Finding My Voice


My name is Sooshmita and I am a survivor.
Before I share the story of my arranged marriage, I would like to begin with my childhood, and how I used to be as a young woman. I was born in Birmingham, UK and brought up in London. I remember being very quiet, reserved, and I hardly used to speak. When I was five or six my teachers were worried that I may have speech difficulties and suggested to my mum to take me to a speech therapist. After a number of sessions at the hospital they concluded that was able to speak, but just very shy and quiet.   As a child I can remember not being able to express my needs, and I suppressed my emotions so that I could fit in with others.  As a result, I had many negative experiences in both primary and high school

My parent’s marriage had been arranged for them in their mid twenties, and they migrated to the UK from Bangladesh in l979. They both had strong cultural values. A year after my sister was born my mother got a job, and my father had started his own business. I had a very simple, but sheltered life. After school I would just go straight home and do my homework. Any socializing events were usually with family or relatives, but I was not encouraged to have a social life outside of my family, especially if there were different ethnicities or races involved.  Although my parents were traditional, I do remember my father would always help my mother with cooking and taking care of us, and I saw an equal partnership between them. 

In my culture and religion (Islam) women get married straight after graduating, usually at 22 years old. She would be lucky if she was able to go to a university. My sister is five years older than me, and when she was 22 my parents started to look for a potential partner for her marriage. There were quite a few men with professional careers who met my sister, but when my sister turned 25 my mum started to panic because of her age. Rather than encouraging my sister to excel with her job my mum kept saying, “Why is God not helping you to get married?” My father wasn’t as worried as my mum was though. I was 19 at the time, and one of my friends shared that her cousin’s friend was looking for a potential partner for her brother. It seemed that the description of my sister was a pretty good match for him. I introduced this potential partner to my parents, and once they met, my sister and brother in law got married six months later. My sister has the conventional beauty that is recognised by most people from my culture. This means she is fair skinned and tall. I believe we are all beautiful in our own ways, however I do not fit the conventional type as my skin is not fair. I remember in my childhood being asked by my relatives why my skin was dark, this of course affected my self esteem because I believed I was not as beautiful as my sister. 

The traditional path for most women in my culture is to get married and have children. I have quite a few female cousins the same age as my sister who have been looking for spouses since the 2005, but they are still single because they have not been able to find the right partner. I remember turning 20 and hoping not to end up like my older cousins who have been single for too long. Although my mum had been working since the year 1980, she did have a very traditional mindset in relation to the roles women and men play in our culture. Once she said to my cousin, “Men should have careers and women should have beauty.” Looking back I understand why I had toxic false beliefs about gender roles, and I see the negative impact of this throughout my life. 

At the age of 19 I was not sure what to study, however my parents had this notion that if you do not have a degree then you are a failure. Randomly, I chose to study criminology with law only to later regret this. After graduating it was my turn for my parents to find me a potential marital partner. I was 23 at this time and the business of exchanging photos and bio-data began to be exchanged between families. At times “Aunty” would introduce me to a guy’s mother, who would either find me pretty or not good enough. At this time my self worth was being tossed around. When I would hear how some men rejected me I would feel crushed, and the agony of waiting to be wanted by someone was painful. Seeing my older cousins still single also added to my anxiety and fear of getting old and still being single, even though I was just 24.

My mother had a friend who suggested a potential partner for me who was living in Bangladesh. He came to England with his family for his cousin’s wedding. My mum shared the details with me, and since I knew it was time for me to get married, I agreed to meet him. My mum and sister accompanied me to meet him and his parents. They left us alone to chat, and while he was being friendly and nice,  I could see that there was a vast difference between us. I felt a cultural barrier since he was born and brought up in Bangladesh, but most of all there was no physical attraction. I did not want to be rude so we did have a friendly conversation about each other’s hobbies and interests. Once our families returned the “Aunty” who introduced this proposal kept telling us to exchange numbers. I did not want to give my number, as I did not like him, so I stayed quiet and was hoping my silence would be taken as a hard NO.

Once I got home my mum was very happy and kept repeating that this man was perfect for me. She kept emphasizing that his father is a professor and that his mother has a master’s degree. This man was not bad looking, and he is a doctor. The medical profession is my mother’s favorite, she really admires men and women who become doctors. 

I kept telling my mum that I did not like him, and that I was not attracted to him emotionally or physically. He was a big tall man, but my mum kept saying he would lose weight, and that appearance is not important. She believes that career and family status are the most important factors for a good marriage. At this point the third person who was a mediator, another “Aunty”, called my mother and kept emphasizing how this man was perfect for me, and that the family  liked me. This encouraged my mum to keep trying to persuade me to change my mind. She shared with my brother, father and uncle how perfect she thought this match was for me.

This is when I began suppressing my emotions, and started to abandon myself for my family’s validation, and what they thought was best for me.

I met my ex-husband in June 2010, and once they went back to Bangladesh we spoke a few times on the phone. I got a job as an administrator, but I was struggling to concentrate knowing that at some point I would be getting married to this man. One day on my way from work he called me and said that he was coming back with his family to the UK the next month, meaning September 2010. He said the Nikah (Islamic marriage ceremony has been planned for September 8, 2010). I rushed home and was in shock when my mother said they had agreed with his father to have the Nikah. I told my mother that they were rushing the marriage, and that I need more time to get to know him. My mum said that their holiday visas were to expire in November, and that his father was worried that if we waited, it may not be easy to get granted another holiday visa. Therefore they wanted to come to the UK for the marriage ceremony before the visa expired. My mum and uncle supported this and I felt ignored. Before my marriage, my uncle visited my soon to be husband and his parents. He gave my mum positive feedback about them, and this made my situation worse as my mum continued to pressure me to accept this marriage arrangement.

