Families, mental illnesses and body shaming

Content Note: conflictual families; body shaming; mental health; eating disorder; trauma; abuse

With the Easter holiday looming around the corner, a lot of us may deal with anxiety at the idea of spending time with our so-called loved ones.

Today, I am addressing the specific intersection of mental illness and body issues. You may relate to some of it, or even none of it. We all have our own ways of dealing with our bodies and mental health. Be mindful that every family has their own dynamic and that I can’t humanly address all of them.

For some, families can be very triggering for those struggling with their own unruly bodies and/or mental health through comments, remarks, unsollicitated advices or an underlying discourse/tension, only to name a few.

Intergenerational traumas and social expectations can lead to a prominent diet culture and talk. It can also lead to shaming of different, disabled or larger bodies.

It can be triggering to stand around family meals; which is the main event for most families. Being faced with buffets; a wide variety of food; sugary and salty treats can be confronting/anxiety inducing for people dealing eating disorders, body dysphoria or any other traumas surrounding food.

Paired with less than pleasant family discussion around your different life choices; it can potentially be very distressful.

So, now what?

Well; I compiled a list of tips to survive the holidays almost unscathed. Let’s be realistic there.

**While this was written for the Easter Weekend, I believe it can be applicable to any other holidays.

1. Wear comfortable clothes. Family reunions can be lenghty and tiresome. Wearing comfortable clothes might allow you to feel more at ease with your body and feel yourself. Dressing for the part you are expected to play may only further trauma and confusion. It may also cause you to be very self conscious of your body and weakening your emotional barrier from the start.
2. Take your meds, hydrate well, have a good sleep before if possible. You want to be your most well enough self.
3. Eat the fuck you want. Fuck ‘em. Eat that dessert. Eat that comforting food. Fuel your body. Don’t feel guilty. You didn’t kill someone. 
4. If you don’t feel like eating and it feels too hard, don’t. Respect your body. Privilege nutritive foods if you do eat. Food is fuel. Let them talk. Tune out if needed.
5. There is no good or bad food. Food morality is a constructed concept. Because your family bought into it, doesn’t mean you have too.
6. If you feel triggered or attacked by your some family members comments, first take a few moments to understand what they told you. What was their intent? What is the best strategy for you to let it go?Escalating the conflict never ends well. If some family members pass remarks on your weight and/or mental health status; let them know you are doing well and do not wish to talk more on the subject at the moment. You could let them know that your weight is not your focus at the moment. That you are listening to what your body needs. That you are doing intuitive eating. That you are the experts of your own body. You can simply thank them for their concerns and move to another topic.
7. You don’t have the burden to educate them. Especially if you already did in the past.
8. You are not too young for that.
9. Sick leaves are not vacations.
10. Part time work and social welfare are valid.
11. You can leave if you need too or retreat to a safe space. If this is not an immediate possibility because of lack of transportation or else; it may be useful to have an emergency plan in case you need to leave.
12. A plan for panic attacks, high anxiety or any other mental health manifestation can also be helpful.
13. If possible, carry some self-care tools with you; for example your knitting projects, some hand cream, contact numbers; a change of clothes, socks, underwear, snacks, pain pills, extra MI meds.
14. Establish your boundaries and maintain them. State them in a clear and gentle manner. Remind them if needed. If they persist on overstepping your boundaries; it is okay to leave.
15. Pick safe topics you feel comfortable speaking about and stick with them. If a family member picks an unsafe topic, change topic or address your discomfort.
16. The most important thing is to be and stay safe.
17. Your sexuality and gender identity is your business only.
18. If you can and want, bring someone safe with you. Hangout with the safer members of your family.
19. Don’t spend time with people who hurt you. While your grandmother may be well intentioned, if she hurts you or has hurt you in the past, you don’t have to spend more time with her than greetings.
20. Plan something nice afterwards, a treat, a nap, a movie, a book, a chat with a friend. Whatever feels good.
21. Feel free to say no if you don’t want to go. No one can force you to go. If someone does; it may be time to reassess that relationship. Seek help.
22. Gentle tip: while screaming, yelling and standing your ground agressively may feel good while doing it, it never ends well. Before you get to that point, try to take some space, leave or if you have the energy, explain what is going on.
23. While it may hurts, the weight and power your family holds over you is only as much as what you give them. It’s much more liberating to let go and find a family with whom you are comfortable with.
24. Blood isn’t always has thicker than water. Find people who love and respect you for who you are. If your family can’t give you that; they are the one missing out.

