My Father sold ice-lollies during the day and studied under street lamps during the night so that he could get education and create a better life for his family. It was his hard work and focus that allowed us to get educated – a rare opportunity in the society in which we grew up.
My Grand Mother and Mother had a grocery store as an extension of the house, in which they lived. As a child, my Mother did house chores, managed the store and helped my Grand Mother with everything and anything. These experiences made my Mother so strong that she was able to instil in us the strength of character, which became a foundation for my freedom.
This is my Mother cooking in the kitchen. All the work was done on the floor. There was no gas or electricity, and most of the pans and pots were made of aluminium (the cheapest). As a muslim woman had to cover herself at all times. This is why my Mother is wearing the scarf (called dupatta) in this photograph.
My Mother washed clothes in the bathroom sitting on the floor and would wrap the string of this swing around her leg so that she could put me to sleep at the same time. She also worked side by side with my Father helping him with his photography business. Since we didn’t have a developing room, my parents worked at night to develop the photos. This meant that sometimes, they didn’t sleep for days at a time.
My siblings and I loved playing with the carum board (a game similar to poole but played with hands). Life was simple in those days. We didn’t have our own toys, bedrooms, or even wardrobes; everything was shared and everything was done together.
The Sexual Abuse
My first memories of sexual abuse are from very early childhood. These memories don’t form a coherent story. I just see images; not even knowing whether they are real. After all, who really remembers the first two to three years of their life?
In the first image I remember, I am a toddler wearing pink undies. I am sitting at the side of the bed with a woman next to me. She is familiar and I think I know her. There is also a man on the bed. He looks old and frail. I think he’s the woman’s Father. Then I don’t see the woman anymore.
I next see myself sitting on the bed dangling my feet. Suddenly, his hands slide down my undies and then, nothing. I am blank. I don’t know what happened next.
Experiences of this nature continued for many years. My memories involve men on the streets, men in neighbouring homes, and extended family members. It felt like an epidemic that started when I was a toddler and ended when I was about 11 to 12 years old.
On many occasions, I was shown genitals. I was asked to hold their penises, and hold them tight. I was also touched in various ways when no one was looking.
It felt wet. It felt good. But it also felt wrong. Why was it done under the covers? If it felt good, why did it have to be a secret?
I didn’t understand. I didn’t know the answers, but I was led down a dark hole for many many years until one day when I just had to say “no.”
Self-Hatred, Abusive Relationships and More...
For years, I believed I had “allowed” this abuse to occur to me, and
this made me feel like a “bad” person. How could I enjoy it? how could my body respond? why did I want more? I felt dirty. Everything down there felt dirty. To cope, my response was to numb myself, and to shut down every emotion that would remind me of that time.
I buried myself in education and my Mother’s sorrows. I never thought of boys, I didn’t deserve love. My sole purpose in life was to make sure that others were happy because my happiness didn’t matter.
I tried to hurt myself. I would self sabotage, would try and burn or cut myself. I wouldn’t eat, just because I thought I had done something “wrong”.
A friend once said to me: “When I walk by you, I feel that there is a fire coming from you to me and warning me to stay away”.
And people did stay away – not physically, but emotionally. It was a life at a very different level – lots happenings at the surface and yet not much depth.
Believing that I wasn’t worthy and that my needs didn’t matter led me into a troubled marriage. It was my first relationship and I thought that I was expected to serve my partner and his family and forget about myself. My partner didn’t believe in communication, so I was left to guess his needs. It was a tough gig, I tried to fulfil that role but failed miserably. The relationship became one of indifference from him and detachment from me. Sex felt like an act of abuse.
My unhappiness escalated to physical symptoms, and the list of illnesses I had during that time was huge. I was constantly on medication for one thing or another. I didn’t share my pains with my friends or family members. I though that sharing my pain was a sign of weakness and I didn’t want to be weak. Instead, I buried my pain even deeper.
Even after I was able to get a divorce, things didn’t change for a very long time because I was in a rescue mode. As I had failed to save myself, I wanted to save others. So I attracted men who were hurting and wounded. I thought that I was going to save them but instead I became the object of their wounded expression, and I kept getting hurt.