They all came back to the UK from Bangladesh, and my marriage ceremony took place at home on September 7, 2010. Prior to the marriage, I was distraught and emotional. I kept asking myself why,  just 3 months earlier, I had even agreed to meet him and his parents in the first place. Had I known about the pressure campaign that would follow by my family, uncle, and 3rd “Auntie” to meet my future husband and his parents, I would never have agreed to meet him. I found myself in a situation where I felt helpless, and so I married him. I was so good at hiding my emotions and pushing my authentic self deep into my unconscious mind, it was as if I was wearing a mask from the day we married.

Although I was not physically attracted to him things were okay at the beginning. However, intimacy was very hard for me as I did not want him to get too close, nor did I want to be touched by him. There was no one that I could share this with either, because in my family we were brought up not to speak about anything sexual or intimate, it is considered taboo in my culture. I felt ashamed for feeling like this as I was his wife. I was unable to share this even with a friend because I felt so ashamed that I allowed myself to get into that difficult situation in the first place, and now I did not know how to get out. My friend told me later that when she asked me about intimacy in my marriage, and I said everything was okay, she knew I was not telling the truth, but did say anything because she didn’t want to make me feel even worse than I already did. 

In January of 2011, I traveled to Bangladesh for my second marriage ceremony, and to help him apply for his spousal visa so that he could move to the UK with me. I felt like my marriage was a business transaction; he would get to live in the UK and my family would gain a medical doctor. I asked him if he had agreed to our marriage just for my British citizenship and he said no, which was a lie. I found out that the reason he was pressured to marry me was for my British status. Prior to traveling to Bangladesh I was consumed with sadness and despair, but I accepted it, and tried to focus only on the good parts. As I had never traveled anywhere alone due to my sheltered life, I found that traveling to Bangladesh alone was exciting. They lived in the capital city, and I welcomed the new experience of seeing another lifestyle in a country that was so different to my own.

Once I arrived there I just wanted to run back home and tell everyone I made a big mistake. It did not feel right, but I tried to make the most of my time in Bangladesh. I would go shopping and to restaurants so that my mind was occupied with good things. But then one night he attacked me as I was sleeping. I was just in shock. When I asked him about it the next day he said he had a bad dream. I believed him, because at that time I had no idea that he had a mental illness that affected his sleep. I stayed quiet and thought maybe I should not make a big issue as he was not showing any sign of remorse or apology. Then I packed it away in my mind and forgot about it until he moved to the UK in February of 2012.

When he arrived in the UK I was applying for jobs without any luck, and that meant I was home most of the time. My duty as a wife was expected from both him, and my mum, and life was hard. During this time he was studying English for his UK medical exam in order to qualify as a doctor and he was unable to provide me with anything. Our accommodations and food were provided to us by my parents. Living with my family, and with a husband who was not providing anything, was painful. I always saw other husbands providing and taking care of their wives, but not him. I was the traditional wife taking care of all his needs, but I was not receiving anything in return. My mum would say to me, “Be patient, you will have everything once he is a qualified UK doctor.” So I waited whilst playing the role of the good wife. I was hoping I could get a job so that I was not home with him everyday, but cuts in the job market made it hard to find a graduate job. He would sometimes study at the library, and when he would return home I would have his dinners ready. I would clean up after him, as he never had to do this in Bangladesh either. In Bangladesh, families will have a maid to do this. I accepted my new life hoping that I would find some joy, at some point. My mum taught me that you don’t always love a man before marriage, that the love begins and grows after marriage. I was hoping I would learn to love him. I began waiting for things to change, but I felt trapped, so I  stayed silent.

At this time my nan (grandmother) was diagnosed with dementia (Alzhiemer’s). I had never heard of dementia or what the condition was like until I saw my nan’s symptoms. Out of curiosity, I began to study books on neuroscience and decided to go back to university at the age of 27. My family could not understand why I wanted to go back for more education. They kept telling me to just get a job, and questioned why I wanted another degree. Nevertheless, I went back to university, and I am so glad I did! I met peers from all backgrounds and ages. I didn’t feel ashamed to be studying again at the age of 27. Being at university and studying a subject I loved was the only form of happiness I had at this time. I had absolutely nothing in common with my husband, and we were totally different people. I was interested in living a healthy life, and he was the opposite. His doctor advised him to lose weight for his physical health issues. His life was mostly studying, and then his father would send him money for his exams. It did not bother me that it had been two years since he had come to the UK and yet had not passed the medical exam, as I was focusing on me and my own passion.

Sexual intimacy with him was very hard for me. Every time we would have sex I would detach and imagine myself as a sex worker, and he my client. My imagination helped me to get through it, as it made me feel powerful to have a little control. Looking back, I think that feeling like I did, not having any power over my life choices, but being able to feel somewhat powerful through my imagination of being a sex worker helped me to survive.

Symptoms related to his illness were starting to show, but I had never met anyone with mental illness. I was not aware that all these issues that were starting were a part of his condition known as Psychosis with severe OCD. His self care was very poor and I could not understand how he could live like this. He would not shower despite me telling him many times to have shower. He smelled very bad, but it would take my parents telling him to have shower to actually get him to do it. I was so confused by all of his behavior. During my second year as a Psychology undergraduate I was studying with my peers and we were discussing various mental illnesses as a group. There was this case study where a man kept showering due to his OCD, and I can remember thinking that I wish my husband would do this.

