My Mother Was an Eating Disorder

Besides being a mother-daughter sexual abuser, my mother was an eating disorder. As a baby she would sometimes  refuse to feed me. She would stop me before I got enough food. 

Later she would give me soured milk in my bottle and then take it away when I wouldn’t drink it and say, you don’t drink it, you get nothing, like it was my choice not to have food. No one else was there to notice or to stop her. I knew. I remembered. My body remembered. I was underweight. I was underweight all my childhood.

As a toddler she would take away my naptime bottle from me and give it to my brother. She would offer me food if I would sit or lay still while she abused me or if I would do whatever she instructed me to do when she was sexually abusing me. I abhorred what she wanted to do to me.

As a pre-schooler she would deprive me of food. Any time there were family members I would get food. I could have breakfast each morning. Whether or not I could keep it in my stomach was another matter.

I hated being touched by her. I hated everything about her body. I hated her with a passion. I remember being three and four years old and being consumed with wanting to beat her to death with my bare hands. She would make me vomit up breakfast if she did not think I was cooperating, or sometimes even when I did everything she asked when she was enraged as revenge against some imagined slight or wound, and then she would refuse to give me lunch. The evening meal was often the only meal that I had.

At times I was so gnawingly starved that I did not fight her. Sometimes I did not have the energy to do it. She was huge and powerful. Or I did not have the will to do it. I was tiny and powerless. Or I did not have the mind focus to hide from her or to avoid her or to become invisible right after all the family members left the house and she would catch me. I was a pre-schooler. I was a little child.

At no time have I ever blamed myself for being sexually abused by my mother, not to me, not to us. Some of us inside our multiple system have blamed and some still do blame themselves for not being loved by her, for not being nurtured and cared for by her, for not being protected and fed by her, and for being physically, emotionally, verbally, and sexually abused by her. She constantly blamed us. It was inevitable that her words would become our own inner critic voice, word for word.

Weekends were good. I had witnesses. I am so thankful to my father and family members for being there. I am thankful to them that they were not keeping food from me and I believe that they would not have cooperated with that if they had known. Everyone expected food. Food was a big part of our family life. It was a joy that we all took part in.

She was the person to dish out the food for each person at our table, for every meal. She controlled food in my life, completely.

I cannot express the joy at getting out of that house and going to school at age five. I could eat three meals a day. I was ecstatic. I wasn’t being raped. I wasn’t being beaten. I wasn’t being starved. It was a safe haven. And I was learning. Knowledge, my new obsession.

As a teenager she tried to make me fat. I was deathly afraid of being fat and cruel like her since I was very tiny. I had gained about twenty pounds around age fourteen as I was developing. I stopped eating treats, started running and doing exercises every evening and she went breserk.

She confronted me alone and threatened me. She said I would eat everything she gave me in my lunchbag or else I would regret it. She was hysterical about it all. I told her I wouldn’t and there would be nothing she could do about it and from now on I wouldn’t give it away to anyone else on the bus for my brothers to see and rat me out to her, so she would never know if I was eating everything or not. It was one of the times that I had answered her back and stood up for myself around food.

I didn’t have an eating disorder. My mother was an eating disorder in my life.

I do have disordered eating, at times, and have a very skewed concept of eating, portions, nutrition, and food preparation. She refused to teach me cooking or baking. She would describe the process in magical terms, always reminding me that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to do what she did with food. She did that whole pinch of this, a handful of that, to taste sort of cooking. That, she made a huge point to always tell me, was way beyond my capabilities.

Everything about food had become over-shadowed with her and all the ways that she stopped me and abused me and used me around food. Since everything about food was consumed by my parental sexual abuser and with my supposed inadequacies and undeservedness of food, it makes food a very negatively charged topic. And the fact that you have to eat every day, with that heavy load in your mind and heart, to help your body be sustained, it is very hard, a very real challenge, at 2 and 6, and 14 and today.

I realize that I have developed a number of ways to have and work on connectedness. But I do not have a connection to food. And that would seem pretty elementary of a thing for someone to have. I have always been afraid that being more connected to food will make me gain a lot more weight.

Being overweight to begin with fuels my fears. I have to deprive myself so much, because I gain weight easily and due to my health limitations cannot walk much or run at all, which are usually necessary for keeping my weight down. Being starved as a tiny child means that my body is in self-defense mode each time I eat and don’t eat, and it compensates to keep me alive.

It’s very hard to lose weight. I have to deprive myself, but it is sort of necessary in order to lose weight. I hate to do that. It is so much like living with my mother and being abused and starved. It can be so triggering. It feels as though I am abusing myself.

The kinds of abuses my mother did to me around food in the furtherance of her sexually abusing me has made food an integral part of child sexual abuse. It disconnected me from food. It was a way of coping. It was a way of surviving.

It is normal for someone to have a strong connection to food, but we don’t have one.  So starting today, on Mother’s Day, I will start working on establishing my connectedness to food. I am planning on posting more about my weight loss efforts, my small indulgences that glory in food, my continuing efforts to make food, and my gluten-free cooking and gluten-free foods I have tried and hated and tried and loved.

This is all about the abuses my mother perpetrated against me, both sexual and otherwise, and the damage and aftereffects of mother-daughter sexual abuse. I will be striving to make food a central and loving part of my life, one that is loving and life-affirming, one that is healing, one that sings of nurturance and joy, one that allows me to maintain a more healthier weight.

Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse Resources

Healing from Abuse Resources

Resources: Eating Disorders

Survivor Resource Pages (Forty pages of resources, non-profit organizations, articles, and healing support for survivors of child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and dealing with the aftermath of child sexual abuse.)

Introduction to Eating Disorders

Myths and Realities

Eating Disorder Types

Facts About Eating Disorders: What the Research Show

Website: Something Fishy

Grounding Techniques

Stop, Swap, and Console

Coping Alternatives

Making Your Own Coping Bank

Caring Online Eating Disorder Website

Eating Disorder Early Recovery

Be Gentle With Your Pain

281 Reasons to Recover

For the Love of Self: Ten Steps

Ways of the Warrior

Love Your Body: Tips to Improve Your Body Image

What is Body Image and How Do You Improve It?

Eating Disorders: Body Image and Advertising

When Family and Friends Don’t Get It

Males and Eating Disorders

Multicultural Issues and Eating Disorders

Website: Mirror, Mirror

Abuse (and it’s Connection to EDs)

Eating Disorder Recovery

The Basics of Eating Disorder Psychotherapy

What Do You Look for Now When Therapy Didn’t Help Before?

The Eating Disorder Recovery Challenge Plus a Zen Story

Eating Disorders Community at Healthy Place.com

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous

Eating Disorder Expert

Eating Disorder Hope

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

National Eating Disorders Assocation

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders

National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Personal Websites:

ED Hell

Peace, Love, and Hope