Haniya’s won­der­ful new life in Kenya turned into a liv­ing night­mare. Sev­eral years later, she knew who to turn to for help...

Friday - - Contents -

A woman is helped to deal with the anx­i­ety she suf­fered from af­ter be­ing the vic­tim of a vi­o­lent crime.

Iwas young and newly mar­ried. Af­ter hav­ing grown up in New Delhi, I had moved to Nairobi, Kenya, to be with my hus­band Hassan, a 33-year-old Kenyan na­tional, and was en­joy­ing life as the wife of a young up­com­ing ar­chi­tect. We had made friends and felt es­tab­lished there.

Then one night in 2004, ev­ery­thing changed. We were get­ting ready to drive home af­ter a din­ner at our friends Deepesh and Su­nila Sethi’s house. Deepesh of­fered to es­cort us to en­sure that we got home safely. Although Kenya is a beau­ti­ful coun­try full of warm and friendly peo­ple, just like many coun­tries it has its prob­lems, and is known to be un­safe at night.

Deepesh kept a gun in his car for per­sonal pro­tec­tion as car jack­ings and rob­beries, although rare, do hap­pen in Kenya. He of­fered to drive his car be­hind ours un­til we got home safely. When we were just moments away from home, we felt guilty about in­con­ve­nienc­ing him, and so called him and per­suaded him to go back. It took some con­vinc­ing, but in the end he re­lented and drove off.

Our house was within a se­cure com­pound guarded by a night watch­man. There were three fam­i­lies liv­ing there in­clud­ing us. The place was gated and the rou­tine was that when you ar­rived back you tooted your car horn to at­tract the watch­man’s at­ten­tion so that he could let you in through the gates.

We did this as usual, but on that evening, the watch­man took ages to ap­pear. This should’ve aroused our sus­pi­cions, but we were tired and just wanted to get to bed, so we ig­nored what was the first sign that some­thing was clearly wrong.

Usu­ally Hassan would drive all the way around the com­pound so that he could park con­ve­niently for the fol­low­ing day. This, per­haps, would have given us an op­por­tu­nity to

ob­serve more, but as we were tired he sim­ply drove straight to the house. We were soon to re­alise that this was a big mis­take.

We got out of the car and I moved to­wards the door, fum­bling for the keys in my bag. Out of the cor­ner of my eye I saw move­ment in the shad­ows just off to the left of us, and then in a sec­ond they were upon us. Three men, not masked or try­ing to dis­guise them­selves, but all car­ry­ing re­volvers and weapons. To this day, I can’t even re­call their faces though they were clearly vis­i­ble, and I put this down to the trauma I was about to un­dergo.

Hav­ing lived there only for a year and just get­ting to know the coun­try, I was to­tally bewil­dered by the turn of events. You’d have thought the guns were enough of a clue, but I was so shocked by the men jump­ing out at me that I think my brain couldn’t quite process what was hap­pen­ing. My hus­band, on the other hand, hav­ing lived all of his life in the coun­try, was acutely aware of the dan­gers and knew im­me­di­ately what was hap­pen­ing. When I naively asked the men “What do you want?”, Hassan told me to be quiet.

The man who ap­peared to be their leader grabbed my hus­band by the throat and put a gun to his head. I froze, fear puls­ing through me. Around his wrist, the leader was wear­ing a piece of wood with nails stick­ing out of it, and this now rested threat­en­ingly atmy hus­band’s throat, so that if he strug­gled or shouted they could in­stantly si­lence him by dig­ging the nails into his jugu­lar.

One of the men sprang to­wards me with his gun trained upon my head and whis­pered, “Open the door and make sure you don’t make any noise or you’ll know about it.”

My hands were shak­ing as I tried to work out which was the right key. I was so pan­icked, I could not iden­tify the cor­rect one.

