Finding My Higher Purpose In Adversity

How surviving years of family abuse and violence led me to empower other women through spirituality.

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When I was freshly out of high school, about a decade or so ago, I would never thought I would be wearing the hats I’m wearing today: spiritual life coach, author, podcaster and entrepreneur. In my naive eighteen-year-old mind, I thought my path would lead me to major in political science and history, and then go to law school, live in New York, and work at the UN. 

Four years earlier, my mother had brought me from my native Lebanon to the Washington D.C. area under the guise of a summer vacation. She ordered me to not tell my father, with whom her marriage was collapsing, that we were traveling to America. 

When he found out, the day after we arrived, he reacted very, very badly, sending mass emails to all our relatives, friends and acquaintances, in which he called my mother all sorts of names and demanded for me to be brought back to him. In retrospect, I should have known that it was a normal reaction when you learn that your abusive spouse has kidnapped your child and taken her halfway across the world. But at the time, my mother succeeded in painting my father as a monster to everyone, myself included, and depicted herself as the self-sacrificing mother who was taking her child away from him. 

The decision was soon taken to stay in America, and with my father out of the picture, I was now at the center of my mother’s malignancy. She became jealous of the young woman I was turning into, especially when others would tell her I had potential and that my future was promising. So she would abuse me verbally, emotionally, and even financially, making my home life a nightmare. 

When I was fifteen, after I hinted to her that I was attracted to women, my mother enabled a male relative living in our household to sexually assault me on a regular basis. When I told her about it, she initially didn’t believe me, then told me it was all my fault. And because she had kept me in the dark about the Green Card procedure she had started on my behalf (she lied to me about being “illegal” in the United States), I was too afraid to tell the school counselor I met with weekly that I was being sexually assaulted, because I knew she would have to involve local authorities and I was afraid of being deported back to Lebanon.

My mother made it obvious that she expected me to spend the rest of my life living with her and taking care of her needs. She thought I owed it to her in exchange for her raising me, feeding me, clothing me, and bringing me to America. At first, I thought that these were normal expectations for a Catholic Lebanese girl. As such, my future seemed so bleak, because I couldn’t picture a life where I wouldn’t be exposed to my mother’s abuse and toxicity. 

But slowly, inspired by people I met or heard of, I would allow myself to picture a different outcome, where I would be able to peacefully set my boundaries, live on my own terms, and date whoever I wanted.

When I turned eighteen, I thought this was my new beginning, and my shot at living a life on my own terms, away from my mother, her increasingly controlling and toxic behaviors, and the expectations she placed on me. Little did I know that my family would take my desire for independence as rebellion, and that they would do everything they could think of to sabotage me in every possible way so I would have no choice but to depend on them and be forced to abide to their idea of what I should be doing with my life. 

My first decade of adulthood was defined by struggle. After my freshman year of college, a series of health problems (stemming from my mother’s abuse and the severe anxiety she caused me) forced me to take a leave of absence. I tried to make my relatives understand that this was supposed to be a time for me to heal and bounce back so I could resume my studies, but they only became more toxic and abusive. 

The year I took off ended with me being homeless after being physically assaulted by the same male relative who had molested me. His wife and my mother believed his side of the story, discouraged me from filing a police report against him, and effectively kicked me out of the place I had come to call home. 

In the years that followed, while I tried to survive and create a semblance of stability in my life, my mother led a very effective smear campaign against me, telling vicious lies to Lebanese relatives, friends, and acquaintances, but also using whatever connections she had to get me fired from any jobs I’d manage to secure, or have work opportunities or housing solutions I desperately needed withdrawn from me. 

The turning point was when my father had a fatal heart attack. I was twenty-five at the time, and had spent the past few years rebuilding a relationship with him. It was far from perfect, and we had our struggles – he also had certain expectations of me that I was not willing to meet (returning to Lebanon and marrying a man, for instance). 

But when my mother heard that I had visited him in Lebanon, she decided to return there and start a divorce procedure against him. The procedure lasted three years, during which, financed by her wealthy siblings, my mother used the corrupt Lebanese justice system to her advantage, bribing judges and lawyers to drain my father financially and find different ways to cause him as much distress as possible, enough to potentially kill him. 

She succeeded shortly after managing to send him to prison on false charges, only having him released after he agreed to give her a large amount money. This was the last time he texted me – less than three weeks later, he was gone. 

