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.

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.

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.

Bullet Journal Mental Health Tracking

The largest feature of my monthly spreads for September is my mental health tracking! I have two pages devoted to tracking my mental health, and with me, that’s a lot of space to devote to a single topic in my notebook.

Being on medication or going to therapy aren’t the only ways that we can take charge of our mental health and work on managing mental illness. They can help, but they aren’t the only resources. Self-awareness through my trackers has given me an edge to being on top of my management that I never had before I started doing it.

This month, I have three separate spreads: unhealthy habits and triggers; healthy habits and self-care; and symptoms and side effects. I also track my moods within these, and how they fluctuate over the day. My friends and family have commented that my moods can change very quickly in a day, so that’s something I’ve looked at and attempted to balance out. This month, I haven’t tracked my sleeping, but my sleeping has been fairly regular due to the sedative portion of my medication.

I like recording some of my “unhealthy” behaviours. They’re unhealthy in the sense that I have a suspicion they can interfere with my wellbeing that day—hence why I have caffeine and nightmares in the same section. Yesterday I had an awful dream and the rest of my day felt off because it kept intruding my thoughts, so I checked off “nightmare” for that day.

My self-care and unhealthy habits are side-by-side so I can see if I’m balancing out the two, or doing one more than the other, and how that affects my mood. I contemplated putting everything into one table, but I wanted to be able to compare my “good” and “bad” activities at a quick glance.

I started doing the “bubble” list last month to track some symptoms, and I’ve tweaked it to get more information tracked. I started doing the bubbles because they reminded me of material equipping in Final Fantasy VII. That’s really it. I wanted to have a “scale” of sorts to gage how I was feeling.

I’m not sure how much this has helped this month. My medication doubled a few days ago (thankfully), so I’m still adjusting to that. But these layouts are definitely the most eye-pleasing I’ve done. They’re both pragmatic and nice to look at.

Since I’ve only posted the blank spreads here, it’s hard to see how they look nice. However, I will have some pictures on my Instagram by the end of the month!

These spreads are some I’ll definitely repeat in the future.

Therapy Diary: 10 Weeks On Medication

I started medication on June 29, so it’s been exactly 10 weeks on these antipsychotics. It’s been incredibly good. I’ve felt like I can complete goals now, without something blocking my brain or telling me I should feel worthless or like I should give up all the time. The first 6-7 weeks were probably the best, but it’s not like recently has been bad!

Today I saw my doctor about adjusting the medication, and at the end of September I’m doubling my current dose (which is really low) to one that’s a more common amount for treatment.

I’ve felt more stable the past few months than I have in years. I’m sleeping more, my brain isn’t on overdrive half the time, I don’t feel useless the other half of the time. I’m really pleased with how I’ve been progressing—to the point I think I’m better and don’t need the medication. But that’s the medication talking. I feel more normal because of it.

I’m not entirely better—I had a… crisis, I guess, on August 30 that really shook me up because I hadn’t felt like that in months. Then I remembered that the way I felt that afternoon was the way I felt weekly, on average, and I can’t fathom how I survived through it that frequently. And I can understand why something like my crisis is serious and should be taken seriously—like it should have been every other time it happened when I was unmedicated and not in counselling.

These 10 weeks have been great. I’m looking forward to the next few months, how I progress, and all that stuff. I can safely say that getting medication, even without a formal psychiatrist’s diagnosis, has helped me.

Basically, it’s been 10 weeks on medication for bipolar and my doctor said I looked happier, my brother and dad say I’ve been more consistent, and my goal completion is a testament to my emotions.

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

I first started seeking help for my mental health in 2011 when I said to my parents, “I think I have depression.” My father then revealed to me that he has depression (something he has been successfully managing since 2013!) and mental illness is frequent in our family.

A year ago, in February of 2016, I saw my third therapist: a trauma counsellor with a focus on spirituality, psychosomatic medicine, and cognitive behaviour therapy. She was a fantastic fit. I can’t stress enough how therapy is most successful if you have a therapist who actually helps you.

I had seen two other therapists who specialised in treating depression, and though I could have gone on antidepressants (I fully support them!), I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like I was being treated the way I should have. I didn’t feel like depression was the end of my mental health struggles. I felt like there was more that I needed to figure out.