A few days later his exam results were to be released. He told everyone that he did not pass, but the truth was that he did not attend the exam. It was then, after 2 years, that he told me that he had mental illness (Psychosis and OCD). I was completely shocked to hear this. I was studying psychology, and now I had a husband who had a mental illness. This was obviously my golden chance to escape, but I was trapped by his emotionally manipulative words. He said marriage is about supporting spouses through good and bad times, and that if I had mental illness how would I feel if he left me? I realized that he must have had this illness before we got married, because it didn’t make sense that it would have suddenly just surfaced. He emphasized how people take medication for this sort of thing, but said that he never took medication prior to our first year of marriage because he was well. I had no evidence that he was lying. I could not say anything, but I desperately wanted to leave.

The constant manipulation and guilt kept me stuck, even though by this time my mother and sister were telling me that I should leave him. His emotionally manipulative words about abandonment in a marriage due to illness made me feel that I could not walk away. It was at this point that things went from bad to worse. I was studying, but it was so hard to focus and I was becoming depressed. I was trapped in a bad marriage. Thankfully, I had a friend at university who was giving me support. Long story short, I was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused and neglected by my husband. My dream of a happy marriage was far away, and I ended up as his carer or what felt more like a life of a slavery for me. I attended all his medical and psychologist sessions with him, but nothing helped him as he was not willing to help himself. After finally passing the medical exam on his third attempt, his illness got worse, and he was again at home. He wasn’t applying for any jobs, nor was he following his treatment plan. I unexpectedly became pregnant because he raped me. I ended up having a miscarriage, and that was followed by surgery which was extremely traumatic. In 2016 I decided to separate from him, as my emotional and mental health were being adversely affected. He went back to Bangladesh to live with his parents, and I tried to focus on my final year’s thesis at the university. 

There are a lot more details that I hope to be able to share in the future. I found evidence that he had been diagnosed with mental illness, and that he had taken medication for it prior to, and after we were married, and I felt somewhat vindicated. I knew that he would no longer be able to manipulate me or make me feel guilty, because I finally had evidence of his mental illness. This gave me the strength to leave. I graduated in the summer of 2017 with a second upper class degree. I was still in shock, but I was happy to know that I achieved this degree despite the challenges, and the darkness that I had endured.

After graduation, I traveled to Sri Lanka and worked with children and adults with learning disabilities for eight weeks. I made a plan that once I returned to the UK I would proceed with my divorce. I was hoping my family would see the evidence that I had, and that he had lied and betrayed me. I hoped they would also see that I tried to support him as a wife, but that I couldn’t live like that anymore. My family, especially my mum and sister, continued to pressure me not to get a divorce. At this time I told my husband to give me my dowry back, as it is stated on our Islamic marriage certificate. In Hindu religion the women’s parents pay the man who will take her as a wife, however in Islam it is the opposite, as the man gives the dowry as a gift to the woman. This dowry is stated on the marriage certificate so that if the divorce occurs he must pay her that specific amount of dowry back. When I asked my ex husband for it back, he refused. The Imam, who is like a priest at the mosque, also said to my ex-husband and his parents that as he never provided anything for me, and as they kept his illness hidden from me, than they should give me the dowry back, as its my right as a muslim wife. They of course refused to follow this Islamic marriage law. 

I started my master’s program in September 2018, but it turned out to be a bad idea because I was distracted by the divorce I was so desperately fighting for, and from living with depression. I was finally diagnosed with Complex PTSD and clinical depression, and was put on a long waiting list to be seen by a therapist. I started taking an antidepressant to help me during those times when my anxiety would overwhelm me. In May of 2019, I finally got my diviorce certificate, but rather than feeling liberated I was in shock from the entire experience; my arranged marriage, his mental illness and lack of responsibility as a husband, the neglect and abuse I endured, but mostly because of the lack of support and love from my own family. I had been deceived by my ex-husband and his parents.

In April of 2020 I came across Rebel Thriver. At this time I had decided to take a study break, and I started teaching at a school for children with special needs. Working with children whilst going to therapy really helped me on my healing journey. I was still feeling shattered and lost, so I decided to sign up for Ella’s coaching program. It helped me to find confidence in myself. In Ella I found a coach who not only inspired me, but I trusted her because she had walked a very similar path as I had. She is a great role model to have.  I now know that I will never settle for simply being a man’s wife again, I want so much more.

It was exactly at this time that I lost my beloved nan who had suffered with dementia for many years, and five weeks later I suddenly lost my father to cancer. The support and love from Ella and other women in the coaching group, who have now become my close friends, helped me to get through the bereavement. A year before I lost my father he started to understand how much my ex-husband and his parents deceived and lied to me and my family about his mental illness. My father asked me for the medical evidence so that he could travel to Bangladesh and file a case for the return of the dowry. My marriage caused so much trauma, and I told my father to forget the dowry, as they all will answer to God for it in the hereafter. Now that I have healed, I do regret not supporting my father with his decision to fight for my dowry. This is a battle that I may consider taking on in the near future because I i have legal rights and I want  justice. 

