Gone Fishin’

This week I’m out of town with the kids. It’s fall break so we headed north to Mabank to my parents’ lake house.

I probably won’t have much time to blog (we’ve been having Lego contests and enjoying the cooler weather), but below are some blogs you may have missed on depression, diet culture and anxiety. I also will include this week’s column in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

When My Daughter Said the F-Word

I’m Grateful But Still Sick and That’s Okay

I Never Do Anything Last Minute

Caller-Times: Diet Culture is Toxic

I hope you guys are having a great week.

Stay in the light, friends.

Migraine Disease and Depression Go Hand-in-Hand

I’ve had migraines since I was a kid. When I was 11 or 12, I started to get these awful headaches, but I didn’t know what they were. I started missing a lot of school because the only way I could get them to go away was to lie in a dark room. Noise and sounds bothered me.

It was frustrating, because it made it harder for me to be a kid — play on sports teams and socialize with my friends at school.

The headaches continued through high school and progressively got worse. I remember when I was 18, a senior in high school, driving to a funeral in South Texas with my family. I got a headache on the way down, but this headache was different. I was so nauseated I couldn’t open my eyes. I was writing in pain on the floor of the car, because I couldn’t sit up. When we got to the funeral, I couldn’t even get out of the car.

We started the long drive back to Dallas after the funeral, and the pain just intensified. I threw up, which I had never done before during a headache. Finally, when we reached Waco, my parents couldn’t take it anymore. They stopped at an emergency room, and we were immediately seen.

The ER doc said he knew instantly what it was — a migraine. I had never heard that word before. He retrieved a shot of Imitrex and gave me the injection. Within minutes, I felt so much better. No trace of a migraine or nausea, I couldn’t believe it.

As we were leaving, he told my mom to follow up with a neurologist.

I saw a neurologist and explained my symptoms and talked about how much school I was missing. The doctor, who was very sympathetic, diagnosed me with migraines and wrote me a prescription for that magical Imitrex in pill form.

The migraines would show up somewhat randomly, but I did manage to nail down some triggers:

  • Interrupted sleep or not enough sleep
  • Certain smells, like floral scents or cigarette smoke
  • Stress
  • My period
  • Drinking alcohol

Even when I avoided these triggers, the migraines still plagued me. When I went to college, I didn’t find sympathy when I missed class, except one professor whose wife was also a migraine sufferer.

I was missing so much class that I had to file paperwork with the campus’ Students with Disabilities office in order to be granted absence leniency. I still didn’t receive sympathy from my professors. I really wasn’t looking for sympathy, just understanding, but I never found it.

When I started my first job after college, my migraines were worse from all the stress I incurred. I called in a lot. I was embarrassed and felt guilty all the time, and some of my coworkers became resentful, even telling me so. Which now, I understand as part of the stigma of migraine. Boy, it’s hard living with one invisible, let alone two (migraine and depression).

People thought I was lazy, and my friends thought I was avoiding social activity with them. I couldn’t win, not that I’m looking for pity now. It was just frustrating at the time and even now, migraines are grossly misunderstood.

There’s an article in Practical Neurology that speaks about the stigma of migraine, going back to the 18th century.

“In the late 18th century, people with migraine were represented as privileged, self-absorbed individuals, who used their migraine as an excuse for shirking social duties and avoiding social responsibilities. By the 19th century, migraine was perceived as a weakness of women in the lower socio-economic classes. Physicians caring for patients with migraine were also ridiculed as out of touch, incompetent practitioners who encouraged their patients’ neurotic tendencies. A negative, feminized view of the person with migraine has persisted since, whether migraine was viewed as a psychological defect or as the result of an excitable, feminized brain.”

The article includes a 2016 survey by a medical insurance provider that found just 22 percent of employers deemed migraine to be a “serious enough reason for an employee to be absent from work,” lower than for any other reason, including depression, anxiety, stress, the flu, or the common cold. People with migraine must choose which parts of their lives to sacrifice, frequently prioritizing work over others (social, personal, leisure).

That’s so accurate — that migraine sufferers have to choose which parts of life they have to sacrifice.

Between the chronic pain and sacrifices that migraine suffers do make, it takes a toll on mental health. I started experiencing depression an anxiety after my headaches started, so I’m not sure which came first, but I do know that my depression symptoms were intensified by missing school and work, and the pressure and guilt I felt about it.

