TABOO

The Start of a conversation

 

A month or so ago, Pandora’s Box exploded across social media in Egypt, catapulting a very interdict subject in the region, into the spot light, causing a Tsunami of shock waves through our ‘conservative’ society that pleads ignorance, but in fact, are masters at turning a blind eye or burying their heads in the sand to avoid it all together. The sexual harassment case of an accused serial harasser, blackmail and rapist sent a surge of shock and disbelief across the nation and ignited a conversation about a very taboo subject, Sexual Harassment. It opened a flood gate.  Girls and women of all ages have been breaking their silence about uncomfortable, humiliating, degrading, embarrassing and traumatic firsthand accounts that have happened to them on a daily basis in anonymous testimonies of what occurs on a daily basis when they leave their homes to go about their day. This subject has forced people to see how stressful it can be to be a woman in the region. Something as simple as just leaving the house, can be very stressful. It has also shattered many misconceptions and made many feel uncomfortable with the naked truth of what goes on in broad daylight right in front of their noses. It has enlightened what really goes on in the streets and in some instances, in homes behind closed doors.

What has been most shocking in the past few weeks is the lack of understanding in what ‘Sexual Harassment” actually is and how men AND women, blame the victims for being in the situation. Many were under the illusion that harassment came only in the form of physical assault. When in reality it has many degrees and levels. Each of which are very traumatic for the person being harassed. So, let’s clear something up…

 

WHAT IS HARASSMENT?

 

Harassment comes in many forms, it can be how someone looks at another individual in an unwanted suggestive sexual leering way, making them feel very uncomfortable and fear for their safety. The look in the harassers eyes are intense, making clear what’s running through their mind in their targeted stare. A second example can be in comments, otherwise known as ‘Cat Calling”, The person who is calling out, might think they are paying a compliment, flirtatious or even funny, but in reality are, insulting,degrading, belittling, humiliating and/or of a sexual nature. Another form is being followed by a person(s) without giving any hint of interest or consent. A person sending indecent photos and texts is another form of harassment. Requesting sexual favors and pressuring someone to do it and trying to blackmail them into carrying out any act by using fear, is harassment. Sexual Assault is unwanted touching of ANY kind, here are a few examples; When a person is minding their own business, keeping to themselves and suddenly they’re being grabbed, groped, touched inappropriately without consent, that is considered a physical sexual assault. The assault everyone seems to know is rape. It’s THE absolute worst kind, the most violating and traumatic. Rape is when someone has unconsented sex with another individual by force in a conscious or an unconscious state.

These are just some of the many forms of types of harassment and assaults. If you would like to know of more you can click on the link here.

 

An ignorant misconception that this case has dissolved is that it ONLY happens in lower economic classes and carried out by uneducated people. When in reality, a harasser can be anyone from any level of the social pyramid. It isn’t class or economic orientated, it’s everywhere. A harasser doesn’t look like a boogie man or the ‘evil’ character you read about in stories. They look like the average person and it could be someone you know well, a ‘respected’ member of the community or a stranger. A harasser can be male or female.

 

The third myth that is being exposed is that, “Women are at fault and that they are the ones who trigger the harassment or assaults.” As Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian Satire Comedian stated in one of his Instagram account, “The ONLY reason there’s harassment, is because of the harasser. Omar Samra an Egyptian Mountaineer also made clear in a post to his Instagram account, that harassment isn’t an illness and to stop using it as an excuse’. Woman, are NOT the cause of harassment. Some may argue that women’s garments are the trigger behind a harasser’s impulsive behavior and mal intent and just can’t control themselves! Excuse my language but that is a truck load of B.S! If that was the case, then why do veiled and fully covered, Munukkaba women get harassed just as much as non-veiled women? Why can men control themselves more when they are abroad? It’s because here, they know they can get away with it because “They Are Men and Have Needs.”

 

A fourth myth that is being killed, is that women want it and that we invite it to happen. Who in their right mind would? That is INSANE!! How anyone can justify or believe such a blatant lie is beyond my comprehension! We are not sexual objects, and whose only purpose is to procreate. Women are living beings, we have souls, we are intelligent, we have feelings and we are STRONG.

 

More times than I care to remember or recall, I have experienced both sexual harassment and assault. My family and I lived in a neighboring country in the Middle East and we respected the dress code when we left the compound.My earliest memory was when I was about 10 years old. My family and I were at the mall and I was holding my father’s hand, while my mum and sister were looking at a display in a shop window. I was aimlessly staring at the ground when I noticed a pair of feet walking towards me. I could see that they were coming straight for me, so I moved out of the way and stood behind my father to avoid the person as they passed their hand brushed against me. Once they passed, I went back to standing next to my dad. The individual did a U-turn and came back round for a second attempt. I looked up and saw him staring at me with intent focus, with a wild look in his eye, like you’d see in a lion intent on catching its prey. He came towards me again and again I moved, but he anticipated my action and came closer, and put his hands between my thighs aiming for my crutch. My mind and emotions couldn’t process or comprehend what had just happened.

 

TELL ME I ASKED FOR IT!

 

Fortunately for me, my parents had instilled in my sibling and I that our bodies were ours and no one had the right to touch us and that if anything of the sort was to happen, we should tell them. I did tell them and as shocked as they were, that someone would have the audacity to attempt an act like that on a child in public and while standing next to their father, they believed me. Unfortunately the country we were in, protected their nationals more than expats, so there was nothing we could do, in terms of reporting the man. I did ask my dad to buy me an Abaaya (a long black cloak that many women in the Middle East wear). My dad refused at first, because he said it wasn’t who we were, that it wasn’t our culture, but he saw how distressed I was about the incident and wanted me to feel safer and secure when we left the compound we lived on. He gave in and bought me one. To me it felt like a protective invisibility cloak that would ward off unwanted attention and harassment. I never left the compound without it. I still have it to this day.

 

A couple of years later the Gulf War caused us to uproot and we moved to Alexandria, Egypt (my father’s home country and city). One late afternoon my younger sister and I were returning from the shops and I was talking to her about something. When I turned to look at her and she was gone! I looked around and found some older kid in his late teens, or early twenties sat on a large block, had grabbed her by her wrist and was trying to ‘talk’ to her. My sister was wiggling and trying to pull away from him and he wouldn’t release her. I went over to him and yelled at the top of my lungs all the insults that I was not ever to utter in the presence of family members. This drew the attention of many people and he was forced to let go and we legged it home and told my parents.

 

TELL ME SHE ASKED FOR IT!

 

My mother is a foreigner married to an Egyptian man and dresses modestly, with blond hair and blue eyes she can’t help but be a beacon for unwanted attention in this part of the world. My mum taught at the school my sister and I attended, we were walking home from school, it was very close to where we lived, when out of the blue a car pulled up next to the sidewalk we were walking on, opened the rear passenger door and told her to get in for 1LE. My sister and I were shocked and didn’t fully understand the proposition. She instructed us to keep walking.  

 

TELL ME SHE ASKED FOR IT!

 

I was in my teens and I went on an errand to buy something from a store. I took a short cut down a side street that lead from the Greco Roman Museum, to Cinema Metro. I was wearing a long sleeve baggy polo shirt, and loose fitting jeans. I walked by a store that sold car parts and one of the men, came out and was looking at me in a very uncomfortable manner, but he proceeded to describe what sexual things he would like to do to me.

 

TELL ME I WANTED IT!

 

In that moment I remember clearly thinking, do I keep walking by and let him get away with insulting me, because he thinks I’m a foreigner and I don’t understand or do I turn and shock him by answering him back in his mother tongue so he knows that it’s not ok? I chose to turn around, that act alone, shocked him. In Arabic I responded, ‘You should be more respectful. If someone spoke to your mother, sister or daughter that way, would you allow and accept it?” His gaze fell to the ground and he said, ‘you’re right. A small victory. I didn’t feel the need to tell my dad, because I felt I had dealt with the situation. Karma had other plans, the following day, my father asked if I’d like to accompany him on a few errands. I did and to my surprise he pulled up in front of the store, I had passed by the day before. The same man, I told off, saw me sat in the passenger side of the car and my father stepped out of the car, and began talking to him. The man turned a lighter shade of pale and you could see his heart plummet to the ground in shock. He apparently knew my father quite well. 

