I started taking mental health seriously when my sister was diagnosed with mild depression late last year. My family has always been full of critique when it came to mine and my sister’s bodies. From weight, face shape, skin colour, and beauty in general. Over about 12 years of my sister’s life (she’s 27 now) she has been exposed to numerous ‘jokes’ from my family about her body. It became so pent up and destructive inside that one day, she had no feelings or reactions to whatever my mum said about her. The one most disgusting thing my mother said to her was, “Hey, don’t you want to be skinny? Don’t you want a man to like you and marry you?”. It was a horrendous thing to say to someone and its never left my mind.
Before she was diagnosed I hadn’t realised the extent of my responsibility in caring about her feelings and mental health too. Her struggles were voiced to me and I would listen but I could never give her proper advice, just opinions. She finally found the courage to seek therapy and she has been happier and much more positive about herself. At times she finds doubts about her body and feels ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’, but I would deflect it and speak words of truth and encouragement about what shes wearing or about her body. In a way, I’m glad she’s gone through this because it was the only way for her to grow stronger and realise the negativity coming from within.
Personally, I have issues about my body image as well. Largely stemming from my mother and sometimes father but a portion of my negativity is drawn from social media too.
I used to wear baggy clothes to hide how small my butt was or wear large hoodies to hide my belly. My mother would call me fat on some days or too skinny on others. Sometimes my dad would see a pimple on my face and tease me about why I had so many, “Are you planning on selling them? You have a whole farm there!” It may seem lighthearted at first but to hear something you felt embarrassed about everyday was unnerving.
However, it began to change when I got into a LDR with my boyfriend. Our trust grew and eventually I began to tell him the thoughts about myself, all the shame and disgust I had about my body. In response, he gave me so much love and care for my feelings. Every doubt I had about my body was remade into something I started to love. His existence in my journey continues to reinforce the significance of another person’s help and care when it comes to body image and mental health as a whole. It reminds me that I have a role in my sister’s journey too.
My mental health journey had started many years ago but I was afraid in confronting it. The fear was hard to overcome but it was worth every little bit of energy and bravery in me to finally realise that what I was thinking wasn’t true.
Its a continuing battle everyday but it’s worth the sacrifice I have put in to achieve the position I am in today.