Positive I’m Not Qualified: A Discussion of Body Positivity

anger, anxiety, bettering yourself, bipolar, body positive movement, body positivity, changing the world, context, defining perseverance, depression, empowerment, encouragement, fibromyalgia, gender identity, health, humility, invisible illness, judging, love, mental health, parent, parenthood, positivity, postive change, Self-preservation, self-reflection, stigma, struggle, Uncategorized, weight loss

I want to talk about body positivity but I can’t talk about body positivity because I know that I need to talk about body positivity positively (shock and awe!) with affirmations and understanding of my body’s particular features and flaws but here I am, your writer (*small curtsey*), the most unable to talk about body positivity the way I need to talk about it. So, what can I do? Nothing. My hands are tied. The cake is baked. The end is nigh. My voice here does not matter.

Except…well, my voice does matter. Just like your voice matters. Ah, a solution (*claps hands, does twirl*)! My editor1 is in the corner telling me my clapping and twirling is getting awkward. Quick, let me adopt a tone of authority and wit, once again.

If I want to talk about body positivity but I can’t properly talk about body positivity because I know that I need to talk about it positively, then maybe it becomes my responsibility (and with great responsibility comes great power—that’s how it goes, right?) to acknowledge that despite my own personal struggles in this area, body positivity does, in fact, merit discussion. It does2.

Acknowledging that the body positive movement is an important movement—I can do that. It’s important to do that. It may even be more important to do that because I struggle, myself, to adopt any attitude that even slightly resembles something like body positivity. If the body positive movement includes an essential element like constructing a stronger, more positive house of self-esteem (SPOILER ALERT: it does), then I simply can’t insinuate a solid connection between body positivity and my personal life. I’m not even trying to take a more positive approach to my self-image, yet, so implying that connection at all might be what they call a lie fiction. Oh, but maybe, then, in writing this post to you, my faithful readers3, I have just started, literally before your eyes4, to develop that connection between my own personal life and body positivity. Plot twist, y’all.

Acknowledgment is a step—a crucial step. Why don’t I take it a step further and get a little real with you, since we’re on a roll and all?

I don’t feel like I can properly talk about body positivity because when I look in the mirror, I see a person who is tipping the scales at (almost) their highest weight of all time. Close, but no cigar. Man, I can’t even beat my own record! I see this, and I never go beyond the critical inspection of my belly, thighs, and general physique. I suspect (though I think we’ve rightly established I’m no expert) that the next step in trudging toward a more body positive approach would be to own that thought about my weight, then go on to remind myself that “Hey, you’re kind of a sexy beast, anyway—fun fact. Check out those wrists. Those wrists make people’s speakers go boom boom. Those wrists got that boom boom pow. Oh and good Lord, look at those eyes. You’ve got those hazel eyes that make people pause—some days you’re Harry Potter and other days you’re Hermione Granger with those eyes, but you’re killing it with those eyes no matter which. Even better, your wrists and eyes are so damn on point that it doesn’t even matter if anyone else likes them. You look good. And hey, if it really matters that much, remember you managed to lose 100 pounds in the past. You can do it again. That’s just a side note, sexy beast in the mirror.”

I don’t feel like I can properly talk about body positivity because I spend most of my days angry at my body. I have a chronic illness that affects my daily and overall functioning, coupled by anxiety/depression/bipolar, recently visited by a near-fatal accident5, topped with a touch of6 gender dysphoria. When I drop a sugar packet while making coffee, I cringe. Bending is difficult. When I try to dress in the morning, any attempts to make my body match my mind generally involve a physically challenging battle that leave me exhausted and irritated. When I miss class because the pain is too much, I spend more time kicking myself than I do taking care of myself. I suspect (even a long paragraph later, I am still no expert) that the next step in trudging toward a more body positive approach would be to own these struggles my body has, then go on to remind myself, “Hey, you’re kind of amazing. You leave the house every single day of the week on average. Even when the pain has tears pooling at the corners of your eyes, your badass self straps on those two or three bags and trudges off to tackle your job, then your school, then your homework. Despite the fact that your body is exhausted, when it’s your time with your daughter, you dance with her, you play with her, you spin her round until her giggles wake the neighbors. You’re epic.

