This entry might trigger you. It could be helpful for you to talk to someone if this happens.
The relationship I have developed with my body is an amalgam of complex psychological and emotional issues brought about by the effects of trauma, as well as being raised to be a beauty pageant contestant and model.
I had won beauty pageants and modeling competitions throughout my childhood and teen years and was a professional model in my twenties. I was raised to believe that my worth is directly related to my outward appearance, which contributes greatly to my current self-loathing for being overweight, due to the side effects of psych meds as well as my emotional binge eating.
As I mentioned in my post A Journey of Light and Love, I believe that my weight issues are also directly tied to my wanting to avoid unwanted sexual advances. My weight is my protection. It keeps me safe.
But the self-loathing I feel towards my body goes much deeper than its physical appearance. At the root of my self-hatred is shame and guilt, which are the direct result of being sexually molested as a child.
What I am about to write could be considered a taboo subject, but I think it is important to address, for I know I am not alone in my experience.
I knew, deep within the very core of my being, that the sexual acts forced upon me by my older brother, Kevin, were wrong. Being molested was a tremendously difficult and confusing experience for me.
At the age of eight, when the touching began, I had experienced sensations that were strange, terrifying, and yet, oddly pleasant, though I didn’t equate what my brother was doing to me with pleasure in any form. As an eight-year-old, I did not know or understand that humans are sexual beings by nature. Sexual contact is meant to be pleasurable. This pleasure is what helps propagate our species.
I was always repulsed by the very thought of Kevin touching me. I was repulsed by him forcing me to touch him and engage in oral sex. But when he touched me, I could not comprehend what my body was feeling. A friend of mine, who is also an incest survivor, calls it the “ginger ale” feeling.
As a sexual being, my body sometimes responded against my will to my brother’s touch. This only got worse when my brother began sexual intercourse with me at the age of ten. I hated my body for betraying me.
I became wracked with guilt and shame and self-loathing. As I got older, I began to wonder if, because of my body’s natural responses to being touched in a sexual way, Kevin had interpreted these responses as my having liked what he was doing to me. I wondered if that was what kept him coming back for more.
There was also the physical sense of affection. Kevin had often beat me violently. But, because he was my brother, I loved him. I craved his love, acceptance, and approval. As an adult, I’ve wondered if I had interpreted his kissing and fondling me as acts of love. Did I ever give subconscious signals that what he was doing to me was okay?
Sometimes I’ve wondered if the gang rape I had experienced at the age of twelve was somehow my fault. Many girls at that age are awakening to their sexuality. I’ve wondered if I had flirted with any of the boys who had raped me. Did I in some way give them the impression that I would welcome sex?
Every so often a memory will surface, or a flashback will occur, and I’ll become overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and self-loathing as I wonder if I had brought the abuse upon myself. I know that the molestation and rape were not my fault, but that does not prevent these thoughts from happening.
Because of my trauma and being raised to be a beauty pageant contestant and model, I had developed an eating disorder. Over the years, I have discussed with therapists my continuing issues with emotional eating, as well as my self-destructive and unhealthy food choices.
It’s as if I punish myself with food. Whenever I am anxious or stressed or triggered my first impulse is to inhale an entire cheesecake until I feel so ill that I stick my finger down my throat and purge to feel better. I did this for decades. I no longer purge, but I still need to fight the tendency to reach for food as a way of stuffing any uncomfortable feelings and memories that I don’t want to deal with.
Every time I try to eat healthily I end up sabotaging my efforts. Every time I try to lose weight, I sabotage my efforts. I feel fat and ugly and overwhelmingly uncomfortable in my body, but I can’t seem to do the things I need to do to change that.
Although I want to be “thin and beautiful” again, this is not the real issue. Dieting and exercise might help change the way I feel about my appearance, but it won’t change the way I feel inside. The challenge I face moving forward is to come to terms with my feelings and belief that my body had betrayed me. I must stop relating to my body as if it were my enemy. I must find a way to forgive my body and let go of the shame, guilt, and self-loathing associated with it.
I don’t know how to accomplish this yet. But I know that I can’t love myself while hating my body. Hopefully, I will be able to work through these issues with my therapist.