If your name is Tesereta Mulivai, it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear people tell you that you’re always such a happy person. It wouldn’t be uncommon for them to point out the fact that you’re always smiling. Well, who’s going to go around with a sad, mad, or whatever face that isn’t smiling and tell everyone their problems? Who’s going to be like, “Look at me! I’m struggling. Feel sorry for me.” There are some people like that. Sometimes those kind of people are labeled as attention seekers and dramatic. They are often pushed aside because as some people say, “I just don’t like to be around negativity.”
When I found out that I suffered from anxiety and sometimes depression, I was pissed. My relationship with my dad wasn’t great at all, so I blamed him for why I was suffering from anxiety and depression. He had been very verbally and emotionally abusive and was really hard on me. However, as I have gone through counseling and the process of healing, I found that it didn’t start with just my dad. It started with both of my parents.
Because I had grown really close to my mom, I couldn’t bring myself to accept that she was part of the cause. Due to suffering from anxiety and depression, over the years my mind helped me to survive by tossing memories (good or bad) out. On top of that, after completing a journal I would rip it up or burn it. Therefore, physically disposing of memories throughout my life. I guess you could say that I tried hard to get rid of anything that made me relive or remember things that were painful or hard to handle, even if that meant getting rid of good things.
Eventually, it got to the point that I became unable to recall things that happened in my life. Once I lived it, I would forget it. It was like studying just to do well on the test and once that test is over, you forget everything you studied. For example, when I moved to Utah from Hawai’i and people would ask me about my time there, I couldn’t tell them. Why? Because I couldn’t recall my time there. Moving to Utah was so hard to deal with that my mind decided to forget everything I had ever done in Hawai’i to be able to survive and live in Utah. Everything I related to people were things I had memorized from reading the few journals that I hadn’t burned or torn up or from listening to stories people who knew me would tell me. This all may sound really hard to believe, but it’s true.
Anyway, my point is… It all started with my parents. People may say, “You can’t blame someone else for what you’re going through.” However, I believe that some of things we do suffer and go through are the results of other people’s choices. My parents introduced me to anxiety and depression; my unwanted companions.
Let’s start with my mom. My mom came from a home where her parents were physically abusive toward her. My grandpa had really changed his ways and became a man that his children (even my mom) grew to love and grew close to. He was an amazing man and was loved and respected by many. My grandma had also changed, but because she endured abuse from my grandpa it was hard for her to let a lot of things go.
Although my grandparents had changed their lives, their children and grandchildren suffered the consequences of their choice of being abusive. My mom had told herself that she wouldn’t do to her kids what her parents had done to her, but… She did.
When my two older brothers were born, she would beat them. If they cried, she would beat them. If they did something she didn’t like, she would beat them. If she felt she didn’t have control of them or was frustrated with them, she would beat them. All that she said she would never do, she did.
Two more of my brothers were born and by that time, she stopped with all the hitting. You see, my mom was born to parents who were members of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. She was and still is Mormon. At the time that she had my first two older brothers, she was very inactive and married my dad who wasn’t a member of her faith. My dad ended up getting baptized and though he fallen inactive very quickly after being baptized, my mom started going back to church and became active from that point on.
By the time I was born, she was completely done with hitting and was strongly against it. You might be wondering how she could have possibly introduced me to anxiety and depression. She was a somewhat changed woman when I came into the world.
In 1999, my family moved to Hawai’i from Seattle. We quickly learned that it was a hard place to survive in. The cost of living was not cheap at all, but we knew that we needed to be there.
My mom suffered a lot of mental and emotional abuse from my dad, which caused her to struggle with her self-esteem and her marriage. My dad wouldn’t work and so my mom had to fulfill the responsibility of providing for our family of seven. She was putting herself and my dad through school while working hard to provide and to fulfill her responsibilities in church. She never really had time. On top of all of that, my brothers and dad had fallen away from church. My two oldest brothers started hanging with the wrong crowd and got into drugs, alcohol, and other things. I bet you could name any trial and my family has probably been through it.
