I have spent most if not all of my life hating my body. I would look in the mirror and examine with such hatred and disgust. My thighs touch and jiggle and are speckled with cellulite. My stomach is soft and round and striped with stretch marks. My breasts sag and are bigger then all of my friends (combined). My face is too round and my nose is a bit crooked and one eye is just a touch bigger then the other. I could list everything I hate about my body in a list that would probably be a mile long. I once had a therapist ask me what I liked about my self physically it took me a good two minuets to find one thing. the color of my eyes. All of the things that I used to hate (and to be honest still do sometimes) we all things that society had deemed ugly and unworthy of love. There weren’t girls who looked like me in magazines or movies and on the off chance there was a girl who did look like me she wasn’t the love interest. She was the funny best friend or the weird girl that got bullied. Even in the books I read the main character was always described as slim, willowy, small, slender. Words that I don’t think anybody would ever use to describe me. Even in my own home my father would make comments on what I was eating and that I should take better care of myself. Now I can confidently say, on most days, that I am hot. Like I am an attractive person with curves for days. I love every cellulite dimple and stretch mark on my body because they are apart of me, plus I have a pretty kick ass personality to boot.
Learning to love my body has been a very long and very difficult journey. It doesn’t just happen over night and it is something I worked really hard for. I was about 18/19 years old when I realized that I was just exhausted from hating myself. I mean lets face it hating yourself and being cruel to yourself for so long is pretty exhausting. At first I would just fake the confidence but slowly little by little I actually became more confident in how I looked and felt in my own skin. Affirmations also really help, although they do feel a bit funny to begin with. Its on odd feeling to look yourself, or more accurately your reflection, in the eye and say things like “You’re beautiful” or “I love you” at first but they really do help. Yes my thighs touch and my stomach looks more like Winnie the Pooh’s then Jennifer Lawrence, but that just means that A) I can cook a mean meal, B) there is more of me to love, and C) I will never not finish your fries. In the wise words of Queen Latifah, “I ani’t no salad eating chick.”
Learning to the love the body you have doesn’t mean that you don’t want to change things or improve on things. I have been going to the gym fairly regularly and have been trying to eat better and for once its not so I can loose weight ans finally be beautiful, but its to feel better mood wise, to boost my energy and to look even hotter then I already do. Loving yourself even when you not completely happy with how you look is the first step to enacting change, because when you love something you treat it with kindness and respect. When I finally started loving my body I stopped the bad habits that kept me hating it, the over eating when I was feeling emotional, the pushing my self way past my limits when I did workout, skipping meals. I still have my days where I eat nothing but fast food or where I force myself to go way to hard at the gym or when I only eat one meal in a day, but overall the way I treat my body has vastly improved over the years and will continue to improve with time. Its okay to stand up and say that you are beautiful inside out and not only worth of love but deserving of it. Having a few extra pound doesn’t make you ugly. Having a crooked nose, arms that jiggle or thighs that touch doesn’t make you ugly. The things that we hate about ourselves doesn’t make us ugly. What makes a person ugly is a person who says that the things we hate make us unworthy or unimportant. A person who is ugly is someone who is mean and cruel to others and that has nothing to do with how someone looks and everything with their personality. I have know some of the prettiest people have the ugliest harts.
You may be thinking “Jacqueline the title says self care but the picture says Spring cleaning.” Well let me tell you self care is about more then just face masks, bubble baths and scented candles. While those things can be and are very helpful to dealing with and coping with mental health they are not the end all be all of self care. Self care is one of the more important, if not the most important, tool one has when dealing with mental health in any capacity and it is the probably the hardest tool to get a handle on. Self care ranges from making it out of bed in the morning to studying for that test to yes the almighty bubble bath face mask scented candle combo. One of the biggest signs that depression is kicking my ass is the state of my room. If there is dishes every where, my closet looks like it exploded, and (as gross as it is) there is a slight smell it all means I have sunk in deep and I am no longer taking care of anything. Sad to say but my room looks like this about once a month to once every other month and lasts for about a week or two before I pull myself together again and go on a up swing.
Just a week ago my room definitely looked like some kind of disaster of an iSpy game. It was frankly rather gross and I am very embarrassed to show the state my room was in, but I know its also the hard truth of having depression or in my case being in a depressive state. I don’t believe there was anything functional about my room and honestly even though I hardly left it, it was a stressful place for me to be. There was nothing peaceful or serene about it. All the clutter and lack of cleanliness made it gross to be in but i just couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. This is the physical manifestation of mental illness.
