One of the reasons I began this blog, was to share my story of a common occurrence in the Middle East to foreign women; which is essentially ignored by the world. From my own experience I found that if your lucky enough to escape, that the trauma doesn’t stop there. Either your blessed to escape with your kids or unfortunately they have been left behind. As a survivor you suddenly have to deal with the consequences of what happened. As in my case I returned with my two children, three suitcases and not a penny to my name. I had been away 21 years, and even though I was English I no longer knew how to function in English society.
I had no idea how anything worked, the law, how to open a bank account, enrol my kids into school, it was a total minefield of the unknowns
Our first action was to report to immigration at London that we were escapees from Saudi and to put a block on the children’s passports – so the family couldn’t come after us and kidnap the kids back to Saudi. I was astonished to be told there was nothing immigration could do and we would need to see our local police force. WTF!!!!
I was blessed that my sister came to meet us at the airport and she would put us up at hers till we sorted things out.
Once we settled into my sisters we went to the local police station to report what had happened. What was a private issue became a circus. More and more officers came in to hear our story, unbelievable that such a thing had happened and we’d managed to escape after ten years. There wasn’t really much they could do unless my in-laws were in the UK, it would be a case of waiting and seeing. They gave me an emergency text number to use so if the in-laws turned up I could text and the police would come. A bit useless I thought as if they showed up at my door I wouldn’t have time to text.
They gave me the name of a solicitors : Burd Ward, and told me to see them – they work free on behalf of families in trouble. I made an appointment and when we met they informed us we would have to change our identities. It was bad enough loosing our home – our friends and belongings- but now our identity? It was hardest on Faris to lose his fathers name, Jana hadn’t really known her dad so it wasn’t a big thing. To me it was like wiping away 21 years of my life – my marriage our existence, but since our family name would be easy to track we had no choice. Next we had to move to an area no one knew we had a connection to. Whilst in Saudi I had told people I was moving to a different country, we still had to keep our tracks covered.
We had heard from my source in Saudi the family had reported us for kidnapping Janah; their granddaughter. They told the authorities that Faris was a drug dealer and I a prostitute and how we would corrupt Janah. They tried numerous times to get my source in Saudi arrested, after the fourth attempt he informed the police to tell the family who he was and next time he would arrest them all. Thankfully my source was a very powerful man as well as being my guardian angel.
Abuse comes in many forms – mainly physical ( the most spoken about) or mental. My life has covered both kinds, from sexual, physical and mental abuse. I’ve been blessed it never turned me to drugs or alcohol or behavioural issues.
As humans we all cope with trauma in different ways. My way was to bury my trauma and problems and move on. At the time I never knew how unhealthy this could be. We can only hold pain and trauma for so long.
Mine eventually came to light just before I hit my 50th birthday. How ironic I was embarking on a life finally for myself, since both of my amazing children were grown. However little did I know that finally no longer living in a state of fear would be the perfect time for my subconscious to let all my trauma be released. I never got the choice if I wanted it to or not ,suddenly I was crying daily for nothing, seeing demons everywhere and constant nightmares. Being a logical person. I first put this down to medication I was taking, so I discontinued the medication; still no improvement. Was I going crazy what the hell was happening to me, why couldn’t I control my emotions? I have always been strong and could control what ever was thrown at me … but this – how the hell can you control something you can’t understand?
O.K… maybe I was menopausal – so I began HRT – nothing, no improvement!!!
I’d had therapy a few months before for anxiety attacks with Spinning World http://psspeople.com and was diagnosed with P.T.S.D. The therapist had referred me to R.A.S.A https://www.rasamerseyside.org – an awesome therapy and support for sexual abuse victims. It was so long ago I had forgotten about it, until the day I got the call they would start therapy with me. Little did I know this would unlock the door to all the anguish and pain I had suffered in my life – beginning from my sexual abuse I had suffered as a child from a close family friend. The death of my husband, who I never had the chance to mourn, the death of my Grandma, who I never got to say goodbye too, as I was trapped in Saudi, the death of my best friend who also had cancer, but left on holiday, as she didn’t want me to know she was dying and I never saw her again. Physical abuse from my brother in law, and mental abuse from my husbands family on a daily basis. being stalked and people paid to spy and report back to my husbands family. The attempt to take my children from me and steal my home, and the realisation that I may never see my friends and family and my country again.
It didn’t make sense – it was so long ago why on earth was it now affecting me?? The therapist explained I had spent so much time in flight/ fight mode living on adrenalin for so long. Now I was finally settled my body had to find away of coping with no longer feeding it adrenalin, which first turned it to anxiety, and then started bringing all the pain and trauma out.
I had never felt so out of control with my feelings as I did at that time, I had spent years avoiding getting close to people keeping them at arm’s length, but suddenly with this new-found emotion, I began to let people back in, I had so many good friends who helped me, they didn’t shun me or hurt me they genuinely cared for me; I can never forget the help and the trust they made me feel once again in other people. I was no longer alone. It was O.K to share troubles, to open yourself up to love and affection. The timing couldn’t of been worse as I’d met a lovely man and now all this!
