My name is Cherry. As someone with Han and Hakka Chinese roots living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish, I have been healing from the ancestral trauma of colonization by remembering and repairing my relationship with nature. In my mid-20s after I was prescribed an antidepressant, I suffered a major mental health crisis involving mania, psychosis, and suicidal depression which resulted in three hospitalizations. Even then, I was told I just had “anxiety, bipolar, and various personality disorders,” prescribed additional medications, and offered only colonized forms of therapy which still left me disconnected with my body and did not address my underlying trauma. After working in the non-profit industry for two decades, I began experiencing insomnia, panic attacks, and other physiological symptoms due to being in fight-flight-freeze-fawn mode for far too long. I finally discovered I had complex PTSD (C-PTSD) and a dysregulated nervous system due to narcissistic abuse, intergenerational trauma, and the collective impact of colonization and was able to begin a true healing process.
I found healing outside of colonial systems. I learned to elicit stories from my family members who escaped war and famine, which they had been too humble to share with me. I decolonized and reindigenized my relationship with the Earth through ancestral practices such as Daoism and Buddhism, Chinese medicine, acupuncture and massage, and farming, food, and plant medicine. I reclaimed my creativity through art and music, yoga and meditation, grief and dream work, and inner child and shadow work. I learned how to embrace and reparent my inner child in the way she fundamentally deserved as a creature of nature.
By healing my trauma, I also tended to the wounds of my ancestors. Before the 1800s, China had the world’s largest economy, but due to the industrial revolution in the West and colonization it was drawn into poverty and civil war. My parents were trauma-bonded and could not nurture me emotionally because they had been emotionally orphaned by their own parents. My neurodivergent father grew up in Hong Kong, experienced physical abuse, and nearly died due to meningitis in his youth. He immigrated to the US in the 1970s to study and escape the Cultural Revolution and died of lung cancer at the young age of 60 during my last year of college. My mother is from Shilou, a small farming village outside of Guangzhou. She joined my father on a journey away from abject poverty, physical and sexual abuse, and now struggles with a number of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis. My po po (maternal grandmother) was a farmer and herbalist. She ran a community kitchen and could catch fish with her hands. My gong gong (maternal grandfather) was a farmer and dragon boat racer. My ma ma (paternal grandmother) worked for the government and my yie yie (paternal grandfather) was a travel agent, poet and photographer. My great-grandparents were village merchants who sold tofu, soy sauce, and fish for a living and endured great poverty before China opened up to the West. Their stories are integral to who I am today.
Colonization is an inherently narcissistic, patriarchal, and white supremacist system with a philosophy that justifies the exploitation of nature. Even if we have forgotten, we are all part of nature, and only through divesting from the colonial paradigm and healing collectively will we survive as a species because we must live in harmony with all the other beings that we depend on for our existence. My offerings are simple: I grow plant starts for people to reconnect with the Earth, create natural products for people to care for their bodies, and offer trauma-informed coaching to guide people towards wellness. I am also studying to become a trauma therapist who works on an individual, group, and systems level to facilitate our recalibration with the rest of nature which this moment requires.
“What is defined as normal in a consumer society is at war with basic human needs. The engine of capitalism defined by the cult of the self thrives on the fostering of psychological and physical chronic disorders including high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression, addictions, and suicide. It rewards the core traits of psychopaths, superficial charm, grandiosity, and self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation, and the inability to feel remorse or guilt.”
-Dr. Gabor Mate, “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture.”