While I tried to cover the most my mental abilities allow me to right now, this list is and always will be incomplete. I believe you can take whatever is useful from this list and make your own. Add your own tips to the specificity of your family or reality. Feel free to share them with me if you feel comfortable too.

Remember, you are not less or not enough if you don’t go or if you leave. You don’t have to take abuse in the name of blood ties. If your family is not respectful, you can always choose to severe contacts.

If you find yourself in emotional distress due to the holiday period, call a friend, a mental health professional, a helpline.

You may feel lonely, but you are not alone.

I am always available if needed.

Until next time; take care.

Catherine aka the Cynical Mermaid

Advertisements

At Night, The Monsters

Once the sun set,

Once the silent fell,

Once his soft snoring fills the room,

The monsters come out of their shadows.

They live in this darkness I know so well.

Presences I have grown accustomed to.

Filled with anxiety, I feel manic and empty.

The lack of sleep has made me restless, helpless.

Counting the sheeps had never been an option.

Two pills tonight doesn’t even cut it.

Two pills can’t chase the monsters away.

Their voices ever growing in the chaos of the silence.

At night, the monsters dance in my head.

They tug and pull the wires.

They disconnect what I try so hard to repair

Filling my mind with anxiety and nightmares

Filling my heart with darkness and coals

Filling my body with shame and lead

They show me what I could have

What I lack and what I miss

They tell me I am not enough at dawn

Before getting their rest for the day

While I wonder and ponder

While numbness fills my body and races my heart

The monsters creep at night

They lie about my worth,

They feed my soul with doubts and insecurities.

The monster at night rest in the shadows

While my sleep deprived mind confronts daylights

It’s everlasting brightness, safe from monsters.

But they come back.

They always do.

No matter what I say or do.

At night, the monsters.

Self care tips for Spoonies

Lately; I’ve been under a lot of stress and my mental health has been up and down. Mostly down.

This winter is dragging on, plus the temporary move, the appointments, the recovery from the car accident, it’s been accumulating in a subtle; and less subtle; but real way. I’ve found myself exhausted, yet I have a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep. I’ve been crying a lot; either while watching TV or just emotionally overwhelmed. I have a hard time managing my emotions, managing myself. I am being ask “how my vacations are going”. Definitely not vacations in my book.

So I’ve tried to practice a lot of self-care; but unfortunately it’s easier said than done. I failed at times. I put a lot of pressure and expectations on myself and everything ends up feeling like a chore or a waste of time. I’m so up in my head, I am not mindful or fully-conscious. I’ve compensated with food and social media a lot lately. The brain fog is thick; and if I manage to empty my head; I feel very anxious and I panic. So my self-care isn’t always refreshing.

So in my spoonies group; we started talking about self-care tips and how it might not always be expensive or time consuming. It is quite common for spoonies (either with physical or invisible illnesses) to make a box/bag of self-care things and tips may be very helpful in a difficult phase. Sometimes, you’re so wrapped up in yourself, focusing on managing your pain that you forget what could help you.

Here’s a short list of self-care that may help you build your own list/box/bag:

  • Hydration: Could be water/herbal tea/coffee/water bottles.
  • Moisturizer: Sometimes, some massaging some cream into your hands, your skin, can help you soothe and reconnect with your body.
  • Naps: For me they are the best self-care. It helps me disconnect from everything and relax my body. Some days; I find myself craving some foods, but deep down, I really just need a lie down.
  • Therapy: Illnesses can be very hard for mental health. We all have our own struggles. Having someone to help us look critically at my thoughts have been a lifesaver for me. If you can afford/have time for therapy, this is good self investment.
  • Contact list\Phone numbers: If you are in a very tough/dark spots; you may forget who is out there ready to help you. Keep a list of friends, family members, good ears, helpline. You are not alone. Reach out.
  • Move your body: Now when I encourage to move your body, It means within your limits. Joyful movements doesn’t mean torturing yourself on a treadmill or a gym. It could be going out for fresh air; taking a walk or light stretching. Whatever works.
  • Feed yourself: Some people tend to overeat; others struggle to eat. Feeding your body seems obvious but it is important. Don’t judge yourself; don’t judge the food you eat. There is no morality on food, but if you struggle to put or keep food in; try to prioritize protein/nutrient dense food.
  • Heating pad/Gel pad/Massage roller/ Medicated gels: Some of us struggle with chronic or acute pain. Having those on hands for flare up moments are a necessity in my opinion.
  • A list of your Happy movies/shows/movies/books: Whatever is your groove, putting on something to distract yourself may make this moment go faster or be a bit easier.
  • Take a shower/Wash your face/ Put makeup on: Now this one is a bit controversial as showering might take a lot of spoons. However; I find myself benefiting from a hot shower after a few days without, even if I don’t want or feel like it. It may also be very soothing for muscle pain. If you do shower; make sure you are doing it safely; either with a chair; bars; someone supervising if needed. There is no shame in that.
  • Deep breathing/Meditation: To be honest; I am not a big fan of meditation as I already find myself too much in my head. However, some grounding moments, big breaths can be very soothing; especially if very anxious or while having a panic attack. Guided meditations or spa music is something to consider putting in your bag.
  • Journaling: Whatever your struggles; jotting down and keeping tracks of your emotions; symptoms; pain; writing it down can help you get out of your head and put things in perspective. A warning: If it becomes obsessive; it may not be for you.
  • Masturbate/Have sex: Yes. This can be self-care. Sometimes; we have to redefine how we engage in sexuality and intimacy while disabled but more on that later.

