I was born in Turkey to immigrant parents. My mother is Turk/Mongol, my father’s family root is Kurd/Kirmanji. My birth was a joy in the family. This is why my name is Dilek, which means ‘desire’. My surname means ‘enjoy life’.
I attended university in Turkey and obtained a BSc honours degree in 1977. I came to London in 1988, for personal, political and social reasons. In Turkey and then in the UK I worked as a nurse and teacher. It would be true to say that I really loved my job – the contact with so many people from such different backgrounds and a role that offered me a place in the community here.
But leaving my country was a traumatic experience. I cannot put into words the anguish of it. I turned to art during my early days in the UK because I could not talk and I carried on expressing my pain through my artwork. It was only after many frustrating years of painting, pottery making, drawing and painful progress that I discovered therapeutic work.
In my nursing and teaching work I observed people who were suffering as a result of being forced to leave their children behind when they came to the UK, usually as political refugees or fleeing imprisonment or arrest in their home country. I found out that attachment, loss, racism and separation from loved ones, especially their children, were the main themes in their lives. They were experiencing deep grief and suffering from guilt, as if they had committed some sort of crime. Some of them were suicidal.
During that period I realised that there was something about my job that was limiting my engagement with these people and with my own sense of self. They began to draw my interest and attention, personally and professionally; they were triggering strong feelings in me. My growing interest also drew them to me, but I realised that I lacked the skill to do anything to help their obvious anxiety and sadness.
My decision to train as a psychotherapist came first from my real interest in these unhappy people, of whose condition I was clearly in total ignorance and whom I felt ill-equipped to help. Second, I recognised that my own mental health, if I was honest, needed attention. I could not go back to my country; I too was separated from my loved ones, and especially from my only child. I had neglected and denied these issues for a long time; now I needed to look at them. Being in a state of anxiety was necessary for my physical survival here but I needed to be able to control it; it should not control me.
This was a major transition in my life. It led me to enter individual and group analysis for several years. In 1992 I read Intercultural Therapy, edited by Jafar Kareem and Roland Littlewood. That was the turning point for me. Learning about one’s self can be a scary experience. But I learned that trauma is not a life sentence; it is something that we can work on, recover from and be happy. Through psychotherapy, I was able to build up strong emotional and mental muscles. As I grew emotionally, my internal and physical wounds did not go away but they became smaller in relation to my whole self. Learning to help myself, through ‘emotional recycling’, was not easy, but in the end my persistence paid off. Not only did I learn how to look after myself, but also how to conquer my fear of attachment, sadness and loss and separation.
It was my experience of the therapeutic process that inspired me to become a counsellor. I completed further postgraduate training in group analytic psychotherapy, and an MA in group and intercultural therapy. I also studied for a year at the Philadelphia Association and took a clinical supervision course at the Institute of Group Analysis, and completed three years of study towards a PhD.
At present I am surrounded with family and good friends. Now I feel I am really and truly able to offer help to distressed people, especially the ones who have had very traumatic life experiences. I now dedicate my life to working with people from all over the world and I enjoy what I do. I love London, I am grateful to have good jobs and good supervisors. I will continue to write books in Turkish, to do art and to enjoy an ordinary life surrounded by nature and people.