This was clearly tak­ing too much time for their lik­ing, so the thug grabbed me by the hair and told me to hurry up or they would shoot my hus­band. His breath was foul, reek­ing of to­bacco and al­co­hol. As he drew me closer, I looked into his eyes and my blood ran cold. At that point I de­cided that for the sake of both my hus­band’s and my safety, I would do what­ever the man wanted me to. Thank­fully, I man­aged to find the key and I shak­ily put it into the lock and opened the door. They barged into the house, drag­ging me and my hus­band with them. Their filthy hands were clamped firmly over our mouths so we couldn’t scream for help. They were well aware that we had neigh­bours just a few me­tres away and ob­vi­ously didn’t want to wake them.

The third guy was car­ry­ing a rope and it dawned on me they were go­ing to tie us up. We were be­tween the hall­way and the lounge when he sig­nalled to his ac­com­plices to halt. our lives, so he told them with­out any hes­i­ta­tion.

While this was hap­pen­ing, I could hear my mo­bile phone ring­ing in my hand­bag. The desperation I felt to an­swer it was over­whelm­ing, be­cause I knew it would be Deepesh check­ing if we had got back safely. But there was no way I could ever break free to an­swer it, and at that point the man who was guard­ing me be­came so an­noyed by it that he fished for my phone, turned it off and put it in his own pocket. I feared at that point that we were star­ing death in the face.

I had been right about Deepesh though. He had been calling, and when we didn’t an­swer he im­me­di­ately be­came sus­pi­cious. He got back in his car and started to make his way to­wards our house. In Kenya, peo­ple who are very fa­mil­iar with the coun­try are hy­per-aware of the risks, and he sensed straight away that some­thing was wrong.

Within a sec­ond, three men, un­masked but all car­ry­ing re­volvers and weapons, were upon us

They forced our hands be­hind our back and bound them to­gether with a tight knot. My thoughts were clearer at this point and I had the pres­ence of mind to twist my wrist in such a way that if I twisted it back the rope would be­come looser.

At this point feel­ings of in­dig­na­tion be­gan to rise in me. I was dis­gusted that these men could push their way into our home and de­file it with their vi­o­lence and threats.

Hassan, sens­ing that I was go­ing to put my­self in an even more danger­ous sit­u­a­tion by do­ing some­thing fool­ish, tried to con­vey through fa­cial ex­pres­sions that I should just do as they asked.

Quickly they sep­a­rated us. This must have been ag­o­nis­ing for Hassan as one of them dragged me off to the bed­room, all the time threat­en­ing to kill me if I did some­thing stupid.

At the same time they roughly marched Hassan around the whole house, shout­ing vile threats at him, forc­ing him to tell them where all of our valu­ables were kept. I could hear the fear in his trem­bling voice. Nat­u­rally, he only wanted to pro­tect

In the mean­time the thieves gath­ered ev­ery­thing of value. All the money we had, my pre­cious jew­ellery, were all un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped into large holdalls they had brought. Any­thing they thought they could sell, they stole. They even took the belt and shoes Hassan was wear­ing that night. It was ut­terly hor­ri­fy­ing how cal­cu­lated and highly ef­fi­cient they were.

When some­thing like this hap­pens, it’s not re­ally the things that are taken that mat­ter. Pos­ses­sions, though pre­cious, are not as pre­cious as the peace of mind that is ul­ti­mately vi­o­lated by a vi­o­lent rob­bery, and that is what I lost that night. The abil­ity to feel safe.

The whole in­ci­dent prob­a­bly only lasted less than an hour, but it felt

like a life­time. Be­fore they left they dragged us both to the bath­room and locked us in. They then took the keys to our brand new Audi, stashed their loot in­side and used it to get away as quickly as they could.

Af­ter we heard the car skid­ding off down the drive­way and into the dis­tance, I man­aged to twist my wrist and loosen the rope. The bath­room had a big win­dow, but it was high up to­wards the ceil­ing, so, af­ter loos­en­ing Hassan’s hands, I climbed on his shoul­ders and with trem­bling hands, man­aged to open the win­dow. I hauled my­self through and climbed out. When we were both free, we ran to our neigh­bours and told them about what had hap­pened.

