Drawing Strength in Moments of Relapse

I went jogging outside for the first time this week since I returned from Pakistan and the first time this new year. Those who have read some of my posts in the past know that jogging outdoors is an important part of my “survival package.” This critical piece of my routine had been missing for several weeks/months and although I did not allow the repercussions to shine in the surface amid my travels, I felt I was bleeding internally without it.

I jogged just three times this week before it got super cold. It was nice, refreshing and empowering, but very hard. The night after my first evening run, I got into the shower, and just cried and did not stop crying. I felt like I showered in my tears.

I cried for reasons that seemed beyond my comprehension. I have to keep myself together for a lot of things that I have placed on my shoulders and I’m struggling to do that. I feel like so many forces in the universe is counting on me to do something and to do it “right,” when I can’t figure out what that means, to do something the “right way,” and if that even fits with my personality… and at the same time I keep riding on this constant roller-coaster of perseverance and self-doubt.

Along with this heaviness, I am struggling, immensely, to take care of my health (physical, emotional, and mental). For over a year now, I’ve been gaining weight excessively. And being in Pakistan, eating such extravagant cuisines, I did not do the best job taking care of my diet and exercise, and generally my mental and emotional well-being. I relied on the immersion within the fieldwork and being among my family and my surroundings to keep me sane, to provide me the temporary gratification associated with exploring the familiar alongside the new, which was essential and nice. But as memorable and incredible as my experience was there, I often find myself wondering if it was all a dream. Because no matter where you are in the world, no matter who you are with, no matter what you are doing, YOU are still YOU.

I have always struggled with how I perceive my physical appearance. I was never pretty enough. From top to bottom, nothing seemed “proportional.” And now I just haven’t been able to stop the weight gain. Even when I lost 50 pounds and was super skinny for just 2-3 years, skinnier than I ever thought I would be, wearing size 4 pants and size 2 blouses and shirts, I wasn’t satisfied. I still thought I was fat. It was a mind game and I try to tell myself that. It is common with so many people. No matter your size or shape, if your mind is set a certain way, you will never be satisfied with the way you look.

I have been struggling with weight and my appearance all my life even when I was not overweight. And even when I was an athlete in high school. The shape of my body did not match all my white friends and the hair was so much frizzier and thicker, and it didn’t fall as nicely on my shoulders as it did for my friends, not to mention the dark facial hair visible on my face and invisible others.  My nose was just too big, my lips too small in proportion, my ass too big, and so much more. Obviously, I don’t think that way anymore, but the environment you grow up in as a kid and a teenager does impact the way you feel about yourself, especially if you are heavily bullied and teased by others because of the way you look.

Now that I have been overweight for more than a year, and not being able to stop the constant weight gain, I find myself in the shower, crying it out, asking myself and asking God where I am going wrong, when I already know the answer to that silly question.

I started gaining the weight excessively and drastically after quitting my anxiety and depression medication cold turkey. I just decided one day, it is not helping me, I don’t have the right meds for my OCD, I can’t afford this time-wise and money-wise, and I am going to fight my illness in every other way I can, naturally. I don’t trust these psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists, who can’t seem to figure out how to help someone who is self-aware and enlightened about her condition. I appeared so much smarter than them in my sessions, (as one should be if they really know themselves) and it was getting to be such a waste of time. Especially when I seemed to hop from one to another so quickly, re-telling my story over and over again, and not being able to trust anyone with it, to not just see me as part of their business, but to show me some commitment, care, and compassion for my struggles. I was on medication for about 4-5 years, and somehow the meds made me lose so much weight.

It would be a lot easier if the world around you wasn’t so shy, or scared, or uncomfortable, to openly speak about mental health in everyday conversation, like a cold or a cough. It would be so much easier if the symptoms you exhibit, would not be labeled as weaknesses, but rather actual symptoms of a serious debilitating clinical condition, in which you would not be expected to be ashamed of, because of the social conditioning around it. No matter how much you try not to let all that get to you, the conditioning of the stigma naturally impacts your suffering, and makes it worse, no matter how strong we are.

People would comment on my pictures on Facebook and Instagram about how skinny I was, and how beautiful I looked. Those comments reduced gradually with the gradual weight gain. I know it shouldn’t bother me, because it is all superficial, but we assume when we comment on the “beauty” of others, that it is okay, because it is a compliment, but it does affect people over time in negative ways, and people notice how comments from others change over time and sadly, unfortunately, that tiny trend did make me sad and depressed for a little while. I believe there have been a few studies or articles that discuss how social networking sites increase depression for many people. But I was upset mostly because I fell into that superficial nonsense and I was disappointed with myself and continue to be. I allowed the approval of the world for me being skinny and slim to get in my head and make me think that I NEED to continue to be slim and skinny so I can be “pretty” in the eyes of others. And all this when I did not even lose all that weight in a healthy way! All this when I knew that even though I was skinny, I was not healthy, and the medications I was taking for 4-5 years ended up being the wrong medications for my diagnosis, which created the excessive weight loss.

And as much as I appreciated and loved the kurtas as gifts from some of my family in Pakistan, to receive “large size” shirts from some people, for the first time after my recent excessive weight gain, when I used to wear small and extra small, stung my heart a little bit. It was very sweet with good intentions, but  when your size is something connected to some deeper suffering you are struggling with at that moment, it hurts your soul a little to know that that specific struggle manifested by something like weight gain, is actually bleeding into the surface, and others are seeing it too.

Since I returned from Pakistan, I haven’t been able to share the experiences with pictures and blog posts/articles, as I expected to do, because I feel a mental block of some sort. But it is okay to sometimes relapse, to sometimes stop and regroup amid all the noise. I haven’t even been able to unpack some things because I know it will make me sad, for reasons that I cannot seem to explain at the moment. There is a DHL box that I sent from Pakistan and received nearly 10 days ago and I still have not been able to open it, knowing that the contents inside will bring back lovely memories of gleeful moments and it doesn’t seem to be a bandage I can rip off. I am losing time with all this anxiety and sadness and worry, day by day. I am telling and convincing myself that I am losing time. I am losing time. I am losing time. The OCD keeps repeating that over and over again in the mind. I lost so much time in my teens and 20s, with my struggle with depression and anxiety, and that anxiety to ensure it does not go on repeat for the remainder of my “years of youth”, is ironically still making me “lose time.”

And I have been busy with so much of the immediate work, and at the same time  finding myself in the moments when I could be putting my thoughts together on all I want to write about, the pieces I have begun to write, but instead, I am sitting in my chair or couch or lying in my bed just staring at the ceiling or wall in front of me, not knowing where to start and telling myself “who are you kidding,” and yet again feeling like an imposter, like a fraud. Something I thought I stopped feeling for some time. A feeling that often creeps up at us, when we are making some progress in pursuit of our dreams. A feeling that leads to unfinished “works of art” and simply just great ideas in the mind that require a certain courage and will power to be translated to the page somehow, but are blocked instead.


You wish that the people around you could see how much progress you have made in your life, how you picked yourself up when you were completely and utterly broken. You wish that someone could pat you on the back and look you straight in eyes, and tell you, YOU ARE STRONG ELSA, that you should keep fighting. We must remind ourselves, that whether they see it or not, YOU need to see it. Maybe you don’t need anyone’s approval, but sometimes you want the people you love to see how much you have changed and how much you have grown, and how hard you are fighting your ass off to survive and to be in a place to help others, because it can be helpful to you to keep going.

Amid all that, you have to remind yourself where you are at and how far you have come despite your struggles. Yes, I gained 40 pounds in the course of 3 years. But in the course of those three years, I passed my field exam, I defended my PhD proposal, became a PhD candidate, I completed 10 grant proposals, I finally got the courage to launch this blog and share my posts with others,  I presented my research at several academic conferences in the US and abroad, and I just returned from my first fieldwork trip for data collection in one of the supposedly “most dangerous countries in the world.” I did that, despite the jihad within me, the “internal struggle.” We must remind ourselves of the progress we achieve whether others see it or not. It is no secret that we naturally have a longer attention span for ourselves than we do for others. And yes, contrary to what many people think, you CAN still achieve big things, and be a high functioning successful professional, regardless of whatever “jihad” you are experiencing within you.

I watched the movie, “Stronger”, the story of Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, today. I cried from beginning to end. I needed to watch this movie; something to remind me, not that others have gone through much worse than I have, because that is not the point of these things. Rather, to remind myself of the wisdom behind that critical verse in the Quran, that God doesn’t give a burden to any of us that we cannot handle. The movie emulated the true story of a remarkable young man who just gone through the worst tragedy of his life (the Boston Marathon bombing) and overcame his obstacles…inspiring so many others to keep going.

In the middle of writing this piece, I somehow managed to get some will power to put on my sports clothes and the purple “Out of the Darkness” shirt I got from the DC Suicide Prevention Walk last October and go down the stairs, (it’s too cold outside for a run), to my little apartment gym and work out for about an hour.  I won’t be healthy overnight, but the baby steps and small things matter more than we know.

As I finish this piece, I just want to say something that was implied in the movie.

If we choose to give up, we let the bad guys win. No matter what it is we each are fighting individually or collectively. So many unspeakable tragedies happening around us, and so many challenges we are facing internally and as a society; No matter what it is, we have to pull through, we have to draw strength somehow from somewhere, and realize that it will take a lot of work to overcome some things, whatever difficulty we are experiencing, but it can be done, and it must be done. We have no other choice but to hang on.

Ultimately it needs to be done for yourself, and maybe by respecting yourself and doing that critical service for yourself, it can rub off as a service to others if or when the time comes… Either way, there is much value and worth to remain strong, diligent, and patient and to never give up.


Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,


Warrior KQueen

Please follow and like us:

2 comments on “Drawing Strength in Moments of Relapse

  1. Loved the piece . Count the blessings that you have and see the people who have nothing to count in and thank God for the unlimited blessings , read Quran , work out and exercise as u doing all these will definitely makes u beautiful . Appearance of one person will last so early and quickly but your inner beauty remains last forever even after death . All the best for your future endeavours. Love

    • Thank you Ammara for reading this piece and offering your insights. Truly appreciated. I agree, it is certainly important to count your blessings and practice gratitude. Wishing you the best as well. Sending you my love!

Leave a Reply