There is data that shows a connection between migraine and depression. People with migraine are about five times more likely to develop depression than someone without migraine, according to Dawn Buse, PhD, the director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center.

Ms. Buse says that about 20 percent of people with episodic migraine—headaches on 14 or fewer days per month—may also have depression, and that number goes up as the number of headache attack days per month increases. Similarly, about 20 percent of people with episodic migraine have anxiety, and between 30 percent and 50 percent of people with chronic migraine also have anxiety.

None of that is surprising to me.

Here are some stats on migraine in the U.S.:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households includes someone with migraine
  • Amazingly, 12 percent of the population – including children – suffers from migraine
  • 18 percent of American women, 6 percent of men, and 10 percent of children experience migraines
  • Migraine is most common between the ages of 18 and 44

You can see that migraine is not a rare disease — 12 percent of the population is huge. I also found this interested:

  • Migraine is the sixth most disabling illness in the world
  • Every 10 seconds, someone in the U.S. goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain, and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks
  • While most sufferers experience attacks once or twice a month, more than 4 million people have chronic daily migraine, with at least 15 migraine days per month
  • More than 90 percent of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine

Facts provided by the Migraine Research Foundation.

Just like with any other invisible illness, more attention needs to be paid to migraine — more understanding needs to be applied to migraine as well. You can help end the stigma of migraine by educating yourself and others about it.

Risk Factors for Migraine Sufferers

  • Family history. If you have a family member with migraines, then you have a good chance of developing them too
  • Age. Migraines can begin at any age, though the first often occurs during adolescence. Migraines tend to peak during your 30s, and gradually become less severe and less frequent in the following decades
  • Sex. Women are three times more likely to have migraines
  • Hormonal changes. For women who have migraines, headaches might begin just before or shortly after onset of menstruation. They might also change during pregnancy or menopause. Migraines generally improve after menopause

To learn more about migraine, visit the Migraine Research Foundation here.

When You Accept Yourself Everything Changes (I Think)

There’s nothing like therapy to knock you down a peg or two. Yesterday I was complaining about an old friend who rarely talks to me anymore, spurring me to feel bad about myself. I hate rejection. I told my therapist that she didn’t accept who I was anymore. Her withdrawal from me started when I went to a psychiatric hospital so I assumed that was the reason and the fact that now all I do is talk about mental health. Of course I don’t know why she has withdrawn from the friendship because she’s not a touchy-feely type so I haven’t asked.

She and I are so different, and I admitted that I walk on eggshells sometimes to avoid conflict with her. This led my therapist to tell me that it doesn’t sound like I’ve accepted her, so why should she accept me? It’s especially hard for her to accept me, she said, because I haven’t shown her the real me. I keep parts hidden from this person but here I am complaining she doesn’t know me or doesn’t care to know the current version of me.

Damnit. My therapist is right. Again.

But I don’t know why we’ve grown apart. I’m only assuming and we all know what happens when you assume.

My therapist then said that I’ve been growing so much that even I don’t know who I am fully. I didn’t like hearing that, but it’s true. In the past two years, since going to the hospital, I’ve changed a lot, evolved even. But my journey is still not finished. I’ve got more growing to do.

This all led me to think whether I’ve accepted myself. I’d like to think I have, but then again not being my authentic self leads me to believe that there are parts I’m not happy with or have come to terms with. I want to think that I’m this badass writer who helps others with mental illness. That I have a generous heart and good friend. That I’m a good person who’s strong and has grit. But do I really believe that? I don’t think so. I’m scared that others will see me as weak, that I breakdown at the slightest thing. I know that’s not the truth, but the stigma of mental illness is so strong and I don’t doubt that others have thought that, but the thing is I SHOULDN’T CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS. In fact, it’s none of my business what others think.

I know that I’ve been through Hell and back, that my mental health journey will never be finished. I know I’ve fought almost every single day to be happy or something closely related. I’ve battled my own brain, which tells me I should kill myself sometimes. I do electroconvulsive therapy on a regular basis. Doctors literally have to induce a seizure in order for me to be somewhat “normal.” That is the badass part. I not weak in the slightest. I get weary, sure, but I’ll keep fighting for my life no matter what.

And if my friend can’t see all of this, so the fuck what?

