A Toxic Relationship

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Rebekka didn’t have body image issues until she was 18 years old. Although she never considered herself slim, she didn’t give a whole lot of attention to her weight when it came to her self image. It changed once she was married.

“I was 18 when I got married and my husband became very verbally and emotionally abusive. He would call me ‘Fat’ all the time. I knew I was bigger, but I never thought of myself as fat. But both him and his family continued to tell me that I was ‘fat and disgusting.’ It got me into a vicious cycle of losing and gaining weight in order to make them happy. The reality was I was just hurting myself.”

She was a young wife, trying to raise the four boys of her husband, but feeling more and more insignificant as an individual herself. Her husband would come home from work and yell at her if dinner wasn’t on the table for him – “You are just a fat whore and you are worthless!”

Rebekka didn’t do well with this negative relationship. She started viewing herself in a more critical way. She suffered from depression and was diagnosed as bipolar. She was put on medication but one of the side effects was weight gain. She put on almost 100 pounds. Though she was concerned as her weight mounted she began to have a clearer head about herself and the caustic marriage relationship she was in. Three years into the marriage she decided to leave. The two month separation brought a temporary respite and Rebekka’s husband began to treat her nicer. She gave him another chance. It didn’t work.

Rebekka’s depression increased. Her mood swings grew worse. Her weight gain continued. Then she tried to kill herself.

“I overdosed on my pills and cut my wrists. I felt that low. I was isolated from my family. They were halfway across the country and I felt so alone. He just left me at home by myself without a vehicle, with his kids to care for. I had no friends around me. Thankfully my mom called me shortly after I had taken the pills. As I passed out with her on the phone she called the ambulance. I woke up in the hospital and was able to tell them what I took. It still was very scary. They had to shock me twice to keep me alive. I ended up being in the hospital two weeks. My husband never visited me once.”

“When I got out of the hospital I gathered all my stuff and moved out for good. I haven’t talked to him since.”

Our conversation shifts to the other person who has helped Rebekka define her body image and self worth – her 7-month-old baby girl. She lifts the babe from the stroller to her lap and I could witness that the two are bound together in love.

“I didn’t’ intend on getting pregnant. I was even on birth control. So when it happened I felt it was for a reason. I began to watch my body change – a little bump at first and then a growing stomach. It was exciting and I began to feel better about myself. I knew I wasn’t as bad as my ex-husband had made me out to me, even personality wise. I began to see myself as beautiful!

“I carried my little girl for nine months and delivered her naturally. My body is awesome, no matter what it looks like! My pregnancy didn’t just affect my outlook on my physical body, but my emotional state as well. Having her really helped – I’m not on my medication anymore. It was great to have my doctor tell me that I was stable and no longer needed the drugs. This has allowed me to breastfeed my baby, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was still on that medication.

 Rebekka decided to have her portrait taken while she was breastfeeding her daughter. I guess I was a little distracting with my camera during the little one’s lunch, but we captured a great moment!

Rebekka decided to have her portrait taken while she was breastfeeding her daughter. I guess I was a little distracting with my camera during the little one’s lunch, but we captured a great moment!

“This leads me to where I am today. I am still bigger. I have stretch marks. I have scars. But I am proud of my body and I am happy with my life. My goals are to me mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. I want this both for me and for her. I never want her to go through what I have had to.”

Follow up: Rebekka has lost 40 lbs since her daughter has been born. She tells me it isn’t because she is dieting, just because she is learning to live, and be, healthy.