While this book primarily focuses on my personal life, encompassing a journey marked by a series of unfortunate circumstances including abuse, molestation, forced marriage, trauma, surviving a gunshot, and the ongoing challenges of enduring lifelong medical treatments, it contains elements that can deeply resonate with a broad spectrum of readers. Throughout its pages, I illuminate both the evident and hidden injustices that victims, irrespective of their gender or race, often must confront and endure.

The title “Invisible Tears” was inspired by the central theme and emotions conveyed within the book. The title signifies a hidden or unseen aspect of human emotions, particularly the pain, struggles, and challenges that people face but often conceal from the outside world.

The book delves into the lives of its characters, exploring the hardships they endure, the inner turmoil they experience, and the tears they shed behind closed doors, which are often invisible to others. These invisible tears symbolize the silent suffering and resilience of the characters as they navigate their personal journeys, facing adversity, and striving for a better future.

Overall, “Invisible Tears” was chosen to encapsulate the idea that there is often more to a person’s story than meets the eye, and it serves as a reminder of the hidden emotions and struggles that many individuals face in their lives.

I have written this book to empower others. There are many of us who take heavy steps—silently, and by ourselves bearing the burden of abuse and trauma— I hope that this book inspires others to unburden themselves from the weight of carrying it all alone. I want those, who are suffering, to know they are not alone—I understand their pain because I have stood in their shoes. To help them regain their strength and overcome their unfortunate circumstances, I have shared some very personal techniques they can implement in their lives to realize a positive change.
I never imagined that I would write and publish a book, not in a million years. However, I discovered that sharing my experiences not only brought me relief but also offered encouragement to those who listened. Conversations about my journey allowed me to connect with others and recognize that we all face our own challenging circumstances in life. This realization became my true motivation for writing. If my words can inspire even a single person to persevere through life’s challenges, then all I’ve endured will have purpose and meaning.

Through the process of writing this book, I’ve gained a profound appreciation for the incredible strength inherent in humanity. Each challenging incident I’ve faced has contributed to my personal growth, transforming me into a more compassionate and understanding individual. While no one should ever willingly choose to endure suffering, the rewards of surviving such trials include increased tolerance, acceptance, and a deeper understanding of both others and ourselves.

My hope and prayer are that, through sharing my personal experiences, others may find inspiration to reach out to me, knowing that I can empathize with some, if not many, aspects of their own struggles. I’ve navigated my own battles, in my own shoes, armed with my unique tools. Yet, together, perhaps we can join forces to triumph over life’s challenges.

My lifelong struggles have motivated me to follow my dreams and appreciate the small things in life. I’ve found it challenging–even distressing at times– to relive my past in such depth, since it still causes me a lot of pain. However, I wouldn’t change anything about my experiences, except to seek support from others. Often, help is much closer than we think. 

Although I have faced many serious tribulations and deep pain in my life, I do not wish to change my past. All I have gone through, even the shooting incident, has made me into a stronger individual and a more capable woman. However, I regret not taking advantage of the opportunities I had to laugh out loud while I was focused on less meaningful things. Due to the nerve damage in my face, I am no longer able to laugh; when I try, the muscles around my mouth stretch out in an uncomfortable, sometimes painful, way. It saddens me that I may never get to laugh and smile like I used to. Appreciate and cherish the little joys in your life, as they can make a world of difference. Don’t let them become overshadowed by trivial problems. Recognize the significance of these moments, since their permanence is never guaranteed.

When you meet someone who is struggling, and you look away instead of holding their eye-contact, it becomes incredibly difficult for them to maintain a positive self-image. After that moment, we can no longer see ourselves through our own eyes. Oftentimes, survivors already have a skewed perception of self, and can only see bruises and scars when they look in the mirror. How people react to us– seeing our visible and invisible pain– can make or break our courage to continue fighting. All of us, no matter what we’ve been through, take cues from how others react and perceive us. Interactions that leave a person feeling ostracized or outcast only heightens their sense of isolation. Conversely, starting a conversation with someone about who they are, not just what they’ve been through, goes a long way to nurture their recovery. Providing others with kindness and encouragement in these interactions can be the difference they need to keep healing. 

The free weekly mentoring sessions I host for a group of 10-12 children. Knowing that I can make a difference in their lives brings me so much joy and a strong sense of purpose. Each week, I hear how they’ve applied the content of our sessions to their own situations, and I feel proud to be a positive influence in their lives. 

Throughout my work, I endeavor to act as an advocate for marginalized individuals who are struggling in their recovery from abuse and trauma. I seek to spread awareness to those who can support a survivor that their role is critical. Moreover, I aspire to open a safe space for communication between people who have endured traumas and those who have not, so they can initiate a dialogue that promotes understanding and empathy. I encourage anyone and everyone to use the “Communication Board” on my website to take advantage of the space.

We all suffer, and we all want to have the pleasures in life. Pleasure and pain are part of life. How we deal with them is the key. Everything we suffer in life becomes part of our story. When we experience a traumatic episode in our life, we learn to appreciate the role of those who love and care for us even more. We start to understand their importance and the privileges we have—something we may have overlooked previously. Taking care of our self and seeking pleasure is important for healing, but I believe I appreciate pleasures more now that I have experienced pain. 

The word that comes to mind for me is solidarity. Without it, facing trauma could mean life or death for some. I wanted to tell my story to stand with them. To overcome trauma and achieve a healthy state, we need support and hope. It is my intent that my book will help others obtain both, the support and hope, they need to move ahead in life. If that happens even for one person, I will have achieved my goal!

