Maria

5 Words to describe me:

STRONG - FIERCE - INDEPENDENT - WARRIOR – DETERMINED

My earliest memory as a child is being approximately 5 years old or so, it is ironically a memory which is embedded with the concept of honour and shame. I remember wearing a strapless summer dress and not sitting correctly, my legs were in a un lady like position, so I was told off “sit properly, place your legs like this, girls don’t sit like that.” As a child at that age you don’t actually care how you are sitting or if it is inappropriate all you want to do is have fun. I found it odd as I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong, however the embarrassment I felt at being publicly told off remained with me forever.

As I grew older there were more expectations of how I should behave and more unwritten rules to be followed. I came to realise that it was not permissible to argue or to discuss what was expected of me as a girl. The conversation would be shut down with “once you are married you can do what you like.” As a naive teenager, it seemed that it would be a pass to independence, holidays abroad without any parents, the opportunity to stay out late and the authority to make my own decisions. Again, time would reveal to my morbid surprise that again I was totally wrong.

When it came to marriage, I didn’t question their choice, dutiful loving daughters don’t do that because it brings shame and dishonour to the family name. By this time, I had experienced 20 years of strict programming of the honour/shame control code, it had been drilled into me, instilled into my core. I did not agree with everything that was imposed upon me yet I couldn’t argue it or live in a different manner.

Being the only girl, I had been extremely loved by everyone. But at the same time as a girl, I was not able to make important decisions for myself. My views, my decisions were not given the same value, nor did I have the same freedom as my brothers and other male counterparts.

My marriage of 18 years was the biggest challenge, the pain and torment which I have undergone is difficult to transcribe into words

To the outside world, it would appear I had everything, beautiful children, a lovely home and a marriage to a successful businessman who was so polite and caring. But that for me was all a façade, privately he would constantly torment me, laugh at me when I put makeup on or wearing a nice outfit, I wasn’t allowed to wear anything he deemed to be too westernised. He was financially abusive and did not allow me to have any money or a job. He was emotionally abusive and would make me feel like I was a bad mother who was abandoning my children to see friends if I wanted to go out. He would tell me that shameless women go out for meals without their families. He would constantly threaten me if I didn’t obey him, then he would take my children to Pakistan and I would never see them again. My children were my world and I was so afraid that I would lose them for good, so I had to choose wisely.

When I did tell my parents and they intervened he would twist the whole version of events and make me out to be the bad one. They would reassure me and say he will get better with time, that he loved me and the kids and didn’t mean any harm.

His control got so bad that I began to suffer from severe depression and panic attacks. I was always scared to leave the house because he would question my every single move and I would be afraid if I got something wrong he would then make a huge deal out of it all and punish me with more restrictions.

 

I got involved in fitness and I fell in love with it. It improved my health and gave me a much-needed confidence boost. I decided to leave my job and focused on fitness as a career so I could run classes for women and girls. It had helped me change my life and outlook, then surely it would help other women too. 

But this decision would ensure that my husband’s control would escalate to a height that not even I would expect what the future held in my darkest nightmares.

At the time I began working he was monitoring my every single move, inside my home and outside of the home. I was always on edge, always looking behind my shoulder, it was and still is a difficult thing to endure. The stress I was under led to severe ill health, no matter how much I tried I was stuck in a toxic situation and there was no way out. I knew I would have to recover, slowly but surely if I wanted my life to change, I would have to fight to get my health back. I eventually regained my health to an adequate level and applied for a job at a local domestic abuse charity. It felt as if my luck was changing, I didn’t tell anyone I had gone back to work in case he found out. I had a total of £12 in my bank and very little food in the fridge and pantry but I was determined to overcome my circumstances

The last straw for me was when I caught him following me at my new job. The following morning, he refused to let me out of the house the next day to go to the office, he wanted me to leave my job and apologise to him. 

He had no limits to the accusations which he made, spreading malicious lies so that my honour in the community would be permanently damaged. I knew at that moment I simply couldn’t put up with anything else. I knew it was finally over and nothing and no one could make me change my mind this time.

I did reach out to the following support agencies: Women’s Aid, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Karma Nirvana and Paladin. The support I received was fantastic and I also reported everything to the Police prior to ending my marriage. Family members are really shocked, I still have to listen to their opinion, two years later. 

One thing I never lost was “hope” I knew my life could not simply consist of simply surviving, I knew that I was destined for something else, something better. I always invested time in myself and in ensuring that I was growing slowly but surely. I knew the only way out would be to become financially independent and emotionally strong. I knew ending my marriage would be a really difficult thing to do. I knew I would be under immense pressure to take him back, but for me, it was over, and I could never go back to living like that.

I invested all my spare time to read books, listened to podcasts, learning from colleagues, I was disciplined and worked super hard at my day job. I kept going no matter how many times I was knocked back. I put my all into my children and ensured that I did the best I could for them. I never gave up on my dreams. With time my career flourished, and my dedication and hard work have started to pay off. I have been headhunted for most of my jobs. I am not out of the woods yet, but my children and I are much happier. I am super blessed to have had so many supportive friends and I have recreated my family, it consists of those who support me undoubtedly. Those who lift me up when the past starts to drag me down. Those who never let me give up hope or on my dreams. Those who reminded me of my own strength and resilience.

These two years have been the best two years of my life, I am now independent and free from the burden of living my life on someone else’s terms. I journal, I meditate, and I try to exercise and eat well daily I still struggle with the trauma of my past, but I have a fantastic counsellor.

If anyone is reading this then know that you are loved, you are valued, you can be everything you want to be, reach out for help! Karma Nirvana is an excellent charity who will go above and beyond to support you!

Stay safe and stay blessed.

 

 

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