I am slowly learning how to release old pain and set up effective boundaries. This is something that is very difficult for me and other children who grew up in the dynamic which I did. I grew up in a very abusive and codependent environment. In this post, I won’t be teaching you much or sharing any particular knowledge, but rather, I’m sharing part of my life. You may relate to some of the things I talk about, you may think I am a complete asshole. And that’s alright. The purpose was to share and to bring to light some of my darkness so that I may heal.
I grew up in Egypt with a mother who was emotionally, mentally and physically abusive and a father who was very passive and emotionally unavailable. Both of them were (and my mother still is) extremely self-unaware. My mother is also unsurprisingly a combination of overt and covert narcissism, and my father is an avoidant type.
For a very long time, I was expected to be whoever and whatever I was told to be. As a child, I remember innately having a strong and confident character, despite the odds against me. I had my hobbies and passions, I was fiercely independent and I loved to challenge myself. I very much took pride in seeing myself as a strong leader archetype, and I strongly identified with my astrological sun sign, Aries (that is actually where my love story with astrology started). I felt very much a free spirit, and I couldn’t wait to grow up so that I may finally be rid of the heaviness on my chest which was my mother’s presence.
When I was 12 years old, things changed drastically. Due to circumstances to do with my father’s business, we found ourselves escaping Egypt without any prior notice or warning. My parents had hatched this plan for a long time but nobody else was privy. As far as I knew, my sisters and I were told by my mother that we would be escorting her to the airport for her usual shopping trip to Paris. I was ecstatic! Yes! Some time away from all her shouting and violence and stress.
But unfortunately, the escorting turned into accompanying. And all of a sudden, my sisters, my mum, a couple of extended family members and I were in Paris. While this was all very shocking, 12-year old me was excited, and I naively thought we were going to all enjoy this shopping trip together. This was coming at the perfect time as I had my first school dance coming up back home, and I thought this meant I could now pick out a fabulous dress to wear.
However, this was quickly unraveling to be a very stressful trip. After the 3rd day, my mum blurted out to me that we’re probably not going back to Egypt because my father had gotten into some trouble there, and that he should be on his way to us within a few weeks. Something like this had happened before a few years ago, but everything seemed to sort itself out within a couple of months.
Not this time.
My father joined us finally about 3 weeks later in Paris, and within 2 weeks we had moved once again, this time to London, where we would settle permanently. I remember loving London as a holiday destination, and I was relieved that we would be living there over Paris.
Nonetheless, it was a very dark time. My mother was always depressed and fighting with my father. When I would ask my father when are we going back, he’d snap. My sisters and I were told explicitly we weren’t allowed to try to contact our friends or anyone back home, as the Interpol was searching for my father (it is a crime to declare bankruptcy in Egypt).
I was extremely lonely, and I missed my life in sunny Egypt. It was January at this point, and I was very unaccustomed to Europe’s bitterly cold winters. When my father would see me looking depressed, he would get frustrated and accuse me of trying to manipulate him into feeling bad. This was deeply hurtful. In between the neurosis, stress, shouting and lack of freedom, I kept myself in my room a lot. Listening to MagicFM and crying my eyes out whenever ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M came on.
Eventually, we were put into schools, and fortunately, I could choose my school. I could also change my birth name, which I had always found burdensome and embarrassing due to the way the English teachers back home would pronounce it (and sometimes mock it). Instead of Nourallah El Hawary, I was now Nour Kader which felt much lighter and more acceptable. The school I picked was not as strict or rigid as my previous one. I was always pretty good at school, and now I was one of the best. I also made friends very quickly there and realised that I was surrounded by other Arab kids and all sorts of other nationalities, and this helped alleviate my homesickness a little. I had also discovered a boy I had a crush on back in Cairo but went to another school had also moved to London a few months prior to me. Thanks to good old ICQ chat, we reconnected and we were now in contact – and for the first time in my life, I had a mobile phone! Things were looking up now.
I loved my teenage years, they were full of excitement, wonder, and discovery. I regained my free-spirit self and I learned that I had more independence here than I would have ever done in Cairo. I snuck out of the house A LOT (before I got caught), I started smoking and drinking by age 14. I had been on a few amazing school trips with some pretty amazing school friends and teachers to places like New York, Valencia and Barcelona – something I would have never experienced if I had stayed back in Egypt.
