Trauma and life

I’m really struggling today. Staying present and not falling into bad coping behaviors is hard when you don’t feel super great. It’s not that I want to focus on my trauma, it just seems like no matter what I do, it follows me around. I’m reminded by places, faces, smells, phrases… Last night my husband and I went on a walk and of course I was met by several triggers just walking. I had trouble falling asleep and feeling safe and then had dreams in which people were looking to sexually abuse me, mistaking me for a prostitute when I said I most definitely wasn’t. Then this morning I had to go to an appointment that triggered one of my earlier traumatic memories. So I’ve just been tired and drained from it all. I feel like this never ends even when I try to focus on something else.

When will I be normal? Is that even possible?

It’s been a while

Met with a new doctor for the PTSD. Haven’t decided whether or not I like her. She’s definitely rubbed me the wrong way (doesn’t like that I know medical terminology, etc.) however it looks like she’s at least trying to take a crack at changing my meds. Seems she’s focused on depression though that’s not been my main issue. It’s secondary to the PTSD and subsequent anxiety along with my other chronic health issues. Who wouldn’t have depression after being what I’ve been through? I had to take my anti-anxiety meds twice today. First to get to my appointment and second to go somewhere else down the road. Panic attacks suck by the way.

My favorite stupid reason for having a panic attack was going to pick up ice at the gas station and seeing someone who reminded me of someone else and having to go home empty-handed cause they were out anyways. And that was after my taking my meds beforehand.

Oh and this doctor has decided she hates my therapist and I should switch (who she’s never met btw) because they’re new. Like what? I’m sorry but I have a very good relationship with my therapist and we get along quite well. Better than I can say with some of the others.

One of the moments that got me with an old therapist was when she told me that maybe I shouldn’t date right now. Bear in mind I had 0 support network at that time, raging sex drive from being held like a cloistered nun for all my life and “maybe I shouldn’t date?” Coming from someone who was married and presumably had a great sex life, that was pretty sucky. Also she didn’t want to get it through her thick head that I have had chronic painful health conditions for several years that aren’t curable and keep me from actually holding down any kind of a job. And I’ve never been successful at keeping a job for long because they’d let me go when I got sick. We really were talking past each other and I felt I had to hide things from her because she was outright judging me. That’s not the case with my current therapist.

Now yes, if I could find someone who does the specialized therapy to try, that would be cool but finding someone who doesn’t push religion on me after my upbringing is freaking hard to come by here. Especially if you’re not comfortable talking with men. Like that would just be an immediate “this gal is shutting down because this is triggering.” And growth and moving forward wouldn’t happen.

I’m actually doing better in some ways than back before I moved. I’m moving around better, driving again (some anyways), and I’m happier and more content now than I’ve ever been in my life before, even with the medical stuff. I have a wonderful partner who loves me and I love them. I have time for my hobbies when I’m feeling up to pursuing them and I’m slowly branching out in the making friends department. I’ve been doing a lot of processing as well. So really, there’s been improvement. Doesn’t mean there’s not a crap ton more that couldn’t be improved upon but at least I’m not rock bottom.

Filthy rags

 

“But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.”– Isaiah 64:6

I was six years old when I first was made to memorize those words (or pieces of it anyways). Filthy rags. That’s what I was. I remember the adults in my Bible club explaining this all to me very seriously while I nodded my head and asked questions. Nothing I did was good you see. And all because I was born bad. Born sinful. This reinforced in my little heart what I felt at home, that I was without value. How I wish I could go back all those years ago and explain to the leaders of my Bible club what harm these words would have on me and so many like me. And take my little self by the hand and tell me how good I was and how wrong all this was.

They meant well I’m sure and on the whole were kind people. Just blind to what they were instilling in our young minds. Certainly they were nicer than my own parents on the whole. Bible club met every week during the school year. I remember that when things were chaotic at home, for the few hours a week I’d feel safe and comfortable. We’d sing songs and play games and the adults would comfort me if I fell down or cried.

