Why Body Positivity Makes Me Uncomfortable

4 Reasons Why Body Positivity Makes Me Uncomfortable

Body positivity started as a reaction to fatphobic diet and weight loss industry. These days, on Instagram and online magazines, “body positive” is a celebration of self-love and fatness. That’s a good thing! I’m all for representation, respect, and self-love for people! But body positivity makes me uncomfortable. There are aspects to the movement, as it currently swings, that make me feel the same way I do from diet culture, fat shaming, and bigoted society: unworthy.

For a time on Instagram, I followed one of the largest body positivity accounts in an aim to expose myself to the movement. This was intended to challenge how I’ve been socialised to value thinness, whiteness, and privilege. But as time went on, and the more I saw the posts, the more uncomfortable I became. The pictures of these (cis) women didn’t bother me. Their bodies didn’t bother me. (Except for the #glitterstripes, which legitimately triggered self-harm urges because of how the lines reminded me of abstract or fresh scars.) But the captions did. The way they talked about their bodies, and other bodies, made me feel like shit about me and my body.

No matter how much the movement intends to be all-inclusive, its origins did not start as a revolution for total body acceptance for everybody. The current language and focuses are not all-inclusive. Fat acceptance is important, but it’s also important to notice where that acceptance is limited. There are four patterns to the current body positive movement that cause discomfort for me.

1. The focus on cis women.

As inclusive as body positivity tries to be, it’s still focused on cis women. The movement came out of fat acceptance for cis women, so of course the focus is still on that demographic. There are body positive cis men out there. Articles and websites exist for other genders. But the movement still focuses on fat cis women feeling positive about their bodies.

As a woman who is not cis, I feel very much excluded. The movement did not arise for my benefit or for my identity. (See also: feminism for white women, and womanism for black women.) The fat acceptance and origins for body positivity did not come from intersectional understanding and support for fat experiences for everyone. My fatness and fat experience are very, very different from those of a cis woman.

2. The equalisation of “fat” with “feminine.”

Goddess. Tiger stripes earned from carrying babies. Glitter on stretch marks. The strength of a body to breastfeed. Mother Nature. The symbols and language used to discuss fat cis women in the body positive movement all relate back to femininity. Body positivity is gendered, as it is a reaction to a gendered market of dieting culture. It feels difficult to separate #bodyposi from femininity. And as someone who oscillates between feminine, masculine, and neutrois, I can’t feel comfortable in a movement that genders its empowerment. I know it wasn’t intended to be a feminine-only revolution. But that’s how it is, for the most part. Diet culture and fat shaming are largely misogynistic structures, after all, and that’s what body positivity reacts to.

3. The misconception that eating disorders are only caused by diet industry.

Eating disorders are multifaceted mental illnesses that affect millions of people. Eating disorders are not caused by one singular aspect of society. Diet culture and misogyny play a huge role in eating disorders—especially for cis women. But eating disorders for cis men? Consider toxic masculinity. Eating disorders for transgender people? Consider their gender dysphoria. Because eating disorders are mental illnesses, more is at play than just food culture. Blanket statements about how dieting causes eating disorders, or diet culture causes eating disorders, are a disservice to people who have eating disorders.

My eating disorder doesn’t come from the market and industry telling me I need to be a thin woman. My eating disorder comes from cissexist society telling me that I need to be a woman. It also comes from my bipolar disorder. I can treat my eating disorder by acknowledging and treating my comorbid mental illness (bipolar) and my gender dysphoria. I can’t treat my eating disorder by embracing fat acceptance and body positivity for myself. Doing so would gloss over the incredibly huge struggles I have with my identity. My self-hatred, after all, doesn’t hinge on my fatness. It hinges on so many other factors.

4. The policing, judgement, and values imposed on my body.

The pursuits of happiness, joy, or positivity currently invade society. If we’re unhappy, that’s seen as a problem. If we’re feeling kinda neutral or whatever, that’s seen as an opportunity to bring in positivity. Feelings are fleeting. They should be honoured as temporary experiences that deserve space and time to process. Feelings and emotions are not a state of mind—including positivity. It’s just another way of uplifting optimism and valuing that perspective more highly than everything else.

The title of the movement is “body positive”—it wants me to be positive about my body. But I can feel however I want about my body. I can hate it. I can want to change it. When I can look at myself in the mirror and think, “Eh, I don’t think I’m sexy,” I’m allowed to have that thought. I can also look at myself and feel completely apathetic about what I see.

