What Does My Body Want, Recall, & Why? || Sanobar Sabah



What Does My Body Want, Recall, & Why?

by Sanobar Sabah

Most women in their 40s go through some hormonal issues that could potentially affect their overall health. At least that’s what I thought as I was battling my own little issues. The following have been dominating my mind:  

— I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimotos (an autoimmune condition that attacks your thyroid glands). 

— My therapist cannot make up his mind if I should be diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety or both (I’m hoping he will have some name for it or I really won’t be comfortable with this nameless madness of mine!)

Confused with my mind and body, I notice: the only activity that’s keeping me sane these days is my writing. I took up a memoir writing workshop last year to cope up with my father’s death. Writing my story and sharing it with the world has been a revelation to me. Although, for someone who comes from a shy—if not reserved family—getting your personal essays out there can feel quite ‘exposing’. 

“My hands turn cold and my underarms sweat, Natasha,” I tell my mentor before finding my voice to speak in the memoir writing session. My gut hurts—something keeps pulling me from within—I sense a literal, strong pull. My anxiety piques the night before the workshop. My gut hurts. 

Bingeing on pizza, coke and Kitkat doesn't help—yes, I eat my emotions. But this gut pain feels different. Then there is this ball-like thingy protruding at the bottom of my neck at the back—like a little hump. There’s stiffness. Rigidity. As if a massive load is placed on my back. 

I attend the writing workshop and my symptoms feel better. I sit down to write my prompt and the symptoms appear again. 

While I pretend I’m okay, my body has been showing signs like it’s physically revolting against my Self. 

It’s as if there’s a war going on inside me—literally.

I’ve experienced two Vertigo attacks in a week. 

What is my body trying to tell me? 


For a good six to seven years, I have consistently worked on myself—I’ve worked to improve my health, to re-build my career, my relationships, to give meaning to my existence. However, it took me only a year to reverse all those years of hard work. 

Caring for my sick father and grieving his absence did take a toll on me; however, it’s a year now and I know right from wrong. Still…

At this stage, I’m not blinded by unawareness. 

I stopped exercising even when I could exercise. I started eating foods I knew I shouldn’t. Deliberately. The more my body felt sick, the more I felt sick—physically and mentally. And yet, self-destruction sucked me into a vicious cycle. 

I knew what I was doing wrong. I did it anyway. 

I felt worse about myself, physically and emotionally. 

By nature, I am a seeker. Mainly, a seeker of truth and knowledge.

Baffled at my self-inflicted harm, I wondered: How can I knowingly stall my own progress? Why would I hurt myself knowingly?! 

To find my truth, I joined a Self-Sabotage workshop by a dear friend, Natalie. 

This is what I learned:

Essentially, there are two main characters influencing my behaviours within me: the Subconscious and the Conscious. 

The conscious mind is the moral thinker. It makes the right choices, the right decisions. 

The subconscious mind is survival. It loves you. It wants to protect you. But it doesn’t always think right. Its job is to make you feel safe, regardless of what’s good or bad for you. 

It is the subconscious that has been bombarded by messages/images/stories a million times more than your conscious. Hence, the conscious mind, while usually being the right guy, is easily overtaken by the subconscious. By age 7, 50 percent of our subconscious has developed. 

Now, here are some of the messages little Sanobar’s subconscious learned over the years:

— I have watched my dynamic, intelligent mother prioritise other’s needs over her needs. She is my role model. I will emulate her as I grow older. My priority is my family.

I have learned my needs are not my priority. My career is secondary.

— My confidence and pleasant disposition make the boys around me uncomfortable; uneasy. The women around me are always making space for the men around them. I must do the same. So, dim my light if I must. Become uncomfortable. 

This means I must act less intelligent so the boys around me feel more intelligent. As long as others are not uncomfortable. My confidence could take a hike. 

— As the only girl with brown skin in a family of boys with lighter skin, I have learned that my skin colour matters. My personality, my skills, and my intelligence are comparatively insignificant.

I have learned I am not beautiful. I will use Fair & Lovely to be ‘fair’ and hence, beautiful. 

And that little Sanobar’s subconscious learned to wear a protective mask. A mask to please others. To be liked, to be accepted by her tribe. 

She wore that mask for years and years, till she turned 43 and got exhausted from wearing the mask day in and night out. 


I’m driving back with my husband from dinner at a friend’s place in Dubai. Thankfully, because I’m not the one driving, I get some quiet time to reflect on my writing and the self-sabotage workshop. 

I think to myself, “What a mess I am.” 

I look outside the window and spot the beautiful, bright full moon. 

“What a mess,” I repeat. 

We return home just before midnight. My children and husband are getting into bed. Its calm and quiet. I’ve changed from my midnight blue embroidered organza kurta to my comfortable cotton PJs. 

Using make-up removing wipes, I take off my make-up in front of my glaring bathroom mirror. 

I rub the wipes against my face. I rub it again. A third time. Slightly more harshly now. 

I stop to take a look at myself in the mirror. I’m no longer wiping off my makeup…

I’m peeling off my mask. 

And for the first time in 43 years, I see myself. 

I look into my eyes, my tear-filled eyes, and I ask myself:


I shed one layer of a heavy, thick mask. I shed more tears. And I let myself cry some more. 

I don’t let myself look away though.

And, for the first time ever, I see that little girl in me. I see her with the same love I see my children. 

I can't stop gazing at her. 

“You were so good! Why?!” 

Natalie’s voice speaks in my head, “We are moving forward.” 

Interestingly, before ending the workshop, Natalie, also a certified yoga coach who’s taught and practised Yoga for over two decades now, educated me about my chakras. This is what she had to say which completely blew my mind:

“Your Throat chakra seems blocked. So does your Sacral chakra but that’s not as bad because you’re writing and sharing your story.” 

Your Throat Chakra, or the Visuddha Chakra “is located at the base of the throat, coinciding with the thyroid gland. It is associated with inspiration, healthy expression, faith, and the ability to communicate well.” 

The Sacral Chakra, or the Svadhishthana Chakra, is located in the lower abdomen.” It is associated with creativity and self-worth. 


I’m NOT a mess. That war in my body is real. My gut hurts for a reason; I’ve blocked my creativity for years. My neck feels heavy with the silence I’ve imposed on my voice for ages. 

I’m not imagining all this. It is my true, authentic self, desperate to shed that mask of pretence. 

I love my tribe, but I don’t have to follow them if it means to forget myself. 

My subconscious can rest now. She’s done her job of keeping me safe. 

I forgive her. 

I forgive myself. 

I forgive my mother. 

Neither of us knew any better.  

It is also safe for my authentic self to show up now. There’s no need to hide. 

Few weeks ago I posted this on my Instagram:

Speak up for yourself. It's gonna be awkward at first—awkward to you, awkward to others. 

You’ve forgotten the sound of your own voice. The way it makes you feel.

The way it makes others feel. 

Speak up. Because when you speak up for yourself, you speak up for others.

My writing may not have the shiniest craft. But, my writing is my voice. 

I’m a truth seeker and I speak my truth. 

I am Enough. I have arrived. I will now show up as my authentic self. 

It will be awkward, embarrassing and scary. But if I could spend nearly half my life with the discomfort of being someone else, then I can surely spend the rest of my life, at least trying to be my true, original self.

Sanobar Sabah is an aspiring writer, a third culture kid who after a long search for ‘home’ has finally discovered that her home lies in the wits and charms of her two children, her squabbles with her husband, the company of her snobbish cats and, most importantly – in her writings. 

Connect with her on:

SubstackInstagram / Twitter


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