Struggling with Eating Disorder in Islamabad




What is the body? That shadow of a shadow of your love, that somehow contains the whole universe.

(Jalal ud Din Rumi)


It’s January 2011, New Year, New Internship and New Hope. I look at the wall clock, its 3am in the morning in Islamabad. I haven’t slept or eaten in the past 78 hours. I am tired, cold and hungry.

I just need to go to sleep, I tell myself.

I make another fruitful attempt to go to sleep.  My inner demon anorexia is there, urging me that all I need is sleep, not food.  At 6 am I get up for my morning prayer and make my way across to family kitchen to make breakfast, which is a cup of traditional Pakistani tea, infused with plenty of sugar to scare off any diabetic and enough loose tea to satisfy any caffeine addict’s mind. God, I’m good, I tell myself. I leave home with my lunch, mini takeout cup of tea. I clutch the cup for warmth and huddle deeper inside my winter jacket. I can’t stop the shivers. I need to invest some money in thermal wear. Perhaps during my break, I can search the internet for electric jackets and trousers.

The city of Islamabad is draped in thin misty layers of fog. More men than women are running around to get to work. I see excited children in their cute uniforms at bus stops. I have always loved Islamabad, this is a city that grew up in front of me. It’s small, friendly, quiet and nostalgically gorgeous with mountains, verdant trees, and pine forests.

I interned for one of the most prestigious Human Rights organization in the hub of the city. Every morning the driver would whiz through numerous check posts that have sprung up across the city since the launch of war on terror in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a dream internship with enough intensity to challenge anyone’s mind (but not mine). Every morning, I would somehow manage to crawl to the national headquarters, clear the security and then would spend all morning staring at the Dell computer with my disordered eyes, pretending to be greatly absorbed in my work. In reality, I would be too busy battling inner anorexia cold. Just before lunchtime, I would run towards the exit on my cold limbs, surprising my colleagues and the security men at the gate.

The working environment in Islamabad is chilled and relaxed. Lunch hour is a time of social gathering and idle gossip. Food is in abundance and is often shared amongst the colleagues. As an internee, my lunch and breakfast and snacks were all covered by the organization.  We had a brilliant chef, who would cook and lay out the feast of various culinary delights in the dinning area. To refuse food is seen as offensive and counts as an act of sheer rudeness.  To deal with this dilemma, I started leaving at noon (just after 3 1/2 hours) telling my supervisor that I’ll be working from home.

Once home I would be more interested in matters that are more trivial in everyday life: what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat and so on. So I continued with this cycle of ED till (typically) I lost my position at the organization (within few weeks). Who wants to work with someone who at Islamabad High court is more interested in calories in a cup of Lipton tea then at a pending International Human Rights case?

So in Islamabad, my disorder cost me my future and my dream internship but it was also a place where my journey to recovery began, a city that made me appreciate the nature and the blessing of eating food that is raw, fresh and not processed. I also came into contact with Sufism in Islamabad, met lovely people from all across Pakistan and felt at peace at the cave of Sufi Bari Imam Shah.

This is the city of my heart. It is incredibly gorgeous at night time. Islamabad, just brilliant.


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Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

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