“Whatever your mind can conceive and can believe, it can achieve”
My ED started when I was 12 and it remained a secret until the age of 15. Despite many stern talks by my family, I remained stubborn and stuck in this vicious cycle of ED, I could not break free. Academically I was below average. My chances of going to university seemed Zero. I simply had no interest in anything. To resolve the matter I said yes to the very first proposal that came my way. At the age of 18, I was engaged and when I turned 19, I was a new bride. My husband was six years my senior.
Please find below a very touching story from Morocco, ‘Leila Survived her ED’. In order to seal the anonymity, we’ve changed a few things in the story. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
Trigger Warning: The content in this article maybe triggering for some people.
I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, the image reflecting back was of a woman with swollen eyes, a bloated face and chapped lips. Another knock on the bathroom door, “You’re taking ages, aunty, what are you doing in there? You’re taking agessss!”, screamed my four year old niece. With shaky fingers, I opened the door and she looked at me with anger and suspicion. “You are making yourself sick again aunty. Nan said if you take ages in bathroom, I should go and tell her.” Blood drained from my face and I knew in that instant, she would report everything to my mother-in-law, her father and everyone within ear shot distance. It was a very long evening while I waited for my husband to return home with great fear and lots of anxiety. I guess the faith took pity on me and he got home very late so I was already fast asleep. The next morning, however, I was not so lucky. I spent the remainder of the previous evening in our kitchen eating, locking myself in the bathroom or using the gym in our garage.The following day was very ugly. He was angry and my mother-in-law was furious. “These low lives scammed us, they cheated us and they have burdened us with their sick daughter. A day doesn’t go by when she’s not in the bathroom wasting food!” screamed my mother-in-law. “I phoned your mother and she will be here soon. Pack your bags.” was his command. I didn’t protest, I simply packed a small bag and left with my mother. I was sure that I‘d be back in few days and how wrong was I.I was served with divorce papers soon afterwards. How my family negotiated the divorce matters, I do not remember. I remained in hiding for months and did not face anyone. The only trip I made was to go to the gym or supermarket.Everybody was distant from me; including my mother. My crime was that I was a full time bulimic and a binge eater. My family was too busy to waste their time with a failure like me. They lived in a community where they had a name and honour. They were well respected and were always invited to community gatherings and parties.My ED started when I was 12 and it remained a secret until the age of 15. Despite many therapy sessions and many stern talks by my family, I remained stubborn and stuck in this vicious cycle of ED, I could not break free. Academically I was below average. My chances of going to university seemed nil and I simply had no interest in anything. To resolve the matter I said yes to the very first proposal that came my way. At the age of 18, I was engaged and when I turned 19, I was a new bride. My husband was six years my senior.The first few weeks of marriage were fine as no one suspected anything. We lived with my in-laws and a sister in-law. One brother in-law was married with two kids. We always got together for evening meals and on Sunday we had a family brunch together.My husband was passionate about his work. I loved the fact that he would leave home at 7am in the morning and not get back until 6pm. I had full day to myself to indulge in all ED behaviours.It was important for me to give some proper time to this demon.I would start my day at 7.30, then my routine was:ExerciseShowerA big breakfastBinge / purgeGrocery store haulRestCookEat LunchBinge / purgeExerciseBy evening I would be shaking and exhausted by all the binging, purging and exercise. By the time my husband got home, I had completed at least 3-4 sessions of binging and exercise.My contact with my immediate family was minimal. My mother would visit me once a week and that time was spent scolding me for my behaviour. “Look at you, look at you!” she would yell at me. “Such a disappointment. You are gaining weight, are you pregnant?” “No, I don’t think so.” I murmured back. “Don’t even think about a child right now. You should be working on your marriage.” My mum continued; “you are a young bride, not even six months into this marriage and his eyes are already wandering.” I would always silently listen to everything.Seven months into our marriage and my husband told my parents that he was not happy with me and we were not compatible – he was an extrovert and I was an introvert. He wanted a wife who would walk side by side with him, a wife with style, a wife that looked good and a wife who could charm people. My mother and mother-in-law went into full panic mode and then began the next stage