Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jumping over the hurdle - stress & recovery


After the doctor told me it was going to be 6 weeks of recovery, I took the news pretty hard. I was really stressed out. Hearing that news made me really angry - it brought up all these questions again, of "why did this happen to me?" I felt the unluckiness again, of having caught such a thing. That week was really difficult for me - as everything is in the beginning - because in those first steps, the journey ahead feels so long. You think, how can you possibly make it that far....? I came out of the hospital, feeling relieved, and thinking that I was never going to get stressed about little things, ever again. Of course, the first thing I did when I got the news from the doctor was get stressed out!. Again, a reminder - that I'm not in control of my body, or my recovery (rather, my body is in control of me)

About two weeks after I left the hospital, I realized that SIL had never phoned me during the whole process. I don't know why, but it royally pissed me off. I started to think that she couldn't care if I was dead or alive. Wasn't I supposed to be like a sister to her? I felt betrayed. I always wanted to be close to her, but she always kept me at an arm's length. I really don't know much about her at all. I don't even know if anybody does. She knows everything about me...and I know nothing about her. I don't even know what's her favorite food or movie. As an only child, I wanted this connection a lot. I thought SIL would feel closer to me after I got married, became "official" in the eyes of the family. Or even now that we both have kids. But nothing changed. But alas, that is life lesson #482: have no expectations from others...

Meanwhile, we were trying to get my MIL to come from Zurich - which in itself was difficult because I don't like to ask for help. I felt like I was giving up my independence to merely ASK for help, especially at an inconvenient time. We were trying to figure out all the logistics of it, as SIL was depending on MIL to take care of her child. It seemed that the most simplest of solutions was turning into this complicated Indian melodrama / tug-of-war, with all these other factors that kept springing up, for example, SIL "doesn't speak German"; "there are no daycares in Zurich"; "there are no Indian daycares"; "there are no English daycares"; "daycares are too costly"; SIL "doesn't understand your meningitis"; "what will happen to her child"...you name it. It made me feel extremely inconvenient for asking for help when I really needed it. I had really had enough. In addition to all that, it brought up past resentment, that I had with SIL in this process. You see, I can't really function the "Indian way" - a.k.a. when you have an issue with somebody, you pretend it's not there and brush it under the rug. I'm used to talking through things with people and being honest, or else it all comes bubbling up for me.

Anyways, we ended up having a our first big fight, all the while not even talking to each other - having MIL in the middle (what grown ups we are...lol) where I called SIL "the most selfish person on Earth" (so dramatic, I know...) which was the first time I ever said anything like that to her in 8 years. Little did I know, that "selfish" has a completely different meaning in their culture. To them, "selfish" means "greedy, asking for material things"; and to me, it means "self-absorbed, only caring for oneself". For her, it probably came out of the blue. But for me, there was a lot of little things that bothered me before, so I just exploded. I doubt SIL will ever talk to me again. But she never really talked to me openly in the first place, so am I really losing anything? Not really. Who knows?  I'm sure she'll never forget it, if she's anywhere near as stubborn as her dear brother is! I feel bad that I hurt her feelings. I didn't know she was going to get so affected by it. Maybe, she does care and she doesn't know how to express it? Whatever it is, I'm not used to it, and I can't figure it out!

Well, at least I have husband-ji, and my MIL who is like my best friend, and our cousins-wife, who is like a SIL to me, and a loyal friend. Instead of getting mad, or getting disappointed, I should just concentrate on the people who love me and who are there for me - instead of resenting the people who aren't.

After all that drama, I was stressed to the core. And it really screwed with my recovery. I couldn't rest, I couldn't relax, I just felt worse. And then I came to an epiphany...getting stressed out doesn't do anything for me. It doesn't serve me at all. It doesn't help me get better faster. Getting stressed is an absolute waste of time. And what about that vow that I made myself, after leaving the hospital - that nothing would stress me out again? I broke that promise to myself within that first week. What the hell. After that, I started to center myself again, back to my meditative state of concentrating on getting better, aligning myself with my body's needs again - with a little help from "The Book of Awakening" from Mark Nepo. A big thing for me in this recovery process, is setting limits for myself. Not pushing myself - and immediately when I get tired, I stop what I'm doing. I think these practices will serve me really well in the long run, since before I was having a hard time balancing everything.

