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Body Image and Mental Health in the Third Week of April

It all started on Saturday night when Justin and I were getting ready for Yuri’s night and we could not zip up the dress that I wanted to wear for the event. We struggled with the zipper and I ultimately broke down in tears, ashamed because I could no longer fit in a really cute dress. When I had gone to the doctor a few days earlier, he confirmed that my weight gain was due to the Lexapro I am taking for my depression. So when I could no longer fit into my dress, I decided that I would try to go off the Lexapro so that I could start losing weight.

pill stackLet’s just say that was quite a terrible idea. On Monday I was snappy, moody and anxious, questioning every little thought and decision I would make that day. Tuesday morning I experienced such a vicious moment of self hate in the women’s locker room at my gym while I was putting on my clothes for the day. I looked in the mirror, hated the person looking back at me, and I cried while jabbing at the fat and pudge sticking out over my pants. I felt totally worthless, like a blob of a person who could not even manage to control her own weight. It’s not like I haven’t been going to the gym–Justin and I try to go as often as we can, which is usually four times per week. It’s not like I haven’t been eating healthy, either. The Lexapro has been making me this fat, ugly person. When I am taking the Lexapro it doesn’t really consume my thoughts or make me worry, but it seems that when I am off the pill I obsess and can only think about how much I suck because of my weight. It’s definitely not healthy, and I guess I’d rather be overweight and mentally healthy than skinny and mentally ill.

I might not actually be as gross as I think I am, but I don't know how to change the way I see myself.

I might not actually be as gross as I think I am, but I don’t know how to change the way I see myself.

Body image, and the way you view yourself is an important factor in the way you live your life. If you’re ashamed by your body and hate it, then you’re going to hate being around people. You’re going to want to crawl under your desk at work and hide from everyone because you think that you’re ugly and no one wants to look at you or be around you. If you live your life like that, you’re going to fall into a hole of self-hatred because you believe that you’re not worthy of other people’s time or company. That’s a bad place to be in, and trust me, I’ve been there before and I’m working through it right now. I’m not comfortable with the person I am and I don’t know how to change it so that I am. Losing weight and looking better would give me more confidence to be around people, but I don’t know how to mentally accept myself for the body that I have rather than the body that I want.

Justin and I got into an argument about body image. He says that he still loves my body and appreciates it for what it is, as though that’s supposed to make me feel better. While I appreciate his honesty and his sentiment, my body is not for his appreciation. My body is not for anyone else’s appreciation but mine. No one else has to live inside what I live inside, and if it is my mind’s house and home, then I want to make it the best house and home that it can have. I want to be healthy and skinny and mentally well, but it seems that when I am mentally stable, my body is out of whack, and when my body is in shape, my mind isn’t very stable. Right now, I am healthy, yes. My muscles work the way I want them to, I can push myself pretty hard at the gym, but there’s this layer of fat on top of them from taking the Lexapro and that makes me feel absolutely awful. I keep working hard and I keep pushing myself and for what? A body that I hate looking and and living in.

And let’s be clear about body image–this problem affects everyone, no matter the gender or the age. I’m sure that if you walked up to the average person on the street he or she would hate his or her body. Unless you’re the kind of person who has been able to accept yourself and love yourself no matter what you look like. You might think this entry vain, self-centered and cloying, but I am simply trying to address some body-image issues that every single person in this world deals with at some point. Sure you might like your body now, but did you always? Does being comfortable with your body now mean you’ll still be comfortable with it years later? Sure this entry deals with my particular issue with myself at this very moment, but maybe I will find a way to overcome my insecurities and learn to like my body for what it is. Maybe I will find another medication that will allow me to actually lose weight. Maybe I will miraculously learn how to control my own emotions so that I do not need to be on an antidepressant in the first place, but based on my reaction this week when I went off the pills for three days and had a terrible time, I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.

With the trucker hat and fancy vest-tie combo on Yuri's night. <3

With the trucker hat and fancy vest-tie combo on Yuri’s night. <3

Right now, it is important that I am emotionally and mentally stable. Being stable makes it easier for me to write, order my thoughts, and get work done. Being stable means less strain on my relationship with Justin. Being stable means all of my anxieties are easier to cope with and manage. It means that I can be the person I am without emotional breakdowns once a week. I am very lucky to have Justin’s support and understanding through this process. Most guys would turn and walk the other way, but he is standing behind me, backing me up, and trying to truly understand what I am going through. His empathy has helped my mental stability because I know I’m not the easiest person to love, but he loves me despite my problems and flaws. I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life, and I am grateful that he puts up with my issues and listens to me. It would be so much harder to deal with this depression on my own.

