Or perhaps I should write, I always felt ugly, until I didn’t. Childhood trauma causes untold countless problems, and the individuals perpetuating trauma toward children may have no idea how their words and deeds can affect children around them on any given day.
And it does not have to be within the confines of a so-called normal family or home setting. Teachers often create trauma, any adult in a childs world can harm a child with their careless words or whispers. People often think the only real damage done to children is sexual or physical abuse, but the truth is any unkind words can hurt a child and almost every child is sensitive to what adults or even other kids or teens can say or do to upset a child, because of their own secrets, demons and insecurities. Which is why it is so clear to me that far too many people have children but have no clue what they are doing to their children.
The result of this abuse of children can take on any manifestation within the child. Some externalize their anger and become dangerous to themselves or others. In my case, I felt so ugly and so useless. I felt worthless and this is not a good way for a child to feel about themselves, not even part of the time, which is how it was for me, a part time insecurity and prejudice against myself because I was not good enough. Other times I felt ok, but not enough to overcome the bad times on a regular basis.
So exactly what kinds of things did adults or teens say to me to make me feel less than wonderful, and why was I not able to overcome it (mostly) until I became an adult?
- I have previously recounted incidences of sexual inappropriateness, from age 9 and older, so I will not include those again here; no need to be redundant.
- When I had to get eye glasses at age 11, my Mother commented that Dad did not like ‘anything’ that was not perfect. I felt broken because I needed glasses.
- At age 12 a neighbor, Kathleen, said to me at the kitchen table, “Look how your stomach hangs over the edge of the table.” Her judgment about my physical self harmed me more than I can even relate.
- In 6th grade, Mr. Marsh got so angry with Evey and I, he threw a chair across the room, I don’t remember why, instead of thinking, what an idiot I blamed myself for his misbehaviour.
- I was about 5-10 pounds overweight as a school age youngster and I knew it, kids called me horrible names. I ignored them but I felt their harsh words sting. I went on the Metracal liquid diet at age 9 in Alameda and began a life long struggle.
- In 7th grade, I lost 20 pounds and was finally normal enough weight to buy really cute clothes in the teen department, cute clothes for big girls did not exist in the 1960s. Everyone made a HUGE deal out of it, this made me know how incredibly important my weight was to the people around me.
- So “I got it”, thin equaled cute, fat equaled ugly. Of course, I was motivated to always be on one diet or another diet. I got a cute 3 piece lavender pantsuit that Christmas, and I looked really good, and everyone told me so. I was taking diet pills from Dr. Galbreath, I was 12, when I could not keep up the weight loss regime I knew I would gain back the weight, I was a total failure. Now I felt uglier than ever. I continued to wear my girdle to school everyday. When I think of this is makes me feel ill. I could not see my face, I only saw the fat.
- So by the time I was a teenager I was already so indoctrinated to believe I was ugly if I had a tiny bit of extra weight on my body that I lived in fear all the time at the same time I knew I would eventually fail again. Sad to say this has lasted til today.
At age 25 I went on the Mother of all diets. I had a falling out with my friend and literally lost my appetite, I just couldn’t eat for 3 whole weeks, I just had juices. At the same time, I was taking lots of diet pills, I was on a starvation diet, I was walking several miles a day, this was 1977, before the whole fitness craze really hit. I was walking all the way to work everyday.
When I did start taking solid food again it was strict, an egg for breakfast and the same lunch and dinner daily, a chicken breast and veggies for both meals. So I was maybe consuming a thousand calories a day. In nine months I lost 90 pounds and I was down to 130. For the first time as an adult I weighed what other women weigh and I felt good about how I looked. I doubt I was very healthy but I knew from all the attention I was getting I looked better. Men were after me, people in restaurants did not ignore me, work changed and I was receiving more respect. Everyone wanted to dance with me at the club and everyone wanted to be my friend. I hated them for it. I knew it was shallow love I was getting and based only on the fact that now I fit in with the norm. I wasn’t a fattie anymore.
During this time my Grandpa passed away in San Diego, and my twin sisters and I were elected the family representatives to go there and mourn his untimely death. The Judge was gone too soon, he’d only retired three weeks prior and now he was gone. Our Mother was in Hawaii on vacation with her sister and we choose not to call and ruin her special trip, afterall what could she do? So we drove to San Diego, and then decided to hit Mexico too, including Ensenada. While we were down there, we had a picture taken in a restaurant. The picture detail of me is above and the whole photo is here, this pic became important to me, because it was the very first time I looked at my face in my life and didn’t hate what I looked like, I thought, “I’m not ugly”. I was astounded. I did not think “I’m pretty” I just thought, I’m not ugly. This is the whole photograph.
My sisters and I did our duty, we saw our Grandpa off this earthly plane to whatever is beyond and then we went and blew off some steam south of the border, when you could actually drive down there safely and not get kidnapped or assassinated. And I got this photo. I found out I had a nice face. It was about time.
I have not stayed thin of course, I have an addiction to refined carbohydrates, now I am insulin dependent and I have lots of medical problems because of this food addiction. It hasn’t been an easy row to hoe. Everyday I get up and do it again, today I rely on a power greater than myself to help me. I have undergone a lot of therapy, self-help, inner child work, voodoo (not really) and everything else I can think of to understand and overcome this thing called addiction.
Sometimes people argue with me, “OH FOOD is not an Addiction all you need is self control!” Bullshit, ask anyone who is truly addicted and they can tell you that this is like ‘petting the dragon softly, three times a day’. We still have to eat, alcoholics still have to drink liquid, sex addicts still want a sex life. Learning to make it “NOT” a problem is the key. Think about sugar for a moment in relation to cocaine or heroin. Sugar is granular, it’s white, it comes in little baggies, it elevates the mood, it makes one happy for the short term, it feels and tastes delicious. Sugar is a drug, whether it is cakes, cookies, pies, candy or white potatoes (which become sugar in your body).
We celebrate with cake and ice cream major events, sugar is king.
I was told as a baby, that I was given sugar water in my bottle, most kids were to make them drink the water. Milk has sugar in it, it is naturally occurring. Everything turns into sugar in the body to be utilized for energy, addicts have an out of control relationship with sugar which is still being understood by health professionals who do not agree and put out less than effective diets almost daily.
I know I do better when I eliminate all extra sugar other than protein, vegetables and small portions of fruit, a severely reduced carbohydrate food plan is what works best for me. I used to lose weight that way, now it only seems to help keep my blood sugar in check and even that does not work all of the time.
As a child I was catered too, Mom made me my own plate of fudge without nuts, I was given rice krispies with whole cream and sugar, I hated spaghetti so I got my own hamburger patty instead, yes I was spoiled. But the messages were so mixed, because I was also told I was fat and unattractive. No wonder I was confused, upset and out of sorts most of my childhood. It all translated into feeling wrong.
What’s the point of this? What you say to children matters, just as what you do. Those little minds take it all in, mix it up and it comes out in ways you would never want, so make sure you are telling children things you actually do want them to hear and take to heart. Teach them they are loved, by you and by a power greater than themselves. Teach them to love themselves unconditionally.
You want their heart whole, self-loving, giving and caring to others, right?
It is so important.