For 2015 I had kept a journal. On New Years Eve I had managed to finish the journal and look back through it all. This past year was my year of recovery. While I had been long out of my abusive relationship, it took some time for me to realize the extent of its impact on my life. By the beginning of the year, I had broken down. The high that I felt immediately after the break had worn off. The energy I had gained from the freedom waned. Everything slowed down and I started to see things within myself that I was otherwise distracted from by all external possibilities. My Fall 2014 semester at NYU was my worst semester by far. I had so many things interfering with my newfound zeal for life that I gained that previous spring. Worsening illness and family problems put me in a state of chronic stress that led to my crash at the end of the semester. Once that semester ended, I felt so numb and empty. The zeal I had before had no stable foundation to latch onto. Hopelessness and aggravated depression filled its place. I made a bed in that dark hole I was in and I cried for day. I felt robbed.
I almost died. It was August 6th, 2014. I was so excited to go for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea at sunrise. The water at that hour is just the right temperature. The water’s warmth combined with the scenic event of the sun rising over the horizon, spreading its rays beyond the clouds that try to contain it and embracing all that is good and bad on this Earth. It’s enough to send me to a state of intense peace; a way of furthering my emotional purging: My Catharsis.
I excitedly went in the water. It unsuspectingly lapped around me, inviting me to stay longer and never leave. Only I didn’t think that the sea was seriously putting that offer out to me. Not until the riptide took me away. In an instant, my smiles and laughter turned into screams of panic. I was trying to regain myself only to be taken away again, nevertheless, permanently this time. This couldn’t be happening to me, it simply couldn’t. Yet it was.
The amount of panic I felt was unparalleled to any moment of panic I’ve had before. Everything that I wanted to accomplish flashed before my eyes. What about my dreams? What about my goals? What about the difference I wanted to make? Is this really it? Is this the moment it all comes to an end? Why now?
I (used to) have suicidal tendencies. Depression, anxiety, poor coping skills and an unstable environment isn’t exactly the ideal cocktail. It has pushed me over the edge so many times. So many times I have felt the need to end my life, end everything – end the suffering, the pain. What’s the point if everyone is never happy? What’s the point if everyone is never satisfied? My self-worth was highly reliant on the views of those closest to me – especially my parents. I felt as if I always had to live up to their expectations and their ideal perception of how I should be. I guess it’s hard not to have expectations and perceptions as a parent but it would really get to me at times. I’m human after all. I make mistakes, I deviate and find my own way- the one that works for me.
But I didn’t understand that concept until very recently. Up until my point of understanding, life was all about trying to get myself to fit into a certain mold, a certain model self. Whether it came to my studies, intelligence, appearance, spirituality – it was all about becoming ideal. It was such a self-loathing mentality. Self-loathing and destructive. Over and over again, failure after failure to reach the high bar of my own expectation, I tore myself down. I would resort to self-harm to put a stop to that cycle- only to exacerbate it and promote it.
When I finally had my full-blown mental break down my freshman year of college, I finally took it upon myself to get help. How can my goal in life be to help others while I can’t even help myself? I wasn’t going to get anywhere unless I took charge on the home front. So that’s what I did. I went for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I went to a Psychiatrist and got medicated and most importantly practiced positive thinking. Although it’s extremely hard especially for someone with depression to fight back the overwhelmingly pessimistic thought process, I believe it’s so crucial to recovery.
So, being on that beach was part of my way of fighting all that was pessimistic, negative and angry. I had come so far. I had put in so much effort and it was ending. In that moment. That moment that was supposed to liberate me. My heart and mind gave up, but that survival instinct that is so deeply ingrained in me didn’t. It was kicking and I was kicking. I kicked my legs non stop and my deepest agonies and fears that I would hold back came out as my strong, intense screams rang out over the now raging sea. It all goes by so fast, too fast to even think about. Yet, the soul knows that you’re not meant to go JUST yet. The soul knows you’re not doing what you do for nothing.
Believe in your soul, believe in your survival instinct, believe in your right to be alive.
It saved me. That and the sheer luck that struck me to have an ex-Egyptian soldier taking a morning stroll come and pull me from the clinging arms of the sea.
Regardless, I’m taking this moment to say that I will exercise my right to live – the way I want to – I know what’s best for myself whether it’s implicit or explicit.
No longer will I live to satisfy the needs and expectations of others, rather, I will live for myself, for my own life purpose – whatever it may end up being.
I invite you to do the same.
