On the surface, this topic may seem like it doesn’t fit the purpose of this blog. Well, bla-dee-bla… It’s my blog I can do what I want (*It’s my party I can cry if I want to..Cry if I want to..) Excuse my random sing party… Alright Katie, stop procrastinating!
On the surface, this topic may seem like it doesn’t fit the purpose of this blog. Not everything is what it seems. This topic very much fits my journey of self-love, self-acceptance, body-love, body-acceptance, activism and fat-activism. For me, my body is a direct representation of the trauma it has experienced. Before I get too deep into this, I want to give a trigger warning. I could go into the whole debate about “should we trigger warn” but I won’t right now. TRIGGER WARNING: THE CONTENT IN THIS POST DISCUSSES SEXUAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE. I beg you all to please proceed at your own pace (or don’t) and to take care of yourselves afterwards.
This is My Story
I sit here with my fingers on the keyboard struggling to find a way to start this. I’m not really sure where to begin. I was born to a woman who struggled with addiction. To support that habit, she sold her body to make money. I honestly believe that’s how I was conceived. I don’t think she’d ever admit that, but it’s my believed reality. Because she was unable to take care of me (and my younger brother), I was placed in foster care. My biological mom (let’s call her Rebecca) still had her rights and was unwilling to release me for adoption so I bounced between her and “the system.” She’d get her act together for a bit and inevitably fail and back I’d go.
During this time, my existence being in two places, my body became…. not my own. There is evidence to suggest that as an infant I was assaulted by Rebecca’s johns? pimps? I don’t know and I don’t remember but when you’re “in the system” you get a lovely “paper record” that talks about your life as if it were a criminal rap sheet. In my lovely “paper record,” there is “evidence to suggest abuse”… whatever that means.
Before I go into what I do remember, let me talk about memory for a second. Our brains are remarkable machines. It finds a way to protect us from even the most hellish of situations. For some people it means they dissociate during that hellish event. This allows them to be removed from their body so they don’t consciously experience the trauma. For some, like me, it means that memory is not always accessible. This too is a protective mechanism that allows me to live my life. It allowed me to grow up, develop strong coping skills, deal with trauma I do remember and to be a functioning person. Memory is fluid. It isn’t either there or not there. It isn’t always concrete. It isn’t always complete either. I’m very grateful that my brain has chosen to protect itself in the very best way it knew how. I may never recall all of my lost memories, and honestly, that’s probably ok.
So what I do remember is physical beatings during my time in foster care. I do recall being hit with the buckle of a belt that left a scar on my rib cage for many many years. (Another example of how gaining weight is a protective mechanism?? I no longer can see the scar.. stretched skin? out grown it? hmm) I do recall sexual abuse by my foster brother that went on for 4 or 5 years, almost on a nightly basis. What I do recall is being told to stay quiet or I’d be hurt. What I do recall was being scared and confused by what continued to happen over and over.
So my #metoo story started way before I could understand the complexity of what was happening to me. Unfortunately, my story doesn’t end there.
Like many abuse survivors I experienced the pain of blame and disbelief. When the abuse was finally discovered, I was blamed for the actions of my abuser. I was told that I was asking for it. That I “flirted” with him and wanted attention. I was told this by ADULTS who were supposed to protect me; love me! Please, for the love of god, tell me how a 6 year old flirts…. Please, for fucks sake tell me how a 6 tear old “asks for it.” You make me sick.
Let’s fast forward a bit to age 10. Adoption. When I say that word, what comes to mind? yup, me too.. Safety. FINALLY. Well, not exactly my reality yet again. More abuse would follow me to my 18th birthday. Although the abuse was different, it was equally, if not more, damaging. I’ll spare you the ugly details of what that looked like but let’s just say, if you know who Dave Pelzer is, you may understand some of my struggles.
