TRIGGER WARNING: EATING DISORDERS
When I was 15, my younger brother found me passed out on the bathroom floor. Just hours before, I had eaten two liters of tin roof ice cream and proceeded to vomit it out. But as I attempted to make myself gag, a wave of weakness washed over my body and I collapsed.
I developed bulimia nervosa when I was only 14 years old. Statistics show that the eating disorder often affects slightly older teenage girls, typically aged between 16 and 18.
For as long as I can remember, family members commented on my weight. I was of average build, slightly taller than usual, but compared to my petite cousins and models in magazines, I was seen as chubby by my mother, grandmother, and others.
My mother used to call me out on certain occasions, telling me what I should and should not eat, often telling me to cut out carbs altogether.
So one day when I was alone at home I walked into the pantry, sat down with a family sized bag of potato chips and proceeded to eat the entire thing. I felt nauseous and ran to the bathroom, throwing up almost the whole packet. And then it struck me: I could easily eat whatever I craved as long as I vomited it out afterward. That way I would get to eat as much as I wanted to and not get fat with only a small price to pay.
After my brother found me, I begged him not to tell my parents, bribing him with cash and offering to do his chores. He listened and kept my secret for a few months. But one day he found me in the middle of a breakdown, sobbing and threatening to kill myself. Believing my screams, he told my mother who, in shock, refused to speak to me until my father got home.
When he eventually arrived, my stomach was churning. My parents sat me down and asked dozens of questions about my mental health- which they believed was negatively affected by my low level of religion. Finally, after hours of grueling discussion, my parents recommended that I start praying more, reading more Quran, and focusing on my Iman.
This broke me entirely.
After almost two years of suffering from a crippling mental illness, their only solution was that I become a better Muslim. My period was irregular, my teeth were stained and I had permanent stomach cramps. I tried to better myself in a religious manner, but I struggled. I simply could not stop binging and purging.
After speaking to a family member with a medical background, my parents finally decided to take me to a psychologist. Yet, even as they drove me to and from therapy sessions, they did not fully grasp the extent of the bulimia.
And after a full year of bi-weekly meetings with my psychologist, I stopped. Not because the psychological intervention worked a miracle, but because I finally realised that my life was going up in flames and I was the one with the box of matches.
It has been three years since my last binge and purge. I am still not happy with my body, but I prefer a few stretch marks to the pain and shame that plagued me in the past.
Although flashbacks and triggers happen all the time, I strongly believe that in the next few years I will have healed completely.