I don’t think I’m a bad person, although I’ve been told by many people that I am. I’ve been told I have no compassion, morality, heart, sympathy, empathy, kindness, etc. I don’t think that’s true. Depression, stress, and anxiety are dangerous. The effects of them aren’t always seen but felt. I’ve seen countless relationships (platonic & nonplatonic) end over miscommunications. Many of these relationships were my own. Everyone deals with depression, stress, and anxiety at some point in their lives. It becomes dangerous when we don’t have healthy coping skills. The costs and stigma of mental health keep people from seeking treatment. Since the health care system is so impacted, often attempting to seek help is a stressor! In therapy I learned that we, as a society, will have shorter conversations and be more productive if we learn how to handle stress, anxiety, and depression. In therapy I learned coping skills that instantly cure my stress: housing insecurity, job loss, financial problems, etc. I can calm myself down from any situation in 5 minutes. The stress may creep back in later, but I always know how to eradicate it. Life will be easier if we come to every interaction with no assumptions. I’ve become very good at reading people. I can tell when people are stressed, anxious, or depressed. I’ve learned to adapt based on people’s emotions. When someone is sad, I ask what is wrong and try to listen and help. When someone is frustrated, I let her vent until she’s feeling better.
We have no idea what shit other people are going through, so we have no right to assume. Assume everyone is in a crappy mood. How would you want to be treated if you were in a crappy mood? Treat everyone as nicely as you can stand. I don’t think we should argue if we agree, so let’s agree on this: Everyone deals with stress, anxiety, depression, etc. If we come into every interaction with no assumptions about what people are going through, how their brains work, etc., we’ll avoid a lot of tiny arguments. Then we can spend more time being productive people.
My brain works differently from other peoples’. In my personal experience, I’ve learned that people don’t like to be wrong. Most people I’ve encountered don’t respond to anecdotal or opinion based arguments; they respond to facts. Sometimes it’s not worth it to tell people they are wrong.
When people are wrong, and I do decide to tell them, I often apologize. I’ve found this to be a helpful tool because when I apologize, when I accept fault for inconveniencing people, they often exhibit a positive response. This has become especially helpful in service and management.
I’ve been using the apology as a crutch. I’ve been apologizing for things far too often. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to break.
When I constantly apologize, over apologize, I’ve noticed people begin to think I’ve done something wrong, even when I haven’t.
Since my brain works differently from other peoples’ brains, I’ve been able to learn from and adapt to reactions. It’s become a survival skill. Sometimes my incite is interpreted as arrogance. I want to be clear. I don’t think I’m better or smarter than anyone. I think I grew up in a way that forced me at a young age to learn and adapt to the behavior of others. People have told me I’m unable to put myself in someone else’s shoes. When I think about what I would do in a situation, it’s often different from what other people would do. I’ve been told I don’t have common sense, empathy, compassion, etc. I don’t think that’s true. I believe I have all those things. My brain and my experiences just causes me to act differently than other people would, and it’s hard for others to fathom that my brain works differently than theirs. It was a radical idea for me to wrap my head around when I was diagnosed. I just want people to understand that my difference doesn’t make me inherently bad.
I want my life to be easier and people keep giving me advice on how to do so: Calm down. Loosen up. Don’t be so intense. Don’t talk about your feelings. Don’t take things personally. Don’t act depressed. Don’t look sad. Smile more. Put on a brave face.
I’m finding it hard to follow all this advice. I want people to like me, but I don’t know how to change who I am. It is physically impossible for me to will myself out of a depression. When you’re clinically depressed, you literally cannot snap yourself out of it. You can learn skills to cope but not to cure depression. Each of these things may seem small, but together they amount to everything I’ve known. Everything I’ve been for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked hard to hide the depressive part of myself because I’ve learned people don’t want to see it.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve also learned no one wants to see my manic side either. I’m arrogant, rude, reckless, irritable, distracted. I’m always somewhere on the spectrum of manic and depressive. People don’t like to see either extreme. So I have to hide the extremes and attempt to live somewhere in the middle. In sociology, we call this passing, the ability to fit into an identity group other than my own. In this case, as someone without bipolar disorder. But of course, this has it’s drawbacks as well. When I look too healthy, when I hide the manic and depressive episodes, no one thinks I need help.
