For as long as I could remember, my father was always in and out of jail, selling drugs. I remember when I was younger, and he’d be in and out, he would tell my mom to say, “Oh, tell her I’m in London. Don’t tell her I’ll be in jail”. But you’re not naive to these things even when you’re young. I always knew what the code words were. I could always tell. I always had a feeling that my dad was up to something because there would be lots of money for a good couple of years and then none, and then back again. He’d disappear and come back and disappear and come back.
But along with that, when I was in middle school, my father and I completely lost that emotional connection. It was almost as if when I started maturing, he felt more and more out of reach. He disconnected himself emotionally. He stopped trying, and I stopped too. It’s like we’re both stubborn in that sense. We have that similarity. I would try, and there wouldn’t be a response, so our relationship stayed like that for the longest time. But, he was always around. He still lived around me, like vicinity-wise, but I would never see him.
Drugs have always been the main component of all the issues in my life. I’ve seen my mom addicted to drugs. I’ve had to flush her drugs down the toilet at the age of 8. She dealt with it. She overcame it. I remember that day vividly, she had put me in a cab to take me to her friend’s house and then she tried to jump off the second floor. Thank God, that failed. She was high as fuck. I remember her tripping out saying “I hear sirens. Flush this down,” I was really confused. I didn’t understand what the hell was going on and I just did what she had asked me to do. So it had always been a common thread in my life. Drugs have been the source of fucking everything up around me. My mom managed to overcome that, but with my dad, I guess it was the only source of income that he knew and he just kept going back. It didn’t matter how many times he’d go to jail. What else would he have done after leaving prison? There was nothing else to do for quick money other than to sell, I guess.
My parents got divorced years back because he cheated on my mom repeatedly, but my mom always filled that void with a smile. So, I thought for the longest time growing up that this wasn’t an issue because she was able to provide everything that I thought I needed and the love as well. So, I just never focused on it, and I guess I normalized it. To a point, I was even able to joke about having ‘daddy issues’. He’s just always been absent, like very very absent and I never realized until I went to therapy that that was the pinnacle of everything that I am now.
I think I started therapy like two, three months back, after finding out about my dad being in jail again. I think this time he’s in for life- because of the amount of stuff that was brought into the country. In March, I received the WhatsApp message from my cousin, and it was an Instagram message showing a photo of my dad getting caught. I could see his blurred out face in the picture, and for some reason, that hit me. I guess when I was younger, it was an easier news to bear because I would always hear about it. There was even a point where I got to visit him in jail. But even then, I was such a brat, I concealed the pain of seeing my father in that state with wanting material things, with only asking him for material objects. Only making him see that I wanted financial or material things from him because I didn’t know how to ask for that kind of love from him. He’s cold. I don’t know if providing raw emotion was something he could provide.
It wasn’t until the last time my dad went to jail that I thought to myself, “none of my personal relationships will ever get better.” That’s when I decided to go into therapy, hypnotherapy, to be exact. I felt like I will remain with these traumatic ‘inner child’ memories- if I don’t fucking seek help now. Like, when? If not now, fucking when? I can’t keep thinking adult me is doing just fine when the young Shereen, the 10-year-old Shereen, kept screaming for help and attention — asking to be able to talk to her father. I can’t do that in physical life. I can’t. So I just took myself there, where that inner child lived and had the chance to speak her mind to her father. I didn’t even know what to say, but I was like, “I’ll take myself there and see what happens.”
It took a while and even through all those sessions my conscious mind was so fucking stubborn, that I didn’t even want to speak to my dad there. It wasn’t until the fourth and fifth sessions that I managed to do it. I had to avoid some sessions too. I’d keep getting texts from the hypnotherapist saying “you need to continue the sessions.” I’d respond by saying, “I’m busy with work.” It took all that time to just be able to release and let go finally. I was put in a position where I had nothing else to do for two hours but sit and be placed with my father in the more subconscious form, nothing else. No consciousness, no deterrence. So I just had to sit and talk to him about everything, and it was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. I didn’t want to accept that all this bothered me. I didn’t want to accept that I am kind of fucking mentally and emotionally fucked up because of that. I had gone through half of my life telling myself I was fine. Portraying to the world that I was actually nothing like my parents when, in reality, I am. And, maybe I am a lot like my father in a sense. It’s really hard to explain because I’ve never really even gotten the perspective from my father. I don’t know what runs through his mind. I don’t know what his personality is like. I don’t know what he’s like. So, I’ll never really know. All I know is that in our conversations in my subconscious mind, at least I got to tell him things.
