I grew up most of my life fearful of sex and ashamed of the human form, particularly my own. My first encounter with sex was learning about what it was, “where babies come from,” in the fourth grade while playing Barbies at my neighbor’s house, when the bride and Ken were seemingly attacking one another naked. Appalled, I asked her why they were doing so before she explained what making love was.
When I asked my mother, a conservative, head-covered Muslim woman, about it later, she was upset with my curiosity and told me to hold off on questions until I was an adult. It was understandable, considering I was the eldest daughter of the first Arabian-American generation in our family, and the indubitable expectation was that I, and my siblings, would hold steadfast to tradition and religion.
Fast forward to the fifth grade: my playground pal and I pretended to be strippers on the monkey bars and swing poles. I started buying triangle bras. Sixth grade: I began flirting with boys and they wrote me poems about “doing it.” Seventh grade: my first real crush that I dreamt about sleeping with. Upon entering high school, I developed multiple eating disorders in my attempts to gain control over my life and sexuality – and in the hopes that I would be appealing to the boys around me.
I was the rebellious one. I didn’t think so at the time, not in the slightest, but I was usually in trouble for one reason or another. My parents lived in the fear of my potential deviance and I lived in the fear of never feeling free.
Traditional Middle Eastern views are restrictive ones – I’ve read and expanded on theories that sexual repression is the most significant contributor to the oppressive culture permeating much of the Muslim world. Turning pleasure into a sin – in addition to anything that could conceivably lead to lustful thoughts, including integration of the sexes, equality for women, and revealing clothing – was and is how to control people. By making human nature inherently shameful.
I made out with and lead on many guys following that first time, while I faked desire and experience as I gathered it; eventually, I grew feelings for two older men, entering unhealthy relationships that ended with their falling in love and wanting to get married. I promptly ended them, one after the other, and subsequently entered a deep depression. Not as a result of them, but due to the constant state of shame I was in, especially while experimenting and lying to my parents and those surrounding me.
I gained a lot of weight my senior year of high school. Even less comfortable in my own skin, I sought validation from anywhere. I hooked up with my best friend’s boyfriend, a promiscuous boy who loved her but loved my body.
I lost my technical virginity to a friend who fell for me after a night I got drunk and he didn’t, while feigning more experience in bed than I actually had. I started having sex with strangers, sometimes not knowing their names. I’d ignore their calls and texts afterwards. I slept with an ex-porn star and got so drunk I was raped twice. One guy I spent some nights with woke up in the middle of one night and gave it to me rectally, so I wouldn’t get pregnant without a condom, and woke me up with his orgasm before we just fell back asleep.
Even objectified, I got turned on by just about everything. I seriously considered posing nude, making porn videos, or escorting to turn it into a career. Not that I was proud of my body, but I liked how it could feel and make others feel. But I felt used, so used and abused. It wasn’t right and I knew it. I was still waking up every morning wanting to die, drinking until I felt dead and using sex as a means to feel a little bit alive.
After the unprotected anal, I got tested with all clean results and in my paranoia, took thirty days of anti-HIV medication, blessing the clinic that helped me get a thousand-dollar prescription at a steep discount.
I was still sleeping around until finishing the regimen, when I felt really forced to reflect on if this type of life was what I really wanted. Someone once said that trouble always found me, but that’s not true: I actively sought it. I went out of my way to not have sex for ten days, and while it wasn’t a relief I did feel slightly better knowing that I could in fact willingly go without it for some time.
I went back to my hometown about halfway through this past semester, and spent some time with my younger sister, who happens to be my best friend in the world. We have a lot in common, understandably; we share DNA and upbringing.
I was an extrovert to her introvert, and I was the problem child to her golden one. But we both had this bottomless sense of loneliness in our psyches, and paradoxically, we reveled in that loneliness together.
Through her, I began to realize that sex is not really a way to fill a void inside of my heart. And even if that I was a route I wanted to take, it shouldn’t bring me as much inner guilt and shame as it was.
I still have casual sex, but it’s no longer a compulsion. I see a counselor for other things going on in my life, but constant shame as a result of intimacy is no longer one of them.