The club was the largest group of children I’d ever seen in one place. Close to 200. We were separated by grade and sex and so it didn’t feel so big to me most of the time. And yet it could be incredibly lonely. I clung to the adults a lot but they weren’t always available to talk with me. I really only had one friend. She didn’t mind my awkward conversation and lack of social skills. We’d talk and giggle together during lecture time and often get a talking to for not paying attention. That part wasn’t very nice but on the whole, I felt happy there.

The entire purpose of the club was for Bible memorization. I excelled at memorizing verses and earned rewards for doing so. And the adults always seemed proud of me. Looking back, I could have been learning something truly worthwhile instead of verses about humanity’s sinfulness, hell, and the grace of God.

“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.”–1 Peter 1:24-25

I remember memorizing this verse too when I was young. It always made me feel a bit sad, thinking about flowers shriveling and withering. I wondered why there wasn’t some nice verse about flowers blooming instead. We’d sing a song about a vine and branches and love, why not flowers too? I liked flowers.  Thinking back on it now, there were very few nice verses we memorized. Probably because there’s not much nice to say about eternal damnation unless you kissed God’s ass for all of eternity. And became his own personal doormat.

I was young and soaked everything the club leaders said in like a sponge. They always seemed extremely worried about something called a soul. I didn’t really understand but I tried to make them happy. And in time, I began to fear hell and darkness too. Belief in heaven and hell made me fear dying, which isn’t something any child should have to worry about. Not only that but it made me fear for family and friends and the rest of the world. It was a large burden for my small shoulders. Forever seemed to be very permanent and I wanted to make sure we all did this getting “saved” thing right.

 

“Homeschooling” and homelife

I’m not sure that someone who has never been homeschooled would really understand what that entails. I understand it can be very different for each individual family but in my case it was basically teach yourself things because the alternative is having your mother yell at you because you don’t understand. My mother would buy used curriculum usually of a very very Christian origin which means that most of it was factually inaccurate. She would buy old textbooks to the point that my geography book talked about the USSR and Czechoslovakia because she couldn’t be arsed to actually buy a newer book. When your 9, 10, 11 which means this was Circa 2000, you shouldn’t be learning about geography like it’s 1982. This stuff actually does matter and needs to be updated. Basic math is something different. But history books that talk about current events and geography, those things need to be as current as possible else you need to include supplemental material.

The amount of propaganda that I was fed is ridiculous. I remember my geography book including a section on communism and how terrible it was and how only atheists believed in communism (as if atheism meant you worshipped Satan and were entirely evil). I remember specifically learning about how people were not allowed to be true Christians in China. My entire world view was deeply entrenched in religious belief and conservative Dogma. Socialism and communism were evil. Only capitalism was the way to go.

Everything I was taught was of an Evangelical Christian nature. Textbooks included the plan for salvation and outright lied about the origin of man, evolution, and the environment (i.e. climate change). we learned about how God would never flood the whole earth again and how he was planning on destroying the entire Earth and making a new one and so of course he wouldn’t allow everything to go to pot until the Rapture occurred. These things were taught as if they were factual. That the USA was a Christian Nation. That all the founding fathers were Christians. Blatant lies.

My mother was probably was able to teach us to read and write a little bit in the sense of very very basic ABCs and 123’s. But only because of books and because her children probably would have been considered gifted. I pretty much remember from 5th or 6th grade onwards being on my own. if I had a question she would read word for word either from the book that I was currently reading or from a small passage in a teacher’s manual which usually was not helpful. If I didn’t understand my language arts or math lesson she would yell at me because she was frustrated. She didn’t know how to teach and she still doesn’t know how to teach. As a kid I didn’t know any better so I assumed that even though she didn’t have any kind of training in teaching that she was doing just fine. As an adult I know much better.

She told me I couldn’t write creatively and that I was too logical. In truth she just sucked at teaching any kind of creative writing or English. I’ve actually been told that I write fairly well considering things. I never learned how to write an essay until I entered college. I remember being so so sheltered but it didn’t know what homecoming was and so when I took the SAT test and had to try to write an essay for the first time, I was talking about coming home after being away because I literally did not know what the word meant. And that is entirely on my parents for being so shoddy with my education and not allowing me any kind of social outlets.

