This is such a beautiful tale of hope , courage, healing and Love. The tale is also laced with deep pain and suffering. My request, Please try to respect the stories of people on this blog. It’s really hard for some people to delve into these experiences– experiences which they would prefer to put behind them, and to pretend their Eating Disorder didn’t happen. They share their stories out of good will, to raise awareness of ED in Muslim world and to dispel the stigma that surrounds this illness. I’ve known this incredible person for over a year now and I really respect her from depths of my heart for sharing her story on this blog. Many times during the process of telling me the story she broke down and we both cried; these times are traumatic and not ones to look forward to. She said what she learned from her accident was to take responsibility, to never forget, and rather to use these experiences to focus on a better future and Alhamdulilah she has.
In Gratitude to my Grandmother Who Taught Me about Love for Imam Hussain, Taught me about Healing and helped me to set myself Free.
I was thirteen when I developed anorexia. I was born in Oxford and grew up there. Both my parents are Iranians.
Every summer holiday we went to Tehran to visit my mother’s relatives. They lived in Mahmoodiyeh, one of the most affluent areas of Tehran. In Tehran my Father’s mother would come to visit us for a day . She would come all the way from Shiraz in a bus and it was a six hours journey.
One of the most important thing in my life was to remain thin and successful. I held these limited beliefs very dear to my heart. Everyone knew my Eating was very disordered but I simply refused to acknowledge anything was wrong. I was just extremely health conscious and proactively conscientious. Eight years later, I was forced to change and let go of my perfectionism and my beliefs. At the age of 23, I had my Mphil in Finance and Economics. At the age of 24, I was advancing in my career and making progress in investment banking and asset management.
That One Night
Coming out of that swanky night club, I never knew getting into that car would change my life forever. I wasn’t drunk. My faint memory of that accident is how windshield shattered and the glass flew onto me and my face hit the steering wheel. In pain I saw my paternal Grand mother’s face مادر بزرگ flash before my eyes before I lost consciousness. This is something I remember very clearly, but other than that nothing about that night really exists in my memory. What I’ve learned about that night is through friends.
For days I was unconscious in hospital. My first memory approximately two weeks later is vague and unclear of waking up and seeing my mother.
My clear memory of hospital is how everything in my body hurt.I couldn’t talk, words wouldn’t come, my throat was so dry and my face hurt. My mother told me I had suffered a skull fracture (caused from hitting the dashboard and the windshield). I also had few broken ribs, fractured pelvis and a fractured right knee. I was lucky that I didn’t suffer heart attack because of my low weight. Doctors were uncertain as to what extent I would recover. My chance of surviving the accident had been less than 20 percent. Years of Anorexia and under eating hadn’t had the impact on my health that one accident did, it took seconds for an accident to rob me of my own body’s freedom. At that time I was too sick to understand that I could have avoided some of the injuries if my weight was not very low. The lack of fat on my body caused and fractured organs that I had no idea even existed. My lungs had to be inflated and I had to have a surgery on my pelvis. Soon horror of what had happened sank in and I fell into a state of despair from the pain and shock.
My second memory and a very clear memory is waking up one evening and seeing a woman in black chador there, it was my Grandmother. She had come all the way from Shiraz. It was a shock and then tears came hot and fast. For two weeks, I had not shed a single tear in front of my family and then I wept and my Grandmother cried with me.
God Sends Someone in Pain
He sent my Grandmother, a woman from Shiraz who had never been to UK before.
For six months I was in hospital, she remained by my bed side. She recited names of God on her black stone beads. She read one chapter of Qur’an everyday and when I was able to drink soup through the straw, she told doctors in her very firm tone that her grand daughter was not eating hospital food. To her it was not edible.
First Day she gave me soup, I had no idea what was in the soup except it was going to heal my bones. Next day I did faint, when I discovered I was given a lamb broth.
Having a thin body is far from your mind when your lying on a hospital bed trying to survive. There were days when I did panic. I could not exercise or walk and at times needed morphine to sleep. Do you know what scared me the most? It wasn’t the physical pain, but the pain in my mind, the fears, the uncertainty about future.
My sole consolation was my Grandmother, who didn’t let me fall into despair. Who simply refused to accept I was vegan . Her attention and efforts soothed the anxiety about everything and about operation. She would apply rose water oil to my skin and very carefully would lift my hair from my fractured skull and comb it. About one month after the accident, I recovered enough physical strength to make it through surgery.
The Love for Imam Hussain
We were soon approaching Muharram and date of my surgery. It was then I learned about the tragedy of Karbla, the love people had for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and His family and about the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain (Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who was martyred in a battle in a place called Karbala in Iraq). Something shifted in my heart. Before my surgery, I was just falling into a state of melancholy, I didn’t see much hope. Then my Grandmother told me something very profound which changed my whole perspective on life. She told me before His Martyrdom, day before his death, Imam Hussain and his loyal followers asked the rivaling army to grant them One night where they Could Pray to God. I found that astonishing, Imam Hussain, the most beloved Grandson of the Seal of Prophets could have asked for anything, amnesty, a week to live, surrender, ease for his family, anything, but what he asked for was a simple chance to pray to His Lord. This simply reduced me to tears. My pain no-longer mattered, and there was no room for personal despair or self-pity.
