Not in Control
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorder, Domestic Violence.
When I was a little girl, my sister was in an abusive relationship, and depression hit her like a wave crashing on the shore, violently. Of course, at the time, I didn’t understand why my once outgoing, fun, playful and loud sister suddenly changed. She had dark bags under her eyes. Her once full and lively face, sunken, creating somewhat of a shadow. It seemed to fit how I'm sure she felt; as if a shadow was cast upon her, consuming her world entirely, or at least that’s how it seemed.
She isolated herself completely, never going out anymore or joining in family activities, not that there were many. We were (are) a very distant family. But, the most obvious change in her seemed to be her weight. She lost so much weight I couldn’t hug her anymore without her ribs digging into my stomach. Her spine was showing through her clothes and she looked so fragile, like a doll that would break if held or simply brushed against lightly by a hand. I'm ashamed to say that I was scared of her because although she seemed fragile and delicate, she looked like something from a horror movie now. I didn’t see my sister anymore. I only saw the shape of a skeleton that started to haunt my dreams and turn them into nightmares that I was sure were to be imprinted in my mind forever, darkening my thoughts and consuming me.
When my sister finally socialized again she came with the rest of my family to a gathering at my aunt's house. Where I expected concerned looks and horrified glances. Instead, we were met with smiles and congratulations. I wasn’t sure how to react to everyone staring at my sister in awe, some asking for tips on weight loss while others told my sister how fabulous her body looked, now. I was confused, very confused, as to why they would encourage her to lose all that weight and tell her she looks beautiful this way. I felt alone as I glanced at my sister getting swarmed by admiring family members and bright eyes shining with pride, and I thought maybe she didn’t look so bad after all.
Fast-forward five years and I'm in middle school, in class, staring blankly at a wall while my so called 'friends' talk about very trivial things (in my opinion). I mean who cares about boys, grades and weight? I certainly don’t but apparently they do. While I wanted to talk about books and Disney channel, they were hung up over One Direction and Harry Styles' swoon-worthy body which I most definitely rolled my eyes at because ew, he's like 7 years older than us. I'd probably gag just thinking of it. Then, something my friend Lila said caught my attention and brought me back to reality. But oh do I wish I didn’t hear her, or that my mind blocked the sentence she uttered out, loudly, causing everyone to laugh. But, I didn’t mishear her, nor did my mind block it out. I heard her loud and clear, as if she had shouted it in my ear. "hey, Ayah, you could afford to lose a few pounds yourself. Wouldn’t want my best friend to become obese." I could hear her words echoing in my ear, the sound of students snickering and laughing made me feel so nauseous. I swear I thought I’d vomit all over her and embarrass myself further. I could feel my eyes burning with hot tears threatening to spill onto my quivering chin, and started to panic; I couldn’t cry in class, I haven't done that since kindergarten. So, I did the only thing I could think of and ran, out of the classroom and into the hallway, trying to muffle my sobs as I locked myself into a stall. Sitting on the cold, dirty floor, my loud sobs echo loudly in the bathroom.
I was alone, no one came after me, no one cared enough to do so. That night on my bed when the darkness of midnight consumed the sky, I was alone again, my broken sobs muffled by my pillow. I was confused as to why what she had said hurt me so much. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t true anyway, so why do I care so much? Hours later when I finally managed to fall asleep, my mind was plagued with nightmares, nightmares about getting fat. Those nightmares haunted me for weeks to come, and then I decided to go on a diet, you know just to help maintain my weight, nothing more and nothing less. I started watching what I ate and skipping a few meals when I could, exercising more as well, actually checking my weight and caring if I gained a pound which would’ve seemed absurd to a younger me.
