It’s Not About The Food
“Girls developed eating disorders when our culture developed a standard of
beauty that they couldn’t obtain by being healthy. When unnatural thinness
became attractive, girls did unnatural things to be thin.”
One of the things that I’ve learned the most about my many maladaptive behaviors is that the perfect storm had arrived to ensure me having eating disorders when I was a very impressionable teenager. Not only was it teenagers having issues with body image. It was also the abuse that occurred during that time and the things that were said and my impression about what had occurred and what was done. As a part of the abusive teacher’s very hateful nature was the being humiliated about myself as a human being in front of my peers. I was put on display a lot of the time and made to stand in front of the class while being made fun of without having any type of recourse. If I ever said anything back I was punished by both she and the administration who clearly had no idea to what extent her abusive nature was. She on more than one occasion, would tell me when the rodents would get into my food in my locker “It doesn’t look like you need food anyway.”
My high school years during which I kept those eating disorders alive and well I became a sickly 83lbs and ruined any of my hopes of playing athletics in college. What I was left with was a life of painful eating disorders that I still struggle with daily. These behaviors were further compounded when I met my ex-husband who disguised his personal reason for wanting to help me by encouraging the eating disorders in his own way.
I was made to weigh for him sometimes weekly because “I’m not going to be married to a fat ass” he would always say. He would also tell me that “it’s ok to have fat friends but you don’t have to look like them.” He micromanaged my food to the extent that that I was only allowed to eat what he approved of and nothing else. To make sure this happened he would allow me only 10 pistachios and 10 olives to eat while at work working two jobs. He would also, on occasion, sit out in the parking lot to make sure I didn’t eat anything that was not what he allowed. When I would tell him that I was hungry his supportive line was “No pain no gain.”
He would also leave random newspaper clippings around the house about the latest weight loss diets and/or make me take pictures of myself in swimsuits or naked, put them on the refrigerator and tell me “next time your fat ass gets hungry look at this picture and maybe you won’t want to eat.” He would also make comments if we went out to eat about how all the people were looking at me because I was a fat ass. He would say, “If you don’t like them staring at you then don’t be a fat ass.” If we had dinner with his family he would wait until we left to criticize either what I ate or how I ate. And many times these comments were said where other people could hear them. He would also say, “Did you have to eat that much of whatever we had for dinner? You eat like a prisoner who’s about to have their tray stolen! And that is why I have to tell you how, when and where to eat. Because you’re too dumb to do it on your own. You’ve already proven that time and time again.” Eating quickly became the most dreaded activity I had to deal with on a daily basis. My goal was to try to get through life with him and eating as little as possible. As you can imagine I didn’t do that to his standards either.
The message that was conveyed to me was that no matter what I did it would never be to his irrational standards. I was also expected to be at the gym to workout mornings at 5:00 am. Being a well known guy in the city he knows many people and that included the employees at the gym. So, he would call to verify be being there and what types of workouts I was doing. If I ran 4 miles he would want to know what I didn’t “gut it out” and run 5 miles.
Years of his verbal abuse, threats, and sexual abuse slowly broke me down. People who don’t understand why individuals stay in relationships like this often say, “Well he only did what you let him do” cannot possibly comprehend what this does to your psyche. Those types of hurtful comments are why most suffer in silence and don’t ask for help. After all, sometimes it was the easiest and safest thing to do by just going along with whatever his demands no matter what they were. He had me convinced that I was nothing without him. He and his brother tormented me for years and continue to do so internally. But again they were both raised by a father who was also a malignant narcissist and a mother who worked at home without an education until much later in life. So really she had nowhere to go with three children and no education. So for many men and women in these types of relationships that don’t leave usually have a damn good reason for staying. There’s always more to the story behind those closed doors than what you realize. My own parents had no idea the extent of the abuse that I was having to deal with on a daily basis. Such is a life with a malignant narcissist.
To this day, if someone tries to take a verbal jab at me while in a public place or group setting my “verbal sniper” becomes activated and a one-sided war will ensue. Get me in that little conservative and very judgmental city and I “turn into a werewolf” as my wife puts it. I have found that striking the first blow is a way that I can set the tone that I will NOT be hurt by whoever it is that I feel is a personal threat either imagined or real. All I have to do is see this as a possible threat. Anyone that I perceive as a authority figure, I absolutely will not make eye contact with if at all possible.
I guess the message I’ve tried to convey is that eating disorders and other maladaptive behaviors are about something much deeper than society sees them. You see the signs and symptoms and I feel the weight of the trauma every minute of every day. To this day I will chose not to eat because the internal war about what to eat is just too painful. When I do eat I can never be full and satisfied because full means fat to me. If I do feel full I have to purge with laxatives to get rid of that feeling. It’s not a binging thing it’s an eating thing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…..IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD.
Understand this as well….I’m done trying to live my life carrying my trauma and the trauma those two boys in adult bodies. I will NOT continue to be a part of the cycle of not working on my own trauma just to have mine and theirs to be spewed out onto other innocent and unsuspecting people. This is a work in progress no doubt but the cycle dies with me. I’ve proven that I can live through it. Now it’s time to prove I can live without it. All I need was to find a coach to help with this and I did.
“I failed eating, failed drinking, failed not cutting myself into shreds. Failed friendship. Failed sisterhood and daughterhood. Failed mirrors and scales and phone calls. Good thing I’m stable. ”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls