How could a small detail such as menstruation, put a judgment for life on a small girl’s shoulders?

Hello. I’ve heard about this platform very recently through one of my few friends that I’ve always been able to share my thousands of inner contradictions. There are other people like you, she said. I haven’t read much of it yet. I’m feeling grief as I go with the pages. It is a bit difficult to feel every sentence deep into my bones. But for now, even having found a platform that makes me feel like I’m not alone is more than enough. I grew up in a religious town, and attended a religious school where my father was working. At the age of 12, like many of my friends, I also started to wear headscarf, ‘willingly’ . It is only now I see that I did what I did because I was aiming for the happiness of my father I was deeply keen on back then, and who openly stated on more than one occasion that he is ashamed of his daughter being uncovered around people that mean a lot to him and he would be very happy if I covered myself.

How come an expression such as ‘Akil Baliğ’ which is based on only one simple physiological change; menstruation, could put a judgment for life on a small girl’s shoulders in one single day is beyond me.

I always tried to be worthy in my father and family’s eyes. I had my education in accordance with their worldview, in schools they have decided, and in degrees they have decided. My transition began in high school. Finally getting into high school meant that I could now take up hobbies. I was attending free language courses and reading clubs that my school provided. I was trying to learn playing the only instrument they let me. I was exploring the religion I believe in. I was reading. A lot.. I was aiming to educate myself into an individual who could do good on this earth. But on the other hand, I kind of hated myself, too. Because of that sick form of perfectionism that I inherited from my family, I was blaming myself with hypocrisy, laziness, and inadequacy. With my self-torture at its highest level, I also had to make sense of what my parents were doing. They were actually flaunting to their acquaintances about all my new features, but when they were not around they were bad mouthing the times I spent for my courses and getting mad at me for not acting in a way a woman should and sit at her home all day. Because of their approach, I had to give up on all those courses over time. In my senior year even reading was forbidden, so that I could study more. But I wasn’t even touching the books, just watching the walls. I was suffering from a severe depression. I was questioning the purpose of my creation and every single answer I found in Quran felt raw.

My own words sounded like a record to my ears.

In addition to my faith, my political view was also being differentiated from my parents. The politicians they uphold and obey blindly just because they say they’re believers had started to discriminate people based on their beliefs. I never believed that any religion could legitimate social polarization. But all of these, I was living within myself. As the mentally reverse-wired up individual of the family, I was just waiting for the day that I would finally go away.. The results had been announced. Even though it seemed like I could lay my hands on the profession I had always dreamt of, my list of preferred schools had been changed incidental to my father’s severe threats. I couldn’t go away. I got crushed under the fact that I would have to pretend at least for 5 more years, and started to spill my depression into the internet. I met good people, they supported me. In fact, even a psychologist offered to help me. After long discussions, it was one way or the other; either I would have had to fight against my family and make them accept my identity, or live my life as myself as much as I could, without being crushed under the feeling of liability towards them and wouldn’t necessarily let them know any of it. With the weariness of all the bickers I had with my family during my high school years, I chose the second way.

I didn’t want to beat myself up anymore, I wanted to breathe as deep as I can, and resist losing my selfhood. Therefore, I carried forward in that direction step by step for 4 years. I started to live another life on the side without their knowledge, where I went and spent time outside uncovered.

Again, without their knowledge, I traveled cities I wanted. But these were risky acts. I still live in the same city they live, in fact up until last year I was still living with them. They still think so different about me. My father still brings every discussion we have about me not praying five times a day into the point where he points to the door and says ‘if you don’t have faith, there’s the door’. And I keep silent with the fear of losing the financial support I need to continue my education. Even though they sense the differences between my identity and theirs, they still hope that I’ll be the daughter they want, have the profession of their choice, and get married to someone they deem right for me. Even my social circle is having me tangle myself with the pains of my mindset that doesn’t fit my constructed persona. Yet all these contradictions taught me a lot about explaining and expressing myself.

I am an idealist student. I love my profession and I have faith that I’ll be successful. But I feel like as long as my thoughts and dreams are being fed by my father who is a teacher yet thinks the fact that I even go to school is his kindness, and as long as I don’t obtain my economic independence, I can’t throw my hijab; thus I won’t be able to complete my education with a fully professional competence. This was only the logic-side of the story. On emotional side, I struggle with my fears as to how my narcissistic and dignity-obsessed father’s and my mother’s health would handle the disappointment, and my fears as to how I won’t be able to make sure my sister will have a normal family. As they get older and their expectations for me grow bigger, I am getting crushed by this dilemma. One day, when I reveal everything, I don’t know which side will get hurt more. I don’t know the right way to do this. I’ll read your stories and chose my path accordingly. Thank you, for taking this journey beside me.

(Image: Ricardo Bessa)

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