I spent several years of my childhood in foster homes. Most were okay, but one in particular was very abusive. It was a farm setting in East Central Alberta. The foster parents were elderly, their own children having grown up and left home. The only reason, it seemed to me, that they took in foster children was to have them as slaves for their farming operation. Certainly it wasn’t because they loved children. There was much abuse here, of every kind. Physical abuse home ranged from being slapped in the head by the other foster children living there, to a beating (a.k.a. spanking) so severe, it broke several blood vessels on my buttocks. Emotional abuse ranged from being not allowed out of my room except for meals, and to go to school and back, as well as being told by the foster father “you’re as ugly as a mud fence on a rainy day.”
Everything that the other foster children did to me must have been condoned by the foster parents, as I don’t remember any discipline being meted out to them.
Then there were the mealtimes. It’s tough to say how this all began, but meal times were hell. There the real torture began – from the physical abuse of the foster children slapping me on the head as they walked by as I was seated at the table – to the force feeding imposed on me by the foster mother. I was given extremely large quantities of food – more food than an adult could (or should) likely eat, never mind a “tween” girl – and forced to sit there until I consumed the entire amount. Often times during this horror show, I would have to go to the bathroom to vomit as I would be physically ill from the over-consumption and then return to “finish my plate.”
As a consequence of the force-feeding, and the lack of exercise permitted me by being confined to my room, I found myself, at age 13 or so, likely what would be termed “morbidly obese” – I weighed 155 lbs.
I lost what little voice I had, due to threats from the foster parents if I dared speak up to my social worker – i.e. “this is the end of the line for you.”
Eventually I was moved to another foster home and, once my eating decreased, and my exercise increased, the excess weight disappeared.
But the pain did not. The shame did not. The shame I felt, and sometimes continue to feel, from the abuse, as if it was somehow all. my. fault. The self-loathing did not. The need to protect myself and my heart did not.
My relationship with food hasn’t been the same either. Stay tuned for more as I chronicle the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of food and me.
The picture I chose for this post is of a bunch of plates with uneaten food on a table. That was the closest I could come to a photo representation. If I was to take a photo that would represent my mealtimes there, it would be a photo of a mound of food piled high on a plate. It would be an ugly, disgusting photo of different foods all mixed up together. I now realize why I lose my appetite at the sight of buffets–buffets act as a trigger for this part of my past.
Update — I did some grieving and praying shortly after I wrote this about that time and saw Jesus shielding me from the blows at the table! He was angry, angry at the abusive situations, and, in one case, pushed the boys away from me. I had tears, partly of gratitude, as He did protect as much as He could while not completely disallowing the abuse.