For a lot of my life, I have been called disgusting, dirty, useless, worthless, vile…etc etc. The list is pretty endless. Abusers seem to have this delightful ability to pick out their true traits, and push it onto their victims…so that the victim feels how the abuser should feel. It’s pretty sick.
Anyway, inevitably as a result, I have spent a lot of my life feeling disgusting and worthless. I still feel echoes of it. I still have bad days where I struggle to find any worth in myself at all, and I’m sure the only reason people support me is because if I die it makes their lives a bit inconvenient – may be a court trial etc etc. I know it’s not true, but on bad days it feels true. And it is an extremely lonely and painful place to be.
Most days, in the morning, I stand in the bathroom and scrub my face until it hurts. I stare at the scars on my stomach from where I cut “fat fat fat fat” over and over into my stomach. ‘Fat’ written in different sizes, right across my stomach. Whenever I see the marks, I feel the same wash of disgust and hopelessness that I felt at the time when I held the razor blade. I felt no pain when I cut myself. I felt like I was letting the badness within in me escape, and carving the truth onto me. It was after breaking up with my ex, who had told me repeatedly how fat I was. It had got stuck in my head. I wanted it branded onto me so that any future person who saw my stomach could see the truth. They wouldn’t have to bully me because they could see I already knew I was fat, without the need for their cruel words.
It was a messy place to be.
And now the scars have faded, but they’re still there.
Most days I scrub my stomach and legs until they’re raw. Whenever I get a shower I scrub myself so hard I often bleed. But it doesn’t yet bother me. I just feel like I’m rubbing off all the disgusting mess that is caked into my skin. I have images…memories…of blood, of pain, or objects covered in me, of animals hurting me…it’s all disgusting and somehow I’ve locked it into my skin. So everyday I rip my skin so that the dirt can escape. I can see the thick layer of filth.
Also, as a result of the emotional abuse, I tried also to make myself more disgusting. My theory was, if they already hated me for being disgusting then they might leave me alone if I became simply hideous. I tried eating more, when I was little. But this didn’t work. They loved it. “More of you….”
So then I stopped eating. When I was 9. I had always been anxious about food anyway; fear of drugs being the main reason. But when I was 9, the start of my eating troubles began. If I could make myself look disgusting then it’d be okay. It would give me control.
I didn’t spiral into anorexia, but I cut down to about one meal a day. Nobody noticed. But my weight dropped. I didn’t realise I was feeding their kicks, by making myself look even more like a little girl.
When I was 11, the weight started coming back on. I hated it. Nothing I did stopped it. The abusers mocked me. Teased me for being fat. By losing so much weight I had now trapped myself – anything more was deemed as ‘fat.’ And so was my life for the next 9 years. Anytime my ribs and hit bones don’t jut out, I am ‘fat.’ I also feel out of control, and not disgusting enough. I can’t have been disgusting enough, I reasoned, because they continued hurting me.
I didn’t realise they wanted me thin. They wanted the little girl’s body. They wanted that income. They wanted me weak. They wanted the power gained from having a starved child’s body on a bed. They starved us when we were in the ring. My eating changed. I went for days with no food and little water, and then I’d eat a ton of stuff the moment I was safe. At school I was known for having a large appetite. It was so far from the truth but they didn’t realise, of course.
But I still clearly wasn’t disgusting enough. They kept calling me disgusting but it evidently wasn’t enough for them to feel so disgusted that they couldn’t lay a hand on me. I had always been one to be proud of my appearance. It was how I told the world I was okay. But I realised this would have to change.
I stopped brushing my teeth. I restricted myself to just three times a week. I HATED it. It felt disgusting and my self-esteem plummeted. But I just hoped it might work. And after a while, it did. They noticed my grim teeth and would grimace if part of their abuse involved kissing me with their tongue.
And yet, they would anyway. I still couldn’t understand it. They were evidently as revolted as I was with myself, and continued anyway. What was I missing?! In hindsight, I can see it wouldn’t have mattered what I looked like…they would have abused me anyway, just so they got their power kick and kept me silent.
