Some days you will wake up in a crappy mood and no matter what, things will make it worse.
This is the way I am today. I don’t want to write this blog, I don’t want to be at work. I want to be at home, in bed, crying. Because that is how I feel.
And contrary to what a great many people say, I don’t have to buck-up, smile, cheer myself up, or get over it. I’m not being irrational by feeling bad, and I’m not a bad person for being so privileged and yet depressed.
Being both fat and depressed has taught me that what society expects most of all is for us to act “normally”, and when we can’t, we are treated as if we are BAD people: selfish, self-involved, and even lazy, for having the audacity to be down for no reason.
Depression is stigmatized because people don’t want others to be sad even when they have cause. To suffer from depression is to feel weighed down by sadness, despair, and for no real rational reason (although our minds rationalize it through a set of rules and standards we’ve adopted based on what society considers “normal” … these are often biased stereotyped thoughts formed by our interactions with bullies and generally negative or judgmental people).
Living in a world where shapeism and sizeism are not just normalized but championed as being the legitimate and appropriate attitude toward fat people, it is easy to see how fat people can become depressed, and how that depression can exacerbate being fat, and forming a downward spiral which, in and of itself, is also stigmatized.
I woke up today feeling down and one of the first things I felt was that I was “too fat.”
No one should ever feel “too fat” because fat itself is not the problem. The words “too fat” are adopted by those of us who are fat because it is what we have been told by those who want to, basically, oppress us. We are made into the victims for the benefit of others, not because fat itself is somehow lethal. Words like disease and epidemic are used with obesity to draw our attention away from the fact that the food industry is responsible for wrecking our diets, and the diet industry is responsible for, in a lot of ways, wrecking our happiness. And, finally, the government is responsible because in a country where free capitalism is allowed full-reign, and capitalists convince those who are being profited from that this system is inherently right, the government rolls over and lets industry control everyone. Everyone wants to believe that total government regulation of the food industry constitutes extreme fascism and undermines personal freedom, without realizing that the lack of regulation in industry leads to a form of capitalism where there is an overall lack of quality in products combined with prices which are so inflated that it is easy to spend more than we make, combined with not-so-subtle manipulation that keeps us in a state where we are being mentally controlled, as consumers, by industries which seek to force us to consume.
The fat-food industry is the perfect example of this. Even in a world where states are mandating that fast-food restaurants provide nutritional information to customers, these retailers are able to undermine such consumer-empowering regulations by offering the least nutritious food at the cheapest prices while that which is healthier is also inflated in price. Any losses that the company might face in pricing burgers so cheaply (not that these burgers are made in an expensive fashion… most are fashioned from the cheapest ingredients possible, especially those burgers which are fed to children) is made up in the enormous inflation of drinks, where the actual cost of production is so insignificant that the price at which it is purchased probably falls in as a triple-digit mark-up. Fast-food thus becomes the worst offender as far as true economy is concerned by forcing people to pay more than they really should have for items that have little to no inherent quality.
What does this have to do with feelings of depression. Simple. Most people you meet on a down day will tell you to “cheer up” or “get over it”. They will act as if you are being selfish for feeling down, and try to get you to count your blessings by pointing out that you are not entitled to feeling bad because you are not a starving HIV baby in Africa.
These people will vilify you for being irrationally sad, and if they can’t immediately get you to stop acting sad, which is inherently offensive to them, they will wash their hands of you and walk away without offering any more support.
Left alone in this fashion, still feeling bad and with no real external support, many turn to “comfort food” to feel better. Except eating this sort of crap makes us feel worse in the long run, and our bodies end up processing and storing this sort of food as fat, because there’s nothing else particularly nutritional in it.
This behavior becomes a downward spiral that could have been stopped, very early on, were we to deal with people who had the right reaction to depressive states, eating, fatness, and body positivism.
People like me who often wake up feeling bad, for no real reason. My inclination now is to try to get the person to work their way through this emotional state, to push their way through it, to recognize that these feelings are never “irrational” because feelings are not guided by principles of rationality.