 

Alexandrian winters are rainy and cold, so one has to bundle up in order to keep warm. In winter everyone looks as sexy as a polar bear (no intended insult to bears). I had just gotten back from university, it was dark and I parked the car in the garage, across the street from where I lived. I remember how I was looking forward to getting home to have a nice warm cup of soup to take away the winter chill. I was walking towards the main street when out of the winter darkness, a man came running towards me and slammed me up against the side of the consulate wall less than a meter away from the guard box and tried to force himself on me. With one arm I struggled to push him away and off of me. He was trying to put his mouth on my lips and face. With my other hand I tried to block his hands from touching my private parts and to hit with all my might. He tried to push his body on me, but I kept moving mine to avoid contact. “This is my body! You have no right! Get off! NO!” were the thoughts that were racing rampantly in my mind and fueled my resistance. He was stronger than me, but my determination to not give-in made him give up, because he knew that he wouldn’t succeed.

 

TELL ME I WANTED IT!

 

Believe it or not, that wasn’t the worst part. There were people watching the scene on fold. These people were the parking attendants, who knew my father, and who had known me since we moved to Egypt. When I was able to speak, I turned to them and asked in Arabic “Why didn’t you come and help me?” Their response was worse than the assault itself “You didn’t scream and it looked like you wanted it to happen.” I was in S.H.O.C.K. why would I want that? The struggle and fending him off wasn’t enough to warrant any kind of assistance of act of heroism? “I was hitting him! I didn’t want it and I don’t have to scream for help!” 

I told my parents what happened and my father went and talked to the garage attendants, not long afterwards, he stopped parking the car at the garage. I didn’t see the attackers face clearly and I wouldn’t have been able to describe him well, to give a report or testimony.

 

Our lecture ended early one Sunday evening and as we came out to the main courtyard, the security guards decided amongst themselves that we had to get off campus, when we have the right to be there till 10pm. They ushered us out and locked the gate behind us. Two of my female friends were with me. I went and got my little car and parked in front of the gate for us to sit it. One friend was parked further away from campus under the bridge. I told her I’d drive her to her car, so she wouldn’t walk alone, because it was starting to get dark. My other friend went across the street to the pharmacy to call her parents to tell them to inform them we finished early and needed to be picked up earlier (This was before mobile phones). As we waited for my friend to come back from making her call, a kid no older that fifteen walked by my car and made some comment or other and walked on. I didn’t think anything of it. I rolled down my window to adjust my side mirror and wound it up mid way to let some air in (I didn’t have A/C). As my friend was making her way back to the car, I heard running feet from behind the car, I looked into my side my mirror in time to see the same kid, who’d passed by moments ago attempt to dive head first in through the half open window. He had both hands in and was trying to get his head in through the gap too. I used one arm to block the opening of the window and the other to hit and push him out. He was trying to force himself through the small space to put his hands on me chest and kiss me. I couldn’t find my voice to shout or scream for help, it had retreated. My friend sat next to me over came her initial shock and got out of the car and shouted for help “EL NAJDA! El NAJDA!”, no one came. It wasn’t for lack of people, people were around. There were a group of guys sat in a car not far from my mine, with a clear view of what was happening and were laughing. People passing went about their business as though we were invisible. He ran off when she started screaming for help. My friend who had been making her way back to us, was frozen in fear in the middle of the street and didn’t know what to do. When I composed myself, I got out of the car, with shaking legs and went to the university gate and tapped on the window the security guards yelled “What do you want? We said campus is closed! Go away!” I said it’s amazing how you can hear a tap on the window, but not when a girl is screaming for help. They asked what was wrong. I briefly retold what happened and their reply was Maalish, Hassal Kheir” Which roughly translates to ‘It’s alright, no harm done’. 

 

Tell Me..

 Go On..

Tell Me I Wanted It To Happen..

Tell Me I Was Asking For It

I went home and told my parents and they took matters into their own hands, the police commissioner was contacted, I was offered police escort to and from university. The director of the university was contacted and informed what happened and I was offered parking on campus with the faculty. That was all well and good, but it didn’t solve the problem and it wouldn’t prevent it from happening to any other girl. I refused the escort and special parking, because I knew that false stories and rumors would fly around in a small city like Alexandria and I didn’t need or want that following me everywhere I went. So, I went to the Dean of Students and told her what happened, she suggested firing the security guards. That also was not a solution. I insisted that campus was to remain open until closing time and that girls were not made to go stand out in the street in the evening/night and for the guards to do their job.  When I left campus that day the same guards confronted me and said “Mish ulnaa khalaas, hassal kheir?” (didn’t we say it’s over and no harm done?) I told them no, kheir didn’t happen and if it was your daughter or sister, you wouldn’t let it go. I informed them that I had the opportunity to get them fired, but didn’t want to cut off their lively hood so they could provide for their families, but I REALLY don’t want what happened to me, to happen to anyone else and not to kick students off campus. From that day onwards, I always had someone walk me to my car and watch me drive off.

 

I learned early on and quickly that I have a better chance of asking for help if I was being robbed than if I was being assaulted because the blame would fall on me. Why? Simply because I’m a female. Being alive is apparently reason enough to draw attention. I have tried to make myself invisible, I would not wear lipstick, I don’t wear makeup, I don’t wear skirts or dresses, I wouldn’t have my hair down, I learned to wear sunglasses during the day time, so my eyes would not meet anyone else’s and to have a scowl on my face to make me look angry and unapproachable. I have always dressed modestly, but I have to triple check before I leave the house to make sure I’m covered well. I make sure that my tops are loose fitting nothing is sheer and that I have a long baggy shrug or cotton cardigan to wear that goes past my waist. My shoes are usually flats and closed toe, so that if I need to kick or run I can do so with ease. I try not to be on the phone in a taxi or when walking. I don’t listen to music on my earphones, so that my senses are all on high alert. I took a few self-defense workshops here and there, to know a few tactics and moves to use just in case. 

But Guess what?

It Still Happens.

We Still Get Blamed.

But…

We have had ENOUGH!

We are starting to fight back

We are telling our stories

                                                                We are speaking our truth                                                             We are seeking justice

Laws are changing

People are listening

We. Will. Be. Respected.

WE NEVER WANT FOR IT TO HAPPEN! WE DON’T ASK FOR IT! HARASSERS BELIEVE THEY CAN,

 

So the next time you see someone being harassed in anyway. Don’t turn a blind eye, because that could be your mother, your sister or your aunt. Your silence is just as bad as the assault itself. Men enable other men, by remaining quiet and not speaking out against it and walking away or being a bystander when it’s occurring right in front of them. 

                                You don’t need to be a hero. You just need to make some noise!

 

 To all the mamas and papas out there start teaching and talking to your boys about how to treat women with respect. When a girl or woman says no. It means NO.  Having said that, teach your girls that they should no longer remain silent when someone is disrespecting them and trying to touch what it not theirs.

Important Contacts

National Council of Women Hot Lines

16000 (younger than 18) 15115 (over 18 years of age)

Anti violence against women in the ministry of interior; 011269777444 012595773333 01126977222

Association of Egyptian Female Lawyers : is a registered NGO with the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity (#3236) with the mission of activating women’s political participation and supporting women’s legal and political rights that approved by national law and international conventions.

Cairo Foundation For Development and Law: 01279717326 (for legal support)

HarassMap is an initiative combats harassment everywhere, and provides access to lawyers if necessary while urging institutions to report harassment.

Burn Out

The sound of the alarm clock would pierce my restful state of sleep and bring the realization of the day that loomed ahead of me. The feeling of dread that subsides when I’m deep in slumber comes down on me, like a crashing wave. I fight the urge to go back to my state of dormant comfort by summoning up the energy to lift the bedcovers off my unwilling frame and put my feet on the ground. A simple movement, has become an arduous task, that requires me to dig deep into the depths of my empty bucket of energy and motivation to eject myself from the comfort of my bed and take the first steps to commence my morning routine.

