Untold Solh | A Phoenix's Journey: From Darkness to Rebuilding A Life

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Untold Solh | A Phoenix's Journey: From Darkness to Rebuilding A Life

It is usually said that trauma and mental illness can be a generational phenomenon. This is heard in passing and often ignored. However, my story stands as a well-lived proof of this. I was more or less a happy, shy child, but I still had a lot of friends and was good at studies. Even though my family was not the most open-minded and stable, I could feel loved by my parents and a sibling.

This all changed on the fateful night of 5th December 2012. I was thirteen years old and returning from a school trip to Agra. It was late at night, and the bus driver decided to drop me one lane away from my home. Walking towards my house, I suddenly felt a bag covering my head and socks stuffed into my mouth. I was thrown in a car, and I could hear two middle-aged men talking. I knew then that something horrible was going to happen and that my life was never going to be the same again. Over 6 hours, I was raped repeatedly by two men. The best way to describe it would be sheer pain. Every resistance was met with a broken bone or a knife stab. Not even understanding what was happening to me, I somehow knew that these were my last moments on earth. I thought about my mom and my dog, Adam. I thought of how he’d think that one day I left, and I never came back. It was a chilly December morning, and I was thrown in a dump yard. The cold numbed the pain. I remember covering my naked and bleeding body with trash. I saw daylight and heard a few people walking past me. I tried to call for them, but nothing came out of my mouth. Ultimately, I gathered everything I could from within and screamed for help.

Fortunately, a lady found me. I still remember the look on her face when our eyes met. It seemed like she couldn’t tell if I was a child or an animal. She held me in her arms, and that is when I finally let go. Later, she described me getting limp in her arms. With two broken legs, a broken pelvis, seven stab wounds, and an unwanted pregnancy, I lived in the hospital for three months. My parents did not know where I was for one week as I stayed on the ventilator and couldn’t speak. I saw both of my parents break down with both disgust and relief in front of me.

When I finally came home, I was not met with the basic human kindness I needed then. My father suddenly became very abusive towards me, and the rest of the family watched. Every day was an episode of severe physical and mental abuse. It somehow became my entire life. I was also immediately sent back to school and asked not to talk about what had happened and what was continuously happening. I was thirteen years old when I tried to take my life for the first time. My grades at school declined considerably, and everything became a blur. The Nirbhaya case happened in Delhi just a few days after me. I remember being envious of her because she died, and I did not. I do not remember a huge chunk of my life from this period. I felt like people around me already had their plans in motion, and the only choice I had was to be left out of them completely.

I was leading a double life. My friends at school never saw me crying or upset because I thought it was all I did at home, so school had to be different. Additionally, even if I wanted to tell them, I couldn’t because I didn’t have the words or the courage to do it. Talking about it might have meant more abuse at home. My brother, who is a psychologist, put me in therapy when I didn’t even know what it meant. I was put on heavy medication for my symptoms, which I took for ten years. This was the only form of respite I had. I remember deciding to be a therapist at the age of 14 because my therapist had told me that she “makes sad kids better,” and I wanted to do that, too. I remember the first time I talked about this experience was at the age of 18 in front of a grief support group. It was extremely hard, but it felt like a weight lifted off my chest. I eventually came to forgive my mother and brother for not saving me as I understood more of what they also went through during this time and before.

Stepping out of school and into college was a period of transformation for me. This was when my father had moved out of the house, and I could finally feel some respite. I could feel my life coming back to me. I decided to keep myself busy with a lot of work. I got a job along with my college as it felt like I had much catching up to do with others who had reached far ahead of me. This small financial independence also brought joy and control over my circumstances and made me feel like I was not a burden. Sometimes, when I look back, it feels unfair that as a 17-year-old kid, I felt like I had to get my own money and make my own life, but it made me more resilient in the long run. I threw myself into volunteer work wherever I got the chance. Now, at 24 years old, almost 12 years later, my experiences have made me a gentler, if not a stronger person, which is a huge asset for my work as a novel therapist.


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