Yes, your humble writer wants to talk about body positivity. For now, though, your humble writer is only going to commit to acknowledging that the body positive movement is an important movement. Your humble writer is also going to switch back to the first-person because, let’s be real, it’s getting awkward7 up in here.

There is not much argument—valid argument—against supporting body positivity, as I see it. People loving themselves more seems right up my alley, especially since I spend the bulk of my posts reminding people that everyone is human and everyone is real. Also, especially since I spend the bulk of my posts reminding people that they are loved, at the very least by some awkward stranger on the internet (but, in a more likely reality, by many people, both known and unknown to them).

There can’t be much argument—valid argument—against encouraging others to forgive the flaws in their body, or (*gasp*) even go beyond that to realize that “flaws” is likely the wrong word to use to begin with.

There can’t be much argument—valid argument—against providing people the tools to build up their own self-esteem by starting and moving through the process of loving themselves. If I love you, I feel like there should be some give and take here, y’all. You should have to try to love yourself8, too. It’s only fair, right?

So yes, I want to talk about body positivity but I can’t talk about body positivity because I know that I need to talk about body positivity positively (shock and awe!) and even though it seems (at least for the last 1200 words or so) that I have been talking about body positivity I don’t think you should hold it against me but probably instead just give me an award9 for acknowledging that I and the rest of the world does in fact need to talk about body positivity and if we are not there yet maybe we should work on getting there because yes the body positive movement is an important one.

Maybe this is my step one. I don’t know. If it is, though, take it with me? Because yes, everyone is human and everyone is real. Nothing perceived or misperceived about their body is ever going to change that—that much I know for sure.

 

  1. The editor is, in fact, only an editor in my head and, as such, is vastly underpaid.
  2. See that? Tone of authority, y’all.
  3. All nine of you! Sarcasm aside, I love you more than I love my cat when she sleeps on my neck in that suffocating way that cats do (something that one shouldn’t really love, probably). Oh, the tears—here they come. We’re having a moment, aren’t we? This is our moment.
  4. I’ll dedicate the book to you. …but you’re still going to have to buy the book. Just to clarify.
  5. That brought its friend and uninvited, infinitely unwelcome guest—a guest who goes by the name “A-long-term-road-of-recovery-ahead.”
  6. My editor would like to note that he suggested editing the phrase “a touch of” to read “raging.”
  7. I would like to recognize that I know it is rarely, if ever, not awkward up in here.
  8. I know how hard this is. Jokes aside, I know how hard this is.
  9. My editor says I shouldn’t have said that.

[Absence]

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I am sure many of my readers and site visitors are curious about my absence this summer. As it happens, I nearly died over the summer. More to come in the way of long, multi-part blog posts that include detailed explanations and contemplative reactions, musings, and more. Be patient with me, friends. You’ll hear my thoughts soon. ❤

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of Darkness Walk in Jax, FL

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Support Wild Wiles West as we walk to fight suicide in the Out of the Darkness Jacksonville Walk.

What is so wild about Wild Wiles West? Mostly…love.

We love each other fiercely, and we’re striving to learn to love the rest of the world just as fiercely…because people are human, people are real, and everyone’s story matters.

We are joining the community of nearly 250k people walking in hundreds of cities across the country in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.

Our team captain may be Nik, but the real boss of this team is Nik’s daughter (Caitlin’s step-daughter), Skylar Astrid. We want you to keep that in mind. If you go to say, “Nah, we don’t want to support this issue with that team,” keep the true boss in mind–because yes, Nik obviously can’t put up a fight…but the 2-year-old can.