My therapist said that maybe my friend is uncomfortable around me now because I have changed so much. That maybe she sees me as the person I was long ago and not who I am now. My therapist also said that my friend has a limitations, that she lives in small space, but I don’t. Since my “breakdown” in 2019 I’ve tried to take up as much space as possible, because I deserve it.

I no longer want to worry that I’m good enough for someone, and I don’t want to beg for someone to love me. I have plenty of people who do, which I’m grateful for.

I want to continue to grow, to find the light like a plant. I want to take up space and relish in it. I want people to accept me for all my flaws and attributes. I want to drop the facade, starting now. I know I’m not perfect, but who is? That’s what makes us so interesting and unique.

I will no longer apologize for being me because even with my many flaws I’m still pretty great, and I’m worthy.

So are you, friends.

The Drama with Trauma

If you ask my therapist, she will (rightly) tell you I have some kind of unresolved trauma I need to sort through. Even though I feel I had an idyllic childhood, she insists there’s still something going on with me based on how my depression and anxiety manifests. Signs of unhealed trauma include depression, rage, addiction, PTSD, pain, guilt/shame, sleep issues and fear of abandonment — just to name a few.

Me, about 2 or 3 years old

Aside from the flashbacks, PTSD and fear of abandonment, I experience all those “symptoms.” Nothing terrible happened to me when I was a kid. I had two eye surgeries when I was three and four years old, and I was in a bad car accident with my mom when I was 12. The thing my therapist and I keep coming to is that the trauma is from my eye surgeries. I had to have surgery to correct a lazy eye that would wander outwards, then another surgery to correct that one (my eyes were too close and on the verge of crossing).

I can remember having the surgery. I remember being in a room with a nurse who was trying to put electrodes on me, but I was peeling them back off. She told me to stop that or we’d have to start all over. I also remember my Mema being at the hospital crying, but I think that’s a memory I created from listening to my mom talk about it. After the second surgery, I refused to open my eyes. My mom would try and ply me with popsicles and toys that would make noise (like the Fievel toy whose ear would squeak). But I wouldn’t open my eyes.

I never really thought it was weird that I didn’t open my eyes until my therapist asked me how hard would it be for Isla or Eli to keep their eyes closed for one to two days. Then it seemed really strange. There’s no way I could walk through Target with them closing their eyes, not even being persuaded with the offer of toys.

I started thinking about the surgery again. I’m not sure how much I understood what was going on, but obviously, I was scared. Then I realized something — I’ve developed a phobia of anesthesia, which is unfortunate because I have to have an ECT treatment every eight to 16 weeks. When I’m wheeled into the room, they start to put electrodes on me, and I panic. I wasn’t always like this, but during one treatment in 2020 it felt like the anesthesia was taking too long to work, and I was scared I wouldn’t be under during the seizure. It hasn’t been the same since. Was I suffering a flashback? Maybe. I’m able to go through with the procedure now, but it’s still hard, and I still cry, and the nurse still has to hold my hand and talk me down.

I didn’t think trauma could work like that — where one seemingly insignificant event could affect me now, but at this point it all adds up, in my opinion.

Maybe I’m wrong, and they weren’t significant. Closely related, sure. I still owe it to myself to explore all the areas of my life where trauma could’ve sneaked through and caused so much chaos. Because that’s what this feels like — total chaos in my mind. I don’t like feeling rage and yelling at my family. I really hate binge eating, and feeling so much guilt and shame. So, my therapist and I are going to do Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) this week or next. I’m interested in how that will go because I haven’t done EMDR in years.

My whole point in writing this is that you don’t always know what emotional or psychological trauma you’re trudging through life with. It can be painful, but it cannot be ignored because one way or another, it will find you. I’ve been binge eating like crazy lately, and I can only attribute it to what I’ve been talking to my therapist about. I like this from HelpGuide.org, “There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people. Your responses are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events.” The site also says that trauma can be caused by commonly overlooked causes, such as surgery, especially in the first three years of life. Well, there you have it.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to work through it. I’ve come this far.

As always, stay in the light, my friends.

Decriminalizing Mental Illness

When people started talking about defunding the police, I thought, “Oh my god, why would they do that?” until I later learned that term didn’t mean completely removing funds from the department but reallocating them to other services. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, and I’m NOT here to argue any one position. But reallocating money to some services makes sense to me, especially when it comes to the mentally ill.