Body positivity wants you to feel a certain way about your body, but only under the movement’s conditions. It cares more about where your positivity comes from. “Good” positivity comes from self-love and rejecting societal norms. “Bad” positivity comes from fitting in with society and being seen a certain way by others. But for trans folks who want to be seen as the gender they present? They’re trying to fit into a societal norm. (That societal norm is the whole concept of “gender”, by the way.) I want to lose weight. I want to look a certain way, too. Body positivity doesn’t allow me to want those things, let alone do them, unless they’re for the movement’s reasons.

Body positivity values people with a specific attitude on their corporeal self. But only when that attitude originates from the movement’s perspective of what is “good” or positive. That’s a little fucked up to me.

Do I fit in body positivity’s standards?

The fact that I don’t like my body, sometimes and in some places and on some days, does not mean that I’m a lesser human. If I’m negative about my body, am I a bad person to #bodyposi?

If I want to lose weight in order to have a certain lifestyle, does that mean I’m being fatphobic? I currently cannot exercise in a way that makes me happy, and it is directly because of my fatness. Simply put, my fatness hinders how positive I feel about my body. I will be hurting myself if I try to go jogging. My knees can’t carry the weight and impact. So am I bad for wanting to lose weight? Am I contributing to negative body and food culture by doing things to help me lose weight? Those things are also making me happy on their own, regardless of weight loss. If I wanted to place in competitions for marathons or sporting events, I’d have to change my body for that lifestyle goal. The consensus is that weight loss and lifestyle changes go hand in hand, with lifestyle changes coming first. But people will get into a hullaballoo if I say that I need to lose weight to take up a certain lifestyle.

They will also get concerned when I speak negatively about my body, like when I express thoughts that come from my gender dysphoria. Some days I don’t like my eyebrows and eyelashes. That has nothing to do with my fatness—but it has everything to do with gender dysphoria, gender expression, and one aspect of my body. I’ve recently started to watch and read trans activists as they go through transition and surgeries. They reach body peace by means of changing their body. The root of their self-hatred or discomfort does not come from fatness—it comes from dysphoria.

When it comes to being body positive, I don’t think I’ll ever get there. And I think that’s okay. It feels like a box I won’t be able to fit into. Body positivity feels like another standard I have to meet perfectly in order to be valuable. I don’t think I’ll ever love my body. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with my existence. Instead, I choose to value certain aspects of and attitudes toward my body. I choose how to exercise, what to eat, and where I place worth. There’s no point forcing myself to ascribe to something that makes me so uncomfortable just by its name.

I am more than my body. But my body is mine, and nobody can decide what is best for it—including the body positive movement.

What is body positivity?

The links below, mostly opinion pieces, discuss the movement, its origins, how it is practiced, and the sham trend of policing bodies through body positivity.

The Body Positive – This website and organisation was founded in 1996 in the realm of eating disorder recovery. See their FAQ for more information on what “body positive” means to them and how they define it.

3 Reasons Why You Can’t Have Body Positivity Without Feminism (Melissa A. Fabello on Everyday Feminism, 2017) – This article discusses how body positivity is linked to feminism, women’s issues, patriarchy, socioeconomics, race, and politics.

Here’s Why the Definition of Body Positivity Isn’t Up for Debate (Kaila Prins on Everyday Feminism, 2017) – This article discusses the incorrect usage of the term for non-bodyposi aims.

Weighting to Be Seen: Being Fat, Black, and Invisible in Body Positivity (Sonya Renee on Everyday Feminism, 2015) – This article discusses blackness and body positivity in media attention of the movement.

15 Definitions of Body Positivity Straight From Influencers & Activists (Bustle, 2016) – The title says it all! Quotes from notable activists and influential people in the movement, and how they define the movement.

Is the Body-Positivity Movement Going Too Far? (Amber Petty on Greatist, 2018) – This article discusses some of the extremes, a few of which I mentioned, that exist in the body positive space.

Body Positivity Is a Scam (Amanda Mull on Racked, 2018) – This article overviews how capitalism hijacks “body positivity” for their means, such as Dove’s advertising campaigns, and ignores core issues of widespread body negativity for women, fat people, black people, and trans people.

My Ugly Bullet Journal Spreads

Sometimes the ugly things around us are a reflection of ugly things inside us. Next week, in my regular month review, I’ll talk more about how May has been a rough month for me. But I’m focusing on the bullet journal this time around because it’s one of those ~*~aesthetic~*~ things in life, and I wanted to share how the non-aesthetic results are just as important as the beautiful accomplishments. I also wanted to mention that, even though I don’t like the ugly spreads, I still appreciate them.

