*Disclaimer, this was written a while ago.
I can’t remember how old I was exactly. But I know I was young.
A small booklet arrived with the daily post and was placed in the fruit-bowl by one of my family members. During breakfast, I picked it up and was looking through it, my stepfather entered and pulled on the corner of it. After turning a few pages, he said, ‘you see if I were a girl, I would aspire to be a size 10.’ He then pushed it back toward me and walked away laughing.
I closed the brochure and left the kitchen, heading upstairs to cry. I was never a fat child, I was a part of the sprint team, netball, and running and even swimming. But that moment was to change my life forever.
I remember sitting in my cupboard and placing the earphones in my ears, skipping to track 10 of Rainbow by Mariah Carey and playing it over and over again. ‘…still, I cry, I cry, I cry…’ And that’s all I did, was cry. Not for the true meaning of the song but because my stepfather had just killed any confidence I had.
From then onwards, more and more comments came along and more, and more people joined in:
‘Sorry, I can’t stop staring at your ass, it’s so big.’ – Cousin
‘Look how big your thighs are, ha-ha they’re huge.’ – Aunt (Mother of a cousin)
‘Don’t you think you should join a gym, you look like Fatso from Casper.’ – Grandmother
‘You should stick to salad.’ – Grandmother.
‘Can’t you see how fat you’re getting, you look disgusting.’ – Grandmother
I began to eat more food. I stopped running, swimming, and I tried my best to avoid family gatherings. One of which was my Grandmothers birthday. It was held at a Chinese buffet restaurant. I was so ashamed of my body image that I wore; very long and extra wide black trousers, oversized black t-shirt and a long black cardigan. (Surely, weight gain was gradual but visible.) My Grandmother arrived in a short white dress that had a fluffy rabbits tale on the rear and the Playboy bunny logo on the side. To complement her dress, she wore glass slippers, that had feathers on the toe and white feathered bow around her neck. As she walked past everyone, she paused and said to me, ‘what? Are you jealous?’ I turned my head and continued to eat my broccoli and Chinese chicken curry.
Scenarios similar to that one continued, and for many years, I was forced to endure this. I often wished I could find a large amount of money and have surgery. I longed for one of these people to compliment me. I stopped going out with friends, I stopped making new friends. I found refuge in the thriller section of the school library. With a few bottles of fizzy pop (soda,) bags of sweets, packets of chocolates and often a muffin or two.
Key members of my family made me feel irrelevant. I often dreamt of a life without me being here. I often dreamt of having a stepfather that supported me like his own, a grandmother that loved me for an extended family that didn’t have an invested interest in my waistline and me.
Infrequently, I would vividly dream about my own death. How they would celebrate at my funeral with ample amounts of food and drink. Irony.
Because of the negative connotations surrounding my body, I had no confidence. Whenever people visited the house, I raced upstairs to my bedroom. During the summer, I avoided going outside…unless I had to.
Because of this mental abuse (which is precisely what it was), I grew up believing that I would never love or be loved. I grew up with a belief embedded in my mind that I was indeed ugly and unlovable.
As a child growing up surrounded by key members in your life, many are telling you that you’re fat and ugly. It is tough to differentiate what is the reality and what is their deluded viewpoint. As a teenager, I struggled immensely when boys showed even the slightest bit of interest, I walked away. I became a recluse, spent endless hours upon hours just daydreaming about a new life, a new body, a new look, a whole new family – well, stepfather, cousins, aunties, uncles, and Grandmother. Not much, I guess.
Today, I no longer speak to those members of my family. The last time I saw my Grandmother was last year on her birthday. She called out to me, I looked at her and continued on my way. I can’t bring myself talk to her anymore, and now that I’m older, I simply don’t have to.
Everyone should realise that abuse isn’t just of a physical nature. Mental abuse cuts just as deep, and the blows can leave an individual unconscious for a lifetime.
Fortunately, I woke up.