When I was about 15, I starting “dating” (who really DATES at 15??? So many eye rolls) a boy from my school. I remember sneaking him into the house after school, before my “mom” (I don’t call her that, let’s call her Tina) came home. I remember being in my room on my twin bed, bright yellow chair in the corner, wooden dresser to my left, desk in the corner to my right… I remember the layout like it was yesterday. (again, the brain and memory are funny things) I remember making out with him and really enjoying that. I remember how he pushed against my body, feeling heavy on top of me. I couldn’t breath and I asked him to stop, to get off of me. Blue eyes turned to grey in an instant. Tight hands around my wrists. I’ll save you the details again, but I remember laying on the bed and staring outside of my bedroom into the hallway. I stared at this ugly duck shaped phone on a desk in the hall. I stared at it as it rang, and rang, and rang. I knew it was Tina. I knew I couldn’t reach the phone and I doubted she’d care even if I could have.
I don’t really remember how my body felt or even the actual assault itself. I don’t remember how it ended or what happened afterwards. I don’t remember thinking, “I was just raped.” I think I just kept on going….Until I found out I was pregnant. I remember asking a friend if she could get me a pregnancy test and then taking it in the school bathroom. Again I don’t have memory around what it was like getting that positive. What I remember is laying on the gym floor in PE staring at my belly, watching my pulse beat. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Baby…. Baby…. FUCK TINA!
6 months. I hid that pregnancy for 6 months. That is how terrified I was of Tina.
What happened after that, although important to me as it’s my history, isn’t important to this piece. I ended up choosing an amazing family for my son I gave birth to. I chose an open adoption. Releasing him to a loving family was the best decision I’ve ever made. He is healthy. Happy. Loved. AND SAFE. I couldn’t give him those things, but they could. I love him and I love them for that.
Ok, take some deep breaths. In for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, release for 8 counts. Good job. Do it with me one more time. In for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, release for 8 counts. Come back to this if you need to, as many times as you need to. I know that was a lot to take in. I hope you’ve made it with me this far because now comes the part where I talk about MY POWER!
A few months ago I was approached by a reporter from USA Today. They were doing a piece in my state on women impacted by the #metoo movement. They chose to focus on influential (how the bleep did *I* get on that list!!!! I was working on #justiceforsara when I was approached… that’s a different topic) women in our state that have been impacted by #metoo. I was beyond honored to be interviewed for this piece. The reporter reached out to me yesterday to tell me that it was complete and had been published. You can find that story by clicking HERE.
April is sexual assault awareness month. This piece was strategically planned to be released during this month, as we strive to continue to bring voice and awareness to the tragedy that is sexual violence, harassment, assault, rape, coercion etc.
I choose to tell my story, not because I like the attention (I’ve been told this before… PUKE), but because I CAN! Because I have a voice and I refused to be silenced. Because I am a survivor. Because I didn’t choose what happened to me but I can choose what I do with that story. Because other women and men who have been subjected to this violence need to know that there is LIFE and HAPPINESS and HEALING after. Because every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Because I AM NOT OK WITH THIS.
I promise I’m coming to an end. You might be asking yourself, “but Katie, how does this apply to body-acceptance/love etc.?” It pertains to that topic because I have years and years and YEARS of trauma built up in my body. Because sometimes my body is tight, and sore and stiff for no real reason. Because sometimes I’m anxious and have no identifiable reason why. There is a staggering link between childhood trauma and obesity, depression, anxiety, asthma, pulmonary issues, diabetics and more. TRAUMA IMPACTS THE BODY LONG TERM! If you want to know more about ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) take a look at THIS
I believe I am “overweight” (I’ll break that word down for you another time) for many reasons. Some within my control to some degree (maladaptive coping skills) and some that are the result of others choices.
I’m not really sure how to end this but as I’m nearing 2000 words, I’m thinking that maybe it’s time. I’m learning that this journey I am on is not easy. I still find times where I body compare and I shame the hell out of myself. I AM CRUEL TO MYSELF! A friend told me that I need to start finding many body shapes attractive and my response to her was, “I DO! Just not in myself.” DAMN.. Just damn. So I’m gonna sit here and keep on my journey. That journey, for me, includes accepting the impact my lived experience has had on my body. I value self love and because that is something I value I am willing to accept adversity along the way.
What are you willing to accept about your journey?
Stay kind. Stay healthy (whatever that means to you).