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    Dear Peggy, Peter, Inky and Anita,

    Thank you so much for your suggestions and for your insight. It will take me a few days to reflect on your feedback and advice. But I assure you that your input has already helped me view my issue from a different perspective.

    My initial thoughts are that my ex in my nightmares is not the person but a representation of past abuse and uneasiness. So thank you all for pointing that out, and this has already helped immensely. So I am going to take a few days to go through your valuable suggestions and work out a plan. Last night, I didn’t see him in my dream, and I woke up less stressed.

    At this point, I do want to say something about my parents which is very important. My father was the first person in our/his tribe to opt for higher education and opposed outdated ideas. He was also in favour of educating his daughters (including me) despite taunts and opposition. This may not seem to be a great deal, but it really was a courageous step taken by my father, he chose to give up an aristocratic life to pursue education and to stand up to the atrocities. I owe everything to my parents. Yes, like everyone’s else parents they gave me life. But they also saved my life when I was 8 years old. I was burning and trapped, and people were running away from me. They ran in and saved my life. My mother was severely asthmatic, and seeing her run like that to save me, was no less than a miracle. When I was in the hospital following the breakdown, they didn’t leave my side. I asked them sit outside, when I consulted the psychiatrists. Of course, they asked me what’s wrong and why I was hurting. I chose to protect them, always and even now. They may have left this physical world, but they are not gone. I have no anger towards them, and I hate myself if I felt moments of anger towards them. I have immense love for them. If there is a judeo-christian-islamic afterlife, I have asked God/creator to forgive them and love them. I have offered any good deeds I have done to pass on to my parents so that they can be happy together in heaven. I only feel immense love for them. I will continue to protect them in my heart and mind to the end. I don’t even want them to feel hurt in the other dimension, in case they are hearing or watching me.

    This will sound outrageous, if there was a soul attached to the aborted fetus, then I worry that they may have told my parents’ souls. There is nothing I can do from here. I have absolutely no idea what’s in store after death, so in case there is an afterlife or some other dimension, I really don’t want my parents to feel any hurt or sadness whether it’s through a letter or some other way. I hope they are not reading this post either.

    I have no plans to hurt my ex. What I mentioned in my post related to intrusive thoughts I had over 13 years ago. As I said, I always told my psychologists and medics and I was scared to even have those thoughts let alone to act upon them. I can never think about hurting any person, any animal, any insect and even plants if I can help it. I even say sorry to the door if I bash into it. I hope that my ex has changed and that he is happy. I would not contact him to mess anyone’s life up. I don’t even want to be in the same country as him. I regularly check that we are in different locations, to reduce the probability of even seeing his face. The person he is now, is none of my concern, I sincerely want to release my ex (not the present person, as I don’t know him) who represents tough experiences I gathered through various family members (excluding my parents), other ex-boyfriends, ex-friends, ex-colleagues, etc.

    I hope you can respect my wish to not write or say anything negative about my parents. It may seem like an over-reaction to some, but I will protect them at any cost, even if it means lengthy torment or hell. I will keep them in my heart and mind with great respect and love (harbour no anger, no resentment).

    Thank you once again for all for your precious advice, and I will reflect on the suggestions for a few days.



    Hello Anita,

    Thanks for re-writing my post? I appreciate what you are trying to do!!  I wrote a reply to the previous post where I thought it might help explaining how my career progressed.

    Yes, I did say that being dragged around the shopping centre was the worst thing that may have happened, but I exaggerated that point to show the contrasting behaviours and personality. However, I did subtly elude to the fact that I have a history of child sexual abuse.

    I am a bit embarrassed to tell you my history, but here is a summary:

    1. I was born in England, and my parents were from Pakistan. I was raised in both England (most of my life) and Pakistan (few years). I mostly identify myself as British. My mother was traditional and religious while my father was progressive and open-minded. I was very close to my father. I aspired to be like my Dad, who was very technical minded and invented and devised instruments (he was an engineer). I was very close to my Dad, and I also loved my mum too of course.

    2. From the age of 4 to 19, I was unfortunately sexually abused by some of my relatives and neighbours. I never told my parents, as I was scared that it would hurt them and I thought they would not believe me. Unfortunately, my older brother was one of the abusers so I could never tell my parents. I don’t regret shielding my parents from this hurt, sadly, my parents are no longer alive. Perhaps due to these harsh experiences I never wanted to be with an Asian man, and I was frightened about getting married or having a boyfriend. My relationship with my second oldest sister grew bitter by the day, she verbally abused me in front of guests and hit me. My parents didn’t stop her. The relationship got worse by the day as I retaliated, and I asked my parents if I could move out. They were upset, and emotionally blackmailed me to stay with them. I looked forward to working in the lab and getting away. Weekends were a torture, with my older brother and sisters visiting. My 2nd eldest sister visited my parents every evening and she timed it very well so she had every opportunity to knock me down. Eventually, I had a breakdown aged 21 and I was taken to the hospital. That’s when I got help and I was  able to talk to someone about what I was going through, without my family there. I asked the psychiatrists not to inform the police as I had to protect my parents at any cost. They kindly agreed. I was diagnosed with chronic clinical depression and PTSD.

