There are a few little secrets for us women who have struggled with obesity and had bariatric surgery. There is often an underlying cause for obesity. Sometimes that cause happened in our childhood, and it’s something we keep buried inside for years. Sometimes we cover it up with pounds and layers of adipose armor. We create a shield so we are not exposed to our own sexuality. Why?
Working in bariatrics over the past 5-6 years I have had the privilege of meeting many post ops. Fortunately, many post ops have recognized that I am “safe” and provide a “safe” place for them to talk, and share many of their life experiences. One night at during one of my support group meetings for post op bariatrics the history of sexual abuse came up and we realized that as a group there were 20 of us, 15 of us where women and at least 10 of the 15 of us were able to say that we had shared that common thread of being sexually abused as children.
It was something that stunned me, and something I started to address with my therapist. I started reading and researching and found that up to 3 out of every 4 bariatric patients have experienced sexual abuse as a child.The number is staggering, and also alarming.
You see, I would have sworn I was the only person in the world carrying this weight on my shoulders, but in a very short period of time I realized, there are many of us. My therapist started doing some work with me that involved going inside and finding and healing the “wounded inner child”. This involved looking through childhood photographs and going deep within my soul to reintroduce myself to that inner child. Over the past two years of this work, I have kept a journal that is dedicated to the care and nourishing of my innerchild. It involves a daily checkup of her in my mirror each day.
When I first went inside to find this inner child, I looked and looked and could not see her and I even questioned her existence. After about the third morning of searching for her, I finally discovered her, she was basically the size I was at 4 years old, only she was all burned and charred and curled up in a fetal position.
Imagine for a moment you came upon a four year old child, whose body was all charred and burned, hair tanged and matted together, who was obviously hurting inside and curled up in a ball. What would you do? Would you pick them up and hold them? Love them and hold them close? That is the first response of almost anyone, however, keep in mind… this child had been hurt, burned and left to suffer. She wasn’t very trusting or interested in my love, afterall I had never loved or protected her before.
This was all a LOT to swallow.
During my inner child work, I attended an Obesity Help Conference in Atlanta and met Mary Jo Rapini who is the therapist from Discovery Channel’s Big Medicine. She and I became very close friends and we have had several talks about the inner child and eventually we co authored an Article in the latest edition of WLS Magazine addressing the inner child.
Mary Jo and my therapist had both explained how the emotional development is stunted after molestation. I felt a sadness and my heart hurt knowing someone had hurt this little 4 year old child. Hurt people, hurt people and this child who had been hurt in turn would put up a wall to prevent people from loving her. This wall eventually became a 385 pound shield of adipose armor.
My sexuality had been distorted, now, I sort of gave this blog a funny title. Remember the Vagina Mono Logs where the comedian talked about her angry vagina? But, the truth is, I suppose we upset the apple cart a bit when we have bariatric surgery. Afterall when the weightloss comes and the armor is removed, we are exposed once again. It can leave one feeling exposed, vulnerable and well defenseless.
Now if you are a bit sensitive to “the talk” please bare with me here or just bail from the blog, this is a sensitive matter involving sexuality that is often neglected, but could sure stand to be brought out to the light. During Mary Jo’s lectures she talks about taking deep breaths, breathing in so deep, way down into our stomach, then deeper until we are taking a breath so deep to our vagina. Yes, that is right breath in through your nose taking it in deep, filling your lungs, then your stomach then deeper into the vagina.
Think about it how does it make you feel to hear this? Does it bother you to hear this? It bothered me for a long time too. The first lecture I went to, I hid under the table when she said this. The second I was able to sit there and actually breathe and have an awareness that I actually have a vagina. The third lecture I was able to not only breathe but look around the room and see that this lecture makes many people sort of sqeemish. I realized there was more than just me in the room with little girl inside that was needing love and understanding.
Now, as I have mentioned earlier in my blog I do call myself the Holistic Bariatric person, and guess what is part of my whole body? Yes, that is correct “vagina”. In the practice of yoga we learn that the breath is what gives us life force or energy. So Mary Jo Rapini was exactly on target in teaching us to take a deep breathe, very deep way down into our vagina.
This can be done sitting in a chair feet touching the floor and just breathe.
Inner Child work is challenging, and it brings up many issues that are often overlooked. I would not attempt it without the guidance of a skilled therapist. One that you feel comfortable with, remember when you go to look for a therapist. A few things to be mindful of, you are looking for someone who you can be yourself with and that you feel “safe” enough to share these inner most things. If you don’t feel safe, move on to the next therapist.
It is hard work, but your little girl is worth it.