Being a part of a community with people that have the same beliefs, religion, and culture is not as comfortable and nice as it sounds sometimes. How I view it is that any wrong move, and suddenly you are viewed as the bad person. To families and people who are well known by their name or what they do, they are able to connect to this. For example, my family name isn’t as big or known, but what my parents do on a day-to-day basis effects who I am. I am not able to say what I feel most of the time because it would make me look or sound crazy. I am not able to dress a certain way because it will make my parents look bad and they will think I was not raised right. I am not able to do what I want or what is in my mind because it will be considered embarrassing. I am not able to study what I dream of because it will make our family name look bad. My mom is pretty well known for who she is and what she does, which means she knows many people. My father is always at the mosque, teaching older men and young men to read the Quran, and was once a teacher at the mosque for children and teenagers. Now, this may be nice to some and what my parents do is incredibly amazing. But in my opinion, I hate it.
When I was dealing with depression and an eating disorder, I kept it a secret for many reasons. The main reason was because I felt if my parents found out, I would be seen as a disappointment and they would not treat me the same way. Also, if my parents found out, I knew for a fact my relatives and friends would know; which I did not want at all. I thought keeping what was going on with my mind to myself would be better for anyone. Until it got worse, to the point where I had to be hospitalized. I was not eating enough or eating at all at times. I did not have enough vitamins in my body and the medicine I was taking was causing my body to be this way. They never pushed the topic further and I took that as a sign that they believed me.
When I went back home, my parents wanted to know everything, and I made them promise me that they wouldn’t speak to this about anyone, including family members. After I told them, they were heartbroken and were shocked because they weren’t paying much attention to me and they started to blame themselves. Now this was nobody’s fault except mine because I was not confident enough to speak out, which caused things to go south for me and my family. I started to stay home from family gatherings, weddings, parties, and anything that involved me seeing people. All I wanted was to stay in bed and go to sleep all day.
After some time, I started to have symptoms of depression and being suicidal. I wanted to look and be like other girls. I felt so insecure about who I was, how I lived my life, and how I looked. I would go to school and feel like everyone hated me. Also if nobody talked to me that day or if my friends never included me in their plans/ conversations I would feel so worthless. I wanted to be included but I thought I wasn’t because I wasn’t like the other girls. I wasn’t as pretty, smart, and talented like them. I was feeling so mad at myself because I was never good enough. It wasn’t just what was going on at school, it was at home too. I made it pretty clear to my parents that I did not want to be treated differently, so my mom would make me do more chores around the house. If I never did things right, I was yelled at and I felt so defeated. I couldn’t do anything right at home and even at school. So I took out my anger on myself by causing self-harm, and I would try so hard to hurt myself to the point where I wanted to end my life. I never found a good reason to live. I thought my family and friends didn’t want me, I felt like nobody wanted me.
Until one day I had a doctor’s appointment and needed to get some shots done. Obviously, that requires for me to roll up my sleeves, so that had me panicking. I had fresh scars and old scars too. Nevertheless, they were scars that nobody knew about. Once I rolled up my sleeves, I heard my doctor sigh and when I looked up at him, his eyes were shut. At that moment I went numb. I thought “Oh my God. He knows now, and he needs to tell my parents. As if my depression and eating disorder wasn’t enough for them to deal with about me.” He looked at me straight in the eyes and told me, “How did this happen? Why? What is going on? I want you to talk to me.” I just stared at him, not knowing what to say. I rolled my sleeves back down and was about to leave, when he stopped me and told me to call my mom in the room. “Well sh*, I’m screwed now” is what I thought at that moment. I went into the waiting room and called my mom, telling her the doctor wanted to speak with her. Not wanting to be in the same room or building, I told my mom I would meet her in the car once they are done. I went to the car and prepared what to say, I didn’t even know what to expect. When I saw my mom leave the building, I couldn’t even read her facial expression. She got into the car and the whole car ride was filled with silence. Right when we got into the house, I went straight to my room and cried for an hour straight. I kept thinking that my parents were going to make me see a therapist or even rehab. I was so scared because I didn’t know what the doctor told my mom in the room. Later that day, my father came in the room and I knew he came to talk to me about what happened.
Now until this day, he is the only one that knows everything. And I mean everything that’s ever happened. He sat next to me and I just couldn’t hold in my tears anymore, I just let it out all. He was comforting me and telling me that everything was going to be okay, and that he wasn’t going anywhere. We started talking and he was asking me why I was self- harming, what did I use, and literally everything that was going on in my life and how i was feeling. I didn’t hold anything back because I knew I could trust my dad to help me, and really be there for me. Until this day, nobody knows what we talked about, and that’s what makes my father and I’s relationship strong. He would always treat me differently from my siblings, but in a good way. For example, he wouldn’t say no to most of things I asked him for. It wasn’t like I asked for a purse and he would say yes. It was if I wanted to go over my aunt’s house for a sleepover, or he would let me pick our family trip of the year and such. My siblings always recognized the way he treated me but they always think it’s because I am the oldest daughter. Here I am now in October 2018, healthy. I have been seeing a therapist ever since my doctor found out, my relationship with my family couldn’t get any better, I’m doing what I love and enjoy, and I am truly happy.
Now dealing with all this in an Arab, Muslim or whatever you would like to call it kind of community wasn’t easy. I had to keep this a secret from my relatives and it still is now. I would miss a lot of days of school because I wasn’t feeling well mentally and physically, and people would always get in our business if we never attended a wedding, or when they saw how terrible I looked. But now I don’t care as much as I did before about what people think about me and what I do. I have been through hell and back and I am happy at how my life is turning out. Every person has their insecurities and that is completely fine, it’s what makes you human. I was told if I am feeling down or have negative thoughts, that I should read Quran. Although this is good, I never found it helpful to me during all of those tough times. Mostly because I wasn’t’ as close to God as I am now, and now it’s different for me.
My main advice for any girl or boy going through something similar I went through is that IT’S OKAY at how you are feeling, and I can promise you that everything will be okay. It will take time, and maybe the longest but in the end, you will be happy and you will be okay. If skipping school for a week will make you feel better then go ahead and do that, if you not attending any social events will make you feel better then stay in and just lay in bed. It’s okay to cry. I find crying therapeutic as weird as that sounds. Do what you got to do to make you be who you want to be. If you are in a similar community to mine and are dealing with those kind of people, then I would tell you to ignore it all. I know how common that is to many situations but trust me, it’s the most helpful thing you can do. It won’t be easy to try and change what people think about you, they are like that for a reason. But you do your part and handle what comes your way, you are strong and capable of dealing with any situation that life throws at you, I know you are. I hope my personal story helped someone out in the world. If you can relate to my story, then you will be okay in the end like I am. Don’t be afraid to speak up, I was too weak to do so and that was a big mistake. If I had gotten help from the beginning, then things would’ve turned out better sooner, but it doesn’t matter now because I am happy. That’s all that matters to me and your happiness is the key to every door. I am sending you a hug right now.