    3. When I was 23, I was finally able to leave my family home at least in the term time. I chose a university based on distance rather than on merit. I felt great at first, and it was great being able to breathe. I also looked forward to see my parents during holidays. However, things began to catch up, depression got worse, I began to drink (not excessively) to cope with the painful memories.

    At the end of my degree my parents wanted me to move back. However, things were looking ominous, my older sister (7 years older) and my younger brother announced that they had agreed to the arranged marriages. My family are from a very strict feudal tribe, political marriages are there to stop in-fighting and even killings (over land ownership and more complicated political and historical issues). My siblings were happy with their respective matches. I felt I was in danger, so far I had been out of their attention as I was kindly labelled by my sister as “abnormal”. Being diagnosed with Depression may have saved my life.

    I didn’t have a choice I found a job as far as I could which meant I could live on my own. This was the time when I started getting into relationships without much care. I was really frightened. I am not sure how that would have helped, but I just went along with the idea. None of my relationships lasted very long, as I was too naive to know that I was being used. I even thought about carrying a capsule filled with poison (I had access to such materials), if I were being forced to marry someone. Most nights I had to drink lots of alcohol to be able to sleep. I was clenched in fear. I kept my second life a secret from my family. I tried to live my life without hurting anyone, or being dramatic. My parents never knew about any of my relationships ever, not even about my long-term partner. I kept my drinking, medicines and smoking, and anything I thought that would hurt them well-hidden. It was essential for me to keep them away from any hurt, so I lied to them over and over again. I don’t regret it.

    4. I was unable to stay in one job for more than 3 months, when I felt it began to get repetitive. I needed to solve problems to keep my mind fully engaged. Once I figured it out I would resign and move to another job (I was always in demand, despite leaving the jobs abruptly). After 2 years I returned to academia in the hope to be able to engage with research. At first things went well. Then one of my colleagues began to racially and sexually harass me in the lab. I asked my supervisor to move me to another lab, but they could not help me. So I found it all too much, and spent a lot of time in the pubs, drinking as this was the only way to numb myself. I used that time to do my work, reading publications, writing, and I was left on my own to get on with it. I used to meet a friend on a weekly basis to play chess there, and the we would see a gig. I liked her company. One week she didn’t turn up and that’s how I met my ex. He said if he could play, and I said fine. Anyway, we got to know each other a bit. He was an artist and he seemed pretty laid-back and interesting. I did tell him that I was not “normal”, I dress as you see me, I only ever own one pair of shoes, and I find it difficult to socialise. I told him that I don’t want to be judged on my looks or what I own. This is usually enough for men to go away. The relationship from my point of view was not about a physical connection, I liked him. When he ended the relationship, yes I was hurt but I accepted it as other relationships did. It was nothing unusual. I never dumped anyone, so I was used to it. I had several propositions already, it wasn’t a big deal. My current on-going hurt and anxiety has little to do with the ending of the relationship. I will stress again I was very respectful and walked away peacefully, despite what he said. The stress was the traumatic experience of negotiating with him and making a decision. I had no choice, if I opted to have the child, I would put my parents in danger, not only from the emotional impact on my parents health, but their physical lives would have been in jeopardy. I was also in danger of bringing political chaos in my tribe which I feared could have resulted in pointless killings. I never told my parents anything, all I cared about was how to protect them. I thought about disappearing abroad, but I could have been tracked down and so I saw no way out. It was “check mate”. After this traumatic experience, my spirits were down and I stopped going to the lab. I had no emotional or physical energy whatsoever for months. I stayed in my room for weeks. After some months, my supervisor a little my situation suggested that I opt for a shorter 1-year MPhil and I reluctantly accepted it. I wrote the dissertation while working full time in an office, as I no longer had any sponsorship.  I partially blame the origin of this problem, meeting my ex. However, there was no way I would tell them why I really left. I never failed in my life before, so I bowed my head in front of my parents and told them that I had been asked to leave the project. I regret that I could not protect my parents from this. I judged myself a failure because of that and it still gnaws me to this day. They attended my graduation and I did get a MPhil out of it.