During the standard first meeting with my most recent therapist, she instructed me to get comfortable. In retrospect, when she saw me assume the Lotus Position in my socked feet, she knew exactly how to approach my treatment. I remember having doubts about how successful our work would be, and she challenged that. While sitting on the couch, I told her in detail about my life and the experiences that mattered to me. She told me I have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that it might be complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). She told me how a traumatic life, specifically childhood, can lead to PTSD in adulthood.

Everything clicked for me. It made sense: I wasn’t just depressed. I was traumatised over decades. I developed PTSD.

Often, I feel like saying I have PTSD is a sham. I’m not a military vet, I didn’t grow up in a war-torn country, and I haven’t experienced sexual assault. There are so many “poster child” representations of PTSD that feel more valid to me than my own—hence why complex-posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) has been proposed. I grew up and experienced more frequent trauma, on average, than people my age.

But I still have PTSD. I say PTSD for simplicity’s sake, though it’s really C-PTSD. I haven’t found much difference between the two for me personally, but I know others have a different experience with PTSD and C-PTSD.

So that’s why I’m writing this post: to share my experiences with my mental illness.

My PTSD and experience with it mean that I am…

  • prone to violent anger.
  • prone to psychotic episodes, where I can’t discern reality from imagination, dreams, hallucinations, or delusions.
  • unable to regulate emotions, particularly strong emotions.
  • afraid of developing dependency on substances like alcohol and strong painkillers.
  • terrible at sleeping normally.
  • terrible at remembering things without having a record of them.
  • dissociating frequently from my body, to the point where I can wake up, go through an entire day, and not remember what happened by the time I’m in bed again.
  • triggered when events, sounds, and images are similar to the traumas I’ve experienced.
  • unpredictable and a lot to handle emotionally and mentally, especially for myself.
  • comorbidly suffering from depression and anxiety.
  • struggling with grief.
  • suicidal and ideating suicide more often than not.
  • controlling, with very specific preferences.

Like all mental disorders and illnesses, it’s impossible for me to separate myself from mine. I have PTSD, and I expect the rest of my life will be a journey of coping, surviving, and managing my mental illness. I have lots of resources and good methods for working through it, but I’m always struggling.

Month In Review: December 2016

December flew by. This month, I finished all of my classes for university and have officially completed my transcript! I won’t have my diploma until June 2017, but…

I’m done university!!!

I’m so thrilled to be done. It’ll be a tough road once I get into 2017. There are some administrative things that I need to do regarding my loan, which I’m not looking forward to. But I’m excited to set out on my journey into the workforce doing freelance projects.

Really, I spent most of the month in a blur. My dissociation has been very strong this month, along with my depression (both the mental illness depression and the return to my natural hormone cycle, since I stopped birth control last month). I did my studying and my exams, which all went well, and… can’t remember what else I did.

This week, I’ve been binge-watching a Chinese drama called Ice Fantasy (which you’d know if you follow me on Twitter #selfpromo), and let me tell ya… It has been incredible. I’ve been inspired by it so much. The show adapts a Chinese book, is produced in China, and stars an east-Asian cast (the main cast is all Chinese except for one Korean woman who has been phenomenal). It’s been refreshing to get away from all the European fantasy. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy.

I’m not going to talk much about Christmas. The holiday season is very, very difficult for me and my family. My main gift this year was a new keyboard. In October, the hand-me-down keyboard gave out, and I was borrowing one from my boyfriend’s family. But now… I have a new, very shiny mechanical keyboard. I picked the Corsair Strafe with brown switches so I could light up the keys differently depending on what I do. (Writing at night, the shortcuts I use the most in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign… That kind of thing!) It’s so nice to have my own keyboard for the first time in my life. I’ve shared family computers, and I’ve been given hand-me-down keyboards when I got my desktop. So I love having a keyboard that only I will wear down.

I’m visiting family until some time in January, so my blog posts will be a bit less until then. I’ll probably get a New Year’s goals post out, like I did last year. I’m doing goals differently this year.

