Anxious Avoidant Attachment (Part 1)

Attachment styles can help us better understand our relationships with others and even within ourselves. They help us introspect on our actions and behaviors in our social interactions with others. Our attachment styles were formed during our childhood based on our relationships with our caregivers – how attentive they are, if they met our needs, and if they made us feel that they would be available when we need them. There are four different types of attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant. Any attachment style that isn’t “secure” is known as “insecure” attachment. I am not going to give a whole rundown of attachment theory, but you can read more about it here.

My attachment style is anxious-avoidant attachment aka disorganized attachment, and honestly, it is what the name says. One of the difficulties of having this type of attachment style is the paradoxical nature of what it means. For the anxious portion, I need constant validation and reassurance because I am overwhelmed with the possibility of abandonment. On the flip side, avoidance portion tells me not to get close to others because it will end in rejection. So the bottom line is fear, but also contradicting wants of intimacy and fear of getting it and losing it or being denied it all-together.

This attachment affects my behavior, and I can come across as needy and clingy and/or aloof any given time to the same individual which is hard in any interpersonal relationship. I see the attachment style “side effects” as I’ll call them more in romantic relationships, but it also affects friendships and familial relationships as well. Of course, I have exhibited secure attachment with some people, but for me, that really depends on the person because the very basis of secure attachment is trusting that the person will not leave me.

So where do I start in explaining what the experience is like with this attachment style? I guess I can start with childhood because as I mentioned earlier, our attachment style forms during our early childhood based on our sense of security with our caregivers. There is also assumptions of neglect and abuse in childhood that could contribute to the development of anxious-avoidant attachment. This would probably explain my attachment style quite well. I didn’t have a consistent caregiver and I went through childhood trauma… not sure if I could really call it neglect and abuse, but some might.  I will include a trigger warning here as I continue on with my story in case you find this a sensitive topic. I wouldn’t want to re-traumatize or trigger you.

*** Trigger Warning: Contains anecdotes of childhood trauma and abuse***

My parents were recent immigrants to America when I was conceived and birthed. They had two other children and a newborn to provide for, so they had to work… a lot. This meant I spent significantly less time with my parents (as far as I can recall) than with other people in my life. If you asked me who my primary caregiver during my early childhood was, I truthfully could not tell you. I know my sister played a large role in caring for me, two of my aunts, and maybe daycare? I mean those are the most prominent figures I remember. Not to say my parents were never around, but I did not spend nearly as much time with them as the others because they would be home late or infrequently.

For most of my life my dad worked far from home and would only come home once a week, and I’m pretty sure that was the case in my early childhood too. I don’t remember him ever being home on a daily basis that wasn’t because he was between jobs. So I only ever saw my dad once a week, and he would usually run errands and visit my aunt. The day he was home I was in his care. I don’t have the best relationship with my dad now, but when I was a child we got along pretty well. He favored me much more than my siblings, but our relationship has always been unstable.

My dad isn’t great with emotional regulation, and the emotion that comes out most is anger. As a child, Dad being angry meant someone was going to get his with his belt and it wouldn’t be intentional punishment where it’s like one or two soft-ish hits. It meant he was going to wail on us until he calmed down. The person on the receiving end of his anger was my brother and I witnessed a lot of that happening, but I also wasn’t immune to it. There’s a reason why I don’t wear belts and I still get anxious when belts are around. So basically, when my dad was angry and any of us either triggered it or were around for it and said something he would turn on us and project it to us. There were many times when I ran away or tried to and that was always the wrong move because I would be dragged back and hit harder. The worst part of it was that it wasn’t like he went and got a spare belt to use. He would literally unbuckle the one he had on and fold it in half and swing. He didn’t care where he hit as long as he made contact. So I’m pretty sure this is where the avoidant in the anxious-avoidant style developed.

