What (traumatized fat kid) Dreams May Come

Three in the morning and my eyes screech open, my heart, tired of being accused of not existing, does its best Charlie Watts in my chest.

No, it’s not one of the usual predawn car alarms or impromptu dog fights,  it is –joy of immeasurable joys– an anxiety dream.

They’ve been coming around with less-than-endearing frequency recently.

That’s no big surprise.

I’m about to move out of the current Villa Plumcake, which is entirely too big, plus it’s being held together by nothing but duct tape and prayer, into a sweet little cottage in a new village a hundred miles away.

Moving is stressful so naturally daytime stress equals nighttime book reports in my underwear.

Except they’re not book reports in my underwear: they’re vivid replays and variations of my mother’s name-calling and overall cruelty about my size when I was a child.

Weird.

It’s weird because I’ve been at peace, or so I thought, with Mommie Dearest for a decade.

I harbor her no ill will, I understand why she is the way she is and even though the phrase “all the warmth and parenting skills of a particularly unself-aware komodo dragon with the worst taste in men this side of Eva Braun” MIGHT be bandied about with what some people COULD describe as pinpoint accuracy, I’ve got no beef –not even a lean four ounce portion, “about the size of a deck of cards”– with the old lady.

"Hi, for the next 17 years I'll be projecting my own insecurities and body hate onto you. Oh, and punishing you for my own bad life decisions. Enjoy!""

So what’s with the nightmares?

I don’t know.

I have them, then I spend the next few minutes in a flush of relief because that’s not my life anymore, the blood stops banging hot in my ears and I’m fine. I go back to sleep to dream about talking to Wayne Rooney about how we’re going to comfort Cesc Fabregas now that his lifetime hero Pep Guardiola has relinquished the reins at Barcelona. You know, like a normal person.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this other than to remind my readers –many of whom suffered more than I did– that even when you’ve moved past your childhood, even though you’ve done the inner work and shelled out squadrillion dollars for a therapist and you can look at yourself naked in that hateful dressing room fluorescent lighting and still love what you see, still believe you are worthy of love, sometimes you can stumble or heck, your dreams can stumble for you, and –to steal a phrase from Stuart Smalleythat’s okay.

It’s so easy, I’m especially guilty of it, to gloss over the pure trauma sometimes involved with being a big young person in a world that equates big with bad.

Maybe that’s because in my travel across the fatosphere I’ve run into a lot of mawkish pity parties written by women in the permanent victim mode, those unfortunate souls unable or unwilling  do the work required to move on from their teenage angst and so every human interaction is an affirmation of their deeply engrained flawed belief that they are not worthy of love, that everyone hates them or looks down on them because they’re fat and that their mother/father/seventh-grade boyfriend was right all along.

I have empathy for those girls, but at the same time I secretly want to shake them and say “Maybe you don’t have friends because you’re a total downer. No one likes a sadsack, regardless of the size of said sack. Get thee to a therapist and work that sh*t out. Then let’s have gin and tonics.”

Still, it’s okay to have a mini relapse, a relapsette, if you will.

It’s okay to revisit and remember those dark times and the people who led you there.

Just don’t get stuck.

Your childhood, no matter how magical or traumatic, is over.

One of the great luxuries of being an adult is the ability to reframe our own past.

We can’t change it –Lord knows I wish I could, I totally would’ve gone back and cut that snotty Ruth Wallach-Eisenberg’s stupid crimped hair when I had the chance since I got punished for it anyway– but we can change how we look at it, how we let it inform who we are as adults, even if we stumble.

After all, you’re good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn-it, people like you.

 

10 Responses to “What (traumatized fat kid) Dreams May Come”

  1. Liz May 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    This is brilliant. It’s also why this is the only fat blog (am I allowed to call it that) which I visit with any regularity.

  2. Ellen W. May 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    And now last nights’ horrorshow of deamons stalking the land to eat people, rending us limb from limb in a scorched hell-scape, doesn’t seem so bad.

  3. teteatete May 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    My heart swells each day with more love and admiration for you, dear Plumcake.

  4. Thea May 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    A friend of mine who is a survivor of a different kind of traumatic childhood said that the progression of surviving trauma goes something like this:
    1. I am a victim of X
    2. I am a survivor of X
    3. (and this is the tricky one that we all need to strive for)
    X happened to me and it is a part of what made me who I am today, just like my name and my hair color, but it is not the sum total who I am, how I identify myself or how I allow others to define me.

    I try to focus a lot on #3. Some days are harder than others, but there are months on end that X is not a part of my life.