No one is ever a BAD person for feeling sad or depressed. We are good people in a bad patch, and the only way out is through. I woke up today feeling horrible, I don’t want to be here at work… and yet here I am, writing a blog while at work while also working a little, trying to push myself through until I have completely passed by all the cartwheeling thoughts in my brain that are trying to keep me down and, worse yet, hungry.
Yes, I had breakfast and yet here I sit, only about and hour and a half later, feeling hungry. That doesn’t make me a bad person either.
In the world of fat people, it is important to remember all this because of the negative affect we can have on ourselves by repeating the negativity that others have pushed on us in the past. If you wake up depressed and the first thoughts in your mind are that you are “too fat” or if you’re hunger toward comfort food makes you feel like a glutton who has no self-control, then best way to combat these feelings and move through them is to flat out reject them.
You ARE allowed to feel SAD, for no particular reason. And you are not inherently BAD for wanting to hit a chocolate bar when sad. Everybody has something, whether they are skinny or fat, that they associated with an improved feeling.
The whole nature of food is not just nourishment for our bodies, but nourishment for our brains. What we eat has a profound effect on our brain chemistry, and thus trying to divorce food from feelings is to deny that which is inherent to every living creature, our dependence on certain nutrients as building-blocks for mood and body-regulating hormones and neurotransmitters: Serotonin and dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
This is why many who do not believe in taking medications for depression will push the idea of a “brain healthy” diet, which provides the eater with all the building blocks for the above. However, I’m a realist, one who believes that when the brain gets out of whack, and the body is out of whack, just saying “eat better” is not the solution. One, it suggests that your condition can be improved over-night, and it can’t, which opens up room for people to stop eating the suggested diet because they do not “feel” better. Two, it suggests that once certain aspects of the body stop working, that all they need is better food to work again. However, a realist understands that even if I eat stuff to produce serotonin, there is something wrong with the system, some clog or leak, something which, regardless of serotonin produced, does not allow it to work effectively. I can eat all the serotonin-creating stuff I want, but if I can’t keep that chemical INSIDE my brain, then I’m spinning my wheels.
And that is a feeling that so many of us who are fat know. You reach a point where it feels like everything, special diets, exercise, and other “lifestyle” changes feel like you are spinning your wheels, because you still feel bad. That’s because diets, exercise and lifestyle changes do not cause nor are they gaurenteed to cause us to feel better. Everyone says that these things WILL cure us, but that is a false statement. Eating more vegetables will not cure you, it will simply change the amount of certain nutrients you are getting.
Your body is what will cure you through adapting to changes in food, exercise, lifestyle/environment. This sort of self-correction takes a long time, and is often undermined by day to day suffering. In some ways, this sort of self-correction can be impossible. Diet is not going to make a schizophrenic not schizophrenic, nor can it balance out the extreme mood shifts in a bi-polar person. Those who assume it does cure depression and anxiety underestimate the power and seriousness of these conditions. Being a depressed person can, very literally be like being schizophrenic, it is what you are. You can medicate to mask the symptoms, you can talk-therapy and change the way your mind and behaviors intersect through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but at the end of the day, you are what you are.
Like fat, depression just is. It is a part of the human race’s biological diversity. Improving on these conditions through small amounts of weight loss, exercise for improved mobility and a healthy feeling, is possible, just as improving upon depression is possible.
But many who suffer from one or the other of these conditions, fat or depression, suffer from the MANDATE to change. That’s not right, not fair, and its not helpful to me or you.
On days when you feel bad, FEEL BAD until you feel better. It will happen. Try to understand your condition, triggers, things that make the issue worse. Form this understanding through your own internal feelings, not the beliefs and value systems of those around you. And when you do set about to try change do so not for the idea of a cure or some kind of permanent shift in your biology. Fat acceptance and depression acceptance call for us to accept our biology as it is, and celebrate it, even if it isn’t what others think it should be. With this in mind, change for the end goal of happiness and contentment in yourself no matter what that looks or acts like.