As the day of the June Video Challenge approaches, just the thought of doing a video, much less 30 days of videos, is panic inducing. I have this sinking heaviness in my stomach. My nerves are humming. My hands are feeling shaky. I feel a bit queasy. To be perfectly honest, I’m really not looking forward to doing this.
All that being said, I’m not going to back out or back down. I have to learn how to “put myself out there.” I have so many self-esteem issues that I often don’t want to leave my apartment. I only leave it to get my daughter to and from the school bus and check mail on most days. I go grocery shopping once or twice a month. Every two weeks I have a counseling appointment. There are other appointments I go to on an intermittent basis.
I don’t want to be seen. I can’t stand catching a glimpse of myself in a window as I pass by or in the mirrors of places like Great Clips or department store dressing rooms. I feel completely self-conscious if I eat in public. There’s this dread and certaintly that people are looking at me and criticizing me, in their minds, making negative judgments about me because of my physical appearance.
I’m sure you can guess why . . . I live inside of a body medically labeled as morbidly obese. I carry over 250 lbs on a 5’3″ frame.
It’s been this way for nearly 40 years. My 48th birthday is two weeks away. So, yes, this has been a thing since childhood.
How and why does an 8 yr old little girl develop weight and body image issues?
Two words: Childhood Trauma
Of the things listed in the slide image above, I had lived with or experienced the following by the time I was 8:
- Sexual abuse: Grooming began when I was 6 or 7. The physical aspect began when I was 8.
- Divorce: My mother was married three times by the time I was 6. Her third husband was my abuser.
- Frequent moves/relocations: I was born in California and was living in Texas when she married her last two husbands. I don’t know how many moves we made. According to my father, after they were divorced, every time he found where we were living, my mom moved us again. We lived in Abilene, Houston, and Longview, Texas. Between those three cities, I know we lived in at least four or five different places. According to one of my mother’s cousins, we also spent time in Alabama.
- While living in Houston, on two different occasions, in 1973 and 1975, there were hurricanes which resulted in flash flooding. The second of which resulted in mass evacuations. They weren’t anywhere near as devastating as Katrina, and I don’t know if I was traumatized by them, per se, but they are two of the clearer memories I have from that period of my life.
- Homes or cultures with domestic violence: My mother’s first two marriages were to Mexican immigrants. I’m not saying that their culture is inherently characterized by domestic violence. However, it is a very patriarchical culture where “machismo” is to be displayed for respect and value within the community. When I met my father, about 7 years ago, I heard his side of the story with my mom. He never went into details, but, he did confess to not having handled things well and that there had been police involvement on at least one occasion. Now, since it happened when I was an infant, an argument might be made that I was too young for it to have had a long-lasting effect on me. Research seems to indicate that isn’t necessarily true. I imagine her second marriage had similar interactions.
- Neglect: for the most part, my basic physical needs were met. However, emotionally, there was little to no attatchment between me and my mother. It’s one of the factors in my step-father’s access to initiate and sustain the sexual abuse for over two years, if you count grooming.
- Mental illness: I didn’t know it until several years ago, but, my mother experienced psychosis at a young age and, based on what I remember of her, in conjuction with what I have learned through my treatment for Bipolar Disorder, she likely experienced that as well.
There was a study done by the Center for Disease Control, in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente, on the effects of childhood trauma and abuse. Some of the findings are listed in the slide image shown above. Notice that obesity is the first thing listed?
After three decades of thwarted weight loss efforts, I’m finally understanding that my size and weight are 100% the result of the childhood trauma I experienced…and have been in denial about.
So, as my healing and recovery process continues, I expect that my ability to have a healthy relationship with food and to make self-care a priority, will result in weight loss.
In the meantime, the only thing there is to do, is for me to stop judging and shaming myself by projecting and absorbing those things onto and from other people. Accepting myself, as I am, means seeing myself and to stop hiding.
Ergo, 30 days of videos featuring me. Yay.