body image, mental health, swimming

How a sea witch and Shrill made me find my sense of self again

Fat Girl Friday copyThe thing about depression is you don’t always realize you’re in the middle of an episode until you’re out of it.

For the past few, well, months really, I’ve been living under a dark and cloudy haze. I was barely keeping my head above water, desperately fighting against the current that wanted to pull me beneath the surface. But because I still had my head above water, I kept telling myself it wasn’t really that bad. Despite the fact that I wasn’t reading — always a sure sign of a depressive episode. I’ve only read seven books so far this year. Seven. For some people, I acknowledge that might seem like a lot, but for me it’s low. Very low. For the sake of comparison, by this point in 2018 I’d read 15 books and in 2017, it was 21 books.

Even audiobooks required too much thought and energy. Still, I had convinced myself that things were fine. Everything was fine. I was fine.

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And the thing of it is, when I met with my psychiatrist a couple weeks ago and he asked how my mood was and I rated it around 80 on a scale of 1 – 100, I wasn’t lying. My mood is good. It really is just this sort of haze that follows me. Like Pig Pen from the Peanuts gang and his cloud of dust and dirt.

Obviously I am self aware enough to know that when I say it’s been like this for months, what I really mean is it’s been like this for about six months. Which means it started right around the time mom died. Total coincidence, I’m sure.

The other thing about depression, or at least the other thing about my depression, is that it totally fucks with my body image and self esteem. I’ve had more bad body image days in the past few months then I’ve had in awhile. I feel large and ungainly, like I take up more space than I should be allowed. I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear and my hair hates me.

All those negative messages of diet culture and bodies like mine start to infiltrate my brain and I begin forgetting all of those positive messages I really believe. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted as much body positive or fat acceptance messages recently. This is why.

dresses, custom clothing, womens dresses,fashion, retro, fall, spring, fit and flare dresses, knit dresses

As I mentioned last week, I also haven’t been running. This past weekend was the annual St. Malachi race and for the first time in seven years, I wasn’t there. No, I did make it to the YMCA for the 8:30 am aqua aerobics class with my new swimsuit inspired by one of the greatest Disney villains of all time.

When I talk about fat characters in pop culture, Ursula was one of the first ones I remember seeing as a child. I was 8 when The Little Mermaid came out and while Ariel was instrumental in my lifelong desire to have red hair (true story), Ursula was instrumental in my lifelong love of Disney villains. Granted, Ursula is slightly problematic in that she contributes to Disney’s long-standing portrayal of fat people as either evil or dumb. But that’s more of a Disney thing than an Ursula thing, given they also slimmed her in recent years.

So Torrid, a plus-size exclusive store, selling an Ursula swimsuit? Shut up and take my money.

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Over the past couple years I’ve bought multiple swimsuits. One pieces. Two pieces. Tankinis. Bikinis. I don’t even have a need to go into the water that often, but every year I’d be buying another suit or two.

But it wasn’t until I my Ursula suit arrived that I realized why I was buying so many: I had, for years, been unsuccessful in finding THE swimsuit. It’s like wedding dress shopping, right? I kept buying so many fucking swimsuits because none of them really and truly made me feel as comfortable and confident as I want a swimsuit to make me feel.

Then I put this one on and felt like the living embodiment of one of my favorite fat characters. An actual fat woman wearing this suit is on the nose, and yet the suit’s influence is so subtle it doesn’t feel over-the-top or like a costume.

I put that swimsuit on and didn’t want to take it off. Ever.

So Saturday morning, I was thrilled to wake up early and head to the YMCA for the 8:30 am aqua aerobics class. I hadn’t been since mom died, and in that time I had forgotten what I loved so much about the class. Specifically, how many fat women are there. Including the instructor. And then, unlike other fitness classes which are so focused on diet culture and earning food, we’re there in the pool talking about corned beef and the best fish fry in Lakewood (St. Mary’s, apparently).

Then, at the end, one of the other women in the class who was around my age came up and asked if I was wearing the Ursula suit from Torrid and it was one of the best bonding moments I’ve ever had.

It’s so fat positive and size inclusive and returning to that class after six months made me want to recommit to going on a regular basis. Even if I only go once a week, to be surrounded by so much body positivity does the soul good.

After the class, I came home and queued up SHRILL, the Hulu adaptation of Lindy West’s memoir starring Aidy Bryant.

Y’all.

Y’ALL.

I’m hoping to write a separate post about how much I loved SHRILL, but for right now, I want to talk about one particular scene about halfway through the season at a body positive pool party.

The show made me cry three times, and this pool party was one of those moments. It was bright and colorful with bodies of all shapes and sizes in all kinds of swimsuits. And nobody is hiding their bellies or covering up their bodies. There’s just fat bodies and bare stomachs and life and laughter and holy shit. I’d never seen so many fat bodies on a screen at the same time before. They were beautiful and bold and bright and glittered against the sparkling pool like diamonds.

It was so affirming to see bodies like mine on television, especially seeing bodies like mine in their full glory, not hiding or embarrassed or trying to make themselves small. After months and weeks of feeling like shit, going to a aqua aerobics class that doesn’t give a fuck what you look like and then coming home and seeing bodies like mine represented at a pool party was the best mental health morning and self care Saturday I didn’t know I needed.

 

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