I reached the end of the accessible self-care I could find. There is a lot of others ways you can engage in good care; petting an animal; being pampered; cuddling; but these are not accessible to everyone.

Pick the ones who speak to you. Curate your own list. Come up with new ones. Share them with us if you want.

There is no shame or guilt in taking time for yourself. You might need a lot of time. Especially if you have been negating your spoons for a long time or in a big flare-up. There is nothing wrong in saying no and establishing your limits with psychologically/physically draining people/tasks.

You can enjoy yourself. You can have fun. You can buy something nice. Even if you’re strapped on cash. Even if you are living off donations. You are entitled to be happy. Disability/Limitations doesn’t define you. You define you.

Until next time;

Catherine; the cynical mermaid.

Leg Fracture with a side of fat shaming.

Today’s post include a Trigger warning as it contains triggering material for some people.

TW: Intentional weight loss; eating disorder; fat shaming; mental health; medical violence

So today I had an appointment with the orthopedist for a follow up of my fracture.

According to the X-Rays; it’s healing well. I am ready for physiotherapy. Hooray.

Then I was caught off guard by the doctor’s physiotherapist. My legs apparently form a V. Which is quite common for women. It can be increased by my WEIGHT and my WEIGHT can IN THE FUTURE cause more damages to my knees. Which are fine now BTW thank you very much.

But I should be CAREFUL in reaching an “healthy WEIGHT” because of the added pressure my WEIGHT CAN cause on my knee.

I doubt the physiotherapist had a “healthy weight” but that’s not my place to judge.

He repeated his recommendations to the orthopedist.

The minute I entered the office I felt he was ready to discharge me. Looking at the Xrays; I felt he kept dimishing my pain and discomfort. You should be fine. Only some rigidity.

And then he started talking about my weight. He felt I should be aware of the consequences. I felt judged. I felt rushed.

All the negative biases and prejudices I hold against myself resurfaced. Gross. Ugly. Unhealthy. Lazy. Lack of will.

I was experiencing a high level of anxiety. Panic attacks waving on and off. I zoned out by moments.

However now; I know better than to give them the negative thoughts a voice.

I could give all the reasons why I can’t and won’t lose weight, but I don’t have to justify myself. To anyone. I am the master of my own health.

I also like to remind that the first reason I was referred there was that a fucking CAR embraced my leg. And that my knee braced the impact like a champ. Talk about iron caps.

I am 28 years old. I have been fat all my life. I am well aware of the possible impacts of my weight on my health.

I have been reminded countless of times, read on the matters, got testimonies of the impact of my WEIGHT. I have been the target of concern trolling many times. I know!

However; while they may be well meant and genuine; they are triggering and unsollicited.

We needto reframe HOW we talk and think about the intersectionalism of health and weight.

Instead of telling me to lose weight;

You could ask me about the health habits;

Take into consideration my limitations;

Positively encourage joyful movement;

Take into considerations the possible mental state of the person and possible eating disorders; current or in the past;

Ask me what I know and what I want for my health;

Facilitates the access to services that can improve my mental and physical health if I ask for them.

Talking about weight is highly triggering to many people. It shouldn’t be something taken lightly.

Telling someone to lose weight should be the last thing you tell them.

We need to rethink the healthcare system and the way we treat fat patients. Fat shaming is medical violence and it is unnaceptable.

What he said; as a general statement wasn’t bad and he is right that he may impact my knees. A lot of others things may affect my knees. Lower weight people can also have bad knees.

Weight is a factor amongst others.

All this to say my fellow readers; don’t be that person. Don’t perpetuate fat shaming stereotypes. Rethink health and weight. Reframe them. Consider that people are the experts of their OWN health. Educate yourself. Read on health at every size. Enjoy joyful movement.

