Iron Curtain

by the

I’ve always acted stoic. When I had no friends, when I’d be picked on, when my parents broke my heart. I never let it show. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter. I convinced myself that it was ok to go through life unheard,unseen, misunderstood. I’d look every fear in the eye and charge right at it out of spite, because I didn’t want anything to exert that control over me. I was the quiet nerd with her nose buried in novels during breaks to keep myself occupied whilst the girls congregated in the hallways or bathrooms. I’d be stonewall so much that it was like living behind the Iron Curtain that separated Western Europe from the East during the Cold War.I guess it was technically bullying, but every time they tried to hurt me, I’d stand my ground. I would not flinch, not cry, prepared to fight till the death of me. Or on the days when I was scared and wanted a conflict-free day, I’d keep out of sight so as not to let anyone see my pain. Yet my heart would drown in tears and my soul became so drenched in suppressed tears that I became so mushy inside. On the outside though I was the Sahara desert.

One survival mechanism I developed during my tenure as bullied (LOL) was to never give my bullies the satisfaction of seeing the pain their bullying inflicted on me. If I acted that way, perhaps my wish for them to be a figment of my imagination, a portion of nightmare, would become true.

That survival mechanism turned into a habit, which turned into second nature. You betrayed me? Cool. You’re invalidating me? No probs. You stood me up? Don’t worry about it. You don’t give a shit about me? Ts ok.

And that’d be the last you see of me. Sometimes I forget I hurt. Actually most of the time I’m not aware, like someone who’s been stabbed in the back with a knife yet doesn’t feel anything.

One thing that still gets to me is why I don’t have more girlfriends. Majority of my friends are guys. I’m a people’s person and I know many people, but I’m always shut out of girls’ circles. I pretend it doesn’t bother me. I see how girls comment on each other’s insta, how they dress up for aroosyo and I find myself pining for such a relationship.

I know it’s something I’m doing – or not doing. Is it because I live so much in head? Is it because I’m not a makeup or fashion fan? I try to keep up, watch makeup tutorials to try to recreate the eyebrows on fleek look or contouring or whatnot. But my enthusiasm always fizzles out and the expensive makeup I’ve bought end up expiring. I don’t feel so beautiful on the inside, so it’s only a matter of time before my brain catches on and decides to drop the act.
Is it because I’m so blunt?So obsessively steeped in philosophical musings?My incessant obsession with finding the truth in all matters?

I’m not often visited by the ghosts of my past who bring up these questions, but I’ve learnt that when they do come visit, to let them in. To hear them out, and drain my heart of the well of tears – a little each time. I allow myself to feel my human emotions and I let the bottled up tears rain on my Sahara desert exterior, leaving seeds of hope planted in their wake. And when it’s time for the ghosts to return whence they came from the bottom of my subconscious, my outside is a bit softer, my inside a bit stronger, and I realize that I’ve overlooked the phenomenal friends I do have whilst pining for childhood dreams more rooted in wanting approval than in actual friendships.

I have a codeword that I only use with friends; yo. I don’t know why I do that, but if I use that with you, or randomly check in on you, know that I count you as a friend. And I think the fact that you accepted me inspite of my eccentric randomness and blunt questions, makes me realize that I’ve got the type of friends people daydream of, and write poems about.

It’s when I realize that those ghosts of my subconscious don’t come to torture me by making me revisit stuff, but to allow me to see that my oddity has attracted gems of humans, whilst keeping the scum at bay.

A journey of unbecoming

Your real, authentic self is not someone you strive to become, rather it’s someone you already are. Just like you were born with the potential intelligence,eye colour,height, genetic dispositions to certain disorders, innate to your physical body, so were you born a complete soul with its personality. However, just as the phenotypes and genotypes can be hampered or distorted by a non-conducive environment that stifles development, so can one’s true self be repressed by facades and defensive mechanisms.

As children, we respond differently to similar stimuli, according to our inherent makeup. Exposed to emotional or physical trauma, some children may grow up to inflict on others the trauma they were subjected to while other children may live in a state of perpetual fear and helplessness.

Because our minds and personalities aren’t fully formed until the age of 25, the brain protects itself against overwhelming pain by shutting down or any of the myriad of defensive mechanisms there are. It’s a matter of survival and maintaining sanity.

However,most people never get around to address those repressed traumas and wounds and they live out their lives in the shadow of their childhood. They remain unconscious and everything they do is subconscious.

Digging up the skeletons of the past may seem like a highly counterproductive exercise; after all, shouldn’t we let bygones be bygones?

That’s a common misunderstanding that operates on the assumption that out of sight means out of mind. That because we’ve forgotten a painful incident, it’s out of our system. But emotions are energy, and energy doesn’t just disappear unless redirected. We might think that because we’re not aware of the effects an incident had on us, that we’re ok, completely disregarding the fact that we’re burdened by negative thought loops and self-sabotaging mindsets as a direct result of unprocessed conflicts and traumas.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” 

— C.G. Jung

What is *not* in a name

Nominative determinism is the theory that your name has an impact on your life and how it’s shaped. For me, that’s certainly true.