I remember a conversation I had very recently — a friend said she was concerned that her brother, who was mentally ill, was going to get shot by the police one day because he didn’t always follow commands and had problems distinguishing his thoughts from reality. She said she told every police officer she came across to watch out for her brother. That’s sad, but for her and her family, it’s a very real concern.

Again, I’m not saying the police are bad guys, and I’m very grateful for their service and dedication to their communities. What I am trying to say is that maybe their time would be better spent on actual criminal activity and not be spent on de-escalating situations where mentally ill persons are involved. I realize sometimes it might be needed, but there is a large number of mentally ill people incarcerated when sometimes they don’t need to be.

Mental Health America, an advocacy group, says that in the past 50 years, the U.S. has gone from institutionalizing people with mental illness to incarcerating them at unprecedented rates, putting recovery out of reach for million of Americans. On any given day, 300,000 to 400,000 people with mental illness are under “correctional control.”

This is attributed to a lack of state hospital beds in the country, as well as a lack of proper training for law enforcement officials to identify mentally ill persons (which makes sense if the situation is dangerous and they don’t have time to suss out many details).

It didn’t use to be this way, though. Back in the ’50s and ’60s there was a huge call to action for states to empty out state psychiatric facilities by fiscal conservatives, civil rights activists and others. A lot had to do with the movie, “The One That Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” because people were convinced the mentally ill were being treated inhumanely. So they were “liberated.”

But now there’s a bigger problem — jails and prisons are becoming the “new asylums” for mentally ill. In 44 states, jails/prisons with both a county jail and county psychiatric facility, more seriously mentally ill (about 3 times as many) are incarcerated than hospitalized. U.S. prisons have essentially become warehouses for the mentally ill because of the decrease of state hospital beds yet the mentally ill receive inadequate care and have poor supervision. They are more likely to commit suicide as well as more likely to be sexually assaulted (1 in 4 inmates for females; 1 in 12 for males; 1 in 33 for inmates without a mental disorder). An article on Slate.com reported that in Florida, the prison staff takes pains to ensure the mentally ill patients are fit to stand trial but once convicted, they’re cut off from all services. Naturally, a lot of the inmates’ conditions worsen while in custody.

It’s also important to note that in Florida’s Orange County Jail, the average stay for all inmates is 26 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 51 days. In New York’s Riker’s Island, the average stay for all inmates is 42 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 215 days.

And if that’s not appalling to you, let’s also broach the subject of money. It is very costly to house a mentally ill person. It costs about $80 per day to incarcerate inmates without a mental disorder and $130 per day for mentally ill inmates. The average per year in Texas is about $22,000 for inmates without a mental disorder and it ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 per year for mentally ill inmates. This can all be found here on the Treatment Advocacy Center website.

It’s obvious something’s not right here. I’m not saying we need to increase the number of state hospitals once again, but maybe we do. I think it’s worth a discussion.

In 2019, when I was struggling with depression so badly, I went to a privately-run psychiatric facility called The Menninger Clinic. It’s one of the best in the country, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Thankfully, my family has been able to afford it as well as medications not covered by insurance and providers who don’t accept insurance — and there are a lot.

I think I would literally be dead if I couldn’t afford my meds and the services that I have received. That’s no exaggeration.

Some aren’t that lucky.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please visit the National Alliance on Mental Health to learn more and find resources.

Survival of the unFittest

I feel my skin touch in places it didn’t used to touch, like my back when I move and turn certain ways. I can tell there’s more fat around my neck, as I feel it almost choking me when I look down or lie down. There’s more of me everywhere, it seems.

I blogged a few weeks ago about gaining about 15 pounds, but now I fear that number is closer to 20. I haven’t brought myself to get on the scale in fear or a full-blown depressive episode.

Obviously, it’s a hard time — for everyone — because of the pandemic. My thoughts shift from thinking, “Do what you need to survive” to “You need to make healthy decisions,” and survival always plays out. When you have depression, there are some days you do need to just do what you can do to survive, but when you have depression AND an eating disorder, some times directives get confusing.

For some reason, “just surviving” has turned into eating junk food to make me feel good, and in that moment, I think it honestly will make me feel good. But alas, as I’ve said before, those feelings are temporary. So I keep shoveling in the unhealthy snacks to chase that good feeling. Because let’s face it, there’s not much good going on right now. And now, I’ve 20 pounds heavier, unhappy and even embarrassed. I’m probably about the same weight as I was before I had gastric sleeve surgery. So, why did I go through all that pain for NOTHING? God, it’s disappointing and shameful. But also, laughable. How am I this stupid? Or is it stubborn? Whatever it is, I’ve got it in spades.