My mother’s was too lazy to properly teach any kind of actual science course that she rarely if ever did any kind of experiments. Because *gasp* she would have to clean the kitchen! And actually plan something out and buy the materials! And good Lord we couldn’t have that. Which meant that I didn’t really get to take chemistry like a normal high schooler which was something that I really wanted to do because she was too lazy. I had a home-ec course that was in black and white because it was written in the 70s or early 80s. I learned about computers as if we were still using ms-dos and giant floppy disks at 16 years old which was well beyond floppy disk era. I learned about being a proper housewife because let’s put people in 1950s rolls in 2005. my mother wasn’t a proper housewife; she just didn’t really care and wanted to make sure that I knew my proper place in the world according to Christian doctrine. I remember her half-assing the home-ec course to begin with because she wasn’t really good at taking care of the house and certainly didn’t really care about teaching me to do so. She claimed my piano lessons were a music course so that I could get extra credits towards my high school diploma and called the once-a-week Bible club I was involved with a Bible class so I could get credit for that as well. I know she flat-out made up numbers for some of those because I really didn’t have enough material or time put into it to really count but as long as you have a “record” of something, the homeschool groups that we used would write it down like it was fact. Nobody was really checking to make sure that any of this work was getting done and frankly my mother could have probably fudged a lot of things to make it look like I had more credits than I really did.

I would get burnt out sometimes trying to do the work that she would give me because I was teaching myself and I was dealing with a lot of depression and everyone was ignoring my struggles. Lesson planning involved more of a to-do list for me everyday. Nothing like actual lesson planning the teachers do. How do I know? I dated a teacher. I know. I didn’t really have much structure; everything was chaotic. I didn’t actually read some of the books that I was assigned in middle school or high school because my mother would read them to me (they were super overwhelming and I never did a proper book report in my life). To be honest she would assign ridiculous amounts of reading and then wonder why I was so burnt out and then she would end up reading it to me. She would ask me critical thinking questions that I wasn’t prepared to answer because I’ve never even been taught actual critical thinking. Rather, how to spit out the correct answer because critical thinking was “what does the Bible say?” I was never taught how to properly take notes. I would get so overwhelmed because I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be writing down so I would try to write down everything as my mother was reading things to me. Then she would get upset because I was taking too much time.

Heaven help me if I have a child and then I have to help them write a book report. I always wondered what those were. Most of the group project type deals I was never even exposed to until I hit college because it was just me and my sister. So I really have no idea what a public school classroom functions like because I was never exposed to it (outside of standardized testing once in awhile). In case you haven’t noticed I am very resentful that I did not get a proper education. I’m having to make up for it now because much of my young life was devoted to fucking memorizing scripture verses every week. I could have actually been learning something useful.

Speaking of memorizing verses, I was pushed to do and excel above everyone else in my local Bible club by my mother. I got frustrated because I did thrive on competition but there was a person there with a photographic memory which I did not have and he always would come out ahead. I remember being shamed because one time I didn’t finish the review section of a memory book and so I didn’t get the patch that went behind a pin that I had earned and my mother was so disappointed. And I wasn’t allowed to go back later and redo it. I remember crying during the meeting because I realized a lot of the other kids were doing the review and I was the one that wasn’t now and I knew that my parents would be so disappointed. Pretty much my accomplishments were the things that showed that I mattered in my small mind. Because I certainly wasn’t getting any attention otherwise.

Dad worked a lot of the time because mom had chosen to stay home with the kids and homeschool. And when he wasn’t working he was cooking and trying to clean things because my mother wouldn’t. Or he was working on music because he played guitar for church. basically what I remember from my childhood was my mother being a lazy ass individual who would not teach us how to help take care of the house and then would yell at us for not doing things but she was sitting around not doing things and then my dad would come home from working 8 hours and still have to cook and clean. I don’t know if she couldn’t cook or she just refused to learn. Everytime she was guilt tripped into actually doing any housework, she would stomp round and sigh/swear under her breath to show just how angry she was. She would even take out her frustration on the dog but then again so would my dad.

