Resilience: a lesson I learned from the girl with curly hair

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Resilience: a lesson I learned from the girl with curly hair

What would you do if you were betrayed by the ones closest to you? Would you be able to forgive them for what they did to you when you were helpless? How would you live a normal, even successful life if you carried an incredible psychological trauma from your childhood? Would you be a happy young adult despite everything that happened to you in the past?

Sometimes the most unexpected interactions can turn into a life time lesson. If you know me at all you know I have seen and dealt with everything in my practice of coaching and psychological counseling. From the worst of the worst stories to very small cases like the mother asking me to treat her 13-year-old son because he doesn’t take interest in studies since last 2 months and still is a B+ student, (I mean come one mom let the teenager play some Xbox, chase some girls too). As a psychologist, you learn to remain objective and not to fall into the content because the content is always one sided and is a subjective opinion of the client about the events. If you know me, you know there is only one type of clients that get me raveled to my core and that is victims of child abuse. Living in Pakistan, a collectivist society, (because statistically the chances increase in joint families), you would think I would have gotten used to it but unfortunately, I have not, or at least I had not till I met the girl with beautifully long, dark, curly hair.

In my recent travel to Islamabad for a hypnotherapy certification, as my new friends and I were walking in the market in the evening, we saw a beautiful café. I quickly noticed a beautiful girl looking in our direction, coming up to us and say “hi” to the friend I was with. We realized then that they had been collegemates and had not seen each other for the last 3 years. I felt a spark in her eyes and I knew she had a story to tell. As I stood there watching their interaction, she said to my friend, “it is actually in your darkest moments that you find yourself.” I knew there was a story and I needed to hear it.

I told her who I am and that I need to hear her story because I was too once in my darkness and that was when I found my true strength. I told her I believe that we become who we are not despite of the darkness inside but because of it. She was intrigued. So, we waited for everyone to leave and we started chatting. Hours passed by and felt like minutes. Before I knew it was 1 am and we were on our third cup of tea.

But before I tell you the past you must know the present. Currently she lives independently in a rented studio apartment in Islamabad. She is a visiting lecturer, and research assistant for an international firm, is completing her PhD, and runs a successful café which serves as a safe haven for everyone especially those in need of a friend and someone to listen to. She paints, as was evident by the walls of the café, she writes poetry that would give you goosebumps. She travels a lot because as she said, “I want to live my life fully.” Inspiring, right?

She was born and raised in Lahore where all of her family still lives. The age of 9 was the first time her elder brother molested her. Soon after, molestation turned into sexual abuse. Abuses turned into psychological threats and so on. She went through a continuous series of abuses from age 9 to 17 by her brother, his friends and sometimes an uncle until she got pregnant. As she shared her story she stared into my eyes as if she could see my trembling soul through my eyes. She added, “I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how exactly babies should be made or in my case unmade. I had no idea what I should do, who to tell, they had told me they would kill me if I told anyone. Somehow, I mustered up some courage and told my mom. She was infuriated and blamed me. She said I did this to myself, I “allowed” them to rape me. She said she doesn’t care how but I have to take care of it and must never ever utter a word about it to anyone because it would ruin the family and my brother’s future.”

Her face was cold as stone, I could read no emotions now. I could see she was numb as she went on, “after my mom left for lunch and I was left alone at home, I decided to take action. I decided to end my life completely, this time for good. I went to the bathroom and drank the bottle of acid we had for cleaning the tiles in the bathroom. It took me seconds to drink and suddenly I felt a burning inside of me. It felt as if I was melting from the inside. It hurt so much I couldn’t standup. I fell to the floor and got ready to die, but something happened. I found that I didn’t want to die. So, as I was coughing blood, I got up went out, got into a rikshaw and reached to the hospital. I didn’t even get unconscious because I knew if I did I may not come back again. I begged the doctors to wash my stomach and they did. It hurt like hell but I realized my life is precious.”

She used these words that made me just love her precious soul. She said, “I saw death holding my hand and I decided to leave its hand. I decided it was not my time to go. I had things to do.”

She went on, “Lying on the bed of the hospital for recovery I told the doctor the whole story and why I drank the acid and begged him to take care of the burden I was carrying in my stomach. He was a kind man and helped me. I returned home and didn’t tell anyone about what happened. The next day I went to my dad and told him I want to see a psychiatrist and he reluctantly took me to one. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Chronic Depression and suicidal ideations. I went through meds like candies and had to take ECT thrice a week. I still can’t remember those minutes from the moment I was put under anesthesia till I woke up after ECT. I am missing memories about so much of my life, either unconscious or living outside of my body. Anyhow, I started to feel a bit better but was still living with the same brother and the same mother until one day it was enough. I left Lahore and came to Islamabad.

I told her about my philosophy of the first three steps. It is a metaphor saying that anything you want to do in life is only difficult in the first three steps. Once you take those initial steps the rest becomes easy because now you can look back and see how far you have come. I told her the moment that I stepped off the edge of the roof and decided not to jump to end it all. I told her I, too, found my real self, inside my darkness. We stared at each other as if we could see each other’s souls, naked, bare for the whole world to see.

I asked her, “What now? How are you now?” and she replied, “I am great. Happy, finally. I am living a full life. And I will be shifting abroad soon.”

I asked, “Do you meet your family?” then she said something that shook me again to my core. She said, “I visit them on occasions. I have already forgiven my mom. I know she is a typical desi woman so I don’t blame her. Also, I can’t do it now but once I have enough psychological strength I will forgive my brother too. After all they are my family.”

There are rare interactions that leave such a huge impact in your life. I rarely find people who move me to my core. Rarely I am so inspired to write a blog about. But this 24-year-old girl who had walked hand in hand with death and yet lives a full life, serves as an inspiration to me until I am alive. Every one of us has a past. A past so burdensome, so heavy, so dark that at times it seems impossible to move one, to take one more step forward. I want to remind you, you are not your story. You are the one in the universe and the universe in one. you are a star. So, Shine, Now.

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Ibrahim Siawash

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