I was invited by Isha Gupta to be featured as a guest on her radio show, Being Aware with Isha on Air, which broadcasts on KUCI 88.9 FM Irvine. Isha’s show sheds light on a variety of societal concerns and features talks with various guests from across the globe.
Isha found my work with Hopeful Panda unique, educational, and empowering and thought it’d be a great fit for her radio show. I was incredibly honored (and nervous) for this opportunity!
Our talk included various existing posts and topics on Hopeful Panda as well as topics about childhood abuse I hadn’t covered before.
Below is the audio of my interview with Isha along with a transcript (with links to relevant posts and topics). Hope you enjoy!
Radio Interview Transcript
[KUCI Radio Intro]
Isha: You’re listening to KUCI, 88.9 FM, Irvine, the University of California Irvine’s amazing radio station. You’re tuning in to Being Aware with Isha On Air, spreading social awareness with Isha Gupta. I’m your host, Isha Gupta, and I would like to welcome you to today’s show, which will explore hope after childhood abuse.
Our awesome guest is Estee, the founder of hopefulpanda.com, [00:01:00] a self-care and mental health website that strives to help individuals raised by abusive parents begin healing, learn, survive, and thrive. Much of the content at Hopeful Panda is based on research and Estee’s academic and personal experiences.
Estee earned an Associate of Arts degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in sociology and health. Thank you for joining us on Being Aware With Isha on Air, Estee.
Estee: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here.
Isha: First of all, can you please tell us more about how you decided to start Hopeful Panda and the role it has played in your own healing journey?
Estee: Yeah, so blogging was something I always kind of did on and off growing up. And when COVID happened, I was stuck at home feeling unproductive. [00:02:00] I thought about starting another blog, but like a more official one this time, like an active website and everything.
It was an idea for a while that I kept putting off because I was scared of putting myself out there. And yeah, the fear of failure kind of held me back. But with my husband’s support and encouragement, I finally did what I needed to do to create Hopeful Panda.
So originally, it was more like a self-care, mental health blog, like more generically, that kind of stuff. But as I’m writing my posts, I realized I had more interest in writing about dealing with my mother’s abuse and finding ways to heal from it.
So I did some research, and there didn’t seem to be many blogs that really focused on that kind of topic. Like, there are plenty of articles about the topics, but not many of them were written by someone who actually, you know, experienced it.
Um, I’ve even came across a few that offered harmful advice. [00:03:00] So, I was worried about, you know, shifting my blog’s focus, because I’m not a professional, but um, I felt like I learned a lot in my healing journey, so I was hoping it would be helpful to others. I also was hoping to put my psychology degree to some use.
So yeah, I shifted the focus of Hopeful Panda to healing from childhood abuse and everything just kind of clicked. I wanted the place to be somewhere where people with abusive parents could find support, information, and resources. But most importantly, I kind of wanted that personal and lighthearted touch.
There are already tons of sites and articles out there covering the same topics and they’re probably more comprehensive and better researched than mine, but also to me, they feel like very clinical and formal if that makes sense.
Yeah, so, I wanted my content to feel more personal, like I’m a friend speaking directly to whoever’s reading. I also wanted to add my own drawings, my graphics to make it more [00:04:00] lighthearted because, you know, the topic itself is usually like complex and kind of bleak.
So I wanted to make it easier to take in. So part of me hopes that my experiences can provide a sense of comfort for others to help them know they’re not alone, and that healing is possible. But to be clear, I’m not trying to heal or treat anyone, obviously. The biggest thing I want to do is like inspire hope and possible methods that could motivate and jumpstart someone’s healing journey.
So yeah, the one reason I started Hopeful Panda was that I wanted to help other people. But of course, it has also been really helpful for my own healing. Like a lot of my readers, I’m learning as I go. When I’m struggling with something, I look into it. Like, you know, the why, the what, the how. And then when I write about it, I write about what I learned, and then I try to apply my own experiences to it. And it helps me process my own experiences, which is cathartic.
But it also [00:05:00] holds me accountable, I guess. Like, I try to ask myself, am I following my own advice, or, and if I am, is it actually helpful? It’s also empowering to be able to share my experiences and speak up without being silenced, dismissed, or criticized because it’s my thing, my platform.
