I’ve always felt pretty confident that I’d meet someone and at least live together if not get married. That I’d be meeting them for the first time right now at a friends party or online or somewhere, but I’m not. I’m sitting at home writing a blog about how having a chronic pain disorder can, sometimes, make you feel close to unloveable. I’m living in a one bedroom apartment with my Mother to get by because learning how to manage my mental and physical health hasn’t been something I’ve been able to accomplish for the last few years of my life. I could sit here and tell you all of the ways in which I have personally felt just as unloveable as this woman had. I would list off the ways I hate my appearance, followed up by how my conditions and past trauma limit me physically and sexually. I’d also add that I’m an artist. A struggling one. All together I am a disabled, fat, poor, sexually dysfunctional, woman.
You’re probably thinking, “Don’t say that about yourself!” at a first reaction but it you break it down word for word it is the truth. It’s society ringing in the back of your brain. Telling you that all of which I listed are bad things. And don’t worry, sometimes I believe that myself. And feel unloveable. But I always remember that as long as there is empathy, your appearance and special needs aren’t a barrier preventing someone from loving you. It may not be so easy anymore, but it’s possible.
I spent a lot of last year putting emphasis on mental health and body image, but I’m in a new part of my life where I’m struggling again with my body but for different reasons. Reasons that are very common yet we cannot see that.
I create this work to make you think, empathize, and relate.
I want to you empathize with the women and men in these sessions.
I want you to question, have I contributed to the attitudes that severely harmed this person?
Am I doing enough to help people like this?
I want you to relate to someone so you don’t feel alone.
I advocate for the issues that nobody wants to talk about.
Because society is uncomfortable with changing the conversation.
Here is one.
What made you want to participate in this project?
We’re just really open people. We really admire the human body. Not even in a sexual way, just as a form of art. We’ve always taken nice nudes of ourselves as well, just around the house. The project hit home. I just thought, “Oh my god. We have to be a part of this! This is so us.”
What issues do you want to discuss?
Physical things, and you taking pictures of me. I do have low-self esteem, I’ve had a couple of children. I’ll be self-conscious about my stomach. As far as mental, the same.
What parts of your body are you least comfortable with?
My stomach, that’s about it. Haha. Everything else is comfortable. You know, having babies. It stretches you out. I really shouldn’t complain, I’m blessed. Haha.
How would you rate your self-esteem 1-10?
I put on an awesome front but it’s really probably like a 2. I feel fat all the time.
What types of things do you find yourself thinking about your body to yourself?
I feel a lot of pressure to be a lot skinnier. Which sucks. I feel like I have a muffin top. No matter what pants I wear. I feel like I look sick without makeup. But I adore my freckles all over my body, I like having a big butt, I like having red hair and my big lips. Definitely too much pressure to be skinnier though, which is annoying, because I like food. A lot. Too much.
How would you rate your self-esteem now?
Better! I feel like an eight.
And what goes into that number rating?
Some of the compliments you gave me, but doing some of this stuff makes you feel free. You worry about it less. Once you get out of your shell and get naked and comfortable…it just boosts your self-esteem. Once you are just naked, posing certain ways, it does make you feel better. It’s really hard to explain.
Where did you get your stretch marks and scars from?
I have had two c sections.
Stretch marks are my personal reminder of how much my body has been through in these last few years with my chronic pain condition and weight gain.
I love my stretch marks because they show I’ve carried babies and I’m strong because of that. My c sections show that babies can be born in different ways. I love my scars because they are memories. Reminders. Permanent.
What is your favorite body part of your body?
Maybe my butt? Haha. I guess. Because Brad compliments it a lot. I like that it’s plump. I like my pubes too, because they’re red.
Do people ask you about being a natural red head, down there?
A lot of times. But I like being a redhead so.
Are you a sexual person?
Definitely extremely sexual. I feel like it’s an important part of life. Sexuality makes me feel good about myself. I know that I could never be with someone who wasn’t on the same sex wave length as me. If you’re not compatible in that aspect, it won’t work. It’s such an important aspect of a relationship that you have to make sure you’re compatible.
And that goes for being a non-sexual person too. Date whoever matches up with your comfort levels.
Yeah, sex has always been huge for him and I. We’ve had some bad partners in the past, and it wore in the relationship a little bit.
Tell me about an unhealthy relationship that you’ve had?
