Noha is many things – a mother of two, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a woman – but most of all, she is a survivor.
Before the Beirut Blast, Noha’s life was far from the one she dreamed of. She was having marital issues, mental health issues, concerns regarding her children and their future, and worries about her overall living situation. Although she knew she needed the help, she could not afford it, and a part of her resisted because of the social taboo surrounding therapy.
When the Beirut Blast happened, Noha approached Restart Center’s field response team in Al Makassed School in Beirut, to seek some help for her children. The therapist, who had taken the shift that day, realized that Noha herself seemed shaken. “You know, we can follow up with you too, if you want,” said the therapist. Despite her hesitation and reluctance, a part of her decided she had nothing left to lose, and she jumped at the opportunity.
According to her therapist, Noha made every moment of therapy count, and she took every skill seriously. “I was hesitant at first,” Noha said, “but session after session, I felt really empowered… I’ve been suffering for years and I thought that nothing will be able to change how my life is.”
Until months before the Beirut Blast, their poor financial situation meant that the only home Noha had known since her marriage included her mother- and brother-in-law’s place; a place where she did not feel welcome, and where she was repeatedly abused and mistreated. Despite what she was enduring, she held her silence, unable to say anything, until one day, when she finally decided to put her foot down and put an end to her suffering. Her brother-in-law, for reasons she did not wish to discuss, beat her in front of her husband, who failed to side by her. She expressed that it was a heartbreaking moment for her to see her husband stand unsuccessful at being the support system she needed him to be, especially during that very moment and regarding that specific event. She decided it was time to move out.
Moving out did not make her life easier. For the first time, she was responsible for a household and a family of four. Without realizing it, her children had grown up, and she realized she had lost the chance to raise them the way she wanted to, due to her in-laws intervening constantly. The pressures continued to build. From her perspective, her husband was to blame. It was his fault that she lived the way she did and that she felt she could never speak up about the mistreatment. It was his fault because, despite all that she experienced, he still refuses to fight for her rights, and instead, chooses to maintain a close relationship with his mother and brother.
Through therapy, Noha talked at length about what she had endured, about her anxieties, the pressures, the fears, and lack of support. Her therapist afforded her a safe space to explore her feelings, feel heard, and receive guidance. With her therapist’s help, she learned relaxation techniques to calm her anxieties, received parental guidance to help her better fulfill her role and enhance her skills at being a mother, and she learned to live in the here and now; forgetting about her previous problems and worrying less about her future. This helped her maintain a gratitude mind-set.
With only a few sessions, Noha’s anxieties decreased. She learned to let go of unhelpful thoughts, and to shift her perspective on the events that have happened to her in addition to her daily life stressors. She became more adept at solving problems and making decisions.
The therapist’s eye-opening intervention was allowing Noha to see the benefits of her life now. She was finally the matron of the household. She could do as she pleased without the intervention of her in-laws. She was in control of her life, and no one could tell her otherwise.
“I can’t believe how psychotherapy has changed my life. It was all in my head, under my control, while I thought that I will never be able to deal with the past. I switched from being the victim to being the one in control of my own life and my wellbeing” said Noha upon being discharged from therapy.
With her therapist’s encouragement, Noha faced her husband and openly discussed the matters that upset her. She was blaming him before because she could not understand the choices he made earlier. When she opened this door, her husband finally shared his own fears, thoughts, the reasons for his decisions, and the justifications for his behaviors. This was a turning point in her therapy, her marriage, and her life. She relaxed immensely when she saw his point of view. Her relationship with her husband changed drastically for the better from divorce to reconciliation.
Through Restart Center, Noha embarked on a therapeutic journey, where she learned to never allow herself to be a victim anymore. She realized that she is a survivor, and that nothing that happens to her can take this trait away from her.
“Everyone around me noticed the change. Even my husband, who never believed in therapy, wanted to benefit from it too now. I’m so happy and grateful! Beirut Blast is surely devastating but for me, it was life changing, for the better” expressed Noha during her last session.