They were shocked that some­thing so au­da­cious and ter­ri­ble had gone on right un­der their noses, and of­fered us their phone so that we could call for help. The first person we rang was Deepesh as we knew he would be wor­ried, but he was al­most at our house by then. Thank­fully, he didn’t ar­rive any ear­lier as if he’d dis­turbed the thugs I’m al­most cer­tain they would have killed us all.

See­ing him ar­rive was one of the great­est joys of my life. Some­how, it meant that we were al­right and we had sur­vived the or­deal. In­stantly, Deepesh put two and two to­gether and said that it must have been the watch­man who let the thieves in. Sure enough, when we went to look for him, he was gone. He had ob­vi­ously been work­ing with the gang and had scouted out the best place to rob.

Deepesh took us straight back to his home, where Su­nila was wait­ing for us, al­most as shocked as we were that some­thing so ter­ri­ble had oc­curred. While Hassan and Deepesh went to the po­lice sta­tion to re­port the rob­bery, I stayed with Su­nila.

It was then that it all slowly be­gan to sink in. At that time I must have been in shock as my body be­gan to shake all over. I was phys­i­cally sick and the events kept re­play­ing over and over in my mind like a hor­ror film. Su­nila was so wor­ried for me that she wanted to call a doc­tor, but I didn’t want to see any­one. I just couldn’t bear at that point to have to ex­plain what had hap­pened to any­one else. Look­ing back now I re­alise I was ut­terly trau­ma­tised, but all I could think of was ‘I need to get out of this coun­try.’ I just wanted to be back home.

Af­ter spend­ing a sleep­less night think­ing about the dis­turb­ing event, I came to a de­ci­sion. I wanted to go back to Delhi as I felt I could no longer live with­out fear in Kenya, and if that meant I had to be apart from my hus­band, then so be it.

I rang my mum and told her ev­ery­thing that hap­pened. “I’m buy­ing you the tick­ets to come back home now,” she said.

Sit­ting down with Hassan, I man­aged to con­vey through tears my feel­ings that I had to leave. He was be­com­ing firmly es­tab­lished in Kenyan busi­ness cir­cles and his ca­reer as a much sought-af­ter ar­chi­tect was on the rise. It is a tes­ta­ment to how much he loves me and his com­mit­ment to our re­la­tion­ship, that he said he would give it all up and come with me.

Af­ter weeks of dis­cus­sion, we de­cided that while I would go to Delhi, Hassan would leave Kenya and go to Dubai, where with the help of his rel­a­tives, he would try to find

The trauma of the night had last­ing ef­fects onme. I de­vel­oped panic at­tacks and anx­i­ety dis­or­der

him­self a job and I would join him once he had found his bear­ings.

Luck­ily, he soon found a job as an ar­chi­tect and af­ter just three months I joined him in our beau­ti­ful new home in Dubai to be­gin our new life. Putting the past be­hind us, safe in the knowl­edge that we were safe.

Or so I thought. I know now that it’s enor­mously dif­fi­cult to put some­thing so hor­rific be­hind you and carry on as nor­mal. The trauma of that night had last­ing ef­fects on me and, though I hadn’t re­alised it, I was suf­fer­ing from panic at­tacks and anx­i­ety dis­or­der.

This be­came in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent when Hassan an­nounced the fol­low­ing July, a year af­ter that dread­ful night, that we were go­ing to visit his par­ents back in Mom­basa, Kenya. We had just had a lit­tle boy, Aasim, and his par­ents were as keen to meet their new grand­son as Hassan was to show him off.

With a month to go un­til the jour­ney, I started hav­ing flash­backs and be­came filled with panic at the idea of set­ting foot back in Kenya. I was filled with a sense of doom that some­thing bad was go­ing to hap­pen, and this was com­pounded by the fact that we now had a lit­tle baby to pro­tect. The men who had at­tacked and robbed us had never been brought to jus­tice and I was filled with an ir­ra­tional fear I’d see them again.

