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My book is split into three distinct parts. In the first few chapters I highlight anecdotes from my personal life that illuminate my experiences with abandonment, neglect, isolation, molestation, physical and non-physical abuse, a forced marriage, bullying, homelessness, PTSD, and a gunshot wound that shattered my jaw. I have included photos from the shooting incident in the book for anyone who wishes to see them. Viewer discretion is advised.

The second part of the book focuses on the changes I have made to get myself out of my unfortunate circumstances and misery. Specifically, I show my readers the steps I’ve taken to make and follow a positive path to self-help and healing. By detailing the techniques I’ve used, and the simple everyday changes that helped me recover, I hope it may serve as a template for others to use while mending from their own situations.

Finally, the last part of the book focuses on individuals who want to learn more about trauma and how to help those around them. What they should consider when interacting with someone who might be suffering. I offer advice on how to approach those individuals, extend help, and provide continued support, which is the most critical part of any recovery.

After thinking about the book title for many, many weeks, I decided to go with Silent No More. It felt right! When we suffer trauma, often we feel we are at fault and we feel shame for the suffering. These feelings are wrong! It takes courage to go beyond them and open the story to the light of day. It is not possible to heal without freeing yourself from this kind of shame. Once I realized this, I decided to write the book to let others know about my story in the hope it would help them to move ahead to their own healing. They need to know there is no shame in what happened to them—it is not their fault.

There was so much pain and truth that I held inside myself for so long. I became tired of hiding. Not just hiding from myself, from others too. I wondered how many other survivors were hiding their pain and if they felt the same way that I did. I called my book Silent No More because I was coming forward to speak my truth and I hope others will too.

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. In addition, I have dedicated a section of the book to focus on those who have been privileged enough to not experience any trauma and abuse. I realized there are many of us—on both ends of the spectrum—that lacked the understanding needed to receive and provide support. It was critical that I highlight the importance of the role they play with their support and small acts of compassion needed in the healing process for those who are suffering. But most importantly, there is a message of acceptance, forgiveness, togetherness, and communication—something we all need to feel whole again.

Never in million years did I think that I would ever write or publish a book. However, I knew that sharing these experiences brought me relief, and provided encouragement to those who listened. When I spoke to others about what I’ve gone through, I was able to connect with them and understand that we all deal with our own unfortunate circumstances in life. That is what truly motivated me to write. If I can inspire even one person to survive what life throws their way, then nothing I’ve endured will have been in vain.

By writing this book, I have come to understand how amazingly strong humans can be. Each incident I’ve gone through has made me a better person, and, although no one should ever choose to suffer, the rewards of surviving challenges are gaining more tolerance, acceptance, and a greater understanding of others as well as ourselves. I pray that by sharing my personal experiences, others will be inspired to reach out to me, knowing that I can understand some, or many, elements of their battles. I’ve fought my own, in my own shoes, with my own tools. But together, perhaps we can win the fight.

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.

Throughout my life, there have been many times when I could only rely on myself and believed that receiving help from others would be impossible. Oftentimes, I lacked even a few extra dollars to spend, and could not foresee ever being able to count on anyone but myself. I knew, while writing this book, that I would never want someone to feel as I once did. As I continued to reflect on these moments, I decided that I must offer my book for free to anyone, so they could use it to help better their own situations. It is currently listed for free on my website. On all other platforms, I am prohibited from offering the book at no cost, so it is listed for the lowest price permitted. I have done this with the hope that my book will find its way to the right people; we are all struggling with something in our lives, and after reading this book, I hope people will be able to relate to my story on some level.

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.

Author

Iram Gilani
Genre
Autobiographical Nonfiction
Publish Date
2020
Country
United States