And hearing from people who resonated with my experiences and were able to find hope and motivation to begin healing because of what I wrote is, you know, it’s validating and it also motivates me to keep going. It also makes me feel like I’m making a difference, that I have a purpose, which was something I struggled with for a long time.
Isha: Thank you for sharing that. While reading more about Hopeful Panda, I took note that it also offers downloadable freebies, including journals and mental health worksheets, which are quite impressive.
And it made me reflect on how self-care resources can help many people take ownership of their mental health and [00:06:00] emotional well-being. Even including people who may not have faced child abuse, but would like to become more mindful of their health and well-being, so I think it’d be a great resource.
Estee: Thank you so much.
Isha: Moving back to hope after childhood abuse, why do you think that self-care is especially important for people who have faced childhood abuse?
Estee: Well, self-care is important for anyone, like it’s necessary for their health and well-being. It helps you build resilience and better cope with daily stressors. But of course, self-care is especially important for people who face abuse because they likely grew up without being properly taken care of.
They likely spent most of their lives, if not all of it, feeling unworthy and unloved. And as a result of that upbringing, I think many abuse survivors actually struggle hard with self-care because it’s been so ingrained in them to do the opposite.
I mean, when your parents raised [00:07:00] you and they constantly put their needs first or act like you’re such a burden, it makes sense that you’ll start feeling that way. So, many survivors might think they don’t deserve to be cared for because of that false narrative.
So ultimately you learn not to take care of yourself and by not taking care of yourself, you can’t heal and you’re always going to be struggling and not know why. So, I think engaging in self-care allows you to meet your needs. It helps you have a happier, healthier life. And well, I also just think it’s necessary for any healing to be possible.
Isha: Absolutely. Speaking of self-care, are there any specific self-care tips you have found to be especially helpful throughout your healing journey which you would recommend to people who have faced childhood abuse?
Estee: Um, yeah, so when talking about self-care, I think most people would think about, you know, eating healthy, exercising, resting when you’re tired, and finding healthy [00:08:00] ways to cope when you’re stressed out. And I think to be able to do any of that, the biggest thing, I think, is to be able to listen to what your body and mind is trying to tell you and do something about it.
In other words, it’s about identifying and meeting your needs, which is, again, something a lot of survivors I think struggle with. You know, we’ve grown up learning to ignore our needs because it’s how we were treated. So, learning to listen to ourselves about what we need and then address it is really difficult.
But personally, I’m still learning and improving and I think it makes a lot of difference. Like, for example, if I physically feel sick or if I emotionally feel upset, I have to learn not to just dismiss it or brush it off. I have to listen to what my body and my mind is telling me. Then I find healthy ways to address them.
If I’m sick, maybe I need rest, or maybe a doctor’s visit. If I’m upset, I need to know why, like, what triggered it. Then I try to process those emotions and find healthy ways to manage or express them. [00:09:00] But again, it’s hard, and I think this is something a lot of people who experience the same can relate to, especially if they spent most of their childhood taking care of their parents or siblings.
Or they might constantly put other people’s needs above their own because they were kind of trained and conditioned to. Like, when you’re raised to be a people pleaser or a selfless caretaker, self-care will feel like a chore. It’ll feel like it goes against everything you’re used to.
So what I try to do is I remind myself that I need to take care of myself so someone else doesn’t have to, or so I can take better care of my family. Like, if you’re a parent, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. So essentially, me taking care of myself also means taking care of others.
For me, when I frame it this way, I think it makes self-care more doable. I also remind myself that there are people who care about me that want me to care about myself. They want me to be happy. They want me to be healthy. So if I can’t [00:10:00] do it for myself, I can do it for them. I know it kind of sounds like the opposite of what self-care is supposed to be, but I think if it has the same result as like you’re taking care of yourself, I don’t see the issue with it.
Oh, another tip I try to use to make self-care possible is to treat myself how I would treat someone I care about. So, for example, I usually struggle with going to the doctor because I think it’s a waste of money. But, I know I would never feel that way if it’s someone I care about. Like, if they’re sick or they need a doctor, I would not even think that it’s a waste of money. Like, I want them to be better.