    5. Around this time, I met my current partner. He supported me in every way he could. We moved to different cities, as he was studying at a different uni and I started a new PhD project in another university. It was great, and I didn’t get abused by my colleagues to that extent i did back in the previous PhD project. My research work was well-received, and my parents were proud of me. My partner was a rock and I looked after him too when he began his PhD (he is nearly a decade younger than me.). I moved to different universities across Europe for my research and I have done rather well considering what I have gone through. During my PhD and postdoc years, I changed my lifestyle, I stopped drinking and smoking, and I transitioned from being a vegetarian to a vegan. I still miss smoking as it helped me cope with anxiety and depression to some extent.

    6. After the death of my father few years ago, I don’t have to meet my siblings. They are upset they don’t see me but I email them from time to time to tell them I am alive and well. I am well-hidden and I am so happy that I can’t get further wounded by my siblings. I wish them well, and always send positive thoughts. I don’t care about inheritance etc, just getting away is a gift in its own right. They are lovely people and are very generous.  They are very caring and are involved in international projects helping others. I am proud that they are doing well. They just don’t like me, that’s ok.

    7. I am not a bad person, after so much suffering, I would be content if I could just be left alone in peace. Not be subjected to racist slurs when i walk down the street with my partner (he is white and I am brown) would be nice. I stayed in my flat for 2 years and I didn’t leave because I feel people are so scary. I only go out now if I absolutely have to. I am so peaceful not seeing people except for my partner. I just want to draw, paint and write. I don’t want to see my ex in my dream. I never saw him as piece of meat, and I respected him and cared about him for the short time I was with him. I don’t really want to remember any of the painful things my siblings and ex-friends have said and done to me.

    8. I know this will probably sound very perplexing, I find drawing and painting help me deal with depression and anxiety.  But sometimes I don’t like the idea of drawing/painting because my ex is an accomplished artist. Then my anxiety gets worse. So I say to myself, should I stop breathing, drinking, thinking and eating, as he probably does.

    Another point might be that he physically resembles one of my abusers, which I find scary that I didn’t notice that back then. I thought I was morphing the memories to fit a model, but I am afraid after looking at a recent photo on the website, there is a resemblance. Maybe he represents the cumulative elements of my abusers (physical or emotional) either because of his physical appearance, body language and or the poison that left his mouth.

    I want closure and get away from this mess.  I do send everyone from the past my best wishes and I just want to be left alone to get on with what I love and spend time with my partner. Please don’t tell me to go and seek professional help, I have been through the agonising counselling sessions etc for decades. I don’t know whether or not they helped.

    I want to help myself, any advice would be helpful. I am keeping a journal in some code to keep a track on the days when the pain is lower and there is less torment. Maybe I can spot a pattern and can avoid some major triggers.

    Thanks once again for your help and time.



    I can see some similarities with my own experiences. Doing a PhD is great fun, but life after a PhD can be unpredictable. I have a PhD in Chemistry and also did my postdoc few years back. I can relate to some of your childhood experiences to some extent, and using accomplishments as milestones and a defence mechanism. Life has a rather peculiar way of showing one’s purpose.

    I have three older sisters (20-7 year age gap), and when I was growing up they were obviously in control and dictated my life. They were more inclined towards humanities and social sciences. I gravitated towards sciences naturally. They love socialising, fashion and fitting in. I was the opposite, I liked being on my own and thinking about the universe. My worse nightmare was being dragged around shopping centres with my sisters and my mum for hours. I despised every second of it, and even now I rarely go buy clothes or shoes. My boyfriend shops for me. So I began my scientific career as a Lab technician as I could not decide between Physics and Chemistry when I was 18. By the time I was 23, I worked out it was going to be Chemistry. Then I was off to uni, and got my BSc followed by a few years of industrial experience. I returned to academia and got my MPhil, PhD and then several years of postdoctoral research in various universities across Europe. Things seem to be going well, until I hurt my back (triggered by severe stress rather than a physical injury) and then lost my parents. So I was forced to leave academic research which I loved so much. It was hard and very depressing. My partner (historian academic) looked after me.

    This unexpected turn gave me an opportunity to develop my artistic and creative writing skills. I loved watercolour painting when I was younger and so I have been learning to paint and draw. I have devised my own experiments and I study my art materials from a scientific perspective. In the past, I quashed my liking of fine arts in preference for a scientific career as I thought I would be a more “useful” human being. The truth as I am both an artist and a scientist. I am also writing a novel based on the behaviour of molecular assemblies I researched for over 10 years (characters are faeries) and of course the natural world around me. So although I currently don’t work in the scientific field, the knowledge and experience in sciences has enriched my life.

    I would say continue what you are doing if you feel at peace with your research and creative writing. You are probably already applying your passion of music in your research and will continue to do so. Your path is your own: music, creative writing, and anything else you have done or like. The knowledge and the experience of music and creative writing feed into each other. My point is we should allow ourselves to explore and for the “path” or the “purpose” to emerge.

    Good luck with your research and with your writing projects.

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