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When Treating Your Bipolar Disorder Changes Your Body

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“What is the definition of beautiful?” I ask myself this question often. I have been asking myself this question for so many years.

I used to aspire to be the most “beautiful” version of myself, no matter how much heartache or pain it took. I followed society’s standards of beauty, and I was convinced that in order to be beautiful I needed to be so many things. I would spend hours at the gym to look a certain way and when that wasn’t enough, I would stop eating or force myself to vomit. I would invest in make up or cosmetic procedures in order to make myself feel better, and no matter how good people told me I looked I always felt empty. 

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I needed to be thin, and tan, and wear a full face of make up. I needed to have long hair that was straightened just perfectly, and my eyebrows had to have a certain curve. My eyelashes were not good enough and so I turned to extensions. My freckles were not normal, so I made sure that they were covered. I wanted to weigh less and less each year, and every time I reached a new lowest weight it still was not enough. I wanted thin legs, yet I wanted a large butt. I wanted to be able to see my ribs, but of course I wanted my breasts to be big enough so that I looked feminine and goddess-like. I wanted lips that were full and a nose that was straight. I wanted teeth that glistened and were perfectly aligned. All these things meant so much to me, and I worked so hard in order to try to be “perfect.” 

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with bipolar and I began taking my first mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics. With these medications came a variety of side effects — some of them being physical. I gained weight, a lot of weight. And with this weight gain, I lost all of my confidence. My skin became poor and I struggled to cover it with make up. I no longer had the body or face that I desired; that I worked so hard for through diet, exercise, make up and procedures.

Hating your appearance is a horrible feeling. When you look in the mirror and you are not pleased with what you see it takes so much effort to leave the house. When people begin asking if you have stopped working out because of weight gain it hurts; especially when the truth is that the only change you have made is the new medication you are on. It hurts so much when your skin is so horrible that it bleeds, and people ask if you have been eating a lot of sugar lately or have stopped cleansing your face. 

No matter how much this hurts, the one thing that might hurt even more are the symptoms of my bipolar — the mania and the depression. It has taken me a very long time to accept that the medication which I consume, side effects and all, does have a very positive impact on my life. It is because of these medications that I can function “normally” and be a productive and contributing member of society. With these medications, I do not have to worry about when my next manic or depressive episode will occur. These medications have given me my life back and have allowed me to function.

So here are a few truths that I would like to tell:

As far as my definition of “beautiful” goes, it greatly contrasts the definition that 18-year-old Megan would have given you. I think that everyone is beautiful in their own way. I have learned to love my curves and crevasses. I have even accepted my stretch marks on my hips and the cellulite that exists on my thighs. I embrace my freckles, and if you have seen me lately, I can guarantee that there was no make up to be found on my face. I walk around prouder than ever and I truly love every inch of my being. 

I associate beauty with intelligence and strength. And I truly do believe that I am beautiful for not only my body, but for my beautiful mind.

I am Megan Rowe. I have freckles littered across my face and smile lines for days. I have eyelashes that are quite short and my skin is nowhere close to perfect. I have thick thighs, and yes, they indeed save lives. I currently rival my boyfriend in weight and if I were to sit down shirtless in front of society, they would probably frown at the way that my tummy turns and twists.

I am Megan Rowe. I love my freckles as they are angel kisses, and I have smile lines because I smile often. This is because I am genuinely happy, not because I am manic. My eyelashes are short because I am comfortable not wearing make up, and my skin is not perfect because I am normal. I have thick thighs, but they are pretty damn sexy and I currently rival my boyfriend in weight but he still loves me. Also, have you seen him? He is gorgeous and so smart, so I am doing OK. Everyone’s stomach twists in some way when they sit down — and honestly, I am just happy that I am alive and able to tell you all of this.

Yes, I have gained weight, but I have also gained health, hope, happiness and freedom. I am no longer a prisoner of my mind. I no longer spend my days suffering in silence, and I no longer associate my happiness with symptoms of mania. I am free of my eating disorder and I no longer associate exercise with punishment. I have so much hope for the future and what it holds, and I can confirm that the right people will love you, no matter what your appearance is.

Getty image via Rawpixel

Originally published: May 8, 2019
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