Out of love and loy­alty to my hus­band and his fam­ily I made the trip, but ev­ery night when the sun went down I started to re-live the rob­bery, and fear gripped me like a vice. I didn’t know at the time that what I’d de­vel­oped and was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing were full-blown panic and anx­i­ety at­tacks. My heart raced, my head pounded and I felt dis­ori­en­tated when I had to leave the house. I felt I just had to get back, be­cause I didn’t feel safe at any point. A feel­ing that some­thing could hap­pen at any mo­ment left me in a state of per­pet­ual ter­ror and I couldn’t wait to leave Kenya and get back to the safety of Dubai. Even though the at­tack had hap­pened sev­eral years be­fore, I felt like it had just hap­pened, and I was still trau­ma­tised.

Hassan was un­der­stand­ing, of course, but it made life very dif­fi­cult for him and his fam­ily to see me in such a state. When we got back to Dubai, my feel­ings sub­sided a lit­tle,

but the fear was present in the back of my mind. Af­ter that trip I then en­dured six more vis­its to Kenya and ev­ery time fear and panic over­whelmed me. My ex­pe­ri­ences had changed me as a person. I had be­come an­gry in­side and it was af­fect­ing my fam­ily life. I was fight­ing with my hus­band over small is­sues and I also be­came ir­ri­ta­ble with my two chil­dren Aasim, nine and Faraz, six. I knew deep down some­thing was se­ri­ously wrong and af­ter another dread­ful trip to Kenya, I re­solved to do some­thing about it. That’s when I read an ar­ti­cle in

Fri­day about a woman from Pak­istan who had suf­fered such ter­ri­ble panic at­tacks that she had be­come ago­ra­pho­bic. She had been treated by Rus­sell Hem­mings, the worl­drenowned hypnotherapist, and he had com­pletely cured her.

This, I thought to my­self, was ex­actly what I needed to help me. ‘He can sort my life out,’ I thought to my­self as I stared at Rus­sell’s smil­ing face in the magazine.

I plucked up the courage to con­tact him. He spoke to me per­son­ally and I knew, just from hear­ing his calm­ing voice, that I was be­ing thrown a life­line. That this man could help me get my life back.

I didn’t re­ally know any­thing about cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­apy apart from what I had read in the ar­ti­cle, but when I met Rus­sell I felt I could put my faith in him. From the very first meet­ing he be­gan to get me to explore what I had been through, in a safe and sen­si­tive man­ner. Then he used hyp­nother­apy to re­place those feel­ings of anx­i­ety with pos­i­tive feel­ings that I could use to con­trol and fight the fear.

Although Rus­sell’s ther­apy sys­tems are highly com­plex, he was able to ex­plain in a very straight­for­ward man­ner that he had en­abled me to sub­due the bad mem­o­ries in my sub­con­scious and re­place them with pos­i­tive re­sponses to anx­i­ety trig­gers.

Af­ter just three ses­sions with him, I felt like I was back in con­trol. With his help I was able to sift through the painful mem­o­ries and be­gin to make sense of what hap­pened. Rus­sell helps you to gain a new per­spec­tive on things so that you can min­imise the anx­i­ety and be­gin to start deal­ing with those feel­ings when they arise, rather than be­com­ing over­whelmed by them.

Since see­ing Rus­sell I have been back to Kenya – and I was a to­tally dif­fer­ent person while I was there. I man­aged to keep my panic in con­trol us­ing his strate­gies and for the first time we had a great fam­ily hol­i­day at Ngu­uni Na­ture Sanc­tu­ary in Mom­basa.

This was a reve­la­tion for me. I know if I hadn’t taken that step to con­tact Rus­sell, I would still be cow­er­ing in fear when­ever the sun went down, and in a sense this would have meant those thugs had won. They would have suc­ceeded in steal­ing my peace of mind.

But thanks to Rus­sell, I don’t have to suf­fer any more. The old me is back. Hassan and the kids are pleased to see that smile back on my face.

With Rus­sell’s help, Haniya was able to fight her fears

Af­ter treat­ment, Haniya was fi­nally able to en­joy a hol­i­day at Ngu­uni Na­ture Sanc­tu­ary in Mom­basa

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