Here’s why we care: Both Nik and Caitlin have experience with mental health struggles. Both Nik and Caitlin love people with mental health struggles. Nik, personally, has survived a suicide attempt. And most importantly…

Our entire team, every single day, looks outside of their immediate social realm and sees others dealing with mental health struggles, thoughts of suicide, or both.

Please help us reach our fundraising goal by donating to a team member. To donate online, please click the donation image at the bottom of this post to travel to our team fundraising page. Then, select “Roster” and then choose one of the team members listed. Once you’re on their page, click “Donate Now.” Donations can only be made to individuals, but the total each participant raises goes toward our team goal.

Remember, mental health struggles are real, are valid. Remember, thoughts of suicide are common–it does not make a person “crazy” or any less of a person. Remember, suicide is a major issue we must all address. Remember, your donation and your involvement helps break down the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide.

All donations are 100% tax deductible and will help bring AFSP one step closer to achieving their bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

You can also support us by registering to walk with our team – just click the “join our team” button on the fundraising page. Seriously! Click the button! We would love to have you as a member of our team.

Can’t make the walk? No problem–register as a member of our team and help us fundraise. $5,000 is a lofty goal! We definitely need the help.

Can make the walk but don’t want to walk with us? No problem–a lot of our team includes introverts who truly just want to stay in the safety of their own social shell. Be a part of our team and walk to your own beat at the actual event.

Just be part of this with us. You. Are. Loved. You. Matter.

Best and Thank You,

Wild Wiles West

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Things of Note

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Purchase our founder’s e-book by clicking the book cover above.

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Connect with English Wallflower on Facebook–click the image above.

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Our founder, Nik Wiles, alongside her lovely wife, is in the process of establishing a brand new non-profit. Find out more by connecting on Facebook. Click the image above.

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Follow Nik’s (our founder’s) author page on Facebook by clicking the image above.

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Support a GoFundMe close to our hearts… ❤

 

Invisible Paths

#AKF, Always Keep Fighting, anxiety, bipolar, depression, encouragement, fibromyalgia, first impressions, health, humble, invisible illness, judging, judgment, stigma, to write love on her arms, twloha

Invisible-illness-under-the-surface

If there were a competition for invisible conditions, I would be quite the contender. Seriously, I’d have trophies I think. At least one of those super cool participation awards.

After years of unexplained, chronic pain, I received a diagnosis—the doc was like, “You’ve got fibromyalgia.” And I was like, “Doc, this is going to damage our relationship. I was just startin’ to like you.”

The diagnosis didn’t really come as a shock (my gray hairs, which I found out about recently, are far more shocking, I’ll be real). I’ve known something was up with my body for a long time. I ardently avoid doctors until I’m dragging a limb behind me (who am I kidding? I don’t even go to the doctor then). But I did feel a little bit frustrated at first.

My thoughts: Come on. I’ve got bipolar. I’ve got depression. I’ve got anxiety. No one can physically see those things most of the time. Some people don’t even believe in those things—they tell me “just be more positive,” “remember all you have to be grateful for,” “eat more bananas” (I’m not even making that last one up). They don’t believe in the invisible conditions I already have, and now I’ve got fibro? Another invisible condition?

I wallowed for a solid five minutes. I gnashed my teeth a little. I did that Hunger Games three finger-signal thing and whistled sadly. OK, OK, everything after “wallowed” is pretty much a lie.

However, what isn’t a lie is this: when I was done wallowing, it occurred to me that this is the perfect opportunity to talk about invisible conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, etc. This is the perfect opportunity to remind others that yes, invisible conditions are out there affecting people in drastic ways. People are human. People are real. And just because we don’t see them struggling doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling.

You can’t see my blood type, right? No (and if you can, I really, really, need to know my blood type, maybe tweet me or something). Does that mean you don’t believe I have a blood type? Of course not. Everyone has a blood type, and even though we can’t see it with our own two eyes, we believe it. What makes it any different than invisible conditions that people struggle with daily?

