Tonight I am inspired by a friend’s blog. Please check it out at MY BODY…. She speaks for so many of us. It is funny because sometimes blog ideas come to me in the weirdest ways. I was going to write about something else but this is very relevant and so I am going there. “There” is what it is like being large and what it feels like to be disconnected to our body and what that means. For many survivors of sexual abuse, the only way we can deal with ourselves is to not associate with our bodies, because then we are connected to the trauma. In other words, if I do not feel the trauma, it may not be real.
I know many people who have survived sexual trauma go through a stage of did it really happen? That is what happened to me. The memory was not in place; only fragments which came to me in jagged flashbacks. One was on my first wedding night. I had no sense of the past situation in reality. I did not remember the physical confrontation. Matter of fact, much was not clear enough for me to even know if it was real. And truth be told, I am still not sure. And if you were to survey many of us, you would find that doubt is quite common. But then who would make up this shit? But too much makes sense. As I went through therapy two years ago, I started to put pieces together. And then one night I remembered the physical feeling. I remembered too much. I could smell things. Blurry images became clear. I am not sure now if it was such a good thing to relive as I was alone when it came back and I am positive I retraumatized myself. I had not learned any coping mechanisms, yet.
I do not want to focus on that. What I do want to talk about is disconnection and the impact of not loving our bodies. It is not a simple cognitive function. One who has had physical trauma, especially one based in shame like abuse, does not go “Snap, I am past this.” It can be and often is a life sentence. And why?
These are my theories: I am in firm belief that we ALL hold some form of shame when dealing with fat. It is that basic. Our society likens carrying fat as being the ultimate disgrace. Parents, teachers and other forms of early authority in our lives make sure the larger child knows that they have failed just by being fat. Nothing surpasses that. And I think that it all comes back around to the same thing; they are ashamed for us and of us. They are ashamed of our fatness. So no matter what happens we never can or will ever measure up. I think that we wear our weight as a scarlet letter because we think we deserve to be fat. I am not convinced it has totally to do with what is consumed. I think it has to do with release or not being able to release the trauma. So the weight stays and we take the punishment for what we all think we did to cause our trauma. And if you dig deep enough, you will discover that often the victim feels they caused their situation. Why me….why was I the one, what did I do to deserve this? It is a tape running in our heads that few can ignore.
This is where it becomes interesting, and it is my theory. But I think my studies will hold up to a lot of what I am going to say. We as children do a couple things to survive. We over achieve because we have to prove that being fat is not who we are. And then, we disassociate with the cause of all our pain. We disconnect from our body.
So over achieving…. This is me. I always danced too hard. I would dance around people doing my “what can I do to please you because if I please you, you may like me and I do need to be accepted.” Dance. I danced it for years and I still do. But now I get pissed sooner. I danced it for my family, my mother and father and then for my ex. Silly thing is that all it did was make me vulnerable and more of a victim. But in my defense, I have four degrees, all Summa Cum Laude. I have three professional certifications, two teaching licenses and a plethora of awards and accolades. And I still feel insignificant. Very much so, especially where I work. The need to be the best and most was always so important to me. And this was my original topic for tonight. When do we stop caring so much what other people think about us? Do we ever stop? Does it matter? Really?
The answer is a big fat no. (((smile))) But I have not convinced myself of this, physically and only slightly mentally. The only thing that this type of stress will do for you is make you sick. If you want to do something, do it for yourself…..ah…..here comes the second part.
So doing something for yourself means you have to feel ….oh no….feel…not feel….anything but needing to feel. That is the issue. When you relate to trauma by disassociating, you cannot feel. And now it where it comes to the heart of the matter. Again, my theory, but the more I read the more I think that this is being substantiated.
Nonetheless, the medical model persists. It (arguably) functions fairly effectively with diseases like diabetes and cancer, where the doctor holds all of the knowledge and dictates the necessary interventions for a sick patient. This is not, however, a useful paradigm for trauma healing. Rather than being a disease in the classical sense, trauma is instead a profound experience of “dis-ease” or “dis-order.”
Levine PhD, Peter A. (2012-10-30). In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (p. 34). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.