My dad wasn’t a safe space because I didn’t know when his switch would flip and I would be the one subject to the belt. Sure, he treated me well, bought me stuff I liked, and cooked my favorite foods, but I was on edge and wary, anticipating potential misstep and accompanying punishment. Coupled with only seeing and spending time with him once a week, it didn’t make sense to put myself in a position to be attached, so distance made sense. Even thought I saw and interacted with him significantly less than others who took care of me, there is cultural emphasis on how important parents are, so even the little bit of contact made big impact.

So if my dad contributed to the avoidant style of attachment, where did the anxious come from? My mom. As I said, I didn’t have a constant caregiver, so I wasn’t ever sure who if anyone was going to stick around. This was way more obvious when it came to my mom. I was very clingy as a child. On her days off, I would go with her to get groceries and be around her when she did the house chores. I bathed with her and slept in her bed. I was very attached. But my mom has the tendency to slip away without letting me know, so there’s the abandonment.

My mom wouldn’t wake me up to let me know she was going to work, so I would wake up in my parents’ bed and she was gone. My mom dropped me off at day care and my sister picked me up, except one time when they had an argument and my mom picked me up late after everyone already left. Let me tell you, I felt like an orphan for a minute there because I really did not know if anyone was going to come get me. My mom did reassure me over her friend’s cell phone they were on their way, but I don’t know that I fully believed it. I recall also being very reluctant to let my mom leave the first day of kindergarten when she dropped me off. I bawled and cried and begged her to stay, and she removed my hands from her and told me to go inside while she quickly escaped through the throngs of other parents and children. However, the most jarring memory I have is when my mom was invited to a wedding banquet.

My mom had a lot of work friends who invited her to many weddings and each time I wanted to go she would tell me she would bring me next time. I noticed the red invitation envelope each time she brought one home and I perked up, only to be denied again. This one time though, I was determined to go. I wouldn’t leave her alone to get ready. I am persistent and I was even as a child, so I would not let up and I think I may have tried to get dressed myself, and crying and having a whole episode of begging her to bring me with her. She got dressed despite my behavior and was worried she was running late because she would be going together with her friends. I think I may have actually hugged her to stay with her at some point, the ultimate level of clingy. Tired of my antics and not knowing how to get me to stop, she tried bribing me with a bunch of stuff and I said no (told you, persistent), she enlisted the help of my siblings to distract me. My brother and my sister did their job, they lured me into playing cards with them because why wouldn’t I want to play with my cooler older siblings. It made me feel grown and it was always a good time when we played together.

I was distracted enough to let my mom finish up getting ready, but when she went leave I ran after her. I think she made a comment about me needing socks or shoes or something, so I went to get them. Meanwhile, she instructed my siblings to lock the door so I couldn’t go to the hallway and follow her. I was tall enough and knew how to open the bottom lock which was just to turn the little knob thing, so they also used the chain lock. We didn’t use the chain lock unless it was nighttime and everyone was home. My siblings blocked me from the door as I tried to get out. They realized I couldn’t actually do anything, so they let me open the bottom lock and look through the crack of the door. I screamed and cried for my mom. I still heard her too because she had gone upstairs to meet up with both of my aunts who lived upstairs to head out. I was ignored and unacknowledged.

I tried jumping to unlock the chain lock and it didn’t work. Then I had the idea to get a chair to use, but my brother blocked me from getting one. It wasn’t until we all heard my mom and aunt leave that they let me get a chair and let myself out. I ran upstairs and opened the outside door, but my mom was already gone. I didn’t see her on our block anymore. I cried so hard and went back down to my floor of the house (we lived in a three-family home) in defeat. I was still crying, but I wasn’t bawling anymore. I was trying to self soothe but feeling left behind and I was so upset and angry that they did that to me. That my mom would sneak away, and my siblings would help trap me. But yeah, that’s a very powerful memory for me (a “core memory” if you will, courtesy of Disney’s Inside Out). And it makes sense that this is where the fear of abandonment and anxious attachment came from.

Basically, my attachment style was shaped by my relationships with my parents at an early age, under five years old because I hadn’t started kindergarten yet when most of these incidents happened. But to think, something so long ago still affects me today at 30 is mind-boggling.  I have made many strides to work on my anxious-avoidant attachment style and correcting it to a more secure one. I figured if my parents could shape the attachment style I have, then I can probably reshape it too. But it’s a long arduous journey and several lost relationships along the way, which I will talk about in a later post. After all, this is part 1.


Not-So-Guilty Pleasures

How is it November already?! October was a complete blur. As mentioned in the previous post, I had a lot of change happening in my life. I’m honestly surprised I made it through the month mostly unscathed (two episodes of moderately severe back pain happened). I’m settling into my new apartment quite nicely, courtesy of my wonderful boyfriend who put in the effort to put it together while I overworked myself the past month.

Yeah, you read it right. Overworked.

The hustle is real, and I don’t necessarily support the concept of hustle culture, but honestly you have to do what you have to do. I’ve been non-stop working since I started, so I literally went from 0 to 100 in a matter of a day. And I’ve noticed that I’m breaking down. Not so bad as panic attacks or severe back pain, at least I hope not. But it’s been pretty obvious that I’m feeling the effects, and I brought it up in therapy.

And I like my therapist because we could’ve gone through how to fix or overcome my barriers or whatever, but problem-solving wasn’t what I was really looking for; so she asked me, what’s going well?

The question gave me pause because I’d been complaining and whining and focusing on being tired. So like, yeah, what is going well? And unsurprisingly, a lot is going well despite how exhausted I feel and how overexerted I feel. I love my new job and my coworkers have been really great and supportive. Management has been knowledgeable, helpful, and welcoming. My boyfriend has been taking on a lot of household chores to lessen my stress. I haven’t really fallen apart yet physically or emotionally, and I get the benefits of partial work-from-home. My nephew is my wake up call on the weekdays so I get to start my day on a positive note. To sum up, a lot of good is simultaneously occurring with the strenuous, and I am ever so grateful that my therapist had me pause and highlight these things. It’s not that these good things overshadow or invalidates the feelings of tiredness, but it helped me refocus that it’s not all bad.

And to help on that trend is focusing a bit on self care, which is calls back to the title of this post. It’s that time of year again when Netflix, Lifetime, Hallmark, and every other broadcasting site or network starts pushing out their holiday movies. And I am an absolute sucker for them..You know I already watched one because here I am posting on my site.

There’s holiday tropes galore: blogger being catfished, coming home to visit the family and finding love, some rival business deals, etc. And I’m really here for it! I took some time to just relax and watch Love Hard starring Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O’Yang. hello Asian representation! It’s been a while since I decompressed and did something I enjoyed to relax instead of browsing on Instagram and going to sleep. It was nice. I mean, yeah I definitely rolled my eyes and some of the cliches that were thrown about, but that’s part of the genre, you know?

And taking this little break for myself has made me feel refreshed and feeling ready to tackle dinner… which I haven’t even decided what I’m eating yet. It also made me excited because on the way to watch that movie on Netflix, I saw the preview for The Princess Switch 3 starring Vanessa Hudgens and I’m just overall excited for the holiday romance movies. It’s giving me something to look forward to, and that’s good and healthy for me. And honestly, it’s probably why I don’t think of binging holiday cliches as a guilty pleasure anymore because why feel guilty about doing something that brings me joy?

Starting Now

I don’t know if you’ve heard Brandy’s song in collaboration with Disney titled, “Starting Now,” but it’s been my anthem the past two months.

“There’s no room left for wondering
Got a new vision of yourself
And she’s who you wanna be
Starting now”
– Lyrics from “Starting Now” by Brandy

These words are so empowering to me and encouraging me not to be afraid of what’s out there. One of the easiest things for me to do is stick to what’s comfortable, be a creature of habit and stay where I think I belong. Lately, I decided that I can do more and capable of more, so I am going to strive for my new vision.

