This is a difficult post to pen.
I did try putting up a similar post a few weeks back but I wasn’t happy about it so here is it’s rehash.
Where do I begin?
Well, I was a gangly kid and my parents were finding ways to get me to gain weight. Which I eventually did but my weight problems started from there.
I will always be a foodie.
I believe that life is too short to eat blah food. That doesn’t mean I gorge on burgers and lamb chops all the time. But I do have my penchant for desserts. I still struggle with emotional eating, I turned to food as a source of comfort a long time ago and it’s a struggle that I win on some days. I try not to beat myself up for the days that I lose the fight.
Our biggest cheerleader and enemy is ourselves. Eventhough the negative naysayers of the past are no longer in the equation, I find my thoughts mimicking their negative dialogue. I battle with that every day.
Being the oldest of 2 girls in my family, I was naturally supposed to be a role model for my younger sister. I have ADHD, I’ve had it since childhood and today I attribute it to my quirky, offbeat and gregarious personality. But it got me into a lot of hot water as a kid and a teenager. Nobody had heard of the term ADHD, we went to regular GPs not mental health practitioners. Nobody spoke of depression or eating disorders because they weren’t considered Real medical problems. That’s been the problem with my family til today. We do not talk about what pains us. When I did finally muster the courage to express myself, it was out of sheer exasperation and thus translated as anger & aggression.
My parents are well educated first generation Indians who moved to Singapore in their early years. Like many other Indian couples then, their marriage was an arranged one. I came into the world 2 years after the young couple tied the knot..or as the Indians say, walked 7 rounds around the fire 😉
I was a bubbly child from the beginning.
Im still a daydreamer, still a child at heart, still terribly hyperactive but that is but one facet to who I am.
I struggled with my body image from age 11. My parents and relatives and peers did not know any better than to ‘encourage’ me to change my ways aka eat less, exercise & lose weight by using taunts, by punishing or scolding me.
My father is a very successful self-made man. His humble beginnings gave him the fire in the belly so many of us lack today to do something with his life. Although we have a civil relationship at best, I will always respect him for the hardships he ensured and the perseverance he has in multitudes.
Unfortunately he was brought up in a typical patriarchal family. Times were harsh, his mother died when he was 12 leaving his father to do the parenting. My grandfather was a taxi driver by day and wrestler by night. He believed in extreme measures of discipline. That is where the history of violence began.
I was brought up by a man who was ambitious, intelligent, diligent but with an uncontrollable temper. He did not believe in sparing the rod. Like most Indian mothers of that generation, my mother did not have much of a say to how I was to be disciplined. I was absent minded, lazy, fat and a big bumbling mess in daddy’s eyes. It did not help that I am his doppelgänger. He saw himself in me and he hated me. He hated how I took comforts provided for granted. Someone should have told him that I was but a child but that’s where I tell you that my mother & relatives simply added fuel to his anger.
My teenage years were the formative years of my self esteem and self image. I saw myself through the eyes of peers, mom, dad, my little sister and I loathed my reflection. I lived a lie – being jovial in school only to come home and be listless. As my grades fell due to the overbearing ADHD and my own mischief (c’mon I was a teen!), the violence became really bad. I was lashed, caned, kicked, punched..that was the tip of the iceberg. My father believed in 2 things – that his children should be fit & healthy, that his children should succeed academically. Not bad beliefs, but the execution to garner those results were Horrendous.
As the abuse got more overwhelming at home, I began to turn to food. I began eating in the middle of the night to compensate for the pain I felt inside. I started to write my thoughts & feelings down but only food really numbed the pain.
Along the way, it wasn’t all doom & gloom. I lived around my mother and her sisters who are fashionable. I sifted through my mother’s collection of old Vogue & Bazaar magazines. I would stare at my wardrobe and think up of ways to make things snazzy. I was in love with jewellery and fascinated by textures. I also have a intractable sense of humour – my lifeline. Anything, and I do mean Anything…can be funny if you look at at it through different vantage points.
The storm arrived when my best friend & only friend died. I was 16, alone and things at home were hellish. The violence was getting way out of hand. I had to plead with teachers not to report my parents. My friends didn’t know what to say to me. I didn’t tell them about the abuse, they chanced upon that fact when I was changing in the girls toilet one day. I had forgotten that the lashings on my back were apparent.
I was lonely, depressed. I could not push myself to workout. I used to run & swim to take my mind off issues at home but I just could not get myself out of bed. I kept eating.
When she passed away, I holed myself up in my room for 2 weeks refusing to eat or drink. My life felt like it was over. But I knew that she wouldn’t have wanted to see me this way so gradually I began to come out of that reverie. I worked part time while repeating a year of high school. The abuse was still happening.
Until the day I lost my head and decided to hit back. After that, the violence did recede but the leftover rage and sadness remained. I pushed it to the back of my mind while I urged myself to move on and make something out of my life.
It has been said that when you make changes in your life, a ripple effect ensues. I was at my most creative then, writing short stories and poetry. I began to start running again, I met the love of my life, I embarked on my bachelors degree in Psychology. Perhaps because of my own broken spirit, the study of human behaviour fascinated me. It still does, I have a real passion for my field of work.
Eventhough the emotional draining from my family continued, everything else in my life was going well. Little did I know that I was like the glass vase that had been put together after being broken..I was struggling inside. I juggled losing weight, drama at home and completing my degree at the same time. I began to fall apart so subtly that I had no idea that I was unravelling.
I left for overseas postgraduate study with my then boyfriend. The drama from home did not end. This was when I experienced my first proper depressive episode. My grades were falling again to my horror, I could not do much except for sleep or cry. I was fighting with my boyfriend all the time. I was so angry at myself, so angry at my life. My only solace was going to the gym or having a run.
That one fateful afternoon, I just lost my marbles. I was so mad at my family for constantly badgering and complicating my life, I was mad at myself for getting so affected and letting my grades fall. I hated my reflection in the mirror, all I could hear was taunts from the childhood and teenage years. My boyfriend & I were constantly fighting because I was constantly moody.
The door to my apartment’s kitchen had glass windows. In a moment of pure rage, I kicked my right foot through that door. Still unappeased, I kicked my foot through the glass once more.
That, is when my life changed forever.
I staggered back screaming because I could not feel my right foot. My boyfriend, aghast, called for an ambulance. Blood was spurting constantly, the skin at my foot Gone and I could see my bones. Even typing about this is pretty upsetting.
I underwent a 6 hour surgery only to be woken up and told that I would never walk again. Everything else, every other problem seemed so tiny in front of that statement. I could never run again, never walk into the gym or dance again. What had I done?
It is at these times that we find out what we are truly made of. I just refused to accepted the verdict of physical immobility.I took pride in my previous weight loss and being active was a way of life. There was no way in hell that I was about to give that up for a wheelchair bound existence.
To Be Continued…