For my weekly layouts in May, I had anticipated on using a similar format to the ones I had used in March 2018 and April 2018. But for a few reasons, they turned out terrible.

Sometimes, my bullet journal gets neglected. If you want to compare, April’s layouts were beautiful. I put effort in them and really enjoyed planning my month. But for May, my weekly spreads didn’t jive with me. There was something off.

I know I like to show the best sides of my life, especially online. Why shouldn’t I? After all, if I’m proud of something, I should share it. If something is beautiful, I want to show it to others. There’s nothing wrong with putting the highlights on social media or my website. I don’t deny the ugly sides of my life, after all. (Like when my mental health gets bad and destructive; or how I experienced therapy in 2016; or reflecting on changes, conflicts, and regrets each month.)

So here’s some of my trashy bullet journal spreads! They’re incomplete, they’re filled with scribbles, and they’re failed attempts at keeping my life on track.

A spread created after half the week had gone by, with unfinished art…

 

A week with missed days of planning…

 

A layout with a time codex that just didn’t work at all in the small module size…

My favourite thing about the bullet journal is the customisation capabilities. It’s nice to have the creative outlet as well, but it’s times like now—when I’m looking back on May and preparing for June—where I’m grateful for this planning system’s lack of commitment. If I had a printed planner designed by a company, no matter how beautiful it is or how well it previously worked, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to change it up on a whim.

I’ll be noting all of these struggles in my monthly review, which is one of my favourite bullet journal hacks, next week! My planning for June will change for sure, since my issues with using my journal this month were present throughout the month. Sometimes I’ll miss a few days in a week, or a week doesn’t get designed as well as the rest. But those are non-issues compared to ugly bullet journal spreads week after week. They’re a sign that I’m using the wrong tactics, and I need to readjust what I’m doing. They’re also evident that my mental health isn’t condoning good planning.

Layouts like this remind me of times over the last 3 years when the same thing happened. But now, I’ve started to notice that it’s a sign that my mental health isn’t at its best. I use my planner to keep on track of my life. My mental illness affects all aspects of my life. The two go hand-in-hand, so I’ve become aware of when my planner reflects my health. My journal is another tool to stay mindful of my life. The ugly layouts and ugly moments are part of that.

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

Mental illness isn’t a solitary, isolated, and vacuum-sealed experience. Mentally ill people, like myself, have friends, family, and peers. We interact with strangers. We can make mistakes and have messy behaviour, just like everyone else. Sometimes, mental illness is bad—or at least it makes us feel that way. When I say mental illness is bad, I don’t mean mental illness is a problem that needs to be fixed, or that mental illness is something immoral that needs to be punished. What I mean is that mental illness and its symptoms can have a negative impact on people. When talking about mental illness, it’s important to be honest without reinforcing stigma. But it’s also just as important not to dismiss or romanticise parts of mental illness. Sometimes, my mental illness is bad, and I end up doing hurtful things to myself and the people around me.

I have bipolar type II, with hypomanic and depressive phases. I also have complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). They’re not “pretty” or “easy” mental illnesses. Along with being complex and individual, they’re messy and difficult to manage.

This is going to be about my personal experience and symptoms. They are bad to me. They make my life harder, and they can be harmful to me and the people around me. I sometimes fear for my life when the symptoms get intense. Please do not take this as reflective of everyone with mental illness. If you can identify with what I say, then that’s okay—but if you’re neurotypical and reading this, remember that I am just one person.

Symptoms that my mental illness is bad

It’s hard to feel human when my mental illness makes me feel like an immoral person. Like what I’m doing and how I’m behaving are wrong, rather than difficult and symptomatic of a deeper problem. Maybe I’m overthinking how much these can affect other people, but I know I’ve lashed out or been incredibly irresponsible with some of these symptoms present.

Anger/irritation

I lash out a lot. When I get frustrated, I can get very impassioned and heated. It’s not nice to be around me. My hypomania often goes from hyper to angry, not happy or over-the-moon as the stereotype can be. Anger is not a bad feeling to have, but it’s very easy for me to disrespect the people around me when I get irritated.

Self-harm

I want to hurt myself. This is not good. Urges or desires to hurt myself are a sure sign that I’m not in a good place.

Lack of sleep

When I’m hypomanic, I don’t feel tired and I don’t feel the need to go to sleep. Not sleeping means that I’m hurting my body. It affects my reaction time, so driving and walking become dangerous. It also changes my routine and schedule. My self-care and work can be severely affected if I’m not resting. It’s irresponsible, mostly.

