For years, I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders. Wow. You know? As a writer, that has to be the weakest sentence I’ve ever written. Let me rephrase that:
Since puberty, I’ve been overwhelmed by feelings of crushing hopelessness, fear and panic. Time and again, as recently as a few months ago, depression has planted thoughts of suicide in my brain, and OCD (it’s not just about having a clean house, folks) spins “kill yourself” on a constant loop that repeats and replays until I find myself muttering those words to myself when I’m alone in my car. I’ve never, ever, in my entire life felt good enough. No matter how much I’ve weighed, I’ve always felt disgustingly fat, even when I wore a size six back in high school. There have been many, many, many times when no amount of food has seemed like enough to fill me. When a bowl, or two bowls, or an entire package of spaghetti just doesn’t look like enough. Times when I eat until I’m sick, even though I know I’m going to be sick, but I just don’t care. And then I hate myself afterwards. And there are also times of diet-deprivation when one small healthful meal seems like too much because I don’t deserve it, and even though I lost weight the next day, I still worry that it was just a fluke and I was just lucky. When I was 16 I spent 6 months in a psychiatric hospital for bulemia. Now I’m just fat. And by fat, I mean morbidly obese.
And that’s what I mean by “struggle.”
I’ve hidden those struggles by refusing to talk about them – even to the therapist I saw briefly or to my psychiatric nurse-practitioner. I only recently admitted to him that I binge eat. It was shame that held my tongue. Shame that kept me from admitting to myself that I STILL have an eating disorder. Shame that prevented me from disclosing relevent medical information that could have helped him to better treat my mental illness.
For years, shame has prevented me from going to the doctor for numerous medical problems. Doctors are very dismissive when you’re fat. And I get it. I know my back problems and tummy troubles and all sorts of issues would feel better if I lost weight. I mean, that’s just common sense. I know that. I’m not a total idiot. And, I try. I really do. Over the years, I’ve literally lost (and re-gained) hundreds of pounds. I’ve tried Weight Watchers, Keto, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, Slim-Fast, Herbalife, and a bunch of other diets I can’t even remember. Every time something has hurt, I’ve told myself what many doctors have told me: Take advil and lose some weight. For the past 12 years, I’ve had recurring muscle spasms in my legs, arms, chest, hands, and feet and severe back pain. I complained about this to various doctors so many times I finally gave up and just accepted it as part of life. I didn’t push for answers or for help because I didn’t think I deserved it. I’m fat. I did it to myself. I deserved the pain. I gave up on myself.
Well, that’s total bullshit. I’m not giving up. I can and will lose this weight. And if I hit a roadblock and gain it back? I’ll lose it again. And again. If I go through another depression? I’ll beat that shit too. Because I’ve done it before. So, I know how to do it. I’m a professional.
Look, we all have struggles. Whether it’s addiction. Eating disorders. Mental illness. Chronic pain. Finances. Everyone has struggles. Everyone.
We live in an asshole society where we think it’s fun to judge other people and tell them whether or not their struggles are “real” enough by our standards. Or we like to blame others for their pain. Or laughing at people for failing instead of acknowledging their efforts.
Whatever you’re struggling with is REAL. If it’s important to you, then dammit it’s IMPORTANT. No one knows your backstory like you do. No one else knows the years of abuse, or torment, or tragedy that led up to your addiction, or eating disorder, or PTSD, or struggle. No one has else walked in your shoes. No one else truly understands your pain – not unless you start talking about it.
I know it’s hard. And it sucks. And it’s embarrassing, but you have to speak up. Sometimes people try to invalidate you and those people, unfortunately, are assholes. Anyone who tells you your struggle isn’t real or valid is NOT in your corner. But there are plenty of people who will listen to you and who will stand beside you. When you name your struggles and stop hiding your shame from yourself, it makes it easier to talk about it with other people.
Stop hiding. Start fighting. I’ll fight alongside you. We are worth fighting for.