Being Theresa Le Blog Post How I Got Kicked Out Of My House From Immigrant Emotionally Abusive Asian Parents
Childhood Stories,  Raw Thoughts,  Relationships

Waking Up From Depression After Being Disowned for the Third Time

When I was four years old, without shedding any tears, I confidently walked home alone, from my aunt’s and uncle’s place because they had said that I was too sassy to babysit. When I was six, I packed a grocery bag full of clothes and walked out of my house after my dad yelled at me to leave because he didn’t love me anymore and I was too much of a handful to them. Let it be known that I’m not a troublesome child. I am, however, a very strong-willed person, and am known to be very passionate about what I believe is just. So, when I was 22, and he kicked me out again, I finally left for good.

That summer night, in 2003, was the most significant turning point of my life. I was a 22-year-old owner of a franchise shop called Yogen Fruz, that wasn’t even mine. It was my parents. But due to their bad credit, they had asked me to be the legal owner and had promised that they would take full responsibility for the shop and manage all the day-to-day operations. I was also promised that I didn’t even have to show up to do any work because I made it very clear that this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. These promises were all lies. They never showed up to do any work. In fact, they were both unemployed since I was 8 years-old and were always sitting around at home. This shop was all on me. That night, I was closing up late, and my drive home usually takes about 45 mins. However, I decided to park around the corner from my house and had a 30 min phone conversation with my adoptive Dad (a family friend) instead of going straight home. By the time I took one step in the door, which was at 11:30 pm, I was faced with a storm of insinuating questions by my mother accusing me of going out gallivanting with my [at the time] boyfriend [who is now my husband], Mike – whom which she was against me seeing. When I told her, time and time again, I was talking to my adoptive Dad, she wouldn’t have any of it. I even begged her to call and verify it with him but she didn’t. I guess she had too much pride to let other people think that she lacked trust and control over her daughter to make that phone call.

She yelled at me so loud that she woke up my dad and proceeded to call my brothers out of their rooms to do a family intervention. No one was listening to me, no one cared to defend me. My brothers all stood there silently as I got yelled at. They [my parents] told me how irresponsible I was, how bad of a girl I was becoming, and how they were so disappointed in me. I vividly remember my mother becoming completely erratic, rolling around on the floor in tears, hitting the ground and saying things like how she’s failed as a mother. Watching this, I couldn’t help but criticize her acting skills in my mind. Then, at 1:30 am, my biological dad finally said those magical words to me, “get out of this house!” and I happily called him on his bluff.

As he was in full swing of his “disown my child” mode, he also took my car and house keys and threw back the keys to my shop. I had just bought a brand new car three weeks prior. The vehicle was registered under my name, and I was making the monthly payments. But a portion of the downpayment was made on his credit card. I guess to him, that doesn’t mean that I fully owned it. So, I sacrificed my car. I calmly got up, quietly packed what I could, and ran out the door. I was scared someone would have stopped me from leaving. I didn’t want that. I ran as hard and as fast as my asthmatic wheezing lungs would take me that night. I still remember how loud the wheels of my suitcase sounded as it was hitting each indent of concrete blocks on the sidewalk. The sound echoed through the air when all was quiet in the middle of the night. This made me run even faster because I knew that if they were to hear it, they would find me. I ended up hiding behind a pillar in front of my old high school. The lights were on but no one would see me behind the post from the streets. When I caught my breath again, I called Mike to come and save me.

Being Theresa Le Blog Post How I Got Kicked Out Of My House From Immigrant Emotionally Abusive Asian Parents

To be honest, I was planning to leave that week anyway. I had mapped out a plan with Mike, that I would stay with his family for a while and eventually we’d rent a place of our own. I just hadn’t entirely built up the guts to make a move yet and was still mapping out how to strategically relocate most of my belongings without alarming anyone. It was quite the process as I still had to hold down that little franchise located in a mall which meant I was forced to work mall hours, all seven days of the week, so I didn’t have time to drive to Mike’s place. But mostly, I was also in a vicious self battle with the East Asian cultural virtue of filial piety. <<pause>> {Alright, let’s pause for a second for a brief explanation on filial piety. Wikipedia defines it perfectly: “In more general terms, filial piety means to be good to one’s parents; to take care of one’s parents; to engage in good conduct not just towards parents but also outside the home so as to bring a good name to one’s parents and ancestors; to show love, respect and support; display courtesy.” Here’s a link } <<resume>> I was scared of the shame I would have brought to my family should my relatives find out that I had run away.