Delusions of grandeur

I become convinced that I can undertake projects and make plans that are, without a doubt, beyond my capabilities. This ends up wasting my time and resources, while also potentially wasting other people’s time and resources. If I start getting invested in a project or goal that originates from a delusion, I don’t follow through. It doesn’t get completed. I put a strain on my money and friendships.

Hallucinations

These are the scariest. Most of my hallucinations are visual and they set off anxiety. When they’re auditory hallucinations, I’m even more afraid. I hear things that don’t have a source outside my head, even if they sound like they’re external. My behaviour changes significantly, and I can end up lashing out or slipping into paranoid thinking.


These are all signs that my mental health isn’t being managed and maintained well. That’s what I mean when my mental illness is bad: it’s not being treated properly. I’m blessed to be able to have counselling and medication to treat my mental illnesses. But when I get to this severity? I’m in trouble. They can’t be managed by a crisis intervention. I feel just a level below crisis, or like it’s less concentrated and intense than a crisis, when my mental illness is bad like this. But it’s a little too much for me to handle on my own.

How I can improve

Talking about these issues requires self-awareness. Without being aware of my own behaviour, whether it’s from my mental illnesses or not, I can’t make an attempt to manage and improve myself. The mental health community needs to give space for these discussions as well. We need permission to converse about our harmful behaviour without being villainised for experiencing it. Mentally ill people, especially those with mood disorders like mine, have a reason for why they act certain ways. It doesn’t mean they should be given a free pass to continue that behaviour. It means that we need to be aware of the context.

If I flip my lid, I need to reflect on that. Why did I react that way? Was it appropriate? How is the rest of my behaviour, in terms of symptoms?

This also means I need to learn how to follow-through with correcting my behaviour and apologising if I do end up hurting someone. I need to be able to have the grace and forgiveness to apologise to myself, too. I need to be able to say to someone, “Hey, it was wrong of me to behave that way, and I sincerely apologise for my behaviour. My mental health has been poor, so I’ll be taking some time to address it and my symptoms—including the rage I directed at you and the irresponsibility of my actions.”

I am one person, and as Kelly Kapoor said so intelligently about managing her one-person department, I am not easy to manage. It’s especially true when my mental health is bad.

Launching A Patreon

After some deliberating, I’ve decided to launch a Patreon for my blog, writing, and art!

Why Patreon?

I played with the idea of placing advertisements on my blog, but I wanted to keep this website as clear and focused as possible on my content. I can’t describe how frustrated I get when I’m visiting a blog, trying to read a post or look at pictures, and I have to scroll through advertisements in order to find the content. Not just scroll past ads to get to the content, but to dig for it amongst the clutter.

I didn’t want that experience for my blog. It felt inaccessible and off-brand for me. So to monetise my work (because a blog is work, writing is work, and art is work), I settled on Patreon.

It’s free to set up. It’s also a platform I’m familiar with. But most importantly, it’s something I need to stick to in order to gain the rewards from it. I hope to get some support for my creative endeavours, notably my artwork. I haven’t had much motivation to create and share my art. Recently, I realised why: I didn’t have an audience for it, and I didn’t value my efforts.

With Patreon, I feel so much more motivated to deliver content, regardless of patrons and how many I have. It’s an external form of accountability.

It’s also a space that I want to grow and focus on. As such, I’ll be announcing blog posts, writing updates, and artwork there before I post to any other social media. While I will continue tweeting, instagramming, pinning, and facebooking, Patreon will come first.

You can follow me for free to get those first updates. I will love you and be eternally grateful if you pledge, too! Exclusive content is available at tier one, the Cait Siths, for $1 a month, so you don’t need to pledge much to get behind-the-scenes.

Click below to reach my Patreon page. I hope to see you there!

Patreon Become A Patron Button

3 Ways My BuJo Improves My Mental Health

3 Ways To Use A Bullet Journal For Mental Health and Improve Mental Illness

Bullet journals are half planner and half journal (at least the way I treat them). When I started using my bullet journal in 2016, I tracked my university assignments, events, and exams. I also used it to stay on top of bills for the house I moved into. It gradually transformed to include details about my therapy and mental health treatment when I started therapy. Now, I love using my bullet journal for mental health! I still use it as a planner, too.

I’ve written a post already about mental health tracking, as well as a post that discusses using a bullet journal for mental health and chronic illnesses.

