I

thought she was playing hide and seek, so we searched

everywhere in the house. Then, thinking she might be

taking a walk, we went down the various streets in our

neighborhood, but still no sign of her. I called her friends,

friends’ mothers, and next-door neighbors. No one had

seen her or heard anything. I was scared todeath!

Thank God, we finally found her walking at the park near

the elementary school a couple hours later. We were

elated and distraught at the same time. For just a split

second, I thought about whipping the heck out of her;

however, I was just so happy she was still alive and in one

piece (Thank you God, Buddha, my mother, or whoever

it was helping me keep my daughter safe!)

After that, I changed tactics. Instead of being a mother

who made demands of her daughter, I became more of a

friend to Victoria by making conversation, sharing

emotions and feelings. But it wasn’t enough for her.

When I tried to sit down to talk to her, she ignored me,

hid, or denied how she felt. She acted as if she were fine

and didn't need help.

From then on, when I was upset with her, I would give

myself a time-out.I would ask her to give me five minutes

alone, and after five minutes, I would sit down with her,

asking her to share her thoughts, or I would explain to her

why I was upset. It seemed to go pretty well.

I started to spend more time with her, doing things we

both could enjoy: going for a walk, playing a game,

cooking, crafts, watching a funny movie. Gently

encouraging positive emotions and moods (such as

enjoyment, relaxation, amusement, and pleasure) can

slowly help overcome depression, as can avoiding

arguing or using harsh words. Staying patient and

understanding is key. It is up to us adults to educate

ourselves on childhood depression so that we can spot its

signs and help our children.