You can talk your way through trauma with all sorts of processes and mind games. But it is a big waste of time. Thinking is not going to help. Feeling is. If you feel what? I have written before about feeling safe. This is what is needed to heal. You must be in a safe environment. There can be no predators; you must have comfort and no fear. If you do not feel safe, it is impossible to heal. Then, look at what society does to the large person. It is impossible to feel safe when people give you horrid judgmental looks for just existing. And why do they do that? Because you are fat. You don’t want to be fat, so you disassociate from your body. And if you disassociate, you do not feel. And if you do not feel, how can you know if you are safe. Round and a round.
Here is another explanation. I have always been big. Shapely, but most standards, larger than my peers…except my one dear girlfriend who was 6 feet tall by 6th grade. Funny, she could have modeled as she was gorgeous and well developed. But instead, her life dissolved into depression and self-loathing and at 41 she killed herself. (I am so angry about this, btw) I never thought about my body stopping me from sports and so I did them. It never stopped me from anything actually because there was nothing wrong with me. I wanted to dance, so I took dance classes in college and got straight A’s. What I saw in the mirror was not, I guess, what other’s saw. I saw nothing. And the reason was I had disassociated from my body many years before, possibly as an infant but definitely as a young child. The pain and shame about my body came from my family, especially from my mother who was totally disgusted by me. She never held back. I think back and truly I feel so sorry for her angst and shame about me, because she missed such a great opportunity to love me. She made only one comment about her remorse when she was actually on her deathbed and that is why I feel sorry for her. But when I was with friends it was not important. Many of my friends when they make a harsh comment about someone being fat and I corrected them, they would say, “oh we do not think of you as being fat.”
I did not feel. Without going into depth, I did not feel much of anything and had lived that way for so long that when I did feel something, I had to either get drunk or high. Now, there is no denying that drinking massive amounts of alcohol led me to put on significant weight. But I never felt it.
Then, because of the therapy, I began to feel. I equate it to this story. There is a Lakota Chief sitting on hill with a white man. The white man asks the Chief what he is gawking at and the Chief replies, a buffalo. The white man sees nothing in the field except grass everywhere. There is no buffalo. But they continue to sit in quiet for a long time. Finally the white man cannot contain himself and asks the chief again. He turns to look at the chief who smiles and points again to the field. As the white man gazes back at the field, he suddenly is aware of the buffalo that must have been there the whole time. The white man is amazed. The Chief does not turn towards the white man, but just says in a calm manner, “The buffalo allowed you to see him.”
(paraphrased from Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn)
When we disassociate with our bodies, we do not see what others do. And then when they make comments, it is hurtful. There is no way anyone can make a comment about weight to a large person without judgment and not inflict shame. I do not care what the intent. You would never go up to someone who has lost their hair and tell them they should buy a wig. At least I hope you wouldn’t. But few hold back about giving advice on how to lose weight. It is like saying, you are not acceptable as you are and this is what you should do. So if we disassociate with our body, it is not hiding, it is survival. If you are perfect, you would not understand how painful this is. AND…it perpetuates the feeling of not being good enough and then without meaning to be, you become a victim all over again. If you do sooth by eating, no one should point a finger. We all have some form of self soothing like TV, Booze, cigarettes and sex. Guess what, running and excessive exercise can also be a form of self soothing. But we would never say to someone who is addicted to running, geeze, you really need to withhold doing that. We never say to someone who is so gaunt from dieting how emaciated they look, how pale, and boney. We say, “oh, have you lost weight, you clever thing?”
This is getting quite long. I am in the process of reading… I am always reading….more about the physical connection to trauma and healing. I am on a quest, a seeker of sorts, for finding different methodologies of healing. I am totally convinced that it has to be somatic healing. Body and mind and spirit. For my fellow bloggers who have connected, I hope that you will share and keep sharing your thoughts on this.
But for tonight, for Pat especially, give yourself a break. And then give yourself a big hug. We need to get back in touch (no pun intended) to the physical self and not loath it. I know that is very hard as I have my own super big issue (no pun again) about accepting my body, especially now with the horrible Psoriatic Arthritis flaring. But I am also convinced that those two things are connected. I just need to relax and get back to healing exercises. (and not exercises in puff n grunt manner) I need to focus and work on my healing modalities that have worked in the past.
And in offering of hope, I think that this is the key to weight loss. The release…. All in the release. I am still too strung up about things in my life. I am bull rider when it comes to stress. I hop on and allow it to toss me freely inflicting havoc on everything. But I will explain more in future blogs.