My point is this: If you struggle with one or more invisible conditions, I recognize that it’s hard. You’re not alone—even if you can’t see that. You are valid. Your struggle is valid. If you struggle and you’re able to talk about these struggles, please do. Every person that speaks up helps erase stigma. Every voice that speaks up brings much-needed awareness. Your voice is so important.

And if you don’t struggle, and often invalidate the invisible conditions others have, please try to stop. Please try to understand that it’s no different than a blood type, and it could be you one day. We all—at some point—will likely struggle with mental illness or a debilitating chronic health problem. In the end, we’re all in the same boat, so let’s row together. Except me. I can’t swim.

I’ll cheer you on from the shore, though. Let’s walk these invisible paths together, friend.

28 Keystrokes

#AKF, afsp, Always Keep Fighting, american foundation for suicide prevention, anxiety, asking for help is not a weakness, depression, encouragement, live through this, mental health, self-harm, self-injury, stigma, suicidal tendencies, Suicide Awareness, suicide prevention, to write love on her arms, twloha

“If you know that a friend or family member struggles with self-injury, then you should know that they have trusted you with one of the deepest, toughest, vulnerable parts of their heart. Do not make them feel shame. Do not question their motives. Do not accuse them of attention-seeking. Just love them.”

 

With the following 28 keystrokes, I am going to write one of the most difficult sentences I have ever written to a public audience:

I struggle with self-injury.

Why is it so difficult to say? I have openly admitted so many other struggles. Depression. Bipolar. Anxiety. Suicide attempts. This is where I usually throw in a bit of humor to lighten the mood. You laugh. The tension releases. It’s hard to admit that as I write this, my throat is so tight that I’m at a loss for a punch line.

When my two-year-old daughter notices my scars, she touches them and says, “Mommy! Boo-boo!” I wonder about what she’ll say when she gets older. I wonder what she’ll ask when she gets old enough to understand what they are. I wonder what I’ll tell her. But yes, my child, they are there; they are boo-boos. They are the type of boo-boo that people don’t often like to talk about.

If you struggle with self-injury as well, this is what I want to say to you: You know the stretches of time where you’re managing okay? Those long periods—you know—a day, a week, a month, a year, years. Those stretches? Sometimes they end. It happens. I want you to know that it does not make you a failure. You, like myself, sometimes torture yourself with guilt even though you shouldn’t. I want you to know that a lapse does not mean no other stretches will come. You will persevere. You will continue to more stretches of “managing okay.” Heck, sometimes you will even manage well, excellent, fabulously, [insert your preferred, positive adjective here]. Your lapses do not define you.

If you know someone who struggles, this is what I want to say to you: If you know that a friend or family member struggles with self-injury, then you should know that they have trusted you with one of the deepest, toughest, vulnerable parts of their heart. Do not make them feel shame. Do not question their motives. Do not accuse them of attention-seeking. Just love them. Just love them so hard it feels like it can wash away any wounds, any scars, any boo-boos.

Three words, a hyphenated compound word, and a period. That’s the structure of the sentence I struggled to type up there: “I struggle with self-injury.” If you’re wondering why I broke down the structure of sentence itself, it’s because I’m a neurotic-when-vulnerable-slightly-awkward-but-mostly-amazing-English-major (ah, there’s the laugh).

Stigma makes it hard for that structure to exist, friends. Stigma makes it hard for those 28 keystrokes to happen, friends. Stigma makes 4 words nearly impossible to write, friends. So, I offer myself, a vulnerable and terrified sacrifice, in hopes that we will continue to break down stigma with our openness. In hopes that when my daughter, fifteen-years-old, asks me about my scars, I’ll be able to give her an answer. Not the right one—it’s not about right answers. But an answer.

