There are a few reasons why I am rarely in the picture...for one, I am always behind the camera, it seems. (Which I am perfectly okay with, by the way!) Mommy is always the one getting all the cute pictures, and I am comfortable staying in the background, behind the scenes. I like being invisible. It's my security blanket, in a way. I don't want to be in photos and have anyone see me the way I see myself.
The other reason I am absent is because, well, I don't like the way I look. I never have, to be completely honest. My self-esteem is basically non-existent, and it's something that is improving bit by bit, but I am still not there yet. I am 31 years old, though, and it's time to take charge of my life and stop allowing feelings about the past to dictate how I feel about myself. I deserve it, and more importantly, my daughter deserves it. I want to be a better example for HER so she never has to feel the way I have felt about myself.
I had a completely crappy childhood. I won't get into too much detail, but I will say that I never had a strong, healthy role model to look up to while growing up. Our home was broken, my parents, while I think they tried their best, were not really "there" like they needed to be due to their own personal issues. And when they were there, they weren't very loving, supportive or nurturing, and they certainly didn't help me develop a healthy sense of self-worth.
I am not angry about this now, but it has taught me how not to be with my own kids. For that, I am incredibly grateful, actually. I think that my train wreck of a childhood has made me a better Mom. I believe in discipline that is not physical...I believe in hugs and kisses and "I love you's" everyday. I am that Mom that will go to the school and be a Room Mother, who will show up at concerts and sports games, and I am also that Mom that is determined to protect my kids, physically as well as emotionally. My teen does not run around the neighborhood with God-knows-who doing God-knows-what...He does not watch movies full of sex, drugs, and violence. Hell, he doesn't even have a Facebook, even though kids much younger than him do.
I also know to never, ever make my children feel like they're not "good enough". This is something that I am still struggling with personally, because my entire life, up until the last 7 years or so, I never made the cut. I was always too fat...too ugly...didn't wear the right clothes...I wasn't perfect. And people made sure to point it out, too. "Oh Brandy...It's such a shame you're built that way. Your cousins are so slim and petite." or , more notably, on homecoming day, after spending hours getting ready. "Brandy, you look like a fat hooker." (Mind you, I was 14, and wore a size 9 in Juniors. And my dress was not risque.) These comments stung, and they still affect me now.
Growing up was not easy. I never felt loved. So I did what any stupid, headstrong kid would do when they wanted to get out of an incredibly toxic environment....(note sarcasm, please) I got married. Way too young, and to a man who was incredibly abusive for several years. So I traded one environment that was horrible for another. I was beaten physically, verbally, emotionally...I was literally "brain-washed" for lack of a better word, by a man who wanted nothing more than to control me. I couldn't have friends, male or female, because it meant I would be a whore. I couldn't be close to my family, because he convinced me that they didn't love me, either. If I got a job, I had to hand my pay over, and had no access to finances, because "women can't manage money". (Guess who manages the money in my home NOW?!) My in-laws were just as toxic and demented as my ex, so it really did feel like I was in another universe. In this world, I was worthless...And I was told everyday.
Finally, after having a child with this man, something hit me. It was a light-bulb moment of sorts. I finally realized that none of this was normal. It wasn't how life was supposed to be. Women aren't just objects...Women are not meant to be put down and belittled constantly...Having a gun pointed at me was not a common thing that gals chat about over coffee. It wasn't normal to be denied basic medical and dental care because nobody wanted the signs of abuse to show. Luckily, one of my in-laws is a physician, so if actual illness struck, we got medicine. But my life existed only to wallow in my own sense of worthlessness and to please a man who took pleasure in hurting me. And when my son, the only beautiful, good thing that ever came out of that marriage, was about 3 years old and witnessed me almost being killed, it hit me: None of this was normal.
It took a few years of planning and rediscovering myself to be strong enough to get out for good. In this time, I got a job and KEPT my money, I started actually standing up for myself, and I finally shed the subservient woman suit. I made friends, and I spent time with those friends. I defied the man who I had spent years living in absolute terror of, and while it didn't always have pleasant consequences, it was worth it.
Fast forward to now. I am 31 years old. I am remarried to a wonderful man who never mistreats me. Shoot, we can argue and he won't even call me any names. I have known Dan since I was 13. He was actually my first "real" boyfriend back in the day, so it's funny that I am with him now after so many years. He actually tracked me down on MySpace, back when people actually used it, and the rest, as they say, is history. A strong friendship grew into the kind of love most people spend their whole lives searching for. He is my best friend in every way, and I am so grateful to be his wife. We have been married for almost 5 years, and we have added 2 more kids to our family.