Today, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. My psychiatrist and eating disorder therapist both agree I have it. After running separate diagnostic tests, they both came to the same opinion.
At first I was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn’t stop crying. My brain always goes the worst case scenario, and I couldn’t keep myself together. Luckily, I’ve made progress. A few years ago, I rarely reached out for help when I needed it. I told my four close friends I needed help in a group text and asked one of them to call please me. Within minutes, I was on the phone one of them. She reassured me and helped me get to a place where I could take the next steps I needed.
I’m going to list some other thing I never would have done years ago that I did today. I called my boss and told her I needed the rest of the day off. I went to Kaiser because I know they have a walk-in clinic. I called my grandparents and told them what happened and how I was feeling.
Each of those things helped me to feel better. When I called my boss, she was kind and understanding. She told me not to worry about a thing and take the time I needed. At Kaiser, I had a later appointment time with my eating disorder therapist. She did a test with me that also said I had bipolar disorder and talked with me about it which made me feel much more calm. My grandparents were loving, caring, and everything I could wish for in family at this time.
I picked up my new bipolar medication today and took them both before hopping on the train home. On my way home, I was thinking about some worry I had. I honestly can’t even remember what it was about now. And I thought to myself, “I can’t remember what I was thinking. That’s incredible.” Let me explain, my thoughts typically race at 100 miles a minute when I’m upset. It often feels impossible to focus on anything because these intrusive negative thoughts creep in no matter what I do. But in that moment, I realized my thoughts weren’t racing. I took that medication hours ago now, and my thoughts still aren’t racing. The medication worked.
I’m cautiously optimistic about this new diagnosis. It gives me hope, and sometimes I felt hopeless. Now I can focus on how to get better instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong with me.
Today, I decided to embrace who I am. I’ve spent so much time trying to change my body, trying to mold it into something else and trying to hide what it really looks like.
I’m done. This is who I am. I have stretch marks. I have body fat. My arms giggle. So what? This is my body, and it gets me through the world. It allows me to adventure, love, and be here. I’m so appreciative for everything this vessel does for me.
Fat is not a dirty word. It’s descriptive. When someone says I’m tall, I do not deny it out of shame. I will no longer deny being fat out of shame.
I am fat, and I am beautiful. Period.
Symbols of weight loss and thin/fit people are ubiquitous. The ads for diet products and boot camps, the images we see on TV and in the media. They creep into our brains. We’re socialized to believe that being thin is better than being fat, and that’s not always the case.
I thought being thin would magically solve my problems, but it didn’t. I spent a lot of time thinking that being thin would make my life easier, and I did everything possible to reach that goal. I worked out for hours every day, starved myself, and in hindsight, it made my life a lot harder. I spent so much time trying to achieve my ideal body. I spent so much time thinking about how my body looked and what others thought of it. Instead of changing my body, I’ve learned to change my mindset.
This is something I learned in therapy. I challenge the voice in my head (ED or my Eating Disorder): Who said being fat is bad? Why do I think fat is a bad word? Who said fat people shouldn’t eat fast food? Why do I think my stomach is disgusting? As someone in my group put it, “What a strange thing to call a stomach disgusting”. Exactly! My body is a vessel, and it serves a function. It exists to get me around the world. When I was engaging in disordered behaviors, I bought into the messages society was selling. I’m ashamed to say I judged women based on their looks and weight. My weight isn’t something I value, and it’s no longer a priority for me to be thin. I have so much more time now to spend on my life.