Also, before this incident, I had exposed a deep secret that caused a lot of turmoil in the house. I found out that my dad was cheating on my mom and saw a lot more than what a daughter should see of her parent. I had enough evidence to convict him to life in my mother’s prison without parole. I was already not the favourite in my family, so it felt as though he was an opportunist that night when he kicked me out, as I dug my own grave with him when I revealed his affair.

It’s ironic how things work, isn’t it? I no longer had to bear this shame as they were the ones that decided to kick me out, although no one kicked him out for the shame he brought to his own family. However, a further irony, they told everyone I ran away. But! To double further the irony, years later found out that because my brand new car was still at their house everyone was skeptical of the story they had told. Life has a funny way of naturally working things out.

At the time, Mike lived an hour away from me. As I was waiting for Mike to come and save me, I called my adoptive Dad and poured my heart out to him. He hung up with me and called my parents right away to defend my truth. He didn’t get very far with them, as my parents told him they believed I must have planned the entire thing because I disappeared too fast when I left. They thought that Mike was already waiting for me down the block somewhere. How ri-fucku-lousTM. By the time Mike actually came to my rescue, it was 3 am. After I hopped in his car and hugged him, I asked him to head to 7/11, the only place that was open, because I didn’t have a toothbrush anymore. Almost as if it was a symbolic moment of a beginning to an end.

Mike and I were poor, so very poor, back then. Living day to day on whatever we could bring in. There were times where we’d rock-paper-scissors for a decision on heat or cable that month. Heat always ended up being the champion, and our local video rental place became our new cool movie theatre outing. I was a young adult who was confined to mall hours, selling $2.75 cups of frozen yogurt for a living, in a shop that was barely able to keep its insane $4300 monthly lease. Mike would work his 9-5 job during the weekdays, and on weekends and evenings, he would come and keep me company in my little 200 sqft yogurt stand. Everything we were making was going towards paying rent, the mall lease, store supplies, my parent’s mortgage (which I’ll explain), and my non-existent car. I also did not want to make a bigger ordeal of my car situation because there was still a small sense of hope with my parents, and if that hope came to fruition, I didn’t want to disappoint them because the store that they wanted was gone. I’m surprised I could even eat a cup of noodles at the end of the night without losing my shit. Actually, I’m not surprised. It was because I had Mike, and although we were just scraping by, I was living in a happier environment.

Being Theresa | Theresa Le & Michael Kha working at Yogen Fruz
Captured here, a young Mike, not in his natural habitat. Era 2004

It was nearly a year later that I finally was able to gain physical ownership of my car again. It happened after I was doing corporate taxes for my business, and my new accountant had found out I was making a second mortgage payment from my account, knowing full well I wasn’t a house owner. What had transpired was before I transferred everything to my new address, my dad fraudulently used my account information and attached their second mortgage to it, because my paperwork matched their address. This meant not only was I making payments to a brand new car I wasn’t driving, but I was also making payments, on their behalf, to a mortgage I didn’t own. This continued for almost a year, and needless to say, I was livid. I called them constantly on the day I found this out. They never answered. In fact, since the night that I moved out, they had changed all the locks on me, muted all my calls, and ordered my brothers to cut off all communications with me. Besides taking legal action, my only option was leaving multiple messages and being concise on what I was planning on doing. I caught their attention when I told them that I had removed their mortgage from my bank, and they should probably figure out what they’re going to do about their next payment. I also told them that since they refuse to give me the keys back to my car, I’ll happily transfer the title to them, and they can pay for the vehicle. Or I’ll call the cops to come and get my keys for me. The following day, instead of calling me directly, my dad decided to leave a message with my accountant telling him that my car was towed to an impound lot, and there was an impound fee billed to me because of it. That in itself was embarrassing.

