Friday, July 2, 2010

Weight, Part 2

I posted last week after my visit with my shrink to begin this chapter of my personal development in which I deliberately scour my psyche to try to understand the reasons for my weight and try to come up with a strategy for dealing with it.

The strategy part is working fairly well. I have been steaming veggies in the microwave until they're soft enough so I can digest them, adding them to some spinach cheese tortellini and hard boiled egg for protein, some black olives (because I love them) and cherry tomatoes, which my gut seems to be tolerating so far. It's my version of a pasta salad, but with no crunch so it's all easily digested. I've made it twice so far, and the ingredients for a third round are in my fridge. So far so good.

The psychological piece is so much harder. I saw my shrink yesterday and it was one of the toughest sessions ever. I talked about my mother's role in my weight. She fed me full of junk food and then told me how disgusting I looked. She made me wear the most awful clothes while she shopped Madison Avenue. She became close friends with the daughters of family friends with whom she could share manicures and shopping. She told me I was the most important person in the world to her, but she abused me. Yes, I am calling it abuse. To stuff a child full of donuts and hot fudge sundaes and then tell her she's a fat pig and force her to wear disgusting polyester fat clothes -- she orchestrated the whole thing, and I was her victim. It was nothing less than abuse. Maybe it doesn't sound as bad to you as being slapped across the face, but for me, as a fat 9 year old, it was worse. Nobody could see it except my father, and he was impotent (although he bears responsibility for this) to stop her. If anybody else saw it, they surely didn't do anything to stop it.

I remember years ago my sister in law said that my mother was so nasty to me in family gatherings, especially about my weight. I had become numb to it by then. And nobody said a word to my mother to get her to stop. My sister in law's comment sticks with me; she hates me, but maybe she didn't then. She may have been the only person ever to have seen what my mother was doing to me and say it out loud. By then, I had taken in the abuse and figured that was what I was worth, so I kept feeding myself and feeling disgusting, carrying around all this extra weight like a ball and chain my mother had attached to me at birth.

There is a part of me that is still that child. The fat girl in matronly polyester. The fat girl who was the victim of her mother's narcissism. The worse I looked, the more beautiful she felt. I knew she looked beautiful to others. To me, she was my tormentor, my torturer. She was a witch. I hated her and loved her both. I needed her and was repulsed by her. Her arthritic hand came to look like a claw from which I recoiled. She said she loved me, but she was crueler to me than anybody else ever has been.

At the end of her life, when my mother got sick, she needed me -- she needed an ally in the family, and since I was an expert at being sick, I was her natural ally. At the end of her life, she took care of me when I was sick. And I have allowed myself to hold onto that image of her, and actually miss her, actually feel alone when I'm sick now and she's not around. I have allowed myself to repeat what she did to me. When I look in the mirror and think "disgusting," it is her voice. When I pig out, it is her feeding me. When I am sick and alone, I remember only the end of her life when she cared for me, and not the three full years when I didn't see her, the surgeries I had without her being there, the inevitability of her abandonment. This. Was. NOT. Love. No.

My mother was not the woman who took care of me at the end of her life, when I was my very sickest. My mother was the witch who fed me and then told me I was a fat pig.

I can't begin to tell you how hard it is to write this. But not as hard as it has been to live with it in secret for 53 years. Jennifer


  1. Jennifer,

    You are very brave to share this personal journey. Just remember---don't be too hard on yourself---whisper kind words to yourself---they may just start to replace the echoes of a painful past.

  2. Wow, that is a lot to deal with. Now that you've said it out loud, does that set you free? Does this allow you to move on and not hear your mother's voice when you look in the mirror? Or will you have to work on replacing it with positive reinforcements?

    Some of the things you said shocked me. And it was familiar. My mom did the same thing to my youngest sister and nobody (including me) said anything. I honestly didn't know any better.

    I've noticed that the past several months that you've been interacting as "a person" (instead of a resource) on Facebook and here. I am so happy that you are reaching out a bit and I really enjoy what you share. I hope that it is part of the healthier you that you are creating. I like hearing how you are doing and what makes you happy...or sad.

    I appreciate your hard (and brilliant) work, but I like you as a person too.

    Good luck with the weight. And if you can do it, I will try too. Look out world!!

  3. And that, Kathy, is why I am being public about this.

    I'm a feminist in how I approach things. You can't separate the public person from the private person and I never try. I've always tried to show who I am along with all the work stuff. I'm glad it's showing. J

  4. Hi Jennifer.

    You just wrote my story- but you have the courage to say it out loud. I am amazed by you, and hope that you are feeling empowered by doing so.

    I am not there yet, but I have taken the extreme step to cut my family completely out of my life. I was both abused and neglected. I just couldn't take it anymore. Nor should I. It only took 41 years.

    When I developed "chronic myofascial pain syndrome", "carpal tunnel", "ulnar nerve entrapment bilaterally", "thoracic outlet syndrome", weekly "migraines", "IBS", "multiple chemical sensitivities", "chronic fatigue", and "fibomyalgia" that was my wake-up call. I had been a sick child and grew into a sick adult. When I was ill as a child I was made to feel less than, told to suck it up, ignore it, and do more. Which I did in spades. I became a textbook high achiever. Despite....

    I have always known that my past was a direct link to my health- but I will never admit any of it to my care providers because I refuse to be painted with the psychogenic brush, denied insurance, treated like a victim, or been besmirched by yet another doctor telling me that it's nothing, really- just an accumulation of the stress.

    I am a social worker and teacher. I work in the healthcare field because I desperately want and need to make the system better. It took 15 years for any sort of diagnosis, which is unacceptable. The treatment in the medical system I have received at times has been abusive at worst, neglectful at best.

    Now I can label what is acceptable and not, and choose to use my power in ways that were unimaginable even 10 years ago. I am educating myself and sorting out what I need to be happy and grow beyond my past.

    This is no small feat. It is a process.

    I am overweight. I do not have classical "low self esteem", I do understand that I am doing the very best I can. I make healthy choices and exercise daily. I have to- or else I literally cannot move. Everytime I see a new specialist they look at me like I'm nothing. Their first recommendation is daily exercise- they assume that I am lazy, stupid, worthless. More than 1 has received a piece of my highly-educated and analytical mind.

    I am a size 18. I exercise daily without exception, even when I'm wracked with pain, cannot dress myself, or have been in the basement for days due to extreme migraines. Ha! I am reclaiming my power.

    I'm so glad to hear about others who have similar experiences who are starting to claim theirs. Great stuff, I wish you well, and hope that you take it gently- slow and easy.

    I wish you only good things, and am so happy to have found your site. Your resources and skills are so very needed.