I know I’m not the only one dealing with depression and medication problems stemming from the disease. Sometimes, it feels like I am. Depression’s like that. It makes you isolate yourself, shrink away from everyone you know because you are feeling like crap emotionally and you don’t want to burden others with your negativity. Combine that with a dose of self-hatred because you keep shaming yourself for not wanting to do anything or talk to others, and you feel awful because you know that you should not be depressed because you have so many wonderful things in your life. This chemical imbalance in your brain is just as deadly as cancer. But with cancer you don’t have to hide the treatments you receive from others. No one judges you for having cancer. No one says, “well, maybe if we sit down and talk it through, that will cure your cancer.”

From Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half post on Adventures in Depression.

From Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half post on Adventures in Depression.

With all due respect, cancer is a terrible horrible disease, one that my amazing aunt is dealing with yet again, and I want to give her all of the support and love and help that I can give her because it sucks that she’s got cancer. But her disease is just as medical and just as wasting as mine, although hers is physical and mine is mental. This is the stigma that people with depression deal with every day. You can’t just “get over” depression the way you can’t just “get over” cancer. You can’t talk through it to make it go away. You have to take medication to cure it, and even then there is always the chance of relapse and return.

I wish I could actually achieve this, but it seems pretty difficult.

I wish I could actually achieve this, but it seems pretty difficult.

I view my health like a triangle. Mental Health, Physical Health, and Reproductive Rights make up the three points of the triangle. Ideally, I’d like to have an equilateral triangle where mental, physical and reproductive health are all equal, in balance and at their peak. Most times, the triangle is distorted. When physical and mental health are in harmony my reproductive rights are out of balance. When my physical health and reproductive health are regulated, then my mental health is off-kilter. When my mental health and reproductive rights are in order, my physical health is not doing as well as it could be. How do I take all of these things and make them into a triangle with equal sides and equal angles?

Comments section: Please tell me about your body-image and mental illness experiences. It’s nice knowing that I’m not alone in the world, knowing that we all struggle with the same kinds of issues. I want to hear your stories and experiences which will make us all feel less alone.

Photo Credits:

Body Image: http://zaynebraun.blogspot.com/

Lexapro Tower: http://www.pkslawfirm.com/personal-injury/dangerous-drug-lawyer/lexapro/

Muscles: http://www.chirocity.com/browseproducts/FEMALE-MUSCULAR-CHART.HTML

Hyperbole and a Half: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Triangle: http://tinkerlab.com/diy-paper-pyramid-lanterns/

About Katie

Hi, I'm Katie. I am a writer from Frederick, MD. My short story "Bringing Back the Boys" has been published in the East Coast Literary Review, and I have fiction forthcoming from Connotation Press and Blue Lyra Review. I'm working on writing a collection of short stories for publication. When I'm not writing, you can find me either watching Portlandia, Parks & Recreation, or Fringe on Netflix, drinking a Flying Dog beer, or cooking a delicious meal in the kitchen to share with Justin and my friends. Also, I really like to read and I try to read as often as possible. Clearly, I think I have a lot to say, but you can be the judge of that.

2 comments on “Body Image and Mental Health in the Third Week of April

  1. Marianne Knowles
    April 18, 2014

    Oh, Katie. I wish I could help. I have loved ones who struggle with anxiety, depression, and self-worth. As frustrating as it is to me that they can’t snap their fingers, realize how wonderful they truly are, and get over it already, I know that it isn’t that easy. But I love them anyway, because they ARE TRULY WONDERFUL people, even when they don’t realize it, even when they feel alone when they’re with me. Which is what Justin, I’m sure, feels about you. As for body image issues, I’m a rarity because I truly haven’t dealt with that. No idea why, but I never have. Some suspect it’s because I was home with my dad, rather than my mom, during a couple of very formative preschool years. Do I want to lose twenty pounds? Yes, of course, but mostly because I dislike clothes shopping and don’t want to buy all new ones. Also to avoid Type II diabetes (a risk at my age).

    • Katie
      April 18, 2014

      Thank you Marianne for your comment and support. It means a lot in a time when I just feel like shutting myself away. Learning to live with depression is like hiking Mount Everest without being properly trained, but if you meet someone as you go who can help train you throughout your journey, you will be much better for it. Thank you so much.

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