(As part of helping break the stigma surrounding mental health, we have decided to share real and vulnerable stories of defeat, hurt, hope and healing with you on the blog. If you have a story which you’re keen to share with our community, please email us at email@example.com)
(Part 2) This is a continuation from the previous story, told from a survivor of abuse. To read it, please click here
Story submitted by Anonymous:
Typing part 2 of this story feels a bit more desperate for some strange reason and I must continue reminding myself that it doesn’t matter how it lands on anybody’s heart. I still fear judgement, terribly so. I fear the scrutinizing eyes of those who haven’t lived such a life of abuse and trauma, but I must continue reminding myself that it’s my story and that I’m allowed to retell my hurt, as it is. So I give myself permission to be flawed with you today. I still find my inner child creeping up on me from time to time, telling me to keep quiet. I’ve been quiet for so long, hoping that nobody would notice my pain. But for so long, I also craved to be seen. I craved for somebody to notice me and listen to my ideas about this world and what I’ve learnt about pain itself. Oh, I have so much to share. That little child in me still hopes that I’d be noticed amongst the crowd. Do you ever walk around and wonder if anybody else feels it too? There are moments where this world feels too big and I feel like I’m drowning in the nothingness of it all. Sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor has taught me the gift of swimming, as much as it has also taught me just how much of holding one’s breath the human spirit can withstand, before it finally cracks.
I didn’t know who I was until my late 20s and I think and I’m still pretty much figuring it all out. The day I got married, I remember waking up, a wave of sadness washing over me. I knew something big was wrong and I just couldn’t shake it, no matter how hard I tried. Gosh, I tried to be excited, but even looking at myself, a soon to be bride in the mirror, repulsed me. My gut ached. Something told me ‘NO, don’t do it,’ but the bigger and more sincere part of me knew that it was the only way I’d survive. Yes, it was a plea for survival. God knew that somehow, I had reached the end of my journey in my abusive home with my mother and that I needed to get out. I knew my husband for 6 months before we decided to get married and he was always the calmest, kindest and most caring person I ever knew. But something was missing and even then I felt it. Our relationship lacked connection and emotionality. There was this deep, inner, profound and mystical world which lived within me and I felt like I couldn’t share it with anybody, least of all him. And so for most of our married years, it felt like we lived separate lives. I continued my studies and he continued working and providing. The gap between us only grew larger and larger. I ached to speak about this feeling with somebody who’d listen, but again there was nobody. I remember my mother once telling me to be grateful for who he was, projecting her idea of my father’s incompetence onto all marriages and using that as the standard for what an unhealthy man actually looked like. Now that I look back, I wonder if anybody should ever question you when you tell them that you’re unhappy. I’ve learnt that happiness and unhappiness is not something we need to explain to others. The condition of the heart evades the language of the mind. It simply just is.
Moving out of my mother’s house and into a new home with a man was freeing, but to a certain extent, she still made sure that I was always indebted to her. Her complaints would continue and she would often call me, crying over the phone and complaining of her life, her fights with my brother and step-father and how terrible life had been going for her. Why didn’t I set boundaries? Because for a long time in my marriage, I was ridden with guilt. I felt guilty for the opportunity of having a different life to my brother. Each holiday I traveled made me feel even worse and I would look desperately for ways to help him, even from afar. I felt it unfair that I was ‘saved’ by marriage, while he was still under her rule. Even more, I felt it unfair that my life was relatively easy, being provided for by my husband, while my mother still worked to earn a living. Taking care of my brother, whom I developed a closer relationship with over the years was exhausting and burdening for me. I would be flooded with anxiety each time I would get a call from him, anticipating the worst. It was no way to live, but I knew that if I didn’t do it, his mental health would deteriorate even further. I was so terrified that one day I would receive a phone call that he had committed suicide. But no matter how much I tried to help, very slowly but surely, over the years, God made it very clear to me that that was not my role to play anymore.
My husband had always been supportive, even during these moments, holding me, comforting me and listening to me, but deep down inside, I faced such excruciating suffering that I could barely function. I learnt more about myself through my married years, than I ever had the opportunity of learning as a teenager. Being a parentified child took so much away from me. And so in my twenties, I rediscovered my absolute love and passion for writing and poetry again. I danced and excelled in my studies. I lost old friends and made newer, healthy friendships with women who I call my soul sisters today. I did all this, while I still faced the pain and bitter despair of depression. The truth was that I lived in so many different worlds – the world of still caring for my mother and brother, my own world filled with the pain of hurt and abuse from my childhood and the world of my marriage, which felt empty and hollow. My depression lasted for approximately 8 years after I got married. It was severe and intense. There were days where I could barely get out of bed and look in the mirror. Talking to others would feel like a burden. I wanted to connect with my husband, but felt so far away from him. The feeling that something was terribly wrong, which I first felt on my wedding day, followed me everywhere I went. I went for countless therapies with professionals and was on a variety of different medications but nothing really moved me. Even then, I always felt like my depression was a calling to much, much more. It was a messenger pulling my attention to something much deeper and real.
It all changed when I finally rediscovered my religion – it sounds cliched, I know, but it’s true. Up until then, I had come to understand Islam as something constricting and rule-based. I prayed only because I was afraid of punishment. I tried to perfect my character only because I was taught that it was the right thing to do. But when I discovered Sufism (the mystical component of Islam), my heart cracked wide open and the pain and bitterness which had consumed me for such a long time finally started to slowly dissipate. I found my place in this world again. I had a platform for talking about mysticism with others who experienced the same, learnt how to love God and finally began the process of truly making peace with my devastating past, in ways which I cannot explain. I always mocked those who spoke of religion as their saving grace, believing them to be so ignorant, until it was my only saving grace. For so much of my life, I felt like nobody listened, until I felt the heart of God listening.
I lost many parts of myself which I will never ever get back. Today, I have cut my mother out of my life completely, for my own mental health and well-being. I have no relationship with her whatsoever. I’ve had to grieve not having parents or family, while often looking to my friends who take such a simple pleasure and gift for granted in their own lives. I am still married and figuring out whether the person I am today, 9 years later has outgrown my husband or wants to stay. His kindness has never wavered towards me, but I can’t help but feel called to so much more. Through Sufism, I have learnt that the call of the heart is real. I have learnt to listen to the voice of the heart and tune in to the depth which exists within me, especially when the world feels too noisy.
I don’t want to end off this blog by leaving you with an inspiring message of hope. I want to remind both myself and you through these words, that not coping is a real, harsh and painful thing. There are still many days where I feel suffocated by the memories of losing so much so soon and I can feel myself falling down the spiral of absolute sadness. But maybe I’ve learnt how to catch myself now. We speak so often of how we survived, but today I want to tell you that I’m still learning how to survive. I wish I could read these very words in the depths of my own bitterness and despair and so that is what I’ll leave you with today: I’m still learning how to survive.
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