    Hugs to ya Plummy and thank you for sharing

  5. Desideria May 2, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    I’m spelunking with companions, none of whom weighs more than my winter duvet. As we squeeze through fissures and cracks, I realize that the route is narrowing and gradually filling with frigid water. I try to turn back, but the way is blocked. I can only move forward. Soon I am irretrievably stuck: no amount of pushing or pulling can dislodge me, and dynamite is not an option. My only choice is to stay put until starvation results in sufficient loss of girth. (The rising ice water should probably get me first, but the subconscious has its own rules.) Rabbit then hangs a wooden shelf across my calves and draws a big happy face on my butt in an effort to disguise it. A crowd gathers to gawk at me and to relate that I’m to blame for my predicament because I gorged on Rabbit’s honey.
    I call this my “Winnie the Pooh” dream/nightmare/anxiety attack. Yet I consider myself fairly well adjusted during waking hours — Honestly!

  6. shiny May 2, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Miss Plumcake,

    If it’s any consolation, ever since Neptune went into Pisces a few weeks ago, I, a non-dreamer (I think), or at least definite non-rememberer of dreams, have been having memorable, whack-a-doodle dreams. Like, people I haven’t seen in 20 years, and I don’t care a rat’s doo-hickey about, are yelling and scolding at me for…. strange reasons.
    So I sympathize.

    Also, fat is irrelevant: This blog and tomandlorenzo.com are my daily reading material. And the Oxford Astrologer. Yes, it’s astrology, but the writing is EXCELLENT. And discusses a heck of a lot of art for art’s sake, with no astrology content. So, yeah. Enjoy!

  7. Lisa from SoCal May 2, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Moving blows. There is no other way to put it.

    My mother. Lord, my mother. I never had therapy, but there was one, not-particularly-good Nora Ephron movie that made a huge difference in my life: Hanging Up. It’s not great, but it was one of those movies you see at exactly the right time to help you figure things out. In it, Meg Ryan is the family giver who is helping her beloved, but very difficult, father die. Her sisters are narcissistic beyond reaching, it seems. She drives up to her mother’s place to convince her mother to come and be a part of the family to say goodbye to the Dad. The mother, played brilliantly by Blythe Danner, rejects the overture and explains that when she was young, you got married and had kids. You were supposed to want marriage and family, and it was assumed you would wind up loving it all. Only in her case, “It didn’t take. It just never took.”

    That was actually my other big feminist a-ha moment, where I got more insight in my fat-hating, me-hating mother than I had ever gotten before. My mother was of that generation. She is a helplessly conventional thinker. It wouldn’t have occurred to not do what everybody expected her to do. But she was lousy at it. Of course there are *bound* to be people who aren’t good at a given role–I’m not good at every role I have. I saw her differently then–as a person who tried and failed. She was still a terrible mother (and let’s be fair here–my father was a lousy dad–both took on the role far too young), but it was less her fault for being lousy than it was an understanding that she had tried to do what she thought she was supposed to do–being a pretty, obedient girl trying desperately to raise a pretty, obedient girl who turned out to be autistic and fat. No wonder she hated me so much. She was supposed to love me, and she didn’t, and she didn’t know why, and she was supposed to be raising me to be a perfect thing and I *wasn’t*.

    You loop through grief at bad treatment; it cycles to and fro. It may be your way of dealing with it announce that you are “over something” but I am not sure it works like that. My brain, at least, doesn’t. There are good days, when I am capable of viewing her with mercy and kindness and I revel in my own strength as a person, and there are bad days when I feel like the chubby kid nobody likes because she can’t relate. You hope for more good days than bad.

  8. Ali May 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    What a great post. I am dealing with my own past demons (a dragon momma – not unlike yours and being bullied every day for years as a kid) and some days it’s harder than others. Therapy helps. I honestly have no sympathy for people who let themselves drown in self-pitty and sadness about what’s been done to them. If you are a grown up – change your life (and with that, I do not mean “Lose weight”) – get rid of the negative people in your life and no longer allow people to treat you badly. People will think terrible stuff about you sometimes. You probably thought terrible stuff about that lady wearing those Payless hooker shoes to the grocery store, so what? It’s not something you can change, so don’t dwell on it. Your life will be better for it.

    If you are not a grown up yet – it WILL get better. At some point you can control your own destiny and your life will change if you make it happen.

  9. Debs May 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Wow. Powerful. My Mom died when I was 10 &, with much training, my Dad turned out to be a great parent. My mother-in-law is the nightmare. I agree with Lisa that some days one is a fairly rational adult who realizes that one now has control over one’s life and is an accomplished individual. Other days, as my dad would say “what age are we today?” Sometimes I call those “movie days.”

  10. The gold digger May 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I honestly have no sympathy for people who let themselves drown in self-pitty and sadness about what’s been done to them.

    Everyone has crap in their life. Everyone. But you are allowed to be happy if you want. You don’t have to start drinking at 4:00 every day because life dealt you a truly awful hand – nobody is denying that you had bad luck. Nobody is saying it was great that you had a mentally ill, heroin-addicted daughter who died of a drug overdose. But you want to spend what remains of your life in a drunken, miserable, bitter stupor? Why? Why not try to make something good out of what remains?

    And thus ends the sermon I would give to my husband’s parents.