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Why the End of Ramadan Is Hard for Me as Someone With Bulimia

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Perhaps celebrations in general can be hard for people who struggle with an eating disorder. Eid, the only celebration that a Malay Muslim typically celebrates, is the hardest time of the year for me.

I was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa in August of 2016 by my psychiatrist. In November of 2016, I was rushed to the emergency room after I attempted suicide. I was sent to the nearest hospital, assigned to a new doctor, and haven’t seen my previous doctor ever since. The latest doctor wouldn’t diagnose me with bulimia, therefore, help wasn’t attainable for me.

Before we touch on anything regarding Eid and my eating disorder, I think I should explain why Muslims celebrate the holiday. Eid is a celebration of success from a month-long fasting. During this time, we refrain from eating and drinking during the day.

Fasting has became a common practice in Malaysian culture, to the point where I know children as young as 5 who will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset in the scorching hot weather. I obviously could not skip the fast for health purposes, since it would be considered a taboo. The government has launched raids to police people who are not fasting and have issued fee tickets, even for those with gastric issues and diabetes.

Every Ramadan, the fasting month, has been excruciating for me because I was so afraid I’d go into starvation mode since no one else is eating. And since we only eat two meals a day, I usually skip sahur, which is a very early breakfast, and use behaviors during the next meal, ifthar.

Then, comes the Eid, where we usually have new outfits to wear and pictures are taken. This often gives me anxiety, and a few days before the celebration, I often end up crying in front of the mirror, feeling disgusted about how I look. It is a mental hurdle I have to overcome every year.

On top of that, typically there is a feast to indulge on the first day. Overeating is a must for everyone. But for someone with bulimia, it’s a mental struggle not to go into an uncontrolled binge, and purge all the food consumed.

Everyone has their uninvited opinions about other people’s body, including mine, especially from my aunties who would say; “Eh, girl, you look fatter this year!” or, ”Wow, you must’ve been eating so much!”

To break down into a self-loathing train wreck is so easy when pictures are being taken, food is in every corner of my eyes and unsolicited negative remarks are being made about my body. It was incredibly difficult seeing everyone around me so happy and having the time of their lives while I crumble on the inside.

I’ve always wanted to tell this part of my story because I want people to know that an eating disorder does not discriminate. Eating disorders effect people at any weight, people of color, and people who are dissimilar to the media stereotype. Eating disorders aren’t always about obsessing over body image, but might also be about control.

I feel like the mental health system in Malaysia has failed me. It has diminished my hope, and for that, I am forced to face this alone, and to go through this on Eid when most others are happy. Having an eating disorder has become very isolating.

I still won’t stop looking for help. I will continue to try and work on recovery. But for now, sharing my story is allowing me to feel better.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Photo provided by contributor

Originally published: July 12, 2017
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