Andrea Galvani

Andrea Galvani

My mum named me Mulki after her cousin who is a doctor in the UAE. As a nurse, she looked up to said cousin and wanted me to be like her. I never knew the meaning of my name until I studied arabic some years ago. I also have a second name – Nadira, which my dad picked out. Though Mulki is my official name, dad called me by Nadira exclusively, up until I was 16! People would often get confused and think there was an additional daughter who was called Nadira.
Growing up, I hated my name ( and truth be told I still do); it’d be often mispronounced (Milky,Multi,Mukli,Milkyway,Multivitamin,Mjölk) and it was extremely rare. The first Mulki i met was a baby who was named after me ( I was 13) and I remember feeling sorry for the poor girl .
This led me down a path of figuring out who I was and since I never fit in anywhere, I was always on the fringes as the quiet freethinker. Oh, don’t pity me – I was practically born into the self-conformist maverick shoes. It’s all I’ve ever known. In fact, the reason for my being bullied throughout elementary was my defiance of the ring leader of the girls in my third grade. I wasn’t a follower nor a leader. I just wanted to be left alone to figure stuff out, and read or stuff 😛
Between mum and dad’s tug of war, my wishes and choices were ignored. I felt invisible. I grew to develop an external locus of control where I believed that I did not exert any influence over the events in my life, and that things just happened to me.
In my early twenties, I changed my name to Nadira and I loved it! It wasn’t as dramatic as a brand new name, but it was mine and I felt I belonged somewhere, for the first time in my life. I belonged to myself. So for 7 months, I was Nadira, and Mulki was cast aside with all the associated confusion.
I could take a step back and observe myself from a third person’s perspective, and that’s when I saw my pain and growing up in the shadow of my mum. I hadn’t developed my own values and my individuation process was hampered by the codependent relationship I had with mum. I could see that although I felt comfortable in my self-assigned role as the nerd loner, I survived by suppressing the pain and confusion that comes from not belonging or feeling loved.
I realized that I never for once felt that I was loved by my mum, which probably contributed to my iridescent and fluid identity. The more I investigated the thought, the more I saw the cause of my disconnection to my name was due to an emotional disconnection to the one who gave me the name; mum.
She took away my identity by giving me shoes to fill ( her doctor cousin ). I started researching the meaning of Mulki which involved some linguistics heavy lifting as it’s a derivative and not a name (ملك+ي)
And I came to the conclusion that it means ; my all. Meaning, that I was my mother’s all. And for the first time in my life I felt I was loved by mum. Shortly after, I had a long Skype conversation with her in which I told her that I had gone all my life feeling love-less, which was unfathomable to her as she thought that her love was quite obvious by virtue of her mothering me.
Needless to say, my brief exile ended as I willfully returned to my name and I felt like it was going to a home I’ve never been to.
I still like Nadira better 😛

Years and years


I hated you, I was mad at you, I was enraged. An emotional ball of yarn sat perched in my heart and you knitted webs of pain throughout my being by your invalidation; by your neglect; by your absence when I needed you; by your smothering when I needed space. The web was so intricate and beautiful that I did not dare unknit it. It was killing me slowly, but it was so beautiful. I was scared that beneath the webs, there was nothing. I felt like a ghost and this pain made me feel…real.

But, I started tugging at it. Unravelling and unrolling. Retracing the embedded pain and reluctantly ripping it out. A concoction of relief and panic followed me every step of the way. And when I reached the end of the thread, my anger dissipated. My tears dried. I found forgiveness where anger once was. And I hugged you like my life depended on it. I hugged you like you should have hugged me as a baby.We didn’t speak but I felt your remorse and you felt my love. In a moment, we relived 25 years.

Poor Rich Child

This is an excerpt from the book ‘The Drama of the Gifted Child’ by Alice Miller.

I sometimes ask myself whether it will ever be possible for us to grasp the extent of the loneliness and desertion to which we were exposed as children. Here I do not mean to speak, primarily, of children who were obviously uncared for or totally neglected, and who were always aware of this or at least grew up with the knowledge that it was so. Apart from these extreme cases, there are large numbers of people who enter therapy in the belief ( with which they grew up) that their childhood was happy and protected.

Quite often I have been faced with people who were praised and admired for their talents and their achievements, who were toilet trained in the first year of their lives, and who may even, at the age of one and a half to five, have capably helped to take care of their younger siblings. According to prevailing attitudes, these people – the pride of their parents- should have had a strong and stable sense of self-assurance. But the case is exactly the opposite. They do well, even excellently, in everything they undertake; they are admired and envied; they are successful whenever they care to be – but behind all this lurks depression, a feeling of emptiness and self-alienation, and a sense that their life has no meaning. These dark feelings will come to the fore as soon as the drug of grandiosity fails, as soon as they are not ‘on top’, not definitely the ‘superstar’, or whenever they suddenly get the feeling they have failed to live up to some ideal image or have not measured up to some standards. Then they are plagued by anxiety or deep feelings of guilt and shame. What are the reasons for such disturbances in these competent, accomplished people?

In the very first interview they will let the listener know that they have had understanding parents, or at least one such, and if they are aware of having been misunderstood as children, they feel that the fault lay with them and with their inability to express themselves appropriately. They recount their earliest memories without any sympathy for the child they once were, and this is the more striking as these patients not only have a pronounced introspective ability but seem, to some degree, to be able to empathize with other people. Their access to the emotional world of their own childhood, however, is impaired- characterized by a lack of respect, a compulsion to control and manipulate, and a demand for achievement.

Very often they show disdain and irony, even derision and cynicism, for the child they were. In general, there is a complete absence of real emotional understanding or serious appreciation of their own childhood vicissitudes, and no conception of their true needs – beyond the desire for achievement. The repression of their real history has been so complete that their illusion of a good childhood can be maintained with ease.

Miller, Alice, and Ruth Neils Ward. “The Poor Rich Child.” The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. New York: Basic, 1997. 13-14. Print.

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