Hello it’s me, hi, happy New Year ______! You don’t have to reply to this letter if you don’t want to, and I am SO sorry this is so late and incredibly overdue. I fully expect you to be annoyed and over the strain between us right now but, I just want you to know that I love you a lot and that you could never do anything at all to me or for me to not think the world of you, your character, and your heart for other people.
This is purely me, and I think sitting down to analyze it, I realize that I couldn’t talk to you about it because I respect your opinion and I know what you have to say is going to be true. Maybe, subconsciously I didn’t want to hear the truth I already knew but was denying myself. This might sound like a bunch of frustrating BS but please at least keep reading so I can best get across why I have been so panicky about talking to you. I feel so stupid and weak. I’m don’t remotely feel like myself saying all of this so its hard for me to explain, especially to someone who knows me as well as you do.
I just hope this comes across the way I mean/feel. I have spent months typing this out and throwing my letters away. I have a ton of envelopes addressed to you tucked in my bible because I just can’t seem to bring myself to tell you just what’s going on. (Partially, because I myself don’t know and I’m having a hard time fighting it.) I think the fact that I know I’m a strong person with a positive mindset is what makes it so difficult for me to accept something is wrong. This semester, I barely went to class, barely went out (believe it or not), didn’t participate in anything that I love, and stopped volunteering and praying entirely. Not because I didn’t want to though, that’s the part I struggle with.
I didn’t want to run or work out or even get up to shower because it was simply too much effort for the day. I would wake up and just wish I were asleep. Opening my eyes to realize it was day was only followed by a nagging pain in my heart, an annoyance that I had to get up and deal with the day. That’s not me. That’s NOT who I am and that’s NOT who I want to be. I can’t keep living this way.
You know I don’t believe in taking medicine everyday. I believe everything you do is mental. Your mind controls your perception and your mood and the amazing thing is, I fully believe that humans have the ability to alter that. Mind over matter, get over it, get your ass out of bed, follow your dreams, life you life, seek joy, love wholeheartedly, be the person you have been sculpting and refining for 2 decades. It sounds dramatic. I’m not crying yet, but my heart aches writing this as if I were. I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t know why I can’t shake it as easily as I want to. I know I WILL, but I think I needed a new approach and a supportive environment for this weird, foreign time my life.
I have been pushing this off for a long time and I think it is all finally catching up with me. Consequently, the anxiety is increasing exponentially. I’ve realized that I am a sensitive person, more so than I ever thought I was. I am sure I don’t need to be so much of that.
I knew I finally needed to get help when I stopped wanting to shower or be conscious. It really scared me that in my mind I thought of drinking as something I could use to ease my consciousness. I never acted on it, and that makes me feel a little more in control, but the thought still lived in my mind.
This is weird, not hard for me to say because I believe I would never act on it. It’s not who I am or what I believe in but thoughts of just ending it all fill my mind daily and that’s when I knew I couldn’t just sleep it off anymore. Something is wrong. My soul is dim and withering. Why can’t I just be me _____? I’m having really hard time attempting it with out thinking about something morbid. I can’t follow my heart; I can’t do basic things that I need to function. That’s bullshit. What is that? What the actual hell? What’s happening? I don’t like to say “I can’t”, I’d rather it be substituted with, “I’m not able to right now,” because I know I am going through this for a reason and that there is a plan in mind for me regardless if my shit is straightened out or in a complete, shambled, mess.
Whatever this has taken from me, it hasn’t taken my determination to get away from it as fast as I can. I think about death all the time wanting to or not, believing in hell or not. Myself or not Myself its there, and I need to get a handle on those thoughts. I went to my Dr., diagnosed with severe depression and high anxiety. Consequently, that’s why I was so nervous about talking to you. Freaking out over stupid stuff is a daily reminder that I’m not who I know myself to be. And, I don’t want anyone to know, because this isn’t who I am. This is not remotely who I am, and that eats at my core just like not talking to you was eating at me everyday.