I remember my mom obsessively sorting laundry and getting mad if I didn’t wash the clothes exactly how she wanted which wasn’t really clear. Or not folding clothing the way she wanted. I understand having a preference but if you’re going to yell at your children or treat them like dirt because they don’t know your exact meticulous way of doing something it’s ridiculous. I remember getting in trouble because I didn’t pre-sort the silverware when loading the dishwasher. I would get in trouble if I didn’t put all of her matching mugs on one side of the cabinet and if the cabinets were too full. which was basically a no-win situation because we had way too many mugs and cups to fit in our cabinets and dad would complain that everything was always booby-trapped. I couldn’t reach the top shelf very well and if I didn’t put more things up there and things got too crowded on the lower shelves I got in trouble with my mother. She never wanted to wipe off the counters or do any kind of housework if she could get out of it. and then she’d play the victim like she’s slaving away everyday when she definitely was not.

She claims that she was treated like Cinderella growing up. On the one hand, her sister is a narcissist and that could have been semi true; on the other, I have a hard time believing her about anything anymore because she has such off-the-wall ideas about things and is wrong most of the time.

As to why I don’t want to spend time with her during the holidays at all, what should have been a nice and happy time of year was usually an even nastier time of year at least leading up to the day of Christmas. every year I would get excited and every year I would end up with this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because oh my God the house must be immaculate because I’ve just decided to throw an annual Christmas party that I’m not prepared for. And so we would have to do some ridiculous amount of cleaning and get yelled at and my dad would get frustrated because my mother would wait until the last second to do anything. On top of that Dad was the one that did most of the cooking and baking for said party. They wouldn’t really buy pre-made things as much and my mother had this asinine way of baking cookies so that she would send out boxes and boxes and boxes of cookies to relatives because she was, I don’t know, trying to be nice? And yet it was an excuse to treat us all like absolute garbage and she would yell at us if we ate a cookie and so I never knew whether I was allowed to have a Christmas cookie or not. I tended to see it as “I’m trying to give the impression that I’m a nice person” but she wasn’t really a nice person. And then she got mad when she had leftover cookies that were all stale and I wouldn’t eat them. We always got the leftovers. The things that weren’t as fresh because I guess maybe your immediate family doesn’t really matter to you? This is what I remember from the holidays. Basically the week of Thanksgiving up until Christmas day was utter hell. I would try to get into the holiday spirit and then I would be treated like shit. This is why don’t want to spend Christmas with my mother. I could deal with seeing my dad for a small amount of time but I do not want to see my mother because she was the one that made everything absolutely horrendous.

How someone could be that mean spirited and nasty all the time is frankly astounding. I honestly don’t know if I’ve met anybody who behaves that way outside of her sister. Her sister is just better at being overt in her narcissism. Like somehow growing up with a narcissist sister she managed to turn into sort of one herself. I’m not sure she’s a full-on narcissist but God she’s got a lot of tendencies. She eventually got to where she wasn’t bending over backwards every time her sister told her to do something but she’s become this bitter, nasty individual. And unfortunately dad has gotten some of that as well from being around her, unless he also has a lot of those tendencies. I’m honestly not sure. It comes across as more that he’s very frustrated with dealing with my mother than anything else. He doesn’t know how to deal with her behavior and he never really learned how to healthily interact with people.

Just so angry and sad

The more I think about it, the more I realize I had my childhood stolen from me. My mother has narcissistic tendencies, her sister (my aunt) is straight up a narcissist, and my dad is an enabler with some unhealthy qualities himself. My sister may be able to pretend that everything is fine and “it’s all in god’s hands” or whatever bullshit she’s bought into to cope with dealing with their behavior, but I certainly can’t go on pretending that just because I don’t live with them now, I can forgive and forget. I let my boundaries go lax. I pretended around my parents for the sake of family harmony. I just can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t matter that they’re a little better in short intervals than they are in their own home/over longer periods of time. It doesn’t matter that my mother was sick with a chronic illness. None of that matters. Not in the sense that I can just move on and treat them like I respect them as people. Because I don’t. I’m grieving for the parents I wish I had and the only thing I can really cling to is my dad’s and my love of music. I have fond memories of him playing guitar as a kid and the family singing along. That’s pretty much all I have to cling to. And it makes me so incredibly sad. Because I know I’m going to have to go low contact and eventually no contact (at least with my mother) and no one in the family is going to understand why.