You know, beating up ourselves and neglecting ourselves is something we’re kind of prone to do. So I remind myself, as hard as it is, maybe I can start treating myself the same way I would treat someone important to me, or even a stranger. Like, I can be nicer to strangers than to myself.
Um, so reframing it this way, I think, helps me be more objective. Like, try to ignore the voice in my head telling me I’m not worthy or good enough [00:11:00] to deserve care or kindness, but try to be objective about it and honestly answer – what would I do if this is for someone I care about? Then, you know, try to go from there.
Isha: Yeah, I think it’s cool to see it that way.
Estee: Thank you.
Isha: Additionally, it is so important to be aware of social cultural factors. I really like how your post about cultural factors contributing to child abuse also shed light on children’s rights. It is insightful to reflect on how, unfortunately, people might resort to physical punishment as a form of discipline, as it may be considered historically as well as culturally acceptable in some cultures. I would love to hear more about your perspective on this and to what extent cultural factors contribute to childhood abuse.
Estee: So I think everyone is affected by their culture, whatever it may be, and, you know, whether they like it or not. [00:12:00] As an Asian American, I think cultural factors definitely contribute to childhood abuse. Of course, this isn’t to bash on any particular culture. I think all cultures have their pros and cons.
But certain cultural values and beliefs can impact how child abuse is perceived, reported, and addressed. What’s considered abusive in one culture might be acceptable in another, so it’s not surprising if abuse is more prevalent in a culture that is, well, more accepting of it.
Children are also considered less important in certain cultures, so they’re not as valued or protected. In fact, throughout most of history, children were considered their parents’ property. And the idea of children’s rights didn’t emerge until, like, the 20th century, and it still isn’t a thing in some cultures.
But in the end, while cultural factors for sure can contribute to childhood abuse, I think it’s ultimately the parents’ responsibility to break out of the cultural norms if it’s hurting their children. [00:13:00] Of course, it’s much easier said than done.
It’s hard to go against what is socially acceptable and has been passed down for generations. But, it’s not an excuse or a justification. Just because something is culturally acceptable does not make it okay. And there are tons of people who do not resort to abuse regardless of what their culture is.
Isha: Yeah, definitely. It also makes an impact on parenting classes or support for parents who may have intergenerational trauma for example, and do not intend to create so much harm to their children, but are unsure of how to effectively raise their kids in healthier ways, because, you know, they were raised in a way where it was socially acceptable to utilize physical punishment as a form of discipline. So I think, yeah, there should be more encouraging resources like available parenting classes that can help teach parents healthier parenting.
Estee: I agree.
Isha: [00:14:00] Yeah, and as you mentioned, we know it depends on the particular family dynamics, beliefs, and actions taken by parents. We want to assure our audience members that we’re not trying to shame, label, or generalize any culture. We respect all cultures.
And yeah, I think it’s interesting that how at the same time some cultural beliefs and traditions may actually encourage parents to look after their children in healthy ways, be mindful of their needs, and create safe environments where children can grow, excel, and reach their full potential.
And we respect all cultures. And the reason we’re bringing cultural factors up is to gain insight into how sometimes cultures may be blamed as a form of gaslighting or dismissing abuse, as well as how some children may be disproportionately affected by abuse.
Estee: For sure, like there’s a lot of people that would use it as an excuse to [00:15:00] abuse their kids.
Isha: It also makes an effect on intersectionality and how minorities and children of immigrants who have faced childhood abuse may also be exposed to other societal concerns like racial discrimination, too. And it makes an effect and wonder if you think there should be specialized initiatives and resources to especially help support minorities and children of immigrants.
Estee: Yeah, I definitely think there should be. So obviously child abuse itself can really create a variety of long-lasting consequences on a person. And I think being a minority or a child of immigrants just adds more barriers and obstacles. Like, there’s often the stigma around speaking up.
Many of these communities generally remain silent or simply tolerate abusive behavior because it’s seen as shameful or wrong to [00:16:00] speak badly about your parents. You know, it’s like they sacrifice so much to raise you, how can you talk about them like that?
