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Stop Saying I Need to Lose Weight to Fix My Mental Health

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

July is always a tough time for me; it’s the month of many birthdays, including my own, and it’s the month that holds the anniversaries of many deaths within my family. As a whole, July is an emotional roller coaster I would like to speed through as quickly as possible.

The month of July means a sudden influx of time spent with my family. I love my family very much, but they are my biggest trigger. When I’m with my family, I get constant remarks on my weight and my health.

My family has always pointed to me as being a bigger girl in terms of my weight. After nearly 22 years, you would expect me to have thicker skin and to not let these comments bother me. I can often ignore people’s judgments, but when they come from my own family, nothing hurts me more.

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A comment I often get from my family is the one linking my mental health to my size:

“If you lost some weight, you’d be so much happier.”

“You know your depression will go away once you’re thin.”

“You’ll be so much happier once you’re small.”

No.

I try to explain this to my family, but I am always ignored. So, I’m going to explain this one more time for those in the back with headphones in.

By telling me over and over that I need to lose weight, you are doing the opposite. The stress from these expectations cause everything in my mind to flare up and I return to the one comfort I know I have: food. I felt pressured by my family to have a gastric band — a surgically-inserted weight loss solution — put in, but my mood has neither improved nor gone downhill; it just doesn’t work like that for me.

I have bipolar disorder (type 2, to be specific) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Although these play a role in my eating habits, they have nothing to do with my size. They affect my mood, the way I sleep, how I communicate, how I perceive the world and how I choose to live in it. My size has nothing to do with that. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes my depression, anxiety, mood swings and splitting. It is definitely not the extra junk in my trunk.

I also have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which contributes to my weight gain. And guess what? PCOS is known to cause depression! Although the two feed off of each other and cause issues for the other, removing one does not mean that the entire disease will be gone. When I’m thin, I will still have PCOS, BPD and bipolar disorder. I will still have depressive and manic episodes if unmedicated. That’s just the way I am, but I’m working on it.

When I was 15 years old, it took three doctors and about a year and a half for someone to take me seriously and say, “Perhaps her size isn’t the cause but a side effect.”  When I was 19, I was finally believed about my mental health issues and at 21, I finally got an accurate diagnosis. I was tossed around from psychologist to counselor to psychiatrist, all of them saying the same thing: my situation was complicated, but I was a teenager; it’s to be expected.

Fighting mental and chronic illnesses is always a battle because you are constantly trying to prove that something isn’t right. It’s not enough to simply say, “Nope! You’re wrong, this is just the way I’m wired, but I’m working to fix that!” You need to back yourself up, delve into personal details you might not want to share and constantly remind people until it sinks in. So, to the person who tells me, “You’ll be so much happier when you are thin and have a boyfriend,” you aren’t being helpful. You aren’t encouraging. You are reiterating the struggle I’ve spent the last 14 years fighting.

For me, my size means nothing. I am what I am and I’m working on it. I would be the same person if I was fat, thin, square, round or oblong. Just because you expect me to feel down about my size doesn’t mean I am.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, that’s fine. It’s your choice. But I have the right to be able to go through this horrific month of July that sends my mental health down the toilet without your constant comments that make me have to start climbing that hill all over again. I understand it’s ignorance or wanting my life to be easier, but it isn’t helping.

So please, this July and every other July after, just keep your comments to yourself.

Unsplash via Christian Newman

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