Mental health has been in the spotlight recently in the United States. We are learning to be more aware of issues and are becoming more open to talking about it. As I'm getting older, I'm my eyes are opening up to the unhealthy thought patterns that are holding me down. If I could ask a therapist anything, I'd ask how to break these patterns and how to work on my own tendencies towards negativity.
"You look like my friend. She's a heavy-set girl with dark hair and pretty eyes, like yours. I thought you were her, sorry about that..."
The words of the guy who accidentally approached me at the bar kept echoing in my mind. He didn't mean any harm. He was just trying to explain why he approached me. Even though some of what he said was flattering, one word stands out: heavy-set.
It's not how I want to be described or how I want people to think of me. I kept telling myself to let it go, that it didn't really matter, but what he didn't know was how much that one word would affect me.
Weight was a struggle all my life. I grew up in a home where if you ate white bread, that was "bad." If there was any kind of fat on the nutritional label, that was "unhealthy." For years, I agonized over reading the nutritional labels and I still do — although now I look at things differently.
I always felt overweight, even when I wasn't. Now, I can look back and realize that I was fine. Sometimes even a little too small. I was a swimmer, a runner, and a weightlifter. I never felt strong but now I can appreciate that I was.
What that guy didn't know is that I have gained weight in the past few years and it is a daily struggle. I have an injury that is preventing me from being able to get back in the swimming pool. Being able to run again is not happening anytime in the near future.
I constantly compare myself to my older photos and feel weak and inadequate.
When these thoughts cross my mind, I keep having to remind myself that this is something I can change. I can focus on my eating habits while I recover from my injury and work on rehabilitative exercises. That I am still worthy of love. But it's really hard to stop the disparaging thoughts.
Our society will always play a role in how view the world, our sense of belonging, or our willingness to change. I know that in order to get better, I need to think just as much about my mental health as my physical health.
I understand the roots of some of my thought patterns, now I just need to find the tools to break them.