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Body Image and Depression

May 9, 2013

 

Poor body image and depression feed each other mercilessly. (Depression also makes it incredibly difficult to write, so I hope I can manage to be coherent.) It’s hard to know which came first. For years I spent weeks or months in seemingly endless cycles of self hate and depression — the severe suicidal kind. For me, it’s hard to know which triggered which. It’s easier to figure out now that I’m a Body Acceptance activist as an adult. My bipolar depression leads to self hate, not the other way around. But was it so simple before I found Fat Acceptance? Not so much.

As a kid I was bullied. Abused might be a better word. Bullied sounds so mild and I have friends who refuse to use the word because abuse is so much more appropriate. So I was abused by my family, by my peers, by my supposed friends. I was often told to kill myself, and when I was 10 I decided to go ahead and give it a try. My bipolar started early. The doctor’s I’ve consulted aren’t quite sure how early, but the best guess is around the age of 7 or 8.

Bipolar is often triggered by some sort of trauma or stress in a person’s life (very often that stress is college) and I wonder to this day how much the teasing led to my diagnosis. Bipolar and depression can cause weight gain for a variety of reasons, and for me the weight certainly did come on. I was a super-skinny kid until my symptoms started up, then I suddenly became a size 22 by the 6th grade at 12 years old. The abuse was relentless and it has never stopped.

It wasn’t long until I started developing body image problems. I remember weighing 150 lbs in elementary school (though I don’t know which grade) and thinking “if only I could stay this weight while I grow then I’ll be okay.” But I didn’t stay that weight. My weight went up as my height did, and I’m still a size 22 woman.

I learned soon of the abuse that could come from complete strangers, as well as loved ones, and a single bad body thought could send me spiraling downward into depression. The opposite was also true; a bout of depression would leave me sure that no one loved me because of how I looked. It’s a complicated relationship. Many people without mental illnesses, such as bipolar, can attest to the damage done by poor body image, though. It’s not just those of us who are sick who feel the harsh pressures to be perfect. Many men and women suffer from depression specifically related to their weight or body image and, in fact, once I found Fat Acceptance, my depression became milder and less frequent by quite a lot.

Fat Acceptance had an obviously positive effect on my mental health. I’ve become a stronger person, a happier person, and a more secure person. And as any doctor can tell you, good mental health leads to better physical health, especially if you’re no longer too depressed to get off the couch. I truly don’t understand those who would argue that I would be better off hating myself, stuck in the depths of depressions that left scars on my skin and very well could have taken my life.

I’m not any thinner now, but all that hate certainly wasn’t making me thinner either. The fact is that self-hatred simply doesn’t make people thin. It only makes people miserable and less healthy than they’d be if they were happy and productive. It’s just more proof that these people don’t care about our health. They only care about their own prejudices.

I believe that Body Acceptance can help promote better overall health, even though health isn’t a requirement for respect or dignity. My point, however, is that negative body image and depression feed each other in a vicious cycle that we have the power to overcome simply by promoting loving and accepting yourself.

Sometimes I think that those who work in the Body Acceptance field get so little praise for the hard work they do and they do more great work than they probably even realize. Helping people not only love themselves, but be healthier and happier? That’s truly an amazing gift! Men and women, thanks to your hard work, are finding Body Acceptance sooner and sooner. Saving them literally decades of  time wasted on self-hatred and depression, and allowing them to lead positive lives. So I want to finish my post on a positive note and say thank you to everyone who’s impacted my life.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2013 3:08 pm

    I feel depression and body image have been linked for me my whole life. My sister always called me fat growing up and I thought I was (just because I wasn’t skin and bones like her.) I developed bulimia in college, which I still struggle with. My boyfriend told me a few months ago that I need to loose a few pounds, which still hurts because I’m not really overweight. But somehow, I can never be good enough.

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 9, 2013 7:22 pm

      time to start taking boyfriend applications!

      • Dizzyd permalink
        May 10, 2013 5:19 pm

        I agree. Nicole needs someone who loves her for HER, rather than a body type.

  2. Dizzyd permalink
    May 9, 2013 3:39 pm

    Nicole – those idiots are NOT your friends. If they can’t accept you as you are, they don’t deserve to hang around you. Sorry if I come off sounding harsh, but I get really tired of ppl thinking it’s ok to abuse (and yeah it IS abuse) the ppl they claim to care about just cuz they’re not a 90-lb. skeleton. (And if you ARE one, to those who read this, pls get help! You deserve more than wasting your life hating yourself for not being perfect, cuz you’re fine just being you!( : )

  3. Dizzyd permalink
    May 9, 2013 3:50 pm

    Hlkolaya – I’m sorry you went thru all that abuse. How dare ppl tell you as a child to ‘kill yourself! But I’m glad you found the strength to overcome it. You’re a beautiful person! I just finished reading a book called ‘The Invisible Woman’ about weight discrimination. Very informative!

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 10, 2013 9:04 am

      thank you- and i’ll have to check out that book! :)

  4. May 10, 2013 8:35 am

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    This is yet another thing wrong with the diet industry, feeding people the idea that one can only be happy if one is thin. It negates any positive qualities a person may have that are not associated with the shape of their body. While exercise can help combat depression, it can also be very difficult to exercise when one is experiencing severe depression. Not that exercise should be seen specifically as a means to weight loss, of course. Argh, I know I’m not making a lot of sense. I’m trying to make myself go to bed.

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 10, 2013 9:04 am

      thank you for the reblog! :)

    • Dizzyd permalink
      May 10, 2013 5:08 pm

      Cie – Exactly. It’s quite sad that people are so ready to dismiss you by the way you look. I just happened to be thinking about that earlier today, as a matter of fact. It’s one thing if people get to know you and then decide that “Argh! This person drives me crazy! I can’t stand them! It’s not that they’re bad in and of themselves, we just don’t mesh” and then leave it at that. What I hate is when they look at you and then without even talking to you to get to know you, they decide they hate you, and when you look over at them, they sit there giving you this evil eye routine, and you don’t know what you did to deserve it. And this society we live in (I refuse to call it “our society” since I claim no membership in this ridiculous affair) ENCOURAGES people to judge each other solely by first impression: whether they’d be a worthwhile mate, friend, employee, etc. without ever getting past it to find out if that impression is even valid. And it goes without saying, it’s worse for fat people, esp. when people are too lazy to bother questioning the overly simplistic caricatures that pass for knowledge of what fat people are actually like.

  5. Dizzyd permalink
    May 25, 2013 7:30 pm

    And one more thing – the people who go around demanding you be perfect are not exactly perfect themselves. So maybe they should take a good long look in the mirror before they pass judgment. (I would say think about it but I’m afraid if they did that, they’d overburden the one active brain cell they have, and their heads would explode).

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