She looked at me with pain in her eyes.
“But I always told you that you are beautiful. How could you think anything else?”
A Mother’s Pain
I was fully aware of the heaviness in her eyes. And yet, I could not comprehend it. Today I am a mother, and I understand the darkness behind her eyes. Burdened by guilt, she feared it was her fault. She felt she was being blamed. She could not conceive of the beautiful child she gave birth to now hating and harming herself.
Having witnessed me shrink away into a hallow version of my self, she was afraid for my well being. But that day, sitting on a cold metal chair, under the gaze of an empathetic therapist, I was not a mother. I was a 23-year-old who felt more like a child. Simply feeding myself had become an overwhelming struggle. I was in a face to face confrontation with my eating disorder for the first time in my life.
She turned to the therapist this time and repeated in a higher-pitched voice, “I always told her she was beautiful!”
Not What You Would Think
I do not blame my mother, nor do I harbor anger towards her. I feel extremely saddened for the young woman who poured her soul into taking care of everyone except herself as she navigated parenthood.
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I am angry at a society that made her believe her worth was determined by the size of her stomach. I am enraged by the culture that demonizes the natural curve of a woman’s belly and criticizes her for listening to her own physical instincts. I am burdened down by a system of oppression that sold her a lifetime of lies and then blamed her when she was unable to fight the laws of nature. I am heartbroken for the woman who spent her life fighting her body’s natural urges instead of accepting it and using that fight for so much more.
It Wasn’t What She Said To Me
She did not understand. It wasn’t what she said to me. It was what she said to herself.
It was years of silently witnessing her judge her own body. It was decades of observing the war she waged on her own instinctual appetite. It was the “before” and “after” pictures my father proudly snapped of her baring her mid-drift only on those occasions when her weight dipped enough. It was seeing the sadness in her soul as her weight climbed back up. Because it always did. It was years of her blaming herself and making self derogatory comments about her body. It was witnessing her despise her own stomach.
No, it was never about what she said to me. It was what she said to herself.