The drive to work, would be a long winding one and the walk from the parkinglot to the building, would entail the voice of my mental conscious coach giving me a pep talk to put on my game face and to seize and make it through yet another day.

When people learn that I am a teacher by profession, they immediately envy me for my holidays and the work hours, BUT what they are unaware of is how much of yourself you give to the institute and students to ensure that they are safe, happy, nurtured, captivated, learning, meeting expectations and tapping into their potential. It is a V.E.R.Y draining job.

Even more so, IF, you are genuine in what you do.

To be a good or great teacher takes a lot of H.E.A.R.T.

You know when a student has been taught by a special teacher. Their entire demeanor changes, they believe they can overcome challenges, they trust you and will always try their best. They smile more, develop a love for coming to school, they grow, mature, learn and apply their new found set of skills, which is rewarding to witness throughout the duration of the year that they are in your care. If you’re lucky you get to see them shine in the years that follow too.

That is what I strive for every year…

That’s why teachers are exhausted and need their weekends and holidays. To refill their depleted cups. To come back with a full cup, in order to give more, over and over again.

I have been in the field of education for 19 years …

in all honesty,

I AM BEAT!

The enthusiasm, creativity and motivation that I once had, seems to have evaporated. The last three to four years have literally knocked the stuffing out of me. I’ve taken hit after hit in both my professional and personal life simultaneously. Like all teachers, my brow has been beaten. I have scars, bruises and broken pieces laying about me that are invisible to outsiders. I conceal them with my cheerful smile, head held up high and shoulders pulled back.

I’ve been knocked down and I’ve gotten back up countless times to continue the fight to prove that I am damn good at what I do. To prove I should be taken seriously as an educator and to prove to myself that I am a worthy contender in the International Teaching Arena, even if I have a non western name.

BUT

The main reason, I would get back up, is because I always finish what I start and for the sake of my students. Their needs always came first. I’d pump myself full of vitamins, take a flu shot every year to reduce the risk of getting sick and if I was, I’d drag myself into work even if I was as sick as a dog or in excruciating pain, to make sure that they didn’t miss a beat. Even if it meant staying after working hours to correct work, organize and plan ahead for the weeks to come.

Failure, was not an option. I couldn’t and wouldn’t fail them. I had to pass on what they needed to know, to enable them to move forward. If I hadn’t gotten back up, I would have felt that I let them down.

That…in itself… would have been a loss, I don’t think I could come back from.

The cutman in my corner, has run out of quick fixes to allow me to continue another year of rounds. He’s all out of tricks and to be honest… I’m, all out of fight. There is no bandaid for burn out.

The only cure for it, is self TLC. If you’re burned out you’re no good to anyone, especially yourself.

So…

I had to make one of the toughest choices in my life December of this past year. I resigned. I threw in the white towel. As of June, I will hang up my gloves. This will be my last year teaching … for the time being. It is a scary thought. Teaching is all I’ve done and known since I graduated from university.

I have chosen to put myself first and to take care of ‘ME’. It sounds so selfish coming from someone who is selfless and always puts other people first. It’s what has to be done, if I’m going to be able to move onwards and upwards. I HAVE to look after number one! ME.

When I made my decision and turned in my resignation, I felt a sense of release and relief. It felt right and I was at peace with my choice.

I’m ready for some down time. To be able to do things I had put off because I didn’t have time or energy for. I can’t wait to no longer being a slave to an alarm clock, schedules, assessments, meetings and count downs till vacations. To be able to attend morning workout sessions instead of them being late in the afternoon and evening, when I have little energy left.

What I’m really looking forward to is getting reacquainted with myself and finding out, who this forty plus year old woman is and what her trajectory for the coming decade or so will be.

You’re worthy of “YOU” time. Do what you need to do, to look after you. There is only one you and you are irreplaceable.

When you have nothing left to give, it’s time to stop and give back to yourself.

Travel Solo

My parents instilled the love of travel in us from an early age. They would make sure that on our way to or from our main destination we would stop off for a day or two in a new country to see the sites, walk the streets and most importantly try the food. When my sister married and left the nest, I was the one who accompanied the o’l folk on their trips. As they got older our travel plans became repetitive and direct to the country we were visiting, sans adventurous stops. I felt I wasn’t really seeing the world, and there was a lot I wanted to experience.

I broke the tradition 8 years ago, when I had the travel itch. I booked a non-refundable trip to Beirut, Lebanon. It had always been on my list of places to visit. My knees were knocking when I told my dad. I knew he wouldn’t be able to prevent me from going, but what concerned me most was the disappointment and upset that he would emit when I informed him. After all no one likes to upset their parents OR, be in their bad books. He did try to dissuade me, with how unsafe the country was, especially when news broke of Wissam Al Hassan’s assassination in 2012. I stuck to my guns and against his wishes, went ahead with my plans.

In all honesty, I was petrified when I made my way to the airport. I was consumed with guilt and multiple “WHAT THE $%*%S AM I THINKING”. My level of anxiety was at an all time high when the doors of the plane closed and upon landing in Beirut. I had catapulted myself out of my comfort zone and into the unknown with no safety net, (talk about throwing yourself in the deep end)! I had no idea what to expect and I had doubts about my decision and concerns for my wellbeing. Was I really ready for this? Was this what I really wanted or did I just think I did? Was becoming a full fledged adult really worth the nerve wracking nausea?

I got a taxi and checked into the hotel, all on my own. It might sound rather futile but when someone has always taken care of things for you (out of love), and you are faced with doing it for yourself for the first time, you feel as though your growing and becoming a grownup, “A Big Girl Now!”. Doing things that you thought you wouldn’t be able to do and succeeding at them, allows you to see yourself in a different light and build your self confidence. My father was our protector. He thought by doing everything for us that he was shielding us from the cruelty, ugliness and difficulties that life could throw at us. When in reality his actions and those of many other parents are crippling. They prevent us from learning and amending schemas that we have learned over the years. This delays the development and maturity of skills that we need to get by in our day to day lives.

The following morning, I made my way to the reception and asked for a map to go for a walk on the coast and to see some of the sights. I couldn’t contemplate breakfast because my stomach was in knots from fear. I was about to go on an adventure and walk the streets of a new city all on my own, in a different country and where I knew no one. As I stepped out of the comfort of the hotel, with map and camera in hand, the nerves slowly began to dissolve with every step that led me closer to where I was going. Once I reached Raouche, a beautiful rock formation in the sea and inhaled the salty air, a sense of accomplishment set in. I knew I was going to be o.k, I started taking pictures and living in the now.

I think what also helped lessen the anxiety was being in a country where I wouldn’t face too much of a language barrier and where there were many similarities and familiarities. I could speak Arabic, English or broken French to the locals, which means that communication wouldn’t be an issue. It was more the breaking of the chains and learning to fly solo, without a safety net, that really got my knickers in a twist.

When I got back to the hotel, I felt braver and ready to overcome another hurdle. I asked if I could book a few tours. I booked two for different days. At lunch I ventured back out to find a place to have a meal. Another first to add to the books. I had eaten alone at home many times but not out in public. I had seen people sitting alone before and had often wondered.. WHY would anyone one would choose to sit alone at a meal time? How the tables had turned! To my surprise it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I was able to enjoy the food and eat it in peace. I was alone with my thoughts and it was as though I could hear myself clearly for the first time in ages. I was forced to be in my own company and get reacquainted with myself. Ask myself so questions and face some home truths too.

Since 2012, I have taken myself out on dates, to the cinema, concerts, museums, trips abroad and meals. Eating alone isn’t my favorite thing to do alone, I think food tastes better when there’s someone else sat at the table, but I am comfortable in my own skin to not allow it to bother me too much. I enjoy my alone time. It gives me a chance to reflect, take poise and look at the path or goals ahead of me.

My parents used to tell me when I was a toddler I was very friendly and social. I would just engage and connect with people. I lost the bravado of talking to strangers somewhere along life’s turbulent path growing up. I would depend mostly on common introductions. Otherwise I would just sit and wait for the other person to make the effort to introduce themselves. On the tours, I had the choice to be an introvert or to make the effort of getting to know some of the people accompanying me. I decided to use the Irish phrase “There are no strangers, just friends you haven’t met” to motivate me and start conversations with people on the bus and find out who they are, where they come from and what they do. I’m glad I did, because I met some very interesting people. I ended up befriending a lady on the trip and we were staying in the same area. We met up for dinner and went on a few other trips together too, it was nice to have another perspective on things.

The friendship was short, but I’ve come to learn on my travels that some interactions with people you meet are not meant to last. They come into our lives to teach us something in that moment. I have also found that sometimes those lessons resinate with me the longest.

Once the trip came to an end, I packed my bags, feeling as thought I was starting to fill my boots and take steps towards becoming the person I was meant to be. My personal growth had previously been unintentionally halted but after this trip… My roots became firmly planted in the ground and the trunk was becoming fuller . I just felt…

REACTIVATED!

When I returned from my trip, my dad would barely talk to me for two weeks. I was gutted. I hated myself for the cold treatment I was getting, but I knew that it was something ‘I” had needed to do, to take steps forward in fulfilling who I was meant to become. My mum told me to just give him time to process and he would come around. He did! He was more concerned with my safety, losing me to the world and not wanting to come back home, than me traveling without them.

After several other trips his demeanor and attitude completely changed. He would ask me where I would be going for my summer adventure and would help me plan the route to take, help me find cheaper flights to book my tickets and excitedly take me to the airport and watch me take flight and be there to pick me up when I land to hear all about my endeavors. It felt a bit like he was living vicariously through me 🙂

He realized that all the years of travel and all they had taught me, was being put in to practice and most importantly…

I would always find my way back home.

I do recommend traveling solo. It’s a good way to get to know yourself, without worrying the distraction of the company you are with. Try it… you just might learn something new and who knows, you might like it.

“To raise a child, who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.”

Gastric Balloon and Gastric Mind Band

I have always struggled with my weight. Especially when I’m stressed out, depressed, bored, heartbroken and a few other powerful emotions. When I get that way, I tend to try and numb the pain or fill the void with eating. It has been a roller coaster of weight loss and gain for quite some time.

The past two years my health and weight spiraled out of control. I was in a bad place emotionally, mentally and physically and ate my way to a size to heavy and big for my petite frame. My personal and work life were getting to me and it affected my health, confidence, attitude, my energy and my social life. I retreated inside myself and would avoid social gatherings because I was dealing with depression and I couldn’t stand or recognize the reflection in the mirror, BUT I didn’t have the motivation to put my kicks (sneakers/trainers) on to just go for a walk, let alone wash the dishes in the sink.

Walking up just a few stairs would leave me panting. Even though I knew what needed to be done, I would continue to eat my way to a bigger size. I would eat to numb the disappointment in myself for letting myself go. I would eat because it was easier than making the effort to make the necessary changes. I ate myself to a size where my knees were in agony trying to support my body weight, where sleeping was not comfortable, sound or restful. I ate because I felt unattractive, so I made myself even less desirable. It was easier than the solution, because that would take a lot of effort on my part and it would take time for me to see the wanted results.

After a lot of thought, inquires and test results…I HAD to do something about my excess weight. I consulted with a well known weight-loss surgeon from my home city of Alexandria and explained what I was going through. He told me that I didn’t qualify for Gastric Sleeve, but if I continue on the path that I’m on, I would be. He suggested a Gastric Balloon, he walked me through the process and told me “N this isn’t a solution to your eating habits, but it is a useful tool, that can bring results if you work with it. The work you have to do is both mental and physical.” He said bluntly. “I can put the balloon in, but the rest is up to you. You have to make the choice of changing your habits and moving more to help with the loss. You have 6 months to work with it and then it’s even harder to maintain it once the balloon is removed. Take your time and think about it and if you decide you’re ready for it, then give me a call to set up the date of procedure.”

I did think long and hard about what he said. I didn’t want to reach a point where I had to have invasive surgery to help me get back on track, with the possibility of side-effects. I called Dr. Tamer up and said I was ready and that I had to do this for me.

I owed it to myself.

The procedure isn’t invasive, and it’s quick. It takes about 20 minutes in total, from the time the anesthesia puts you under until you’re waking up. The adjusting to a balloon is what takes time. The first three days after having the balloon inserted, I had to have drips for minerals and vitamins solutions. I was on a liquid diet only for the first 3-4 weeks. Finding out what worked for my body was tricky. I learned that I couldn’t handle tomato soup or orange juice anymore because of the tomato’s and orange’s acidity. It would give me acid reflux and I wouldn’t be able to sleep and just be in foul mood. I had to relearn what my body was trying to tell me. To differentiate between thirst and hunger. I’d drink water first and if I didn’t feel hungry afterwards, I wouldn’t eat. I also had to get used to drinking between 2-3 liters of water a day to make sure that no food stuck to the balloon and fermented. I learned to chew my food thoroughly before I swallowed it too. Most importantly portion control.

By the end of the second month, I had a better grasp of how to use the balloon and I chose my meals wisely , but I didn’t deny myself of the cravings I had either.

WHY?

Well, I knew if I cut out EVERYTHING I would have made cravings for them when it was time for the balloon to come out and what ever I had been craving for would be the first thing I would want to eat and would then be ensued with a binge fest of eating a bunch of crap, which would defeat the whole purpose of the process.

As the kilos melted away in the double digits, I began to recognize the soul I saw in the mirror. She had been a prisoner behind layers of fat that had pinned her spirit down and almost broke due to the weight.

I felt lighter,

I felt my energy levels rise,

I felt more like my old self.

How I had missed her!

It was like reconnecting with an old childhood friend after a long absence.

My smile was back too.

I found that overtime my cravings for potato chips, soft drinks (sodas), chocolate, candy, desserts, bread sticks, burgers …etc had calmed down tremendously. When I did have a craving I would order the food of choice, but then I would start freaking out about the quantity! It would be too much and there was no way I could finish it. Which took some readjusting because in the past, I would choose restaurants based on the biggest portion size and now I was trying to avoid them.

As the date for the balloons extraction approached, I became really concerned and nervous because I didn’t want to go back to my old ways or fall back into old eating habits. The Universe must have heard me, because, I was told that there was a person in Cairo that was a licensed and trained Gastric Mind Band Therapist.

I can here you ask – “What is Gastric Mind Band?”

Gastric Mind Band is where you confer with a therapist and go over your relationship with food from as far back as you can remember. You talk about triggers that lead you to turn to food, what your food of poison to turn to is, what your goal weight is, what life goals you have…etc and much more.

Then you have hypnosis session, where the therapist helps to communicate with your subconscious and gives it messages of what you want to do/change. Reprogramming your relationship with food and getting both your subconscious and conscious to work together.

A week after the Gastric Balloon was removed, I started my sessions. The first two to three sessions were long ones, but quite cathartic. Speaking about the food addiction and some of the triggers openly, helped me to understand them more and not fear them as I had before. I think in retrospect, I was also unloading and letting go of emotions I had been harboring for years.

Then the unimaginable happened! I ruptured my Plantaris calf muscle. I had to keep my leg elevated for 3 weeks, which meant I’d barely be moving. Which terrified me. With not being able to move, I could very easily gain back the weight. I couldn’t and wouldn’t let that happen. With the new tools I had, I would make sure that I drank lots of water throughout the day and would eat lots of vegetable and protein and very little carbs. As the weeks rolled by and I was back on my feet, it looked as though I’d actually lost weight and not gained any.

When I had healed, I began to break down some walls I had built up. I would put on my trainers (sneakers) and go for walks, I’d joined a belly-dancing workout class, I started going out and meeting eligible bachelors, going on solo adventures and being more assertive in making decisions and giving feed back or opinions.

I still love cooking and I try all kinds of recipes. The quantities are enough to feed four or more people. I try it and divide it up. I freeze some in small tupperware tubs and the rest I share with colleagues and friends. So, I don’t feel that I HAVE to eat it all and finish it.

July 16th will mark one year since I started this journey and it is far from over. The demons or negative voices do rise up from the shadows of my mind and attempt to lure me back to eating junk food. I won’t lie, sometimes the voices are louder and stronger than my will power. I am human, I will be weak, I will fall, but rather than beat myself up, talk down to myself and shame myself to push me to binge eat. I change my tone… “You had a bad day (or a few), you ate crap, that’s o.k. It’s going to happen. Put it behind you, it’s over, it’s done. Now change it. Get back on track.

I recognize that I am a (recovering) food attic.

I recognize that it isn’t easy and a struggle.

I recognize that I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes and moments of weakness.

I recognize that when I do fall, I don’t have to stay down. I can get back up.

I recognize It’s never too late.

I recognize I will have to take this one day at a time.

Dating Apps

After my very brief engagement ended a year an a half ago. I was in a rut. For quite sometime I believed there was something wrong with me.

There must be! How else could I explain the string of unsuccessful past relationships of being cheated on and dumped? It HAD to be me.

After a lot of reflection and working on myself, I had come to terms that he wasn’t coming back. Even though we still loved and cared for one another, it just wasn’t written in our stars to be together. My circle of close friends was getting narrower with members starting their own family, immigrating or repatriating. I wasn’t meeting anyone ‘new’ and my self-confidence was in need of repair.

After a break-up, I noticed that I tend to beat myself up a lot and find fault in my character but mostly my appearance. I would feel so unattractive, unworthy, unlovable and just plain…BLAH.

At Christmas some friends and family members suggested I go out and date blokes (guys) during my visit to the UK. I was very hesitant and reluctant to take that step.

Why?

I had a poor self image of myself (body wise) and I didn’t think anyone would be interested enough to want to go out with me.

One crisp December’s morning in London, I downloaded one of the leading dating apps to my phone, out of curiosity to see what it was like. I created my profile and saw the profiles of some of the men. They were quite handsome, which boosted my insecurities further. Non of those handsome studs would want to meet me, I thought to myself. So… I deleted the app.

In February, I had ruptured a muscle in my calf. I was feeling down and quite alone, having been put on 3 weeks leg rest in a wheelchair and given an additional few weeks of physiotherapy, I found myself wishing that I had a companion and someone by my side during hard times like these. I had been chatting to one of my colleagues from work who’s very intellectual, confident and smart. She’d recently married and we got to talking about how she had come to meet her husband. It turns out, it was on Tinder. We talked about the difficulty of meeting people and how the app helped her move on from a relationship that went sour.

Our conversation played over and over in my mind the rest of the day and after I went home. The pros and cons of the app were weighed and my sassy side decided to give me a pep talk.

“You want to meet eligible bachelors, but you aren’t doing anything about it! You don’t go out and you’re living in the shadows. How the hell do you expect to find anyone? You can’t have them delivered to the house you know!”

I’m in a wheelchair and I can’t go anywhere! What do you want from me? I asked her

“You’re temporarily in a chair, not forever! That’s not a reason. Get the app, and surf through it. What’s the worst that can happen? Set some boundaries, don’t give out your phone number, turn off the location, if that makes you feel more secure, don’t post close up photos of yourself and only meet in public places. IF they ALL turn out to be trolls, swipe left or deactivate the app! Bada-bim Bada-boom! What’ve you gotta to lose? Huh?”

“Nothing!”

“That’s what I thought… So…? Whacha Waiting For…? Get the app already!”

(This ultra ego of mine has a strong Booklyn Italian accent and is quite bossy! I don’t know where she got it from, or where she came from, but she scares me a times. I just did what she commanded, because I really didn’t want to have to lose sleep over it.)

She was right. I had nothing to lose. Maybe I won’t meet Prince Charming, BUT I might meet a lot of charming guys. I held my phone and drew a deep breath as I went to the App Store on my device.

I nervously downloaded the app and began compiling my profile. I was very cautious for a couple of reason; First of all, I’m a teacher and some of the men on the app, might very well be, parents of students or even colleagues. I didn’t want to be the source of unwanted gossip where I work and draw that kind of attention to myself. In addition, I had been told that some High School kids have false accounts to catch teachers too…

So, I chose to go with a nickname people gave me in college, not post close-up pictures of myself and to not have my location available. I also made a decision not to give out my phone number whenever someone asked. I’d prefer to see the whites of their eyes and look into their pupil’s first before handing over my digits.

When my profile was set and ready…I was surprised by the number of likes I got. I looked at profiles carefully, read the biographies to see if we had anything in common. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many guys were on the app.

When I was able to use crutches I agreed to meet up with a few of them. For the most part all of the ones I’ve met so far have been really nice and we got along well. A few of them have become good acquaintances that I keep in touch with, meet up and have a good chin wag with.

There was one particular guy that I was very attracted to on many levels. We were similar and different at the same time. We both didn’t think that the other was interested until we finally came out and said it. Things got off to a rocky start, his work hours were the polar opposite to mine, I found it difficult to communicate with him because he wasn’t into calling or texts. Then he just ghosted me! Disappeared. I was gutted, disappointed and hurt. I took this as a personal rejection and I started tearing myself apart again.

Guys are great to have as friends. They give you insight to things that women don’t always know or get. Talking to them helped calm my insecurities and learn that I shouldn’t take it personally. The person may have issues, might have lied about their relationship status or a number of other things. The important thing is to brush it off and move on.

Months later, he got back in touch to say ‘Hi’ and ask how I was doing. When I asked him what happened, he said that he had a lot going on, on end and felt like he couldn’t breath or talk. (I can understand that, because I’ve been there myself, BUT, that’s not an acceptable excuse for me. I would have appreciated him saying something along the lines of ‘ Hey, I’m really into you, but I just can’t give you the time or attention you deserve because of what i’m going through.’ I would have TOTALLY respected that.

Since then I’ve connected/matched with a few other guys. Some of whom I have arranged to meet and when the day comes disappear and sever communication with me. Others are flaky, have very little to say and of no interest, which I find quite boring. Then there are those I’m not ready to meet yet, because my spider senses are tingling and tell me to hold up.

I won’t lie, there are some who only one thing and one thing only… and that is to fool around. I just politely decline and tell them that’s not what I’m using the platform for and I’m looking for something ‘real’ and ‘long term.

There are days where I think to myself “I’m too old for this shit!” and consider deleting the account and retreating back into of the safety of the shadows, but then my ultra ego says no. You are getting out and meeting people and yes, I might not have found someone I click with on a higher level…but I won’t find him, unless I keep going out and mingling.

Dating Apps are not for everyone… I respect that. As you get older, it does get harder.

I’m continuing to work on myself and try and meet like-minded men. I just have to keep in mind that real life isn’t like + doesn’t move at the same pace as a movie real or TV series. I have to be patient and have to trust, what is meant to be will be.

One swipe, and One date at a time.

Why Are You Still Single?

Before Ramadan I met up with an old university buddy of mine. He and I had been talking and catching up over dinner one evening, when he hit me with a question.

“You’re such a catch Nadz, how come you’ve never been snatched up?” Was how he started. “You’re attractive, independent, smart, funny AND you can cook! Is it because you’re too picky, not finding the right fit or just plain old assholism?” Then he paused, “or maybe a combination of all of the above?”

In that moment, I found the question humorous and I had an answer for him, but when I left, the question lingered and has been oscillating in my cranium ever since.

“Why have I not been picked to be someone’s significant other or life time partner?”

“Am I too picky?”

“Is there something wrong with me?” “Is there such thing as a match?”

There have been a few things that have contributed to my status…

To begin with, I’m of mixed ethnicity. I’ve been raised to embrace both cultures. I took the good from my European and my North African heritage, to enrich and better myself as a person. There are some social traditions and standards from both that I respect and uphold. Due to my mongrelism – I often find that some men (and people), find me somewhat exotic as well as peculiar. I can’t be put into ‘A Box’ or labeled, which they find hard to fathom and to deal with. Being divergent makes some people very uncomfortable and unable to see me as just a person. I’m regarded as a melange that is hard for them to fathom or even accept.

In addition to being of mixed race, many thought that, just because my mum is a westerner that means that I’m easy. That I’m not a ‘good’ girl.

What does that mean?

Simply put, It means that they think, I would be willing to drop my knickers with the snap of their fingers. Many learned the hard way, that, that was far from true. I actually put one guy in a head-lock once for attempting to put his hands under my shirt and demanded he tell me what made him think that he could do that?

