Obesity and Mental Illness Make Terrible Bedfellows

Her mother would have her strip naked, then slowly unspiral cling wrap around her daughter’s prepubescent torso and thighs. When she was done, her mother sent her out into the family backyard, in the South Texas three-digit heat, and ordered her young daughter to mow the entire lawn in that tortuous ensemble.

Listening to this while holding her trembling hands, I shook my head sympathetically.

She laughed nervously, doing a bad job of pretending the memory was funny instead of spirit-crushing.

I offered, “When I was that age, my mother made me do workout videos as soon as I got home from school. My brother and sister got to whip off their backpacks, run outside and play with their friends, while I’m kicking legs with Jane Fuckin’ Fonda! By the time I got to go outside and play, my friends were already in their homes for supper.”

In our sororal moment we agreed our mothers were horribly influenced by what society deemed to be “the right look” for a woman, with no consideration for modern genetics, anatomy, or kinesiology.

When we shared our stories, this woman was in her early twenties, invested in party hopping, binge drinking and freaking down any guy who found “big guls” attractive. She essentially subverted her desire for self-empowerment into being everyone’s favorite hoebag.

She didn’t need to turn out that way, but it was the only way she felt beautiful. I despise her mother for torturing her, I despise the men who played against her emotional vulnerability, and I despise this society for encouraging that behavior on both ends. It pisses me off this psychotic, warped image of “the perfect body” is still in full practice! Making it the norm, not a circumstance, of an increasingly visible world experience. What’s most terrifying, it’s WOMEN HATING WOMEN keeping the ignorance and torture aflame.
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In my case, I was totally confused! I was one of the lead ballerinas in my ballet school, I was physically active during the day (meaning, fighting boys in the schoolyard on the regular), and I wasn’t into sweets or snacks. My mother has that thin build common for original Mesoamerican people, and, other than a pooch us three kids likely are responsible for, she was and remains a slender built woman. I inherited my father’s genes: a hardy, stout, solid body, common for direct descendants of the African Diaspora. Mom kept calling me ‘fat’ because her friends and coworkers were calling me fat. But I wasn’t fat, I didn’t even jiggle! Ignorance on her part bloomed physical insecurity on my part.
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Layer this confusion on top of my genetic predisposition to depression, and you’re looking at a Molotov cocktail of deep, psychological issues. Once I entered into puberty, mania and obesity fused, causing me to be so body conscious I enrolled in cardio classes to supplement my school physical education classes! Obsession took hold, and so did paranoia. I would fall into valleys of depression when my clothes tightened despite my feverish efforts.

The thing is – which Mom and Dad and my school mates weren’t keen on – the weight wasn’t genetic. The weight gain was due to depression. This was proven into my adult years, trying to provide for my family, study college courses, work three jobs, and be affianced to an Operation Iraqi Freedom soldier, all in one stroke.

More family drama, more weight.

More depression, more weight.

More stress. More weight.

More homicidal thoughts.

More weight.

I’m like a lot of Americans: our mental condition reflects our physical condition and vice versa and, despite our best efforts, our societally-influenced inner and outer circles shame us for not fitting “just right.”

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The title of my blog is no lie: I am a mad woman. Certifiably emotionally disturbed. But like with my weight control, I exert much energy to maintain mental balance, such as knowing I’m about to dip into depression because I’m lamenting too much about my physical appearance. Awareness of my triggers and a rational fitness routine are a couple of tools I use to keep Von happy and healthy.

Notice I said tools I use to keep Von happy? That’s because an aspect of emotional instability is projecting those insecurities onto your outer and inner circle, expecting someone else to be accountable for your happiness because you’re too weak to do it yourself. Like my friend above, many choose to keep bad habits going rather than embrace self-improvement, because the need for public adoration and affection trumps the need to be physically, mentally and spiritually in shape. Regardless if you’re trying to lose baby weight or reconcile your father’s lack of attention, the only way you’ll get better is if you love yourself better. No one can self-love you except you.

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Every day I struggle to face the world, such is my permanent disability. To keep weight insecurity-manic depression at bay, I don’t have mirrors in the home. I rarely self photograph and I opt to stay out of group photos whenever possible. Why? I don’t want my organic matter to define my sense of self-worth. So if I scowl at you for over-complimenting my body, it’s because I’d rather you find value in who I am than how I appear.

To Conquer Obesity, Embrace The Knowledge That:

It takes time.

It requires persistence.

You have to do it for you.

Your efforts will save your life.

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