“Being young” By: Heba Qaisar

“Being young”

“Fear is an emotion induced by a threat, perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function. It compels one to change for worse, hide and freeze from traumatic events.”

As a teenager, I was always bullied by my classmates and seniors for being obese. I weighed 76 kilograms, and that was all that mattered to them. Few people in my college called me by my name. They preferred to call me ‘fatty’, ‘fatso’, ‘moon-face’, or ‘chubby cheeks’.

Weird names reflecting things that acquired greater mass and greater volume were likened to me. I was ridiculed and ruthlessly targeted like a weak bird with broken wings, trapped in a claustrophobic cage. My dignity was threatened, and college life soon transformed into a nightmare.

I was a straight A’s student at school. Times were good then; no peer pressure, no social pressure, no family pressure. No one commented on my failing figure or noticed the number of meat balls in my plate. Rather, they joked about my excessive appetite. Any dress could fit me then, or at least I wouldn’t be bothered much if it did not.

Being young brought with it numerous complexes and pressures. Sometimes it made me wish I’d never wake up in the morning to face yet another day of ridiculing at college. At other times, I just wanted to disappear with the wind. The feeling of being powerless over my life seeped into me. It conquered my mind and harassed all my talents at excelling in academics out of me.

The ghosts of my bullies haunted me all the time. It ground my hopes of being accepted by them through my hard work and dedication for studying. It ingrained into me that all my efforts were in vain. However, it was especially one event, one turning point that pushed me past the edge and I found myself falling into the depths of despair.

“Imagine Hafsa walking on this ramp with her heavy thighs and chubby hands.” My Aunt had joked while she watched a fashion show on TV. I was utterly embarrassed. I wished for the floor to open up and swallow me whole. What had hurt me more was that my family was unable to support me at that very moment for who I truly was instead of my being overweight. It was enough for me. I was at my limit. Finally, I surrendered to all my fears and shortcomings.

I accepted I didn’t have a fair complexion. I did not have big, doe-shaped, attractive eyes or a perfect blush on my low set cheek bones. Neither did I have a fine aristocratic nose. My height was just average and I dreadfully admitted to myself that I had to lose a lot of weight before I could see beyond anything.

That summer vacation, I set out on a new mission in life; eating half a chapati in one day, drinking one glass of juice for breakfast and three bananas for dinner or a salad dressed in vinegar. They were hard times, but I managed to coax myself into believing that hunger was a mere feeling that would pass away or that I had a special talent at resisting food which others lacked. However my desire to gain control over my life and become more acceptable in society grew like a mountain appearing from within the sea. So did my attempts at losing weight.

I became obsessed with calories, food grams and nutrition, reading food labels, measuring and weighing portions, keeping a food diary. I pretended to have eaten food and skipped meals at home. Many times I threw away lunch that my mother had packed for me. If I had to eat something under strict circumstances, I would deliberately purge to remove it from my alimentary canal. Also, an hour’s walk 3 times a day was a must.

At last, I started losing weight; 30 kilograms in 6 months. I became 46 kilograms from a hefty 76. But with it, I began dying, pretending and masking my inner, disturbed, depressed self from my family. Only in my room did I allow myself to break down and cry with hunger. I clutched myself into a fetal position and exercised control over my appetite. Hot, salty tears would cascade down my cheeks. My stomach churned and my body begged for food but I refused myself the relief.

I wanted to lose weight! I had to lose weight! That was my mission. Most dangerously, I had no idea when to stop. Being thin was never enough. I became psychotic, an anorexic and a bulimic.

Months gave birth to years and I continued starving myself until my body gave in. Pain peeked from every fiber of my muscles due to weakness. Sometimes, I experienced chest pain, severe headaches and dizziness. My strength, both physical and mental was fading, until one day, I fainted. Doctors diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa. My condition was serious. My digestive system had collapsed functionally. I was unable to digest even a grain of beans. A sip of water gave me bolts of pain in the abdomen. My stomach function had severely deteriorated. My physicians had no choice but to inject me nutrients intravenously.

It is now I realize how truly stupid I had been in believing that changing my appearance would change my world too. Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa must be taught as neurological disorders that can be treated with medicine, good council and of course, FOOD!

Being young should not be a synonym for being stuck in an inferiority complex. It is not about looking pretty. It’s about beautiful and strong ambitions and pleasant dreams followed by efforts to achieve them. It is about being firm, confident, caring and absolutely happy. It is about lifting one’s fears and being brave.

By: Heba Qaisar

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