TRIGGER WARNING: This post mentions bombs and executions and may be triggering to some people.
“Into your darkest corner, you are safe in my love, you are protected. I am the openness you seek, I am your doorway. Come sit in the circular temple of my heart, and let yourself be calm.” ~Agapi Stassinopoulos
I was six years old. My mother and I entered the bus to head home from downtown. Suddenly the sirens went off.
I felt a knot in my stomach. People started running around. A cloud of dust formed in the air. I could taste the panic. Sirens meant that it was time to seek shelter. They were the very loud sound of the thin veil between life and death. A moment in time where our brief existence on earth felt palatable.
My father and twelve other family members had been in one of the worst political prisons for almost five years. Ever since his arrest and as far as I can remember, the bitter taste of fear and distrust has never left my side.
I caught a breath when my mother squeezed my hand. I could feel my little heart racing in my chest. When we finally got home, I saw my grandmother running through the yard. Tears were rolling down her face.
“I was worried sick,” she said.
We weren’t sure they had made it either. We all felt temporary relief. We had survived.
It’s hard to think about life without smartphones in the eighties. You never knew if someone was going to make it back home alive. Not until they physically walked through the door.
For the years to come, the government ordered the execution of all political prisoners. My father miraculously survived while his family was executed. The war ended when I was eight years old. The sound of the sirens and terrifying moments passed. As a young girl, I witnessed a lot of physical beatings, oppression, and abuse of young people by the religious guard in my country.
Experiencing war and turmoil in Iran as a child shaped my adult life in so many ways. The feeling of not being safe never left my body, and I continued to live in survival mode as my body carried years of trauma like a heavy weight.
Living in survival mode meant that I was in a constant state of fight, flight, or fawn. I was angry. I lashed out at people very easily. When things got tough, I either fought or froze.
For years, I had a tough time getting out of bed in the morning. I also had a tough time with my identity. I didn’t know who I was. I was a people-pleaser. I did anything to keep the peace around me, and when it got chaotic, I got angry and threw whatever I could get my hands on at the wall.
Suffering was the only thing that made me feel alive. It was the only thing that made sense.
We immigrated to Germany when I was fourteen years old. A whole lot had happened to me up until that point, but now there also was the added pressure of surviving in a new culture. Two worlds collided. German kids weren’t very nice to the foreign girl from Iran. Once again, I was in complete survival mode.
Years passed. My family immigrated to the United States, and I met my American husband (a male wounded version of myself) as a twenty-five-year-old exchange student in Arizona. We instantly connected over our childhood traumas.
Six years into the marriage I got pregnant. I didn’t know it back then, but becoming a mother was the best thing that ever happened to me.
The birth of my daughters became the turning point in my life. Symbolically speaking, I gave birth to a new me. The process was physically and mentally difficult, and when my first birth didn’t go as planned, I struggled with my post-partum recovery and suffered from depression.
Experiencing a difficult time meant that I was feeling all my emotions including the anger that already lived within me. And as my anger got louder, I realized that I had given birth to a child who now was depending on me to survive. I saw love for myself through the eyes of that child, and for the first time I saw the possibility of a new life.
The possibility of a life where I would find the real me underneath all the layers of trauma. The possibility of a life where I could see my childhood in a new light: A light of appreciation. A light of love for who I had become. A celebration of my strength and perseverance.
I didn’t have to hate myself anymore. “It is safe for me to be me,” I declared to myself.
Becoming a mother gave me the strength to push through everything from my past that was holding me hostage for so many years. I was determined to break free the cycle of suffering for my daughter. It wasn’t just about me anymore. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, but life conspired to make it happen for me.
While I was pregnant with my second child, tired from many sleepless nights with my first baby, and stuck in a stressful job in finance, the climate at my corporate job took a turn for the worst. I got rejected from a promotion I was more than qualified for because I was pregnant (or at least that was my perception at the time).
At the same time, my husband received an incredible out-of-town job opportunity. It was an easy decision. I quit my job, and we packed up and moved.
Not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I got my real estate license in hopes for a new career that would allow me to have a more flexible work schedule. This was the beginning of my healing journey.
Although real estate and healing have nothing seemingly obvious in common, what led to my new journey was the fact that for the first time ever, I was depending fully on myself.
I wasn’t going to have a consistent paycheck, PTO, and personal days. I was the only one in charge of what my days looked like. I was in charge of my own mind. If I didn’t wake myself up in the morning, aside from my children, no one else would.
On the day of my orientation at my new real estate office, the company owner played a motivational video for the class. I remember thinking, wow, this makes me feel good on the inside.
I felt a fire burning in me that I had never felt before.
YouTube became my best friend after that. I consumed every motivational video compilation that I could find. I felt alive. Possibly for the first time ever. What came after this time, aside from my childhood, turned out to be some of the hardest but most rewarding times of my life.
As I learned about how my thoughts and emotions create my reality, I became more self-aware. I was able to distinguish between what was my trauma and what was truly me by observing how certain situations and people made me feel
I understood that what triggers me comes from a subconscious part of me that needs to be heard and seen. I started to take radical responsibility for my own feelings and emotions.
For example, if my daughter did something that triggered anger in me, I would explore what within me was unhealed to cause such a reaction. Was it because I wasn’t heard or seen as a child? Was it because I didn’t feel safe to process my anger in a healthy way?
I would sit with these thoughts and give myself permission to feel my anger, my fears, and my sadness. It was all going to be okay. I am safe. I am loved. I am supported. These became my new daily mantras.
Underneath the weight of anger, there was that little six-year-old. I could finally see her with new eyes and wrap her in a soft blanket of pure love. I started to appreciate my childhood for making me the person that I am today. Brave. Strong. And worthy of a happy life!
This work isn’t over yet. It probably never will be. If you have experienced trauma like I did and you have embarked on a healing journey, know that it takes time to become whole again. And that is okay.
This work is ongoing because the subconscious mind has many layers, and there are always opportunities to explore what is deep within them.
Just as the layers start peeling off, just as you hear, see, and hold your wounded inner child, you will start to see yourself and your life more clearly and feel safe in your body. By bringing those dark aspects of yourself to the light, you’ll start recognizing and addressing your triggers so you won’t feel so emotionally charged all the time.
As you try to visualize a different life for yourself—one less limited and defined by your trauma—you will see what emotions pop up to the surface. You will need you to sit with those emotions so you can identify the harmful self-beliefs that aren’t yours. Beliefs about your worth, your capabilities, your potential. Ideas that are hidden deeply in your subconscious mind that you only adopted as your own because of what you endured in the past.
The more you up level your life and the bigger your dreams get, the more you will unpack. You will unpack all the lies that were fed to you to hold you small, and you will start finding the strength and confidence required to become the person you want to be.
Healing is a journey, don’t rush it. Trust the process and take time to sit with your emotions to feel them fully. And if things get tough just keep going. One foot in front of the other. One moment at a time. The past is behind you, and it made you who you are today. Love yourself and honor your journey. You can overcome the darkness and see the light. If I did it, so can you!