There wasn’t any trust. Everyday I would have to answer, “Oh, who did you sleep with today?” He’d come home from work and think I had people over because I was a stay at home Mom. But he was the one who had stuff on his computer. There was no sex. He’d satisfy himself, my needs weren’t met, and he didn’t trust me. He’d also lie to me about using drugs. I’d try to rescue him, but you can’t do that for everyone…
How did being with a less than supportive partner affect your self-esteem?
IT was already really bad because growing up my family would compliment my friends or the waitress or the peers but never compliment me. Then when I got with him, he wouldn’t either. I’d try to fish for them, but they wouldn’t come at all. There was more negative comments than positive. His type wasn’t even me, so I’d always wonder why he was with me.
How did your feel entering a new relationship with a child from another relationship?
I had focused on my child and I for a little bit. I wasn’t even looking. It was an old friend that came back in my life, he was just so good with my child and understanding about everything. We would have time with my daughter, and time without. To make sure our relationship would work. It just kind of came about and everything fell into place.
I felt different than women who didn’t have a child. Who went out more. Who didn’t have stretchmarks. Not only looks but I was also worried he wouldn’t want to take on that responsibility of taking care of a small child. I didn’t let him see my stomach for a while, because I was super insecure about that. The first time we had sex, we kept our shirts on.
And now you have a beautiful little boy together?
What kind of struggles do you face with raising your children today?
Treating them equally. Disciplining, where to draw that line. As a kid, my parents would hit me. So in that respect, do we spank? Do we not? We want them to be well behaved, we’re a little on the strict side. Finding the happy medium is a challenges. Making sure that we spoil them enough, but more so with doing things rather than toys. Memories are more important than things.
What do you worry about with your daughter growing up?
Getting pregnant at a young age. I got pregnant at seventeen. Feeling like her self-worth is based on her looks. When I compliment her, I compliment her on her intelligence. Her drive to thrive, ask questions, learn more. Non-physical attributes. I grew up with everyone complimenting people on looks, and I was left out. I’m trying to make her feel good about herself.
Growing up, my family told me art wasn’t important. That art would get me nowhere. They wanted me to grow up and be something important, to make a lot of money, like a lawyer. Turning sixteen, having an eye for art, they didn’t encourage it. Art was completely ignored. But now that I have a business, I’m doing well. My daughter wants to be a farmer. And we’re supportive. I’m having her do a camp all summer for it, I support anything she wants to do because I didn’t have that when I was kid.
Art is important to kids development.
Oh yeah, expressing themselves. Court took me away from my parents, because they were unfit. My grandparents took me in. They were great, but they didn’t want me to grow up like my Mom. Depression didn’t exist. Feelings didn’t exist. Art isn’t a career. And I love them, so much. But they had a different vision.
Being raised by your grandparents, how did that impact your self-esteem growing up?
I lived with my parents until I was eleven. I’m really close to them, they’re my best friend. They would leave me alone with I was six though. My Mom had severe depression and BPD. She would hit me. But my grandparents took custody of me when I was eleven. They took care of me and loved me but they were very strict.
It probably has a lot to do with feelings of guilt, feeling like it’s their fault for not raising your Mother “right” so she’d raise you the same.
It was so out of control that they were trying to control the situation. I do very much aprpeciatve everything they’ve done. We’re very close.
Are you a feminist, why or why?
Yes. I am to a degree.
I don’t think it’s okay to censor female nipples if you don’t sensor male nipples. I think stay at home Dad’s should be recognized. They’re just as important to children as Mother’s. I believe women should be paid the same as men. Not really sure what other topics feminists talk about. We don’t circumcise women, we shouldn’t circumcise men.
How has that affected your relationship?
Well, Brad’s family is very functional. So when my Mom is very depressed and we haven’t seen her in ages he doesn’t quite get it. He’s confused.
How was your childhood?
I was taken away from my parents. My grandparents raised me. But the fact they never wanted to talk or communicate, I’d find myself hiding things a lot. I think that kind of led to me getting pregnant at a young age. Them not talking to me about it, not purposefully, led to me not being educated about sex. The switching schools was hard. It was a better upbringing, but I lacked support and communication about what was happening.
What advice can you give to parents?
Always support what your child wants to do. Never make them feel like it’s not good enough. Compliment them physically and mentally. Always keep an OPEN line of communication. Lying is not okay, telling the truth leaves room to work on mistakes.
Any last message for the readers?
Be comfortable with yourself. Parent, not a parent, naked, clothed. This is a healing process, to help myself be more comfortable naked. I want others to feel inspired and feel more comfortable with themselves physically and mentally.