It would be one thing if I had gained just a few pounds and started to change my habits, but I’ve done so much damage, I’m physically uncomfortable. It’s hard to breathe at times. I’m not in a good place. And you’d think that would spur change, and I hope it does, but I’ve lost confidence in myself.

My only hope (at the moment) is that I’m getting another ECT on Friday. I’m hoping it’s a hard reset this time. Usually, I dread getting them, as I hate going under anesthesia, but I’m really looking forward to this one.

The thing is, that sometimes the ECTs are a good reset, but often times, it doesn’t feel that much different. In my opinion, I shouldn’t have to rely on a hard reset from the ECTs to make a change. Damnit, I should employ the coping skills that I’ve been learning since going to The Menninger Clinic.

Why the fuck is it so hard to take care of myself?

Maybe it’s low self-esteem, the effects of trauma, a terrible case of treatment-resistant depression, my dumbass personality disorder, etc. Maybe I don’t like myself.

Maybe it doesn’t matter why I don’t do it that matters. Hell, maybe I should go to therapy more often.

Maybe I’m missing the point.

Maybe we all are.

Sense of Loss

A friend of mine came to visit this past week, one I’d met while at the Menninger Clinic. While we were catching up, I learned that he had been great since our six-week stint at the psychiatric facility. I was happy, for sure. When you suffer with a mental disorder, you wish only happiness on your brethren going through the same. But something started to nag at me. I heard him say that he’s off some of the medication the hospital had prescribed and doesn’t need to go to therapy any longer….and there it was. A sense of loss.

I’m so happy that things are going well for my friend but damn I get upset thinking how the doctors told me my diagnoses — yes, there was more than one (more than five actually) — were likely to be lifelong. And even after having more than 30 ECT treatments, I still need them on a regular basis, whereas most people only do a couple of maintenance treatments a year, if that.

I still need to be monitored closely by a psychiatrist and will need to do weekly therapy for God knows how long. I don’t pretend to know what my friend goes through, if things are ever hard for him, but they sure as shit are still hard for me. I know I’m better than I was, that I’ve made improvements, but I feel so much loss when contemplating my depression and anxiety. It has taken so much from me.

And it’s OK for me to say that. It’s OK for me to think that way. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me, and I shouldn’t compare my life to others’ anyway. But it’s OK to feel — and even mourn — that loss. As a mother, I’ll always have limitations. Hell, as a human being, I have limitations — we all do. I’ve lost so many memories (thanks to ECT). I’ve lost time to my illness. No matter what I might’ve gained from having depression, I’ve still lost so much.

But no worries. I still subscribe to sunshine and good thoughts in the grand scheme of things. But I believe in being honest with myself, too. And stewing. Sometimes it can give you new perspective when you stew in negativity or just realistic thoughts. You tend to grow more too, which I’m all about. There’s no growth if you can’t get uncomfortable from time to time.

And even though I’m constantly trying to avoid being uncomfortable, I end up feeling that more than anything else which gives me hope that I’ll outgrow it all. And maybe I will.

Maybe it’ll be OK if I don’t.

You Might Have Anxiety If…

Anxiety presents differently in people, so my list may be different from yours and that’s OK. There are also different anxiety disorders that I didn’t mention: generalized anxiety disorder (me), social anxiety disorder (also me), panic disorder and separation anxiety. You can have more than one, unfortunately. Everyone at some point experiences anxiety, but you need to seek help if it’s significantly interfering with your life.

This list is supposed to be lighthearted, but anxiety is serious and can make life difficult to get through the day. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, please contact your primary care doctor, find a therapist, join a support group or talk to a trusted friend. You’re not alone.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Drop it in the comments. Stay in the light, my friends.

Please note that I am not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose anxiety through this blog.

Sometimes Family is Not Forever

I’ll start by saying this blog isn’t about anyone in particular, it’s only an acknowledgement that sometimes families fall apart. Family members become toxic and estranged, even when you thought you were close. It pains me to write about this because I always had this idea that families are forever — the whole idea that blood’s thicker than water.