Marriage is meant to enrich your life, not enslave you. The worst thing in life isn’t being single, but rather being married and forced to live an unauthentic life, one that does not match your personal values. We shouldn’t worry if we feel that we do not fit in with others because the right people will always find you. I am currently working with children and have gone back to university to complete my postgraduate studies. It is tough to do both at the same time, but with amazing support from Ella (my coach and friend) and my mentors who are trained psychologists I am willing to endure this tough journey to achieve my goals. My dream is not only to be a clinical psychologist, but a psychologist who stands up for the justice of women from ethnic minorities who are not able to come forward for support. I want them to know that their voice matters, and that I will hold a safe place for them to heal.  When you help others heal you are also helping yourself. I do not know what the future holds.  A doctorate in clinical psychology is a very competitive career, but I would rather try and give it my all than be consumed by my fear of failure. Happiness is a journey, and not just a destination. As I strive for my goals I am discovering who I am meant to be. 

Everyday I am learning how to make myself a better person, and how to transform my pain into a purpose. I will use my pain as fuel to make a better future not only for myself, but for women of all backgrounds. Life will never be perfect, but we don’t have to settle for less than we deserve. We can choose to seek the light even when we are stuck in the darkness. 

As Ella always says, “Onwards we go.” 

Thank you for reading my story.

Surfacing

September 11, 2001

This year I was hoping to write about my experience, but I can’t find it in me to be honest. The truth is what I saw and experienced on this day 20 years ago, may never find a voice from me. The weight of the sorrow holds me back. I don’t want to feel the pain.

I was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. I was living in an abusive marriage to a mentally unstable, and very scary man. That day was terrifying, and he was even more terrifying. It’s hard to talk about it, because it was just too much. The tricky thing about trauma is that it screws with your memory, and the truth is that I’ve not had it in me to try to face them. I buried that day within me while it was still alive.

It’s been 20 years. My first baby was one years old in 2001, he’s now a 21 year old young man. What I can share today, is a window into how trauma presents itself, even after 20 years: I am numb. I can’t turn on the radio or tv because I cannot bare to hear a word about it. I have a heavy sob stuck in the center of my chest and I am terrified to let it out, but I desperately want to. AlI I want to do is forget, and leave it buried. But we can’t forget can we? Nor should we, people deserve to be honored. There is a film reel playing all the time in my mind. I cannot stop it, because I cannot access it. Perhaps one day I will be ready to. Perhaps I won’t.

There was not a cloud in the sky on that crisp September day. We had no idea what was coming when the bottom dropped out. It felt like the city crumbled around me. We were a city of zombies, everyone in shock. I have yet to process what happened, but once a year I am reminded that I need to. Maybe one day I will be able to speak more about it, just not this day. To those of you who were personally touched or lost loved ones, parents, friends, and colleagues I send you my love. It is my belief that the 2,997 that died that beautiful September day are dancing in another realm, untethered from the weight of their human bodies.

Today was a hard day for so many, but we survived.

Ella xx

Empty House

“I began to shiver. There was a wind blowing through me; I felt like an empty room with all the windows shattered, terror blowing through me, no comfort left. That was how I felt consciously and distinctly.” – Frederic Prokosch

This is how domestic violence feels at times. It guts you and leaves you feeling utterly alone and isolated. A shell of your former self. There is no comfort to be found in it and when you do find a moment of peace you are always preoccupied with the fear of it ending. You are never able to fully relax. To experience the relief of being able to collapse into yourself. No fear. No worries. You are on guard and vigilant 24/7, walking on eggshells and always praying that it won’t happen again. But it does. It always happens again. This is the cycle of violence and what makes it so incendiary is that it always circles back on itself. It runs deeply infecting one generation to another. Unless the cycle is broken.
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The road back is not an easy one. It is riddled with road mines and much strife. But we the survivors are strong and must never forget to celebrate that. Freedom becomes our favorite word and courage our middle name. Day after day you must take steps forward and find support that you can lean into. Find role models of women who have walked your path before you and who inspire you. The path to healing is where you will learn to rebuild yourself on a solid foundation and begin the process of discovering who you are again. No longer will you feel like an empty house with shattered windows. Instead, you will feel a fire rising up within you declaring that you are worthy of so much more. You are so very worth the effort it will take to rebuild. You deserve a peaceful happy life. Healing takes time so you must tend to your garden with much love and self care. 🦋Ella
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Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233 (United States)
The hotline.org
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✨ If you are interested in life coaching please reach out to me at Ellahickscoaching@gmail.com or you can get more info and book your sessions at ellahicks.com.

Dear Evan Hansen

In February my sister took the kids and I to see the brand new musical, Dear Evan Hansen. The story is about Evan Hansen, a high school senior who deals with crushing anxiety. He see’s a therapist, takes medicine, and just doesn’t fit in…anywhere. My darling son also deals with these issues at times and we thought that it might be a great way for him to see that he isn’t alone. There are so many people out there struggling from depression & anxiety, and it can lead them to feel incredibly isolated. For a moment we worried that it might actually trigger him, but in the end I thought it was worth the risk. It was.

What an incredible show! I cried through most of the show (as did everyone else). Evan’s is being raised by a single mother (like me) and it was so incredible for me to see that I am not alone. There are plenty of other parents who have highly sensitive children like mine…like Evan Hansen. Her struggles are my struggles too. His struggles are my sons struggles too.

Last night at the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt who was AMAZING as Evan Hansen. I am still cheering today!

In this crazy upside down world, leave it to the artists to keep us grounded. I never thought that a musical about an awkward and anxious kid could sweep the Tony’s and win over the hearts of so many, including mine. And in the process shine a much-needed light on the struggles of mental illness that are more common than we like to think.

