“She’s growing up, a little podgy but very cute”-- Rima Taleb (Mom’s friend commented on how much of a lady I was becoming at one of our dinner parties.) We had just migrated from New Zealand and it was our inaugural dinner party in Australia. I discreetly went to my room and ******** naked in front of the mirror and commenced to scrutinize myself. She was right my face did look full and I could no longer shamelessly wonder around without a crop top and my hips were definitely taking on a curvaceous shape. I was awake most of the night with worrying thoughts about my expanding body.
As I had just migrated to Australia I still had a distinct NZ accent was teased incessantly because of my ethnicity and intelligence, this propelled me to further devote myself to studies and edify myself, I came to the distorted conclusion; perhaps if I was thinner than all the girls who bullied me life would get better.
During recess and lunch I would retreat to the library to find sanctuary from taunts and also just engross myself in books and math. “Serendipitously” I discovered a sizeable book on eating disorders and was fascinated by the case studies described therein, which I recorded to memory.
I weighed myself as soon as I got home from school; I had only lost 8 lbs since the dinner party which was 3 months ago. I was angry at myself, after dinner I went to the toilet and tied my hair into a high ponytail meticulously- this was to become a part of my ritualistic mannerisms. I looked at my face- looked considerably fat- lacked definition. I hunched over the basin and poked my fingers up in my throat, nothing came out! (How very disappointing, except a fist full of saliva) determined still, I grabbed my toothbrush and jabbed it hard against my throat and in peristaltic waves the contents of my stomach were now in the porcelain basin. I was amazed at how quickly my stomach had deflated, but I felt queasy and weak – due to the escape of electrolytes from my system and also scared as the vomit lay dormant in the basin –how stupid of me, I should have heaved in the toilet, but was deterred by the thought of fecal bacteria! I slowly turned on the tap and let my fingers submerge in the vomit and let them work to accelerate the drain of vomit. I vowed never to do that again.
I seldom ate with family and would often heap my plate with food and say cheerfully “I am going to study in my room so don’t disturb me” and I would take the plate into my room. Carefully lined my pockets were plastic sandwich packets which were utilized to conceal food, and which I found most convenient as they didn’t soil my pockets and were easy to empty when flushing down the toilet.
I congratulated myself at my ability to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, but it was only provisional as I felt irritable, tired and depressed; the bullying never ceased and I felt overwhelmed by school and my extracurricular activities; I was Captain of the debating team, Student Representative Council, trained in track and gymnastics and played violin (“You have to be an accomplished woman”). I was coming first in every subject, but felt my spirits dampened when I came in second in track and despised my violin tutor who accosted me for not clipping my nails, but I read in a magazine they make your hands look more slender. I exercised in the morning, at school and in secret at night. I would lie on my bed and feel the jut of my pelvic bones and rib cage and feel accomplished after I see my weight and waist diminish or when I could see my vertebrae. But I disliked my increasingly sallow/ sickly/dry looking skin and chapped lips- even though I was religiously applying lip emollients.
My year advisor pulled me out of class and asked whether everything was OK, I cheerfully replied all was well and profusely denied having any problems and complimented on her perfume. When I got home I was greeted by a slap on the face by mom, I was scared, and she explained the Principal called my parents at work as the school was concerned about my health.
When dad arrived home he checked my blood pressure, eyes and quizzed me on why my weight was dropping, I assured him I was just a bit busy with school and had neglected to eat as frequently as before and assured him everyone was being too melodramatic and that I would eat “more” so I would be no longer cause embarrassment. The following week’s mom watched me like a hawk while I ate; I grew frustrated and despised her intensely. Angry because she was wielding control over me and my stomach no longer looked concave.
So I became a model bulimic, everyone was puzzled as to why I continued to lose weight even though I was eating such healthy portions. One ominous day as I went to the toilet to rid myself of the foul food that I ingested so that I can be “pure and light” I fell onto the floor unconscious. My brother opened the door of the bathroom finding me lying near the toilet bowl in my own vomit clutching a bloody toothbrush. (I didn’t want to use my hands because of the tell-tale marks of teeth -my violin tutor would grow suspicious).
My mom started hitting me and called me “mental”: and she immediately called my aunt in USA and was pretending to cry hysterically, she put the phone on speaker, so I could hear my aunt saying “It’s because she’s bad blood, like her father, she’s crack. First it was your husband tormenting you and then now his children”
My weight plummeted to 63 lbs. I was treated in Westmead hospital; fed through IVF for about 2 weeks and had to see a psychiatrist. My parents came to visit me and mom and dad both threatened not to blame them or reveal any of our family altercations (“white-strangers wouldn’t understand us”).
I asked her whether I was “mental” and she assured me I wasn’t. She quizzed me on my family and school life to which I gave model answers and even told her that I sympathized for her having to listen to people drone on about trivial problems and told her that I was perfectly capable of curtailing this bout of misjudgment and I only flirted with bulimia and anorexia because I wanted to lose a bit of weight after all I am just a “girl” who is very impressionable and I felt very guilty for squandering the tax payers money to receive treatment when it could be better expended on someone with a serious condition. She held a stoic smile whilst I gave this soliloquy which I rehearsed the night before. I stayed at Westmead hospital for 2 months till I gained 20 lbs.
It was a very difficult time to put it lightly, but I challenged myself to change my way of thinking and get my life back. I was still slim but definitely not the thinnest girl in the room. I tried to draw comfort from the fact I was no longer suffering from constant headaches –lack of glucose, my throat was no longer inflamed, my skin now luminous and I feel better and stronger, even though I often feel the urge to revert back to hold habits, I know it’s not worth it and life can be beautiful, even if it’s not through the lens of a size 00.