None of us can heal if stigma holds our lips together tight. And that goes for all mental health struggles, not just this one. However, this is the one I want to talk about today. So, know this: I’m not judging you, friend. Please be vulnerable with me, with others. Talk about your boo-boos. It might be the best thing you ever do.

Passion for the Important: Humanitarianism, Lives Movements, Toilet Paper

being better people, beliefs, change, changing the world, cultural shifts, human, humanitarianism, humanity, postive change, value, values

My fiancée and I disagree on so many things. It’s not what you’re thinking—we disagree on important things. Examples: opinions on sex work, thoughts on which countries we should focus on in humanitarian projects, #[INSERT TYPE OF LIFE]matters movements, who left the toilet roll empty again—you get the picture. Important things.

We can argue for hours. It’s not arguing in the this-is-meaningless-and-we’re-getting-a-divorce (oh wait, we’re not married until April 14th) way. It’s arguing in the we’re-critically-thinking-and-learning-about-alternative-perspectives way. For the record, I am always right in the end. *looks shadily to the left* 

What does this say about us as a couple? Not much. What does it say about us as people? We’re passionate. We’re passionate about what is going on around us in some way. That matters. She’s a liberal feminist. I’m a self-labeled reformed-Republican-gone-Democrat. We both have held some strong one-sided opinions in the past and we still do, to some degree, in the present. 

We both have flaws. My God, do we have flaws. But I heard something in my grad class today that made me realize despite our flaws, we are important people because we have passion about important things.

What did I hear in my class? “If you ignore it, it will happen to you.” 

Exactly. We have an obligation as humans to remain passionate about important things because if we ignore important things, we will find ourselves somewhere we do not want to be. 

No matter our opinions on sex work, if my fiancée and I ignore the issue altogether, we might find ourselves facing a reality we never expected—even if it seems like it is never going to affect us at all. If we shut down our thoughts on which countries we should focus on in our humanitarian projects and simply choose to do nothing, we may find ourselves in need of massive help ourselves, unaware that our help doubles as a prevention of terrible things happening to us too. If we support no particular #livesmatter movement in order to avoid the decision of which needs the most help or which is most credible or which is most all-encompassing, then we support no movement, which means one day when we need our own movement, we may be out of luck ourselves. 

As long as we as people, my fiancée and I included, keep caring about important things and passionately, it’s okay if we’re arguing (try to be civil, y’all). It’s okay to feel differently as long as you don’t stop caring. If we ignore it, it can happen to us—it will happen to us. So we have no choice but to care.

And we have to care about the small things along with the big things (let’s agree the toilet paper issue falls under the “big things,” okay?). We have to care about all things. Even though we can’t handle every single thing, we can continue to form opinions and care about all things…while working toward the number of things we can manage simultaneously. 

So care. Care about the important things. Be passionate. Fight, and fight well. Never give up.

“If you ignore it, it will happen to you.”

Rise out of the Ashes Like a Phoenix–Nah, Scratch that–Like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth

#AKF, afsp, Always Keep Fighting, american foundation for suicide prevention, anxiety, asking for help is not a weakness, depression, encouragement, live through this, stigma, struggle, suffering, suicidal tendencies, Suicide Awareness, suicide prevention, Suicide Prevention Week, to write love on her arms, twloha, Uncategorized, You're Not Alone

Yesterday, my daughter, fiancée, and I completed the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 2017 Out of Darkness walk in Orlando, FL. The event was a 5k walk around a beautiful lake, with humans, dogs, bunnies, and tortoises (no, that’s not a joke) all joined together to promote suicide awareness and encourage people around the world to help us end the stigma surrounding mental health struggles.

Signs, stickers, and posters featured phrases such as “I’m walking for” with the name of a loved one who died by suicide filled in the empty space—which reminded me of the empty place this type of loss leaves behind in a lot of our hearts. I thought about my own mental health struggles. I thought about my own suicide attempts. I looked at my fiancée and daughter, and thought, I never want them to have to fill my name in the empty space.