Looking back on it, my mom was so overwhelmed. The trials were so hard for her to bear, especially when she had a husband who didn’t support or uplift her. They were hard for her to work through when she had a few rebellious children and a few young children who didn’t understand all that was going on.
To cope with it all, she was all about church. She turned to the gospel and did whatever she could to live it to bring relief to herself. I mean, it’s not a bad thing to be dedicated and committed to your religion. The bad thing was that she got to the point where she was forcing it on us. There was a certain way we had to do things or live. She would tell us that we wouldn’t struggling and all of our problems would go away if would we live the gospel. If we weren’t doing it the way she wanted us to, she would get frustrated and mad. Unless we lived the way she felt was right, whatever we did was either wrong or not enough.
I remember my mom had our family sing in front of the congregation. We had practiced beforehand and she expected me to do a solo. I got so scared that I messed up in front of the entire church. When we got home, she was mad at me. Instead of telling me it was okay and that next time would be better she said, “Why didn’t you sing? We practiced! You knew all of the words, yet you kept looking down and messed up!” It happened every time I had to sing in front of people. I would mess up and she would be so hard on me.
That’s when I started to develop anxiety. Whenever I was asked to sing in front of people, my anxiety would act up in such a way that I would shake so badly and be unable to sing. I would forget all the words and screw up. I developed terrible stage fright that I still haven’t grown out of til this day.
I felt that my mom expected to be the child that wouldn’t give her grief. As my brothers and I grew older, all of my brothers gave her some kind of grief. They were either hanging with the wrong crowd, getting into fights, drinking, doing drugs, smoking, skipping class, and what not. One of my brothers started to openly express his homosexuality. Therefore, my mom was really hard on me and expected much more of me.
My anxiety developed even more because I felt that I had to do all the right things. I felt that I was unable to make mistakes or screw up. I was hardcore about living every standard of the church with exactness (or what I felt was exactness) because I felt that if I didn’t, I would be a let down. If I felt there was something wrong with me or that I did some terrible thing, I would beat myself up and sacrifice things or people until I felt that I was right back on track with God and my religion. It all took a toll on me in high school in which I started to miss a lot of school and was failing academically. I had gone from a 4.0 student to 2.0-3.0 student.
I remember my mom had gotten to me about it and was dissatisfied if I got a C or B. My dad would laugh at me and would point out all of my bad grades rather than the good ones. He would compare me to one of my brothers and say, “He’s the only one who has gotten honors in high school. You used to be an honors student and now look at you.”
My anxiety hiked up to the level where I felt that I had to be perfect in everything that I did. I had to be the perfect person who was always smiling and happy so I wouldn’t give my parents grief. I had to be the kind of person that didn’t get angry, hurt, frustrated, or sad because I didn’t want to be considered weak. I had to be good in everything that I did; sports, music, school, and what not. If someone was better than me, I couldn’t handle it because I knew I would be compared. I had to be the child that never missed a Sunday of church and was a strong and devout member. I had to be the child that succeeded in whatever I did so I wouldn’t feel like a failure or let down. I began to living up what others expected of me and started holding myself to standards that were way too stressful and overwhelming. If I didn’t live up to them, my anxiety would kick in and I would get scared. If I felt I wasn’t perfect or the best, my anxiety would act up and I would punish myself because I was afraid that I wasn’t enough and that I wouldn’t be accepted.
Now for my dad’s role. My dad has always been a hard man to please. He is a perfectionist and has the mentality that he has to be the best in all that he does. He has to better than anyone, even his own wife and children. We all have that person in our life that is always trying to one-up us. In my life, that’s my dad.
I’ll admit, my dad is really good in everything that he does. He’s the type of person that takes the time to study something until he understands it. He’ll practice for hours until he gets it down. If something is broken, he will study how to fix it and spend hours fixing it. He won’t be satisfied until it is done. He takes pride in the fact that he is intelligent, can figure things out, and can do things that would take people years to be good at. Hands down, my dad is a talented and intelligent man. However, knowing that he is talented and intelligent causes him to keep his knowledge to himself and use it to be in control of others.
