A STORY UNTOLD
Many years ago I met a lovely young lady on my travels. We chatted and emailed for a while before losing touch. Much to my surprise and delight, she contacted me recently having come across my blogs. She asked me to write her story under a pseudonym so as not to hurt people she loved. We agreed on a format, and she was keen on an interview style. This is her story, raw words and emotions that made me cry.
Today I would like to introduce you to Zahra, a young vibrant woman who has struggled all her life with bulimia and weight gain. Like many people she has been on a rollercoaster ride of yo-yo dieting, attended numerous workshops and bought expensive products in her quest to lose weight.
Zahra: I’m nervous about this. It’s the first time I’ve spoken honestly and openly about myself.
Interviewer: That’s a normal reaction and I assure you you’re not alone. I know that won’t necessarily make you feel better. However, I want to congratulate you on taking this first step.
Zahra: I’m always taking a ‘first step’ but never get far. I feel I’m beyond help, a hopeless case.
Interviewer: Zahra, no-one is beyond hope. It’s a beautiful seed inside you that needs help to grow and bloom.
Zahra: Yeah, sure!
Interviewer: What words would you use to describe yourself?
Zahra: Gross. Obese. Ugly. And please don’t tell me I have lovely eyes or a lovely smile. I’m sick of hearing that as if those somehow compensate for this massive, flabby body. They don’t!
Interviewer: You’re quite right. None of those things compensate although they’re true.
Zahra: It’s af ecting my health, but I’m stuck. I feel like a huge monster has kidnapped me and locked me into a dark basement with no windows or light. There is no way out.
Interviewer: if you had a key to open the door would you use it? Zahra: No! I can’t move. I’m stuck.
Interviewer: What do you eat?
Zahra: Healthy foods during the day, but when night-time falls my mood falls, and the unhealthy foods call me – giving me a brief release. Spewing it all up is also a release. It gets rid of the poison inside me. Then the guilt sets in and my mind leashes insult upon insult on my lack of control. If I’ve eaten a lot it helps me sleep, but morning brings a new set of problems. I feel sick and even more trapped.
Interviewer: What measures have you taken to avoid bingeing at night?
Zahra: Cutting up fresh fruit. Drinking herbal tea. Meditating. Tapping. Giving myself a good talking to, but…
There is a long pause. The interviewer does not interrupt.
Zahra: But… but the thoughts in my mind are devious, whispering to me that tomorrow I can start again. Whispering that I should accept myself as I am. Whispering that it helps me sleep, keeps the nightmares away, you know, the night monster.
Interviewer: What does this monster look like?
Zahra: Huge and dark and suf ocating, standing over me, threatening me somehow, but no words are spoken. That’s why I needed all this protective covering so the little child inside me can hide and be protected.
Interviewer: Are you using food as a weapon?
Zahra’s face brightened.
Yes! You get me. You understand. If I’m ugly on the outside it might frighten the monster away. It’s my wall of protection.
Interviewer: Is this system you’ve created working?
Silence. No-one spoke. Eventually, Zahra looked at the interviewer. Tears pooled in her eyes, slowly running down her cheeks, dotting dark stains on her blouse almost like blood. They continued to flow as she held the interviewer’s gaze.
Zahra: This is the first time I’ve cried in many many years. It feels weird. I don’t know why I’m crying. I don’t feel sad.
Interviewer: What do you feel?
Zahra: Have you ever accidentally run the bath water until it flowed over the tub and flooded everything? Shock at what’s happening stops you from thinking clearly. The obvious thing is to turn of the taps, but your mind can’t focus on the solution, it can only focus on the problem.
That’s how I feel right now. Overwhelmed by this huge problem and I don’t know how to solve it.
Zahra: My nightmare is real. I wasn’t dreaming. I saw the face. I saw the monster’s face.
The interviewer was silent waiting for Zahra to continue.
Zahra: It was my father. My own father. I loved him, but he hurt me. He hurt me to the core of my being. He touched me again and again. When I tried to scream he covered my mouth.
Interviewer: Did you tell anyone?
Zahra: I told my mother. She slapped me and said I was lying. Interviewer: Did he rape you?
Zahra: No! I would remember that. But he whispered horrible words – words I didn’t understand then.They made me feel ugly. Why did he touch me like that? I was only 8 years old. Then it stopped. Every night I was locked in my room, but I don’t know who locked me in. It was so dark. I was still afraid he would find a way in.
Interviewer: Did he?
Zahra: No, but I never felt safe ever again. I missed his cuddles and that made me angry. I missed my real dad, but now I knew he wasn’t real. That hurt. He left when I was 15 and I was sad which I didn’t understand. It was so confusing. My mother was always angry and blamed me. One night she dragged me out of bed and said we should go to the river and drown ourselves. I was so scared. She said he was with someone else and it was all my fault. She was squeezing my arm so tightly, but I was afraid to cry. Then she let me go. I didn’t speak for days. What could I say? Who would believe me? I was wrapped in a black cloud and there was no light.
Interviewer: Do you want a break, Zahra?
Zahra: No. I’m fine. I’m fine. She took me to a doctor and they put me away. Interviewer: Where?
Zahra: It was a huge grey cold building. There were so many corridors and closed doors and people shrieking. A mental asylum. Yes – they put me away in a mental asylum. Three years of my life cruelly taken away from me. What had I done? Why? Was I so unlovable, so ugly?
Interviewer: You are neither ugly nor unlovable. You have spent years carrying the blame for someone else’s crime and it was a crime. You were abused and hurt. You can’t erase those memories, but you can allow yourself to heal.
Zahra: How do I do that? It’s impossible after all these years.
Interviewer: You have taken the first step by telling your story. The next step will be easier. One day at a time.
Zahra: I want people to know what can happen to a child. I want mothers to believe their child. I want to be believed. He stole my life.
Interviewer: You are now reclaiming it and by sharing you are helping mothers to open their eyes and be aware.
Zahra: Will the pain ever go away?
Interviewer: It will ease. You can decide what you need and what’s important to you.
Zahra: I think I can. I know I can. I will reclaim my life starting now. I know it won’t be easy, but I can do it. It’s time for me to move on and allow the child inside me to heal.
Read my blog – The incredible female!
I have written two novels available on Amazon