The morning of my surgery I recited a tasbih of Fatima on my Grandmother’s rosary beads and I entered surgery with Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and His Family on my mind.
Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
Day of Surgery
After six long hours I came out and the surgery was a success, it was first of Muharram, first day in Muslim calendar, Islamic New Year. A month that is remembered for its sorrowfulness and tragedy and tears. And while I was in surgery, someone was kneeling on the floor praying for me. First time in my life I felt gratitude toward anyone. I was truly thankful to my Grandmother for her care.
After the Surgery
After the surgery, I remained bedridden for a month. Little by little my body started recovering, regaining its strength. Rehab was painful, we worked hard at walking. With rehabilitation, my Grandmother’s Iranian food and the power of prayer, my body recovered at a speed that amazed my doctor. After 4 months, I was finally discharged from the hospital. Can you believe this? because of anorexia, doctors thought my body wouldn’t heal quickly, but according to my Grandmother healing was in her Iranian food.
As my Grandmother’s visa was running out, she had to go back. She told me Shiraz was calling her back, she missed poets of Shiraz, people of her country and gardens of Shiraz.
People who need to love, because
Love is the soul’s life,
Love is simply creation’s greatest joy.
Three months later, I was in Tehran and my Grandmother came to visit me.
I went back to the city of poets with her. Shiraz is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 2000BC, and is known throughout the world as one of the leading centers of the arts. The famous poets Hafez and Saadi hail from Shiraz. The tombs of these poets and the Persian mystic and writer Khaju e Kermani are in Shiraz. There were no triggers in Shiraz, no Alcohol, no Magazines or posters of stick thin girls and my Grandmother would have slapped me if I even had tried to smoke.
You are Lucky When Life Presents you with a gift- AWake up Call
Freedom is our Destiny. Yet We Fear Taking the Very Step which will Take us into the Gardens which is our true Nature.
The accident was a deep awakening for me. I thought the value of my existence came from the way I looked, the way my body was and results at work, but all I could do while in hospital was to simply exist. In Shiraz, a strong feeling to want to be useful to more people started to grow within me. I appreciated the happiness in the little things, learning to cook with my Grandmother, buying bread from the bakery, visiting her friends, attending poetry sessions every week, visiting old family members in Albourz mountains, eating locally sourced plums and pomegranates, visiting Aramgah-e Hafez (the beautiful tomb of national poet Hafez) praying at Nasir-ol Moik mosque, visiting Eram gardens, the Quaran Gate and Shah Cheragh mosque complex.
And let me tell you, all this was so hard. Before I went to Iran I could not stop reflecting on my past, I could not get the life I lived before the accident out of my mind. Why me? Why did this had to happen to me? I asked myself time and time again. Depression settled in and I turned to drinking and smoking. Putting my life on hold wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was miserable, and I was alone. And I was falling, falling deeper and deeper into despair and self pity. And then one day my mother decided to take me to Tehran for a short break. I had no plans of going to Shiraz, but then as usual my Grandmother came on a bus to see me and it was the look of shock and horror on her face that made me change my mind.
It hurt me, when I saw my Grandmother cry. She could not understand, why I looked so frail and so ill. I owed my health my well-being to this lady and seeing her so distraught was simply heartbreaking. Something was going to change, and in that moment I determined that what needed to change was me. I decided to settle one debt in this life and the debt was towards my Grandmother, to see a smile on her face, to see her happy and not so distraught. When my grandfather passed away none of us made it to the funeral, we were simply too busy. She simply waited by the body while my father delivered one excuse after other. She never held that against us and when I needed her, she just dropped everything and came.
I was no longer going to shut myself away from the world, so I embarked on a very uncertain journey and gave up the comfortable life I had in Oxford.
In the following months I learned more about myself than I had in my entire lifetime. I also discovered the strength of the power within me.
I still have some injuries that affect me. I have lower back problems, a significant hearing loss due to head trauma, but I am so lucky that my jaw healed correctly, my jaw could have left me with uneven bite and I am so glad that did not happen.
Now four years later, I am well and truly recovered. I’ve not substituted my addiction for low weight with any other addiction. I’ve not touched wine in four years. In the city of poets I learned to live a life of gratitude, a life of open eyes, a life of appreciation, a life of simplicity and a life of happiness. It gave me the opportunity to use the experience for personal transformation and transcendence and replace the feeling of being a victim to being a victor (a human being capable of defeating the mental illness and her Eating Disorder).
If you want to experience victory in life, walk by faith. To walk by faith you must believe in your heart what God has said about you being best of the creation, and you must act upon this by taking care of yourself, living the life in servitude of God and in utter humility. When you live a life of gratitude you are walking by faith and not by ego. No matter what the circumstances may say or be, you keep saying what God says, and you keep doing what God has said.
Feed the Body, Free the Mind