Beauty doesn’t equal happiness. Back when I was 120 pounds and classically “beautiful,” before my diagnosis, I was tormented inside and in agony almost every day, from suicide to anxiety to depression to mania to constant night terrors of being tortured in Hell. I made a pact with myself in high school to kill myself at 25. Fast forward to 19, and I am diagnosed with bipolar, OCD, and anxiety. I go on medication and go through a serious depression from the manic crash. Then I struggle with flat affect most of sophomore year. The weight piles on even though I exercise every day. 150. 170. 200. In the end, by Winter 2018, I had gained over 100 pounds due to medication and depressive episodes. I peaked at 235. Scary in a family that has diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. I was in a deep depression, but I committed to hope. The weight started coming off as I started hiking and eating low carb and cooking at home. 15 pounds lost. 20 pounds lost. Now, 35 pounds lost.
The catch? I would take the weight gain any day, even 100 pounds, to be happy. Medication makes me stable, able to do the things I love, able to be creative and be a prolific writer that finished a novel a year and writes boatloads of short stories and poetry, able to get straight As in one of the top programs for communication in the country, able to finally, almost 26, say I am literally the happiest I have ever been. I make humongous strides each and every year with my stability and high functioning success. I constantly push myself to improve, whether it’s doing academic research, publishing my first professional short story, cooking a new recipe, or learning something new. The weight, at the end of the day, is secondary. I’d rather be fat and happy then skinny and constantly trying to drown myself.
It’s not all roses though. I still struggle with mania and depression. Sometimes, suicide creeps up every few months. Sometimes, the intrusive thoughts and obsessions make my mind run rat races. I can be paralyzed by social anxiety or paranoid or break down from trauma I remembered and have a panic attack where I can’t breathe in a grocery store. In the hospital, they gave me this great piece of advice that is my mantra: “One day at a time.” I have suffered more mental anguish than most people will ever have to deal with in their lives. I am one of the most severe cases of bipolar a lot of my doctors have seen, from the psychosis to the hallucinations that sometimes creep up. When unstable, I struggle with delusions. And the weight is still something I have to watch, a lot. It takes concerted effort to lose weight, and I am 19 pounds away from my ultimate goal. I have to always be on top of things, working ahead so when my brain haywires I have room for cushions upon impact, going to teach 75 students that rely on me when I am psychotic or wildly suicidal or hallucinating. I have had violent hallucinations on business calls before at the tender age of 23, mistaken fiction for reality when my mania and psychosis acts up, but still I find faith in the gods (and God!) and spirits and ancestors instead of blaming divinity for my mental hell.
It never gets perfect, but it gets better. I just want everyone t know that is reading this and struggling, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It improves dramatically year by year, month by month, with ups and downs as life’s boat rocks you.
I wanted to die by 25. I would have killed myself by now if I hadn’t received therapy and meds. But now I have something I have rarely had before: hope.
I may not be as beautiful as I once was, but inside, I am blooming.
Always put your mental health first. Forget the haters.