I have dabbled with blogging specifically about mental health before as I have suffered depression, grief depression and post traumatic stress disorder in the past, and still suffer with anxiety which manifests itself more as agoraphobia and an overwhelming incapacity to engage in life. Mostly I’ve not known what was wrong with me at the time, or that anything was wrong with me and I’ve never sought help, I was one of the lucky ones who just battled through it and healed myself to a degree and I’m just getting better every day at the moment but know it can pop up and bite back. I would never be complacent about being ‘over’ a mental health problem but I do believe in healing the brain just as we can heal other ailments. I’m trying to keep my brain healthy and use relaxation, exercise, hydration and a good diet to keep my mental health in check as well as this blog which allows me to vent the things I would not normally allow to escape and would keep rattling around in my head where they just do more harm. This is my talking therapy and some of what I let out never makes it to publication, it doesn’t need to, simply expelling it from my mind frees me of thoughts or memories which may have troubled me.
I’ve also blogged about how I feel obesity is a mental illness or at least an emotional condition, similar to other eating disorders and similar also to self harming. I strongly believe that obesity is not always simply about poor diet and lack of exercise believing instead that they are tools which help us to self-destruct. I get it that some people get fat because they just eat poorly and don’t move enough but I’m referring to people who have battled obesity since childhood. People who have fought a life long battle with food, who have used food to mask a sadness or something lacking in their life, to throw up a fat shield to keep them safe from the big bad world or certain people in it, the pain of abuse or abandonment whatever… for some obesity is a mental health condition and I truly believe it is for me.
I’m not making excuses for being fat I’m finally finding a way not to be fat anymore.
This is why I have never beaten it, this is why I have struggled with it since I embarked on my first diet at the age of 6, this is why I have yo-yo’d in weight from being slim to being over 300 pounds, from a 15 stone 15 year old to a UK size 10 to a UK size 28 and everything in between more times than I can recall.
I have always approached solving my problem from a physical perspective, looking at the chemistry and biology of calorific intake and usage, focusing on food, the very thing which I use to destroy myself. It’s like sitting a suicidal person in a room with a ton of books on how to kill yourself and samples of nooses and forcing them to focus on that and nothing else and expecting them to not want to hang themself. Dieting has been about deprivation, about self chastisement, guilt, euphoric highs filled with happiness at weight loss and terrible depressive lows at weight gains. It’s been about failure, self loathing, comparison, awful food, judgement, embarrassment, ridicule, pain, frustration, sorrow, anger and misery.
It has never been about addressing my emotional issues with food, my mental issues, why I use food the way I do, why I feel the need to make myself fat to protect myself, why I have to periodically shrink away into this huge blubbery body and secret myself in its folds only reaching out to grab more food to make my safety pod ever bigger while I suffer and die a little more in the hell I’ve encapsulated myself in. It hasn’t been about why I feel the need to make myself feel less and less of a valid person and more and more of a failure, a freak and a non-human unworthy of love, affection, happiness, success , achievement and even life.
I set a mental health category some time back when I blogged specifically about mental health but lately I find myself increasingly clicking on that category when I’m writing about weight loss, about exercise breakthroughs, about my life events because this is what tackling obesity is all about for me now… my mental health. I know that if I take care of what is going on in my head my body will be easier to change. More than my physical health improving my mental health is improving by leaps and bounds, I’m happier, I’m calmer, I’m less anxious, I don’t feel tense, I breathe properly, I sleep properly, my mind is clear, I don’t forget things, I am more attentive, I am relaxed, at ease, not afraid, confident, motivated, inspired. It’s not a physical thing at all, it never was, it’s always been a battle in my head but I’ve never taken that battle on in my head before. I’ve heeded mental prompts, probably my brain crying out for relief from self-destruction but I’ve been fooled into believing the battle was happening in my mouth, in my stomach, in my belly, in my bowels, under my skin when all along it was happening in my head, the one place I never thought to address this hellish condition.
I’ll continue to always click that mental health category whenever I post about my fight with obesity, my triumphs, my challenges, my food wins and disasters, my exercise successes and frustrations and I’d encourage anyone else who is fighting this awful life sapping condition to do the same. The more we link obesity and mental health the more people might start to see that this is not about greed, gluttony or a lack of regard for how we look or for our health. This is about sickness and instead of sufferers being humiliated and mocked and regarded as lazy, greedy pigs we need to wake up and start giving it the attention it deserves and helping other sufferers to fight this while they are young, but fight it in the head so that they never have to suffer years and years of yo-yo dieting which inevitably leads to misery, self loathing and becoming heavier and heavier.
If you can sit and eat a big meal and then munch your way through family sized bars of chocolate, family packs of crisps, everyone’s dinner left overs, sandwiches, four helpings of breakfast, whole packets or boxes of biscuits you have a mental health problem, trust me, you are not greedy, you don’t have a big appetite, there is something going on in your head that it making you destroy yourself and you need help with what is going on in your mind not what is going on in your stomach.
The only people who benefit from the food focused battle are the multi-billion dollar players in the diet industry. They don’t want to cure you they want you as a life long customer and I’ve never come across one yet which offers me counselling, support with the mental and emotional elements of over eating or which told me I have an eating disorder. They all just serve to reaffirm the greedy lazy fat person stereotype and I’m not denying that type may exist but for some of us it runs a lot deeper than that and we owe it to ourselves and others like us to make that link between obesity and mental health clear. That way help might be more readily available to those who need it and don’t have the strength to tackle this alone before they have to resort to life threatening surgery or before they die too soon having been denied the life they deserved and so badly craved.