“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.” […];” indeed, we should be fully born when we die – although it is the tragic fate of most individuals to die before they are born.”
This is going to be my hardest post that I’ve ever written.
I was taught very early on that love is conditional on my ‘performance’ and that I had no intrinsic value per se. Love ( which wasn’t love but approval) was doled out when I got A’s or did my chores meticulously. Being the first born, I was carrying an extreme load as I was the family’s golden child and I also moon lighted as the scapegoat. I was merely an extension of my parents’ failed dreams and they dealt with me as a product to be perfected. I learnt that perfectionism was the only way I could mean anything. My self-worth and entire identity hinged on how perfect I performed. Not only that, but I had to hold lofty dreams and ambitions to satiate the searing pain in my inner void. It was like emotional greed that left incessantly craving for more, and never having enough.
Armed with an all-or-nothing mindset, I had to make every step I took a high jump. If the expectations were that I reach the clouds, then that wouldn’t be enough for me. I’d reach the damn moon! Heck, I’d aim for the outermost constellations.
Every time I ‘failed’ to reach my insane goals, I put it down to weakness and uselessness. To compensate, I set up even more rigid goals in order to compensate. Needless to say, I was like a hamster in the vicious wheel of perfectionism.
I had no inherent identity; I was completely empty inside and I viewed myself as a shadow of my mum, in particular. I was not allowed to voice opposing views nor was I allowed to veer off the path they set out for me. I was naturally talented in languages and writing, but that was scoffed at as ‘useless’ in the ‘real’ world, and I was encouraged to pursue medicine, the holy grail of careers. From the age of 11 or 12, I worked for this goal relentlessly, despite having no interest for the sciences or even the vocation.
My first breakdown came in August 29th, 2005. You see, I won’t forget the date because it was the first in a 7 year-long streak of unspeakable horror and agony. 7 years of daily anguish and pain.7 years of thinking that today, today’s my last because I’m depleted of life itself. 7 years that birthed PTSD and anxieties. But also birthed who I am today.
I had a major paradigm shift in May 7th 2012 and from there I started the painstaking journey out of the shadows and into my rightful place as an independent woman.
It’s my happiest day, because that’s when I was given a new lease on life. I realized the pattern that had trailed my breakdowns and for the first time ever I asked who I was, if anything? It was followed by years of painstaking introspection, but I was always comforted by the authentic voice I discovered. A voice that, once recovered, would not be stifled.
As I’ve created boundaries to keep myself in, and my parents out, they have been utterly taken aback. I was the rebel, the crook, the disloyal ingrate. It was a painful and tedious cutting of the umbilical cord, with the amazing support of my psychologist with whom I’ve had sessions since the beginning of this year.Slowly, I realized that the guilt and shame was not my own, but projected on me by my parents. I had to learn that it was not my fault, my most difficult lesson.
Last night came the last cut. I was told everything that was mine was actually theirs and in fact I was theirs. They owned me. I told them to fear Allaah for He is the only one with those rights. But no, I was their offspring and by virtue of this, a mere extension of them. I was told that my writings,my blog,my drawings- everything I do to grow as a person is a mirage. I’m being delusional and in fact, I’ve only worsened in their eyes. They proposed ways to ‘soldier’ my way out of depression and my mental issues. Oh, how swift- so you mean to tell me that in all my years of suffering, all I could have done was will myself out of it, and it’d be gone? What kind of magic is that?
I was given ultimatums and I was on the receiving end of incoherent lashing out. I tried to stay calm in it all because I understand, or at least try to, where they come from and what made them like this. Regardless, they are my parents and they tried their best to do what they thought was right, because a person can only give what they have. I still believe they deserve my respect and appreciation, a feat for which I’m grateful for and is a sign that I’ve successfully made my boundaries separate from theirs.
At the end of the attacks, I told them calmly that I concurred with them that I should aim for recovery, which I am ( they chimed in that no, you weren’t but you could always start now. ) and I’d appreciate if they could trust me with my life. I don’t have power over my dysfunctional feelings, but I do have a choice in how I respond to these, and that’s what I will do. I can’t promise a measure or goal because that’s not how depression works like. If they continue to insist and plague me, even after we’ve reached an understanding, they’d only work to worsen my situation.
Stunned.Silence.Exchanged glances.Open mouths.
They tried to churn the drill again to get a hold of me, to flip the tables once more.
I reiterated that we’ve already been through this; I told them I concur and I would do my best in recovering but that I wield no power over the speed of said recovery. Now back off.
That was the final cut. Last night, as I lay in bed with heavy eyes and drained mind from the 4 hours ‘meeting’ which was in fact a lecture, I felt like it was my first night on earth. I felt alone,scared but also reborn. I felt that the final cut to my umbilical cord, birthed my person that I had in me all along.