I have a theory that somebody’s living space and/or bedroom is a reflection of what is going on in their head. When my depression is in full swing and I am coming close to bottom my room tends to look like the above pictures. I can’t bring myself to even began to take care of anything. Luckily through a combination of my mood going in a hypomanic up swing, the weather getting somewhat nice where I live, and binge watching Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo I got inspired to clean, declutter, and reorganize. Now if I am being honest while I got rid of a lot of stuff (a whole SUV and a half worth) I was not as ruthless as Ms. Kondo’s method entails so I also kept alot. My bedroom is now clean and organized and fresh. It feels lighter and more airy. I can now have dance parties and I have a place to write.
Now to circle this back to self care. When your space is conducive to taking care of yourself (i.e. you can find everything you need, your favorite pjs are washed and ready to go, and you have a pace to do the unfun parts of self care like work or school) then it becomes easier to relax and destress from a long day or talk yourself into doing little tasks. Now when I get home from work I can light a candle change into comfy pjs and watch my favorite TV shows guilt free without removing stuff on my bed or clearing a path to the door. Its also easier to make myself take one dish to the kitchen then it is to try and take 20 or to make my bed in the morning. The internet talks a lot about self care but I feel a lot of posts focus on the pampering side of self care on not on the necessity side of things. Cleaning the house is just as much self care as taking a bubble bath. Going to class is just as much self care as painting your nails. Paying a bill is just as much self care as taking a shower. The only difference is that cleaning, going to class, and paying a bill is that these things are long term self care; while a bubble bath, painting your nails and taking a shower are short time self care.
We all struggle with mental health at some point in our lives. Everybody gets anxious about certain thing (ie job promotions or public speaking) or people go through bouts of depression (ie after the loss of a family member or getting fired), but some people just struggle to a point where they are consumed by their illness and the sad thing is that nobody wants to ever talk about it. I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression when I was 18 and then diagnosed with Bi-Polar II when I was 19. I struggle with General Anxiety, Suicidal Ideation, and my Bi-Polar Disorder on a daily biases. I never understood why mental illness was so looked down upon. I mean nobody in their right mind would look at a cancer patient and tell them that its all in their head and that in their generation there was no such thing as cancer and yet that’s what people with mental illness hear all the time. I went into my deepest and longest depression when I was 15 and it lasted till almost my 18th birthday. I was so scared to turn to anybody in for help. I wouldn’t even talk to my own mother about for fear that I would be judged and told I was crazy. I remember one particularly bad night my mom heard me crying in the middle of the night and she came into my room and was holding me as she asked me what was wrong and to please just talk to her all I remember doing is shaking my head, sobbing and telling her to go away.
Eight years later and mental health is talked about more and there is less of a stigma, but there is still tons to be done. I tell people about what I deal with and they look at me like i have two heads or that I am going to fall apart. Getting a mental health diagnoses is the best worst thing. Its the best because it finally has a name and the worst cause it feels like a life sentence. There is not cure for any mental health illnesses, there is only treatments like medication, therapy and coping mechanisms (all of which I use to get me through the day). Some days always end up being better then others though. When your mood is set to a cycle of sadness and okayness its hard to have good days, but they days I spend with the people I love and the days I spend laughing till I cant breathe are always my favorite. My support system is my anchor to the light blue shallows of my illness. For as long as I have been going to therapy I have always used this photo as a reference to where my head is at on any given day. The lighter the blue the “happier” I am; the darker the blue the worse I am. On any given day I tend to stay in the lightish blue colors. It took a lot of fighting and admitting to myself and to my support system that I needed help. I think the hardest person to admit this to, besides myself, was my dad. My dad is a very strong very stubborn man. He struggles with anxiety and depression though will never admit it to anybody. He comes from a generation that thinks mental illness is a myth, but my dad put how he feels about it aside and he just say his daughter in pain and all he wanted to do was make it go away. He had been my strongest supporter throughout my journey and even though he may not always understand and he may think its foolish or all in my head he loves me anyway and will always listen to me when I talk.
Its really easy to judge people and to dismiss people, but its even easier to be polite and attempt to understand. If you have somebody in your life that is struggling or had confided in you be there for them, listen to them, and help them cope. Sometimes it takes tough love; sometimes it takes a gentle touch. If you are the one struggling don’t be scared to reach out, especially if you have tried before and it was not good. If you are struggling or even if you are in a goodish place and you have a friend that is struggling and is pulling you deeper into the black its okay to distance yourself or let go entirely even if that person is a family member. Most importantly just know its gets better. It ALWAYS gets better.