He said because I was more Khawaga (foreign), than Egyptian, (a misconception that continues to plague my existence to this very day). So, I threw it back at him. I said if a guy did what he had just done to his sister or female cousin, he’d be ok with it? “No, not at all.” He said with nostrils flaring as the image formed in his mind. ‘So, then you should treat me the same way, you’d expect a guy to treat them. My mother IS foreign, but my father IS Egyptian.” Then I left.

In addition to my multicultural background, I have parents from two different religious faiths. Growing up, I had the best of both and thought nothing of it! I celebrated Christmas and Easter, Ramadan and Eids, but as I grew older, people pointed it out to me, I struggled with identifying which I belonged to. Over years of experiences, knowledge gained and self reflection. I found that I have a deep admiration and respect for religions in general. Their purpose is/was to help us mortals stay on the right path and aid us in becoming ‘our best selves’. I find religious beliefs fascinating, I hold no negativity towards different observances, as long as they don’t cause harm to others. My approach is more spiritual and doing us much good as I can in this life time. Growing up, my sister and I both found out that some of our suitors pursuits came to an unexpected and abrupt halt once their parents found out that my mother wasn’t of the Islamic faith. They didn’t think that we had been “raised” with the correct teachings, morals and values (How wrong they were). So, they deterred their son’s from further pursuing and convinced them we would not be a good match for them or gel with their family.

It was hurtful to us, and to my mother that we should be judged on a whim, without ever having met us. On one occasion my father heard through the Alexandrian grape vine (gossip channels) why one suitor’s father opposed the proposal. It angered him deeply. “How could I allow the father of the young man to enter our house, knowing that he has such negative thoughts and things to say about my wife?” He had a valid point. “There is nothing in our religion that forbids the union between a Muslim man and a Christian woman!” Was the message he gave to us (perhaps not so eloquently), but you get the idea.

We moved to Alexandria from Saudi Arabia after the Gulf invasion of 91. I was the new kid on the block. Fair, freckled and spoke English fluently but, I didn’t grow up in the city, I didn’t have the ‘family friends’ from birth that many people grew up with. I wasn’t a member of a club or with a cabin in Montazah. I was an outsider, an unknown. My Egyptian family although very well known before the first revolution that Egypt had in the 50s, were quite well to do and prominent. But in the modern era, we weren’t people of interest’ or connections. So, I wasn’t exactly ‘A Catch’. In their opinion, I had nothing to bring to the table, to make the joining of families worthwhile. Unless you count my foreign passport, foreign completion and ability to speak English fluently as an asset.

You may think, that I’m exaggerating or even making this up. I wish I was. I sincerely do, but some of those I had met and had a brief (puppy love) romance with in the past, actually told me this. So, I heard it from the horse’s mouth as you’d say. Who I was, as a person… had no value. It was all business.

My parents raised us to be strong, independent and to have an opinion. We were taught to be able to agree to disagree while maintaining respect for the other person. “You never know what tomorrow will bring, you may fall from the pedestal and if you don’t have these life skills, you won’t know how to get back up.” “We won’t always be here, you have to learn how to do it for yourself.” “One day you’ll own your own home, you have to know how to run it and take care of it.” Were many of the things we heard over the years. Most of which have come true and without those early lessons, I don’t think my sister and I would be the people we are today or where we are today.

Being strong, independent and opinionated doesn’t always bode well. Many want a trophy like kind of wife. Who looks glam, put together, says the right thing…. Yeah that’s not me. My father received a call, from a woman years ago. The woman said she had seen his daughter in the pharmacy and would like to propose on behalf of her son.

My father asked what the son thought, she replied “I’m his mother, he will respect and go with my decision.” She then went to list their assets and what he did for a living. My father said “Masha’a Allah (God’s blessings), but my daughter would have to meet him and have a say in the matter. I won’t choose for her.” Flabbergasted the woman said “You need to marry her young, before she begins to form opinions of her own.” I don’t know how he kept his cool, but he politely ended the conversation and told her that he didn’t think it would be a good match.

“I have loved and lost” as the saying goes, but I prefer to say, “I’ve kissed many prince charmings, but they all turned out to be frogs.”

When I was younger, I used to wear my heart on my sleeve. I would trust easily and was quite romantic. With time, I became wiser, and after many heartaches and a few breaks, I became less inclined to follow my heart, but to follow my head. My younger -self was quite attractive, outgoing, and fun (not to say that I’m less so now). My present self has become wiser, more reserved and takes her time to trust the person attempting to court. After many incidences of discovering that the person I had been dating had been cheating on me or lied about their marital status.

My morals and personal ethics forbid me from crossing the line of dating or getting involved with a married or separated man. I would hate it if roles were reversed and I found out that the man, I had promised to be loyal to, the father of my children, the person I share a home and bed with, was having an affair. I couldn’t in all consciousness do that to another person or have a hand in destroying someone else’s family.

I don’t think I would be able to sleep at night if I did, AND I certainly wouldn’t want to get on Karma’s bad side either. What goes around comes around…

One guy made the GRAVE mistake of lying about being divorced. His wife had access to his online accounts and saw that he was attempting to lead me on. She had read how I refused an expensive gift from him, and insisting that money should have gone to his kids, not to someone he had just met. From the conversation she could tell what kind of person I was. So, she paid me the curtsey of calling me and explaining that he isn’t divorced and that he lives with her and her two kids. I can’t begin to describe how mad and and sick to the stomach this made me feel. That he would not only do that to his wife and kids but would want to drag me into this madness.

His wife and I teamed up.

Let’s just say he met his match with me and got a big wake-up call.

That’s all I will say.

In my teens and early twenties, I would easily be “Ga Ga” over a guy, and would see everything through rose colored glasses; trust him and be exceptionally loyal that I wouldn’t see the signs or omens of what was wrong before me. Some would even get away with being rude, controlling and because I thought I was love struck, I allowed it to happen.

Now that I know my worth, I am more in control. I ask tough questions about their long term intentions, pay close attention to see if their actions match their words and vice versa. I notice small details that I used to overlook, that tell a lot about the person’s true character. I also allow for the pursuit to take time, so that those who are only after one thing… end up falling by the way side, because they’ve found someone else who might be more willing to meet ‘their needs and requirements.’ Those that are genuine continue to pursue and are interested in my company for the right reasons. Sometimes my filter isn’t fool proof and I misjudge, but I know my conscience is clear because I did all that I could to protect my Kintsukuroi heart.

Let’s pause for a second…

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression…I’m not slamming men. I’m NOT saying all guys think like this. I am only recounting MY personal experiences of unfortunate (but very character building) events and what has led me to remain single. I have been fortunate to learn from them, even if it was painful. There are some good men out there who look beyond the facade and actually want a person of substance. There are men who are sapiosexual and not solely drawn to physical appearances, social connections and family fortune. I just haven’t been fortunate enough to have found a partner of that caliber… YET!

Before I had gotten engaged in 2017, I was quite content and at peace with the idea of remaining a spinster and living my life to the fullest. After having a partner and someone to share and experience things with… it altered my perspective. I do miss the companionship, the support. I also miss having a partner to communicate with and share the good things and bad things with.

People tell me to move forward, throw it over my shoulder and not to worry “there are plenty of fish in the sea” and that “something better is coming along, it will happen when you least expect it.”

I am skeptical and have doubts that I will find someone who accepts me for who I am, with all my faults and multiculturalism. The best thing I can do is to keep living life to the fullest, making each day count and meet new people with an open mind, trying not to take rejection to heart. WHILE never losing my self value, self respect or compromising who I am, to appease someone else, and make them feel more comfortable.

Until then… I will continue to live everyday as best as I can and work on making me an even better me.

Two Blessed Years

If you read my post, ‘Drowning in the Darkness’, you may have learned that I lost my father very recently. Six months ago to be precise.

Fare warning this is long and it is raw.

This chapter of our lives began in December of 2016. Just a few days after Christmas. Dad was rushed to hospital in Alexandria. He was pale, in and out of consciousness, had no energy and was unable to lie down to sleep. His breathing had also become very shallow.