This all came to a head after them visiting on labor day and then being invited to a bell ringing ceremony because mother finished treatment on friday. I couldn’t even smile. But I felt obligated to go. And the entire time, the nurses are all just so happy she’s done with treatment and aren’t we just so happy and to be honest, no. No, I’m not. I don’t feel like she’s family. I feel a huge disconnect with my parents and even some with my sister. It’s not just the difference in belief systems. It’s that I’m the only one who seems to understand the severity of their behavior and what it’s done to me long-term. I dread spending more than maybe an hour with them even though I feel the need to sometimes (I guess it’s because I’m craving real love and affection from them?), especially if we go somewhere and I didn’t drive separately. I end up feeling trapped and sick all over again. I can never forgive them for what they’ve done. And they’re still mostly in denial. They think “they made some mistakes” as if it was some minor thing. They fucking gave me c-ptsd from their bullshit (I have panic attacks when I hear things that remind me of them and suffer from nightmares). I felt unloved, unwanted, and scared to death of them. That’s not something any child should feel toward its parents. I felt like I had no control over my own life and that I also had to half take care of a mother who both didn’t want to be my mother and had some serious mental problems that went untreated. I had to play counselor to my father because they both wouldn’t deal with their own problems. It made me chronically ill in more ways than one. It was exhausting and nearly broke me.

Your child shouldn’t wish they didn’t exist at 6. They shouldn’t wish to disappear at 9. They shouldn’t want to die or have their parents die just to be free of the torment at 11 or 12. I was suicidal and didn’t even know that’s what it was. All because of them. I kept everything bottled up inside instead of self-harming in some visible way because I feared more punishment and cruelty from them. I very well could have killed myself from living in that house. Thankfully I’m more resilient than that. I clung to whatever hope I could get my hands on at the time. And in my sheltered little world, that was the hope that Jesus or God would save our family. I know better now but the fact that they didn’t know or seem to care about my struggles and thought I was a lazy typical teenager (you know, get angry over stupid, petty things) instead of a child crying out for anyone to hear the pain she was in, is truly mind-boggling. They’ll likely never change for good. Or realize the damage they’ve caused. And that’s why I have to distance myself from them. I’ve already emotionally distanced myself. I go through the motions of saying “I love you” and hugging them when most of the time I’d rather not. I can tolerate and even sort of hug dad because I saw him as a little less of a monster but my mother, I can’t. I grieve for the people they could  have been. Should have been. And that’s what I love. Who I wished I could have had for parents. And it’s just so incredibly painful. If I tell them this, they’ll likely just be hurt. So I probably can’t ever tell them. Or it would have to be in a letter and then break contact entirely.

I want to wrench my heart from my chest at times because the emotions are just so unbearable. The guilt for wanting and needing to cut them out of my life. The guilt for not loving them the way others can love their family. I just can’t. It’s too painful, I can’t bear it. Any time I try to get close, I end up pulling back as if stung because they inevitably hurt me. It’s proof they haven’t changed and probably won’t ever change. I don’t know if they even realize they hurt me but they do. I spent years, so may years, trying to get them to listen and having it fall on deaf ears. Why do I think anything would have changed now? I feel almost cynical at the thought. Bitter even. Heartbroken. I’m so so lucky to have German Man. He may not understand but he holds me when I cry. He’s the kindest human being I’ve ever met. And extremely patient with integrity unlike what I’ve seen anywhere else. All without god too. If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what would.

