Wishing you all a blessed Ramadan. In this post I would like to share a story of Amina Clayton with you. It’s a very touching and very inspiring story. It speaks of hope, courage and not giving up in the face of adversity. Amina Clayton is a new blogger: Loving My Soul. Please follow her blog.
My eating has been disordered for longer than I can really remember. Struggling with an eating disorder has affected my life in so many ways, some day to day, others more long term. It has taken so much from me. My love of my body. My self-worth. My relationships. My hobbies. Do not misunderstand me, I seek no pity. This is not the story of how I struggle to cope, but rather the story of how I triumphantly survive.
As a Muslim, I have fasted every year for a month as part of my worship. During the lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast (refrain from eating and drinking) from sunrise to sunset. During my earlier teenage years, Ramadan had been a time for reflection, for family, for love. As my eating disorder progressed, it became a time wholly focused on food, to the exclusion of all else. At every moment during Ramadan I was thinking about food. Thinking about eating, not eating, when I would eat, what i would eat, when I would stop eating, the people I’d eat in front of, where I would eat.
It is typical for Muslims to hold Iftar, to invite people over for the breaking of the fast and the subsequent meals. Where before this had been a sort of nightly celebration of friends and family, it became something I feared, something I would do anything to avoid.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really opened up about what I was struggling with. It’s hard to talk about, especially with people who love you. I told myself I didn’t need to: I was seeing the appropriate doctors and counsellors, going to all the groups, trying to help myself. And it was working. But none of these people could give me any advice regarding Ramadan. And neither, it seemed, could anyone anywhere on the internet. I felt totally alone. As the year went on and the month of fasting approached I grew more and more terrified that the recovery I was working so hard on would be ruined by something as religiously important as fasting. I knew the importance of my recovery, but fasting is obligatory in my religion, I didn’t want to choose between my emotional wellbeing and my spiritual.
A month or so before Ramadan I spoke to my mum about my fears. She was amazing about it, as I should’ve known she’d be. We got in touch with Muslim doctors and religious scholars who helped advise me on what to do. I eventually decided I wasn’t well enough to fast and resolved to make up the fasts when I was in better health. It was tough. I spent all of Ramadan partly feeling ashamed that I couldn’t perform such an important part of my worship, when all my family around me could. I avoided other family members for fear of them asking why I wasn’t fasting. ‘I have an eating disorder’ didn’t seem like a very good answer.
Perhaps if I’d been more open at the time people would’ve been understanding and supportive. I might have spent the month feeling positive about my recovery, rather than guilty about what I saw as a religious lapse.
I know I made the right decision. When someone’s ill, they’re under no obligation to fast. I wish someone had made it clear to me that psychological illness falls into this bracket just like the flu. Since then I have come so far. I know that disordered eating is something I may have to work to overcome for my whole life, but the for the first time in a very long time I know I can.
I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scholar. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that religion shouldn’t stand in the way of recovery, it should aid it. It took me a while to realise that not fasting last year doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me a good one. I made a choice to look after the body and mind God gave me. It wasn’t just the right choice for my mental health, it was the right choice for my spiritual health too.
A few days ago I fasted. For 18 hours and 12 minutes. My first fast since I admitted there was something wrong. I know that my recovery isn’t over and that it will still take work to stay healthy but knowing I’m in a place where I can contemplate fasting again is incredible. I’m so proud of myself and so so grateful to everyone who helped me get here. To one person in particular, who recently reminded me that everything will be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok yet, it’s not the end.
If you’re struggling, please reach out