A couple of days prior to him being admitted into hospital, he’d visited his cardiologist for a check-up because he wasn’t looking well and was always out of breath, which was very unlike him. He had had multiple blood tests done, but the ‘TOP’ hematologist in the city, wanted more, before prescribing him any medication or treatment. His hemoglobin at that time had been 8. That morning in December, my mom put her foot down seeing how critical the situation was. I called the doctor non stop until he answered, to tell him of my father’s condition and his initial response was for us to send someone to his clinic later that afternoon to pick up the prescription. I told him, that wasn’t good enough, we insisted he go to a hospital. He instructed us to go to one in the Semouha area, where he has rounds. I rode with Dad in the ambulance and the person in the vehicle turned the oxygen on full and he was still struggling to breath.

He was eerily calm.

The ambulance was stuck in horrendous traffic. The sound of the sirens blared and filled the air, but no car budged. The ambulance crew asked me to make a decision to continue to the hospital ‘The Doctor’ had recommended with the risk of losing him on the way OR to the nearest one with a higher chance of arriving alive…

I chose the nearest one.

I couldn’t have my father’s death on my conscious … I wouldn’t have been able to live with that. I’d never have forgive myself.

When he was admitted into the ER, his hemoglobin had dropped to 4. He was at death’s door. His organs had begun to shut down and he was fading. He had stopped talking, his skin was turning a paler shade of white and was cold to the touch. My mother was in control mode and I her second in command. She told them his medical history, all the medications he was on and demanded to know what the prognosis was, without any sugar coating because she had a daughter who lived abroad that needed to be informed. After a full examination, they said they didn’t expect him to make it through the night. I will never forget that look in my mum’s eyes, when she turned to me and instructed me to call my sister and tell her to come home. I had been fine up until that point -nerves of steal. The moment I heard my sister’s voice I cracked and could barely get the words out, never had ‘come home’ been so hard to say. My throat closed up so tightly, it felt like I was being chocked.

 

The hours that passed, waiting to see him during the short visiting hour in ICU and for my sister’s arrival was nothing short of anguish. The seconds and minutes didn’t budge. It’s as if everything had been set in slow motion. I prayed . I prayed with every ounce of belief that I had that the outcome would be good, as well as for the best.
I even asked God to take years from my own life, to give to him, so that we could have more time.

 

When we were finally able to see him, Dad was on an incubator, a long tube had been inserted into his mouth, to help him breath, his eyes were not focused, they just rolled around looking at the ceiling. He didn’t know who we were. My mom and relatives, would talk to him, but my voice had retreated. My hero – my dad- had fallen. Roles had been reversed, we were now his guardians.

Sleep didn’t come to any of us that night. I was terrified of closing my eyes and being awoken by a call from the hospital. Perhaps if I stayed awake, I could somehow will, the call not come, was the subconscious thought that kept me awake.

My sister arrived shattered, nerve wrecked and full of worry. We were so happy to be reunited to support one another. The call never came that night…there was hope. We went to the hospital before visiting hours to persuade the ICU staff to allow my sister and our long time neighbor to see my Dad. They agreed. My mom said the minute he saw my sister, tears streamed down his cheeks. He was more alert than he had been when we had last seen him and was desperate to talk and to have the tube removed. A good sign.

Was the almighty granting me my prayer?

When we asked the doctors what caused his hemoglobin to drop from normal to 4. They informed us that Dad’s excessive use of Bruffen (a pain killer), eroded the lining of his stomach and that he had been bleeding internally for quite some time. That’s what caused his hemoglobin to drop and eventually led to his organs to start shutting down. They gave him blood transfusions along with many other medications and he seemed to be improving – BUT hospital test results showed he had Chronic Leukemia.

Our Hearts… plummeted…

We knew that if we shared this information with him, he would have given up. So we agreed to keep it from him – until he was strong enough and needed to know.

My Dad stayed in ICU for 7 weeks! They had stopped the bleeding in the stomach, but there was a secondary source of bleeding that took several investigative procedures to locate. Once it was located and treated his hemoglobin began to climb and was able to go home.

The day I came home to see him sat in his chair, in the sitting room was a day of great relief, joy and gratitude.

My Daddy, was home! My Daddy, was alive!

The medical roller coaster had not come to a halt. It was set on full speed. The next two years had ups and downs that would churn anyones stomach, strike the strongest nerves and pull at your heart stings. It was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting for everyone involved. Never once did we forget how grateful we were to have him with us, thanks to the amazing medical care he had gotten. We were very lucky with doctors and all those that came to our aid and gave support.

My father left the hospital diabetic, so that took a lot of adjusting to. We had to make sure he ate the right food, and we got the dosages right. We had to learn the signs of when his sugar was too low and have sugary treats at the ready, just in case.

His heart and kidneys weren’t working as well as they had. His body would retain fluid and he would have to be readmitted into hospital multiple times to try and extract it. Eventually we were left not choice but to start dialysis. It took two months for the machines to extract over 40 Liters of water from his body. He was told that he had to limit his intake of liquid, which was not something he ever got used to. He was a BIG tea drinker.

When the water had drained, He was so frail. So thin. He had aged so much. For the first time, I saw my dad as an old man.

Dad’s spirit was strong. He truly believe that he would be back on his feet, driving his car and would be ready for duck hunting season. He would clean his shot gun and assemble it every other day, to prove to himself, that he was getting better and stronger. He would climb the stairs outside the apartment until he was able to reach the landing of the floor above. My father had always been an active man. He would always be the first up in the house, even if he went to bed late. He would always be bustling and rushing around doing things. He felt trapped in the confines of his home. When I would visit, I would do my best to take him out for a drive or a meal. Some days he would gladly do so with his stick or roll-ator. Other days, he was too weak and down to attempt it.

Over time his kidneys started to fail and dialysis sessions were increased. He went 3 times a week. He hated going, he saw how unwell others were and he didn’t believe he was as bad. Then one day, a man on the machine next to him died in the middle of the session and this struck fear in him, that it might happen to him and that no one from the family would be with him.

The final blow to his will to live came in the summer. His white blood cells had climbed so high, that we had to tell him, he had Leukemia. We needed to start giving him treatment. We knew he would be mad and we knew that once we started his immune system would drop and his deterioration would be rapid, because of his multiple health conditions. When he was told, he was furious that we had kept it from him. It didn’t take him too long to forgive us. I still think we did the right thing.

From that time on wards, we spent as much time with him as we could. We told him everything we needed to say. We went through old family pictures together and wrote the names of everyone on the back so our history wouldn’t be lost. Something I had previously thought we would had plenty of time to do. I took loads of photos of him with us, with his childhood friends and videos of him telling us stories he had suddenly remembered. So, that our memories would always be able to remember how he looked and the sound of his voice.

The last two months he was in and out of hospital more times than I care to recall. For fever, chest infection, pneumonia, shingles and finally paralysis from the waist down. Every time the phone rang or a call from my mother came, my heart would skip a beat. The day, THE call came I was in class. When I saw my mum’s name, I knew. Her voice on the other end confirmed it. This call unlike previous ones was the toughest of all. I was trying to remain poised in front of my colleague and students, as my mother informed me of how grave his condition was, and that if we were truly kind, we would let him go, so that he would no longer have to suffer. We unanimously agreed to a DNR.

We all made our way home.

I was the first to arrive and made it in time for visiting hours at the ICU. His cousin, my aunt, my mom and the night nurse were there. I didn’t recognize my Dad, it had been 2 days since I’d last seen him. He had deteriorated beyond recognition. He didn’t know who I was…. my heart broke. My voice once again retreated. I couldn’t speak. I could only hold his hand and kiss his forehead to let him know that I was there. They had to tell him it was me, and when he spoke… He asked about my cat! My CAT! I couldn’t help but laugh.

He spent 2 nights in ICU drifting in and out of consciousness moaning in pain, barely eating or talking. When he did it was garbled. This was the most difficult thing I have had to bare witness too.

On the 3rd day, he was as alert and as sharp as a whip.

We knew what this meant.

It was HIS time.

We braced ourselves for the inevitable that comes to us all.

