I immediately felt like my life should end. I was 25 years old, and my husband left. He left me with two sons to raise alone. I was left to struggle. What I thought would be forever was over. What my culture, religion and family told me I should fight for was over in a matter of minutes. My toddler and infant were the only reason I felt the need to stay alive. After three and a half years of abuse, I was free from my oppressive marriage. Free to go back to school, free to raise my children, free from my constant anxiety, but I was told I was worthless and would be a loser. I was terrified to start over. I felt absolutely devastated. This was not a new feeling for me. Despite not physically taking my own life I died inside.

Dating back to my toddler years I remember neglect from the one person who was supposed to take care of me. Having a parent with a severe drug addiction was not easy. Most times I felt like I was watching to make sure she did not die from an overdose. A few times she almost did because I had no idea what was going on. At the time I only called it the slushies (my child mind associated that word with my mothers actions). My grandmother worked full time and my father saw me as much as he could. Realizing I was the product of a divorce was not easy. I felt like my parents made a mistake bringing me into this world, this thought occurred as early as 6 years old. I remember hunger and waiting until my grandmother got home at midnight to save me from my misery.

In my school years I was bullied about my hair, my glasses and into my teen years I was bullied about my weight. I had anxiety about school and socializing with other kids. I was now living with my father and stepmother. I can understand how being a stepparent is not easy, but the treatment that I received was less than stellar considering where I had come from. I remember being taught how to binge eat and restrict food all day just to do so. I was told I was stupid and had no common sense. I remember bipolar episodes and deep depressions from her. Feeling depressed and suicidal at the age of 11 was not normal. I was consistently told I was no good just like my mother. I was afraid of death but I also felt like I hated the fact that I was born. I would never realize that years later I would have two reasons to walk this earth.

Coming from two different cultures added to the constant mental struggle with depression and anxiety. I escaped through food. I was not allowed to date, or socially interact with the opposite sex as other girls in their teen years did. I excelled academically and put constant pressure on myself to do well in school. I also wished that my chubby figure would be stick thin like the other girls. I did not participate in sports so I starved and ate, starved and ate. Ate in secrecy and silence after school. I balanced my weight in this cycle. I was never skinny but never obese. Graduating high school felt like a relief from the social pressure. Not being allowed to go away to college I went to community. My first semester at Rutgers I met my ex husband and dropped out, with the naïve thought that I could be married and finish school.

I felt like this was the only man who would accept me for who I was. Who was I? In my eyes I was fat, ugly, and disgusting. I had no self-confidence nor did I see any value in myself. I felt like I needed someone to validate who I was and make me feel beautiful. He fit my family’s criteria. Muslim, Middle Eastern and had a job. I presented him to my family and we were engaged not long after. I missed all of the red flags. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to. Stay a virgin, get married and go finish my education. He pressured me to lose weight, I was too fat, I lost forty pounds before my wedding nine months after we met. Abusive and belittling behavior presented before the marriage but this is what I thought I deserved. It continued to get worse and worse after marriage and kids. During pregnancy I was told to have an abortion to lose weight. I was stupid and worthless and nothing. No one would ever want me. Two babies later he left had found a new victim and I was left picking up the pieces all over again.

Four years later, two years of therapy and recovery have helped me discover that the stigma of depression, anxiety and an eating disorder is not the end of the world. I could care less what others think about me. My therapist really helped me to understand what self worth meant. I was not worthless, stupid and disgusting, I was not my mother. She empowered me to continue my education, to battle my demons and to achieve my goals. I am now working full time almost finished my bachelor’s degree and moving on to my master’s degree. I am a counselor. The first thing I tell my clients are that I have been where they have been. I know what worthless feels like and I also know that hitting bottom is not the end. It feels like the end but hitting bottom is the only way up. I not only have two reasons to walk this earth but countless.

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Sarah Mohamed is a 30-year-old single mother of two boys who lives and works  as a vocational counselor in Southern New Jersey.  Academically working towards a master’s degree in clinical counseling to someday have her own practice to help others with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts as well as eating disorders.