There was another specific outcome to being sexually assaulted when I was barely fourteen that had a very big impact on my belief system and was part of the results I realized as I took the memory apart. As I have already written about, my mother taught me that my importance and value was sexual so looks and weight were very important. Being attractive to men was very important and I believed that was my only true value or power, so I was very aware of my looks. At the same time I had a deep belief that it was my looks and body that caused the man to come into my bedroom and sexually assault me so I had this polar opposite belief system about sexuality and body image. I had been raised to believe that my looks and sexuality would get me through life; it was all good, all powerful and all important that I be attractive and sexually appealing to men. I had a killer body and long beautiful naturally curly hair. But I hated my body and was afraid of it at the same time. It was never good enough and it was always too good. I agonized between needing to be safe by being appealing and dressing in a sexual attractive way, and being terrified that I was going to be hurt ~assaulted, sexually abused, raped or ignored and rejected because of my looks. I was equally afraid of NOT being attractive as I was of being attractive. I had a bi polar belief system going on when it came to my physical appearance and I was never comfortable either way. For me, physical attraction was love. Physical attraction was also dangerous and hurtful.
I had to be attractive to men, I had to be perfect. As I got older I wore provocative clothing which made me feel both good and bad. I had to be noticed, I had to appeal to men, lots of men, ALL men. That is where I got my validation. BUT at the same time, I was terrified to be attractive.
After my mother’s boyfriend came into my room that night and sexually assaulted me, I gained 30 pounds in about three months. I was so terrified of the weight gain that I was suicidal over it. (and remember that I became obsessed with suicidal thoughts after I was sexually abused and while I was gaining this weight, so there is a chance that the root of the suicidal thoughts was actually about having been sexually abused but I ate the food and I gained the weight so I was responsible for being fat) When I was fifteen I went to weight watchers and lost 33 lbs. I was the star, being the youngest in the class, and I loved that too because now I had a little attention and approval. I was so scared to gain the weight back however that as soon as I started the maintenance program, I also started bingeing and purging out of fear. I had never even heard the word bulimic or of the disease bulimia when I was doing this but somehow I found out about it.
The bingeing was about the belief that I would be safer if I was heavier ~ falsely believing that NO ONE would ever want me (or touch me) if I was “fat”. The purging was about the fear of being nothing and no one without my looks and body and that without my perfect body I would be invalidated and unlovable. Bulimia was the answer for me; I could eat all I wanted and then just throw it up. This was an absolutely 50/50 polar opposite belief system which tore me in two directions until very recently, but there are still a few leftover beliefs and fears that I still work on.
I discovered and started using amphetamines to take my appetite when I was 16. The only time I didn’t binge and purge and live a bulimic lifestyle at that age was when I was using these illegal drugs to control my desire to eat. I was addicted to amphetamines until I was 23 years old at which time I sought help for my addictions.
This behavior took me down a new path with my belief system. Now I had chosen to use both drugs and alcohol as a coping method, and this was more proof to myself of how “bad” that I was. I stopped looking at the fact that I had been devalued, mistreated and unprotected most of my life, and used this new behavior to reinforce the already deep belief that I was unlovable, unworthy and undeserving of love. Now I was participating in something really bad. I knew I should know better. I didn’t consciously think about why I was doing it. I remember feeling so guilty and ashamed of using drugs and sneaking alcohol. I also remember sticking my finger down my throat and eventually choking and looking in the mirror, bloodshot eyes and vomit on my chin and feeling like the lowest of the lowest and using the drugs to suppress my appetite was somehow better than that. It was a lesser shame. I stopped considering what anyone else had or had not done to me or for me.
When I was fully over my alcohol and drug addictions and after all the dynamics that pregnancy has on someone with body issues, I sought help for food addictions, compulsive overeating and eating disorders ~ I learned all kinds of useful tools and sayings. I learned and eventually believed that it wasn’t about the food, and while it was a huge relief to learn that, until I took this whole memory apart I never understood what it really WAS about.
And remember ~ bulimia, drugs, alcohol and suicidal thoughts and plans, were just a few of the things that resulted from the impact that sexual assault had on me. This was just one thread that I followed in order to take apart a memory and get a glimpse into how my belief system formed.
Please feel free to share about anything to do with your own discoveries because this blog isn’t about the symptoms as much as it is about the pathway to freedom from those symptoms.
Hugs, Darlene Ouimet