You can’t judge a book by its cover, right? But what about your recovery, I believe that there is a physical component to how you look and behave when you are well.
When I Was Unwell…
I was over 375 lbs in 2010, and though I have never had the most slender of bodies, I had always been between 140-160 lbs. But after my mother’s death in 2011 I was filled with grief and depression. I tried to fill the hole in my emotional life with a physical thing: food. I found myself snacking frequently on foods that are high in sugar, fat, and carbs. I was never one for exercise either, but I was actively neglecting my body due to the trauma and depression I was facing. Things I once enjoyed like doing yoga or taking a daily walk to get my blood pumping went away. I found myself having panic attacks more regularly and frequently the trigger had been being out and around people. So I stopped doing that too.
As my physical and emotional health was at its worst I often wore dirty clothes or put on outfits that made me feel invisible, because I was in the thick of it. Who I am used to be defined by my traumas, and traumas of the past came up like a fountain that was overflowing into the street. My trauma from my mother’s death reminded me of the childhood and adolescent traumas in my life. I could barely function in my present because of the past. They were all stuck together like a knotted tangle of Christmas lights. It took me many years to be able to change my path and look inward at who I was and what I really wanted from my own life.
Over a year, I worked on my mental health I had a therapist, a case manager, and A psychiatrist who helped me figure out what was going wrong with my mental health and how to stop myself from getting caught in the tangle of the past. I exercise more frequently now and I’m down a lot of that weight, I dress in ways that express my personality, and I try to eat a well-rounded diet.
Much of my mental health story is about my emotional health, but the physical toll our emotional health plays on our bodies can be astronomical. According to the Mental Health Foundation “Nearly one in three people with a long-term physical health condition also has a mental health problem, most often depression or anxiety” and I believe it. For me, a lack of social support and a lot of people co-signing off on my bad even self-destructive behaviors for a long time made me worse. But that’s a story for another day.
What Are Some Warning Signs?
According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) some of the warning signs are:
- Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
- Severe mood swings that can cause problems
- Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
- Seriously wanting to harm or kill oneself, or making plans to do so
- Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to lose weight
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Severe, out-of-control risk-taking behavior
- Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
- Drastic changes in behavior, personality, or sleeping habits
- Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still
If you, a friend, or a loved one are experiencing one or more of these symptoms please reach out and ask for help. The NAMI Helpline is 1-800-950 6264 or speak with your doctor.