And then, my MIL arrived. My best friend. It has just been heaven having her here - having a companion in the house. So far, it's been smooth sailing. She's loving watching the horror movies on TV that have been playing for Halloween, and is requesting we watch 2 per day - one mystery, and one ghost story. She is cooking all these delicious foods, and both husband-ji and Maya are loving it. Every morning husband-ji eats 9 mini-dosas for breakfast!!! Sandhya's breakfast special! 


Last week, the doctor gave me the go-ahead to start going for walks outside (total Canadian doctor, eh? We believe getting "fresh air" will cure anything!). Getting that news was absolutely exhilarating. The first day, we went for a walk - the air was so crisp, the leaves were falling....it was beautiful. I felt free... On that day it was exactly one month since I was in the hospital. Having my first walk outside was another small victory....

And now, I am halfway through the recovery process. Being patient, listening to my body, and all these little victories bring me that much closer to being back to my normal self...this recovery process has taught me a lot.

To be continued....

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What do you think, dear readers? How do you cope with stress? Do you think my fight with SIL was cultural? How do you get over fights with family members?

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17 comments

  1. It may be cultural but it may also be miscommunication. I recently had an experience with miscommunication via telephone. It made me kind of feel like never again discuss anything important on telephone. Skype may be a better way to communicate than telephone.
    I am happy that your MIL is with you now, you need all the rest/help you can get.

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    1. I think both - cultural, miscommunication, and personality differences - and that combo is impossible!

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  2. i know what you mean, I have the same type of relationship with my MIL, who I live with... -_- yeah. I'm really envious of your relationship with your MIL. I was really looking forward to meeting my boyfriends mother, I thought, being an Indian woman, she would teach me how to cook, teach me all about pujas and festivals and other parts of Hinduism. Instead I get a MIL who will not tell me what she expects of me, ignores me for WEEKS if I don't fulfill those expectations, and only talks to me out of duty really. Basically a fake smile and hello. I should have expected it knowing how she treats the rest of the family, but it is severely disappointing and slightly infuriating. It makes things really awkward and stressful around the house, but you can't let it get to you. Enjoy your time with your husband and daughter, and your awesome MIL. Don't let the stress with your SIL affect your relationships with them. Focus on the good! Hopefully it'll work itself out.

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    1. Mezy, I would advise you not to live with your MIL, if she is like that. Not good for mental health, if we continue like this.

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    2. It is very difficult to live with a MIL from the beginning, the constant togetherness is hard during those first years of building a relationship.
      I'd recommend trying to get some emotional space from her - do your own thing for a while - just to get a mental break - it sounds like the resentment is piling up, and that is bad for you, not to mention your BF who is probably feeling the tensions rising.
      Maybe after getting some space you guys could just spend some one-on-one time to try to build a relationship, like going to a movie or doing some cooking together - that way you can bond without talking too much.
      Miscommunication is the hardest part of intercultural relationships - MIL + DIL relationship is hard as it is a generational gap, but us couples ALSO have to deal with cultural differences too, which makes it even more challenging.
      It took me 8 years to get to a good place with my MIL....it is a lifelong process. It will take time.

      My MIL was stressed out about my fight with SIL so I'm trying not to mention it too much and doing "Indian style" - which is basically pretending it never happened lol....which seems to work with this family! Hahahahaha!!!

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    3. There is a basic misconception about Indian MILs in India. There are demonized while Indian DILs are supposed to be "Paragons of Virtue". There are evil MILs and equally number of evil DILs as well. There another diabolic creature which causes mischief in relations and slips under the radar. It is the DIL's mother. Each day a daily report goes to the bride's mother and future strategies are formulated. The in laws are the enemy who is to be defeated at all cost. This interference goes about as "trying to protect the rights of the girl" leading to disaster. If an MILs says something it is interference, but the interference of DIL's mother in her life is not interference, it about rights. Everything goes under the name of feminism. It is true that there was time when DILs suffered a lot that does not mean that every MIL or husband has to pay for these historical atrocities. Indian marriages are complicated due to the curious inter play of the relationships. Right now we don't get to know the men's perspective, because are be are supposedly close to other mothers and belong to the "aggressors". BTW Indian men have a bad reputation if news reports are to be believed. No offense, I just said something which was in my mind.

