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The 'Harmless' Jokes That Hurt My Mental Health

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741, or by texting “NEDA” to 741741 for eating disorders.

“Kill yourself.”

“You’re fat.”

The “harmless” jokes I’ll never forget.

But the truth is, these supposed jokes aren’t “harmless” — they hurt. A joke is supposed to be funny, isn’t it? Jokes are supposed to make you laugh. I am not laughing. I don’t remember these “jokes” because they made me smile; I remember them as the defining moments that broke me.

“Kill yourself” — The “harmless” joke they never knew would lead me to rethink my own life. Since when did suicide become a joke? Each time I’m told to kill myself, it hits me just as hard as the first time; I feel it strike within me just as deep. The same thoughts begin racing through my mind: Why does everyone hate me so much? Everyone would be better off if I died. Why am I alive? Nobody would care if I died. Kill yourself.

A “harmless” joke like this from a single person leads me to believe everyone wants me to die. Kill yourself. Just two words lead me to rethink my own life. Just one person leads me to rethink my own life. Just one “harmless” joke leads me to rethink my own life.

You’re fat. The “harmless” joke they never knew would lead me to hate myself so deeply. Because, at the time you called me fat, I saw that as a bad thing. I mean you used it as an insult, so you intended it to be a bad thing. You wanted to hurt me. At the time, I was unaware that my weight didn’t matter. I was unaware that I was so much more than the number on the scales. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being fat. Just that one word — “fat” — lead me on a path of self-loathing and disgust. Each time I looked in the mirror, I wanted to cry. Just that one word distorted me from all reality; it clouded my vision. All I could see was fat.

The “harmless” joke, “you’re fat,” was so much more than just a “harmless” joke. It meant I was worthless, unlovable, disgusting. It meant I was an outcast, that nobody would ever like me. “You’re fat” meant I didn’t deserve to eat; I was greedy and selfish. Just one word made me want to hide away; after all, I didn’t fit in with society. I’d never be accepted if I was fat.

But the truth is, when that one person said “you’re fat,” they didn’t know the time I would waste overanalyzing every possible meaning. They didn’t know the self-hatred it would cause or the measures I would take to make sure I’d never be called fat again. Most of all, what they didn’t know, I also didn’t know; we didn’t know that “fat” is not an insult. So what if I’m thin, fat, curvy or flat — my body shape does not define me. What is on the inside counts for so much more.

The sad reality is, the people who throw around these “jokes” don’t know the pain they are causing. But it’s time they realize their jokes aren’t harmless. They hurt. Their words become engraved in their victims’ minds.

Suicide is not a joke. Commenting on somebody’s size is not OK. Fat is not an insult.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Originally published: June 18, 2018
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