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National Suicide Awareness Week

September 12, 2013

Weight LossFat PoliticsFat HealthExerciseEating DisordersMy Boring-Ass LifeFat NewsDickweedDiet Talk

Sad Fat Girl

Bullying destroys lives.

Trigger warning: Discussion of suicide, self-harm, and weight loss.

So, how many times can I write about my past suicide attempts without becoming repetitious? How many times can I lament about the number of people who attempt or complete suicide because of bullying? How many times can I repeat myself that self-harm is often just a second away from a slit wrist? I’ll tell you how many times: not enough. It’s National Suicide Awareness Week and that time of year when I talk about suicide and bullying and self-harm and, yes, weight stigma. Because weight stigma is the number one cause of bullying at school. And we know that kids who are fat, or even perceive themselves as fat, are more at risk for depression, self injury, suicide attempts, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. So talking about weight during National Suicide Awareness Week seems pretty important considering fat kids are more likely to be bullied and attempt suicide.

The kicker here is how many people use these things as justification for more weight stigma. They say that being fat is unpleasant and therefore people should get thin for their own mental health. But is the cure for ending weight stigma more stigma? I think the obvious answer here is no. The answer is ending stigma and discrimination and oppression. Because you know what is absolutely not good for a person’s health? Yeah, those things.

The problem is that people believe weight is mutable. That it’s a choice we make. And for about 5% of people, weight may indeed be malleable through what we deem “lifestyle changes.” Eat healthier, exercise regularly and POOF new body! The problem is that for the other 95%, it doesn’t work so well. You diet and exercise, and yet the weight always comes back no matter what you do. Most of the time, you just end up heavier than when you started! Well no matter how much busting your ass you’ve done, the stigma is still there. You did the work, you made the changes, and yet the weight doesn’t go away for you and neither does the stigma.

For me, I was a skinny kid until about second or third grade, when I was 7 or 8, and my Bipolar Disorder hit. Suddenly, with no change in my habits, I put on a good 100 lbs. in about three years. And I’ve been about the same size ever since (a size 22). Yes, in sixth grade I wore a size 22 in women’s. Try shopping for cute trendy clothes at that age and that size! And yeah, I was bullied mercilessly, I lost all of my friends, I was asked out by boys as a joke, and at the age 10 I attempted suicide. I’ve written about my first suicide attempt enough that it almost feels numbing and yet part of that is the unbelievable fact that a 10-year-old would try to kill themselves. And yet it happens more than we’d like to think.

I’d like to point out that since finding Fat Acceptance I haven’t had a single suicide attempt or suicidal thought related to my weight. I believe that finding acceptance and love and community has helped immensely, and there’s at least one study that backs that up.

So, here’s a question: If weight is so important in bullying and suicide statistics, why isn’t it talked about more? For example, in the movie Bully, weight was never once brought up as a cause. I saw the movie and yes, parts of it moved me to tears. It was a good movie, and yet it lacked a vital life-saving part of the puzzle. People look at fat kids and fat adults as fair game. They did this to themselves, so they deserve derision and abuse. We have a responsibility to address this, especially in spaces that aren’t fat-specific or feminism-specific. It has to be seen in the same way that bullying for other attributes are seen — as unacceptable and as the bigotry that it is. Raising awareness of fat bullying and suicide among the mainstream will be hugely important in how we deal with this topic and how we solve this problem.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter if weight is a choice or not. No one deserves to be bullied and abused into attempting suicide. It doesn’t matter if it’s because the kid is fat, disabled, LGBT, a racial minority, poor, or just plain weird. Everyone deserves respect and understanding. Everyone.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2013 2:47 pm

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I wasn’t a fat kid. I didn’t start putting on weight until around the time that I got pregnant. I was bullied mercilessly, however. I wasn’t pretty. I was shy and awkward.
    When I was thirteen, I swallowed a whole bottle of aspirin. I drank and smoked pot and took whatever pills anyone might have.
    When I was sixteen, I started cutting myself.
    My behavior was more self-injury than actual suicide attempts. However, it was also triggered by bullying, and the fact that I happened to have an undiagnosed mood disorder sure as hell didn’t help.
    Living with a mood disorder is bad enough without assholes bullying you.
    The stigma never does go away. I’m almost 50 years old. I still think about what happened to me thirty to forty years ago, and it still hurts. I still feel like an outcast.

  2. Dizzyd permalink
    September 12, 2013 5:16 pm

    You’re right – NO ONE deserves to be bullied to the point of suicide. What a sick society we live in where bullying elicits all sorts of crocodile tears and hand-wringing on the one hand, but they seem on the other hand to think it’s perfectly okay to harass fat ppl and make them feel like shit ‘cuz ‘we’re SOOOO conCERNED about their HEEEAALLLLTH!!’ (cue overly dramatic fake weeping and boo-hooing).

  3. Duckie permalink
    September 12, 2013 11:50 pm

    This is beautiful and potent. Thank you. Sharing.

  4. Elizabeth permalink
    September 13, 2013 8:37 am

    Wow, a size 22 in sixth grade. I was made to feel like an elephant for being a little chubby — that prepubescent girly chub that probably precedes the rush of female hormones — so it is hard for me to imagine the hell that being a size 22 would have created. I think you have given me a glimpse of that hell in a very poignant way, and I am so glad you no longer hurt yourself!

  5. September 16, 2013 12:23 pm

    Depression is the natural outcome to the abuse, shame and stigma fat people face. I am facing the facts that my life long problems with depression definitely had major environment causes related to my upbringing and being told I was no good on a daily basis. Add in the jeering classmates, the destroyed health and well-being that came later, depression would be a natural outcome. I saw some pictures of me at age 13 and 14, I am maybe then 40-50lbs overweight but my height makes it seem less severe and am far from the severe obesity that later awaited, the look on my face astonishes me, the extreme depression I see in my eyes made me very sad. One thing I am scared for our young people of today, who are fat, very afraid for what they may face and what an impact this will have on their futures. I do not want anyone to suffer the way I did.

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