In this post, I explain 3 ways that my bullet journal helps with my mental health, illness, and wellbeing. Keeping track helps me so much!

Trackers let me see patterns in my mental health symptoms

Tracking symptoms of my mental health and my daily life means I have a record that I can compare long-term. For instance, my bullet journal was instrumental in showing me patterns in my symptoms that were associated/correlated with my menstrual cycle. A mood tracker lets me see how my emotions fluctuate over time. I track side effects for medication. I keep a record of my symptoms. When I visit my doctor for check-ups, I have a solid reference with my bullet journal.

The bullet journal provides written accountability for my to do lists, self-care, and responsibilities

If I don’t write something down, it doesn’t exist to me. I don’t have a good memory. Writing out notes, lists, and plans is the best way for me to remember them. Self-care and other aspects of my life, such as hygiene and chores, are greatly affected by my mental illness. So having them written down? I’m more likely to take care of myself. A list that includes “take a shower” means I’m aware of my self-care. My monthly tracker includes a space for me to note my medication so I remain consistent with my treatment.

I have a type of diary and scrapbooking to maintain perspective on the good and bad times

There are numerous benefits to keeping a journal. But it’s not always feasible if you don’t have the energy to keep up with it. I’ve tried to journal daily or weekly in that “write out your feelings” and diary format. I always lose interest and stop using it! I use the bullet journal for multiple parts of my life. It’s a natural record of what I’ve been up to over the months and years.


When I use and keep up with my bullet journal for mental health, I feel so much better! It’s one of the tools I use in treating my mental illness and maintaining my wellbeing. It’s great for planning! But it’s slowly transformed into a vital aspect of my daily life outside of planning, too.

9 Months On Medication

It’s been a while since I checked in regarding my treatment for my mental health! The last post was in September after my dose increased.

It’s been 9 months now. Time for an update.

This last week, I requested a different formulation of the medication. Instead of the slow release, I wanted the instant release. Because the medication also works as a sedative, I take it before bed and it helps me sleep, among other things. I wanted to get a more “set” bedtime, since I can go between 2 and 4 hours after taking my medication before I pass out.

I’ve also gotten back on birth control. After a few months on the higher dose, my periods got very, very heavy and uncomfortable. My PMS also worsened. I have a blood test on April 3 to see how my levels are. There may be a chance I’m anemic or close to it, so my doctor and I are going to check that just in case I need to start taking supplements.

I’ll also be following up with counselling, since I haven’t started that and I’ve been on the waitlist for 8 months.

The antipsychotics are great. I really do like them. They don’t make my life perfect, and my moods aren’t always balanced at a nice in-between. But I feel more able to work through my highs and lows in a much more accessible and healthy way now.

The downside, and part of why I wanted to switch from slow release to instant release? My eating habits have been affected. I have EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) and after taking my medication each day, I found myself getting into a “munchie” state of mind—one very similar to when I indulge in some marijuana or liquor, neither of which I use regularly. (This weekend, I’m actually 3 months’ sober from alcohol and 17 months’ sober from marijuana!)

On account of the binge eating, and the holiday bulge because of Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve gained some weight. I’m trying not to let it get me down. I know bodies fluctuate and I know that my healthier lifestyle choices will make an impact on my body. I didn’t exercise much through the winter—my bedroom wasn’t set up to let me comfortably do home workouts, and I like to jog outside, but the weather was always too cold or icy for me to safely go running.

Now that spring is around the corner and the snow is melting, and now that I’ve finally, after almost a year, set up my bedroom to let me do all my different activities, I’ll be exercising more regularly. And hopefully the instant release medication will help me get better control and awareness on my eating during the day, as opposed to mindless and drowsy bingeing at night.

The last 9 months haven’t been the greatest in terms of life events or reaching my goals, but the medication has helped a lot.

6 Concrete Ways to Practice Self-Care

Self-care is a huge buzzword right now, but it’s a vital aspect of mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. It isn’t a trend and it’s not all soft, easy aesthetic.

There are listicles everywhere that give you tips on self-care, and I’m going to add to that huge amount of content with my own six ways to conduct self-care right now.

1: Clean something in your space

Do your laundry, make your bed, or arrange your desk. Pick one area in your space, big or small, to tidy and freshen up. You can choose however deeply you want to clean. I start off my day by making my bed. I finish my day by tidying my desk so it’s a clear space for the morning.

2: Clean something on your body

Brush your teeth, wash your face, have a shower, or put a wet cloth on your skin. If you’re up to it, a bubble bath can be a great treat and way to care for yourself. But something as simple or routine as washing your face can be all the self-care you need. You don’t have to go through a whole pampering routine to show some love to your body.

