I’m running again. The sweat burns my eyes. My heart pounds in rhythm with my footsteps. I slam my feet down angrily, wishing I could flatten my love handles as easily as I hammer the soft path beneath my sneakers.
I awaken the next morning and the next and the next … and she’s still there. She looks the same. The girl in the reflection. Worn, ragged, and plump. And I hate her.
I’m Alice. The little pillow mint says “eat me.” I look around to see if anyone is watching. I blush. I only nibble, but still I grow as big as a house. My tears are an ocean. I reach for comfort and find the carafe on the table. It says “drink me,” but when I do I fall and choke on the liquid. Now I’m small enough to squash like a bug. No one can see me. I drink more and become completely invisible.
I’m alone. Or am I?
According to NEDA, 10 million people struggle with an eating disorder in the U.S. alone, and 10% of those people will die if they don’t seek help with their problem. Sadly, our pornified, media-obsessed culture just reinforces unhealthy patterns like crash dieting, obsessive exercising, and other habits that if left unchecked, can lead to serious problems. Not to mention establishing unrealistic physical standards and in some cases even illusions that we accept as reality. I touched on a lot of this in my Body Image Series.
This week, I’m writing to help further the campaign for National Eating Disorder Awareness 2014, which starts today and ends March 1. The theme this year is: “I Had No Idea …” Three main focus points are: 1) eating disorders are serious illnesses, not lifestyle choices; 2) education, early intervention, and access to care are critical; and 3) help is available, and recovery is possible.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t look in the mirror with utter self-loathing every day. But I once did. Those days still come, but I am learning to blow raspberries at them … when I’m feeling healthy. When I’m not feeling healthy, sometimes I throw chocolate at them.
Still, as I’ve started working with women in the abuse/porn addiction recovery realm, I’ve noticed some disturbing patterns. Suddenly abuse, porn addiction, eating disorders, and self-esteem aren’t so mutually exclusive of each other. In fact, the more I learn, the more I’m convinced they are directly connected. Not every time, but in many cases. But how do they connect? Which comes first? For instance, do we have poor self-esteem because we are abused, or do abusers seek us out because they sense we have low self-esteem? Do our loved ones abuse us because they are porn addicts, or would they have abused us even if they had never been involved in porn? In some ways, I feel like it’s a little like the ‘chicken or the egg question.’ It’s complicated.
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I’m really curious what other men and women in these circumstances will have to say about all of this. So, I want to hear from you! What are the connections? What have you learned from your experiences or from watching the experiences of others struggling with porn addiction, abuse, low self-esteem or a combination of any of these? Tell me what you think. Please keep in mind that I’m not saying that every wife of a porn addict is abused or that low self-esteem guarantees you a life of addiction or anything crazy like that. I’ve just noticed some connections along these lines, and I’d like to explore them. Heck! If anyone out there has a psychology degree and knows some super-secret formula and how to beat this thing, please share! Either way, leave a comment people. Let’s get this conversation going.
Before I end, I do want to put in my two cents. I’m also putting the following info up as a warning/public service. If you know someone who might need it, please pass it along–even if it’s the only thing you get out of this whole piece.
Below is a list of warning signs common amongst survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I think it’s a good fit here because one of the items is “eating disorders.” The first time I read this list, I was shocked (and appalled) to find that I checked off almost every single item. At this point in my journey, that’s kind of a “duh”! But back then it was not. I knew I was sick. I knew things didn’t feel right. But I didn’t know then that I had been molested as a child. I had repressed the memories and in essence was trying to fix symptoms (the junk on the list) without knowing what the real root of the problem was. This list helped me start my journey to healing and recovery. I wish I could post it on telephone poles everywhere so people who need it could find it and get help, too. But my blog will have to do.
Peace. ~Mama C
Common Trauma Symptoms
It is important to remember that each individual’s reaction to trauma they’ve experienced is unique. If you are a sexual abuse survivor, you may or may not experience some of the symptoms or events listed below. Seek help from a professional to discuss and work through these symptoms.
- Frequent sleep disturbances (insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, sleeping too much)
- Dissociation or losing time
- Difficulty managing emotions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, powerlessness, shame, or feeling “dirty”
- Anxiety, panic attacks, and hyper-vigilence
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts, feeling destructive
- Cutting, self injury, or self mutilation
- Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and/or compulsive overeating)
- Body image issues
- Difficulty with or avoiding relationships, automatic lack of trust of others
- Avoidance of appropriate and consensual sexual intimacy
- Addictions and compulsions (alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, spending, pornography)
- Body memories, somatic symptoms
- Poor boundaries with others (too permissive or too rigid)
- Difficulties nurturing yourself or caring for yourself appropriately
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has information and resources available via their website and helpline: www.NationalEatingDisorders.org, NEDA Helpline: 800-931-2237.
For more information: