It was my 25th Birthday when everything in my life felt wrong. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I am now 25 years old with no career, a useless diploma, married and divorced in less than four months and I still lived in my parent’s house. April 29th became the saddest day of my life that year. I felt helpless and hopeless but I had no choice, I couldn’t do much since I was nose deep in debt and struggling to finish my second diploma.
Then November came, and a wild fight broke out in our house, as a result I was verbally and physically abused by my youngest brother; to add insult to injury my father decided to side with my brother (because he is a man like him). I felt so abandoned by all the male figures in my family. I spoke to a cop and he advised me to go see a counsellor at my school, at first I was so scared because my father always used to say “if you think you got it bad at home, then wait until you talk about your problems outside of your home!!!”I pushed the thought out of my head and went to see a counsellor for the first time in my life, I was so frightened I almost walked out of the waiting room three times in less than five minutes, then finally the door opened, I saw a lady in her late 50s look at me so warmly and smiled then asked me to come in, I felt paralysed and so ashamed of myself. How dare I go air my dirty laundry to strangers? What would people say about me? Many other thoughts kept coming into my head. It felt so wrong to go talk to someone strange about my family problems. I was even more scared that my father would find out about this and kill me. I sat in the chair in front of her, and the first thing she said, was take all the time you need, I cried for the whole full hour and didn’t utter a word other than “ I can’t do this anymore, I am too tired”. My counsellor was very understanding and supportive.
I kept coming to see her every week, and in the process I discovered that talking about my problems to someone else who will not judge me was extremely therapeutic and even better than that, I was able to hear myself. Once you hear your thoughts you will realize that the magnitude of the problem is not as significant as it first felt, you will hear yourself come up with solutions to the very same problems that you thought will never get solved, and so, you will feel hope restoring slowly into your inner soul.
Visiting my counsellor every week in secret helped me break down my problems into smaller chunks. I was then able to take every little chunk and dissolve it even further, once I found the solution to a specific problem I immediately acted on it, hesitation and fear were not part of me anymore. Until one day we had a conversation and I expressed my desire to leave the house.
My father at that time was planning to go back home for a year, I had just started studying Architecture at college and was so scared he would force me to go back home and then find me another husband. In my culture a woman is forbidden to have a boyfriend, and she is supposed to live in her parent’s house until a husband comes and marries her. Then she will stop obeying her father and start obeying her husband.
The thought of going back home again and getting married again and failing again was terrorizing for me. When I started talking with my counsellor about leaving home, the idea in the beginning seemed almost impossible. If I get caught running away, my father or one of my brothers might kill me and even go to jail because of me, they wouldn’t care, because to them it was more important to honour their family values and morals.
I decided to do it, I thought to myself, this is my only chance for change, for becoming the person I want to be not what someone else envisioned for me. But, my heart ached every time I remembered my mom, she needs me, she is very fragile, I was her stone and support system. I eventually told my mom my plans secretly, she told me to go, she told me to get a better life than her and that it would break her heart more if I became her one day.
With my mother’s secret blessing I went back to my counsellor more determined than ever to leave, but I had one problem, I was over $14,000 in debt. Where would I go? Who is going to let me rent from them? My credit is so bad that if someone checks my reference a police siren might go off from somewhere.
At that time, I didn’t even know about women’s shelters, housing or anything along those lines. My counsellor suggested Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo region, she said there are many women in my situation, and a centre that specializes in helping women with crisis would be the best route to go for help. And so she called the Women’s Crisis Centre and they sent a case worker over to the college to meet us.
The caseworker was very knowledgeable and resourceful, we spoke a lot about safety planning, how to runaway safely and all the services that they can offer.
My father had to take my mother back home by New Years and leave in a hurry for some work, he left me alone with my brothers at home. We were supposed to complete the school year then book the next flight back home. I had only 3 months to plan my escape, find a place to live, pass my exams and act totally normal to everyone.
A few weeks before my final exams in April I got a call from my caseworker from the Women’s Crisis Centre, she informed that one bachelor apartment under subsidized rent had become available for the end of April, and asked if I would like to see it, of course I said yes yes yes!!. I went to see the apartment; it was a great start for a great new life. I went home that night and started packing my stuff quietly in secret. I would pack things and hide them in the garage or inside my closet.
When the day came, I wrote my last exam on April 27th, and went straight to school then to my new apartment and put my exam books there. Afterwards, I went home and no one was home. I just wanted to run away with my clothes and books, I couldn’t afford to take anything else, everything was in our abandoned garage. I called a cab driver and requested a van. When the cab arrived, I dumped all my stuff in the back and we took off to my new place. That was the last any person in my family saw me for the next two years.
Where am I now? And where has life taken me? Well let me tell you! I am currently six months away from graduating with a diploma in Architecture, I am full time employed with an engineering firm in town, I paid all my debt last week and next month I am moving out of subsidized housing. I have also managed to build up the courage and fly back home. I brought mom back to Canada where she is now and where she is being taken care of after her dementia really worsened. I know she doesn’t remember all of this, but I am sure if she did, she will be a very proud mother.
I hope my story inspires many women out there who are too afraid to speak up.
We should never give up hope especially in the humanity of those around us.
Take action in your life and you will be happy 100%.