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Rising From The Ashes: How I Rebuilt My Life After I Left My Abusive Husband

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By Payal Kapoor:

This is the second part of a two-part series by Payal Kapoor. Read the first post here.

I was standing alone on the threshold of a new life. After my marriage of eight years looked like it had irrevocably broken down, I had decided to officially end it.

The pain was almost physical — I felt cold, and my insides felt like they had turned to liquid. My heart rate was accelerated, and my eyes were misty all the time.

I was gripped by a sense of helplessness and fear. And I was adrift — since my parents were travelling when the breakup happened, I had to move in with my sister until they returned. Friends rallied around me, and many invited me to stay with them, but I wanted only the comfort of being home with my parents.

I had to go back to the house I had shared with my husband so that I could collect some of my things in small increments. My sister and brother-in-law accompanied me on these trips. It was strange to open the door on my own, since this was something my ex-husband used to do. Every time I went there, I cried because it felt like I was dismantling my life. All my things were still the way I’d left them.

The house was eerily quiet since he was not around — I went there only when I knew he wouldn’t be. I could hear the laughter, the conversations, the silences, and the sadness in everything. Perhaps the most difficult thing I had to do was to walk into my bedroom, where so many memories lay not quite buried.

I touched everything I knew was no longer mine. It was devastating to know that I would never live there again.

The sense of loss was complete.

After a few trips, I gave up.My sister cried with me and we decided that it was enough. Bringing all the stuff back would only haunt me. I didn’t want to build a shrine for what used to be my life. To this day, my mother talks about how I left a whole house from him to enjoy, but to me, these were only material things. What I had given up was a whole life.

It was difficult to settle back into a home which I had left so long ago. The room I had left behind when I married, and the spaces I used to occupy had all been filled. It was hard to get used to living without my husband, even though things between us had deteriorated so badly. I missed our daily routine terribly.

My only consolation was the fact that I had given the marriage my absolute best, and I knew there was nothing left in the relationship for me. Even so, the pain was intense. I had taken some time off work, but I soon returned. Every time someone asked about him, it felt like a wound had been re-opened.

My parents commiserated with me. They understood what the marriage had meant to me and how deeply I had felt for the man who was no longer my husband. But in their own way, they were glad to see me exit the abusive relationship that had sucked the life out of me. Since I had asked them not to interfere, they had stayed away. But when I finally came home, they were relieved to have me back.

Support poured in — from family, friends, and people who had only been acquaintances. But I felt resentful. I hated the idea of having to depend on other people to do things for me and with me. In fact, I hated the world at large. I begrudged everyone their happiness, especially my ex-husband, who I had wanted so much. I understand now that this was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction to my feelings of abandonment.

The uphill trudge was very slow. I didn’t want to face anybody since I felt like a loser who had failed at life. In my mind, I knew the breakdown of the marriage was not my fault, but none of this reasoning made me feel better about having left. Maybe I could have tried harder? Had I really done enough? Why couldn’t I make him love me more?

Soon enough though, things started changing around me.

I had hit rock bottom in the descent into grief, and the only way to go was upwards. I started making decisions for my own self. I decided where I wanted to go and with whom. What I did and when. The sense that I was not looking over my shoulder to be judged and berated was my first taste of true liberation. My parents were very helpful. Not for a moment did I feel like I was not home. Their support and unconditional acceptance was critical to me being able to start rebuilding my life.

Through my friends, I met a whole bunch of new people. Soon, I had a wide circle of friends, most of whom I met online first. Then, I spoke to many of them on the phone. I felt like I had known them forever! Conversations about life and future plans began to come easily to me.

It began to dawn on me, even through all the pain, that I had reclaimed my life. All the decisions and their consequences were all mine. It was a little scary, but exciting too. This new sense of wellbeing slowly chipped away at the resentment I’d been feeling. I was cocooned in so much love and goodwill, I felt that nothing could go wrong ever again.

Description: A colourful portrait painted against a bright red background. The subject of the painting has a calm expression and their eyes look directly at the viewer. There are flowers painted on their cheek and hair. Credit: torbakhopper via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Financially, I had what I earned all to myself. During the marriage, I had run the house almost singlehandedly. The stress of this had not helped the relationship any. But now, I finally had the resources to do things for myself.

I had mostly been at home after the separation. After a few months, I was ready to step out and explore the world. My first foray was a holiday to Goa with a friend. It felt strange; both sad and liberating at the same time. Because I was still grieving, I was in a haze during the trip. Everything was beautiful, but my memories assailed me at every step. I don’t think I missed him as much as I missed being one half of a couple. Also, since my life with him had not always been bad, many experiences on that holiday reminded me of my trips with him.

With the progress that I’d made, and armed with the wonderful stories of many friends who’d successfully picked up pieces of their own lives and moved on, I knew that I was ready to realise a longstanding dream of mine. I had always wondered what it would be like to travel on my own as a visually impaired woman, and I decided to finally do so.

The opportunity presented itself when a good friend and his wife invited me to visit them in Kerala. I had never met them in person before. I had first met my friend on a list for visually impaired people, and we had taken to each other instantly. We soon became good friends, hence the invitation.

I was nervous and excited about the trip. I still remember walking into the airport all on my own and feeling a fabulous sense of freedom and strength.

That trip changed my life forever.

It wasn’t just a fantastic holiday — it renewed my faith in myself.

Now, I regularly visit friends in other places, and do everything I want to. So much of it is thanks to the generosity of those around me — my best friend, for example, paid me a surprise visit on my birthday, just over a month after the separation. To this day, her home continues to be a space of solace and fun for me.

I distinctly remember reaching her home on my first solo visit to Bangalore on the day that would have been my wedding anniversary. We had a fantastic celebration to exorcise any traces of regret or sorrow I might have been feeling. Other friends, too, have indulged in activities that interest me, no questions asked. My family has always been the mainstay of my recovery.

I still have times of ennui, when I feel like there is a gaping hole in my life. When I see others with families of their own, I feel like that little scruffy child standing at the shop window, looking in longingly. This passes rather quickly when my mind goes back to how things were for me in the marriage.

Life on my own is good.

Although I go out sometimes, it is not as often as I might want to. My hearing impairment deters me from going to noisy places. As a foodie, I love trying out new places to eat at. I also love going to a pub and enjoying the ambience and music, but having conversations in these venues is almost impossible. There have been times I’ve gone on a retro night with friends only to enjoy the music with a drink.

I have not dated at all after the separation. I have few occasions to meet new people, since going out is not easy. There are now opportunities for people to meet virtually through dating sites and apps. Unfortunately, none of them are completely accessible to use with my screen reader, both on my computer and phone. This limits the scope of my interactions with others who may be looking to date too.

My experience with love and marriage has not left me jaded. I still believe in relationships. I have fantastic examples all around me to stand testament to how strong they can be. I believe in the goodness of the human heart, and the resilience of the spirit. If life were to bring about another opportunity for a relationship, I’d be cautious, but I would definitely give it another chance. But I am fine with staying single too.

I continue to live with my parents and have gone back feeling the comfortable sense of being home.

I have found the joy of being with my own self. I read, cook and bake, travel, work and write; all things that make me happy. Life has, in its own way, come full circle.

The sun has definitely not gone down on my life. The best is yet to come, and I am right here to take on whatever comes my way!

A hotelier by education and profession, Payal loves life in all its varying shades. Along with working with a group of hotels, she makes time for friends, experiments in the kitchen, and travels whenever possible.

This post was originally published on Skin Stories.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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