He recognized me for the first time in days and turned to me and said ‘Give me a kiss. Thank you, for everything you have done for me. I am so proud of you, and I love you so much, but please let me go. I am suffering and I am in so much pain.” He had one last request of us and that was to take him home, to die in peace in his bed.

I in-turn told him how much I loved him, how proud I was of his long 2 year fight and that we couldn’t ask any more of him. He was the strongest and bravest man I knew. He had my blessing to go and to be with his creator. It was the saddest day of my life, but a beautiful one too.

We carried out his wish. It was an arduous battle getting him released from the hospital. They weren’t keen on allowing him to leave, but we were relentless. That evening he came home and we called all those that were dearest to him to come and share the last moments with him. Those that couldn’t make it, called and said their final farewell over the phone. I think it was the best send off anyone could ask for.

Not many people get the chance to be surrounded by all their family when they die and others don’t get the closure and miss out on saying good bye. We did. We had two blessed years. We were there for him and with him right to the very end. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

My father died at dawn the following morning. Our hearts ached, but he was at peace.

Our Captain had gained his angel wings. He was free from suffering and laid to rest.

We are still going through the cycle of mourning. It is different for each of us. I am the eldest so I feel the most responsible and tend to put my feelings on the back burner, to lend support and strength to everyone else. I recognize that it’s a way of not facing my loss and to suppress the grief. When my guard drops, it hits me in waves.

I miss him terribly. We all do.

Death is so much harder for the living friends and family members that have been left behind.

This experience taught me something, to never take any of our loved ones for granted. Make every moment you have with them count. Cherish the memories you make and make as many as you can. If your instinct is telling you to call and ask about someone, DO IT. If you have any qualms with anyone make your peace with them, because you may not have the chance tomorrow.

In loving memory of our Bulbul Pops- Allah Yerhamak.

Drowning in the Darkness

This is my come back to blogging after an eight year hiatus. The hiatus was not by choice. I was silenced by the trials, tribulations, accumulated stress of work, great loss among the many other things life threw at me. My spirt the last three years has taken a beating and my level of confidence was at an all time low. If, I’m going to be frank, it still is, but I’m still working on it.

My blogging silence has been deafening even to me. I had come to believe in my state of emotional numbness and mental isolation that my voice was not worthy of reading or being heard. An old reader and fellow blogger got back in touch with me a couple of weeks ago and encouraged me to try and get back into writing. “Writers need to write”, he wrote. “They need to let their thoughts out.” he said. So here I am, succumbing and allowing my fingers to flow over the keyboards like a concert pianist.

At some point in time, I had aimlessly wondered into a dark cave to retreat from the chaos that seemed to engulf every corner of my existence and to lick my wounds. I had become so disorientated that I couldn’t find my way back out and decided to retreat deeper into the cave. The isolation of the mental cave, has been a very lonely place. There are so many shades of darkness, that even the calls of loved ones can be drowned out and fall flat. I must have developed a convincing external expression of being fine and coping with everything, because not many people saw the turmoil, the broken spirit or sadness. I was silently drowning from within. Very few could sense my distress behind my smile and loud laugh. Some asked if I was ok, but my warden – the voice of torment, would prod me to say, ‘yes, I’m doing o.k’.

These past few months I have found my footing and I’m weaving my way back through the darkness. The journey is toilsome to say the least. There are days where I find myself slipping back into the shadows of my mind and the negative voices that take great pleasure and thrive on beating myself confidence and robbing me of my worth, pull me back, in an attempt to prevent me from resurfacing into the light. These voices eat away at me, layer by layer. They put destructive and hurtful thoughts into my head – none of which I have acted on. Presently my will to reconnect with people and to be PRESENT, is what keeps me going. It is painful and it makes me extremely vulnerable. With each stride, I am forced to feel. Emotions hit me like waves in a storm. It is so intense that there are times when I feel physical pain. The waves knock the numbness out of me to an alert state of mind. Like I said… I’m trying to take back control of the reigns again. It would be easier to give in, but if I do, I believe I would have a lot to lose by becoming a prisoner of my own making.

This made me very antisocial. I cringed at the thought of going out and socializing. The thought of having to interact and talk with anyone made me anxious. As much as I hated being and feeling alone. I’d have preferred to stay bound to the four walls of my apartment.

You might be asking yourself, what could have possibly driven her to retreat so deep inside herself? I am an educator by trade. My line of work requires me to GIVE so much of myself, to help nurture pupils. That quite often I end up leaving nothing for myself. Close to the end of the academic year, I’d be so drained, getting out of bed was a laborious task. In addition to that, some of my former colleagues had such a negative disposition, that it seemed to suck the light right out of me. I’d keep getting back up, only to be knocked down again and again.

I dated a guy that wasn’t good for me. His presence was toxic and when I ended it, he then became a stalker like figure. Leaving things with my doorman, slipping letters/notes under my apartment door. Calling and messaging from various phone numbers, waiting under my house or outside my place of work. I was constantly looking over my shoulder.

My father became seriously ill after the break up with the person I mentioned above. He was at deaths door and fought his way back to be with us for two years, before he passed away this passed October. His will to live, and belief he was going to over come his multiple ailments and defy science was inspiring as well as admirable. Unfortunately his body and spirit couldn’t sustain the will to live, when the pain intensified. To see the pillar and figure head of your family deteriorate to a frail person, is one of the most devastating and heart wrenching scenes to witness. You are powerless and have no choice but to trust in doctors and modern medicine. I carry no guilt, I did everything in my power, financially and otherwise to help him and give him the best care possible those past two years. I even got to fulfill his dying wish to die at home, in his bed, in the presence of those he loved- his family. I miss him terribly. I still catch myself reaching for my phone to call him, to update him on things. I’m the type who puts everyone else first, so I don’t think I have even begun to mourn.

In the midst of my father’s battle to survive, I was forcibly removed from the apartment I had been renting for 12 years without warning. This shook me to my core. Two years on, I don’t think I have fully recovered from the experience. To receive an anonymous call, that the apartment had been seized, along with all my possessions is a predicament, I don’t wish on anyone. Thankfully, my boyfriend at the time, the man I would eventually get engaged to, was quick thinking and drove me to my former home, along with a small entourage of very dear guy friends of mine, to try and reclaim some of my personal possessions. I ended up paying a 600$ to buy back my clothes, shoes, jewelry and few other things and was given less than 3 hours to pack 12 years of my life. I have never felt so violated, invaded and small as I walked through the flat with strange men in every room, knowing that they had touched and gone through every drawer and wardrobe. Just like that, I was homeless.

Months after the ordeal, there was a cause for celebration. My then boyfriends, formally asked my father, for my hand in marriage and my dad, gave his blessing. I was elated and joyous, that I had found my life partner and friend for life. The celebrations were cut short, when he retracted his proposal a month later. It crushed me and my heart splintered into pieces. To numb my broken heart, I ate. I ate my way to a size too heavy for my small frame. I ate until my knees ached from carrying the excess weight. I ate to the point where going up a short flight of stairs left me breath less. In July of 2018, I made the decision to have a gastric balloon inserted into my stomach for 6 months, to help curb the phantom hunger pangs, to reduce my weight and most importantly help me battle my food demon. It was worth it. I lost a noticeable amount of weight, my health improved and I had energy to do things again. I wasn’t a couch potato, diving into a bag of crisps, washing it down with soda, nibbling on chocolates or binge watching series on Netflix anymore. I was moving again.

A month after removing the ballon in January, I ruptured my Plantaris calf muscle. I was in so much agony, that standing up was excruciating. I was told that I had to keep my leg elevated and immobile for three weeks. This struck terror in me. Would I go back to my old ways? Would I gain back all that I had lost? I couldn’t go back to that, so I underwent hypnotherapy. I went to a Gastric Mind Band specialist to help me stay on track. To help me reprogram my relationship with food and connect my subconscious and conscious to work together in achieving the same goals. So far, so good. My leg is on the mend. I can walk unaided and have just been given the green light to go back to light exercising.

Now you know why the darkness had such a strong grip on me. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I am trudging on, one step at a time.

Thanks for the push Chuck. this is thanks to you.