I’ve spent most of my life feeling unworthy in some fashion. I’ve been visibly and openly queer for quite awhile and fat for even longer. I now know that neither of those things make me inherently unworthy of life, love, and respect but 26 years of fatphobia and queerphobia has meant that I still struggle with feeling like I’m worth nothing because of who I am.
It surprises a lot of people but I was actually really active as a kid and I’m still pretty active nowadays. When I was in middle and high school, I did all sorts of sports throughout the year and many of these activities would overlap. I did cross country and soccer during the falls, track and field during the spring in middle school, skied regularly during the winter, and even spent a couple years horseback riding.
Nowadays, I’m not quite as active but I still walk almost everyday and hike semi regularly. But I still feel this immense amount of shame around exercising and being active. I often get comments that are meant to be encouraging but often come across condensing and shameful. Honestly, I can’t really explain why but these comments often make me wish a black hole would just sallow me whole.
And there’s still a part of me that feels like exercise is a punishment. Because I’m fat (and have always been varying sizes of fat), exercise after a certain point was only a way to lose weight. It was only ever something I need to be doing to punish my body and there’s a part of me that still feels like that. So while exercising has all these immense other benefits, there’s still all this other shame and hatred that’s tied up in it for me.
Growing up, autumn was my favorite season. That time of the year still holds a very special place in my heart, as I love Halloween and the whole aesthetic of the season too much for it not to. But I realized recently that I do love spring a whole lot. This time of the year is a reminder that even after a period of darkness and cold, it’s possible that the sun and light will come back and plants will grow. Spring, for me, is a reminder that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that there’s hope even in the midst of darkness.
Over the past years, I’ve done a lot of reading about self-care and mental health, largely out of this intense desire to find the right words to describe my own experiences with depression and anxiety. It was really in college that I discovered just how pervasive these things have been in my life and it was in college that I developed some unhealthy self-care techniques.
Self-care is one of those popular buzzwords that often thrown around and yet, it always seems like many people can’t agree what it means. For many, self-care is taking the time away from work and responsibilities to watch something on Netflix. And this is utterly valuable. In a culture that values being busy and being glued to work, it’s important to take the time out from those things.
Self-care can mean a lot of different things – it can mean taking the time out to watch some stuff on Netflix with friends, going out to lunch, taking a nap, going on a hike. In a time of uncertainty and stress, being able to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally and making sure that you’re doing okay is important. As Melissa A Fabello describes in a video for Everyday Feminism:
So self-care is basically any set of practices that makes you feel nourished, whether that’s physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of the above. Self-care is putting aside time to recharge in a way that’s meaningful to you, and that can mean different things to different people.
I’ve written about my own mental health on various occasions for a variety of reasons but largely because it was through other people talking about their own struggles with mental illness that I realized just how much my life was impacted by depression and anxiety. It was through the conversation around mental health that I realized just how much my life could benefit from therapy and medication.
- Types of Mental Health Therapy – How Stuff Works
My first go around at therapy didn’t go very well. I was still in college and finishing up a particularly awful semester. I felt unwelcome on campus and going to the school’s health center for therapy didn’t help. It took me another two years to finally decide to go back to therapy after that but once I found an amazing therapist, I was convinced of the good things that therapy can provide.
This year has been a weird and rather tragic one. We had to say goodbye to beloved people like Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, George Micheal, and Prince; the US election was a literally just a dumpster on fire that somehow keeps lighting other stuff on fire too; the rise and normalization of the ‘alt-right’ (read: white supremacist) movement makes it feel like it’s 1939 again and that’s not really a time many people want to relive. There were even more cases of black men and women dying because of police brutality. The President-Elect is threatened by an extremely popular musical and satirical comedy show, keeps appointing the worst and most unqualified kind of people to his cabinet, and can’t seem to stop tweeting about the most irrelevant shit.
And that’s just some of the shit that went down during 2016. To think of all the things that happened this year makes my heart heavy.
Having some sort of predictability in a schedule is something that I really miss. As a freelancer, my schedule is almost always all over the place and while I understand that work and life often change and force people to change plans, I do really miss having a set schedule and predictable work day. As an introvert with depression and some general anxiety, being out and about in various capacities is exhausting and draining most days. Knowing exactly how my day’s going to go and exactly what I need to do often keeps me focused and when to take breaks from everything.
I know that a part of this frustration and exhaustion stems directly from my depression. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that getting super frustrated and angry over minor inconveniences isn’t normal. I don’t mean getting temporarily getting irritated over someone cutting you off – I mean that I was getting really angry and frustrated over stuff like accidentally bumping into a corner or someone changing plans.
I have depression and anxiety.
Being able to say that phrase was incredibly difficult for me at first because I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t want to be a burden or have really hard conversations with people about what I was going through. So like a squirrel, I buried my feelings and my symptoms as best I could. Of course, I couldn’t keep hiding things forever and over the course of a few years, I finally found the right ways to describe the right ways.
But throughout my journey of not only figuring out what I was going through but also actually going through it all, I’ve experienced a lot of questionable support. Repeated phrases that people might think are helpful, remedies that I’m sure are helpful to someone, and more have all been offered to me throughout the past couple years as I opened up about my struggles to the people in my life. The intentions behind them are all good, I’m sure, but there were many of them that actually had the opposite impact on me.
Having depression and anxiety has dramatically shaped my life because I’ve struggled with both for almost as long as I can remember. Looking back on my life with a better understanding of mental health has repeatedly revealed that I’ve had depression and anxiety for a long time – my childhood and high school is defined in large part by my mental health.
I’ve also realized that even though I have good days and good weeks where life is a little easier to manage doesn’t mean that my depression is gone or that I’m making it all up. My depression is always here with me – sometimes it’s easier to deal with and other times it’s a lot harder. The good and the bad seem to come in waves and lately, it’s been really hard to get out of bed.