I tell my son that he takes his medicine because his brain doesn’t make enough of a certain chemical. It’s like a diabetic who needs his insulin to balance his blood.

Thank you Dear Evan Hansen for helping me show my son that he isn’t alone. That there are others that understand him and his very personal struggle. Last night was just the cherry on the top as it won critical acclaim, reminding us that it’s okay not to always be ok. What makes us different is also what sets us apart and makes us unique to this world.

If you get a chance to see this amazing play, do it! If you have a teenage kid who struggles like mine, and Evan Hansen, then save your money and try to take them to the show. You cant get much better therapy than this. xo ella

“Don’t waste your time trying to be like everybody else because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” – Ben Platt

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https://youtu.be/0vkTxakkho4
(click on link to see the performance of Waving Through a Window at last night’s Tony Awards.)

Waving Through a Window
I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
Give them no reason to stare
No slipping up if you slip away
So I’ve got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say
Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window
Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving
Back at me?
We start with stars in our eyes
We start believing that we belong
But every sun doesn’t rise
And no one tells you where you went wrong
Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving?
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
It’s like I never made a sound
Will I ever make a sound?
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak
But nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?
Oooh, is anybody waving
Waving, waving, whoa-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh
“Waving Through a Window” is a song performed
by Ben Platt (Evan) from the Broadway musical
DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

Endless

love

“Love. It will not betray you, dismay you or enslave you. It will set you free.”
– Mumford & Sons

I used to have a warped idea about love. I believed that if I loved deeply and intensely with all of myself I could change the world. My ex-husband walked into my life-like a black hole. He sucked everything that I had out of me and then he demanded more. Everyday I paid a toll for being alive and it wasn’t cheap. He took everything I had to give, spit it back into my face, and then took more. I loved him though. I just kept scraping up what I could find of me to give to him. Little pieces, tiny shards of myself, were all I could find in the end. Never have I met another who could find so much to take from so very little. I left him as a shell of the person I had met him as, but I also left him with so much more than I had come to him with.

My world has never been the same. Even after years of separation he is with me everyday. How can you turn off love? I have my moments of anger and regret, but my love for that incredibly sick and imperfect man is still there. It’s changed in scope and I don’t respect him, or speak to him for that matter, but for a fellow human, hurting and damaged, I still have love. As a child I was raised to love and turn the other cheek. As a wife I learned to survive. As a single mother I learned to fight back to protect my young. We live so many lifetimes over and over in this single life we are given. And we have the potential to love many times over. When my marriage crumbled I thought that was it. Party over. The ship sailed. I didn’t think that I could ever have the capacity to love another person in that way again. Love taught me differently though.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

After my marriage exploded I focused on what I knew would never fail me; the love for my children. Pure and unconditional love knows no deeper depths than that of a mother for her children. I poured myself into them so that they would know that I could love them enough for both their father and I. I alone was going to be enough for them. That was going to be enough. I was going to be ok. And as time passed I realized that love was not a one way street. If you loved the right people then love could come back to you as well. Loving people has always been easy for me, but It took me a long time to get comfortable trusting someone enough to allow them to love me back. To be able to believe in that love and accept it was something  I had to learn.

I learned, that I needed to love myself first, way too late into the game. If I could love myself then all future relationships had a chance of being balanced and healthy. It’s somewhat impossible to have a solid relationship with another person if you don’t love and respect yourself. People throw the word love around like its candy. Love, true love, is so much more than that. It is layered, rich, and runs deep. It has a foundation of trust, loyalty, and an innate desire to bring happiness into another’s life. If you can have that kind of relationship with yourself how can love fail? True love is complete freedom to be you while sharing your life with another. It is fail proof because even if you part ways, love finds a way to carry on.

In our youth it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of love’s depths. Love has a very narrow view. We know love for family and then we know the Hallmark version. As we grow, get hurt, heal, and deepen our personal awareness we learn that love can be so much more than that. We humans get so hung up on the idea of romantic love to come and save us and it’s a sham. Love is peddled as an industry generating millions each year. It starts with Valentine’s Day and continues through, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and funerals. Our society spends so much money trying to buy and capture love when in reality true love is free and it is endless.

Love is not something we buy in a store. It is living, breathing, alive. It has the ability to change the course of your life. Love can end wars and change nations. If we want this world to survive than love is the only thing that can save us. Love is stronger than any kind of hate. Love endures and love is the only thing truly worth fighting for.  Love is boundless. And if  love finds you worthy then you must be prepared to love in return. Love is not one-sided. It is patient and it is kind. Love is long-suffering, humble and loyal. It will be the sunrise and the sunset of your days. Embrace it and cherish it. Give it space to grow and nourish it. Just know that true love can crown you and crucify you, but if you want to love then there is no half stepping. Love is endless…it goes on and on and on.

xo Ella

Incremental Growth

sharma
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions and I don’t believe in diets. I don’t think that quick fix fads work, and I believe in buying quality over quantity. I often find myself at odds with the rest of the world, but it wasn’t always like this for me. In fact, there was a time when I lived in the fast lane and was all in. I had a long list of goals tucked safely into my passport. I was on the move and I wanted to do it all.

I have changed since then and doing it all just doesn’t feel as enticing or thrilling to me as it used to. The fear of missing out or not keeping up has dissipated, and I am living a much different life than I could ever have dreamed of before. That’s the thing about your dreams…they need to be flexibile. If you don’t have flexibility in your life you will inevitably end up feeling like a failure. It’s much better to set out with a goal paired with an open mind & heart and just see where life will take you. Life is always changing and I find it so much better to flow with it than feel like I am being dragged by it.

