TW: eating disorders, sexual content, coarse language
“Today’s the day I change...”
Priya wiped her tears with my least favourite long sleeve blue high school rugby sweatshirt.
“ You have to, or else you won’t be around to even enjoy all the things you’ve worked hard for”, I advised. It comforted me to know this was the last piece of advice I would give as her boyfriend. We just broke up. We ended a four year relationship right in the exact place it started-my favourite breakfast place- The Station.
I had already finished crying and pleading as a last attempt for Priya to change her addictive behaviour. I even told her I wanted to marry her someday. I don’t even think that was true, but I was desperate to say whatever it took for her to change her ways. I thought if she changed she would love me again, and if she changed herself, then she would love me back. I knew Priya was binge-purging for over a year. I just wish I saw the warning signs before, or at least chose not to ignore them.
A year ago, Priya and I stopped having sex. I lived with my parents and rarely had a free house for sexy time. We would hook up in cars a lot, until we were caught by the police. Priya’s dad actually got us in a public transit parking lot station. I’m surprised we survived, literally. At this point in our relationship, Priya had gained a lot of weight. She went from 135 to 200 lbs. I didn’t care, I found her attractive and did my best to show her it didn’t affect me. Priya was embarrassed to be out, we couldn’t eat because she would overeat and then feel shame about it. It was affecting us in our relationship. My naive undying loyalty forced me to not care about her weight. It didn’t really bother me, Priya was a straight A student, she was receiving scholarships, she wanted to study to become an emergency room doctor. She came a long way to get to this point. She was in an abusive relationship at her first university, which was known for partying and somehow getting a piece of paper called a degree. I met her when we worked together for an airline, we were the “IT” couple at the office everyone was rooting for. It was only once we started going out as an official couple that the layers of Priya’s complex past began to unravel and entrap our relationship.
I studied kinesiology in university and was always physically active. I decided to convince Priya to train with me by lying to her. I told her I was in the gym and needed a workout partner. People don’t want to feel like an inconvenience, so it was a good strategy to make her feel included. Priya would pick me up at 6:00am and we would go to her university gym. Then, I would take the bus to school at this point, I was in my 3rd year of medical school. It was exhausting training Priya. She would wear several layers to the gym with her hood on, she looked like a fighter had 24 hours to cut weight before a fight. She would question my workouts, she would complain that they weren’t traditional, they were different, focusing on functional movements. After two months of complaining, Priya lost 75 lbs. I thought that once Priya felt better about herself that she would begin to be attracted to me again. Instead, she became obsessed with her looks. She was constantly taking selfies from impossible angles. I soon learned Priya was binge-purging. She would go to the pharmacy store and get laxatives and take them after every meal. We argued all the time because of it. I yelled and implored for her to stop. I told her friends, I did everything I could. Worst of all, I would go to hug her and she would push me away with a face of disgust like she swallowed a lemon.
Our sex life was still the same. Priya would come over on the rare occasions I would have a free house, and she would just want to sleep. I was enraged.
I ripped off the covers enraged, “YOU JUST WANT TO SLEEP HERE, AFTER EVERYTHING?!?” I felt like a loser, I felt unattractive, I felt unlovable, probably how Priya felt.
One day, a gut instinct told me that something was off. Priya and I weren’t having sex, she wasn’t really talking to me and she kept talking about this older guy, a classmate, whom she admired. I decided to log into her Facebook and check out her messages, I knew her password, it was my name. I told her to change it. I used to go into her messages when I needed an ego-boost, I wanted to see how she would brag to her friends about me. I go through her messages and all of a sudden, I felt everything go blurry, I heard a ringing in my ears and my stomach felt like I got punched.
" I don't know why, but I am so attracted to him."
" Who, Basel?"
"Yeah, I don't know why, I just want him so badly. He gets me, he's f*****g hot."
"Go for it girl! You should explore it! "
My heat dropped, I still believe this was Priya, I was in absolute disbelief. I wish her friend knew the struggle I went through instead of blindly suggesting Priya explore an escapist romance to avoid her inner struggles to self-intimacy. I logged in again to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. I called her right away in a state of rage and panic.
“Hello??…”, Priya must have just woken up from a nap.
“Him. Really?!?!? You find HIM attractive?!?!”
There was an unscripted pause. It was the decision to lie or cave into the truth.
“Why are you checking my Facebook?!?!” She knew right away exactly what and who I was talking about. I heard a scared tone in her voice, ashamed but defensive.
“Leave me, you deserve better" Priya was now crying to console herself.
“No, I’m not leaving you, we’ll work this out.” I thought this is what men were supposed to do. I thought I was supposed to be the superhero and jump in and save my girlfriend. The truth was I was afraid of being alone, so I hid my insecurity with a seeming loyal act.
Of course, it never worked out. It was more of the same cycle pattern. Priya kept binge-purging. I couldn’t handle it anymore, I was failing exams at medical school, my mom had cancer, my sister was involved in a domestic abuse relationship and I felt like a spider trapped in a web of depression. At least the spider could drown in the toilet, depending on who was flushing, where was God when you needed “him”?
After we stopped seeing each other, I started taking Muay Thai lessons. I was able to take out my aggression on kick pads and sparring partners. I was hired by the hospital to work contract work as a general practitioner. I slowly started to rearrange the puzzle pieces of my life. I was driving to my first day on the job, when my phone rang…. It was Priya. I didn’t pick up. She sent me a text.
"Look, I know I'm probable the last person you want to hear from, but I just wanted to say you were right. I just got back from the doctor's, I'm having heart problems, my electrolytes are off, and I might need surgery. I need someone to talk to and you're my best friend. Call me if you can, Love Priya."
I stopped the car, did an U-turn and pulled over to the side of the road. My first instinct was to drop my job and go see her. Then, I took a deep breath and a wave of through crashed through my skull, circling my mind. A flashback of our time together overwhelmed me and I started to cry. I remembered that I did all I could, and I couldn’t help someone change until they were ready to change themselves. I wipe the tears from my eyes with my tie, I look in the rear-view mirror and see the hospital in my view. I start to reverse and head back to work.
“Today is the day I change"...