      This 'interference' is typically not there in inter cultural relationship which is good. There is such cultural baggage and insecurities in MIL-DIL relationship that these things happen. I wish they could just meet as individuals and forge a new relationship.

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    4. @anonymous - I'll allow this comment in this time, but it is off-topic from Mezy's comment and from the post in general. Not sure if you can relate to SIL drama...?
      But you do have some interesting points. I have also noticed within our Indian family that there can be an interference from the bride's mother too, which can create a lot of problems, especially interfering in the DILs bond with the MIL. So I think everyone would be better off just not interfering, no? At least then, they could figure out how to solve their own problems.
      I think women in general are demonized a lot - whether it is the MIL, the DIL, especially foreign DIL is demonized, SILs....any women of any adult age seems to be demonized. The same can't be said about the men - neither the husband or the FIL. Can you imagine a sasur-daamaad TV serial? ;)
      You are right, the interference is not there with a foreign DIL because foreign MIL are typically more detached and are mostly there when you need them, but they give space and don't interfere. For that reason, many of the Whindian couples I know - the Indian spouses find this non-pressure from the Western family quite refreshing and are often very close to the foreign inlaws. The same can be said about my husband also, he is very close with my parents.
      Regarding your comment about the news reports - I don't think it is "Indian men" that get a bad reputation, but rather it is the atrocity of rape and gang-rape in India, along with the failure of the justice system in India - which is a lethal combination for women's rights. But I know India, and I married an Indian, so I know the difference. I'm not sure what others would think about Indian men.

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  3. I would say it was partly cultural as well as partly personalities. SIL may be traditional and she cannot still get over the fact that her bro has a white DIL. The expectations on a white woman are much less than an Indian DIL and she may be envious or resentful of that. Maybe, she wanted to do something else but could not break free of her traditions but did not have the guts. maybe she is jealous because in her head you may have it better - in terms of hubby helping around the house, freedom, independence etc.

    Don't feel too bad about it. Anyway many Indian SIL rarely get along. Most don't complain because culturally we hve been taught, we will rarely become good friends and we talk to maintain formalities.

    Family fights stress me out - in INdia it may mean extended family also - to people we need to talk to - treat it like work - talk formally to people we need to in times we need to - something like a bitchy colleague - I avoid talking too much if I don't like them if it is extended family - in situation I am facing them, shut up and say hi blah blah - anyway if we say anything they will say I am older, I am correct, don't be disrespectful etc.

    Stress - My strategy - Don't over analyse/think about it/keep on discussing it
    Meditate
    write it out and check if it really matters
    Focus on what's working
    I can only control myself. Not others - what can I do to make it better? I can't control others.
    Eat good food and sleep

    I am a worry wort and I can't say I work on that all the time, but I try.

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    1. Wonderful, insightful advice. Thank you BW. Very, very illuminating about the SIL family dynamics. I can really relate.
      I feel like she thinks I'm "taking away her mother" or something, considering that they will immigrate here in the next few years, and like a typical Indian boy, hubby is the favorite.
      We have never gotten the chance to get close. I appreciate people more when they are honest with me, and she is very private. Big personality difference between us.

      Your stress tips are really excellent. I'm a worry wart too :)

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  4. Alexandra, it's good to hear that your MIL is with you now. What you have gone through means that you need help and you can't stress! I guess when you are sick/recovering that it is even more stressful.
    As for your SIL, to me it sounds like a normal fight between sisters or friends. Maybe she is jealous of your close relationship with MIL??? Either way, I hope you work it out with her. Take care.

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    1. That is good to hear. I have no siblings so I don't know what is normal or not! Could be jealous, MIL & I have become very close.