Of course, I also hated men. I didn’t trust them and my perception was that they definitely wanted “SOMETHING” from me. There was no way I could trust them or feel safe in their presence, so I built walls so strong that no one could penetrate them. While this allowed me to feel “in control” of my environment, it completely cut myself off any sense of belonging and connection.
The Journey from "I don't deserve love" to "I am enough"
My moment of awakening happened when I said “enough is enough”. It started during a camping trip with a friend. After a day of walking and exploring, we were just relaxing by the fire. I was feeling emotional so I started sharing about some of these experiences. I remember crying a lot. After all my sharing and crying, all I wanted was some assurance and to be held so that I could start to trust the world again. Instead, he walked away from me and asked me to sleep on the other side of the tent.
I couldn’t believe myself! How did I allow myself to accept such disrespectful behaviour? I knew that something inside of me had to change. I knew that, unless I loved myself, I wasn’t going to attract men who loved me too.
I took a break from men and decided to explore my inner world.
Like many adults who have experienced similar things to me, I had deep relationships with the men who had violated my body. I wanted to be friends with them, but also hated and wanted to punish them.
But then something strange happened. I realised that all the feelings of hate and punishment weren’t for them. These feelings were for me!
I made a decision to go deeper with these feelings. I started with hypnotherapy, which helped me break the bond that I had with my abusers. I was able to see myself independent of them. I was able to finally forgive myself and know that I hadn’t done anything wrong. This liberated me immensely.
I had also been researching the causes of adults doing such hurtful things to children. This research opened my eyes. I was able to see the bigger picture: the social conditions that lead to abuse. The inability of many adults to cope when things get rough; the urge to take it out on the weak because it’s too hard to look within; the easy way out – the alcohol; thinking that it’s every one else’s fault otherwise they would have to be responsible and that’s too hard for many adults.
Believe it or not, instead of getting angry, I became compassionate. I suddenly understood the pain that these adults went through, and the hardships that they faced. The punishment didn’t seem like the right answer – forgiveness did! It freed me. It made me see them in a different light. It made me feel compassionate for them.
The hypnotherapy was the start but I have tried so many things that it would take a book for me to cover all. What I wanted to mention here is that there are ways that work. It is possible to be free from the trauma of sexual abuse. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
My Skills and Qualifications
Sometimes it feels like my life has always been about understanding trauma and learning how it impacts us in various ways. Along this path, I have worked with, learned from, researched, workshopped, and experienced myriad of modalities. Through my blogs you can learn more about these but here are a few:
This was where I first delved into conscious, subconscious, and unconscious behaviours. How does mind handle experiences? how does it make sense of life experiences including trauma? How does it develop? What is neuroscience? What are various frequencies of the brain and how they can be used to train and retrain the brain? What is neuroplasticity?
Understanding mind unlocked the door to uncovering and undoing the effects of trauma. Combined with the body work and self-discovery, I was able to completely turn my life around.
Body remembers, and it remembers well. There are neural synapses that completely bypass the cognitive brain and directly talk to the body. Somatic psychology has interested many psychologists and is a huge part of trauma work. In alternative therapies, there are many forms of body work that I have experienced – somatic memory work, body work, energy field work, chakra work, meditation, and many more. All of these modalities have helped me understand the release process the body goes through to help in the trauma recovery.
Understanding Feelings and Emotions
Our emotional blueprint develops in the first 18-24 months of our lives – the time, when we didn’t have words to describe what was going on. When extreme and traumatic experiences occur in our lives, they make these feelings and emotions even more complex as our defence mechanisms take hold of our life and we spend most of our time trying to protect ourselves from the “big bad world”. Learning about these feelings is the key to freedom.
Making Sense of it all – Our lives and relationships
It is a strange feeling to observe oneself (as if you are watching a video of yourself in a situation) but these observations have allowed me to see how I have sabotaged my own life and my own relationships when I was run by the effects of trauma.
At the same time, I was also working with systems and it is one of my specialties to look at a very complex situation and simplify it so that it is understandable and workable. I am very grateful that I have been given ample opportunities to learn the evaluation and assessment skills and through my own experiences, I have managed to put it all together