Meanwhile, life at home was pretty shit. My mother became more abusive due to her being depressed. She never wanted to assimilate in London and seemed to want everyone to know all the time that she hated it here. With a completely passive, avoidant and emotionally absent and immature father, she had free reign of terror. Moreover, because she was not communicating or interacting with many people outside us, we became the sole recipients of ALL her pain. There was a lot of physical, mental and emotional abuse. She loved to utilise divide and conquer tactics with my sisters and me, and since I was still this free-spirited, confident person, I became the black sheep.
Fast-forwarding a few years of more of the same, I was now a month away from my 18th birthday and the misery and depression had caught up with me. My parents forced me to change schools, and I was now in a very white American school in North West London, which to this day, I absolutely loathed. I started my stint at the American school in September 2001, a few days before the infamous 9/11 incident.
Boy was that fun for me. To be quite honest, I didn’t feel that much remorse at the time, because I was very mentally and emotionally entrenched in the plight of the Palestinian people who had been suffering the 2nd Intifada for more than a year. I still had the image of Muhammad Al Durrah being shot by Israeli soldiers in his father’s arms etched in my mind. I had become very aware of how America was supportive and protective of Israel’s constant war crimes on my Palestinian brethren and was conscious that a lot of Americans at the time were not sympathetic to Muslim and Arabic people being killed. Therefore, my empathy for the 9/11 victims was low.
I didn’t enjoy the culture, the people, the teachers and in contrast to my previous experiences, I was now an outcast. I became friends with other non-American outcasts, and that helped make things bearable. I was not doing well at school due to being so depressed and suffocated at home. I had enough of all the abuse I was getting at home which was only getting worse. I felt very isolated and had little support outside my friendship circles.
Meanwhile, my father’s finances had become very very bad. We were living in a beautiful house in Knightsbridge but had no phone line, internet, limited food, and resources and I became aware my father owed a lot of people money, including my school. I had learned over the years that my father was not a dependable person and frequently lied in order to avoid headaches, much like a child lies when he is scared of getting shouted at. He had and still has this habit of promising the world, unprovoked, and then not delivering. When asked about honouring his promises, he would gaslight by playing a victim, and threatening he would get a heart attack from the stress in order to avoid confrontation and accountability. Sadly he still does this today.
I had become very stressed and realised I was not safe at home nor in this family. I was very unhappy and uncertain about the way my future was going. We weren’t British so I knew that university grants and loans weren’t an option, and my father had no funds to send me to university. So I ran away. And it was the best decision I have ever made in my life and I have never looked back. I also stopped going to school 3 months before graduation, as I didn’t see the point and I hated it so much. My father wasn’t paying the bills anyway, so I figured it was right not to go.
The first few months were mostly amazing. I lived with my best friend at the time who was a year older than me, another free spirit – but looking back, I realise she was a manic depressant, and I just didn’t understand. We partied a lot, she shared her home and resources with me within reason, and she provided me with a space to breathe and be myself. To this day, I am so grateful for all she has done.
Meanwhile, at home, my family was under strict orders from my mother not to communicate with me. I was effectively excommunicated from the family. My father would begrudgingly give me small amounts of money from time to time after begging him, and my younger sisters were instructed to hang up the phone on me when I called the house. I remember they once shouted on the phone that I had betrayed them by leaving, and I was sure that my mother had fed them this viewpoint. This cut me deeply.
I was already very cut up at this point in life. I had a family, yet they were the root of all my pain. I thought marriage and family life was a farce and I was determined that I would not recreate this pattern in my own life. I decided that I would live life most likely as a single, fabulous lady who would have fleeting romantic relationships and excellent friendships. I would often visualise living in a fabulous apartment by the beach in a warm country somewhere, drinking a glass of wine on my terrace, listening to my favourite music, with nobody bothering me.
This all changed when I accidentally fell in love with a coworker who very carelessly broke my heart at the age of 22. And from then, I started making bad decision after bad decision. I lost myself. I went from a bubbly, confident free spirit to a bitter, self-conscious, scared, people pleaser. Finally, all the pain from the past and present caved in on me. I had been living on my own for a while now and was no longer the person from before. A lot of my international friends who I had close ties with had scattered around the world, and I was alone. I had new friends, who were not very good friends at all, and in my downward spiral of self-esteem and unfortunate choices, I became increasingly lost and detached from my inner being.
Many more heartbreaks later, from family, friends, and lovers, and I started to feel like an old woman at a young age. I was only 26. And I started to develop very bad acne on my face which was further lowering my self-esteem. I decided I had to turn to God, as my last option.
