Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of body image issues and eating disorders.
I was raised in a way where, if you were struggling, you would be seen as having something wrong with you. The way you looked was also constantly judged. Having mental health issues meant that you were ‘crazy.’ As someone who has been through both, this led me down a deep path which, luckily, I won those battles and continue to get support, fight and advocate.
Growing up in a semi-toxic environment, I was constantly criticised about my appearance and how I was doing. In my culture, when someone asked you how you were, if you said anything other than ‘I’m good,’ you would be judged. If you didn’t look like the ‘normal’ average person, you were told to ‘change’ how you looked.
I learned three things:
- It’s okay to not be okay.
- It’s okay to not look like other people.
- I also learned it’s good to have a supportive environment. I am very thankful I’ve lived in the USA since I was a baby, but I still visit that country and I’ve become stronger from learning these things.
As a person of colour, a Pakistani Muslim, we learn to hide emotions and that we need to look a certain way - but that’s not true. That’s what older generations taught us, yet we must continue to try to break the stigma. As a person of colour from Southwest Asia, mental health and eating disorders are sadly common.
What we are taught as children must be changed. It hurts the new generation. That's why this generation is trying to break the stigma of mental and physical health - so people don’t suffer alone or in silence. If adults had known this, health issues wouldn’t be as severe as they are. So, as the world changes, hopefully, as we continue to break the stigma, it’ll become a daily discussion and not taboo.
Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to ‘find help’ - it’s not weak to speak!