It is difficult to believe that my adoptive parents have ever been good intentioned about my health. I was adopted by them when I was 10 years old after two years in their home as foster kids. My parents wanted children so badly they were willing to take on traumatized kids who had just spent 18 months in a previous foster home separated from their family. I don’t think they knew what they were getting into when they welcomed me and my two siblings into their home on that fateful day in July of 2010.
I had spent my life up until that point bouncing from one abusive, unsafe environment to another. Being mixed race and coming from a complex, impoverished family situation was filling me with traumas I clearly wasn’t capable of processing when I was 8 years old. My adoptive parents are white, evangelical Christians who were unable to understand what it meant to grapple with complex generational trauma, so when they saw me suffering for the first time, they blamed it on me.
I was 12 years old when I began to suffer with the onset of my now debilitating mental illnesses. Living in a place with little to no access to mental health resources, I bottled it up for a while, first telling my dad I was depressed in the 8th grade. A few days later he came to me with a brochure for a white Christian therapist. Over the years, as queer, mixed, mentally-ill trans person, I have realized how dangerous the Evangelical mindset is. My parent’s mindest almost killed me my Freshman year of high school.
They refused to believe me when I told them I was suicidal, taking my door off of my room to stop me from self harming, which didn’t actually stop it. They told me I “wasn’t praying enough” and that was the reason I was struggling. They would threaten to take my therapist away because I wasn’t “helping myself” through daily devotions they were forcing on me.
When my mother finally caved and took me to a behavioral health center for an intake evaluation, I asked the person evaluating me if I could go to a psych ward because I felt like I was a danger to myself in eighth grade. The intake therapist told me that I “was probably just upset over family stuff.” This utter dismissal of my trauma was reckless and should be considered malpractice.
Two weeks after that I attempted suicide through overdosing on pills, never telling my family, only keeping everything bottled up for another 8 months because of the fear I had of my parents.
Ninth grade was the year my bipolar disorder got so bad I could not function, something I inherited from my mother. This manic depressive cycle was and still is exhausting. One day, I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and attempted suicide at a higher dosage of pills in December of 2015, ending up in the hospital and leaving school for two months. My parents were not loving, they were angry. My mother told me that if I had succeeded I would have burned in hell, even though at the time I was a devoted Christian. I felt safer in the inpatient mental hospital than I did at home, even being reluctant to return back to an environment which dismissed me rather than supported me.
It took me years and work with other mixed people and people of color to realize that this is a result of white supremacy and the lack of compassion white people have for sufferers of trauma, especially Evangelical Christians and especially trauma that causes further mental health complications. Nobody, including my therapists, understood my experiences except for my history teacher my senior year of high school. To see, then, with her, for the first time, how much of what I went through in seeking care was because of the way my parents refused to acknowledge my past traumas and identity because of their whiteness, was so eye opening.
While in the hospital I was put on a medication called Seroquel. It is a hellish drug, if you succumb to the standards of beauty set up by capitalism and white supremacy. That’s because it makes you fat. The entire time I was living with my parents, meanwhile suffering with my mental health and begging for help with it, they would tell me, (a relatively thin person with curves, who, because of my mania, wouldn’t eat anything but a pb and j after school for days,) that I was too fat and “needed to exercise,” claiming “we care about your health!”. If they had cared about my health, earnestly, they would have gotten me treatment earlier, and wouldn’t have gaslit me into believing I didn’t have mental illnesses when I did. If they had cared about my health, they would have admitted me to an inpatient ward the minute I told them I was suicidal enough to act on it, instead of refusing to believe me until they found out about my second suicide attempt.
When I got fatter, they began to tell me that I was “losing myself” and that I needed to not eat sometimes, even when I was hungry. News flash, if you feel hungry, your body is telling you to eat and you should! I tried veganism, keto, all for the standard of a body my parents wanted me to fit. They took me and my fat sister to dieticians, but when I wanted to see a therapist this past school year refused to pay for the copays.
My mental health worsened over the years because of how much I started to hate my body, thinking if I could just get off this medication (this literally life saving medication: while I was on it, I had little to no suicidal thoughts for years), I would be happy. When my parents forced me, a vegetarian at the time for ethical reasons, to be keto, it was the last straw for me. I realized that I was not going to get a body they wanted, and that this medication was healthier for me than their ideal of what I should be. Because I would get so hungry still, and you shouldn’t feel hungry if you’re eating enough, yet my mother always told me that I shouldn’t eat until I felt satisfied.
Over the years, they also rarely celebrated my milestones in my recovery from trauma. In fact, my mother would get angry when I was dealing with intense flashbacks and needed extra support. They tried to convince my psychiatrist at the time I was borderline, because that meant in their mind I would be cured eventually. Upon consulting with psychiatrists once reaching college, my psychiatrist’s dismissal of me began to feel like legitimate malpractice. My parents never cared about my mental health, about my survival of the aftermath of these terrible experiences I had as a child, because it wasn’t something they understood. You can’t pray away bipolar disorder.
Then, they would take one look at my body, which had gained weight because of a medication I was on to survive my bipolar disorder, and say that I really let myself go. I didn’t, though. I was flourishing. I felt safe from my brain for the first time ever, and finally, for a small period in high school while on the medication, didn’t feel like I even suffered from a mental illness. My parents were more willing to ruin my mental health ffor a white supremacist ideal for my body. While I was thinner, they still ridiculed my curves, telling my fat sister she needed to “eat less” constantly. My mother even suggested to her that she get bariatric surgery, while she was still a teenager, something I still find to this day utterly disgusting. When people suggest this, you know it’s never truly about health or caring for you.
My parents had no idea that I had been through the things I had survived, and had no plan for how to take care of a wounded child, getting angry and confused when I started to exhibit signs of trauma. I finally began to learn to love and accept my body for its fatness because it meant I had survived things so many people couldn’t even dream of surviving by my age. It meant reversing the cycle of generational trauma my biological parents had passed down to me. It meant a hopeful future. While I am dysphoric as a non-binary person, I am working still on loving and accepting my body for what it is: a means of survival, something that has carried me through so many things.
A message for all the fat people out there:
Our fatness does not make us worse. Our fatness is who we are. Gaining weight because of a medication, or for any other reason on the planet doesn’t mean that you, as a fat person, don’t have depth. Your stories are important too. Your history matters. You are part of a community that is resilient against so much unnecessary hate and vitriol. We are not just caricatures for thin people to sit on their high thrones and judge, we are people with traumas and a capacity to love and learn and be humans. The sooner you begin to learn that fatness is not bad, that it is rooted in racism and misogyny, in a lack of understanding of how the body works and functions, the sooner you will be free to love yourself and the beauty of who you are, to fight for your right to exist just like other thin people automatically assume, even though you shouldn’t have to.