May we all find peace in some form, whether it is hope for the future or acceptance of the present, as we reach the end of 2016. ♥

15 Months of Birth Control And Why I Stopped

I started oral contraceptives—birth control pills—in September 2015, and stopped in the third week of November 2016. I was on Alesse’s 21-day packet that included 7 days “off” that lacked the hormonal contraceptives and was supposed to simulate a period.

Why I started

Well, the most obvious reason was the sexual health and not getting pregnant. But my PMS symptoms were getting really bad. The change in hormone levels made me moody and really affected my depression. In a way, I used the birth control as a form of mental health: I was not capable of handling the emotional changes that come with menstruation. For the first few months of 2016, I went to therapy once a week and finally learned some tools to deal with my mental illness. The birth control helped to balance out everything, and I was able to get more in-tune with how my emotions and mental state were affected by hormones. It was easier for me to see what was depression, binge-eating, and trauma—and what was simply change in hormones. My acne was also causing me a lot of stress and body image issues, and I knew taking birth control could help with that.

How it affected me

I knew I would go through a transition phase as my body got used to the change in hormones. It lasted 3 months, actually, and my withdrawal bleeding (like a period, but an egg doesn’t get released) was incredibly sporadic. My mood was also very up and down, although mostly up. But aside from that, I felt fairly normal. I moved around when I took the contraceptives and the placebo pills a few times, to coincide with when I’d be seeing my boyfriend, or to stretch out the pack until my next refill. The only downside was the 7-days-off: I would have breakouts more easily, my overall body odour was a lot stronger, and the bleeding was a bit sporadic. Sometimes the withdrawal bleeding (the simulated period) would come a few days before the 7-days-off pills; sometimes not at all; sometimes longer than the placebo pills; and sometimes just as scheduled. I thought this was caused by the change-arounds I did, but it happened when I was taking the pills on a schedule too.

Why I stopped

First and foremost, my coverage and prescription both ended and I would have been paying about thrice as much for the pills. But I decided not to get a refill for reasons other than finances. I want to see how my mental health would be with the natural hormone balance in my body. I’m also curious to see how my skin handles the difference. The main reason, though, was to get out of the 7-days-off transition. It was a little unpredictable, with the odour, acne, and bleeding. I could look into different brands with different levels of estrogen/progesterone, but I don’t want to go through the larger normalisation period again, or risk a birth control pill that doesn’t work or have more intense negative reactions with me. I also felt that nearly a year and a half was a good span of time considering the reasons I went on to the pill. I also kind of missed having my period, complaining about cramps, and the joy of wearing cute panties again without fear.

If I need to in the future, I would definitely go back onto the pill. I might not use the same brand, but I might stick with it just because I know what to expect.

Therapy Diary: Dissociation

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

My dissociation manifests in a few different ways and feelings, and I can compare it with a bunch of metaphors. But it all boils down to a single feeling—of rather, lack of feeling.

My dissociation means I’m not part of reality. I’m not fully in the world I’m interacting in. My body is doing one thing, but my consciousness is distanced.

Sometimes my dissociation is heavy and sometimes it’s light. I’ve described it as half of my existence floating behind me like a helium balloon; or half of my existence being dragged like a suitcase with a broken wheel.

You’d think that being dissociated is easy to notice. But I only notice the way it feels—the heaviness or lightness or distance or closeness—once I know I’m dissociated.

So the disconnect is something that shows up as irritation or lethargy. It’s only after a bit of wondering, “Why am I reacting like this?” that it dawns on me: “Oh… I’m not all here.”

And then what? What do I do once I realise my consciousness isn’t within me?

I try meditating for a few minutes. I try doing a vinyasa or two. I try lighting a scented candle. I try taking a warm shower or a cold shower. I try reading a book. I try playing a video game.

But none of those are fool-proof, sure-fire ways to reassociate with the world. They’re only baby steps.

It’s almost impossible to eliminate the dissociation the day it happens, or even the day after. Sometimes it lasts for a few days. I’ll power through it, but there are days I just can’t. I need to sleep and let myself succumb to another reality (the surreal of dreams).

My therapist told me that it takes time to feel safe enough to “come back” after being dissociated. So I don’t push progress or obligation on it.