My story is totally unique to me, and no two eating disorders look alike. To this day I still don’t know the exact reason(s) it manifested in the way it did. It was a combination of deeply rooted insecurities about myself, situations in my life that made me feel invisible/unlovable, and important people in my life that caused me to hyperfixate on my appearance and other people’s criticisms of me
Please find below an article by Samiha Rahman on Eating Disorders in Muslim Communities. Samiha has started an instagram page to raise further awareness about eating disorders in Muslim Communities, you can read about her work here.
Thank yo Samiha for sharing this with us.
Let’s Talk About It
By: Samiha Rahman
*TRIGGER WARNING* If you are not in a place to be exposed to restrictive language surrounding diet culture/body image/anything related to disordered thoughts about your body and food, please read the following at your own discretion.
I am not a professional in this field. I am simply sharing my story on a public platform to bring awareness to the intersectionality of the matter, and to let go of something I have wrongfully identified with for far too long, so I can hopefully move on with my life. Even if 20 people read this, I will know I shared it, and am bidding farewell to something so secretive and sacred to me, because it’s not me anymore. In a sense, I am implementing a form of therapeutic freedom, by facing my fears head on, and being completely vulnerable.
Eating disorders are painful, traumatic, and extremely hard to unlearn and grow from, but recovery is possible. We need to talk about this more, it exists on an intersectional level. I am not the ideal eating disorder prototype (white, privileged and of higher class). I am visibly Muslim, of South Asian descent and exist in a family dynamic and culture that still has trouble with understanding mental health, let alone eating disorders. I also belong to a family where there are multiple illnesses, mental and physical, being resisted and treated.
I’ve been in active recovery from an eating disorder for about a year now. It hasn’t been easy, and each day comes with its own trial and tribulation. It doesn’t make it better, either, when you get comments like “you look so much healthier now”, or “you looked anorexic back then, but now you look okay — stay at this weight!”. What people fail to realize is what’s beneath the surface: the months it took for me to painfully re-gain the weight I spent years losing. The countless nights I cried myself to sleep because I once again chose the harmful, destructive method to cope given the lack of control when things were changing so fast. I’ve been to hospitalized treatment for 3 months before, and now I guess I’m sharing a bit of this very personal part of my life, to simply speak about it, to hopefully normalize it.
My story is totally unique to me, and no two eating disorders look alike. To this day I still don’t know the exact reason(s) it manifested in the way it did. It was a combination of deeply rooted insecurities about myself, situations in my life that made me feel invisible/unlovable, and important people in my life that caused me to hyperfixate on my appearance and other people’s criticisms of me. But it started with control:controlling the portion of life you’re able to have a total say on. For me, it was what I put in my body: my diet; this control was able to compensate for the areas in my life where it was lacking. When you feel trapped and confused about what constitutes validation and what it takes to receive unconditional love, it becomes very easy to start punishing yourself. By policing my body and my food intake, I felt accomplished and in control. I got praised for being “so good” and “so determined”. Of course there were moments where the people I cared about asked me how I was doing and what was going on, but when you’re in a dark place, all of this blurs out. You only hear the comments about your body and what you’re eating. I felt inspirational, like I belonged.
I am aware at some points in my writing it might of been hard to understand the exact details of my diagnosis and story, and I plan on continuing to write and share for whoever wants to listen, but as of right now this is what I feel comfortable with sharing to the world, I hope you can respect and appreciate this.
My intention is to help someone, anyone who is reading this right now who has felt the pressure from their family, friends, culture, or society to change any part of their selves: their bodies, their personality or any other aspect that is special and unique to them, to feel apart of something and to feel accepted. It doesn’t have to be this way, I promise. Please don’t waste years of your life shrinking yourself (literally) and putting your life on the line to fit a narrow, self-destructive definition of beautiful. Easier said than done — I know, but that’s why I want to share my journey (one I’m still on); I hope my story makes you feel more open to seeking professional help, to gain the skills and self understanding you so direly need to recover and feel better. We all have a long way to go. I hope this article urges you to be kinder and more understanding with each other. We are all fighting battles, sometimes alone, and those are the worst of the kind to go through. The ones that manifest in our minds. You can’t really escape yourself can you?
Check up on your friend today. Make it a habit to compliment others based on how they make you feel. Make sure the people you lean on in times of distress are able to give you genuine unconditional positive regard. Most importantly, never stop learning and unlearning.
Pull quote: “Eating disorders are painful, traumatic, and very hard to unlearn and grow from, but recovery is possible.”
“Please don’t not waste years of your life shrinking yourself (literally) and, putting your life on the line, to fit a narrow, self-destructive definition of beautiful.”