Finding My Voice

Earlier this year, the hosting for this blog came up for renewal. In the last three years I’ve barely written anything here but I’d pay the bill with half-baked intentions to get back to posting regularly. That obviously wasn’t working.

This time the deadline to pay slid past and I received an email warning that my site would be disabled/removed if I didn’t settle my invoice. Hmmm, this could be easier, I thought – if I just look the other way long enough the issue will take care of itself.

I didn’t bank on the wiles of the hosting company. Days, then weeks, passed and the emails kept coming, always the same message. They made me uncomfortable – just kill it and be done with it, I fumed. It brought to mind the part in Alex Garland’s The Beach, where one of the Norwegian fishermen is mortally wounded. The rest of the community can’t bear this fly in the ointment of their island paradise illusion and move him out of earshot of the camp so they don’t have to listen to his moans of pain as he dies a slow and agonizing death.

Eventually, I caved and renewed. I figured the universe was trying to tell me something.

Today, Facebook reminded me it’s nineteen years to the day since K whisked me away to a swanky Belgian hotel and asked me to marry him.

Nineteen years!

So much has happened in those nineteen years. We were virtual strangers when we met and married – from different races, countries, cultures. We struck out on our own, minus the familial support customarily available to newlyweds. With only one another to rely on, we had to learn how to work together, how to give each other time, patience, the benefit of the doubt. We’ve come through childrearing, a transatlantic move, intractable inlaws, diagnoses and immigration.

I was a mess back then. I was undiagnosed autistic and living in the shadow of complex PTSD from my abusive upbringing. I was self-harming, numbing myself with booze and drugs and generally spiralling closer and closer to self-annihilation. I’d wake from sleep with tears of frustration wet on my face, from dreams where the harder I tried to make myself heard the quieter my voice became.

What K saw in me I’ll never know. I made no attempt to hide my struggles from him, but somehow he could see beyond all that. Our early days of marriage were no cake-walk – there were times when we clashed, when I felt unheard and misconstrued and K could not understand how I couldn’t simply put things behind me and move forward – but somehow we came through it. We were moving forward. But the pace was slow and the terrain treacherous.

Then we came to Canada and I started this blog. Ostensibly, it was to chronicle our new adventure – a way of sharing the infinite discoveries of our new life with friends back home all in one shot. But it quickly became a confessional of sorts, of my guilt at missing my home over people, then, slowly, of events from my past triggered by something in the news, or a fleeting memory or feeling.

This was where my real healing began. Here. On this blog. This was where I found my voice and the courage to use it. Once I began speaking my truth I realized how long I’d been hiding things for people who didn’t deserve my protection. I also realized what I had known since childhood – that my strengths, and my happiness, lay in the Arts, in writing, drawing, photography, painting.

I had been forcing myself into a mould someone else had chosen for me and forgotten who I really was.

This blog helped me get that back. And to think I nearly turned my back on it…

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. I was delightfully surprised to see your name and blog pop up after several years of not knowing what had become of you.Although we have never met, I came across your blog some years ago when I was writing a blog for our local garden club, and I became a fan of your writing, your ideas and insights into so many aspects of social existence here in Canada and the differences between cultures. I was particularly interested in your conflicted connection with the Muslim faith because I was involved with a community sponsorship of several Syrian families who sought refuge in Canada and my close relationship with one particular family (6 kids) has enriched my life considerably. So, seeing you coming back to the blogosphere is a treat, like having an old friend show up unannounced after a long absence. I hope you will continue to post your thoughts and stories now that you have taken that first step again.

  2. Dear Aisha! You are so very talented at writing, drawing, photography, and painting (and SO much more)! You are an amazing mom, and a kind and caring friend. I’m glad you didn’t let your blog subscription expire and look forward to reading any new posts!

  3. K clearly saw the beautiful woman that you are. With all of your complexities he believed in you…and he was right!

  4. Loved reading this Aisha. You’re so brave and have come through so much. I’ve always thought your writing was beautiful even when we were at school. Hope you’re all keeping well xx

    1. Hi Maria! Thanks for commenting. Not sure about brave, we get through what life throws at us because we have no other option, but I appreciate you still reading my writing after all these years. So lovely to hear from you xxx

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