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  5. Just came across your blog & have been following your journey...Sorry about your stress levels. Hoping you get better soon.

    This post wanted me to chime in from a different perspective, that of your SIL's, even though I was in your shoes rather than your SIL's.

    What I have learnt from my married life is that the Daughter in law earns her right into the family, while a daughter can take those things for granted. What this translates into is a daughter getting all the emotional & physical support from her mother while she is adjusting/ dealing with life in her own household or with her inlaws. So your SIL is doing just that, getting the support from her mother as she will not be getting that from her own MIL. So in turn, she expects you to follow the same path....getting help from your own mother rather than from your MIL. Guess it is a territorial thing....

    It has taken me close to 10 years of unfailing loyalty to be accepted being the daughter of the house...usually after the first child is born & after you have shouldered responsibilities with respect to your inlaw families and NOT asking anything in return....So yes, Indian multigenerational families are great but they come with a lot of adjustment from all sides to make it work :-)......Take care

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    1. That is a very valuable perspective. I was always under the impression that when the girl gets married, she should be going to her inlaws first since there is this concept of "belonging" to the guy's family. So that is why I expected my SIL to first ask her inlaws and not to mention husband. But perhaps she is not getting the help she requires from them...?
      And you are right, she probably expects me to get help from my mother since she lives in the same city as me.
      But underneath it all, I have a feeling she thinks that she can behave a certain way because I'm a foreigner and she assumes I don't understand anything. She certainly didn't take the time to teach me, so how could I know? (LOL)
      It definitely feels territorial to me, which is strange, because I was hospitalized and everything...I'm not just asking for help "just because", I have never asked for help.
      I'm in the same boat as you ;) 8 years in the family, and 1 kid later, never asked for help....and I feel like I've finally built a closeness with my inlaws. It was definitely earned!

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  6. I think the general expectation is that the person who is unwell should have his/her parents come to help. So your SIL may be thinking that your parents should have come over to help you (if your husband had been unwell, she would have been totally fine with her mom leaving, I think). In most Indian families, the MIL does very little to help when the DIL is unwell: the DIL's mom is the one who rushes to help her daughter. You sound like a very kind & sensible person and all the best for your recovery. Once you recover fully, you may want to clarify things with your SIL about your situation and need for help (just a suggestion).

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    1. That is very interesting perspective, it makes me think a lot.
      The problem is both my parents work full-time. Everybody had to take off work to help me recover, even my husband couldn't work. We just needed more help, and more emotional support for all of us...and it turned into this big unnecessary tug-of-war. I just thought if anybody was unhealthy, then all of that nonsense would go out the window...and it didn't....it hurt me a lot.
      I don't know how I'll clarify things with my SIL. We have no communication at all and this entire family is lacking in direct communication skills, to be honest! I literally cannot even speak to her, it's like speaking to a robot. And now I'm so pissed that I don't even want to speak to her!
      My inlaws will be coming here to live with us in a few years, permanently - and hopefully I will never have any health problems again. And going forward, my mother has agreed to help us with our baby as needed.

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  7. I totally get not being able to function the "Indian way" where you pretend that nothing is wrong. I am open and honest to a fault. I like to talk things out and hug it out and move on with life. Not so in the Indian family. From observing my husbands family, you yell and scream at each other for hours on end, then go out to dinner and smile and pretend none of that ever happened. And here I am literally shaking from the trauma of seeing my husband in uncontrollable rage (he is NEVER like that with me) and I just cannot pretend everything is ok. They wanted me to smile for pictures (it was our anniversary celebration) and I'm sure I just looked sick. It makes me feel glad we don't live together (with the in-laws); I can't deal with that kind of drama in my life and neither can my husband. Perhaps it is best that way for you and your SIL. Best to love at a distance so your differences don't get in the way.

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    1. I totally agree, it is such an Asian concept of putting on a "good face" for society, I am also not used to it at all. I'm sure our extended family is equally addicted to and repulsed that I put all my personal feelings on my blog...LOL!
      The distance between me and SIL is good I think, that way we can never truly fight, in person at least! We are just such different personalities...

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