While women are the most common victims of violence, I believe it’s important to recognize that anyone may suffer, such as LGBTQ victims and even men. To make the world a better and safer place for all survivors, there should be more space for understanding, acceptance, communication, and even forgiveness. Imagine what would happen if people were free to tell their truth and not be afraid of being stigmatized. It would be incredible.

My empathy for others. When someone shares a problem with me, I feel their pain and discomfort and I feel a kinship with them. While it can be intense at times, I believe it also makes me great at supporting others and giving advice. 

What truly drove me to write this book was the lack of support I received from those around me. I knew that their support would have made all the difference in my recovery, yet they chose to let me suffer alone in silence and watched me count the days to my death. I wrote this book for those who care but feel lost about how to start offering their support to someone in need. Oftentimes, people may be afraid to offer help for fear of saying the wrong thing and causing offense. I hope this book can serve as a guide for those individuals to learn more and start a conversation of their own. Their support can be the critical difference between life and death.

From a young age, born into a well- educated and upper-middle class family in Pakistan, I was cognizant that my place—like women in many other cultures—was to be seen and not heard. I faded into my surroundings, trying to fit into our family’s customary structure. In many households worldwide, men are placed at a much higher value than women—mine wasn’t any different. Although my family was neither overly conservative nor religious, there remained an underlying belief, which they’d absorbed from the larger culture as a whole, that a woman’s responsibility is to provide children. Women in my immediate family were not regarded as equal to men, and at times, were treated as though they did not even have the right to make decisions regarding their own well-being. Maintaining honor was especially important to my family due to our status as members of the “Syed” cast. Known to be a descendant of our last prophet, Mohammad [PBUH], Syed is one of the highest castes in Pakistan, and among many other Muslim countries. Strict expectations placed on us by our family members were heavily guided by our cultural beliefs.

Alongside these cultural expectations, I was greatly impacted by the shock, abandonment, and neglect I felt when my adoptive parents revealed I was not their child. In the formative years after they left, I spent most of my time isolated, still in shock, which hindered any room to grow my personality. Individual expression was largely looked down upon in my family, so I was taught to follow and only do as I was told. In many ways I felt robotic and inhuman. Since my biological parents do not have any male siblings, they placed a stronger emphasis on the importance of having sons rather than daughters. As a child, it was constantly disheartening for me to understand that parents could value one child over another simply due to their gender.

When my family first came to the US in 1997, it was around Christmas time, and I was about to turn 13 years old. Never before had I seen entire cities lit up and covered with the beautiful glow of colorful lights and ornaments, and I was in awe. Grinning ear to ear I savored the gorgeous scenery, and crisp, cold air as I looked through the window. America was a dreamland to me! Coming to the United States was the chance for me to start my life over– and I was thrilled by the opportunity. I could be freed from my heartbreaking past experiences with molestation, abuse, neglect, and isolation; I was finally able to erase that dark time from my life forever. Looking forward from this happy, new beginning, all I wanted was to enjoy the possibilities a life in America could offer.

The incident occurred on March 11th, 2014 while I was visiting my family in Pakistan during a spring break from college. At approximately 10:30 p.m., shortly after leaving from dinner at a TGI Fridays, my two aunts and I dropped off my younger brother and his bodyguard at their car–which was parked in a secluded area alongside the highway. Afterwards, my aunt proceeded to drive myself and my other aunt home. Less than 30 seconds later, two motorcycles sped towards us, approaching from the direction where we had just dropped off my younger brother. They raced up to the left-hand side of the car and began firing gunshots into the front seat, where I was sitting. One bullet shattered my lower jaw, teeth, and gums. A second bullet hit the left breast of my aunt, who was driving. Thankfully, my aunt and I both survived and were rushed to the closest medical center.

Since my injuries from the gunshot were so severe—a shattered jaw, gums, and teeth—I have many artificial parts in my body. Thus, my recovery process is ongoing. In fact, my recovery will last the rest of my life. At any moment my body may reject one of the artificial implants and become infected, which threatens my life. Every day I live with the fear of not knowing if the constant physical pain I feel may turn into an infection. Throughout everything I have endured in my life, my older brother, Ali, has been on my side. Regardless of his own challenges with an intellectual disability, he became my shield when I would get slapped, punched, and kicked. He remained by my side while I recovered from surgical and non-surgical procedures that occurred every 3 to 6 weeks since I was shot in March of 2014. Every step of my journey, Ali has held my hand, protected, loved, and cared for me.

I want people suffering from unfortunate circumstances in their life–whether it is physical or non-physical abuse, neglect, PTSD, or anything else–to understand that they are not alone. They are stronger than they know. Don’t give up! Keep fighting and believe that things will get better. Communicate and learn to trust again. Sometimes, just by connecting with others and sharing hard-earned wisdom, we can chart a path outside our own pain. I encourage you to join, or form, your own community. A little goes a long way. Connect with others, even if it’s as simple as sharing your techniques with people already in your life or seeking out new people with whom you can exchange tips.

Moreover, I hope the people who have been privileged enough to never experience abuse or trauma to realize how important of a role they play, or can play, in the lives of those around them. Please, extend your hand and provide support to someone who might need it now more than ever. Your kindness can save a life.


Iram Gilani
Autobiographical Nonfiction
Publish Date
United States