which was my grooming so I could fit the ideal image of my husband’s perfect wife.Hair dye, eye lash extension, nail extensions, hair extensions, manicure, pedicure, facials, eyebrow tinting, you name it and I was getting it done. I would wake up and dress up in the finest of clothes, wear make up and potter around the house.Our wedding anniversary was coming up when my mother-in-law discovered my secret. She had many issues with my irregular eating hours and even when we got together for proper meals, I would eat very little. Another problem was we were constantly running out of things in our kitchen. In the beginning, my mother-in-law, who had full charge of our housethought it was our kitchen staff but soon discovered that it was me who was always in kitchen after midnight. It was me that it was in the kitchen in the early afternoon and it was me who often disappeared upstairs with tray full of food.My sister-in-law told her that she was sure I had an eating disorder. Soon after, everyone knew and meal times became a pure torture. Even if I went near the kitchen, they would look at me meaningfully. And as soon as I entered the bathroom, someone was always knocking on the door. It was mortifying and very embarrassing. A day did not go by where I did not cry and was not scolded for my lack of interest in family matters and my procrastination. Also my husband had another interest…After 1 year and 3 months of living with someone else, I returned home with shattered heart and a small suitcase. Three days later, a man delivered my remaining luggage and nine days later, I received my Islamic divorce. Few months later, I was legally divorced.After my divorce I spent a full year in hiding, suffering with insomnia, depression and weight gain.Isolated, depressed and very unhappy, I left the family home to go and live with my father’s uncle and aunt in Morocco. I wrote to them and asked them if I could come and stay with them. My mother was sceptical, “you will be back here in no time, your father’s relatives are conservative and where they live is far away from urbanism.”I reassured her that I will be okay. How could I stay in this house any longer where everyone sees me as a burden? A million things crossed my mind… You’re embarrassed of me, my sisters don’t talk to me and they are climbing the ladder of success, you and dad couldn’t be more proud of them, and my only brother simply has no idea I even exist, I can’t go to gatherings because I feel I don’t belong there. I can’t dress like you because anything that is tight and revealing sends me into a panic mode. Make up irritates my skin, fake eyelashes make my eyes watery, I don’t have a qualification and the only thing I’m good at is cooking and wasting food and time.I left and went to join my father’s mother aunt and uncle in Morocco. I hadn’t seen them in last seven years. The first few weeks were spent in numb comprehension and binging. They never said a word. My great uncle would often make two trips to the main city for groceries and despite his very limited income would bring me my favourite foods: biscuits, crisps and chocolates. Soon I realised that I was now a burden – I had come to Morocco with $500 and I had no source of income. These poor people simply survived on basic pension and money that was earned from some farming. Then survival skills kicked in and I adapted to this new lifestyle.Now away from all the pressure and all the people, I feel I am returning to sanity. My great aunt and uncle are very wise people. We live in a small town near the mountains. Life is calm here. I am still not fully recovered but I am not a full time bulimic either. Sometimes, when memories come back, I slip back into my old ways but then I return to the present. What has helped my recovery journey is the love I receive from my grandparents and our meal times together. It is customary here to eat together and to share your meal with your neighbours and guests. My great uncle is an early riser and he always makes breakfast, my great aunt always takes care of afternoon lunch and I always cook the main supper with the help of my grandmother. We eat really well here and we always have fresh fruit, yogurt, pickles, salads and vegetables.I have not seen my family in the last two years. Sometimes it hurts to think of my siblings, parents, relatives and family friends. I guess reality is that no one misses me. If I had stayed with them, I do not think I would have survived. Alone and isolated with my only companion being TV and food. I was developing health problems and my oral health was deteriorating.In the last two years, food has become a food and binge food no longer exists. Maybe because we are away from the main city where all the fast food places and restaurants are. Or maybe because women here are mainly covered from head to foot in loose garments. I am learning pottery now and on weekends I do archery.Mainly it is not just that I have survived and I am living, it’s just that darkness in my life has shifted. I sometimes look at my great uncle and I look at his pearly white hair with not a single grey strand and I sincerely pray for him to remain in my life forever.