About Me · Mental Health

The Road to Finding Myself

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“The way she flew, I chased her like a firefly to put her in a jar, but I learned again what I learned as a boy, that wings don’t belong in jars.”

-Atticus

Dear Friends,

I’m back. ❤

And what a fight it was. If you didn’t get a chance to read my last post, a few months ago I went to a mental health treatment facility. I left my loving husband, my two children, and what felt like my whole heart behind. And I drove 9 hours to finally get the help I needed. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but boy was it one of the best decisions of my life.

Before I left, I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD, regular PTSD, Bipolar II Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Though it finally gave me a word for my mental condition and made so much sense for why I thought and acted the way that I did, my head was still a complete wreck and I was incapacitated by what I was experiencing. I had finally opened up the box of grim memories that I had suppressed for years, and I was actively reliving every single emotion in the form of flashbacks.

So I guess its time for me to open up to you and explain how I got to where I was at and where I still teeter now at times…

I have lived a difficult life.

Though I still love and care for my mom and sister dearly now – they have reformed tremendously – my upbringing was one that was emotionally and physically painful,  fueled by my father’s oppressive and tyrannical ways. Verbal, physical, and emotional abuse were all too customary in our household.

How My Childhood Traumatized Me

One of my first memories starts at 2 years old, cowering under the dining table watching my parents argue to heights that were above and beyond. It was always 0 to 100, and there was never an in between.

Often times I’d sit in between them on my knees with my hands put together, pleading for it to end. Begging for the verbal slurs to stop being slung, and for hands to stop meeting flesh over and over. I was so young, yet even at that age,  I would be howling in between them that I didn’t want to live through it anymore. I sobbed angrily at God for placing my fragile soul in such a situation, and wondered why no one was noticing how much it was shattering.

I can still feel the utter terror, panic, and deep sorrow that 2 year old experienced.

This only continued throughout my childhood.

The Teenage Dream, Right?

The controlling and fighting eventually went from my father with my mother, to us as kids. I was confined and trapped within my own home. I would tell friends that my parents were strict, but no one completely understood exactly how far that went.

I wasn’t allowed to have a cellphone. I never had sleepovers with friends and never went to a dance, let alone prom. I wasn’t allowed to listen to music, or watch anything on TV that wasn’t a cartoon. I never participated in extra curricular activities; my friends had to be and act a certain way for my parents to allow me to see them. At some point even family became “negative influences” because they were too “modernized”.

My father forced me to go to an all girl’s religious boarding school for 8th grade, that likely had some extremist ideology. When I begged and begged for months to come back, my father finally allowed me to under the condition that I would have to home-school. Oh, and I would have to wear a hijab, niqab, and burqa. (Headscarf, face veil, and a black garment that covers the entire body.) My mom was able to talk him down to allowing me to wear just the head-scarf. If it meant freedom from the absurdity I was facing at boarding school, then I’d grudgingly agree.

So I was forced to home-school from freshman year until I graduated high school, being reminded repeatedly that I wouldn’t be allowed to go to college unless my future husband allowed of it. My father would tell me constantly how unnecessary it was for women to be educated, when their sole role in life was just to be a house wife and child bearer.

It felt like I wasn’t allowed to breathe unless I was told that I could.

If I dared to do anything wrong, if I dared create a Facebook account, or talk to anyone or did anything they disapproved of…I’d be slapped across the face, have my hair pulled, and beat. And then I’d be locked in my room with a padlock on my door every night or forced to sleep on the floor of my parents room for days, months or years so that they could keep watch on me, as if I was a dog. I’d have to prove for months that I could be trusted, before that padlock came off my door.

At some point, the alarm system in our home became less to keep strangers out, and more to keep us locked in.

And just like that, the outside world would be shut away. The darkness enveloped me and I’d be back in the sad, lonely world of myself. “Why the heck did I try and talk to my friends? If I hadn’t, maybe I would have been allowed to play games on the computer or talk to my cousins on the phone”.

I would be stripped of everything… including my freedom.

I just didn’t understand why my life had to be like this.

The Words That Broke Me

The cherry on top of my home life was the constant bullying I endured. My sister would play a game where I would be her “slave” and I’d be forced to recite over and over that she was a queen and I was a peasant. I’d fetch the queen whatever she desired for days until the game ended. Given the history of my life, I just wanted to please people, so I naively played along. I thought that’s just what siblings did.

The verbal berating was unbearable. For years I was told that my hair was so greasy that I could wring it out and use it to cook eggs in the huge bags under my eyes. Being called fat, ugly, and stupid was so ordinary that I believed it whole-heartedly. It was used the way someone says “Hi” or “Bye”. I viewed it as nothing but the absolute truth.

It wasn’t until just recently that I came to the realization that those words do not define me.

