Malaysia Bagus News
Malaysia Bagus News
PETALING JAYA: For years, Nabilla woke up at dawn every Hari Raya, just wanting the day to end.
She hated what she saw as the hypocrisy of supposedly warm family gatherings when it was those very people who had hurt her.
Nabila, now 22, and in a better place emotionally at last, comes from a broken home.
As a young child, she had been caught in an acrimonious custody battle when her mother and father separated.
Her parents often ignored her wishes and emotions in their fight for custody of her, making her feel like a pawn in their private game.
After the divorce, Nabilla lived with her mother, aunt, and grandmother in a large house in Ampang, and her life was for the most part happily drama-free.
However, when she was 10, her mother remarried and moved to Perth, Australia, with her new husband.
Nabilla found herself, to her surprise, living with her father.
“I was told I couldn’t join my mum because it was the middle of the school year. I’m still not sure if that was the real reason but I was young and I believed them,” she tells reporters.
“I thought I was only going to have to live with my dad for a few weeks, but it ended up being years.”
It was not easy adjusting to living with her dad, who had a conservative lifestyle that went against her previous upbringing.
Plus, he too had remarried.
She struggled to fit in with her father and his new wife in their home, and tried everything to find acceptance within the family, but her resentment simmered away, slowly approaching boiling point.
Nabilla recalls one Raya when her father made her call her mother on the phone and tell her that she wanted to stay in Malaysia for good.
“He made me tell her that, even though it wasn’t true. But I was 10, so I did it because I thought I had to obey him.”
Ever since, Hari Raya has been a confusing time for her, gradually turning into something she dreaded every year.
“For the longest time, I thought Hari Raya was hypocritical. People dramatically ask for forgiveness once a year, but they don’t mean it.
“To me, my family just swept all of our problems under the rug, to make it seem like we were a picture-perfect family, and to pretend we were not fighting for the rest of the year.”
Now 22, things have improved for her after she moved out to live on her own.
“Financially, it’s not that good but emotionally it’s the best thing for me,” she says.
She works two jobs to pay her rent, but at least she no longer depends on either of her parents.
With the passage of time, she has been able to reconcile with the traumatic events of her childhood. However, being abandoned is still hard for her to bear.
But at least, she says with a grim smile and a shrug, she doesn’t hate Raya anymore.
“I actually look forward to it because it allows me to spend a little time with my family and I get to pretend like we are happy now, even if for only a few hours.”
For others who have suffered difficult childhoods like Nabilla, the annual Hari Raya season can be one of the times when they suffer from “anniversary reactions”, says Ellisha Othman, a clinical psychologist, and managing director of Thrive Well.
She tells reporters people are more likely to remember events more clearly and feel emotions more intensely leading up to the anniversary of a traumatic event.
“This is a natural grieving process in short-term or long-term healing. Specific thoughts, memories, and emotions become more intense than at other times of the year.”
There may be many factors behind an “anniversary reaction” which can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to more extreme reactions, with accompanying mental or physical symptoms, she says.
“Many factors may contribute to these reactions, including physical health, psychological well-being, and a person’s socio-economic situation.
“Family support, and religious and spiritual beliefs also count for a lot.”
Such “anniversary” episodes are all the more concerning if they are symptomatic of mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder or if there are accompanying physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches.
Indicators of anniversary reactions to trauma may include feeling sad, angry, impatient, panicky, and having alarming dreams.
“You may feel generally fatigued and have difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and eating normally,” says Ellisha. “But it’s really important not to be judgmental, for these are normal, understandable reactions.”
Ellisha advises those coping with such problems to try to sleep regular hours, eat a balanced diet, exercise moderately every day and seek medical attention if the stress is making an existing medical condition worse.
Many people cope better by talking about their feelings with people they trust. For this reason, she also suggests seeking out support groups or counsellors if feelings of distress persist.
“There is no single right way to heal,” she says. “Try not to compare your reactions to those of others.
“Each person is different, and each person will find their own ways of coping with the memories.”
Nabila can attest that learning to cope is the best that most childhood trauma victims can hope for.
For the anguish of love lost as a child never really fades.
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