I cried a lot while writing this. I’m writing an exit plan. How to slowly break ties with the toxic past that threatens to devour me most days. My parental unit, egg and sperm donor, aren’t any kind of positive influence on my life. Occasionally there will be something kind or helpful or happy but on the whole, the poison overrides any of that. I have to cut out the gangrene or lose everything that I value. Any peace and happiness I might have. I try to be myself around them but who I am isn’t someone they could accept. Because I’m not a carbon copy of them. It’s not worth it to spend my entire life pretending just to make them happy. I tried to do that growing up and it ate away at me inside until I was just a hollow shell of me. Now it’s hard to even see who I really am. It’s going to take a long while to repair the damage and feel free to enjoy the things I want to enjoy, pursue the interests I want to pursue, and be the kind of change I want to see in the world. But I will be free. It’s going to hurt in the short-term but I know I’ll be better for it.

Memory

I can’t remember much but I know something really really bad happened at one of those backyard bible study kid’s groups. This memory has been playing through my head over and over. I know it’s a mix of memories. One is sitting with my parents I think during the introduction of said group. The pine trees were almost black and shadowy. It’s almost like a nightmare scenario that I remember. And yet everyone was cheerful and happy and only I was aware of something terrible. Then flash forward to my parents not being there and being inside the house and a bunch of adults talking before my mom came to pick me up I presume. I just remember feeling like I needed to tell them something or they weren’t listening and I couldn’t explain what was wrong. But I’m very sure something terrible happened with one of the adults sometime during the day. It was mostly women but there was at least one man from what I recall (which is admittedly not much as I wasn’t more than 3). I remember stopping by someone’s house getting a ride back from one event and being afraid of a disabled man without legs who wanted me to sit on his lap. But I don’t know that he did anything but I do know I didn’t want to be touched. There was very definitely feelings that during the various days at this woman’s house (hence backyard bible study) that something. Something really bad happened. But I can’t remember what. I’ve had a lot of memories surface in my 20’s of sexual abuse and I think this one is just another that I’ve buried so deeply I can’t remember anymore. And that scares me.

Sigh. Undealt-with anger

My sibling recently got their degree and I think I’d been able to ignore their accomplishments in light of my lack thereof but today it just hit me and I started crying. I’d almost cried during the graduation ceremony but was able to hold back the jealousy of why couldn’t I successfully get my bachelor’s? They graduated Magna cum Laude. I think that’s what really made it hurt for me.

Here I am after trying multiple times to successfully complete my last 2 years of college after being that straight A student in highschool and in the honor’s program my first two years of college only to crash and burn with an eventual note from the college to “try again in a semester or two.” I was always the smart one. I was the one who wanted to have the best/highest grades and most of the time, I could do it. It kills me that mental health and physical health have kept me back from getting a degree and a decent job. I feel like such a failure. The things I dreamed of accomplishing have been continuously out of reach. It fucking sucks. I can’t even hold down a part time job. And it makes me so angry and envious that others just breeze through college and don’t struggle with all the things I have and continue to have.

Anger

I may look calm on the outside but inside I’m seething with rage over the things that I’ve lived through and the things that I see happening to others across the globe. The amount of human suffering, especially of those who did absolutely nothing wrong and did not deserve, it is such a crushing weight. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have empathy for others but that at least with something instilled in me very young.

I don’t think I can forget the first time I saw a slideshow picture of a starving child in a third world country with their ribs showing and distended stomach. I think I was 8, maybe 9. I was too young to understand what would would cause such a thing but I did wonder why God didn’t do anything about it. Our Awana leaders said it was because of our (humanity’s) sin. And that there were some people who hoarded all of the resources and left others to starve. None of that really made sense to me. and while there is some truth to the second comment, the first is just detestable to me. The very idea that we all live with innate sin because one person ate a piece of fruit once way in the past is absolutely ridiculous.

I know I was better off than a lot. We typically had food to eat and we had a bed to sleep in and we had a roof over our heads and electricity and running water. My sister and I for a while shared one room but it’s not as if I grew up in abject poverty. There are people living in huts that leak with a family of 7 and no electricity or running water or regular access to medical care. We live in one of the most prosperous nations in the world and have amazing opportunities compared to the vast majority of humanity. And yes, it’s easy for us to take things for granted because we have it so good and we don’t see people starving in local streets every day. We’re fairly removed (distance-wise) from a lot of the suffering in the world. It doesn’t make that suffering any less real and any less terrible.

