I’ve had a disease for most of my life. I think it started around freshman year of high school. I’ve got it under pretty good control these days. But to control it every day is a struggle.
Some days are easier than others. But, being the mom of three little girls has made it impossible to pretend my disease isn’t there.
Just like alcoholism is a disease, eating disorders are diseases as well.
The most obvious, daily fight I have with my disease is comparison. It may be comparing myself to other moms, other women in general, or to myself in the past. Obviously, having kids changes your body, and that can be difficult.
There’s a whole trend of body positivity for moms these days. I’m trying to join in. Lord knows, I’m trying! But, I just can’t.
The last thing I want to do is to pass this negativity on to my girls. If my daughters thought about themselves in some of the ways I think about myself, it would be like a knife to my heart. I have said some of the ugliest words imaginable about myself. I’ve equated weight, size and lack of tone with my self worth.
But I do my best to hide it. I try to not let anyone see that ugly side of me.
I will never have the right mindset about myself. Like an alcoholic who always thinks about drinking, I will always think about how imperfect my body is. Yet, I will try my hardest to keep my daughters from feeling the way I do.
I have a few stories that illustrate my relationship with my body. Stories that I know I’ve never shared with anyone because it would embarrass me to have people know the truth.
The good part is that I know they are awful. So in some way, that has to be a sign of healing – right? But in another way, the fact that I have hidden them from everyone has given a given a closet to the skeleton I want to hide.
My rationale has always been, “If you keep it to yourself, then, others won’t know how messed up in the head you really are”. But hiding it only allows it to fester.
One of these stories takes place at a Cancer Society walk. Wow! Even typing this is incredibly difficult. To think that people will know about me and my demons is hard. But here goes…
At this particular event, balloons were handed out- white for survivors and red for supporters. But apparently, the volunteers didn’t know this. So, people were walking around with either color. My sister was with me and she loves red, so she got a red one. I chose a white one just to change it up.
We had been walking around for a little while before a little girl came up to me and asked if I was a survivor. Not being one, I said no. Understandably, she looked confused, and she ran off back to her mom.
For most people, they likely would have shrugged their shoulders and moved on, or possibly taken the moment to thank God that they never had to go through the horror of cancer.
But, in my messed-up mind, the sick part of me was happy.
In some horribly sick way, I was happy because maybe she thought I looked thin enough to have had cancer. Just writing that now makes me feel disgusting.
It’s a pretty awful thing to think about. To take pride for something like that yourself is awful. It makes me sick to think it, but I need to open the closet doors and show my skeleton if I want to protect my girls.
I never compliment my daughters on their size. Instead, I try to focus on strength and abilities and what they can do with their body.
I struggle to know how to teach body positivity when I don’t feel much of it for myself. To me, it’s like a blind person trying to teach their child colors.
I know how to think nicely about myself. Yet those nice words just aren’t the soundtrack I hear in my brain.
Even when I was pregnant, I couldn’t stand the way I looked- the roundness and fullness, the thighs rubbing together- it all made me cringe.
Recently, I complained privately to my husband that the post-baby weight wasn’t falling off like it had in the past. I was annoyed that I had no shorts that fit me this summer. He told me that he thought I had unrealistic expectations this soon after having a baby.
Was he right? Maybe. Yet, I disagreed.
My hope for them
I try to instill the idea in my girls that no one is fat. They think the scale in bathroom tells how big their feet are. My girls know nothing of weight and I hope to keep it that way as long as possible.
Perhaps it’s easy for me now to be positive about them right now. What I’m afraid of is the sick part of me. The part of me that might rear its ugly head if they gain weight. That sick part sees that my 4-year-old daughter fits in her sister’s size 2T clothes (except for length) and feels proud. My baby is strong and fast… and thin.
So, I will fight my demons every day. They may have sickened my heart, but they won’t do it to my girls. The sickly grasp of my disease won’t find a home in my babies’ hearts. I’ll trap it and keep it locked away in me to keep it from getting its hands on them.