Like growing up, whenever I criticize my mother’s actions, I’m often met with skepticism or criticism. People would say things like, that’s your mother’s way of showing she loves you, or how can you say that about your mother, you know, what’s wrong with you?
So, most cultures, even the U.S., put parents on this pedestal. We’re expected to unconditionally, honor, respect, and love them, but they’re not expected to reciprocate. This has improved in the U. S., but it’s still a common issue amongst other cultures, particularly with minorities and children of immigrants. I think there needs to be more initiatives and resources that can reduce this stigma of speaking up about abusive parents.
Victims should be encouraged to escape the abuse rather than shunned or ostracized for speaking up about it. I think they should also have, like, a safe space where they can speak up and seek help. Maybe one [00:17:00] where they can connect with people of similar backgrounds with similar experiences. Or be provided with resources that can address possible cultural, systemic, or language barriers they may be facing that are in the way of their healing.
Isha: Definitely. It also reminds me of how there is also the stigma surrounding mental health, which can prevent people from seeking mental health support, resources, and services. And this can also interfere with their healing journey and have a negative impact on their mental health and emotional well-being.
Estee: Oh for sure, yeah.
Isha: It also reminds me of how maybe there should be more support groups for people who have faced childhood abuse.
Estee: Yeah and I think there should also be more, maybe therapists or counselors who could be more [00:18:00] trained in that area, be more culturally sensitive, or find someone from that culture to help.
Isha: Yeah, definitely. Furthermore, something else that especially stood out to me from Hopeful Panda was your post on the signs of a healthy relationship as it is helpful for people to be mindful of their relationship dynamics. Can you please briefly go over some of the signs of healthy relationships people can try to look out for?
Estee: Yeah, sure. So, you know, when you grow up with abusive parents, you probably didn’t have a good representation of what healthy relationships look like. I know I didn’t, it’s something I had to learn on my own through trial and error and with my husband’s help, of course, because it’s not just me in a relationship.
So, the biggest sign of healthy relationships, I think that most people would agree is communication. Communication is so important because so many issues can be resolved just by being [00:19:00] open and honest and talking things through. It takes doubt, resentment, assumptions, and all that away, or at least it minimizes them.
Another big one, I think, is trust. I think trust is needed for any relationship to be able to truly function. I think it’s the foundation of relationships in general. Without trust, I don’t think you can be fully committed to your partner or to the relationship.
And another big sign is being able to set and have healthy boundaries. The amount of boundaries or the lack of them can be the difference between a codependent or even abusive relationship compared to a healthy one. It’s important for everyone involved to be comfortable with the established boundaries while also respecting the other person.
And having boundaries establishes that each person involved in a relationship has their own needs and expectations. It also establishes that just because two people are together doesn’t mean that they own each other. They are still, you know, separate people.
Which leads to [00:20:00] another sign – mutual support and respect. It’s important that both people can see each other as equals and support each other as equals. No one person is better or worse than the other. Everyone contributes different things to a relationship. And I think it’s important to be aware of that and not take your partner for granted. Be able to say “thank you” for the little things you expect. People would usually expect the things, but you can still say “thank you” for them.
I think every sign of kindness and appreciation that you exchange with your partner would nurture the relationship.
Isha: Thank you for explaining that. What advice would you give to people who may not have faced childhood abuse personally, but want to help support a friend, loved one, or someone important to them in their life who has faced childhood abuse?
Estee: Okay, first, I think educating yourself about childhood abuse and its effects is a good first step. It can [00:21:00] give you a better idea of what the person may be experiencing. And be willing to offer support, but also respect their boundaries. Of course, if they’re not comfortable with talking or opening up, respect that, but let them know you’re there if they need you.
And when they’re willing and ready to receive support, simply be there for them and listen to them, you know, don’t dismiss, ignore, brush off their feelings or experiences. Do not say things like, “Oh, that’s not so bad” or “I’ve had worse”. You know, be validating.
Reassure them that their feelings and experiences are valid. And remind them that they’re allowed to feel whatever way they feel. And please, never tell them they’re being sensitive or dramatic or they’re overreacting, even if it seems like they are.
