The Painful Backstory

This isn’t going to be an easy story to write or read.  But I think it’s important to this journey because it’s how I got here.  In posting it, my hope is to help others who have similar stories find their own way along their journey.  I think it explains who I am and how I got to the weight I once was.  Dealing with it is how I’m overcoming it.

When I was about 3 years old, my 18 month old sister and I were removed from our mother’s care and from what I’ve been told, it was due to neglect.  I don’t know all of the details, but I know there was family pressure on my mother’s brother who was the oldest of the family and the only sibling who was married to take us in.  My sister and I were otherwise going to be be separated into foster care.  To make a long story short, my Aunt and Uncle formally adopted us and our biological mother became our Aunt.  To this day, I am very grateful for that decision.  I am confident that I wouldn’t have become the person I am now if I hadn’t been adopted.  My biological mother was also obese and I remember hearing one story once about her pregnancy with my sister and having been recommended not to lay down to sleep because of a risk of crushing the baby.  I have no idea of the truth of this, but it’s what I was told.

Part of the neglect we were subjected to was food related.  I suspect food was scarce except for junk.  I heard stories of pop in baby bottles.  Again, no idea of the truth of this.  I do know that I have fairly strong memories of sneaking into the kitchen during the night after the adoption to take slices of bread because I knew it was there.  Sad.

Despite this, at least from pictures from my childhood, I looked to be pretty normal in weight.  But I know I did a lot of binge eating, even as a child.  When I got my hands on money, I’d buy as much candy as I could and eat and eat until it was gone.

I remember at 11 or 12 thinking I was fat and starting to exercise and diet.  Looking at pictures from that time, maybe I was 5-10 lbs overweight but I felt awful.  Nothing really ever “stuck” though.

Then around 13 years old I was subjected to an episode of sexual assault.  It changed me.  It was 2 boys, so called “friends” who managed to pull me into a school washroom during an activity day at school (so no one noticed our absence like it would have otherwise been noticed on a regular school day).  Other than being pulled in the washroom, I wasn’t physically harmed and because these guys were my “friends”, it was all at first a silly prank.  But what evolved was one boy on “lookout” while the other trapped me in a toilet stall where I sat on the back of the toilet) and the other boy exposed himself and for what seemed like a long time but may have only been 20 minutes or so he pressured me to look at his penis and touch him.  I was terrified and refused and was finally allowed to leave.  I said nothing to anyone for weeks about this but finally after seeing these boys every day and hearing their little jokes put me over the edge and I went to see the school counselor who insisted on calling my parents.  That was painful.  And it led to police involvement and the school district stepping in to ensure that both of those boys would never be in the same school until graduation.

A month later, I was working at my usual weekend babysitting job taking care of a couple of young kids while their Mom worked.  She lived in a trailer park and I had gotten to know some of the neighbors and felt comfortable with them.  On this day there was a little get together next door and I know they were drinking.  I had put my two charges down for a nap and was watching tv when I saw the neighbor guy knock on the door.  I answered, not worried at all and he asked something about borrowing some music.  I told him I didn’t think there was any and the next thing I knew, he had grabbed me and was kissing me.  He was probably mid 20’s so to my 13 years it was horribly creepy.  I will never forget the taste of beer and the stubble on his face.  He left and I was stunned.

When I got home that night, I told my sister who refused to be sworn to silence.  She told my parents.  Now, I don’t want what I’m about to say to sound like I blame them, because I don’t, but it’s an important key to my story.  My parents were very private people who I thought were always overconcerned about what people thought.  One of the things I was asked was some version of, “why do things like this keep happening to you?”.  Again, I don’t blame them, but it later became important.

I didn’t “get it” then like I do now.  In fact I never “got it” until sometimes in my mid 30’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks.  During the month after that assault, I put on 30 pounds.  I binge ate until I was sick and ended up needing to replace a lot of my wardrobe.  I didn’t make any connections for decades but I believe now I started unconsciously putting on weight to protect myself from something like this ever happening.  The weight just slowly creeped up after that dramatic gain until I graduated high school at about 220 pounds.

I was 17 when I graduated and went off to university in another city, staying in residence.  At that point, I had a boyfriend but he lived for the first year a province away and then moved a year later to my hometown.  During one of the many evenings out at a local popular student bar in probably my 2nd year of university (yes, they were lax with ID checks) after having too much to drink, I went for a walk with a guy I had danced with on other times at the bar so I guess I trusted him.  We ended up in his car to supposedly listen to music and I was raped.  Because I voluntarily went with him, and even into his car and had been drunk, I did not report it.  Nor did I tell my boyfriend for over a month.

That boyfriend was horrified when I did tell him.  But his focus was to blame me for not telling him and essentially get “stuck” on the fact that he believed that because I didn’t report the guy, I must have “wanted it”.  I had the most insane low self esteem back then, and long story short I was unable to see the huge red flags that were being raised about my boyfriend.  I was also stubborn and had decided to marry this man, so I stuck with him no matter how bad things got.  He turned out to be abusive in all ways and for the next 10 years he used that rape as an excuse to belittle me and abuse me.  I guess because I felt so bad about my own responsibility over it (as I saw it then, not now, though) I “took” it.  And surprise!  During that marriage I gained around 75 lbs and had a child.

When our child was 5 and had witnessed some abuse, I knew I had to get out.  Ironically, it was being afraid she would learn an example of marriage I didn’t want her to repeat that finally got me to go.  My own self protection was a nice addition but sadly, wasn’t my motivation.

I had some counseling in the next few years and met a nice man who has become my 2nd husband.  Somewhere in this time, I became so much stronger as a person and began to delve into my history.  That’s when it finally became clear and I thought, BINGO, now that I know, the weight will just fall off.  But no, it wasn’t that simple.  As most overweight people do, I dieted often, and always dropped some weight.  But every time I got to a point when people were started to comment and give me compliments, I’d sabotage myself.  I also didn’t tell anyone about the connection I made as far as my weight loss, probably out of embarrassment.  A few years ago I started talking about it with my husband and close friends and family.  I believe that’s when the healing began.  And yet it still took a few more years for me to be able to turn it into action.  And here I am.

I am so very aware now about how seemingly minor events can change a person’s life.  I sincerely believe that this knowledge is what helps me do what I do in my job.  I am a teacher in a middle school, and I know that I can make a difference in kids.  I put a lot of my energy into my job and it is so rewarding.  I am still in touch with former students years later and have attended one wedding of a former student and graduation of others.  I am blessed to do what I do and love it, but I do believe my history is what has made me a good teacher and one who truly cares.

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