How do we adjust our sails as we live headlong into heartbreak and defeat? Life is full of it and it can’t be avoided. If you think you can avoid the heart breaks then you are in for a rude awakening one day. When I go to see my therapist I occasionally get handed a questionnaire to answer before I go in. It’s a benchmark guide to see how I am doing compared to past visits. I’m given statements and I have to rate where I feel in that moment. One of them is, “I feel like a failure.” Another is “I feel like I am being punished.” Each time I read them I hear a voice in my head say, “You have every right to say ‘YES’, but it’s simply not your truth.”

What is my truth? I don’t believe in failure. I believe in learning lessons, and sometimes those lessons are harsh. For instance, there was that time I married a man who I thought was my soul mate only to realize that he would be my biggest life lesson. I don’t feel like I failed because I chose to learn from it instead. How was I to know that my soul mate would be mentally ill, and abusive? I followed my heart and I gave it my all, but it didn’t work out. In fact, it ended very badly for all involved. I could have stayed down on the ground, and quite honestly I don’t remember getting up. The point is that I got up and I don’t see myself as a failure.

When my marriage blew apart it honestly felt like the apocalypse had snuck up and screwed me from behind. I had been living in a prison and when the door opened I ran. I didn’t see it coming, but when it did, it exploded into a fire-ball and left a lot of collateral damage. Some people may have felt like they were being punished, but I simply don’t believe in that.  I could choose to blame myself and label myself a failure, but I know that I did the very best that I could, so how could I be a failure? When I look back at the charred Earth and all the loss I often wonder why I don’t. I know it is because of my audacious hope.

I don’t know what I am doing any more than the next guy, but I do know that I give a shit. And I truly believe that here in this moment is where my life is happening. I take a daily inventory. I check in with myself. I make sure that I am taking care of myself, and I am really grateful for my life. It’s not easy to have the bottom drop out on you. It’s not easy to pick up the pieces and sort through the debris. It’s been years, and I am still sorting through it. Healing and self enlightenment don’t come easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. Accepting where you faltered and what you should have done differently isn’t easy, it takes a lot of honesty and patience.

There are so many choices to make and each choice that we make brings definition to what will be our life story. It goes a long way when you can accept that you will make mistakes and yet still believe that when you come up on the other side it will be okay. It has taken me a lot of practice and patience to be understanding and compassionate with myself. Every single day I put that into practice because the world keeps telling me the opposite. It takes hard work to break down the all the armour we spend years building throughout our younger years. The beauty is that redemption is possible. It’s there for the taking.

xo Ella

Love One Another

Mandela

I was born into a large Irish Catholic family. I attended Catholic school and have been fully indocrinated with it’s teachings. I’ve studied the Bible, and I know that I prefer the New Testament to the Old, but that they must stand together to be whole. I don’t go to church anymore, but all these years later there are two things that I lean upon in my daily life. They are a part of my personal foundation and ironically they are both attributed to Jesus. 

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Luke 6:31 (The Golden Rule)

I have studied many religions and philosophies over the years. From Buddhism and Toaism to Rastafarianism and Wicca.  I have come to believe that it is not religion that makes the person, but rather the heart. I prefer to think of myself as a highly spirtiual person rather than a religious one. It is my relationship that I have with my God that is what is most important to me. No laws made by man can ever change what I hold in my heart and soul. I know my truth. 

It is a wonder to me that after all I have learned that the two things that I return to time and time again are the simple words of Jesus Christ. It’s honestly a wonder to me, because growing up in a house where religion was crammed down my throat, I chose to reject it all for many years. I was angry and I thought it was bullshit mind-control. One day my high-Catholic school history teacher tried to make sense of it to me. He said,”No matter what anyone says, I challenge you to read about Jesus and find one thing that you truly disagree with.” And so being the rebel that I have always been, I took his challenge and I read even more.  I learned that this man that walked the Earth so very long ago was of my tribe. He hung with the outcasts, the beggers, the downtrodden, prostitues, drunks, and lepers. He didn’t judge on outward appearances. He loved, because love was what he was sent to teach us how to do. 

Whether you believe that Jesus walked this Earth is up to you. If you believe he is the son of God then that is your truth (I would like to believe that, but I am honestly still on the fence.) I do know that this man is the greatest example of what Love incarnate is to us as humans. His words, examples, and life sacrifice have stood the test of time, and the world is forever changed by him. 

Today I awoke to the tragic news of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. A man full of hate targeted a gay dance club and opened fire. By now you all know the horrid details. I tried to stay away from the news, but I have been drawn to it. I lived in NYC on 9/11 and I know this kind of hate and the fear it breeds. I have tried to stay away from social media because the there is so much anger and hate which is breeding more anger and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that is going to get us nowhere. We cannot attempt to destroy an ideology no matter how much we try for it will only breed more hate. The only solution is love. 

This is what I know. The only true path is LOVE. In order to truly love you need to be able to forgive. To love is to live your live with compassion and empathy. It is to be tolerant, even those who do not align with your beliefs. To hate the sin and not the sinner for we are all marred by the weaknesses of the human condition. I didn’t ask to be born an American, but I am so grateful that I was. My life has not know the kind of war that so many other people have been born into. We are products of our environments and not all are blessed to be raised in peace. Ultimately, we all have to choose our path. We must think for ourselves and stand up for what we believe to true. I know that fear is stronger than hate. And I know that if we could all just learn to drop our anger, biases, and fears then perhaps we could one day know peace. As a realist I know that as humans war is our Earthly tradition. Who ever does not control will be controlled and we can see this played out over and over again throughout the centuries. Power is mighty drug.