You are not define by your weight; your body shape; your limitations. You are so much more than that.

Until then;

Catherine; the much cynical mermaid.

Is there still place for Fat Jokes in 2018?

Recently, I was in a group chat and was a witness to a fat joke.

Thankfully, it wasn’t directed against me because that would have been totally a different story.

Yet I was shocked that people still think these are appropriate to this in this day and age. As I called it out, it was half shrugged and deflected to “I made joke about other people size groups”. Nobody else seemed concerned about it and I let it go. I didn’t want to alienate a whole group against myself. It wasn’t the time; nor the place.

However, it triggered a reflexion about jokes directed at marginalized groups; specifically fat in my case.

Is it okay to make a joke about different groups?

As an advocate for human rights and freedom of speech, I would say yes. However, the question may not be can we, but how to? There is a fine line between free speech and hate speech.

Your individual liberties stop when the other person begins.

Simple as that.

Most jokes directed against marginalized groups are offensive because they are aiming to denigrate or hurt.

If your joke is: I would rather be skinny than fat; then proceed to send an image of a fat person [implicit message being -> insert negative adjectives; gross; ugly; disgusting; lazy; stupid], how can you not think this wouldn’t hurt fat people. You are perpetuating negative stereotypes and stigmas for your short-term pleasure; i.e. laugh/group approval/etc. You are also sending the message that fat people (or other groups) are less than, not enough. Not worthy of your respect.

I was hurt by that joke. To see someone comment that they would rather be skinny than [gif of a fat man; implicitly saying he is gross and socially unattractive/ look like me] was hurtful. To see my community represented like this; all the negative imaginary attached to it; always gets to me.

And this is applicable to every other marginalized group out there.

So next time you think you are making a joke off a marginalized group; ask yourself: Is this hurtful? How will this joke be received?

When you post a picture of a fat person eating a donut; or a dozen donuts; what message are you sending? What point are you trying to send? You might get some laughs. You sure will hurt about every fat person and their families/friends out there who might see it.

Before you say: Well we can’t laugh about anything anymore.

Well, buddy; you might not, but I do respect people and get my fair share of daily laugh so maybe it’s time to rethink your internalized shit.

So for those still confused out there, I made a little guide to help you.

Your joke should not:

1) Laugh on the behalf of a group

2) Hurt others

3) Perpetuates negatives stereotypes/prejudices

4) Ask yourself; can my joke possibly hurt others?

Pretty simple isn’t it?

And before you tell me I am a snowflake or How I am supposed to know it can be hurtful?

Well you aren’t a tin man. You have a brain; you have reflexive abilities, use them. Think. I trust you are not a dumb-dumb.

And at the end of the day, I am not pointing fingers. I believe some people genuinely do not mean harm; but now you know.

I think everyone can do better and humour can be much greater than laughing at other people.

Until next time,

Catherine aka Cynical Mermaid.

Seven years ago

Seven years ago today, you joined our lives.

I was far from imagining all the joy you would bring to my heart; to my life.

You stood next to me in the darkest moments. Never failing to reassure me with your ever lasting presence; your humor; your warm little butt.

Your calm yet happy personality; the little joys and laughs you bring me every day; the moments I will keep in my heart forever.

Our stubbornness and dedication. Our love of sleep. A little ball on my back. Our naps together are cherished moments that will never be the same.

I know you don’t always understand what is going on, but you understand love and loyalty in its purest form. We would never hurt you my little baby girl.

When you look at me; with your tongue out, those big black shiny eyes and all that fluff, I know I am loved. I never thought I could love this way before I had you.

Yet; you gave me the greatest gift. You beat the odds; you defy statistics. You are now 16 years old and still a happy; healthy puppy.

When we welcomed you at age 9; I thought we would share our lives for 2-3 years. I never expected this. And the selfish side of me wish it will never end. There was a life before and after you came into our lives. I can’t imagine a life without you.

You changed me forever and I am ever so grateful to see you little face every morning; happy to wake up; like you missed me for so long.

I don’t know how much time we have left, but I intend to enjoy every minutes of this great privilege you are giving me.

I am blessed because of you. I am a better person because of you.

You give meaning to my life when I struggle to find one and I will ever be grateful you graced my life.

I love you my little fluff butt. Every day with you is a joy I did nothing to deserve.

In the hope of another 7 years together.

25DA640C-612F-47FC-B56D-A5FD8874217E

Post-Mortem of a Broken Heart

So todayI finally took the leap and publish the short story I have been working on for the few last week.

