My Struggle

There are 17 days left until I walk down an aisle and vow before the LORD and all my friends and family that Jeremy is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.  We just recently got our Engagement Photos back.  They are beautifully done.  Steve does amazing work.  I would love them completely if I weren’t in them.  I can’t stand to look at myself.  And I knew this was becoming a problem as I debated on simply starving myself for the next 17 days, or eating and just throwing it all up.  I have never done either before, and it shocked me that I considered doing it now.

There are many reasons for this.  And every last one of them is Fear of Man issues.  The people who are around me all the time already know what I look like.  But there are going to be people at the wedding who have never met me before.  There are people on Facebook who I know decades ago, and that I haven’t seen since.  I fear the judgment.  I am embarrassed by the common assumptions.  And to be perfectly honest I completely hate how I look.  I am ashamed of it, even though I know Jesus took that shame away from me.

I was never the skinny girl growing up.  But neither was I fat.  I simply had curves.  I generally fit into a size 12 or 14 as I grew up.  Then once I was out of school I actually got into the best shape I had ever been in and fit into a size 8.  I was a size 8 when I met Jay.  I can’t tell you if I felt healthier than ever or more beautiful, because I honestly don’t remember.

I ran in to some of the girls from my swim team a short time into what happened to me.  I had put on a good amount of weight by then.  I remember the looks I got.  I know what looks I get now.  I don’t like those looks.  And I really hate the assumptions people make when they see anyone over weight.  I am not trying to justify how I look.  I am trying to work through it.  And hopefully, maybe, somewhere along this path I might give comfort to someone else who knows what this feels like.  Even if it isn’t the same situation; the end resulting feelings are the same.

What I am about to talk about is very honest, raw, and might make some people uncomfortable.  So I will write it in italics, so if you are unable to read it all…you can scroll down to find the place where I stop talking about what happened to me.

In 2001 I was with a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.  He was sweet, caring, and understood me, even my hard to understand parts.  That year my appendix ruptured, and I spent several days in the hospital.  When they released me they advised me against having sex for a week due to the surgery, and the fact that I had a lot of my innards moved around.  Jay lasted three days; he was used to us having sex one, sometimes two, times a day.  He begged me to at least try, that I wouldn’t know if it would actually hurt until I tried.  That if I truly loved him I would try.  He promised he would stop if I told him it hurt.  I believed him.  So we tried to have sex.  I told him to stop because it hurt.  He didn’t.  I begged him to stop; he said it wouldn’t take much longer.  He raped me that night, rolled over, and went to sleep.  I cried most of that night, lying on my side.  In the morning he apologized, and promised nothing like that would happen again.  I believed him; after all I wasn’t planning on having any more abdomen surgery so this wouldn’t be an issue again.

That Sunday I was a passenger in my mom’s car when she came to visit.  She made a left turn and a car plowed into my side of the car.  I was the only one injured.  My kneecap was crushed, and I pinched three nerves in my lower back.  I couldn’t walk.  I was in so much pain.  I didn’t want to move at all.  Needless to say the last thing I wanted to do was have sex.  Not only was I not in the mood from being so physically injured, the pain that sex would cause was undeniable.  Jay, again, lasted only 3 days.  I can’t tell you how many times he raped me.  I can’t tell you how many times I was sexually assaulted in various ways.  He made me cyber with guys on the computer to ‘help get me in the mood’.

It lasted for six months.  For six months I was raped, abused, tormented, and tortured.  All by the man who helped me bathe because I couldn’t do it myself.  By the man who took me to all my doctors appointments because I had no one else.  The man who picked up my prescriptions.  My physical therapist couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better.  It took me six months before I was strong enough to tell him to stop.

A month in I knew it wouldn’t stop.  So I did the only thing I could, I gained weight.  Food was the only aspect of my life I had control over.  He had to help me with everything else.  So I ate.  I was unable to walk or move so gaining weight was easy.  I thought if I made myself big enough, unattractive enough, he would leave me alone.  It also helped me look on the outside as I felt on the inside.  Worthless, ugly, disgusting, and completely unlovable.  If I couldn’t stand to look at me, how could he?

After I escaped that relationship I was completely broken.  I was a robot, void of soul and emotions.  I did what I was supposed to to pay rent.  I went through the motions, but I wasn’t at all in my body for five years.  In those five years I didn’t want anyone near me.  I didn’t want anyone touching me. I didn’t want anyone close to me.  The weight seemed to do that.  People looked at me differently.  They kept their distance.  So I didn’t try to correct this problem, I made it worse.  If I couldn’t stand to be in my own skin, how could anyone else stand to be near my skin?

Five years later I was brutally woken up when a strange man touched me.  I had a complete melt down that involved scratching most of the skin off my arm where I was touched.  I finally had to tell someone what had happened to me.  No one knew.  Not my mother.  Not my father.  Not my best friend.  Granted I lost most of my friends due to the fact for the last six years I secluded myself away into my own little world where people on the outside simply didn’t exist.