But I didn’t realise this at the time. I stepped up a notch with the whole disgusting game. I stopped washing my hair.
Now I felt simply hideous and my self-worth was at zero. The dirt I could feel crawling on my skin from the abuse could not be scrubbed off of me every night. My hair hung limp, my mouth vile, my skin dirty. I had started starving myself even more and was now at 6 stone. Surely…surely…they’d feel so disgusted now that they’d leave me alone?
Not so. The ring stopped when I was 12 but the abuse continued. I was told even more how disgusting I was (and agreed with them whole-heartedly) and yet they were never disgusted enough to stop. My logic wasn’t working. After a while, I gave up. I spent four hours one day in the bathroom scrubbing my teeth, and then I bleached them. I made myself ill. I had heard about people bleaching their teeth and assumed they meant normal bleach.
One word. Ouch.
I vaguely remember the sensation of fire in my mouth. I remember my head swimming, then black. I thankfully hadn’t swallowed a lot of it at all, and was sadly used to extreme chemicals being used wrongly anyway. So I woke up a short while later, lying in my own vomit.
I cleaned it up, and put ointment onto the blisters on my lip. Continued cleaning my teeth. Then I spent an hour washing my hair.
I felt human again.
However, I would continue to have a haphazard relationship with food. The damage with that had already been done. When I ate, I felt very anxious. Anxious that my control would be taken, and anxious it was drugged, and anxious that I would put weight on and they’d love it.
I never registered that they in fact loved it more when I was skinny, because it brought more money in. I had it all the wrong way round.
Anyway, jump forward to the present day. My appearance shifts from perfectly done, right down to the individual eyelash….to very casual and relaxed. The damage of being called disgusting for 20 years is of course huge. I can’t stand my reflection and shy away from compliments. They make me feel uncomfortable, because I simply cannot see any truth in their words.
It is not uncommon for me to be in tears about how disgusting I am. And worse, that I never managed to make myself disgusting enough that the abusers would leave me alone.
And then I had a “OH MY GOD!” moment this morning. I was again, staring at the mirror, and wishing there was someone else in the reflection. I was thinking about my failed attempts to make myself disgusting enough that they would leave me alone.
And then I realised….waaaait a minute Jade. You have done. You’ve done it!!
Let me explain.
All of this time, I had been striving for a level of disgust that I found unbearable. I, as a normal human being not looking to abuse anyone. They were different to me. They probably loved the fact I was handing the “you are disgusting” emotional abuse to them on a plate. It’s no wonder my self-worth was in tatters. In trying to protect myself, I was abusing myself. I do it everyday when I scrub myself so hard that I bleed. That’s still abuse. My body has done nothing wrong…if anything it’s the reason I’m still alive and it should be precious to me. And yet I make it bleed. Daily.
Why? Because I have taken their disgust and locked it into myself. And because I was striving for a level of disgust that might make abusers stop….by applying my logic of what absolutely disgusting was.
In fact, the most disgusting thing to them is of course if the victim gets strong enough to fight back. That’s the only power I can give to make them leave me alone. I can become ‘disgusting’ in the absolute sense in their eyes by going against their values.
Which I am more than happy to do.
So I’m speaking out, and in that I am strong enough to say “No. I will not let you hurt me. I will not stand for this.”
To myself and the general population, this is of course a great step forwards.
To abusers, who’s values are flawed and wrong, it is probably the most ‘disgusting’ thing they’ve ever known me do. Because suddenly I was fighting against them, not helping them by taking the emotional abuse to heart. Suddenly, I was speaking, despite their hardest efforts.
I don’t feel disgusting by doing that. Even slightly.
But to them I expect it must seem very disgusting. And that makes me laugh. FINALLY I have succeeded in my plan…to become so disgusting TO THE ABUSERS that they leave me alone.
Ha. I am more than happy to be disgusting in their eyes. I’m proud of it. Because in my eyes, I’m not. And that’s the important difference…that what I see isn’t through their eyes, because I am my own person and not their puppet.
Disgusting and proud. Who’d have thought it 😉