OVERCOMING LOW-SELF ESTEEM, BULIMIA, OVEREATING, ANXIETY, & DEPRESSION.
Only through hardships and failures we learn how to become stronger and more successful. Read below my story that made me who I am today.
MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS
Moving into a new country is never easy on the family and on the children. At age 11, my parents and I immigrated to USA from Damascus, Syria in late 2001. I started middle school in the U.S where I was placed into ESL (English as Second Language) beginner level. Everything was new to me, and the first three years were indeed challenging. I managed to make friends and get involved with our local masjid (mosque). However, I never joined any sports leagues or knew how but I have been swimming ever since I was 6 years old in Syria.
HIGH SCHOOL YEARS
When I started high school, I was very excited to start a new beginning with many things. First of all, I was finally done with ESL system in my 8th grade, and second of all, I felt a bit more confident that I can do it all on my own. Since high school systems in America have sports, I thought why not try out for volleyball since I love playing it. I was not aware of the challenges of the tryouts. Indeed, I was very sore after each day, and I did not know anything about fitness. So I kept going with the tryouts until last day. I was not surprised that I did not make the team, and after that, I thought to myself, maybe sports are not for me. In high school, like many girls and young teenagers, I struggled with self-image and self-esteem. I wanted to look skinny and be thinner than I was. In my freshman year, I was chubby but not very overweight.
All I remember from my high school and middle school years is that I had two friends that did not have much positive influence. One of my friends in high school tried to help me lose weight the unhealthy and dangerous way. I was very naïve to believe in the suggestions and act upon them. My friend taught me about throwing up after I eat, so the food does not add up in my body. Honestly, I do not know why I was foolish enough to take in that advice and do it. And so I did it on and off for while even though at the beginning I was afraid of doing it. I also remember that I kept it hidden from my parents for a while. Most definitely, I recall feeling guilty and ashamed of myself for doing it but I got into itthat I did not know how to get out of it. I remember that when I tried to stop from throwing up, I just ate and ate. It was a cycle of binge eating and throwing up. I did gain weight and became more self-conscious about myself, but I did not know how to get out of it. I felt embarrassed as well as ashamed to tell anyone.
One day I was caught in the bathroom throwing up by my mom. She had suspicions of me but was never certain until she caught me. After then, I had stopped throwing up but binge eating was definitely a side effect that I got into for a very long time. In my sophomore year, I was in Starbucks with my math teacher and classmates for her after-hours math help. Because I felt comfortable sharing with her, I confessed my secret about my throwing up and binge eating. Of course, she told my counselor about it. To be honest with you, at that time the concept of visiting counselor for personal and mental help was not positively looked upon by my culture and myself. I do not remember exact details, but my counselor tried of course to help me professionally. I agreed to not do it and follow the orders.
In my junior year, I thought why not try sports again to keep myself busy and surround myself with positive influence. Thankfully, track and field were not hard to get accepted into despite the tryouts. Anyone was welcomed and at any pace. I felt really happy that I was part of a sports team. I was not the fastest person but I knew that I kept going even though I was always the last runner during practice. Exercising and running helped me deal with myself image, self-esteem, and my eating disorder. I know I was still on and off with my throwing up. I never ever shared with my coaches, my teammates or classmates. It was something hidden and secret until one day in my senior year my lips became really chapped. I will never ever forget this incident from my life. In my AP Gov’t class, I was sitting in class, and I was very embarrassed with my chapped lips because it was so bad at the point if I talked or laughed, they would bleed. It was during the winter season so I blamed the cold weather and chap sticks I was using. Therefore, my mom took me to our family doctor at that time. At that time, our doctor was a very nice Pakistani woman. And that visit, I finally confessed to both the doctor and my mom that I have been throwing up lately to let go of what I was eating. This was before spring season which was when I had track and field. Until today, I cannot forget the reaction by my doctor when she found out that about me. She looked at me judgmentally. I remember coming out of the doctor building really mad and told my mom, “See, this is why I don’t want to speak up about it to the doctor or anyone, because I know I will be judged and looked negatively upon.” But my lips were chapped because of the laxatives and fluids I was losing as well as the poor diet.
So I promised my mom and the doctor to stop throwing up and work on improving my diet. I remember signing up for a winter track and field conditioning program to help athletes get ready for the season. I took advantage of the opportunity and signed up because I remembered exercising and staying active helped me a lot to deal with my issues. When the season started, I was more prepared than the previous year. Both years I tried something different. I remember one year I did sprint and another year I did distance to see which one I liked more.
EARLY COLLEGE YEARS (COMMUNITY COLLEGE)
Upon graduation from high school, I went to northern Virginia community college and began the new college journey. I met new friends all over again and one friend introduced me to weightlifting. I also had to keep it secret from my parents because they thought that weightlifting will make me shorter and bulk up. But it helped me tremendously gain confidence in myself and improve my body. My friend and I did our first 5k and 10k races together. Ever since we ran our races together and lifting, I was able to overcome my overeating problems and gained a lot of confidence just from lifting and toning out.
MIDDLE-LATE COLLEGE YEARS (GMU)
Until 2011 when I transferred to George Mason University, I was planning to continue with pursuing Biology degree and the Medical Technology program because I had interest in working in labs since junior year in high school. However, in my second year at Mason, I started feeling really sad and depressed from my classes and other factors. I was not doing well in my classes, and I did not know what other major I should switch to. I have spent three years already at NOVA, and almost 2 years at Mason, and I felt exhausted from school and work; indeed, I have been working since junior year high school. There were some basic biology classes I had to retake, and finishing my degree felt impossible to finish. All my emotions and stress built in that I went back to food as a way to cope. I did not have a lot of time to go to the gym at school, and so working out was the last thing on my mind. For about a year and a half, I went through depression and had all these negative thoughts in my mind. Also, I reached the point where I just wanted to drop out of college and everything in my life. There were so many times I would literally stop by some fast food, buy food and drive off to someplace I knew would be private so I can eat shamelessly. Other times I would just buy candy or anything heavy and just ate in my car or at home alone to hide from society. I knew it was not right, and I felt so much shame and sadness, but it was something I couldn’t stop or control myself. Until at one point, I reached out to my close friends and my parents who were there for me. I will never forget the anxiety attacks I had during my college year either. I would literally shake in fear especially before my exam dates for one of my hardest subjects, immunology. The family doctor prescribed to me anxiety medication but I never took them because I tried my best to avoid medications.
This is another secret I am opening up with public which is that I have also have been prescribed depression medication, and I was forced to take it under psychiatrist supervision. It did not really help but I had to follow orders as I had no choice. Because I overate again, and I was really down, I had to visit a specialist doctor. I visited the endocrine, diabetes, and osteoporosis clinic in Sterling in 2013. I went to check my thyroid to find out if there is something imbalanced in my body that is causing me to be depressed and unable to focus in school. And so, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetics and had to take metamorfin 500mg. In addition, I had Vitamin D deficiency, and I was prescribed a high dosage of it to elevate my mood.
When I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, I was forced again to watch what I ate and get back to exercise. Keep in mind, these were things I have enjoyed in my early college years, but I lost it all at GMU. Therefore, I slowly went back to gain my health back. It took me long time though because I was still trying to force myself through my classes and my degree. I kept going through it all not knowing what I am going to do in my future and what career path to take. Like many, I was still searching even though I have spent 6 years in college.
It was not until 2014 when my grandmother became very sick in Damascus, Syria, and my mom had to go back to see her. They have not seen each other in seven years, and my grandmother was very dear to me. But because of the war situation, we have not been back for visit. Unfortunately, that spring of 2014 I lost a dear person in my life, and her death was a huge wake-up call to me. That was the time I came up with the idea of BeFit4Akhirah, and the year I decided to become a certified personal trainer. It was the year I said to myself, “Enough is enough,” and I regained all my inner confidence, strength, and willpower.
After I was officially done with school, in summer 2016, I signed up for the personal trainer certification test and dedicated my time to focus and study hard. I successfully passed, and I was ready to take my knowledge my classes as well as my minor to put into action. Of course, I was wrong again thinking it did be easier this time, but I was wrong. Until today I face challenges, and I will always face challenges, but this time I am more prepared to win my battles and overcome my fears. Nothing is meant to be easy and nothing will come to us. We must go for it, and we must work to earn it.
And this is why I am passionate about taking my business into holistic approach because I have been through it all, and I know becoming healthier is more than just exercising. It's taking care of our mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Be Strong, Be Fit, BeFit4Akhirah