Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Lies Beneath (Part 2)

This is me at about age 5 when I was in foster care.

If you read my previous blog, What Lies Beneath (Part 1), then you know that I ended it with a bit of an epiphany. I realized that food makes me feel safe. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to change that, but my plan is to start with some journaling. I have no reason now to ever feel that I'm not safe. So, I need to work on reminding myself daily that I am safe, I am always provided for, and I have people in my life I can trust and depend on. I have to release that fear. It serves no purpose in my life except to hold me back.

So fear of doing without was the first of the issues that lie beneath my eating issues. What's next? This part will require me to discuss my adoptive family a bit. For the background on that you can read part one of this blog series. As I stated previously, my adoptive parents were not good people. Although they did have everyone outside our home fooled. They play a huge part in my eating issues as I will explain in this blog and the next.

When I first went to live with this family I thought I'd landed in heaven. I'd never had a room of my own, toys of my own, or any kind of real one-on-one attention from my parents. But I had all of that and more in this new family. We went out to eat, they bought me beautiful dresses and clothes, we went on vacation, I had more dolls than I knew what to do with. They read me stories and watched cartoons with me. There was a swing set in the back yard and dogs to play with. It sounds like an ideal childhood. But if you looked beneath the surface things started to go wrong from the very beginning. I was just too young and had seen too much violence to recognize the subtle things going on around me.

One thing I had carried with me from my biological family was a fear of men...especially men that drank alcohol. Now, you would think that after all I'd been through and the fears I had, and the fact that I put up a wall between myself and others at the tender age of 6 that my new parents might have followed the advice of my case workers and gotten me some counseling. But, alas, they did not. They figured if any real issues arose they'd deal with them as they came. The problem was, they saw my issues from the beginning and never did get me any outside help. In fact when they realized I had a fear of men who were drinking, they decided to use their own version of psychology to deal with it. You see my new father would come home after work, grab a beer, and sit and drink it while my mother made dinner. They realized that each time he cracked open a beer, I ran and hid in my room with the door closed. Their solution? Make me get the beer and sit on my father's lap while he drank it to prove to me that there was nothing to be afraid of. As a child I knew no better than to obey. As an adult it makes my skin crawl that they used such a mean and forceful way to "get me over it."

I would come to learn as I grew older that control and force were my parents way of handling everything. I was on a very tight leash the entire time I lived with my adoptive family. I was rarely allowed to play outside with the neighborhood children...especially as I got older. I only remember being allowed to go on three sleepovers ever. And I think I only ever had about 3 sleepovers at my house. The rules were just too strict, and it wasn't any fun, no one ever wanted to come back, so I gave up trying. While my friends were hanging out together, talking on the phone, and going to the mall I was home doing chores and taking care of my brother. My parents controlled every aspect of my life. I had little or no say in the simplest of things. I wasn't even really allowed any say in the kind of clothes I wore. My mother would pick my clothes for me...even into my teens. I never understood why they were so controlling until I was an adult. I'll explain that in a moment.

The one thing I could control to a certain degree was food. I could control what I ate and how much. My mother of course determined what we would have for family meals. But I had free reign over snacks. As a latch key kid, I could come home from school and eat whatever I wanted. Our mother kept the kitchen stocked with chips, cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, and more. And we were free to have whatever we wanted. So I did. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And meal times were similar. My mother would make more than enough for a meal and we were not only encouraged to clean our plate, but urged to get seconds. So I almost always did. I could control how much I ate, so I ate as much as I could. These habits of mine went right along with my first issue of fearing a lack of food.

So now, not only did I eat to make sure I didn't go without, but I was eating in order to have control over some part of my life.

I said I'd explain why my parents were so controlling. At least this is the only reason I can come up with. As a child I was told very little about my biological family. All I had was what I remembered as a small child. And a tidbit or two thrown in by my father who liked to hurt me with information such as my mother being a "party girl" and my father molesting my little sister. He followed up that last little bit of information by telling me that they suspected that he had done it to me too, but were never able to prove it. This ugly revelation from him came on a day that I had been fighting to keep his nasty hands off of me. But that is an issue for my next blog. The point is, information was not very forthcoming from my adoptive parents.

But as an adult I have learned so much more. I've been back in touch with all but 2 of my siblings, my mother, and some aunts,uncles, and cousins. I've gained a lot of information from my siblings. One of my sisters told me first hand accounts of things that happened. Another gave me information she had found in adoption papers that we were never supposed to see. As it turns out, because of what our biological father had done to us girls, the counselors that handled our cases told our parents what they could expect. It seems they were warned that we would be 1.) pathological liars, 2.)promiscuous, 3.) we would seduce older men, 4.) we'd most likely abuse drugs and/or alcohol, 5.) prostitution was a very likely path for us to take, 6.) we would probably run away, 7.) given all of these other things we would most likely be teen mothers. And with all that looming my my future my parents didn't think I needed counseling!! (*That was my sarcastic voice by the way.)

No, counseling would not be necessary, because my parents would instead choose to control every tiny aspect of my life to avoid having me follow these paths. What they didn't get was that I was a very intelligent little girl. I knew when I was 5 that drugs and alcohol were not safe. I was more than protective of my own body, and very modest. I was never tempted by drugs, alcohol, or sex growing up. I had seen what could happen to a family when everything went wrong. I was determined to save myself for my husband. I was determined to never be an alcoholic or a drug addict. What I was not able to see was that instead of being addicted to drugs or alcohol or sex to mask what I was feeling, I had become addicted to food. Food was my drug of choice. Food was the drug readily available to me and pushed upon me by my parents. And it's an addiction I've had for more than 30 years now.

Safety and control....two things food gave me in a severely messed up and painful childhood. Safety and control mixed with guilt and shame over my weight. People hear my story and are amazed at what a "normal" person I am. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am as messed up as any drug, alcohol, or sex addict. But no one recognizes it because my drug is a necessity of life. My drug is food. Sadly, there is a part 3 to this series. Another layer of what lies beneath my eating and weight issues. But I am determined to overcome all of this! I am determined to be healthy not only physically but psychologically as well. What was it they used to say at the end of all the G.I. Joe cartoons? "Now you know. And knowing is half the battle!" So, if I know what my issues are then my battle is already half won!


Julie G said...

Brave, intelligent Lady. You will Own this, it doesn't own YOU.

Your over-protective husband said...

I love you!

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