As I perused the official National Women’s Health Week website for inspiration in writing this article, I wasn’t surprised to see that the second item on their checklist of how to obtain better health was about weight while mental health was fifth. As a woman who has struggled with clinical depression on top of opioid, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and food addiction, I believe the Office On Women’s Health may need to reprioritize.
Thinking that health only refers to physical health in that mainstream, consumerist way contributed to me becoming extremely unhealthy in nearly every aspect of my life. My untreated mental health issues manifested as eating disorders, self-harm, and substance abuse that started when I was a girl and followed me into womanhood.
Society showed me that if I were skinny, I would be worthy – at eight years old, I was dieting, packing my mom’s Weight Watchers snacks for lunch, and checking the scale daily. The shame I felt from my undiagnosed binge eating disorder and food addiction flung me into an unhealthy cycle of eating as much as I physically could in one sitting, hiding any traces of my ravenous behavior deep in the kitchen trash bin or under my bed until I could take it directly to the trash cans outside, then doing it all over again. In middle school, I would cut phrases that the media referred to fat women as like, “fat bitch” and “pig” into my thighs with scissors and pushpins.
Society showed me that if I smoked, drank, or did drugs, I would be cool – at nine, I began stealing cigarettes from houseguests who would leave their packs unattended, smoking them in my backyard alone at night. When I was 12, I would sneak off to the bathroom with tiny liquor bottles I had found in decades-old gift sets in an abandoned kitchen cabinet. By the time I was 18, drinking and getting high became my identity and I was abusing substances every single day.
Society showed me that health meant a thin body, eating salads, and doing squats – I spent my adolescence neglecting my mental health because therapy and psychiatry were rarely spoken about positively when I was growing up. I was clearly self-medicating all those years because I hadn’t been diagnosed or treated for clinical depression until I was 23.
This National Women’s Health Week, I’m calling for women everywhere to reflect upon the state of their mental health. Take some time alone and ask yourself a few questions:
- Am I using drugs and alcohol excessively or to cope with my feelings?
- Am I feeling persistent sadness or hopelessness?
- Recently, have my sleep or eating patterns changed dramatically?
- Has my weight fluctuated drastically without me even noticing until now?
- Am I feeling fatigued more often?
- Have I been worrying excessively or living in constant states of fear?
- Have I been withdrawing socially from the people in my life who care about me?
- Am I having suicidal thoughts?
If you answered yes to number 1, reach out to our admissions team at Recovery Unplugged today, we can help. If you answered yes to any of the following questions, please seek professional help. Reach out to a therapist, counselor, or psychologist or your primary care physician, they’ll be able to lead you in the right direction. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 as well at 1-800-273-8255.
Take charge of all areas of your health this National Women’s Health Week. Integrating physical and mental health is critical for people both in and out of recovery. It is entirely too easy to let social distancing and self-isolation allow us to make excuses for why we aren’t taking proper physical and emotional self-care. Get empowered, get motivated, and get healthy.