There is a ton of information about the benefits of exercise and weight loss. It is undeniable that having an active lifestyle and striving to consume ethically farmed nutrient dense food is a paramount step towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. I have however noticed that a lot of information about this topic is centred almost entirely around the physical benefits of being healthy. Very little information is shared about the mental and emotional impacts of undertaking a lifestyle transformation journey. More so the information that is shared tends to highlight only positives and rarely explores the complex feelings that come with undertaking such a drastic change. I have personally experienced a lot of benefits of overhauling my lifestyle. I am happier, I have more energy, my mind is clearer, I enjoy food more, I sleep better, I have less anxiety, I am stronger, I am so much more confident, etc. I cannot stress enough how great this journey has been overall. Even so, it has come with some unexpected hiccups and road blocks that I was completely unaware of. The issues that I have faced and continue to face as I evolve reveal to just how complicated the human experience is, and how little information is given about the emotional toll of any change. It also shows how quick we are to place life experiences into either good or bad categories, rather than accepting moral ambiguities. So even though becoming healthier is an objectively good thing to do, it can have significant negative impacts on your mental and emotional well being. Below details the five main emotional side effects I have or am currently experiencing whilst I endeavour to better myself.
THE GENESIS OF SKIN RELATED ISSUES
Since the onset of puberty, I have had a pretty terrible relationship with my skin. I had somewhat severe acne from the ages of 11 to 17, and really objectively terrible advice on how to treat it. I remember getting into an argument when I was 12 with an older boy, and him telling me to ‘go get a facicure’ before I spoke to him. I was horrified. Someone else once viciously commented that I had a great body, and that the only thing that ‘spoilt it’ for me was my face. Jesu Kristo! I was shook! Every time I visited my aunts, or other relatives, the first thing they always commented on was the state of my skin. I appreciated all those who tried to help albeit unsuccessfully, but most just gawked at me with slight disgust. That period of time was also really jarring for me both emotionally and mentally. I was juggling a myriad of sudden and disruptive changes that had occurred seemingly simultaneously. At 12 years old, I lost my mother to breast cancer. At the same time, my body was blooming into womanhood, starting off with the swelling of my breasts. I had to try and develop a healthy relationship to the same body part that killed my mother. Despite my confusion about my enhanced femininity, my mind started to get excited or sometimes afraid of the prospect of eliciting male sexual attention. This was then topped off by the fact that though my body was budding into a voluptuous frame, my face was erupting with ‘gross’ and ‘impossible to manage’ acne. The dissonance was unreal. I could not tell if I was attractive, unattractive or a weird mix of both. I also could not tell if I cared about what I was at the time, because my mind was numb, dealing with the trauma of losing my mum. I did not know how to deal with any of it, and there was no one I could really turn to to help me. Mum would have helped me, but she was gone.
HOW I KNEW I HAD A PROBLEM
I have known for a long time that something was not quite right about how I navigated the world. When my mother passed away from losing the fight with breast cancer when I was 12, everyone told me that time heals all wounds. So I waited for time to heal me. Over the years it was also heavily implied that talking about mum was wrong and showing any signs of grief was a sign of mental regression. There was also a lot of emphasis placed on the idea that because I was the first born, I had to be strong- and strength meant stoicism. To everyone that knew me post mum’s death, I was very artistic, quite smart, highly assertive, but a bit atypical and somewhat aloof. High school masked my issues because there were clear structures that dictated everyone’s social conduct. For as long as I adhered to whatever was required of me, it did not matter that I spent most of my time in my mind trapped between the past and the future. It was never noticed that I never really participated in the present other than to tick the prescribed boxes. So I swayed between filling journals with painful poetry and haunted drawings, and resurfacing only to cram some formulas to vomit them onto exam sheets. Because I was eloquent and I passed all my exams, no one ever thought to check in on me. After all, I ticked the boxes. After high school, the structures became blurred and I found myself having to make very uncomfortable decisions about my future. Decisions I was not ready for. So I let my environment dictate my path and stuck to the high school formula of burying my head in my thoughts and resurfacing only to fulfil my social obligations. And this was the beginning of my unravelling.