But sometimes it’s necessary to cut a loved one(s) out of your life if they are abusive and/or affecting your mental health. A couple of my friends have talked to me about this — how a family member oversteps their bounds and constantly berates or belittles their existence. Teasing is one thing, but it should never go as far as repeatedly hurting someone’s feelings.

My immediate family is not perfect, and sometimes I feel like the black sheep, but I know they support me and have my back. Honestly, I used to feel so left out and admired other families. But then I was witness to an “ideal family” coming undone and my opinion changed. I’m very grateful for what I have in my own family.

No matter what, your boundaries should be respected. They are so important and needed in every relationship. These guidelines establish how you want to be treated and it’s critical to create and maintain healthy relationships. If you have someone in your family disrespecting your boundaries, you should talk to them, tell them they’re hurting your feelings and address how you want to be treated. I realize this is easier said than done. Sometimes, you feel indebted to a loved one or feel like you’re obligated to keep them in your life. But love, support and understanding are not guaranteed in a family member. And if you’re not getting any of that and are constantly ignored and hurt, feel free to cut that person out of your life. Again, I realize that’s easier said than done.

Life is too short to deal with a toxic person. Even if you don’t think their antics affect you, it does. Being manipulated and exposed to emotionally violent behaviors causes depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Plus it’s stressful. If you’re dealing with this, I’m so sorry. If you’re still being bullied and ignored, try talking to a trusted family member or therapist. They might have an idea on how to approach that family member. Remember, you are not responsible for their behavior nor the job of maintaining the unhealthy relationship.

If you do cut someone out of your life, don’t feel guilty. Make your mental health and wellbeing a priority because you matter, your feelings are valid and there’s no reason you should deal with toxic family members (or friends). Putting yourself first doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you smart and healthy.

Stay in the light.

Choke.

My best friend called me out today, and as much as I hate to admit it, she was right. As usual.

I was complaining about my weight gain and how I felt fat and ugly. My BFF was sympathetic then said, “You can’t preach self acceptance and hate yourself.”

I blog so much about body positivity and loving yourself and here I am cringing every time I pass a mirror — that’s mirror avoidance, by the way. Why is it so hard to practice what I preach?

Because there’s a deep-seated belief in me that fat equals ugly and unworthy. I’ve been trained to criticize every inch of my body, to think of fat as disgusting. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to overcome these thoughts, that I’ll always hate myself, and that’s just sad.

Weeks ago I contacted my favorite photographer and booked a photo shoot that was just for me. I wanted to celebrate how free I feel now that I’m so open with my mental disorders. I feel free from others’ opinions, too. Or I did. Now I want to cancel the photo shoot. I tried on outfit after outfit and nothing fit and if it did, it didn’t feel like me. I ended up crying about the ordeal, realizing that I’m not free at all — I’m a slave to my eating disorder and to the idea that being thin means you’re beautiful, loved and successful. I am tethered to dangerous societal norms, even though I talk about bucking them all the time.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to look at myself in disgust. I want to love my body and soul. I want to be free. And in some ways, I am.

It was brave to admit to depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder. I didn’t bat an eye when I talked about my suicidal thoughts and subsequent hospitalizations. I don’t give a fuck what others think because I help people by talking about these issues. Friends, family and even strangers have reached out to me saying I’ve helped in some way, and that fuels me to keep writing. There was nobody to help me navigate depression and anxiety when I was at my worst, and I don’t want anyone feeling the same way. It was a terrible, dark time. And hopefully, I can shine light on other people’s journey because I know what they’re going through. That’s my goal.

But I’m not truly free until I break these tired old chains.

A friend had a shirt on today that said, “I will no longer be shrinking myself to be more digestible.You can choke.” That’s the attitude I want to have. I’d be healthier if I lost some weight, sure, but being overweight doesn’t mean I’m ugly or less than. It doesn’t change anything — I’m amazing for so many reasons and none of those reasons has to do with weight.

My kids are watching. Their ideas of self-worth come from me (and my husband), so I’d better get it together. There’s no way I want either of them to deal with low self-esteem and self-hate. I want them to celebrate who they are outside of their appearance. And if I want them to do that, why can’t I want that for myself? I’m almost 40, and it’s hard to reverse some thoughts, but I can do it. I’ve battled depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember — I’ve come so far. I’m not going to let a few pounds (or 26) take me down. No, I’m stronger than that.

From now on, I’m celebrating who I am despite my appearance. If people don’t like it, they can choke. I refuse to shrink any more than I have.