In spite of all of this madness I will hold onto the philosphy we were all created equally. That the only true way is to love one another and treat each other as we would like to be treated in return. It’s really so simple, but we make it so complicated. In the end love is the only true path to freedom. Love is always louder than hate.

xo Ella 

A Rogue Wave

Sometimes

There have been times in my life where sadness has hit me like a rogue wave that sneaks up from behind bringing with it a wicked undertow that tries to pull me out deeper. The wave plants me on my ass in a mess of sadness and despair when it comes crashing down…there are things in life that can derail you. There are things that have tremendous momentum even though they may seem to appear out of nowhere. There are things in life that no one is prepared for. 

Recently, I found out I was going to have another child. The news sent me reeling. Getting pregnant has never been easy for me. My two children are my precious miracles to this world. Sadly, along my journey I have lost three angels. I bear witness that a miscarriage is a horrible experience. If you have experienced one you might find that you want to hide yourself trying to avoide telling people that you are pregnant out of the fear of what is or isn’t to come. Having a high risk pregnancy brings a weird mix of excitement, fear, and isolation.

This pregnancy definitely caught me off guard. It was the last thing I expected to happen in 2016. I prepared myself for a wild ride this year, but nothing could have prepared me for this. That being said I embraced it immediately even though my partner and I have been walking a rocky road recently. I am always an advocate for a woman’s right to choose and I chose to have this baby regardless to what was happening in my life. This child was being sent to me for a reason and I was going to embrace it with all of me. 

What you don’t know until you experience it is that losing a baby is a massive trauma to your body, your mind, and your soul. Sure you move past it and hopefully are able to conceive again, but that feeling never quite leaves you. Growing a life within you is an amazingly awesome and incredibly weird experience. The minute that I find out I am with child everything in the world shifts for me. Out goes the caffeine & the alcohol, and in comes all the goodness. I STOP and take a full inventory. I commit to taking pristine care of myself as the incubator for a new life. I am in 100%, sleeves pushed up, saltines in hand, and ready to roll. 

When I realized that I was losing my baby a few weeks ago all I wanted to do curl up and hide. 

NOT AGAIN. 

I was sad and I was angry at God for allowing me to have to endure this yet another time. I felt broken. I felt like my body had failed me and I was devastated.  I felt like my body had let my baby, and my partner down. I laid in bed for two days and just went back and forth between crying and staring into nothingness. I was arriving at numb quickly. 

Thankfully I had told a couple of friends. THIS is not something you want to go through alone. It’s a tragic situation and you truly are helpless. My mind was screaming to the baby inside of me to “hold on”.  I was begging God to spare my child. I felt like such a failure every time I looked at my partner. The worst part was that as a mother I was unable to prevent my  baby from dying inside of me. A crushing experience that is beyond any words. 

I decided to write about this for the same reason that I write about my experience with domestic violence…to break the stigma. There is always such a “hush hush” about these issues, and for what? The silence is isolating, and in situations like this you need support from loving people. It’s hard to go through something like this and carry it alone. Women have been dealing with these issues from the beginning of time and yet I find that it’s still taboo to speak up about them. I am opposed to shutting it down, hiding it, and just moving on. Stuffing your trauma doesn’t help you to heal and move past it. It just leaves it festering for another day to explode into your life unannounced in another form. 

Life is happening all around us. People are born and people die every single day. It is the great circle of life and we are as much of a part of it as the next guy. No one gets to run away from nature as much as they would like to think that they can. We are all here dealing with the same human conditions. Life is going to push you. It is going to stretch you, and it is going to hurt you, but just as this is true it is also going to reward you. You cannot seek out only the good for life is made whole with the balance of both. The duality of life. We must embrace it all and appreciate the good when it is here and understand that the pain comes as our teacher. Understanding of this is helpful in accepting your life as it unfolds…perfect or imperfect. Joyful or sad. This is your life. 

I lost this baby at eight weeks and It was my 4th miscarriage. It doesn’t get easier, but you do get stronger. Understanding that it is natures way and that some life is just more viable than others is critical. Trust me, nature is not out to punish you. Through this I’ve learned to embrace life as it is thrust upon me and I am learning to let go of it when necessary. Learning to trust the timing of my life and having faith in the outcome is what sees me through. Life has taught me that acceptance and release is all about flow. You can’t stop it…you have go with it. When life hands you this kind of pain you embrace it as a gift and know that it has the power to transform you. 

xo Ella 

The High Road.

It was 4 years ago this week that I began to write in my attempt to heal myself. One sentence turned into two, then three, four and so on until my words started telling my story.  I share it in pieces, and when they are connected they create a whole. Perhaps the reason I haven’t written a book yet is because the thought of stringing the pieces all together at once terrifies me.  I am still live the nightmare to a lesser degree and so the book hasn’t reached the final chapter yet…stay tuned.

TrenchesI often feel like my writing has a cryptic feel to it. That’s because I can’t fill
in any of the finer details. The more colorful stuff that gives life it’s personality I have to dance around because it can betray me. All the nuances of my past life are known to the one I want to hide them from.  However, I know that my words, my example of living in spite of
it all is helping other women to
stay strong.  Just by moving forward I can show others that even though life may not be perfect you can still live a happy life and find a way to thrive in the midst of chaos. The calm in the center of the proverbial storm.