Until next time,
A word that pathetically crossed your lips
To ruin my peace of mind
You tossed its weight around
Only to strike me in the gut.
– Sarah Mansour
This summer has been a very important one for me. When it started I was physically and mentally exhausted from the just ending semester. I was also emotionally on end from coming to terms with my previous long-term relationship that ended in December of 2013. As a result, when I arrived in Egypt to spend the summer with my family, I was a mess. I wanted to sleep all day and when I wasn’t sleeping I was full of frustration and anger. I’ve been angry – angry since my break up and angry even way before then. But, I had to suppress my anger to the best of my ability for the sake of my studies. With all the free time in the world, I was bursting at my seams.
The relationship I had with my ex was not a normal one. To keep it short and sweet – it was abusive – and I was so young and naive that I was foolish enough to stay with him. I don’t really want to get into it – but to any girl or woman out there in any form of an abusive relationship – be it emotional, mental, physical or sexual – DON’T be afraid to get out. Gather support, call his bluffs and get out. Your abuser is only as powerful as you allow him to be. You deserve to be happy.
Out of respect for myself, I have decided by the end of the summer I will let go of all my anger.
This anger that is contained in my heart sometimes consumes me. The anger is alive and it transforms. I go into this state where all I can think about are the times I was wronged and I get angry at my wrongdoer. Then my anger transforms and it turns on myself. I ask myself how I could let these things happen? How could I be so stupid? And it cycles. Over and over again. Until I’m sick of listening to myself go back and forth in my head. Then I’ll may be cry a little and then suck it up and try and move on with my day. But, never with the same energy I had before the cycle.
Between you and me, I can’t go on living this way. I cannot move on to the bright future I see for myself if I allow all of these negative emotions to fester inside of me. I must coax them to the surface and set it all free.
Right now I sit by the Mediterranean Sea on a beach in Egypt. It’s 5 AM – the beach is empty and dark, lit up by the spectacularly scattered stars in the sky. The waves, coming in strong, roll in and out of the shore. Its rumbling resonates with something inside of me. Something about the sea at night is so dark and lonely. At the same time it’s powerful and unforgiving. It makes me want to cry. I feel as if it’s great that I’m here early… The night waves are helping me with the coaxing part of my mission. Why am I here though?
About four years ago, I was going through a really hard time. I wasn’t able to let go of people I loved very dearly. The pain,resentment and sadness lingered in my heart for months on end. Those strong feelings that were contained in my heart made me so unstable. I was caught in a cycle. The same kind of cycle I seek to break by the end of this summer. So, as like most summer breaks I was spending time with family in Egypt. On one of the days of our family trip to the north shore, a few of us decided to go to the beach right before the sunrise and watch it. Let me just say, after months of frustration and heartache, I was finally able to feel uplifted as the first few rays of light started to peak over the horizon. It was like a swelling in my heart that grew and grew as the sun rose more and more into the morning sky. Its rays gracefully streaked across the sky as if to embrace the new day – new beginnings – welcoming me, urging me to join in. And my heart surely did. I ran across the shore, prancing around in warm, golden light. I was filled with so much joy and hope. I felt cleansed of the past and of all the hindrances that came with it.
That’s why I’m here. I seek the same cathartic experience I had those four years ago.
(Note: Right now I just saw a really cute hermit crab scuttering across the sand.)
I must face everything. Every suppressed feeling, every memory I decided to black out and sweep under the carpet. I cannot allow myself to be defined as a victim. I am not a victim, but I am a survivor – no – a conqueror.
Everything I have gone through – every trial and every joy – I have conquered. I’ve made it my own. Everything gained from those experiences have become part of my very being.
And I will continue to conquer. I will gain from every painful experience, every life-shattering truth, every single trauma. I will take what I’ve learned and make sure not to repeat history. I will come out smarter, stronger and more independent. I will take this anger and transform it into something meaningful. I will take this negative energy that I have been turning inwards onto myself and use it as a drive to do greater things for the greater good. This anger will not win. He will not win.
I will gain and conquer and embrace all that comes my way just as the sun embraces a new day – burning bright as ever.
Was it my fault?
Was it my fault that I was alive –
Alive enough to be human?
We all make them, right?
Then how come my own
were not excusable?
You’re a hypocrite
I hope you know
I know and I won’t forget
So if you ever try
Ever try to come near me again
I’ll show the world just how
So let me answer my own question-
Was it my fault?
The fault lies
In the deception, the poison
That you bleed
This anger will not die with me.
It will rest here
In this second
In this moment
To rot and die
Along with your memory.