I knew there would be a flood of emotion in explaining it all, and that I would have to reconcile with that. I’m so sorry _____. I am so sorry for how I have acted especially after you gave me the best birthday ever. I couldn’t even thank you for everything you did for me. I’m just so ashamed and weirded out by this phase and I just want it to be over. I’m taking medicine to appease my parents but I know this is a mental thing I must over come myself and that’s why I need to leave Athens for a little while. Sometimes I wonder if I have a brain tumor or something that’s altering my behavior unknowingly.
Please know I am doing better since being alone. I have been doing better at praying everyday and mostly because I want to pray for your Grandma Jo, and I hope everyday that she is doing better than the day before.
I love you so much and I honestly consider you my best friend. You get me and a lot of people just brush me off and think I’m weird. In all that I’m involved in, you’d think some people would notice like I know you would, but oddly enough, I’m safe in their indifference. Tired, is how I would relate the emotion in the simplest of terms. I’m tired of people who are too afraid to be themselves, the majority in my sorority; a “Top Tier!” group of “sisters forever”. Gag me. Sometimes It’s really just an avenue for rich little girls from the same area to take a power trip. Have some damn originality, and don’t refute others who dare to venture away form your safe identical pretty rose-colored bubbles you refuse to see the world without. I’ve never been a fan of people that only loved and gave people the time of day when it was convenient for them.
A lot to swallow, but you know how aggravated shams make me. Things that aren’t appear as they seem. Which, I guess that makes me a hypocrite since I’m the one I’m sure people see as perfectly fine. Robin Williams said something I feel I can really relate to, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” He also says, “The tragedy of life isn’t death, but what dies inside us while we are living”. I only hope that the part of me that dies and burns away, is this part. That’s my biggest fear right now. What if something good goes in its place? What if I loose my spirit and turn colder, they way you see so many adults have; changed from their youth, seasoned in darkness?
I only told ________ some of this because she would push it under the carpet in a way and not make me face the truth like I knew you would. I know that’s what I needed and what I am doing now by typing this all out. I would rather tell you this all in person but I feel like I would cry so much that I couldn’t get it all out and you know how I am about fully explaining myself lol.
My heart is breaking. I’m almost balling now, sitting on the beach typing this, listening to the waves crash. It’s a little chilly and I just spilt beer all over myself because a seagull scared me. You are my best friend and I have so much love for you. I’m filled with regret for ever making you feel bad and I can’t explain why I didn’t correct it sooner. I’m not a complete basket case yet. I know what I need to do. I just didn’t think the steps towards a different life would be this small. My parents think these magic pills I’m taking should already have “cured” me, but all I can do is ask God to help and to put my head down and get through this without hurting anyone I love in the process.
When ever I’ve thought about killing myself -don’t freak out I wouldn’t- I just know this is the sickness- I would’ve imagined that I would write long loving letters to the people I cared for, and buy them gifts, or end it quickly. Albeit now, when those thoughts creep into my daydreams they are impulsive and quick. No suicide note. No explanation, just a sunken car that lost control on a bridge or a body found hanging by a belt. It’s sick and disgusting and I’m ONLY telling you any of this because I don’t want you to think you weren’t a good friend to me because you, ______, were the best.
I think that’s part of the other reason I didn’t want to tell you. I’m not crazy. I’m not overwhelmingly sad. I just have had my passion and love for life almost sucked out of me. I can’t operate without loving fully and being the caring selfless person I want to be. It’s not easy for me to do that now, but it will be again. I can promise you that. So please don’t worry, I am relieved you know and I can talk to you, and I will send you lots of pictures and love from wherever life takes me. Well, I don’t know if I will be back in Athens, or If I will be overseas rekindling my love for life and people the only way I know how -by stripping myself of distractions and possessions and focusing just on selflessly serving others.
This thing comes in waves. I don’t feel like this all the time. I know I am going up from here. I feel so weird and out of place and dramatic saying all of this, but all I can say is that I know what it is and I am trying everyday to fix it. I love you a lot _____, and I will always! Please let me know if you ever need anything and I will drop what I am doing for you. Don’t feel like you need to reply/ I just wanted you to know the entirety of it. Good and bad. I’m sorry that this letter is just a jumbled bunch of unorganized thoughts and emotions, but I finally put it down on paper. Forever loving ya and will always be here, oxoxo- _____.
