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Behind the Mask
Jun 9, 2023

Reading time 5 min.

Behind the Mask

Confronting an Eating Disorder and the Influence of a Parent.

I finally heard what had been whispered in cautious hushed voices from doctor to doctor. The diagnoses each came with a heavy blow of finality — depression and an eating disorder.

It felt like the earth opened up beneath me, fingers closing around my gut; I folded onto the floor as if pushed there by some ghostly force, unable to say anything but let out a heartbreaking sob that vibrated off of every wall and shook through my frame until nothing remained standing between me and this lonely truth. Tears streamed unchecked down my face for what seemed like hours before starting into their own kind of trance — stirring thoughts in circles until questions started to arise from the depths of my mind.

“It’s a very common challenge, but don’t be discouraged — it is something that can be managed and treated with the right kind of support. We’ll work together to find strategies and medications, if needed to help you cope with this illness, as well as any other challenges you may face in life.” The doctor said.

At that moment, my mind froze and realization set in.
Why did I think I could ever do it alone? What kind of strength did I think would pull me up from this? How was I going to tell my parents?

My parents.
I had been so blinded by pride and stubbornness that these questions never crossed my mind until now — when I finally realised how desperately I needed someone to understand me and hold my hand through this darkness.

But my parents would not extend their hand in comfort or embrace me to reassure me. Instead, they would scoff at me and brush off my feelings as being insignificant. They would never take my troubles seriously and simply use laughter to deflect any attempt I made at seeking solace. Telling me not to be so emotional and that everyone experience sadness from time to time, it felt like they were belittling my inner turmoil instead of trying to help.

But an eating disorder?

How was I going to explain that?
For the past decade, my father has been a regular no-show. He pops in rarely to say hello, then vanishes for weeks on end. This cycle of absences has become all too familiar.

Though he is often absent, his way of conveying his love and support is through sending money my way. It may not be the same as physical presence, but it shows that he cares and wants to help in any way he can.

Though it has taken some time to accept, I have come to understand that my father really does love me, in his own way. And while it may not be ideal circumstances, it is enough for me.

That realization helped me to accept the fact that I cannot force someone else to show affection towards me that they are unable or unwilling to give. The only things we can control in life are ourselves and our reactions to the people around us.
Though it took many years to get there, I eventually found peace with my father’s absences.

My mother was an entirely different situation.

My mother’s harsh criticisms of me left me feeling helpless and fragile. She put the deep-seated fear in me that I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried. This fear crippled my self-worth and drove a wedge between us — one which could not be repaired by anything she said or did afterwards.
I do love her, my heart shattering into a million little pieces with each passing day. Despite the fact that she was the source of most of my pain and suffering, I can’t help but ache for her even more. But what makes it worse is that she never gave me the same love back. Knowing that no matter what I do or say, it would never be enough to earn her affection, was a difficult and heartbreaking realisation to come to terms with.

It’s not really her fault that I developed an eating disorder, but I can’t help but blame her. Her words, her judgement, all of it was like poison that ate away at my soul. My self-esteem had already been broken by the time she said anything at all, and each snide remark only exacerbated my pain and insecurity. It’s painful to admit that she contributed to this in any way, but the truth is hard to ignore.

I had to become numb, I had to find a way of dealing with the pain or else I would lose myself completely.

So there it was — my secret shame that no one could know about, hidden behind the mask of perfectionism and trying to make everyone happy. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was struggling. It meant acknowledging my weaknesses and failures, something I had always tried to avoid.

But eventually, after much soul searching and a lot of tears, I came to the realization that no matter how hard it was going to be, I needed help if I ever wanted to heal. So for the first time in a long while , I sought therapy.

Each session was difficult for me and often left me feeling emotionally exhausted. But little by little, as I shared my story with the therapist, I felt the weight of my pain slowly become lighter. Through her guidance and patience, she helped me to identify unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviours that had been keeping me stuck in this dark place for so long.

I fiercely resisted the pain, struggling to make sense of my relationship with my mother. She was the reason behind my eating disorder, anxiety and depression. Despite it all, I could see that she only ever wanted what was best for me — her tough love and push to achieve success had been her way of helping me. Her methods were misguided and misguidedly extreme but her intentions were pure — something I realised much later on in life.

A deep breath escaped my trembling lips as I thought about all of this, allowing every last ounce of pain and hurt to slowly ease out of my body. I no longer felt the anger and betrayal that had once consumed me — only understanding and acceptance for what she had done.

So I swallowed, knowing that I had to take the first step in seeking help for my battle with my eating disorder. It was going to be hard, but it was the only way out of this abyss.

Ahsenur Bindik

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