Today was hard, it sucks when one little thing sets you off. It could be the fact that your doctor is making you wear orthopedic shoes which are not cute and do not complete any outfit. Or that you ran into someone you know when your hair was a mess and you had no makeup on. Then comes the thought spiral: Now what do people think? I’m the fat girl who has given up on looking good. I let myself go. Or wow, Hayley looks terrible today. Do I really want to be seen with her? Which leads to me feeling like I’m not good enough. People don’t want to hang out with me. They would want to if I was thin. I could try to lose weight. I’m already hungry, and I haven’t eaten in hours. This is a good time to start. But that’s my eating disorder talking.
The other part of my brain says I’m beautiful and no one cares (or notices) if I’m not wearing makeup and my hair is a mess. And if they do, fuck them! They have no right to judge me or anyone for the way I look! I’m fat, and I have just as much of a right to exist and take up space.
The problem is when both of those voices are competing in my head, fighting for my attention, I don’t feel sane. I feel out of control and insane. I want to have control over my brain and my thoughts. I’m still struggling to make that mean part of my brain quieter. I’m trying to practice more kindness and compassion for myself and challenge those bad thoughts that come up. It’s a process.
Today I had a realization. When I was at my thinnest, I was often the most depressed. I think it was because after the pride and glory of being thin wore off, I realized it didn’t solve any of my problems. It wasn’t the magical experience I thought it would be.
Sure I got more attention from boys, but it wasn’t positive attention. As much as I want men to be attracted to me, beauty fades. And I want to find someone who loves and wants me for what’s inside. The boys I was with when I was thin liked me because of the way I looked. It may be harder for me to find someone now, but I don’t just want anyone. I want someone who wants me for who I am. Now it’s easier to wade through the boys and find the men.
My eating disorder told me that when I was thin, I would get everything I wanted. I would get the perfect boyfriend. The positive attention I craved, everything would be easier. But once I reached that goal weight, the target shifted. It was no longer the weight I had to change. Now it was something else: tone the butt, work out the thighs, fix the teeth. Now I realize it never would have been enough. My eating disorder would never be satisfied.
I need to find another target, a stagnant target. I’m excited to be starting in a body positive group. I’m ready to learn how to love my body the way it is because I realize that no matter how much I change my body, ED (my Eating Disorder) will never be happy.
Today I picked up the photos from my Boudoir photo shoot. I tried to dull my expectations and remind myself it was okay if I didn’t like the pictures. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at my body and find the beauty in it. During my viewing at the studio, my heart raced as they showed me the first few photos. I hated the first shots, but in the end, I ended up loving 20 images. I didn’t know who that girl was on the screen. She looked like a model. She looked fearless. Was that me?
After a month of waiting, today is the day I get to view the final images. As I opened the box and pulled out the little black book, I was nervous. It’s hard for me to accept my new body. I’ve gained a lot of weight in recovery, and it’s difficult for me to see my new body. I read an article written by a plus sized blogger about how she did a boudoir shoot and it was cathartic for her. It helped her love her body and curves. I found a $30 Groupon and thought “why not?”.
But after a month of building these photos up, of remembering how great I looked. I was a little disappointed with the photos. I like the photos. Some of them I love. They weren’t all as amazing as I remembered. But in some of the photos I looked beautiful, sexy, ad fierce. Those were not words I would have used to describe my new body. I didn’t know if I would ever feel that way about this body, but some of these photos made me feel that way. It wasn’t a magic cure for my body image problems, but it was a big step forward. I’m trying to acknowledge and be proud of myself for my strides forward. Its’ hard for me to do that and in the darkest moments it feels like I’ve made no progress, but I have. So I should be proud.
I have an eating disorder. For a long time, I had trouble saying that. And for a while, I wore it as a badge of honor. It meant I was so committed to being thin, that I made the most extreme sacrifice– my body. I realize now that wasn’t healthy. I never thought much of myself or my body. Because of that, I abused it and let others abuse it too. I’m currently working to repair my relationship with my body. I’ve learned it’s important to advocate for myself and my body. This blog is about my journey to become body positive.