Come October, which is literally one week away, I’ll be living in a new apartment and starting a new job. I will continuing a new school and rocking a new haircut. A lot of new things on the horizon and I think it’s evident that great upheaval begets great growth.

With all these changes, my therapist asked if there’s anything in my life that I could hold on to for stability. I laughed that awkward nervous chuckle because obviously not. And it got me thinking… I am experiencing a lot of change right now, and it’s going to be a stressful undertaking;. I need something stable to rely on.

Not too long ago, I would’ve thought that someone else or something else should be my constant. I would’ve desperately tried to seek someone or something that I could view as stable. This time, I made the active decision that I would be my own rock. I am my stability.

In making that proclamation, I realized that I wasn’t aligned with myself. So I took some time to recharge, to reset, and to reinvest into myself. And if there’s anything you take away from this post, it’s this. We must put time and energy into ourselves.

‘I am feeling refreshed and super excited for what’s coming next, I mean now.

Starting now.

Identity – a poem

In honor of Pride Month, I wrote this poem.

He, she, her, him, they, them
Arguments over semantics
Overshadow the people beneath
Overshadow the identities
crying and Screaming to crawl to the surface

He, she, her, him, they, them
simple words – pronouns
that hold the Weight of a person
their Truth, their Life,
their Hopes and Dreams

He, she, her, him, they, them
Arguments over semantics
when Everybody deserves
the space for I, Me, My
and any way they
Choose to Identify

Redefine 29

My 29th birthday is coming up next week and I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out the intentions for the next year.

See, I’ve been titling each year of my twenties starting at 25 with an intention of what to make of that year. Each phrase coming from a place of reflection, and emulating what I want to see or improve upon.

Thriving 25 – It was on the coattails of a dark time filled with aimlessness, hopelessness, and severe depression. I spent many of the years prior to 25 feeling like I was (all-around) lacking and my self-worth was almost non-existent. So, I made it my mission to change how I viewed myself and encouraged myself to try for bigger goals. I thought of 25 as a turning point; at the time, being five years from 30 was scary (I’m not as scared now).

Nixing 26 – After I felt a bit more confident in myself, with a new job and career prospects, I decided to introspect a bit. What wasn’t aligning with my goals? And I noticed self-sabotaging behaviors and habits that weren’t doing me any favors, so that was the intention for 26.

Even Better 27 – The previous two years were so successful that I wanted to continue the trend and positivity. I definitely practiced optimism for 27– making plans, changing jobs and going toward more mental health positions. I even moved out on my own (with a roommate because NYC is pricey). This intentional perspective added the understanding that growth is continuous, so the other intentions I applied to 25 and 26 continued to be practiced as well.

Date with Fate 28 – I already decided this would be my intention for the year, but the pandemic really pushed it forward.  A lot of life is unexpected, and good things and bad things come in waves, so I decided my year would be a practice of mindfulness and taking things in stride. I practiced openness to new opportunities and tried to stop clinging on to things that were past their expiration dates. I worked on not getting down on myself over things not meeting my expectations.

So now as I transition to and enter 29, I am tasked with incorporating the things I’ve done and the things I’ve learned. A passing thought I had was  “Divine 29” but I noted it was in the same vein as 27, and it didn’t promote a growth I want for myself. And I could not, for the life of me, come up with something that encompassed my desires. Then it hit me… a culmination of my late 20s and the things I want to leave behind before I enter a new decade… Redefining 29.

So the intention behind this is revisiting myself on a journey of self-exploration and reflecting on my relationships to figure out who I am now. In line with the purpose of this website for a deep dive into myself. Basically, it’s the wrap-up before my 30s, and figuring out what I see in store for me the next decade.

I think and hope it’ll help me out of the stagnation and complacency I feel myself slipping into.