The Weight of Visibility

By Staff Writer Marie D. Jones

For decades I was told my excess weight was probably a psychological tactic to protect me from pain. After experiencing sexual abuse as a child, and rape as a teenager, I had begun to pack on the pounds throughout my years of addiction and recovery as a shield to keep me from falling back in the old patterns of co-dependency and attracting harmful narcissistic men. Being fat was, quite simply, a fabulous method for keeping me unattractive and lacking in confidence enough to stop approaching men to avoid any triggering of the childhood and teenage abuse I had suffered.

Okay, I could get that. It made sense. If I stayed lean and attractive, my confidence level would be up. I might, then, be attractive to the opposite sex and risk giving my entire body, mind, spirit, and soul over as I had in all the years of my addiction. I might, then, fuck up again and end up empty from pouring myself out into another asshole who was just as messed up as I was, but on the opposite side of the yardstick.

Weight kept me invisible. Nobody looked at me once I got fat. Men looked right past me. I didn’t exist anymore. Nobody would approach me or want to be with me. It was a surefire way to stay sober, even if I wasn’t really sober, just free of symptoms.

Intellectually I understood this. But after having a mild heart attack two years ago, in part because of the weight I had packed on to my petite frame, I realized it was time for a reckoning. If I didn’t find a way to come to terms with why I had put on all the weight and find a better way to deal with the addiction bubbling just under the layers of fat, I’d end up dead. I did not want to die. Not yet.

I still believed on a psychological level that the weight was protecting me, and I worked hard to convince myself I no longer needed the shield. I didn’t want to be invisible anymore. I maybe even wanted to find a relationship. A healthy one. But unless I threw off the fortress of fat, I would never feel confident or healthy enough to get out there, and I wasn’t getting any younger.

I was tired of being tired and sleeping poorly. I was tired of having to buy loose-fitting clothes. I was tired of feeling like shit all the time because I was carrying around a sack of fat weighing 60 pounds. I was tired of not being seen.

I tried every diet in the books. Every one. Convinced that I had now cracked the code to why I was fat, I figured one of them would work to quickly rid me of the shield I didn’t want or need anymore. Nothing worked. I got fatter.

Then I purchased a program from a well-known expert on self-love. I knew I had an issue with my own self-love and worth, but always put off working on it because there were other priorities, like making a living and feeding my kid. But something inside urged me to make this purchase and I did. I watched the videos and did the workbook and continued to believe that I was fat to avoid more sexual abuse and abandonment. OK, I got it. I GOT IT!!! Now take the goddamn weight off!

It wouldn’t budge.

I don’t know what triggered it, but I had a huge epiphany one morning. I suddenly realized that I put all the excess weight on not to NOT BE SEEN…but…TO BE SEEN! It wasn’t to hide behind. It was to be more visible. It wasn’t a shield that made me invisible to men. It was an expansion of my body to make me more visible.

This epiphany led to some serious deep dive work where I had to admit that my problem all along was NOT not wanting to be seen, a form of abandonment. It was WANTING to be seen and not be abandoned. The extra layers of fat made me bigger. I took up more space. You couldn’t NOT see me when I came into the room. I was a huge physical presence that you could not ignore. I wanted to be visible, to be seen, to exist, like a limp balloon being filled with air.

That realization was huge for me. It cleared up decades of wondering why I couldn’t lose weight. Part of me still wanted to avoid men and relationships because I feared my addiction might flare up all over again. But as time went on, a bigger part of me was learning how to move beyond the addiction and into recovery. I wanted to meet someone. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to remove the layers of myself that I thought made me a more formidable force on the planet, yet only served to expand what really wasn’t me.

I was a weird child and had spent my entire life not feeling seen or heard, feeling as though no one understood who I was and what I was going through. I had serious abandonment issues from early childhood from the sexual abuse. I never told a soul about my past until I was in a 12-step program in my 20s, when I finally, working with my wonderful sponsor, felt seen and acknowledged. But outside of those rooms, out in the real world, I had no one to talk to about it. I spent decades feeling as though nobody really saw me at all. My theme song was from the rock opera “Tommy” by The Who. “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me…”

I was then able to put together more puzzle pieces about my divorce, my ongoing addiction, my changing addiction, my behaviors with men, and so much more, all from this one revelation. I even wrote to the guy who’s program I had purchased to share my insights with him. With this new understanding, I could go back and look at my past, my patterns, my addictions, my triggers, and my behaviors and see them from a whole new perspective. I could reframe them from a position of wanting to be seen and heard, rather than from wanting to be invisible and ignored. A wider perspective, pun intended.

Sometimes we want so badly to be seen we add things onto ourselves that we really don’t need, like big hair and tons of makeup, expensive clothes and jewelry, boob and butt implants so we stick out more…and layers of fat, just as sometimes we hide behind those very same things. I didn’t want to fill the room anymore. I didn’t want to expand to get attention. I didn’t need to. All I needed to do was get my health and confidence back, and my own authentic mojo would take up just the right amount of space it was always meant to.

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