My dad is a very athletic and musically inclined man. In the video above, he has a guitar solo. I had written the lyrics and practiced it until I felt I had it down. In the video, it was the first time that I had sung the song and recorded it. Therefore, his guitar solo was not practiced, was purely by ear, and was made up on the spot. That’s how good he is.
People would always come to me and talk so highly about his athletic and musical abilities. I never went without hearing the words, “Are you sure you’re his daughter? Why can’t you be like him?” I would do everything that I could to be as good as him. I would even ask him to teach me, but he didn’t want to. He told me I wouldn’t be able to get it. To me, he was saying that I wouldn’t be as good as him and that he didn’t want me to be as good as him.
I would push myself to the limits in sports. Even though I knew my body was damaged, I would keep trying and keep playing to gain his approval. My efforts were never good enough and he made sure to tell me that. He always pointed out everything that I did wrong. He would yell at me or embarrass in front of a lot of people when playing sports on the courts. He would say, “We’re here to play. If you’re not going to play, then get off the court. You’re not good enough.” To other people he would tell them that it was all fun and games and laugh when they would make mistakes. When I approached him about why he treated me differently, he answered that it was because I had to be better than everyone else and not make him look bad.
I’m now at a point where my body has been so badly damaged that I’ve been advised many times to give up sports. Whenever I would try to get better at playing the ukulele and guitar or get better at singing, he would point out everything I did wrong and tell me I’m not doing it the way that he likes it to be done. Then he would proceed to sing or take the ukulele and guitar from me and “show me how it’s done.”
My dad was also very verbally and emotionally abusive toward me. He was also very controlling of everything. If what I was wearing was ugly, he would say so and make me change. If I wore makeup or straightened or curled my hair, he would tell me that I was ugly and make me do it the way he wanted it. One time, I cut my hair for the first time in my life. It had grown pass my hips and was cut to my shoulders. He was so mad and never failed to tell me everyday that I was ugly. He was the kind of man that nitpicked or found everything that could possibly wrong with me. When he did he would say, “No man would want a girl like you.” He would also tell me that if anything was going wrong in my life, it was because I was being disobedient or wasn’t being a good person.
My dad was also a man that was very into the Polynesian culture. Although it frustrated me, he had me follow certain traditions and customs in our culture. Like, serving people when they came over, never eating food in front of someone who didn’t have food, giving away stuff to people, and other things. Don’t get me wrong, culture is a nice thing and gives you a sense of identity. What’s not nice is when it becomes such a burden. I’ll talk more about the culture and how it contributed to my mental illness in another post.
Due to all of these, anxiety and depression became a part of my life. Whenever I would go to play volleyball, I would have anxiety or panic attacks on the court and would mess up so badly. I would have anxiety or panic attacks anywhere that was crowded with people; church, malls, social events, school, family gatherings, etc. I struggled with developing relationships and friendships with people. I struggled and still struggle with self-esteem and body image. I struggle a lot with feeling that there is anything unique about me because I feel that if I’m not the best in something, then it’s not unique and I’m not enough. I held in a lot of my anger, frustration, sorrow, and pain because I felt that if I expressed it or let it out then I wasn’t a good person. I felt that if I wasn’t a certain way or if I didn’t show that I was happy all of the time, then I was a failure. I blamed myself for everything, even if it was someone else’s fault. Feeling worthless had caused a lot of my depression.
Two other factors that has caused my anxiety and depression are being bullied and sexually harrassed several times in my life. That’s a whole different story that I won’t get into. Now I’m not bringing all of these things up to be create such a depressing life story or to badmouth my parents. That’s not my intention at all. My intention is to show my healing journey and what this journey has taught me about myself and about the parents God sent me to. My intention is to show how I found healing through the women mentioned in the scriptures; The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
If it weren’t for my healing journey, I wouldn’t be as close to them as I am now.