But back to why I am angry. I’m angry that adults in my life told me that the reason why suffering existed was because we’d done something wrong. I’m angry that they told me I was dirty and bent on evil from infancy. I’m angry that they lied, even if the reason why was that they were also themselves deceived. I’m angry that it impacted me in such a negative way. I suppose the alternative would be that I would still be brainwashed into fundamentalist Christianity but regardless it has left a lot of scars.

My unhealthy relationship with food.

So I wanted to share something that was and to some extent still is a problem for me. It’s my unhealthy relationship with food. At 6 I stopped eating nearly everything because of stomach complaints and got really skinny, like bones in my back sticking out skinny. Eventually I started eating again and things went on fairly normally until but 11. At that point I knew I was different from other girls. I wanted to cry when I went to a friend’s house at 10 and was going to borrow some clothes but the pants wouldn’t even go up. Though I’d never thought of myself as fat, this was the first time it dawned on me that I wasn’t the same size as other girls my age. Now granted, I wasn’t fat, I was still in a perfectly normal weight range. I just wasn’t “thin”. Even at 11, I was 110, 115 maybe. All the other girls were 90, 95, 105.

I felt fat. My preteens were my most active years I’d say. I rode my bike regularly until about 13 or 14. By that point things were going badly at home and I turned to food for solace. No one taught me what was a reasonable amount of food to eat. I’d struggled with hypoglycemia for a lot of my childhood so was used to eating every few hours. But I started eating more, maybe without realizing it. I started getting really self-conscious. I had a period of rapid weight gain and jumped from an XL in girls to an 8-10 in women’s. Most of the girls I interacted with wore a 4 at the largest. I felt like a whale. I got so self-conscious I stopped riding my bike because it felt like all the kids in the neighborhood were staring at me. “You’re fat”, my brain told myself they were saying. My best friend stopped hanging out with me. I felt incredibly alone. And I wondered if it was because I was an awkward chubby nerd.

With all the stress going on at home, I didn’t have time or energy to really do much about the weight issue. At 12 or 13, we went to visit my grandparents for the day and dad and Grandpa made burgers and hotdogs on the grill. I was particularly hungry, having been playing in the back yard with my sister that afternoon. I asked for two hotdogs. My grandmother said something along the lines of, “are you sure you want two? That’s going to make you fat.” That just crushed my soul. I ate them anyway but I remember trying to make myself throw up in the bathroom later on that day. I couldn’t do it. I wanted to die.

At 14 or 15, I tried to starve myself to lose weight. My mother told me how she’d lost a bunch of weight at 13 by running round and round her house and eating only a banana for breakfast and a small glass of milk. I tried running a little but I thought people would be watching me. I didn’t want people to see the fat girl running. I ate one piece of toast for breakfast and a half a cup of apple sauce later, followed by some crackers. I had no concept of what was healthy or not. I’d try things like this for a few days but always ended up shaky and dizzy from not eating enough. At the pediatritian (my mother didn’t bother with switching me over to a regular doctor until I was aging out of the system), they told me I should try to lose weight. I broke down crying about all the trouble at home and the doctor had to practically force my mother out of the room long enough to get me to say that I thought my family needed counseling. They referred me to a psychiatrist but my mother refused. I’m pretty sure they also referred me to a nutritionist but my mother never took me there either. I stopped going outside much at all.

I got to where I was wearing a 12-14 in jeans. I was mortified. This time I needed to really do something about the weight. I started walking some but the depression would get ahold of me and I couldn’t be consistent. I’d get frustrated with not losing any weight and would binge. I never successfully purged but I had read about some girls who did that. Oddly enough, a book series by a Christian author touched on EDs in her books. Talked about diet pills and binging and purging, etc. I wished I was brave enough to do it. But I was terrified of throwing up and I knew mom would never let me take diet pills. And some part of me knew that was dangerous as well. I’d go through cycles like this of trying to starve myself skinny, flipped through health and diet books at the library (including one for ballet dancers were the woman claimed eating 900 calories a day was key to weight loss). Nothing helped.

I continued gaining and I was just miserable. I lost any hope of being that thin girl I wanted to see in the mirror. I wished desperately to be as small as I’d been at 11. My parents were too busy with their own issues to try and really get us eating healthier and better portions. Granted we weren’t as bad as some but we ate a lot of pasta and bread and cheese. Whenever I was bored or sad or lonely, I’d open the fridge and look for something to eat. I still wanted to die. Living at home was one continuous nightmare. I self harmed using tweezers and pinching and scratching myself with my nails. I would dig my nails into my thighs until they left marks and I’d damaged the skin a little. It never went past that but mostly because I was afraid my parents would notice and punish me. The two things I clung to at the time was my music and my faith in God. I wished so hard that the Rapture would hurry up and come so we’d all be in heaven and this whole mess would be over. I continued to exercise on and off and tried not to snack but emotional abuse had my eating habits out of control.

Flash forward to now and I’m successfully losing weight, finally, as an adult but it’s crazy hard not to envy and look up to other girls who were more successful in their eating disorders. And that scares me. The logical side of my brain knows severe restriction of calories and binging and purging are all terrible things for your body and yet I’m still drawn to forums where people brag about only eating an apple that day. I’m focusing on healthy eating habits and eventually I’ll incorporate more exercise but I see where this could have gone. My habits were already bad enough as a teen. I can’t give in to this again.

The god of the Bible and the god in my head

I had a rough home life growing up. I never felt properly loved and accepted. I think the reason why I clung so much to the message of unfailing love that was taught in church was because I wasn’t feeling it at home. But the god of the Bible turned out to just be another abusive relationship. And while the worship songs still make me feel an emotional connection in some ways, I know the truth now. And the truth is the god portrayed in the Bible and the god that I had imagined in my head were two entirely different things. The god in my head was one imagined by a scared, confused, and lonely little girl who was trying to make sense of why the adults in her life were being cruel. And that conjured loving being is why I remained a Christian for so long. It took realizing that that being, one, didn’t match the Biblical god and two, did not appear to exist for me to drop the last vestiges of my religiosity. I still feel rather broken-hearted about that in spite of knowing that should such a being have existed, they clearly didn’t act in the real world.

Neither god stopped any of the abuse. They didn’t stop those people from molesting me and they didn’t stop the emotional abuse. They didn’t stop any of it. That’s the distinction between me and that god if he somehow does turn out to exist. In that same position to act, I would have stopped those atrocious things. So either we’re left with a god that can’t work in this world or were left with an immoral monster- neither of which are appealing to me in the slightest. Considering the bulk of evidence to the contrary and the little questionable “evidence” of such a being existing, I find no real reason to still believe. Thinking on all of this does really help me understand why I still connect so much with worship music. It was the only time I thought I felt love. The only love that I felt was my love I was directing towards myself. It’s been an interesting realization to say the least.

I’ve always had a big heart and a heart for broken things. Maybe because I was so broken. The important thing is that now that I’m an adult I can better change the world that we live in to be a positive, loving one for the next generation. When you are a child, you rely on the adults in your life to provide for you and to offer emotional support etc. And it is incredibly unfair to be born into a family where those adults are unreliable and are lacking in the ability or desire to take to care for you. I may not be able to change my family but I can change the way that I function in this world and perhaps be there for some other scared little girl or boy. The world is full of children without families; broken homes and dangerous homes. Places scarcely recognizable as “home”. The way we change that is by addressing the problems in our society that cause the bad behavior.

We have to address alcoholism. We have to address drug addiction. We have to address the reasons why people turn to these things, why they turn to religion for example. Why people choose coping mechanisms that are unhealthy when life feels unbearable and unfair. We have to address people struggling to survive because they don’t have a good paying job and what causes that. We need to address the need for universal basic income. For universal health care. We need to keep birth control options accessible to women so that they don’t get pregnant with some child that they don’t want or can’t afford to take care of. We need to teach people how to talk with each other constructively, how to not tear each other down, and how to deal with the difficult things in life. Left to our own devices, without the proper resources, we may become the abusers that we so desperately tried to avoid growing up. And the cycle continues. Until we can address those issues, we may not be able to be the change that we want to see in the world.