I never want to have to fill your name in that empty space, either.

We don’t simply overcome mental health struggles. Depression and anxiety do not dissipate overnight. Bipolar disorder does not go away when it gets bored. Thoughts of suicide cannot simply be turned off with a switch. These types of darkness don’t seem to have a light switch, and that can be hard for people to understand. But I understand. And I want you to rise up.

I want you to rise up out of the ashes (and darkness) like a phoenix. Scratch that. I want you to rise out of the ashes like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth. I know you’re trying to figure out if those last three words are the product of some type of autocorrect system wild on caffeine, but no—

I want you to rise up out of the ashes like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

The thing about this bird is that it is awesomely weird—much as I imagine you are, which is why I really don’t want to be filling your name in that empty space the next time my family walks. We need more awesomely weird people in the world, so I hope you’ll stick around. This bird is so underrated. But it’s not underrated to me—just like you’re not underrated to me.

This bird has a special call it makes every dawn and dusk. It cries out when the sun sets, but it’s also there to cry out again when the sun comes back. It has small wings…yet it flies. It flies quietly but with purpose. The best thing about this awesomely weird (and let’s face it, weirdly named, as well) bird is that it often disguises itself as a broken tree branch for self-defense. It’s apparent brokenness is what can save it at the end of the day.

So after walking with over 2,000 people who have been personally touched by suicide, I still manage to feel light. I know these people are hurting, yes, but they are using that pain to do something worthwhile. And I know many of us, myself included, are heavy with the weights of depression and anxiety, among numerous other types of mental health struggles…but remember this—

You may look like nothing more than a broken tree branch. But you are something solid, strong, real, graceful. You can take flight—you can glide. You are awesomely weird. And you are going to rise from those ashes, just like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth should.

p-king-sri-lanka-frogmouth

Minimalist Backslider: Rejuvenating the 30-day List

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I’ve been backsliding hard, and I’m here to admit it. On December 29, 2015, I put in place my first ever “30-day list,” a list which I told my friends, family, and co-workers would “allow me to put distance between the impulse [to purchase an item] and the…[actual] purchase,” in hopes of “ultimately kick[ing]..consumer addiction.” The end goal was to find value and happiness outside of mere physical possessions.

This was a successful endeavor…for six months.

Then, as often happens, I was sidetracked from my goals by a tsunami of turmoil in my personal life, leaving me hanging on for dear life (sometimes literally, as I struggled through severe change and grief, which only made my depression and anxiety worse). I drank and I smoked cigarettes and I cried and I raged and I hurt. But also…I began to spend again. Superfluously, as The Minimalists might say.

The not-so-amazing part that I found so amazing was that I didn’t even notice. It took months before I realized I’d stopped using my 30-day list. It took even longer to realize I was spending in an effort to cling onto some kind of happiness in a time of great personal crisis. We do this sometimes—we try to fill the voids of our life with physical possessions and it never, ever, ever…ever, helps long-term. It never produces the happiness we seek.

It was December again, almost exactly a year later, when I realized I needed to bring the 30-day list back.

I need to hold myself accountable again. I need to create that separation between the impulse to purchase an item and the actual purchase of the item. The space—a mere 30 days—has proven time and time again to be all the time I need to determine if an item is something I actually need or want (a want that will bring value to my life, of course)…or if the impulse to purchase was simply an impulse with some other, often subconscious, ulterior motive.

To keep myself honest, I am making my 30-day list public. It can be found on my website (you’re already here!), by visiting the “30-day List” link in the main toolbar. Or just click here. On my list, you will find the item, the date I added it to the list, the links or pictures (if relevant), and the date I finally purchased the item (if applicable).

I encourage you to take this challenge with me. It was rewarding and taught me so much about myself the first time I established the list. Now, as I rejuvenate the 30-day list, I expect it to be just as rewarding and insightful as before.