Ahh, so good to hear from my other Gandhi loving yogi, you would so appreciate the meditations I’ve been sending your way, I invite you to be open and welcome them in as they are sent! That is something new I’ve learned this break in yoga, learn to invite emotions, awareness of body, mind and soul to myself.
And also, Happy New Year beautiful! Get ready for a year full of adventure, challenges, new comings and happiness; iI know these all seem very unachievable, and I am here to tell you they are not. I am going to try to make this short, but I just know it’s not going to end up like that. So to begin, I want you to know I really am happy to hear from you. I ask pay for updates every so often just to ensure that my other lovie is surviving. First of all, I want you to know that I love you so incredibly much. I love the fun, yogi, self less, positive, rainbow living world you. But I also love the heart broken, confused, searching, and surviving you. This is where you get me wrong, I love you, not the way you make me feel or others, the way you look or act, I love the person you are and the person you are to become.
I will always love you as you are, whatever that might be. I will still be here, I will still be me, and I wont ever give up on you. Secondly, thank you for sharing all of that with me. It takes a lot to put everything on paper (or in our world computer screen), it causes a lot of emotions to unfold, I know that because I do that all the time. I also want you to know I won’t ever see you as weak-I know that’s one of the reasons you didn’t want to talk to me, and I apologize for that. The thing is, I’ve been so weak, so weak I didn’t know how to look straight, I didn’t know what I wanted or why I did the things I did. Quite frankly, 2015 brought on the worst year of my life.
And if you are thinking my weak isn’t very weak, think twice, one of my best skills is showing my straight bitch face and bad ass loving attitude, yet hiding my real struggles, because boy is that so much harder to face. I want you to know being weak, it’s not something that should come with a negative connotation.
I use to think showing weakness or fluctuations in feelings was a sign of being psychotic, but its actually just a sign that you finally are living life, not just experiencing it or going through the motions. This is living, and this is finding yourself. You aren’t suppose to have your life together right now, you aren’t suppose to have your story already written, its a journey, and along the way you will alter yourself, you will change, and most importantly you will grow. This is living, feeling, breathing, struggling, and fighting. Now there is something you need to face, this isn’t like a college friendship, this wasn’t one of those nice to meet ya see ya around friendships, you’re one of my people, you’re family, and that means ill be around to see wherever life takes you. Whether its in Athens, good ole Cumming, or Africa. Hell I don’t care where it is, ____, ______, and I will always be family, and I wanna know all about wherever it is that life takes you. Next step, I’m sorry you have had to go through this without us by your side, and I also understand that’s just how you might have to because that’s how you need to move on and grow, and I hope you know its ok if that’s how.
And yes, ending it right away will end all the problems you are currently facing, but no it will not bring you peace, it will not fix your problems, and you won’t get to look back and see how far you have come, and how proud of yourself you are for getting through it. There’s one thing that you can never let die in your heart, hope. It’s the one thing that’s keeping you here now, subconsciously our minds fault back into always believing what we were taught as a perfect world we will one day reach. And you will, if you hang there, fight for your life, fucking fight like you never have, and you’ll reach a state of peace one day, but that takes a lot of work, heartache, time, and hell of a lot of hope for the future. You are more than what you see, more than what you hear, you are more than what you think, and you are worthy of life, love, and happiness. You are worthy. This day, January 1, 2016, was brought to begin 365 days of life not yet lived, life not yet experienced, and the life unknown. Everything behind us has happened, all the shit we wish was just a memory and not a still feeling. But it is in the past. January 1, 2016 brought us a 365 blank page book, and this year is going to be a good one. I never said easy, I never said happy all the time, but its gonna be one you look back on, reading your book, and think “damn girl, you did it.” You can do this, and I wanna be your pen pal to wherever life takes you, whenever it takes you.
You have a blank book, write your story. Life isn’t about the title of job you hold, the family you have, the things you’ve experienced, its about finding and creating who you are and what you want to be in this life. It took me so long to finally learn that, but I finally did. Nothing in this world leaves this earth with you besides your soul, make it beautiful. Hold your head high darling, you are worth it. The light in me, sees the light in you, namaste bitch, and happy new year <3