“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for.”
— Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi
This is a guest post from one of our readers in Turkey. The story was translated into English and edited by our writer to seal the anonymity. Few things have been changed around. It was submitted when Turkey and rest of the world was in the initial stages of lockdown/quarantine. We feel the message in the story is forever timely. We share this to create a deeper level of problems existing in our society. We hope we all can unite in positive spirits and help each other to fight eating disorders till they are history.
What goes around comes around
I put on a mask and refused to look at myself in the mirror. I hated wearing the mask and I absolutely hate how it makes me look, but right now we don’t have a choice. I have elderly parents here and we are living in quarantine together.
I can’t remember how long I have been here. I have completely lost sense of time and I have no idea when I will return to States – if ever.
The company I worked for issued a notice to me while I was away. They informed me that things are not good; the company was downsizing and there was no longer any room for me.
I returned home when the lock down happened. I guess it was faith’s way of mocking me and testing me. Now in lockdown, I was forced to simply look out at a view I thought I would never ever set eyes on.
I had worked so hard to get to this position professionally and in a matter of a few minutes, I lost everything. It hurt. It really hurt.
In panic, I had left my luxury studio apartment in Istanbul and travelled to Izmir to be with my family. I couldn’t do the quarantine all by myself. I never knew what anxiety was but now I know what anxiety, uncertainty and panic attacks are.
Two years back, I had mocked a very person who experienced this in my family.
I mocked this person over her nervousness, inability to eat with people and her anxiety.
We got the surprise of our lives when my 20 year old, recently graduated, younger brother came home from his voluntary mission with a 19 year old wife.
It didn’t just leave us speechless, but the fact that his wife was shrouded in a veil left us more alarmed. In Izmir no one, absolutely no one, wears a veil. She is Yemeni and how, whey and when my brother made this decision seemed irrelevant. He is the only son and after three months of feud, tears and threats, my parents welcomed them both into our home.
My brother resumed his studies and started working alongside my father in our business. We could tell he was happy but we were finding it difficult to accept this new addition to our family.
She was always covered in layers of fabrics and these layers of fabric multiplied when she stepped out of the house. She was quiet, very quiet, and had a haunting look in her eyes – all this was a result of the war she had experienced in Yemen.
It made me mad just looking at her. We did mock her and we realised that whenever we all ate together, her hands would be shake. She often dropped her cutlery and would sit there looking at her food. Soon we realised she didn’t eat much, in fact we hardly saw her eat.
She told my mother that food choked her and the smell of food made her sick. She wasn’t pregnant. I also noticed that she was extremely shy in crowds and despite our persuasiveness and high handed ways she refused to wear any clothes that exposed her skin.
I was always on yoyo diets and it made me angry when I would see her eat little and leave huge amounts of food on her plate. It often resulted in arguments and she would leave the table in tears.
None of this made it to my brother. He was overly protective about her.
One day, she collapsed in front of our eyes when we were all in that garden. She was hospitalised with weak heart, malnourished body, low weight, and acute dehydration.
The trauma of Yemen which she carried to Izmir had its price. That was the first time I saw my brother cry and I saw the guilt that fell over my mother’s face. We all mocked her nervousness and her stutter if we spoke too loud.
She slowly started to improve after she returned from hospital but her dressing didn’t. She still covered herself in layers of clothes and you couldn’t see a single hair when she stepped out of our house. I always thought that she was doing it all to get sympathy. I would often scream at my mother, can’t you see she’s doing it all for attention? I had no idea that what she was going through was real.
I left Izmir to go to the Stares for my ideal job last year. I was trying to stay positive but soon realised that competition in my work place was rife. Everyone was trying to get to the top. Our free time was spent building contacts and socialising. The yoyo diets left me hungry and with great digestive pains. My gut health was deteriorating and I would often break out in cold sweat and see stars.
I missed home but I had no idea that I would return home so soon.
As soon as the lock down happened, I travelled home. My empty apartment gave me huge bouts of anxiety.
And that’s when things changed. I saw how different everything was in my family. My sister-in-law looked radiant but still quiet. She is expecting her first child.
She still gets startled when we raise our voices, and I see that my family do make a conscious effort not to do that.
She eats, though very slowly but she does finish her meals. My mother fusses over her so much. How ironic is faith, I once mocked her for covering her face and now we are all forced to wear masks. I used to get angry when she used to get nervous and now I get nervous thinking about future.
But the biggest and most important lesson I have learnt from this experience is how brilliant and innocent she is. Her story is not to be told, but it’s tragic and she has carried so much baggage from one country to another. I often see her looking into the view outside, lost in thoughts, and now I don’t see that as a day dreaming but something that makes me sad.
She is so kind that upon my arrival she washed and ironed all my clothes, including my socks and towels. I’ve never seen her say no to anyone.
I asked my bother why he married her and he said she has the most beautiful and compassionate soul. She encourages me and makes me want to do good and be a good person.
How lucky is he, to find a love like that..
”Progress and healing involves seeing every person as not so different from ourselves.” – Bryant H. McGill