I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Two
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mara” is a pseudonym.
< Part One
My mother probably has both undiagnosed bipolar and borderline, but her symptoms then were not as bad as they have gotten to be. She also is extremely intelligent and manipulative. Unless you know her, it’s very hard to see.
Appearance was huge in the church. They harped on gluttony as a major sin. Almost all of the girls in my family growing up were rail thin. My sister, who we later found out had a food allergy and intolerances, was not overweight by any means but just slightly heavier than all of us. My mother, who had been slightly overweight growing up, saw this as one of her greatest disappointments — a visible sin for all the church to see. She would get my sister up early in the morning to run on the treadmill, watch and restrict her diet, and spank her if she didn’t lose weight. My best friend, who also went through the loss of one of her closest friends and was big-boned but not overweight, would also be harped on her by her family for what they saw as sin.
The year before puberty — when fluctuating hormones cause bloating — was the worse for all of the girls at church. We would be sat down by parents and told that they were afraid we were gaining weight and that we needed to exercise more and watch our diet so that we weren’t sinning.
Almost all the girls in my family or in my best friend’s family have struggled with anorexia or bulimia at some point in time.
My mother would tell my sister that no one would want to be around her if she was fat and that people wouldn’t find her attractive. My sister became very reclusive — hiding in her rooms behind books or playing with animals, not people. When in public she would almost look down on others before they had a chance to tell her anything my mother said they would. My sister also hated all the ditzy little girls her age who played stupid to get attention, she hated attention and could not understand why they would want to attract it.
When I was 16, my best friend’s older sister (who I was close with) invited me to a birthday party she was having and didn’t invite my little sister. My mom believed in almost complete inclusivity and anytime our friends came over, we had to allow anyone who wanted to be with us in the room all the way down to the babies.
My mom took this exclusion personally and took all her anger at the other family out on me. She would get mad at me if I saw my best friend without taking my sister, even though my sister didn’t really want to go. She would tell me how I was in sin for not confronting my friend and her family for excluding my sister and then tell me I couldn’t tell anyone in the church about it because it might “embarrass” my sister. I was told that if I had a problem with her I could get “help” from my great-aunt who got offended and hurt for my mother if I said anything assertive or had any problem with my mother. After two or three years of this, I finally caved and told my best friend’s mom who ended up becoming a second mother to me. My mother left the church at this time and I kept going alone because my best friend went to this church. I didn’t have any other friends (as children we were told to tell people about 1 Cor 14 church and, if they didn’t immediately convert, it was sin to be spending time with them).
During this period of time, I started struggling with depression.
To deal with my father I had to turn off all emotion and feelings or he would sense it and use it against me. I couldn’t ever talk to him in any way unless I was challenging his actions toward my mom or my mom would become hurt and guilt us. My mother would become offended if I had any personal feelings and preferred me as her emotional caretaker than as her daughter. The church taught us that any negative feelings were a sin and it was our job to “take them captive.” Depression was viewed as a sin and medication the epitome of not trusting God – that it stemmed from some unknown root of bitterness that we were supposed to work out.
My mother’s swings became worse and worse and I started seeking an escape from that house. I was taught in church that we are under our family’s authority and if there wasn’t a bible verse contradicting what they were telling us to do, than we were supposed to do it. My mother didn’t want me to leave, so I felt chained down.
One thing that I am glad about is that all the fighting led my mother to both hate men and fantasize about them. She believed all of her girls needed to have a stable career as soon as possible so that they didn’t have to rely on men. She also believed that the school system repeated the last 2 years of high-school in college. So, when I was 15, I CLEP 5 college classes and, when I was 16 began prerequisites for nursing school. I finished at the age of 21 with a BSN in nursing and to this day, at the age of 26, I have had 8 years of hospital experience, 6 as an ER/ICU nurse. I am a hard worker and I can have a steady, self-supporting job anywhere I want at any time.
I met a boy through one of the extracurricular activities and we became close. He was a good, homeschooled, Christian boy who was very outspoken. He didn’t live in the area and, therefore, didn’t go to my church he just went to a regular church. He was very opinionated on what sin was and what it wasn’t and, after church, his whole family would stand around and talk about how the other members in the church were hypocrites and in sin. I had saved all of myself, first kiss and everything. We began “courting” or hanging out with each other’s family. But one thing led to another and he leaned in and kissed me one night despite my trying to wiggle free. I was 21 at the time and felt so guilty for kissing him, for tempting him and not staying strong enough, for being alone with him.
I didn’t tell anyone because I knew it would be my fault and I wouldn’t be allowed with him again.