In a play like form, it is the story of unrequited love, obsession and finding closure on our own; when you still have so much left to say; so many questions unanswered.

You can read for free on: Wattpad

I look forward to reading your comments and writing more story.

Until next time my lovely,

Catherine

Story cover

Modern love and gratefulness

There is a common misconception that love should be easy. That once the passion is gone, it should be over. That you should be swooning everyday. Celebrate everyday, only have good times.

Every day, we are saturated with images of passionate love, love at first sight, being swooped up our feet. Proposals, epic marriages, retouched images of lovers in beautiful settings. But this is what they are, images. The capture of a moment. No context. No before or ever after.

Truth is, couples fight. Disagree. They get bored. They work hard to make it work. They CHOOSE to stay with their partners everyday.

For some it’s easier than others. Some days, temptation is harder to resist than other. Couples aren’t perfect. Love, like life, is messy and complicated.

Today, I dedicate this post to my partner, my husband, my life companion to celebrate the glorious day of his birth.

We had our challenges through the past seven years. I wasn’t always the best partner; but you always tried your best.

Through highs, and mostly lows, you supported me and lifted my spirit when I was down. You knew what would soothe my pain, my soul.

You are kind, loving, caring.

You give without counting, always ready to present the other cheek.

You hold no grudge.

For you, happiness comes easy. You count your blessing and always look for the positive outcome.

You are everything I am not.

You are my complement.

The NA to my CL. The Kermit to my Miss Piggy.

The positive to my negative.

You are the calm before the storm.

You make life easier. You make life worthy. You make life fun when I struggle to see the light.

You encourage my crazy projects and ideas. You bring me down when I fly too high. Worried I may burn my wings.

You watched me grow into the woman, the wife, the lover I am today. I watched you grow into the wonderful, beautiful man you are today. My diamond in the rough.

I know it wasn’t always easy. I know I am not perfect. I know at times I lost sight of the unique person you are.

But if I would have to start again, I would still choose you.

Bonne fête mon amour. Je t’aime.

#Undateable; on disability and dating

Recently, my attention has been drawn by the disabled community to a BBC podcast Ouch. They held a series of interviews under the topic; Are disabled partners a burden?

Now I haven’t listened to the podcast because:

A) I avoid torture whenever possible

B) The answer is pretty obvious to me: NO.

But what bothered me most about this particular episode was the attached hashtag: Undateables.

Are disabled folks undateable?

How is this damaging for the collective imaginary who, most likely, will do as me and only retain the question and hashtags.

Only I know ableds may have a significantly different answer to that question. It may even reinforced their belief at a glance. The human brain is lazy, it takes shortcut and avoid being confronted in its core beliefs when possible.

Now you may ask; What is the collective imaginary regarding disabled folks?

Great question!

Disabled folks, in the “mainstream culture”, are denied romantic storyline; rich and full sexual lives; the right to having a family of their own, etc. It can go further as to question their own existence through the capitalist lenses of productivity and eugenics.

Now, I know for a fact any of this isn’t true. Having limitations of any kinds shouldn’t prevent any body for leading the life they want. It may take adjustments; equipments; accommodations; but really that’s all logistic.

Unfortunately, the collective imaginary and messages are so strong; through lack of representations, misrepresentation and misinformations; that some disfolks internalize those messages.

They can’t see themselves as sexual beings. They hold negative body images. They confine themselves into the box society has built for them. It’s not their fault. Podcasts like this one only reinforces prejudices and stereotypes. It’s only a grain of sand in this big desert of lies.

At times; I even bought that message and felt a burden to my partner. Apologizing profusely for my limitations; for not being enough. His answer was firm; you are not a burden.

Any partners who have an answer that differs isn’t a good partner. Sure, we all have our limitations, but having any kind of disability is not an exclusion factor for relationships. Being a fucking jerk should be.

Some folks may be limited for a million different reasons, it doesn’t mean they have nothing to give to a relationship. Any relationship is an exchange; a reciprocity. A partner that can’t see that; that labels their partner as a burden, should seek a different partner and therapy. Always therapy. But that’s another topic.

I am tired to see disability associated with “undateability”. No one is undateable other than by choice. And that’s totally legit if that’s not your groove.

But feeding that collective imaginary towards disability hurt everyone. In the end, they are missing out on incredible individuals and rich lives.

Find someone who respects you. Find someone who loves and values you AS YOU ARE. Flaws and all. Right now.

You do not have to believe their lies and above all, do not feed into it.

You matter. You are worthy. I wish all my disfolks out there the happiness they want and deserve.

Until next time,

Catherine; the cynical mermaid

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: