I’m happy now, I swear!

Who I am today, 5 years after running away from home.

In the summer of 2016, I published an article for THIS Magazine explaining the systemic and societal problems of acknowledging parental abuse, putting my personal story on the forefront. It was a scary thing for me to share on a national publication, but I owed the little girl in me the justice of doing so.

When I finally posted it online this year (after deleting and reposting the link over and over again), the response I got was overwhelming — not in the way that I would’ve liked. While I appreciated the comments in response to the article, it was as if people were seeing me as a person that just ran away from home yesterday. I suddenly received offers of support from people I barely knew, for, well…anything.

It was weird. I’m sure they meant well. I get it, it’s like I ripped open a wound of mine on the internet that everybody can now see. But people don’t really understand that, at present, I’m no longer bleeding.

Thanks for your words, but it’s a little too late.

In 2013, a year after running away from home, I decided to quit my job at the height of my career. I was living at a quaint little apartment in Korea Town, and I was totally lost. I would sleep for 10 hours at night, wake up, feed myself throughout the day if necessary, and watch re-runs of Girlfriends.

I couldn’t breathe properly. I found myself often holding my breath for no reason in public places. Tears would fall uncontrollably when I would see a mother and daughter bonding on the subway. I wasn’t very present, often forgetting where I was, and ending up in a totally different place than where I had planned because I was rejecting reality. I was doing anything I could to escape until I couldn’t anymore.

My first therapist was a weirdo. There were some things she helped me with, like becoming present by squeezing my fists and releasing them. Or to say, out loud, the colours I saw, as I saw them, when I would start to drift out of reality. But sometimes she would say things that were triggering, pushy or just plain wrong. She would tell me how I felt, and I would push back. I later found out that she was part of an unregistered college of psychotherapy, where witchcraft was a prime source of learning. Eep!

I learned manipulation early on in my childhood, so luckily I saved myself and ended that relationship.

But just think about that. I went to find solace in a therapist to help me deal with toxic people (including my parents) that I worked hard to ex-communicate myself from, and yet, I was paying her to manipulate me. I dodged the mental bullet.

Simultaneously, my so-called “friends” didn’t know how to support me emotionally. What’s worse is that the friends that did have similar parental trauma would use me to crash at my place to party. Other times, they would expect me to help them through their mental trauma, while I was still trying to navigate my own. I lost a lot of friends that year.

Then, when I couldn’t sustain myself financially anymore, I moved back to the very place I ran away from.

Time moved slow in the two years I spent in my parents’ house. They were still the same, and I was mad at myself for going back to living hell. The difference was that this time, my parents were afraid of loosing me again, so they kept their fighting to themselves.

Still, I felt like I was going backwards mentally by going back there. I had no money to pay for therapy. So I decided to get on a waiting list for Vipassana, a fourteen day silent meditation retreat in Northern Ontario. The experience was one of the hardest things I had ever done. By the end of it, I understood my depression so deeply that I recognized it as a friend, not an enemy. I was so proud of myself, I had no idea what my strength was like.

By the end of year one, my mom packed up her bags and flew back home to Bangladesh unexpectedly. I barely got a chance to say goodbye, but my older sister later told me that she left because she couldn’t control us anymore. No matter how fucked up that was, and no matter how terrible of an experience we had with her until that point, she was still our mother. At the end of the day, we are the ones who could leave, but man, parents aren’t supposed to leave you.

The rest of the year was okay, but I was tired of everything. I wanted to start anew. I had no friends and no desire to live in this city that operates like a village. I wanted to run away from my problems. So I bought a one way ticket to New York City.

Debit cards were lost, the Gardiner was closed, flights were delayed, and security held me at the airport for suspicion of trying to cross the border to work in the United States. But I had been going to New York City almost every summer since I moved to Toronto in 1997, and I lived and went to school there as a kid.

If all that wasn’t a sign from the universe to not go, I don’t know what else could have been. Fate was all “Sit your ass down,” and I had no choice but to oblige to her.

I got a job as a barista, saved everything I had, and moved back downtown to give freedom another chance.

For a total of five years, I mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally healed myself because I had to. We’re humans, and we survive when push comes to shove. Remember that my journey happened in a time where depression and mental health issues weren’t so openly talked about. I somehow miraculously pushed through, always wanting my freedom.

In taking that time to heal myself, I’ve made peace with the parts of me that are like my parents, that I will keep and use for the better. I’ve forgiven them and I thank them for everything they’ve done for me. I’ve lost tons of “friends” but have made better, fewer, more genuine friends as a result. I’ve gone to school for writing, and have received awards for my craft. I’ve found love where I least expected it. I have normal non-traumatic worries, like wondering where my next paycheque will come from.

Instead of getting comments like “If you ever need anything, let me know”, how about I get a high five or a “I’m so proud of you, you did that all on your own!”? I don’t need anyone’s help now, and when I did need help, not many people around knew how to even help me. So thank you, but no thank you.

My life is kind of…boring. But it took putting self-care on the forefront of my agenda for five years to get to “boring”, so I’ll take it over turmoil any day.

Today, I live a richer, happier life because I worked my ass off for it all by my goddamn self. It makes running away from home five years ago seem only like a distant memory.