I finally went to my doctor on the advice of my therapist,. Upon assessment by the therapist it was found I was suffering from not only P.T.S.D but depression. What????? I was a happy person except for these past few months, however I was to learn that depression isn’t shown through sadness but lots of other different ways https://www.mind.org.uk
My doctor decided to trial me on Sertraline 50mg. I had always been against medication, preferring the natural route, but I couldn’t carry on like this any more. I have been very blessed to have had no side effects, the dosage has been spot on and I am finally beginning to feel like a new woman.
It’s been enlightening to start understanding yourself as a person, we all go through our lives grumbling of things that truly are minimal in the grand scheme of things. learning your strengths and how to combat your weaknesses, how to love yourself: the saying you must love yourself before anyone else loves you is true. We live with ourselves until we die, we should love ourselves, care for ourselves and spoil ourselves. We are the most important person in the world and we should ‘Never ‘ forget that. The most powerful and meaningful wordsbi have taken to heart are the words “I AM” because you are anything you want to be , only you have the power!
24th August 2010: a day I never thought would come, a day we would finally escape Saudi Arabia and arrive back home to freedom.
I can’t believe we have now been free eight years. Did I ever think this day would come, back in those darker days of Abdul’s death? It certainly has been a roller coaster ride!
Ten years of pain, despair and a feeling I’d never see home or my friends again. I truly thought if I ever made it home to freedom, it would be the light at the end of the tunnel, how wrong I was!
Sitting on the plane waiting for it to ascend into the night sky, holding my breath and hoping I wouldn’t hear through the speakers that the plane was being grounded or had to return back. Never in my life has my heart thudded so loud. Finally a huge sigh of relief when we had been in the air for 10 minutes, we had actually done it; we were actually on our way to freedom!!
That evening had been a tense night, knowing we were trying for the third time to escape, to hopefully taste freedom finally. We checked over the house once more, ensuring our belongings; we hoped would follow us at a different date, were safe and secure, with instructions for my friends, to ensure their safe transport.
Had we removed everything that may lead the family to where we were heading? I stood and looked around at my home, where mine and Abdul’s dreams had become reality, planning our future together and the feeling of pride at finally becoming millionaires, and calling it our home. Little did we know then that the dream would end with such tragic consequences?
I received the call, my friends were on their way, 4am in the morning, the streets were eerily quiet, as the cars pulled up outside my villa, hoping the noise of their engines wouldn’t wake the neighbour’s guards, who had been paid to report our every movement to the family and alert them to our actions. We removed the suitcases into the 4×4 my friend was driving as I turned and looked back at our home, so many memories flashing though my mind and the thought I’d never see this place again. 21 years and the dream was over!!
The drive was a sombre event, none of us knowing if we would be stopped by the police, why should we really, we were just a convoy of 3 4×4 trucks driving to the airport? Funny how in the height of such fear, your mind plays tricks on you, you suddenly feel as though everyone knows what you’re thinking, they know your trying to flee, when in reality, they are just engrossed in their own little world. We drove passed the many landmarks as memories passed by fleetingly, the compounds we socialised in, the restaurants we ate in, the huge sprawling malls, so many memories that would now be confined to that only, and we would no longer frequent those places any more.
We turned onto the road leading to the airport, a beautiful sight of rows of palm trees and the huge terminal of Jeddah airport. I felt the thudding of my heart becoming louder, my hands suddenly shaking with fear, this was it, and wondering if it would be third time lucky?
As we entered the terminal I saw one of the parents there from my school– oh no would she see us, what would I say? Suddenly she turned and saw us and waved us over. We did our greetings as she asked if we were going on holiday and where to? I responded by stating I was going to the USA, and hopefully would see her next term at the school. We kissed goodbye and joined the line for customs.
In Saudi dual nationality is frowned upon, but they turn a blind eye if you are American or British. Usually you leave the Kingdom on your Saudi passport and arrive at Heathrow on your British; this does away with the need for visas. As our turn came I showed our Saudi passports to depart, when the officer asked for letter of permission to leave the Kingdom. Women cannot leave the Kingdom without a man’s permission, this is usually the guardian; or Mahram as they are known in Islam. Faris had become mine and Jannah’s legal guardian secretly a few months back and we had a letter drafted saying he gave permission for us to travel with him. Again I held my breath, I was thankful for the face covering, so they couldn’t see my fear, when suddenly the officer asked to see our British passports, I never thought why and handed them over. Suddenly a senior officer came striding over and grabbed the passports, shouting in Arabic, this was it – it was over, what would happen to us now?
Fear gripped me like never before as the two officers spoke to each other in Arabic, when the younger officer asked were we British? I replied we were in the strongest Scouse accent I could muster, as the senior officer handed back our passports and waved us though.
We turned and hugged our friend’s goodbye, tears in our eyes for the life I was leaving behind. Even though there had been bad times there, I had also spent all my adult life there, Jannah was born there, her father, my beloved Abdul was from there, 21 years of our lives to be wiped away for ever. We boarded the shuttle bus and where on our way to embark on the plane.
I arrived at Heathrow early morning with 3 suitcases, and my children, no money to our name and wondering what the future held for us, we had finally escaped we were finally FREE!!!
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.