Battling Weight and Body Image

This is a story about mental health and self-care written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on the site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

My weight has fluctuated over the years. People have said that I’ve gone from too skinny years ago, to a healthy size now. The truth is that I’m not completely happy with my current weight and the way I feel. I need to start eating better, exercising more and improving my overall well being. I feel strongly that being in good physical health helps with one’s mental health!

When I first lived in Los Angeles in my early to mid 20s, I was told that I was at an unhealthy weight. I never weighed myself during those times, but I’m guessing I weighed around 115-120? I ate Clif bars for almost every meal and spent the day drinking Gatorade. I was getting the necessary calories I needed to survive the day. I lived in Venice Beach, so I’d walk up and down the beach and around different zip codes all day, including Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Culver City. I may have looked alright, but my mental health was slipping down during that stage in my life. I was not feeling good mentally at all. I remember a couple times I went to parties with models. A few of the girls attempted to get me to fly to other countries to do modeling. I was in no place mentally to take that venture. I had opportunities, but I figured out a way to destroy them all. As you can tell in the pictures from Los Angeles, I did not have a sparkle in my eyes like I sometimes do. I was also sucking in my cheeks because I did not feel skinny enough. During the “skinny” time in my life, I would look in the mirror and see an overweight girl. I saw myself as a girl who was not good enough. I was a girl who needed to lose more weight so I was like the other girls. Yes, I compared myself to them.

There were times when I chose to live on the streets. I could not sleep, so why not be outside? I was slipping. I had prescriptions for anti-psychotic medications, but I was not taking them the prescribed way. I was medicating my body in unhealthy ways. Trips back and forth from Minnesota to Los Angeles ultimately landed me back in Minnesota with the proper self-care I needed and was looking for. I was not treating my body as a temple. I was not only polluting my body but also my soul.

As I previously stated, my body weight has fluctuated over the years. When I was in high school, a few of my friends had eating disorders. Those girls were some of the most beautiful girls in my high school class. But shhh, it’s not okay to be sick. That’s what our society tells us. To be honest with you, I often took on some of the responsibility for their disorders. I did not want to be one of the girls whom they were comparing themselves to. I felt an extreme guilt during high school because I did not know how to help my friends. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I was struggling during that time too. I have compared myself to the “skinny” girls. When people share about how much weight they have lost, it’s hard not to compare. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized why. I, along with them, was trying to look NOT SICK in a SICK world. Everyone is hurting in some way. We are all at different stages of acceptance, but we have to accept who we are today.

When I started to be more concerned with my mental health, I was on a cocktail of different medications. Many of those medications caused bloating and weight gain. A couple years ago, I was at my ideal weight of around 132 pounds. The fact is that I was not mentally stable at that time. My dad was getting sicker and sicker every day, and I was grieving over a boyfriend who was dealing with his own issues. I felt pretty good physically, but I was torn apart inside.

Currently, I look in the mirror and see a body that I do not want to accept. I see a woman who needs to feel better about her current size. Lately, I’ve weighed between 140-145. I work in the child care area at a health club and receive a free membership for the work I do. My dream is to start working out a few times a week and to definitely watch what I am eating. To burn off calories takes time and effort.

My prayer is to be happy with my overall physical and mental health. I’ll let you know when I am! I have found that no matter what your size, confidence is everything. We need to find a way to be comfortable with our body size, no matter what that may be. A lot of this may sound trivial in comparison to more important problems that we face in life. It is, but we have to feel good about ourselves in order to communicate properly with the people we surround ourselves with. You’ve got to like and love yourself before you can like and love others! For me, I have to take care of myself in order to be a better parent to my two kids.

Tiffany

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