I told him about things that happened to me and things that I’ve done to myself that I shouldn’t have done and I was completely insecure and I let men walk all over me because I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what I deserved — being physically abused, being emotionally abused.Being dragged to the floor, being pushed and grabbed, dragged from my hair side to side. Being cheated on over and over and accepting that. Accepting that verbal abuse was actually love. Like, if there was no cursing, if there was no toxicity, then it wasn’t worth my time in a really fucked up way.But also, I didn’t know how to respect myself. I didn’t know what I deserved because I never really got that from my father. So, what was I supposed to really ask for or demand from men? What kind of love was I supposed to give men when I never got any love from any male before. I had hated men for as long as I could remember. Every man that came into my mother’s life, I hated. I never let them tell me what to do.
But in my own personal relationships, I just allowed it. It’s a whirlwind of sorts. I thought that this is the only kind of love I deserved. Why should someone this broken like me, deserve the good kind of love that everyone else seems to know? The kind of love that people that come from a good home have – why should that happen to me? But then towards the end of that, I completely changed that narrative. It turned into, no, I do actually deserve a different kind of love because I have come this far, and it’s a fucking miracle that I even asked for fucking help because I don’t know where it would have led me.
Through therapy, I managed to forgive him without ever hearing that apology. I don’t think I need the apology anymore. What would me blaming a man who kind of had no choice, no help, no support do? How else would he have provided for his children when he comes from a country that already divides you (like sectarian wise) because he’s Shia and he’s Persian? He already kind of has a reputation with what he did and he got kicked out of the army at a young age for selling. That mistake had led to the inability to find normal jobs afterwards. So the system had already shut him out. He wasn’t born into a rich family. No one had ever finished university from his seven other siblings. So, what was a man like him supposed to do? I don’t justify it, they are still mistakes that have created a fucking rollercoaster of events, not just in his life but everyone else’s around him – my life, especially.
I now have to deal with the legal consequences. There’s a block on all my assets simply because I share his name. No one would believe, even if I say that I don’t have contact with my dad, and I literally would only hear from him once a year, once every two or three years with a “hi, how are you?” phone call or something. No one’s going to believe that. That’s literally the only form of contact we’ve had.
Hypnotherapy really made me realize that everything, all of this, the way that I was with men, my relationships and expecting so much more and always victimizing myself and thinking, “Why did I always feel like shit when they didn’t want to spend more time with me”? But they did, and I always just wanted more. The common thread that I would always hear from guys or even friends was, why was I defensive? Why was I never satisfied with the time being given to me? Even in the littlest of arguments, I would opt to walk out or walk away because, in my mind, I feared to watch them walk away from me first. I felt like that had been done to me in the worst way possible already. I didn’t want to face that again. So, I always would walk away first.
People always told me, “You know what? You might need help”. Even through seeing me smile and showing strength by achieving things, they were just like, “it’s just not normal the way you’re functioning, like without having to deal with this”. But I always said, no, no, no, it’s fine. I kept onto the notion that I’m fine, and it’s not something that I need to sit and think about or reflect on to a certain extent, on a deeper level. It’s not something I should sit down and fully focus on because I always had a feeling it would just make me go crazy, dealing with those feelings.
I feel like nothing’s perfect, and I’ve already taken the first step forward with healing that inner child. And it doesn’t take five sessions, realistically, but that was an excellent first start. I don’t think I’d ever really fully heal even after I talked to my dad. The things that I’ve seen and experienced have been way too much. But now at least they’re just done. It’s almost like I’ve started over after that final session and I’m like, okay, let’s not use those as reasons now to say this is what I’ve been through. It’s almost like I wanted to close it entirely and leave it behind. It’s the walls of the young me and I’ve talked to the younger version of me in all ages. I’ve calmed her down like; I’ve told her you’re safe now. You’re in a safe space. This is you. You’ve gotten to speak to this person who hurt you and who’s traumatized you, and you’ve forgiven them. I feel like that’s that. Where I want to be now is where I am now, which is just starting the healing process. It’s good. The first step is over. The tension is gone at least, and now I move on to at least adult Shereen’s woes. Because trust me, inner child Shereen’s woes were so much fucking worse. Do you know what I mean? So much worse.