This is, by far, the scariest post I’ve ever written — or will ever write. Just composing this blog post in my head gave me a panic attack. In fact, I’m having a panic attack RIGHT NOW while you’re reading this.
“Oh, good Lord,” I can see you thinking,”Hyperbole, much?”
It’s one thing to admit to the world that you’re dealing with mental illness. It’s an entirely different thing to admit that you not only fight mental illness, but that you also have, at various times throughout your life, otherwise not met societal norms.
I speak of beauty standards. I speak of a decades-long, on-again, off-again battle with my weight that makes me hyperventilate to even consider putting this bit of information out on the Internets. I’m all about body-positivity — but apparently not for myself. Societal expectations are too deeply ingrained in my psyche for me to ignore them completely.*
Yes, friends. Believe it or not, I haven’t always been this adorable little thing with wavy red hair, glowy** skin and a gap-toothed smile. I used to be, per a former coworker, a “cute little round thing;” sometimes more often than not.
About this fear, though; logically you know that your friends and family love you no matter the numbers on the scale. My husband loves me unconditionally. (Puts a literal meaning to “Through thick and thin,” No?) But various people on the Internets? Your exes? (Not that they’d even know or care to find out that information. And…um…ditto.) But what about your bullying schoolmates? What about them? I’d personally love to have them think that I sprinkle pixie dust in my wake and that I have been forever fabulous; just to show them how wrong they were in making my life a living hell way back when. What if I show that I’ve not always been perfect; that I’m not a creature to be envied for surpassing expectations; that I’m not someone living a fairytale life of love, happiness and beauty? What if I’m someone not to be admired, but to be pitied?
There’s a reason that “Getting skinny for a High School reunion” is such a cliche. You are facing — once again — the people who helped shape your sense of self-worth and (quite literally) the way your mind functions. I occasionally share this link on bullying, even though it seems to never get any comments from my Facebook peeps. I’m a firm believer in #TheMoreYouKnow. Perhaps, however, now that I’ve shown my childhood scars to the world I’ll be less fixated on how that bullying affected me, and be able to leave it in the past where it belongs.
Wish me luck.
But despite my fears, with this blog I seek to not only de-stigmatize mental health issues, but the issues interwoven within. You see, Depression is both Creator Of and Created By things that may be seen from the outside as disparate elements. As such, these elements require their own un-packaging and dismantling, which I hope to do in small bites. I think that the first step in this process is to admit my “shame” at not always being perfect, and face that fear down as best I’m able.
So despite all this rambling about my foibles and fears, the important part of this discussion — in regards to this blog, at least — is education. It feels good to know that science has been kind enough to prove that weight gain is positively correlated to Depression. (Thanks, Science-people!) That’s not too shocking as I’ve seen that throughout my life, but it’s always nice for science to back that up.
My weight — like my Depression — has come and gone in cycles. I was thin until I was 19, when I moved away from home for the first time. I was back down in my early 20s, and up again at 30 after I got married. It’s been a roller coaster ever since — even before my official diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
When I’m depressed, I eat because it makes me feel better. It never lasts for long, though. I didn’t exercise for years because of my self-loathing, (exacerbated by my weight issues) which sapped my energy and made it literally hurt (mentally and physically) to move. The link between Depression and weight is a vicious cycle that only gets worse unless you’re somehow able to bridge the gap between thinking you should do something and actually being able to do it. That gap seems insurmountable when you are sick, but every once in a while you get lucky.
Of course, nowadays, Anxiety makes it so I can’t eat, so the jokes about #SkinnyJeans are true. Seriously, I’ve dropped two dress sizes in seven-ish months without remotely trying.
Anywho, no matter what I weigh now, or weighed then, I know that I’m somebody that people like — and a talented one at that. More importantly, I’m somebody that I like, which is kind of cool. Will I feel rotten if people I don’t care about think less of me? Absolutely. That’s one of the pitfalls of being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP.) But, like everything else in life, I’ll get over it sooner or later.
So now to stop shaking at the knees and hit “Publish Post.” Once that’s done I hope there will be one less chink in my battle armor.
Wish me luck.
* I am very much an advocate for the body-positivity movement, and I only hold myself to society’s impossible beauty standards. #MyOwnWorstEnemy
** Yes, I know glowy isn’t a word.