This was when my relatives showed their true face. They couldn’t have an ounce of decency or compassion towards me – before my father was even buried, they harassed me, blackmailed me and threatened me to sign a power of attorney form giving my mother full access on my father’s entire estate (his divorce with my mother had been recently finalized, and as his only child, I was his sole heir). 

The period that ensued was one of the darkest of my life – I was forced to return to live with my relatives after it turned out that my landlord did not have a permit to rent me his property. I was completely broke, severely depressed, and subjected to emotional (and sometimes sexual) abuse on a daily basis. 

I was regularly threatened with being kicked out of the house if I refused to speak to my mother on the phone and spend hours listening to her trash my father and gaslight me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the only thing that kept me alive and gave me the strength to fight was my cat Julia, who I had adopted a year earlier, and who bought me so much strength and comfort on a daily basis. 

In the midst of all this darkness, both proverbial and real (it was around the Winter Solstice), I was guided to the one thing I had looked at with skepticism and doubt for several years. 

Spirit. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t new to New Age beliefs. In fact, I read tarot cards and used to practice a form of candle magic a few years back. But I had lost my connection to it after my relatives caught me in the middle of an outdoor ritual and proceeded to made fun of me the entire time. My spiritual practice hadn’t been very consistent since then. 

But during that winter, something different happened. Rather than attaching myself to a specific practice and its expected outcome (like, say, a love or money candle spell), I connected with Spirit itself. And the distant, dim light in the midst of all that darkness became stronger and stronger. I was guided towards solutions and opportunities that, within a couple of months, transformed my life. 

I didn’t know what was happening at the time. I couldn’t understand that I was becoming connected to the spiritual power I was born with. Following my intuition, I moved to a beach town in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, three hours away from D.C., and there, I discovered yoga, energy healing, the Law of Attraction, and manifestation.  

I began to truly heal, release years of unprocessed pain, and break harmful patterns in my friendships and even my love life. I came to understand that we are all born with immense power of creation, protection and healing, and the only time we lose it is when we’re tricked to relinquish it. But we can still take it back and tap into it again to create the life we want. It all starts with being aware of it. 

A year after that dark winter, I launched my business, The Empress Within. I got started by offering professional tarot readings (a subject on which I published a book last year), but soon expanded to spiritual life coaching. And after years of dabbling in fiction writing, teaching, activism, and fashion blogging, I knew intuitively that I had finally found (or created) the career that I was meant for all along: one where I would get to write, create, and transform lives. 

So I let go of all apprehensions and doubts (“Maybe I’m not experienced enough?”, “Starting a business is difficult”, etc.) and plunged head first. Because I knew I wasn’t meant to keep all I was learning and experiencing to myself. I knew I was meant to share it with other women so they could heal, tap into their spiritual powers, walk away from adversity, and create the life that they wanted. Unlike everything else I had tried before, it didn’t feel like a money-making opportunity (don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe all women should strive to achieve financial independence from their passion), but a true calling. 

And when you find your calling, no one can take it away from you. No one has the power to call your employer and get you fired (though they may try, if you’re traditionally employed). Because your calling is something that cannot be taken from you like money or possessions. It’s inherently yours and yours only, and you’re energetically bound to it.

In a spiritual and holistic industry dominated by white women (who often appropriate from other cultures, exclude minorities such as people of color and LGBT+ people, push MLM products, and spew toxic positivity), I decided to create a platform where everyone feels welcome (when I say women, it includes both cis and trans women), where I am mindful to not culturally appropriate, where everyone can speak openly, even if what they have to say isn’t positive, and where BIPOC women are welcome, loved, heard, and celebrated. 

The more I tapped into my power, the more my life took a turn for the miraculous. I finally cut off all my abusive relatives for the last time. I ended toxic friendships and learned to put myself first. And then, I met the love of my life, a magnificent, loving, and extremely supportive woman who I cannot wait to marry and build a family with. 

Since I started my business, its unofficial motto has become “adversity to abundance”. I have been so blessed to work, through private coaching and my online membership, The Empress Collective, with amazing women who have all encountered different forms of adversity, and were able to take that adversity and turn it into abundance. They all were awakened to their power of creation and manifestation, and they did miracles with it. 

That’s the thing about us women: we are born with spiritual gifts, including the gift of creation. We carry within us the power to speak things into existence. And we are natural healers: we have the power to heal and empower ourselves, and, as we do so, heal and empower others. And by healing and empowering just one person, we create a domino effect that has a powerful impact on the world. By healing and empowering just one person, we make the world a better, happier, safer, more peaceful, more just, and more fair place for everyone. 

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