3: Freewrite in a journal

Use a prompt from online, focus on one feeling you have, set a timer and write. You can do this for yourself, for a writing project, or for a writing exercise itself. I love doing this for my feelings and emotions.

4: Exercise, stretch, or do physical therapy

Go for a walk or a jog, lift some weights, do yoga, do some gentle stretching, lie down and rest your body. Show your physical self some love! Sometimes that may be moving it through exercise. Other times that may be giving it a time for ease through rest and gentle stretch. If you have a physical disability or chronic illness, you may have some individual physical therapy to help with your body.

If the only thing you can do for your body is sit up straight, gently move your neck, and take a deep breath, that’s caring.

5: Play a game

I love certain gaming apps for winding down and stimulating my brain. Puzzle apps and games are the best for getting some mental stimulation if you’re stuck in a social media refreshing cycle. Video games and card games are good too. Sometimes, when I’m really stuck, I’ll play a game of solitaire with a deck of cards.

6: Finish something on your to do list

This is the best self-care you can do for yourself. Getting something done will free up your time in the future a well as get something off your plate right now. What’s something small you can check off for today? If you have an errand to run, now is a good time to do it.

Self-care is anything you do to make your life easier without falling back on coping mechanisms like avoidance.

You can claim “this is self-care” to lie in bed all day, and sometimes it is. But if it’s a way to avoid laundry, feeding yourself, or personal hygiene, it’s not self-care.

You’re worthy of being cared about, so take some time to show yourself and your environment some love.

Therapy Diary: Week 1 On Medication

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

At the end of June, I saw my doctor to get referrals and support systems underway for my mental health. I haven’t seen a professional for my mental health since April 2016, and my mood and motivation were all over the place. I know that I need additional help, so seeing my doctor to get a referral to counselling or psychiatric treatment was necessary.

So, I have the counselling scheduled! Sort of. They need to do an intake appointment, which is on July 31 (far away, I know, but it’s pretty speedy for where I live), and that isn’t even like… the start of counselling. My doctor started getting referrals processed for me to see a psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis of my situation, and gave me a prescription for a low dose of medication to help me out. It has a sedative property to it, which is partly why this specific drug was prescribed: I have awful sleep problems.

It’s been 1 week since I’ve been on the meds and… I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if they’re doing much. I’ve kept a journal to record when I finish eating for the day, when I take the pill, when I feel sleepy, and when I fall asleep. I’ve discovered that the sedation effect comes into play when I take the pill on an empty stomach, or 60 – 90 minutes after eating my last meal. I’m still not getting a balanced amount of sleep—it ranges from 5 hours to 12 hours—but it’s still only the first week.

I’ll admit, I like having the routine of taking a pill at the same time every day. That’s something I liked when I had the birth control pill. Having the routine of taking my medicine, then brushing my teeth and washing my face, helps set me up for bed rather than waiting until it’s bedtime to do those things.

My period started the second day of the medication, and with how my hormones affect me, I’m unsure what’s from the medication and what’s from hormones. I normally have a very good day when my period starts (which is really weird, I know; I’m all happy-go-lucky, then oops, menses!) and am either dissociated or lethargic during my period. I have been a bit lethargic some days—as in, I’ve been sleeping more—so it probably was a combination of the medication and hormones.

Since I’m on literally the lowest dose possible of this medication, there’s also the possibility that it’s not doing anything or I’m not feeling it. I definitely felt it the first day I took it, but it’s hard to know if it’s doing anything if I’m not also experiencing side effects.

There are a lot of side effects, as there are with… anything.

One of the less common ones is experiencing symptoms of infection, such as fever, sore throat, coughing, and I started experiencing that on the 3rd. However, my brother was sick, so I could actually be sick (again!)—in any case, it’s basically gone today.

I’m hopeful that medication will help me, though, even if this one doesn’t. I’d prefer if it did, since I wouldn’t have to switch and try new ones. But I know one of the other side effects is weight gain, and I don’t know what I’ll do if that happens to me. I’ve been trying to lose weight for 4 years. I was weighed when I saw my doctor, and I was back at my highest fucking weight again. Granted, I don’t think I’m carrying as much fat as I was 4 years ago—but I’m still unhappy with my body, and how it looks and feels. I’ve managed some workouts this first week (cardio, strength training), but it’s hard to exercise when the temperature is high. I’m susceptible to heat exhaustion and need to be careful doing any exertion in the summer.