My teen is growing up to be a kind, compassionate, and bright young man. He gets along amazingly with his step-dad, and is a fantastic big brother. I have hope that the cycle will be broken and he will never be the man that his father was. He still remembers a lot of things from his early childhood that I wish he didn't. He asks me questions like "Mom, do you remember the time that Dad was choking you and the dog bit him so he stopped?" Kyle was only 3....Hearing him recall these things in vivid memory, 10 years later, breaks my heart. But he knows that everything I have ever done has been for HIM, and he knows that he is loved more than anything in the whole world. I would die to protect him, and truthfully, I almost have.
So what's the problem? I have the "fairy tale ending", so to speak. I have a marriage that I am incredibly happy in, and I know that there really are good men left in the world. I have the most amazing kids. My teen is a wonderful young man, and we were blessed with our toddlers, Sophie and Xander, after years of trying to conceive. They're only 12 months apart, so I was pregnant for almost 2 straight years. I own my own home, drive a Mercedes that is paid for, and I get to work from home and be present in my children's lives. So what could possibly be wrong?
Well, although I have come a long, long way in the past several years, my image of myself has not come full circle. I have to admit, I struggle. I still have issues stemming both from childhood as well as my abusive first marriage. I don't like looking in the mirror, and I am incredibly critical of myself.
I still have a very hard time meeting new people and reaching out to others. I am afraid of being hurt, so no one gets too close. I always feel like the odd man out, and I always worry that I am being judged before anyone gets to know me because I am not pretty enough. So I am not very outgoing, and I never want to call and "bug" people. I almost don't know how to reach out to others in that way, because it was deprived for so long.
Pretty silly, huh? Rationally, I get that I am being ridiculous. But it's still a lingering feeling that I am trying to shake. The past 6 months or so have really helped. I have gone on 3 different blogging trips, all by myself, and this was stepping WAY out of my comfort zone. I was around people I don't know, and while I was probably a bit awkward and shy, I survived. And even had a great time. So hopefully, my social anxiety is something I can continue to work on.
I have done stupid things to try and meet society's mold of beauty, and I am ashamed to admit, I have done things both stupid and horribly dangerous to try and feel "good enough". For years, I was bulimic. I would binge and purge sometimes 15 times a day. I went from my all time high weight of around 185lbs and a size 16 to 123lbs and a size 6. All in a very short period of time.
Living with an eating disorder is hard. At first, you deceive yourself into thinking that it's something you have control over. This control is key, because it makes you feel validated in a sense. At first, control is there...But as the pounds start falling off and people start noticing your changing shape, it becomes an obsession. A very dangerous obsession. I remember weighing myself literally 20+ times a day. After waking up, after using the restroom...Even after drinking water. If the number on the scale budged even an ounce in the wrong direction, I felt gross, dirty, and felt the urge to purge. It became a never-ending cycle. Soon, it seemed that no matter how much weight I lost, it was never enough. I was always finding someone prettier or thinner to compare myself to. And rather than feel good about myself, I started feeling more worthless than ever.
To this day, I don't know how it all happened. I was never bulimic when I was with my ex...I think maybe subconsciously, I somehow felt that I wasn't good enough to deserve a man who treats me well. So I was trying to make myself "perfect", when he was telling me all along that he loves me just the way I am.
Thankfully, I have been in recovery for quite some time now. The urges and thought processes are still there, but I can usually squash them by something as simple as looking at my kids. They deserve a mom who is healthy and confident, and I cannot keep doing something that could kill me, depriving them of a mother who loves them more than life itself.
Since I have stopped the binge and purge cycle, I have gained about 20lbs back. I now weigh around 145. And wear a size 9. Which no, is not huge by any means, but I would still like to lose weight, firm up, and get healthy. I want to be a good example for my kids, my little girl especially, and I want to go about doing things the right way.
Not only does my body need to be trained, so does my brain. I have come a long way on my own, but could really use some support and guidance. I need a community to help me hold myself accountable and be REAL with myself.
That's why I am hoping to become a part of the Mamavation community. This is a community full of strong, supportive women with the same goals in mind: to get healthy. I don't really know too many people where I live, so this online support system sounds amazing, and like exactly what I need to get on the right track. I want to be accountable for myself, and I want to be able to be a personal cheerleader for other ladies who might need a shoulder to cry on.
I have laid everything out there, poured my heart out, and shared things I simply don't talk about...It's time for a change. It's time to get healthy, form real relationships with others, and gain some much needed confidence. I think the folks at Mamavation can help with that.