A Childhood Stolen By Marriage

And then, friends, as many of you know, I was forced into an arranged marriage at the tender, delicate age of 15. It was an escape from the torturous life I had lived. It promised me a future filled with education, “love”, and possible freedom. So, I agreed. I didn’t know any better. Right after our religious marriage ceremony, I realized I had nothing in common with this man who was 8 years older than me. But I couldn’t back out. I would be dishonoring my family and they would be ashamed in front of the entire community. So I stayed.

I wasn’t emotionally, mentally, or physically prepared to be a wife. I was just barely 15. I had no idea what I was doing. But he did.

In the 3 years of our marriage, I told him I loved him three times. Only for him to reply with “thanks”. He told me that we may never love each other and that that was okay. We didn’t need love to be married to each other. How could he say all of these things to me but still be so selfish for his own desires? See, friends, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started coming to the realization that what happened in that relationship was assault. I was emotionally neglected and physically used. I had been searching for love my whole life. Just love. Was I really that unlovable?

And as history repeated itself, I was transferred from one dictator to another. If I said something that he considered disrespectful, I would be made aware that this wasn’t the type of wife that he had agreed to marry. He would show me his hand, and point to the bottom, telling me that that is where I was on his “maturity chart“. And he’d trace all the way to the top of his hand saying, “And when you’re finally here, then we can move forward with legally making you my wife.”

And yes, this was all done illegally while we waited for my 18th birthday, because the law knows what he had agreed to was child abuse.

Prince Charming is Coming

Somehow I managed to convince my then husband and my parents to allow me to go back and take night math classes at the end of high school. While I was at the night school, I managed to be awarded a full ride to Wilmington University. It was most likely because of this, that they allowed me to pursue further education.

I started my first semester and decided to join the Student Government Association. At my first SGA meeting, I walked in and saw the most handsome man standing at the podium…and queue the story of how Devon and I met.  Though in Devon, I had finally attained the best love I had ever known, it wasn’t without its own hideous terror and trauma. I battled my parents, culture, tradition, and everything I had ever known up until that point. Countless hurtful things were said and done that can never be undone. But I’ll have to save this part of my story for a future post. It is a long, intense love story, that has to be given its own book.

How August Saved My Life

So, friends, if you’ve made it to this point in my story, you’ve gotten a glimpse of a few of the horrors I had stuffed away in that box. That box not only was opened for the first time, but its contents came exploding into my face. I couldn’t handle all of the emotional and mental turmoil I was re-experiencing. At many points throughout these months, I didn’t want to breathe through to the next second. My inextinguishable love for my husband and my children were the only things that talked me back from the edge.

So in August, I drove all the way from Delaware to North Carolina to be admitted to HopeWay. And HopeWay turned my life around for the better. I went there a wreck, and came back with a sense of clarity I hadn’t known in months… quite possibly my entire life even. The most precious thing I learned there, was my value. The beautiful, loving souls I met there reminded me of how much joy I was capable of, and how much I had to give. I couldn’t possibly leave this world without making a damn good mark on it. I was constantly reminded of my resilience for making it to that very moment in life, and my courage for taking the leap and leaving my young children behind to better myself for them. I now believe their words.

I am resilient. I am courageous. I am strong. I want to be alive.

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I Survived To Tell The Tale

Though its easier said than done, I now do understand that my trauma doesn’t define the rest of my life. However, that is still a work in progress.

Maybe this will be another story to tell at a later date, but my father is finally leaving the picture for good. It’s been a very messy process that has added to the stress of my daily life lately, but I am handling it as best as I can. I am trying not to allow it to put a damper on my new found views on life.

But to be honest, him leaving us has been a huge relief. I am finally breaking free from the oppression, and the religiously fanatic ideology that was enforced on me my entire life. This event is what gave me the bravery necessary to spill my deepest darkest secrets to you.

I am sharing my story because I need to speak my truth, and I want people to know that this is what happens behind closed doors. Abuse exists, and occurs to the people you least expect it to. I want to stop the stigma associated with it, because we don’t deserve to feel shame. We did nothing wrong. We didn’t deserve the abuse we suffered.

I share it so that some boy or girl out there, who may relate, might be saved. So that maybe I can assure you that you are not alone in your pain. And I need you to trust that there is so much more beyond this painful moment. I have felt such deep sorrow, yet have seen the sun shine so bright after. Just hang on, dear friend. I want you to be ALIVE. We’ll make it through. ❤

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my story. Thank you for checking up on me and asking me how I am. Thank you for the support you have provided for me and for my wonderful husband. Your kind words contributed in my journey to healing, in ways you may not even recognize. Thank you for just being such amazing and supportive friends.

Much love from my heart to yours,

Rummy ❤

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