Try to remember that when they’re acting a certain way, it’s likely a trauma response. Something seemingly small to one person can trigger another person into an intense emotional state. We don’t know the internal battles they might be [00:22:00] fighting. Even people with similar experiences don’t know.
Overall, I think try to be empathetic, compassionate, and patient with them. But of course, while you can support someone, it’s also important to realize that it’s still up to them to do the work to heal. Unless you’re their therapist, it’s not your job to fix them. And remember, it’s okay to set boundaries about how much support you can offer to avoid burnout. Your well-being is important, too.
Isha: Definitely. This also makes the effect on how important social support is and also how people who have faced childhood abuse may feel differently about it. There can be different factors that can affect their own healing journey, such as other stressors they may have in their lives.
And social support is very important and so I think it’s really nice to be more aware of how people [00:23:00] can support their loved ones effectively. Are there any other ways you think we can effectively help raise awareness and address childhood abuse?
Estee: So this is not something I’m too familiar with because I usually work on a more personal level. But there are already many organizations that are working on raising awareness and addressing child abuse, which is great. But I think to, like, really make a difference, it probably needs to reach institutional and government levels.
For example, education is a big one. I think lessons on what’s considered abuse or neglect and their effects should be part of the school curriculum. It can help children realize what abusive behavior looks like so they know whether they’re experiencing it. Or maybe it can help prevent them from committing similar behaviors in the future to other people.
I think these types of lessons or information should also be provided for any parents or soon-to-be parents. For example, like I had to take certain [00:24:00] classes before becoming a certified foster parent. I think this should apply to anyone before they’re about to become a parent, or maybe there can be incentives for parents who decide to take such a class.
It might also be useful to have free resources readily available that children and teenagers can easily and maybe anonymously access if they want more information or want to seek help. I think it’s also something more doctors should be aware of, especially pediatricians and doctors for expecting parents.
And I think, ultimately, there needs to be more resources for adult survivors of childhood abuse. Many of the resources and organizations already in place usually focus on helping children, which is great, children should be protected. But usually, once the child becomes an adult, the amount of resources and support they have access to or is eligible for significantly decreases.
I’ve heard from many adults stuck with their abusive parents who have trouble finding help or assistance on getting out. [00:25:00] Unfortunately, there’s usually less sympathy or compassion towards what appears to be fully functioning adults still living with their parents.
Unless their lives are in immediate danger, no one really takes them seriously or cares to help them. It’s easy to say “Just leave, no one’s forcing you to stay. You’re an adult.” It’s something I’ve dealt with before. But that’s just a form of victim blaming and it’s obviously coming from people who don’t know how difficult it is to leave an abuser, especially if it’s your own parents.
So yeah, I think there needs to be more support for adult survivors, especially ones that are still stuck with their parents. Maybe there can be programs to help them learn to develop independence financially and physically so they can finally break free and live their lives.
Isha: Those are wonderful ways and they also may affect how important it is to hear from survivors and allow [00:26:00] them to share their own stories. We’re aware that sometimes it can be very triggering for survivors to go back and recall some of the very hurtful memories they have faced.
At the same time, for survivors who want to speak up and about, I think it’s really important to help empower them to share their own stories. And it can also help us learn more about childhood abuse and the different ways it can affect people, as well as good factors that can help promote people’s healing journeys.
Estee: Yeah, I’m glad to see, I think, it’s becoming a little more acceptable to speak out now, at least in the US. It’s nice to see people are more accepting of it that like, even as adults, it’s okay if you don’t talk to your parents anymore.
If they hurt you, you’re not obligated to have a relationship with them. Like, I feel like it’s [00:27:00] becoming more acceptable. But there are still, you know, I think there still needs to be probably more to help people that still have trouble with that.
Isha: Definitely. Well, thank you so much for this insightful talk, Estee. It was so nice to have you with us on Being Aware with Isha on Air and discovering hope after childhood abuse.
Estee: Thank you so much for having me.
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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with a physically and emotionally abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.
I am always trying to better learn, understand, and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this healing journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda, a place where others who faced childhood abuse can hopefully find support, resources, and motivation to begin healing.
A lot of time and effort is put into this blog – for me and for you. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider sharing and/or making a donation. Thank you!