As someone struggling with Bipolar Disorder, I sometimes feel as if I am literally a person stuck inside someone else’s body, clawing to get out. I am physically restless, often tapping my fingers or feet and kicking my legs in an attempt to relieve the tension I feel within myself, in my body and my brain. But the feeling of physical discomfort in my own body actually started long ago, from the first time I looked in the mirror and saw something other than what was really there.
I have never been overweight, but since the fifth grade I have been trying, almost constantly, to get thinner that whatever weight I was. I have always had unattainably high standards for myself, and this meant that I didn’t just want to be thin, I wanted—needed—to be thinner than everyone else in the room. But no matter what I weighed, every time I looked in the mirror I saw a fat girl.
For much of high school, I restricted my eating, lying about what I ate (or didn’t eat) and also exercising obsessively. During this time I was told that I looked “emaciated,” and I took it as a compliment. I prided myself on how thin people thought I was, but still it wasn’t enough. While, like many young girls, I wanted to look like the models in magazines, I think that what I was actually hoping was that I would disappear. I remember thinking: I don’t deserve to take up this much space.
Over the years, I have had ups and downs with my weight, and any time I gained any amount of weight, I would reason to myself: I thought I was fat before this, so now I must actually be fat. That gave me an excuse to keep seeing what I had always seen in the mirror—a funhouse version of myself.
These days, because of my Bipolar Depression, I really struggle to find motivation to eat healthfully and exercise. And because of my experiences in high school I have trouble separating what I eat and how I exercise from how much I weigh and how I look.
Right now, although I am at a perfectly healthy weight for my height, when it comes right down to it, there are times when I honestly feel as if I do not recognize myself anymore. I feel trapped in my own body. Because in my head, I am still that underweight girl in high school, and in the mirror I see something different.
But what if that girl isn’t who I am anymore? What if being that person isn’t as important as being the person that I am now?
Think of all the time and energy I could save if I just gave all that up. If I broke free from worrying about what my body looks like and just accepted myself, the way I am. It’s not as if I was happy when I was thinner–I was just handling my depression in a different way. And I don’t need to be thinner to do what I want to do, to be caring or help others.
I’m starting to realize that there are so many better things I could be doing with my time.
And I’m planning to do them.
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