Anyway! This first week has been… okay, I guess? It’s still really early on, and I need to be aware of patterns moreso than immediate changes. I’ve also been reading a lot of forums where people talk about their experiences on this medication, and it feels like I’m in the minority. I don’t feel like a zombie, I don’t have a lot of side effects, and my mood seems fine. But I go through periods of “fine” moods, and then experience highs and lows (AKA bipolar, which is what my doctor and I suspect)—which is why I saw my doctor. I need more balance in my life, and all the yoga, jogging, meditating, journalling, and healthy eating isn’t doing enough. There’s something wrong with my brain, and the medication is for my sick head.

My PTSD, Triggers And How I Manage Them

My triggers aren’t limited to my posttraumatic stress disorder. Because I have CPTSD, it’s ahem more complex than PTSD from concrete traumatic events. (This isn’t to say CPTSD is more advanced or whatever; they’re variations, with trauma coming from different events, factors, and points in life.)

As such, I’m triggered by different things, not always associated with trauma.

The thing about triggers is they’re not a guaranteed way to get a reaction. I’m not triggered every time I’m exposed to one of my triggers—which is something people might not understand. I am aware of my triggers, and I am also aware of how well I can manage any possible reactions if I’m exposed to them. Just because slamming doors triggers me doesn’t mean I’m going to have a mental breakdown every time someone slams a door. (I might have in the past, before I started therapy and learning how to manage my mental health.)

Here are the triggers I’m fairly certain are related to my PTSD:

  • loud footsteps
  • slamming doors and cupboards
  • hands moving to my face
  • yelling/loud voices
  • walking near moving trucks or cars

My PTSD triggers need to happen in real life. I need to hear and experience them to be triggered by them—a video game with stomping sounds, or a movie where people yell, won’t trigger traumatic flashbacks and my fight-flee-or-freeze response.

Here are the triggers unrelated to PTSD:

  • corpses
  • death
  • suicide
  • self-harm
  • bodily mutilation, on humans or animals
  • existentialism (I’m not even kidding with this one)

I’m still bouncing around on how I feel about the PTSD diagnosis, but I’ve been diagnosed twice with depression by medical practitioners in different cities, so I’m going to say I have depression. The triggers above are more likely to initiate “bad vibes” and a depressive mood, or make me incredibly upset.

The way I manage my triggers, and when I’m triggered, depends entirely on how I get triggered and what triggered me.

If I’m triggered in a verbal conversation with someone, or by something happening around me, I make a quick note to the people around me (who know about my mental health) that I’m not comfortable with the topic or the environment. My biggest response to my PTSD triggers is to get anxious or angry. I’ll complain about what I hear, because that’s the only way I can tell myself, “This isn’t a precursor to harm. It’s a trivial thing. People can complain about trivial things, things that don’t matter too much.” If you follow me on Twitter, I have occasionally talked about living with people who have heavy footsteps.

The triggers I struggle with more are the images and videos. I feel sick when I see photos of hurt people or animals, especially ones that are like, “Little Benjamin the beagle needs emergency surgery after being attacked, help the crowdsourcing campaign!” followed by a picture of little Benjamin’s hurt body. Just fucking don’t. It’s a graphic image. Content warnings for graphic imagery occur on television, but not on the Internet, and that’s why I need to avoid social media when I have bad mental health.

I could elaborate more on the specifics and individual situations, but it’ll be faster and more efficient to sum up my known triggers, how they influence my mental health, and how I attempt to manage them.


Trigger: loud footsteps, slamming doors and cupboards, yelling/loud voices, walking near moving trucks or cars
Effect: fight, flee, or freeze response; irritability; anxiety
Management: I’m still trying to figure out how to manage this trigger. At the moment, it leads to a bunch of complaining about whatever noises I’m hearing.

Trigger: hands moving to my face
Effect: knee-jerk reaction to get the hell away from you; fight, flee, or freeze response; accelerated heart rate; flashbacks; anxiety
Management: I snap or explain the situation to the person who triggered me.

Trigger: corpses, death
Effect: anxiety; suicidal urges; upset stomach; symptoms of grief (crying, loss of appetite, sadness, etc.); hopelessness
Management: I’m usually triggered by images of this one, but occasionally written or heard can trigger me; so getting away from the pictures helps, along with distracting myself with puzzles and other cognitive engagement (like games!).