I saw a rape counselor.  I went to group sessions.  I learned that I would always feel broken.  That my soul would always be shredded.  That he stole something from me that I would never get back.  I believed all of this because that is exactly how I felt.  Despite trying to get better mentally and emotionally … I kept the weight on.  Despite having a membership to a gym and access to a pool.  I didn’t want to lose the weight.  By that time it was my security blanket.  It kept people at bay.  No one could hurt me again; no man would rape me again, as long as I continued to look as I looked.  I was safe.  No one would get close to someone who looked like me.

This lasted a year before I went to Massage School.  I wanted to learn how to touch people again, and to be touched again.  It was impossibly hard for me to go through.  I never told anyone at the school how I wanted to vomit every time someone touched me.  I don’t think anyone could understand how it made me feel powerful that I could touch something and elicit a response … even if it was simply relaxing … and not have to give any response of my own.  I learned how not to engage in touch, how to keep my bubble up.  Massage School taught me how to be a wonderful massage therapist…but I warped some of that teaching into how to further keep me emotionally separated from my body.

I told myself, then, that I was ready to lose weight. I was ready to shed this shell of protection.  But the truth is … I wasn’t.  I didn’t want intimacy. I didn’t want people close to me.  I used their judgments and their looks as weapons, reasons, to keep myself locked away from all the hurt people cause.  I wanted physical touch, but I didn’t want to feel anything about it. I didn’t want it to mean anything.  And I found a comfortable way, a known way, to do that.  My lifestyle fit my needs perfectly.

Then along came a man who turned my world upside down.  Somehow he managed to become more important than my fears, more important than my doubts, and more important than my self-loathing.  My desire to know Jeremy came with a twist I didn’t expect.  Jeremy introduced me to Jesus.  Everything changed.  Everything is still changing.  Some things I still struggle with.  My weight is one of them.

For the first time I wanted to connect with someone on an emotional, intimate level.  I began to earnestly want to lose weight.  Life has a way of interrupting that.  I got cancer.  Then after I got cancer I injured myself at work in a way that left me unable to walk for 2 years.  An injury I am still dealing with and one that has left me with only the pool to work out in.  Needless to say up until recently I haven’t been able to lose weight.  I did have a lot of time to get to know the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Now Jeremy and I are getting married, and I haven’t lost the weight I wanted to.  I am nowhere near the size 8 I was before what happened.  I still can’t stand to look at myself.  I am terrified of what people will think.  I am embarrassed by the judgmental looks I get when we go out.  I hate my body.  Steve took beautiful pictures of us.  Pictures of my future husband and myself; and I can’t even stand to look at myself.  I want to stab the part with me, scratch out my face, and just keep the part with Jeremy.

I am struggling, bad, with seeing myself as God sees me, as His daughter.  My wedding dress is beautiful, but I cry because of the size.  I cry because people will see the fat shape I morphed myself into to keep me safe.  How can anyone see me, when I can’t even see myself in my reflection?

I know this is my own pride and vanity.  I know it is my own sin.  I am praying and begging the Holy Spirit for help in this.  Because I know I can’t change how I see myself on my own.  I try to repent by telling myself how God sees me.  But I only feel stupid in saying it.  I feel like I am lying to myself, which I know is a lie.  But this doesn’t make it any easier.  I want to be able to look at those beautiful pictures and not want to cry.  I want to be able to look at my wedding photos and not feel horrific shame at how I look.  I want to feel only love and excitement over those pictures.  But I don’t know how to get there.

I need help.  I need prayer.  I am not sure if anyone around me realizes how deeply this goes.  How strongly it affects me.  It is a big deal to me.  I don’t want to get an eating disorder.  I don’t want to break every mirror I come across.  I don’t want to burn my beautiful engagement photos or my wedding photos.  I am struggling, bad.  And I hate writing all of this.  I want to be able to say I am comfortable and confident in my skin.  But I am not.  I am disgusted and ashamed.

I know I am going to the pool, and I am losing weight.  I know it will happen eventually.  But I don’t want my self-image to depend on my weight.  I don’t want to teach that to my children.  I don’t want to feel like this between now and then.  And I don’t want to hate my wedding day because everyone is looking at me … seeing me … and all my fat.

So please, pray for me, over these next 17 days.  I really need help for the Holy Spirit to really dig out these lies, to pluck out my own eyes so I can see myself with God’s eyes.  I know it will probably take more than 17 days; but maybe it will be a little less severe.  Our LORD can do miracles.  I just … I need a lot of help, encouragement, and support.  And rather than hiding this as I normally do … I am taking the chance of exposing myself.  May it help you, as much as it will help me.  I know all women have body image issues.

LORD, Abba Father, Brother Jesus, Holy Ghost … please help me.