One day as I was sitting with my family, having dinner, my sister made a comment about the significant amount of food I had consumed. Chuckling quietly, she eyed my stomach playfully. I laughed it off, trying to look nonchalant about the comment she made and excused myself to the bathroom. Locking the door before leaning against it and breathing heavily, my stomach felt uncomfortably full and begged me to empty it out, so I did the only thing I could think of and emptied out the contents of my stomach in the toilet with a slight splash. I realized what it must sound like and opened the tap to drown out the noise before continuing. I had heard of purging before, of course, and I had tried it many times before but had never really succeeded. But after that day, I was purging everything out; an apple, dinner, lunch, breakfast, snacks, you name it. Nothing came in without coming out, but the binging didn’t help me lose much weight, which agitated me furiously.
Though, at the time I did fear the idea of getting fat, I didn’t really believe that I was fat, I believed in science and science told me that a bmi of 19 wasn’t fat at all, so I believed it. I’ve always been quite logical myself until one day in my room I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "how did I let myself get this fat?" My bmi was still normal and everything but all I could think of as I looked at myself in the full length mirror was fat, fat, fat, fat. There was a voice screaming at me; fat, fat, fat, fat, fat. I couldn’t stop thinking it and suddenly angry hot tears slid down my face like a river. Rain poured down my face, drowning me, consuming me, suffocating me and I didn’t know what to do. Without really thinking, I hit the mirror with all my might which resulted in cracked pieces of the now broken mirror to fall to the floor with a crash. My tears had dried out and I stare numbly at my monstrous reflection that I've come to hate. My arm reached out and grabbed one of the sharper shreds of glass and held it tightly in my now injured hand, I raised the glass to my wrist and cut for the first time. I felt… relived, numb, alive. The pain was gone and there was nothing left…. Then I smiled for the first time in a very long time and did it again.
After that day I started counting my calories daily and started fasting for days, loving the feeling of the emptiness and, most importantly, control it seemed to give me. I lost weight more significantly this way and was getting complemented by everyone. I felt loved for once. I thought maybe my friends only left me because I was fat. Maybe if I got skinny people would start to like me, because who wouldn’t like someone who's perfect?
As I lost weight over the weeks I noticed that not eating was all I could think about. I didn’t care about the fact that I didn’t have any friends, or about the fact that I never saw my dad because he was never home, or about the fact that when my dad was actually home my parents fought like crazy. All I cared about was control and it felt amazing, I felt free, perfect, pretty and... deliciously empty. I loved the feeling of ecstasy I got when I stepped on the scale and reached my goal weight. I loved the feeling of emptiness and the gap forming between my thighs, I loved it all.
But I was never satisfied, never skinny enough, never empty enough, or pretty enough, or perfect. The voice in my head was never satisfied, and I began to loathe it, The voice that once seemed like a helping friend (the only friend I had) had suddenly turned into a monster screaming in my head. I tried to stop and I really wanted to but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t handle letting control or emptiness go, I needed this, I needed perfection and I would get it, so I carried on, getting more and more addicted as the days went by. The tiredness prevented me from sleeping. My stomach was grumbling painfully and my eyes burning with unshed tears. I reminded myself that I needed control, that I needed perfection, that I needed that voice in my head, because really what else do I have?
Now, years later I'm still counting calories and starving myself most of the days of the week only now I know that I'm not in control, that I was never in control. That by doing all of this I was letting food control me and my every waking thought, that I was letting that loud raging voice in my head control me, and as every day goes by I start to think less about how much I weigh and what I eat. Instead thinking of less trivial things like Disney channel for an example, which everyone finds very weird considering I'm a teenager now, but it's me and I'm slowly but surely starting to accept that, and even though I'm nowhere near perfect, I'm learning how to be angry and sad and lonely and joyful and excited and afraid and happy, I'm learning to taste everything.
Because, in reality, there is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.
To learn more about depression check out Drug Rehab.
Ayah Abojaradeh is an awkward teenager struggling through middle school who's passionate about blogging, reading, and most importantly Disney channel. She hopes to someday achieve her lifelong dreams of going to Disneyland, California and most importantly educating the ignorant world she lives in about mental health.