14 May 2019
My Mental Health and Self-Esteem – A work in progress
I was very slim as a child and remained so until I was in my twenties. I have a vivid memory of my paternal grandmother, taking me on one side and saying earnestly “Please promise me you will have put on some weight by the next time I see you.” I remember I took this remark dreadfully to heart, as if it was my own fault I was as skinny as a whippet, and not down to genetics. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but I did have issues of self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy which her comment played right in to.
Of course, it was years later when I was in therapy, and not at the time, that I realised why the comment had pained me so much. As an adolescent my perceived physical inadequacies played more and more on my mind and I became withdrawn. Later, as my adolescent acne cleared up and I left home to go to university, I realised quite a lot of men and women were attracted to me sexually, but I never really saw why.
Now I’ve turned 60 and my body shape is at the opposite extreme to my adolescent self. I’m quite overweight and have developed a number of weight-related health problems. As a gay man who has resisted the tyranny of the gym I feel as if I am now failing the test of desirability because of my age and physical appearance. On the other hand, I feel the issue I need to work on, and one of the issues I continue to work on in my therapy, is of acceptance rather than fighting the inevitable. Losing weight is my priority, because I realise how much the physical problems caused by my excess weight adversely affect my mood and mental health. Trying to look young and beautiful no longer seems so important.