I’m writing this because I want you to know that it’s okay and I want to be one of those mothers that you feel comfortable enough to tell anything to – something I have always longed to have. Maybe I already told you by now, or maybe I didn’t, but I went through a good few struggles in my life, and I want to share these with you if it in any way helps you to deal with whatever you might be dealing with in your life.
I’ll start with a major change in my teenage life. When I stopped believing in God. Growing up in a strict, Muslim family and then realising you have no connection to religion or God is hard. Leading a double life? Harder. In one aspect of my life, I was pretending to pray and read the Quran and be a “good girl”, but in the other part I was going out drinking at clubs with friends, making up some excuse like “I’m on a night shift”, changing from ‘suitable’ clothing, when I was out of the house, to something simple like a nice skirt or dress or playsuit. Lying almost because second nature and I hated that.
A couple of times my parents found out, whether it was finding bottles of alcohol I had forgotten to throw out, or a pair of shorts I had bought, or realising I wasn’t “on a night shift”. I was angry with the confrontation most times, feeling depressed and sick that I would never get my freedom. On one occasion, I realised that they were just hurt by my betrayal. I had lied to them after all, and all they wanted was for me to be a good Muslim girl, because in their eyes that would get me into ‘heaven’ – and isn’t that what all parents would want? I realise this, but I can’t help but still feel non-religious. At the time of writing this, I’ve been juggling my thoughts between wanting to turn back the time and correct the mistake that got me ‘found out’ and wanting to just stop for a while for their sake, even if I have to sacrifice my own happiness. I’m not sure.
I’m writing this so that you know that it’s okay for you to be whoever you want to be. Whether you’re straight, gay, religious or atheist, as long as you are a good person and respect everyone, that’s all that matters to me. I want you to be comfortable telling me. And if you want to enjoy your young adult life and go out, that’s fine (as long as you’re 18 so it’s legal). I want you to let me know where you are, if you need a lift there and home. I don’t want you to have to sneak around to get a sense of normalcy.
I may have told you this already or not, by the time you might read this letter, but I also struggled with some mental health issues. Growing up with strict parents also meant that hanging out with friends was limited. This was from years 7-9, so it wasn’t like we would have been doing anything “haram” shall I say. My friends realised that I could hardly hang out after school, so eventually they stopped inviting me – only to birthday parties did they think of me really. That made me feel very isolated and alone, and I think that’s what brewed some sort of mild depression (of which I was unaware of at the time) and desperation to fit in and enjoy myself.
At the same time I was struggling with body image issues. I felt very fat and ugly compared to everyone else. It didn’t help that my sisters and mother would remind me that I was fat. I started to isolate myself from my own family too. I really noticed this when I went on holiday with them to Spain in 2014, at the end of year 11. I could feel some sort of invisible separation between me and them, although I doubt it was something they felt too.
After year 11, going into year 12, I started developing an eating disorder. At that point I was 10 1/2 stone. I become obsessed with the number on the scale. I would throw up everything I ate, and some days I would eat very little. That was hard though, as I would end up binging on food and then having to throw that up. It was a vicious circle and my body knew it. Whilst the number on the scale was going down all the way to 8 1/2 stone, my overall health also plummeted.
About year 13, around January, I was visiting universities, making my decision of where to study. It was after an interview in London where I went on a website called tumblr (my release at the time) and posted about my thoughts, as I had thought I had tanked the interview and was beating myself up about it. It was one reply that changed my life. It was this guy. We got talking and quickly he became very important in my lonely life. I would be so excited to see pictures of the outside of his dorm in Michigan, or a photo of his mechanical works (he was doing mechanical engineering). We were similar in a lot of ways, as we both struggled with eating disorders, and that way we really bonded. I had never really properly bonded with a male before, being at an all girls school, so I did become attached very quickly. I think also, we both leaned on each other because of our loneliness and eating disorders. I could really see a future with him at that point. We talked about a little house in the middle of nowhere, where we’d live with many dogs, even though he argued he was allergic.
To be honest, looking at these photos I sort of hope I am living in something like this now.
When he broke up with me I was really crushed. I think I really started to devolve at that point. I was crying a lot, after school, in school, you name it. The worst part was I didn’t really tell my friends about him and I felt so stupid crying over someone I had known less than a month, but I was so attached so quick.
My bulimia didn’t really help the matter either. I think that’s when I started realising I was depressed. I cut myself a few times, but was never really ‘motivated’ (if that’s even the appropriate word) to do it often. I only did it when I was at my most vulnerable and angry/confused times. I think the eating disorder became more of my way of coping with everything.
I would cry so much over him that I would drink alone in my bedroom. One time I was drunk and alone and I grabbed a knife I had hidden in my room. I plunged towards me, stopping just before the tip of the blade reached the fabric of my top covering my stomach. And then I cried, because I couldn’t do it, because I wanted to, because of him, because of my life, who knows.
I was a walking zombie in the final months of year 13, miserable and crying all the time. I had no motivation to revise, so that was kept at a minimum. When I was supposed to be revising, I would just lay in bed and fall asleep, or lay in bed and look up “ana” and “Mia” tips, as well as thinspiration posts.
I guess I kind of deserved it, but come results day, I didn’t get the results I needed to escape away to university. I hated myself. I guess you could say that was my first suicide attempt. I tried to overdose on painkillers. It didn’t work. All it gave me was a sore throat and cold-like symptoms.
Things got a little better. I got into a university with the same course, locally. I was disappointed I couldn’t move away to escape my parents, but at least I would be getting an education that would allow me to earn enough to eventually move away.
There’s a couple more stuff I’ve been through, but I feel this letter is getting too long anyway. If you’re curious, you can ask me, or maybe I’ll write another letter.
Things aren’t perfect right now as I write this – I still pretend for the sake of my parents/extended family. I haven’t got the freedom I so desperately crave, but I guess I have the vision of you and the thought of being in control with how I raise you.
So, future daughter, whatever you need, you can talk to me. If you’re drunk at 2am, call me to come pick you up. If you’re struggling with body issues or depression, talk to me so I can get you help and support you. If the reason you can’t concentrate with school is because you can’t even motivate yourself to get out of bed, talk to me. If you find yourself crying over a boy, or girl even, let me know. I’ll never judge you, although I’ll want to protect you and maybe we’ll get into disagreements because I think something is best for you or what not, but at the end of all this, what’s most important to me is that you never feel alone with whatever you might be struggling with.
Your future mother xxx