My relationship with God and religion was always difficult, as it was something my parents had forced down our throats, and it had come with a lot of guilt, shame, and anger. God was presented as this egotistical being who would, in my mother’s words ‘get jealous’ or ‘vengeful’, which to me, didn’t sound godly at all.
But now, I felt I had no place else to turn. And through finding God on my own, it was a very different and much more positive experience than what I expected. I had a renewed sense of hope and strength, but I also felt a lot of shame about who I was, and that I was too unholy for God, and all my badness was why I was experiencing so much pain and suffering in my life. It was because God was punishing me. So I aspired to become a good Muslim girl, leaving behind the free-spirited, confident Nour and transforming into my understanding of what a humble, modest Muslim girl should be. I became more lost. I suddenly decided that the path of happiness for me must lie in marrying a good Muslim man, who wasn’t going to cheat on me, manipulate me etc…because ‘good’ Muslim men don’t do that, right?? L O L.
So I really became very self-righteous and tried to fit in with the image I wanted to portray to attract the ‘right’ kind of man. In that process, I became weak and lost my intuition completely. Meanwhile, I had moved back in with my father (it was meant to be temporary), and I was working for an absolute sadist prick who used to enjoy tormenting me on a daily basis. Clearly, I had a knack for attracting abusive people, and I understand it now.
All those years of uncleared emotional pain and memories had dirtied my aura and my frequency. I was attracting more of the same, in different people, in different areas of my life. I started to see the pattern, and I decided to find a way to do something about it to make it go away. I studied Kabbalah, I continued with my Muslim practices and took up group meditation with a Sufi group. Things got better temporarily, and I saw things differently. I felt a little empowered again, and lighter overall. I even found myself getting into a relationship with a good Muslim boy – someone I could bring home. Someone my family may approve of.
Life has a funny way though. This good Muslim boy with a good job confessed to me a few months into the relationship that he was actively involved in several criminal activities. I also found out a couple of months later that he had been actively seeking to cheat on me on several occasions. I also realised that he was a pathological liar and had lied to me about both serious and mundane things on a consistent basis. He was extremely emotionally and mentally abusive, and I realised why I was drawn to him. He was the combination of the things I hated in my mother and in my father, and subconsciously I thought I could fix things for myself if I made this seemingly good on paper man love me.
I left this relationship in a way that I am not proud of, however, I am working to forgive myself for it, because it was the best I could do at the time. That was my capacity at the time. I knew better, but I didn’t have the strength to do it that way.
It’s taking me a long time to release all this pain and forgive myself. However, in reflection and in the process of forgiving myself, I am finding it easier to forgive my parents, lovers, friends, siblings, etc for their transgressions. I am understanding that their hurtful actions towards me were rooted in pain, and my being or my action triggered something in them, and they were trying to alleviate themselves from it desperately at my expense.
I know this because I’ve done this to others. We all play a villain in someone’s story. That is why it is so important to be kind.
I am definitely nowhere near finished, and I don’t know if I can ‘finish’ this task, but I am keen to clear it, for my sake. I don’t want to carry these burdens into the rest of my life and my next lives.
I’m determined to break my generational curses and heal not only my wounds but the wounds of my parents and their ancestors. My siblings. Our future generations. Because it seems, that people just don’t do this. People weren’t aware of self, their ego, their pain bodies, etc. They just kept carrying shit with them and dumping it on other people in their dark unawareness, in hopes that it would lighten their burden. But it doesn’t.
Nowadays my father is actively trying to change for the better, I see it in him. He still appears to be unaware, but his intent is coming through. I have forgiven him for the most part I think, and I feel much lighter. I am slowly chipping away at my mother, however, it is more difficult with her as her narcissism and disregard for others grows every year. While I understand on a logical level that she is acting out of pain, I have decided to distance myself from her toxicity and work on forgiving her from afar, as I ultimately have a duty to myself. Self-care comes first. This is how I am creating boundaries for myself.
No more allowing others to permeate my boundaries, no more allowing others’ pain as an excuse to dump on me. Your pain is your own responsibility. It is not right to project it onto others, and it is entirely your responsibility to work on yourself. Sure, get help, garner support, show vulnerability and determination to work on yourself using the assistance of those willing.
But please, don’t hurt others because you’re hurt. Break your cycle so we can all be free.