Teen Body Image
My counselor made me realize that my ex-boyfriend was emotionally and sexually abusing me.
He'd always call me names when I'd try to break up with him. He'd force me to suck his penis and have sex with him after I told him no. I wouldn't say anything when we were doing it, though, because I was scared.
I'm disgusted at myself and it's been at least eight months. I can't forgive myself for not trying harder to say no. I worried that he would abuse me physically because he was a big dude and he scared me.
Every time I look at my body I feel disgusted. I wonder, "Why did I let that happen to me?" I was only 14 when I lost my virginity to him. I wish I could take it back so badly.
He cheated on me so many times, and he blamed me for everything he did. He said I was the one cheating on him. He made me feel afraid. Thankfully, I was only with him for six months.
When I eventually broke up with him, he ruined my life. My whole school basically hates me now and thinks I'm a whore because of the things he told them. Everyday when he'd see me in school he'd tell me to go kill myself.
I'm happy he's finally done talking about me.
I have a new boyfriend now and on January 16 we will have been together for seven months. He loves me and treats me how I deserve.
I just wish I could forgive myself for letting this all happen.
I wish I did not feel disgusted about my body.
Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
I apologize in advance for my terrible writing, but I'm like 14, y'all, and I don't even know how to say this...
I have weight issues. Serious weight issues. "So?" you ask (or I assume you do). "So do most women."
Well shut up and listen (I say lovingly). I've dabbled in quite a few self-destructive behaviors in my lifetime, but I've always been obsessed with my weight. I've starved myself for days, chewed-and-spit, and tried countless times to make myself throw up unsuccessfully (my hidden talent? I can touch my uvula without throwing up!).
I know I have no justification for this. I am not fat, or even a little overweight. But being skinny; really, truly skinny ... it's like a shining beacon of light in the distance. In all the things I deal with, this is by far the least serious (...isn't it?), but I've never told anyone and I feel like I have to.
And isn't that what The Band is for?
Quite honestly ... I'm scared. I'm scared it will never go away. That I'll forever spend my nights in front of a freaking distorted full length mirror, analyzing every single thing about my body. That I will always compare myself to every single pair of thighs I walk by, wondering if mine are fatter or skinnier, because I can't tell anymore. That I'll never stop taking videos of myself walking around and watching them over and over trying to see if my butt is too big.
I'm asking for your help here, Band. What should I do? Is this normal?
I know it's not that bad, I just can't live with it as a secret anymore. Thanks for reading this, The Band!
You're so amazing.
We've all faced a battle with our self-esteem.
This is her war:
I've never been a thin girl.
Maybe when I was little - when I wanted to run around and did not care as much about my weight - I was a lot slimmer and healthier than I am now.
My body has changed over the years and, while I know some changes are genetic, some of them are my own doing.
I hate myself for that.
I was overweight as a teen. This was apparent when I did not fit into my clothes, when I looked at the three digit numbers on the scale, when I ate and felt terrible after, and when I looked at the images of "beautiful" women and knew I wasn't beautiful.
My depression didn't make it any easier.
I'd always wish I was skinnier.
Sometimes I'd imagine that the belly fat was a baby that would go away, and I would be smaller again.
Then, I wouldn't be made fun of by the girls at school or feel awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin.
I was told to embrace the curves, even the love handles at my side, and the fact that genetics - thanks Mom! - had given me some rather large breasts.
Instead, I hid behind baggy clothes and refused to show my body in any way.
I hate swimming season because trying on suits makes me feel awful and nothing fits right.
I feel like an elephant and cannot keep the girl I have been - the one way overweight - from telling me I look terrible, no matter what I'm wearing.
I should know better but there is nothing to stop me from being irrational, running with what I have experienced rather than what I should know and how I should respond.
In 2010, I had a scare. I found out that, in a sense, I was allergic to bananas and had an attack that was a mix between an allergic reaction and full-blown, I-feel-like-I'm-going-to-die panic attack while out with a friend.
I drove home and, quite literally, had to slap myself to keep awake and calm and to know I was still breathing.
It was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.
From that point on, everything became a danger to me.
I essentially stopped eating because I could not trust anything that was food.
It was summer and, while I would eat with my family, I ate as little as I possibly could because anything else freaked me out.
I took my anti-anxiety medication more that summer and eventually ran out, which was a disaster in the end because I was so freaked out, paranoid, and scared that I couldn't deal with it.
I went back to school and, by the end of September, I'd lost 20 pounds - mostly because I wasn't eating.
I had no appetite for food and, considering my love for it before, it was sad. I went in for an appointment in October, which was when I saw that I had lost so much. I was shocked and amazed at how good I finally seemed to look.
I went to therapy and got myself sorted out with the food issues and everything else.
I went vegetarian for a long time because vegetables seemed much safer to me. In a way, it helped me open up my food palette.
I got used to eating and, eventually, allowed fruit back onto my plate with semi-regularity. I'm still iffy about it two years later.
I know I should love my body regardless.
I know what self-loathing does to a person.
I know that I should feel beautiful regardless, but it doesn't keep me from worrying.
When I'm stressed, I don't eat, which means I stay thin.
I try to get out and move but sometimes I feel it isn't enough.
I try and nothing works.
Part of me wants to be thin again but since I left the most stressful work environment I have ever known, I have gained weight.
I have fallen into comfortable normality. I'm afraid that I am getting (gasp) fat.
I want to stay motivated.
I know my boyfriend loves me. He knows I am trying.
But part of me always feels disappointed when we're together because I know I'm bigger than when we met.
I'm afraid that if I am not skinny I will not be desired by anyone, especially him.
I worry. I try. And I just hate myself sometimes.
I haven't been on a scale since March. I refuse to look at the numbers. I'm afraid.
I'm trying to love myself, but some days are harder than others.
This weekend, The Band, we're hosting a carnival of posts about Mother's Day. Before you run away gagging, hear me out: these are the kinds of Mother's Day posts I wish I'd read years ago. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggles was a pivotal point in my life. Today, we celebrate the tables forever missing one. Today we celebrate the mothers we've lost and the mothers we've found. We're celebrating the mothers we wish we'd had while acknowledging the mothers we did have.
This year, The Band, I'm proud to celebrate a carnival of Mother's Day posts from perspectives that aren't always storybook. Perspectives like mine. Perspectives like Jana's. Perspectives like yours.
Today, no matter where you are in your life, whether you're missing your own mom, happily celebrating with family, stuck at a table forever missing one, wishing desperately that you were a mother, or wishing desperately that you had a mother, know these two things: you are loved and we are none of us alone.
When I was a little girl, Mother's Day meant a day of happy celebration. For one brief day, no one would fight, hit, scream, shove, or hurt. I would wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and make my Mother breakfast in bed. Since I was the oldest and my father once destroyed a microwave attempting to make popcorn, I always ended up cooking.
Then came the touching moment: Mom would read all of her handmade cards from us kids and bawl her eyes out. Then my Dad would hand her some Hallmark card with a poem inside it. She would cry because she was so happy and give us all hugs and kisses and tell us that we were the best family anyone could ever ask for. Then we would all sit in bed with her and eat breakfast.
It was all one big, fat, American lie.
The rest of the year, that woman made it her personal mission to take every ounce of her hatred, anger, resentment, and addiction out on me any way she could.
When I was in the fifth grade, she and my father went to rehab for their alcoholism. She pulled me out of school and made me stay home for six weeks to take care of all the kids. I did all the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, and crisis control. My younger siblings were seven, four, three, and two years old. They didn't understand what was happening. They were scared, and wanted me to make it all better. My youngest sister, just starting speak, would call me 'Mommy'. I never told my mother.
My parents didn't even finish the program.
The next year I got knocked down at recess and split my chin open. My mother didn't to work - she was a stay-at-home mom - but she was too deep into a drunken stupor to pick up the phone. The principal drove me to the hospital where I had to get what seemed like hundreds of stitches in my chin. They couldn't give me Novocaine because they couldn't be sure I wasn't allergic.
After they were done, the principal had to go back to the school. He sat me down in the waiting room at 12:37 PM and told me that they had left messages at all my numbers and that my Mother would be there soon to pick me up.
My mother didn't notice that I didn't come home from school, even when my brother and sister showed up without me.
She finally came and picked me up at 5:38 PM.
I graduated from the sixth grade at the top of my class. It's summer vacation and I'm buying my first two piece bathing suit. I'd only just been allowed to shave my legs for the first time because all my friends were doing it and I didn't want to be the lone sasquatch at the lake. I felt like such a grown up because my Mom is letting me do this. She tells me I'll be a woman soon, and pride swells in my sunken chest.
We went to Wal-Mart to try on swimsuits. I found a gorgeous one that I fell in love with. It was peach, and my Mother was always telling me how that is her favorite color on me. I tried it on proudly, while secretly panicking at the lack of fabric compared to my old one. My mother checked it out, and laughed. She slaps my inner thighs and says, "Way to go sweetheart, only twelve and those thighs are already touching. We're going to have to put you on a diet, you're getting to be morbidly obese."
I refused to try on any more swimsuits; I didn't swim for two years out of shame.
I have spent the thirteen years since hiding behind shorts and tank tops when I go to the lake.
At thirteen, there was a big party happening on my sister's birthday. I had been picked up every day all year, but that day no one showed up. I called the house number from the payphone in front of the school, but it had been disconnected. They had changed it that day while I was at school, but I didn't have the new number yet. Every teacher stopped and asked if I needed a ride home. I told them very confidently that I was all set, my parents were just running late. After all, the party started at seven - they were probably just running last minute errands.
My parents didn't show up until 8:40 p.m., five hours after I got out of school.
It was October in the mountains, it had been raining all day.
I was sick for over a month and missed school because I was hospitalized.
When I was fifteen she told me that she should have had an abortion, because she wished I had never been born. That I had caused her nothing but misery.
When I was seventeen she told me that she hated me because at the age of five I had clearly seduced my father into molesting me as a child, thus ruining her marriage.
Throughout high school I worked my ass off. I was the lead soloist in the choir. I was the lead in the school play and the school musical. I took Advanced Placement courses as electives, took extra classes at home, I participated in all twelve shows that my high school put on. She never came to any of them.
Neither of my parents had gone to college, but I had a fully paid education complete with renewable scholarships. Even though we were broke, I had managed to pay for my own college without even applying for a loan. I was moving three thousand miles away, and starting a new life. I was excited beyond words.
Then my mother was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes, and had a diabetic stroke. Never mind that she got that sick because she wouldn't stop mixing her medication with alcohol. I quit college, and threw away my scholarships in order to move back home, work full-time, and support the family because neither of my parents would get a real job. That continued until I couldn't take it anymore and finally moved out of their house the day before my twenty-second birthday.
The day I left, she spit in my face and told me that as far as she was concerned, I had never existed.
I am filled with a rage I can't even express at the way my Mother parades around like she's a fucking victim. She loves to tell people how I abandoned her. Forget the fact that I basically raised her five children, including myself, that her marriage is so dysfunctional she routinely slams her head against concrete flooring as hard as she can just to stop the voice of my Father from registering in her head. Forget that she's so deep in her own addiction that she failed to notice my younger sister fall into drinking, drugs, and prostitution, at the age of fifteen. Forget that she broke two of her children's bones on separate occasions just because you were angry.
Because of her, I'm terrified to ever have children. Forget the years of therapy I've already been through, and the fact that I loved her with every piece of my being - trying to be good enough for her only to have my face smashed against a dresser, or to be thrown down a flight of stairs. After a while she stopped calling me by my name and started just referring to me as 'Bitch'. Without me she wouldn't even be alive today. Go ahead and just forget everything about me, I'll spend the rest of my life trying to do the same.
You want to tell me that I never existed?
As far as I'm concerned, neither did you.
I am completely broken.
Bold statement, I know, but hear my story and you will understand. I don't want pity, nor do I want to be saved. Understanding, though, that never hurts.
I’ve always taken a liking to academia; I was a natural scholar who skipped the first grade. I had art published in the local newspaper when I was, say, five years old? A serviceman in rainbow camo gear holding the American flag, if anyone was curious.
I’d say that was my peak.
Third grade was when the bullying started - the other kids even dedicated a song to me on the playground! How lucky, right? I was pudgy, I suppose; the fattest kid in the class, enough to be the ‘chosen one.’ I cried every single time I went shopping with my mom and sister. I begged that I'd cease to exist, ‘so no one has to worry about me’ –direct quote. This continued for years - seven to be exact.
At least you're noticed in elementary and middle school. Maybe I wasn't noticed for a good reason, but I was noticed. I played sports throughout junior high, always had a perfect GPA, I had plenty of friends, and a decent social life. But I was The Friend, not The Girlfriend. I remember during a Halloween dance, I literally begged a boy to tell me why he didn’t like me. He simply walked away and asked my best friend to be his girlfriend. I wasn't mad; I accepted it.
High school was when shit hit the fan.
My first two years of high school, I was really involved in class office. Never running for a position because I knew the prettier and thinner girls would win. It’s high school, ya know?
I accepted squeezing in wherever I was allowed to. I wasn’t bullied much, but I was ignored. Sometimes, I preferred it. Don’t get me wrong, I had great friends but I was always chasing the fun, chasing the social scene.
Sophomore year I had my first taste of alcohol and weed. I loved it. It felt great to have a secret, something behind the backs of my straight-laced, God-fearing friends. Soon, though, my friends didn’t like me. I remember sitting alone at a table in the library, my old friends at the table next to me, ignoring me. I begged them to tell me why they didn’t like me anymore; they shrugged and walked off.
I transferred schools to a dual enrollment program.
Oh, did I mention I had ballooned up to 250 pounds? Yep. My weight was largely ignored, not discussed, and accepted. But I got sick of it, so I lost the weight - worked out constantly and methodically, eating like a champion.
By the time I got to my new school, I was thirty pounds lighter and thought I was hot shit. I smoked a lot of weed, drove around in my new car with my hip friends, and smoked cigarettes. I even got my first kiss—so what if it was my best friend’s boyfriend? I got it, and I liked it.
I craved male attention and I entered into this ‘I deserve it’ mode. I thought I owed myself a treat, and boy did I get it.
December 8, 2007. Fall semester, senior year, I was golden. There was a new guy every day that wanted me; I dangled myself in front of them like a piece of meat, but I never gave an inch. Not because I didn’t want to, but I was too nervous. With about three kisses under my belt, I was CLUELESS.
But yes, back to that date. That’s when it all went to shit.
I went to the beach with a few people where we drank a lot of whiskey or rum. I remember the initial vomit hump—you know when you gotta puke once to get the ball rolling? I remember looking up to see his face, and I know, looking back, what he was doing. I hear the brain blocks on memories you can’t handle, and thank goodness for that.
I lost my cell phone and my virginity that night. I didn’t even realize it until I went back the next day, saw the condom wrapper, and pieced it together. I quickly covered it with sand so my mom wouldn’t be upset.
Oh, fun fact: in my attempt to go home, I went to a ‘friend’s’ house to ask for help—in the weeks following, I asked him about it, and he said I wanted it just as bad as he did - that I came on to him.
I figured it wasn’t worth it - that I, for some reason, didn’t deserve normalcy. So I went with it, like I went with everything. I made it out to be funny, I buried it deep and far away. I joked about myself - called myself every name in the book. I don’t even know how many people I’ve slept with since then.
Since then, I’ve had someone attempt to rape me. Since then, I’ve been molested. Since then, I’ve done shameful things I don’t even want to type, but I will. I’ve done MDMA, cocaine, crack, heroin, acid, roxies, oxies, Percocet, and more cocaine. I slept with people - multiple at one time. I’ve stolen money, I’ve stolen from stores, I’ve stolen from people I love. Since then, I have hated myself and everything, masking it with humor and cool clothes.
Then I met Zach.
Junior year of college, my first year in the dorms, I was nineteen years old. I always had a blast in college - my philosophy was "why think about bad stuff when you can think about the good?"
Zach was special - still is in my book. He had a long-term girlfriend and he hooked up with my roommate, while seeing me in between. I felt special, for so reason. Through "healing" from my rape, I learned that I could have anyone I wanted. I knew how to talk and look and walk to get what I wanted. All I needed was a kiss: one kiss in the elevator of my dormitory sealed the deal. I was in love. He made me feel pure and real; like I deserved more.
It was the first time I realized how important and delicate sex was. I learned what making love was. I no longer made fun of romantic movies or songs; I felt the scenes and I listened to the lyrics and understood. We made love and cried and it wasn’t corny or cheesy, it was real. And it was amazing. It was the first time I ever said ‘I love you’ to someone. When you experience that for the first time, it’s amazing. You feel important, you know someone is important to you.
I didn’t care about anything but playing "house" with him in my dorm. His dad hated me, my mom hated him, but it didn’t matter; we were in love and it was amazing. I’ll always miss that blissful month. I felt real for the first time in my life.
We moved in together when school let out in the spring. It got bad - screaming, crying, and covering it up with sex. I’ll leave out these details, but it was a textbook abusive relationship, on both our ends. We broke up the day before my fourth year of university started.
I’ve been numb since.
I’ve fucked many, kissed more, and drank a lot of alcohol. I feel empty. I quit going to class, and sat in my apartment for days in the dark, just smoking pot and sitting there. Sometimes, I'd sit for a few hours in complete silence, staring at nothing. I had no motivation - I couldn’t get up out of bed, I didn’t want to shower or brush my teeth or hair. I didn’t want anything in life. I didn’t want life. Every time I drove over a bridge, I struggled not to jerk my wheel just so I could breathe again.
Like I said, I am completely broken. I'm a cliche. Fat kid in desperate need of love and acceptance. Rape victim throwing caution to the wind and delving into a world of drugs and promiscuity. ‘That girl’ who can’t get over her ex. The typical depressed person who lives through every symptom you read on the internet. Smart kid desiring acceptance ends up failing classes due to active social life.
I am completely broken.
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