Author’s Note: In my story, the eating disorder has been personified to be known as “Ed”.
I don’t remember how this all started. One moment, I was a child living without a care in the world, fearlessly reaching for the stars for I simply didn’t know failure existed.
And then, somewhere along the way, everything changed.
During my adolescent years, I realized life wasn’t the fairy tale I made it out to be. Triggered by the changes I experienced through growing up, I developed a dire need for comfort and to feel a sense of familiarity in my life.
I wanted to feel control in this ever-changing and unpredictable world.
Confused in my desperation, I began to struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. I started to set perfectionistic expectations for myself and consequently felt disappointed due to my inevitable shortcomings. These unattainable standards hindered my self-confidence – I felt that I would never be good enough for myself.
This internal conflict persisted and intensified as years went by. As stress accumulated alongside my frustration, I was lost in an ongoing defeat.
That was, until I met Ed.
When I was 14, Ed suggested that I lose some weight. He reasoned that losing weight was not only an accomplishment praised by society, but it would be numerical proof that I was strong, disciplined, and capable. Losing weight would be a means of measuring my worth, and through this, Ed promised I’d finally feel good enough.
Ed promised I’d finally be happy.
And so, I lost some weight.
A week later, I returned to the scale, beaming with anticipation. The number was lower. I did it!
But then almost instantly, I was taken aback with feelings of disgust and shame. Suddenly, the number was far too high.
My expectations escalated, and Ed’s whispers turned into screams.
I continued to lose weight, hoping that one day the number would finally meet Ed’s expectations.
My family and friends started expressing their concerns and told me I had a problem. In my eyes, however, I was convinced I had the solution. I was only trying to better myself, and Ed was helping me get there – I exercised with discipline, restricted with rigidity, and starved my sanity away.
I was losing weight for a peace of mind I never got.
My weight spiraled so low to the point where my legs could no longer support my skeletal stature. I developed an irregular heartbeat, my organs were failing to function, and I couldn’t move without my vision going black. My brain was starving, and I couldn’t rationally comprehend the dangers inflicted upon my life.
I was dying, and I was too numb to even care.
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, and was immediately rushed to the hospital for medical interventions.
I spent a total of 7 months hospitalized in intensive treatment facilities. I constantly fought back the support from loved ones, the worries of my medical team, and the body I grew to hate.
I didn’t believe in recovery, because I didn’t believe in myself.
After every discharge from the hospital, a relapse would follow. Despite how much support was given to me, the only way I would truly heal is if I wanted to recover for myself.
When I was 18, I entered my first year at university and my struggles intensified due to the immense stress from school. Under tension and unease, I sought comfort from Ed once again. I was blindly guided through self-destruction and instantly relapsed at the start of the semester. Once again, I fell into Ed’s trap. The closer to death I was, the stronger I thought I was getting. As I starved, the disorder fed on what was left of me- I was hollow, frail, and emptiness was all that I knew.
In January of 2014, my weight plummeted to the lowest it has ever been, and I was immediately removed from university for medical interventions. I could no longer walk without the aid of my mother’s arm, as my limbs were too weak to support themselves. My hair fell out in clumps and I bruised in bed as there was no flesh to cushion my body. All this, and the eating disorder wouldn’t rest. As long as breath filled my lungs, there was always more to lose.
The game would be over when I died, and I couldn’t bare this level of injustice any longer. In those moments of weakness and despair, I had to make a choice that would change my life forever – either Ed dies, or I die.
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I yearned to feel fulfilled, a wish that could never be genuinely granted by the disorder’s tricky tactics. From that moment on, I made a promise to dedicate my actions to values that hold genuine promise and to embrace who I am unapologetically, all while negating the illness that will never be in control again.
I sought for help, primarily from the greatest role model in my life – my brother.
Aladdin was a bodybuilder, and his devotion to health and fitness was the key to my recovery. His strength, however, extended beyond the premises of the gym. He empowered his life through love, and he earnestly shared his passion with everyone he knew. He was an athlete, a brother, and my best friend.
His gaze went beyond the wheelchair, the tubes, and the machines I constantly had to rely on. He looked beyond the diagnoses and past the medical complications Ed imposed on my health. He looked not at my skeletal stature, but rather at my eyes. All Aladdin needed to know was that I was in pain, and that it itself was enough for him to take action.
I trusted Aladdin despite Ed’s disapproving shouts – he cared, and because he cared, I was saved. Through diligent and undeterred efforts, I slowly started gaining weight. We established a meal plan together, and he monitored my progress every week.
Outside of my dietary goals, Aladdin further extended his passions by introducing me to the gym – this time, with goals surrounding the notion of health, while negating the goal of meeting Ed’s disparaging expectations. I went into the gym, not for slimming intentions, but rather to test the limits that I have been deceived into believing for far too long. I started to train to feel strong in my body, no longer having to rely on the disorder for a sense of accomplishment and strength. I began to disassociate food with evil implications and saw it as the fuel and nourishment that allowed me to grow past Ed’s undermining restraints.
With every bite and step I took, Aladdin led the way, reassuring and reminding me every day of my capabilities and strengths. Through his teachings, I embraced life with sincere gratitude and growing intentions.
Aladdin saw my worth, and through him, I finally saw it too.
There are still days where I struggle, and there are still moments where giving up seems to be the only option I have. But in those weary moments, I remember my brother, the reasons he has given me to fight, and most importantly, why I must constantly feed my faith with sincere dedication and intention. This level of self-love has brought me where I am today, healthier than I’ve ever been and stronger than I’ve ever felt. Through Aladdin’s love, I shunned the disorder while embracing who I am, and that has made all the difference in my life.
My strength is no longer undermined – it is magnified.
My story doesn’t depict a loss, rather it highlights what I have gained. Through overcoming adversities and struggles, I am stronger, healthier, and alive. Today, I live freely, intentionally, and with purpose. I am not a victim to my suffering, rather I am a victor for overcoming the barriers that will never intrude my life again.
I gained weight, but most importantly, I gained life.
I live without fearing growth and I challenge you all to do the same.
I dedicate this story in memory of my hero and dear brother, Aladdin Ramadan.
Aladdin, you have inspired me to live every day with the strength, courage, and dedication. I have grown to be the person I am today through your ongoing faith, love, and support.
Aladdin, thank you for saving my life. I heal, and continue to heal, through your love.
I love you with all my heart.
December 15, 1993 – September 24, 2014
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