Marina Abdel Malak writes: With God all things are POSSIBLE
Have you heard of eating disorders? Likely. But you probably have heard of them in a different light than what I will talk to you about here. You’ve likely heard that eating disorders (ED) are about people wanting attention. You may have heard that people, usually teenage girls, will starve themselves because they want to lose weight. You may have heard that these girls will be so thin and never eat because losing weight makes them get attention.
But I am here to tell you that this information is not totally correct. And I am also here to tell you a secret. As an Egyptian girl, born in Cairo, I am not your ‘ideal Egyptian’. Why? Because I struggled with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder, for seven years.
Hard to believe, right? How can an Arab person possibly avoid FOOD? Of all things in this world, we seem to focus on food more than anything else. We post pictures of our meals online. We wait for a feast so that we can eat milk and meat and chocolate. We center our social gatherings on food. So, how is this possible? How can I have struggled with an eating disorder? Well, eating disorders do not discriminate. They can harm anyone – male or female, rich or poor, Arab or non-Arab, etc.
While this article is not meant to educate you about eating disorders, if you have any questions, please visit my blog and/or contact me for more information (see my blog for my contact information!). I will be more than happy to answer any questions you have. But for the time being, I want to share my personal story with you – one that has changed my life forever – for the good. My struggle with anorexia, believe it or not, has made me a stronger and wiser person today. It has made my faith in God grow stronger than I ever imagined.
Last year, I became very ill because of this. I had reached a deadly weight and was starting to lose my ability to walk due to muscle weakness. I was immediately admitted to the hospital. Just days later, I caught pneumonia. Then my kidneys failed because of dehydration and my heart could not pump adequately to keep me alive. I couldn’t breathe due to diaphragm weakness and the pneumonia. I went to the ICU where I was sedated, had a breathing tube inserted, and was started on 24/7 kidney dialysis.
It was bad.
For one entire month, doctors daily advised my parents to prepare a funeral for my-soon-to-be-dead self. Nurses told my sister that she would soon become an only child. I was heavily sedated, but whenever I woke up, all I could see around me was darkness. I was tired, scared, and depressed. I cried out to God, hoping that He would end my pain. Quite simply, I wanted to die.
“God! Why is this happening? Do something! Please God!!!”
They say that faith can move mountains, and my Coptic church community proved this. Priests visited me daily – praying for me. My church held a prayer service, hoping that God would hear their pleas and save me. All around the world, people were raising prayers for me. Did they think I was going to die? Maybe. But they also knew that God could do anything, and this situation was no different.
I always used to say that I believed in miracles. As a child, I watched religious movies and truly believed that miracles could happen. Yet, during my time in the ICU, I became disheartened. I did not think that God could do the impossible – that He could save my life and my failing organs. In fact, I did not understand why God would let this happen in the first place! What would be the benefit of me suffering in the ICU like this? What good could possibly come from this???
But it was during my time in the hospital that my family and church community kept telling me that God always has a plan for us.
“He is preparing you for wonderful things”, they said. What wonderful things?, I thought. This was painful, and I was tired. I was fed up with my life. I was angry with God. I couldn’t see that any benefit that would come from nearly dying in the ICU, connected to millions of tubes and receiving potent medications. I could not envision that one day I would be out of the hospital, breathing on my own, my heart strongly pumping, my organs fully healed, and my life restored.
A month and a half later, I was woken up by doctors who told me that they were going to take the breathing tube out. After a few weeks, the dialysis was stopped because my kidneys had regained their function. My heart was recovering as well.
I’ll never forget the look on the faces of those doctors when they said, “We just don’t understand how that girl made it out of the ICU alive. She was the youngest and most life-threatening case in the entire hospital, and yet she is the only patient who recovered completely.”
At times during my fight in the ICU, I felt hopeless. I was angry with God. I complained against Him. I could only see the world through my human eyes – the eyes that can only see TODAY and not TOMORROW. I didn’t have the ability to recognize that maybe – just maybe – there was a reason for this suffering. That perhaps God Almighty had a plan for my life, and this is why He was allowing this to happen.
So here I am – one year later – writing this blog post… studying in my third year in nursing school… volunteering as an eating-disorder advocate, and sharing my story. God has worked in so many wonderful ways in my life. This past year, He showed me that nothing is impossible with Him. He taught me that faith really does do what man cannot comprehend. This is the power of prayer. I believe that had it not been for the thousands of prayers lifted for me, I would not be alive today.
And when I look back at this experience, I no longer wonder why God put me through it. I know that this was for a purpose – I needed to learn this lesson…
“For with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)