I have always been a fan of Christina Aguilera. Opinions vary; however, I look at her with a high level of respect.
Growing up, Christina and her mother were both victims of domestic violence. Christina speaks candidly about her experiences; but it wasn’t until her third album that she used her music to expose her childhood to the world.
The song is entitled “I’m OK” and she has only performed it live once. In this song, Christina speaks of the abuse, and its continuing effect on her life.
I too experienced an abusive home – but in my case I was the abuser as well as the abused.
I remember how it all began – the first day I chose to deny myself food. I knew what I was getting into, I knew where it would lead, but I didn’t care.
As the abused, it was like receiving the first hit, thinking it was a one-time thing that would never happen again; but as the abuser, I was surprised by my own power and hated myself for it. So I started down the path of self-destruction.
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Lying in bed at night, I attempted to numb one pain by creating another.
I would focus with such intensity as my fingernail dug into the soft flesh on my arm and then ran down to my wrist, creating a sharp sting and a small trail of blood – the external pain far easier to manage than the internal.
However, with each cut came more guilt, more shame, and then more reasons to continue numbing.
Every day was based around avoiding food. I exercised each morning, pushing myself until I broke down into tears of pain and fatigue. My stomach burned for nourishment, but I ignored it – unless I felt weak, then I’d give in, guilt consuming me for lacking the discipline to restrict.
The anxiety built every time I pulled out the scale. I weighed myself as many as six times a day, hoping the number would go down each time.
And then came the guilt – a guilt rooted so deep – a guilt that originated from a question no one could answer.
My parents are missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa; they dedicate their lives to feeding the hungry.
And instead of helping, I retreated within myself: I was starving myself in a place where people were dying of starvation.
What kind of person did that make me? And how could I live with myself?
Well, that’s just it, I couldn’t.
Didn’t anyone notice I was being abused? That’s the problem with living a secret: nobody can save you because nobody knows.
I moved back to Canada and the self-punishment continued. I was eating more but not exercising any less and I still went through periods of restriction. I remember crying in anger and disgust as I stared at my body in the mirror, hating the way I looked, seeing an image that wasn’t even real.
I’d throw things, cry out, and swear I’d try harder to make myself ‘perfect’ – as if such a thing existed. I was just a kid. I was being so hard on myself, enduring so much pain, but I was only a kid…
And I was a victim of hatred every day.
I started living healthier, but deep down I was still not all right. I went in and out of healthy phases but I was still a slave, living in guilt, ashamed of all I had done, still searching for external ways to deal with my internal self.
I felt alone, trapped inside a cage with my abusive mind. And, as in the worst nightmare, no one could hear me screaming for help.
And then one night I discovered a new weapon: Bulimia. I stood in the kitchen, ravenous, grasping for any and everything I could get my hands on, and stuffing it into my tired body. I would stumble to the bathroom, shove my finger down my throat, and then go through the ritual again – sometimes three or four times a night, always ending the same way: lying on my bed, weak and exhausted, hugging myself and swearing it was the last time.
My home became my prison. I marched there at the end of each day knowing exactly what was about to happen, what I was about to do.
Like a captive forced through consistent torture, I gave in to the abuser in my head and wearily accepted the pain – almost numb to it…Almost.
I can feel it sometimes when I think back to those days – the raw, scraped throat, the burning stomach, the puffy bloodshot eyes – my cuts and bruises. At the time I tried to hide them because I didn’t want people to know. I was afraid of what my dark side, my abuser, would do if I let them find out; surely it would only make it worse.
So once again I lived a secret, slinking around in the shadows, hoping to go unnoticed, waiting to disappear.
My Bulimia drove me to a point where I began relating eating to the experience of purging. I developed a phobia to food – I couldn’t look at it, smell it, or touch it. I went three days without eating anything.
And then I found myself sitting in my professor’s office, weak and frightened. I told him what was happening to me and asked him how long I could live like this.
“Without food,” he said, “a human has about thirty days.”
Thirty days? That was only a month. Thirty days was sooner than the summer. Thirty days was simply too soon.
I had two options: get out, or die. So I reached out for help, exposing my inner abuser. I didn’t want to stop, but I wanted to want to stop – it was a step, a small step in the right direction. It was like packing my suitcase in hopes that soon I would find the strength to walk out, and eventually I did.
The change didn’t happen overnight; it was a year-long battle. Each step required strength and courage that often I couldn’t find without the help of others and, most importantly, God. But in the end I made it through and came out stronger – far stronger than I ever imagined I could be.
Vivid images are engraved in my memory — the cuts on my arm, my sunken belly, kneeling on the bathroom floor – but that’s all they are, memories – they are no longer my reality.
Will it hurt forever? I don’t know. I don’t think it will be the same as Christina. I don’t think “The pain will remain the same,” but I will always remember what happened and what I went through to get to where I am today. And I love where I am today.
I fought to save my life and now I am free.
So now, as I sit reflect on this journey, I can spread hope by saying, “Every morning that I wake, I look back at yesterday and I’m OK.”
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