Trigger: self-harm, bodily mutilation, suicide
Effect: urge to hurt myself; upset stomach; crying; suicidal ideation, urges, or rumination
Management: I’m only triggered by visuals of this trigger, and I manage it with deep breathing, distracting myself with puzzles and games (cognitive engagement), meditating, and doing “body scan” exercises to remind myself of compassionate touch/perspective on my skin, instead of pain.

Trigger: existentialism
Effect: suicidal ideation, urges, or rumination; anxiety; hopelessness
Management: I end and avoid conversations or discussions rooted in existentialism. Considering my purpose on the planet, or wondering the meaning of my life, is a sure-fire way to make my mental illness difficult to manage.


My intensive short-term therapy last year ended up being the best place for me to learn how to manage my mental health when my mental illnesses are triggered. I left out some of the more situation-specific triggers that can worsen my mental health, but on the whole, this post is fairly exhaustive of my life. Not every trigger has the same reaction and the same way of dealing with it. I’ve spent at least a year now trying to figure out the best solutions to navigate my mental illness without reinforcing harmful behaviours.

It’s been hard.

My PTSD And Motivation

This is part of a series where I talk about my complex posttraumatic stress disorder. The first post outlines my C-PTSD/PTSD.

The majority of motivation lies in the thought, “I am able and want to achieve this.” We’re motivated to do something because we think we can get there, and ultimately we want to get there. There is an inherent desire spurring us to do whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves. We want to go to college, so we’re motivated to do what it takes to get there. We want to have a published book. We want to get the job. We want something and we see the means to the end goal, or we at least discover them on our way to the goal.

Having PTSD makes this a little difficult. I struggle with desire and capability.

I find it hard to set a goal and reach it, shown by my track record and trail of unfinished projects, because my PTSD fills me with fear and insecurity. My PTSD developed over a time of instability, and this affected my ability to set goals and maintain progress toward them. I grew up without knowing when something will get upended. I became highly alert of the possibility that things would change. In short, I was always on the lookout for the next interruption and disruption.

This pattern of seeking disruption stalks me. I’m a mile ahead of my goals and their means. I’m a mile ahead of doing Step 1. I process to a hypothetical Step 100 and essentially create disruptions for myself by looking at setbacks and obstacles between 1 and 100.

This is why I cried when I finished a complete rewrite of my novel.

Now, I’m there again, processing from Step 1 to 100 for the revision of that same novel. I’m trying to stay motivated to see Step 1 through to completion. I write to-do lists. I make checklists. I break my goals down into specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely, small goals. “Revise THE PILGRIMAGE” becomes multiple steps of revision, with a checkbox beside them and an end point. I’m still on Step 1, which is a read-through and note-taking. I’m struggling to stay motivated. I’m jumping past Step 1, trying to rationalise and strategise how to make my way through the next steps… when I’m not there yet.

My motivation turns into tactics for the big picture journey, rather than the small goals I set up. The “traumatic” and “stress” aspects show in motivation and goal setting. The trauma comes back, and the past occurrences and similarities show themselves. The stress comes back and soaks through all the rational efforts.

Dissociation and low self-esteem are also factors that inhibit my ability to stay motivated, even with end goals and actionable steps to reach them. My PTSD also features manic episodes, and they’re a form of elated dissociation. I’m untouchable in mania, just like I’m untouchable in dissociation; but with mania I have power on the world, whereas with dissociation I have invisibility and disconnect from it.

How can I stay motivated when I’m not here, or when I am but I’m filled with wishful thinking? How can I stay motivated when my brain is wired to find every possible setback? How can I stay motivated when I’m too occupied with navigating fears? How can I stay motivated when there are 99 steps between my current state and the end goal, and I have zero idea what I might need to face with each step? How can I stay motivated when my brain and body have only been used to strategise my mortality?

It’s hard to rewire myself. All the motivational quotes, lists of achievements, goal setting, and reassurance in the world won’t help me if my mind can’t believe them; or if my mind is unable to use those to its advantage; or if I have a counterpoint to each one. There’s nothing my brain wants to do aside from continue its current patterns. After all, it’s spent most of my formative years and life doing that, and it’s seen the results: I’m still alive.

At this point, I think the only way I can really be motivated to do anything is remind myself that I’m hard to destroy. Is that the key? Do I need to rewire my brain to one of confidence in order to be motivated? Do I need to be confident in my existence before I can be motivated in my projects? We’ll see. For the time being, I’m… well, as I write this, I’m stuck in dissociation and can’t even feel my fingers as I type. But for the time being, until I’m managing my PTSD better, I’m going to focus on completing my checklists and ignoring the future.