I’m not entirely sure if  I’m strong or stupid. Either way I keep on going and believing that I can rise above it all within myself one day. Eleven years ago I ran with my children. I ran for my health, my sanity, my soul, and our lives. I struggled through many years in a fog that I wasn’t even remotely aware I was living in. It was only four years ago that my healing truly began, and it was simply because I started to tell my story. I told my story in an attempt to help other women feel connected. So that they would know that someone else understood them and that they were not alone. I had no idea that by writing my first blog post I had really embarked on a journey in the search for ME.

What have I learned?

First, You need to chill the fuck out. No really, just sit down on the beautiful Earth and breathe deeply. In and out. In and out. You get the picture. Anyway, call it what you will but that really works. I have learned not to waste my pain because I know that it can’t hurt me, and that it’s there to teach me. Sometimes the pain can be brutal but so far I’ve stayed the course because I can feel the shift happening in my life. I know it’s a necessary part of my journey. I am so much stronger now and I value myself which is something I can’t say I had much practice in before. In fact I’m cheering myself on and it great to be able to feel it all and not be paralyzed by the fear that some memories can conjure up.

I am braver. In the process of becoming Ella I discovered a strength and resolve that I didn’t know I had. I have taken my own road in life, which has never been in the popular part of town I can tell you that. I have learned to stand up for me in the process and I am determined to show people that bullies are really just incredibly weak and fractured people. They need our love…even if we keep it to ourselves. Hate, even for bullies, won’t get us very far. Forgiveness is important.

I have realized how incredibly important it is to have a life of your own; to live as your own country while surrounded by many others. You may be in a relationship, but you don’t have to lose your voice. Your relationship with yourself is by far the most important one you will ever have. Don’t ever let that spark within go out, you will need to fan it to see yourself through the dark days ahead. Stand tall, be your own person and always BELIEVE in a better tomorrow.

It’s imperative to create a healthy inner circle for yourself. A few good people that you can confide in, find mutual support, and truly be free to be yourself with (warts and all) is what being in a tribe is all about. Isolation is not healthy…no living thing can be an island. We need our own kind. Don’t stop looking for your tribe. You will find them as long as you are being true to yourself.

We are all connected energetically and this is why it’s so imperative for each of us to surround ourselves with like minded and good hearted people. It’s not about the shoes, the car, the job, the house, the education, or the status spouse. It’s simply about kindness and good will to all. Think of how beautiful the world would be if we could all just be kind and decent human beings. The truth is that no one heals themselves by harming another. My choice has been to take the high road. It wasn’t easy pulling myself up out of the trenches so I am going to do what I have to do to stay here. It has a much better view. 

xo Ella

The Grand Revolution

MyOwn

 

Self Love, Self Respect, Self Worth. There Is A Reason They All Start With “Self”...You Can Not find Them In Anyone Else.  – Unknown


It’s February…the ‘season of dread’ for so many.  It breaks my heart to see so many people so despondent over one ‘Hallmark holiday’ each year. I often wonder how it is that we have allowed this notion to permeate our strongest sensibilities in this age in time. I have personally worked very hard to know the difference between love, my ego and petty vanity. Most importantly, I have strived to know and love myself first. This is the foundation in which I have chosen to build my life. To me, self-love is the true revolution.


“Don’t wander away from yourself to get close to somebody else.” – Unknown

It took me a long time to understand that I needed to love myself first. In fact I had to survive 11 years of an abusive relationship to arrive at this truth; ‘to thine self be true.’ There are so many fractured relationships today and they can feel even worse this time of year. There is no place lonelier than being in a relationship and yet still feeling all alone. That is a hard place to find yourself and no one sets out to arrive there.  It’s what happens when we sell ourselves short in order to make another person happy; when we put love for another over the love for ourselves.

“People with low self-esteem are more likely to sabotage themselves when something good happens to them because they don’t feel deserving.” – Unknown

This can begin a cycle of self-deprivation. It happens when we start believing that someone else’s happiness is more important then our own. That’s the biggest lie in the books because self deprivation doesn’t lead to fullness. There is no happiness to be found in living your life this way. Eventually, this kind of living creates a lie that convinces you that you really don’t deserve it anyway. It’s the lie we tell ourselves to ease the hurt, but  ultimately the hurt only grows bigger. 

I don’t chase people anymore. I learned that I’m here, and I am important. I am not going to run after people to prove that I matter. – Unknown

To embrace yourself wholeheartedly is the key to a happy life. Seeking happiness within rather than in another allows you to build a foundation that is rock solid. We aren’t often raised to put ourselves first so if coupled with low self-worth our relationships will start with a less than balanced approach. It’s never to late to start a new chapter; one where you decide what is right for you without fear of reproach from another. You don’t have to seek out approval from others…your approval is really all that matters. Set out on a quest to find true love within yourself because you are more than worth it.

“One day I woke up and realized that I wasn’t made for anyone. I was made for me. I am my own.” – Unknown

When you arrive in a place of self acceptance you will find a peace unrivaled by any other. Not many people can say that they arrive at this place within themselves. It takes patience, time and loads of deep soul-searching work. It means that forgiveness is present for both you and others. It will mean leaving the past behind and keeping your eyes on the prize which is of course, yourself. After all you will find that loving yourself is the greatest Revolution. Once you find this for yourself your relationships with others will transform. It is here that you will be ready to find a love that will move mountains. 

xo Ella