Paige and I went to Mexico over the holidays. I didn’t have a bathing suit that fit so I decided I needed to buy a new one.
And I did something I’ve never done before.
I bought a bathing suit that I thought is cute. No other criteria. It didn’t have to be slimming. It didn’t matter if it showcased my puffy belly. For the first time ever I didn’t care how I looked in a bathing suit.
I am very proud of myself for that.
I have always struggled with my weight. By struggle I mostly mean being self loathing for reasons including but not limited to being overweight. Sure I would “diet” and promise that I was going to exercise but inevitably those good intentions would fall by the wayside of convenience and habit.
I have also always struggled with mental illness. And that has been more of an actual struggle, especially considering that I was not correctly diagnosed until I was 33 years old. Don’t get me wrong – I started receiving diagnoses at the age of 12. But they were wrong & the treatment corresponding to the diagnoses was also wrong.
Self loathing was not the only common bond between my weight and my mental illness. They were very much connected. In fact, I’d say they were the best of friends.
I am bipolar. I know that most of the world knows what that means. For those who don’t and who haven’t looked up on Google yet, the really basic breakdown is that my mind (emotions, thoughts, etc.) volley between the extremes of the mental spectrum. I go from deep, deep depression to crazed mania and back again. It’s not a leisurely stroll either. It’s more like a pinball machine.
Some of the elements of mania, or mania as I experienced it anyway, are not sleeping, not eating, and having tons of energy. Well, that kind of state can be pretty hard on a body. I would lose weight fast, like scary fast. I walked the line – fell over the line a couple of times – of anorexia. 5’4″ and 85 lbs is not healthy.
But never fear, depression would appear. The mania would abruptly end, sending me plummeting into a depression that left me mentally paralyzed. Having no energy, no hope, no enjoyment of any aspect of life made it easy to gain the weight back. That would go on for a while and then our old friend mania would stop in for a visit.
Even though the yo-yo weight wasn’t healthy for me in any way, I did become accustomed to losing the weight that I had gained during depressions. I guess that is one positive thing about cycles; you know that what you’re used to will come back around.
Enter mental health. Finally, I got the right diagnosis (even though I did have to figure it out on my own), I got the right medicine, and I got something else that has been foreign to me my entire life – stability.
Well, almost. I was in the midst of depression when we realized that I am bipolar. I was overweight. And I was gaining weight here and there even after my diagnosis.
But no mania came to even it out. No crazy popped up and put me on the “unhinged” diet. I just kept gaining weight until it finally dawned on me that I had been kind of depending on my insanity.
And then there was the dread of actually having to make an effort to get physically healthy. But I’ve been working on it. And my wife is an inspiration. She has been making it easier for us both to eat better. She bought a treadmill that I thought I would never use but surprisingly I’m on there everyday. She is encouraging, even when she doesn’t want to be. And I am grateful to her for that and so much more.
Also, I no longer believe that I am worthless or bad. I’m just overweight.
But I’m working on it.
With the self loathing element gone, I am able to be happy in my “struggle” with my weight. I’m able to set goals and meet them. Or not meet them and that’s ok too. I’ll get to where I need to be when I need to be there.
Because I know I will get there. And I won’t need crazy to do it.