I went through a very dark time after this point. I finally freed myself and sold my little shop, but I didn’t realize that the shop was the only thing getting me up in the morning. After I had sold it, I didn’t have a reason to wake up anymore. And so, for months, I laid in bed all day until Mike came home from work. There were days where I felt physically ill from anxiety and paralyzed from feeling inadequate. I had depression and a lot of repressed anger. It was so bad that I no longer even cared about my insecurities. See, I used to always wake up earlier than Mike to have a freshly dolled-up face by the time he woke up. I also did not have any bodily functions, other than peeing, around him. Although I know that having insecurities can sometimes be bad, I didn’t have the will or energy to even upkeep any of it. I hadn’t overcome them. I had lost the will to care about them. It’s counter-intuitive, but when a person no longer cares about what they religiously do to allow them to feel safe and positive in a day, even if it’s a facade, they’re absolutely not in a good spot of their life.

Being Theresa Le Blog Post How I Got Kicked Out Of My House From Immigrant Emotionally Abusive Asian Parents

I’m a lucky girl to have found a guy like Mike. Don’t get me wrong, we have our highs and lows as all couples do. But he can always pull me out when I’m drowning in my emotions and help me mend my broken wings again. He offered his shoulders during my crying bouts and positive distractions when my anxiety became uncontrollable.

Although I never told him about the facade I was putting up for a year, he took the opportunity to create a safe place for me to feel ok to let loose around him, without judgement. In fact, the opposite – with encouragement. There were no attempts of fixing the predicament I was in, there was only lending an ear so that I can unleash and work through all of my inner thoughts without them becoming more poisonous by brewing up inside me.

Eventually, he succeeded in convincing me to keep him company and go grocery shopping with him. This simple act of kindness that I gave to my best friend was the grounding that I needed to return to reality. I stopped feeling sorry for myself for the brief moment while I was mindlessly walking down aisles in the store, and I found value in myself again. Slowly grocery shopping dates became a fun adventure out into the real world again, where I would find myself laughing in the produce section because he made a corny pun. Here, I realized that the world was still spinning with or without me. As I was laughing down the aisles with Mike all the anxieties that I had were no longer significant compared to what we should eat for dinner that night. This tiny breath of fresh air or small injection of positive energy was enough for me to crawl out from the rock I had secured myself safely under. I pulled my thoughts out of living in the past or worrying about the future, and instead, my attention was refocused on my hungry tummy in that present moment.

When I refocused my attention, I quickly saw how parents could easily modify customs, traditions, and values to best suit their pride and ego. These personalized customs and traditions from my parents crippled me as a human being as I had to hide my ‘true self’ because who I am wasn’t accepted by them. Additionally, I felt as though I had to compete and prove myself to earn their love and attention. It gave my parents a sense of entitlement and enabled them to do what they did without thinking of the repercussions it would have on me.

What’s worse is, I was concerned about the judgement that society would have on my family and me, which was naive. How can I value somebody’s opinion of me if they don’t have the full picture? My parents didn’t even have my full picture. I was slowly wasting my life away for people who never really cared for me at all. I was their scapegoat, living in excruciating pain for their ego. I was expendable to them and yet, I had let their skewed cultural adaptations mould me into a complete stranger, away from that sassy, strong-willed, confident 4-year-old girl that I once knew because I valued them more than I valued myself.

There was nothing within my situation to fix as nothing was broken, and I definitely wasn’t broken. Everything was exactly the way it needed to be, and deep inside, I knew that. I was never going back to them. There was only acceptance, which is precisely what happened. Once I accepted my current truth, something in my mindset switched, and I became at peace with myself. The noisy chatter that was swirling inside my mind also quieted and made space for me to recognize this important lesson: it wasn’t my voice that was chattering away. It was my parents. Within this new breathable space, I also realized that the real me was actually mourning the years of disappointments and efforts that I had put into a non-existent parent-child relationship. And the only portion of this situation that was mine to own, bear and fix was my broken heart.

“There will be moments in life when showing up for yourself will mean leaving behind the people who don’t.”

– Alex Elle

As a collective human race, I hope that we always remember that the only people we need in our lives are the ones who need us in theirs, even when we have nothing to offer them but ourselves. We should never trade in our basic human values and individuality so that it can benefit someone else’s ego. Each one of us is born for a reason. We are who we are for a reason. We are valuable, we belong, and we shouldn’t lose sight of this to conform to someone else’s opinions and obligations.

You are beautifully indispensable to this chaotic world. Show up for yourself, friend.


PS: Taking the opportunity to coin the term ri-fucku-lous.

ri-fucku-lous / adjective /
another absurd or unreasonable reason to strongly hate or dislike something or someone