#medications, #StartAConversation, Beauty & Style, Body Image, Life, Mental health, Mental Health & Wellbeing

Because A Pretty Corpse Is No Use To Anyone

(Getty Images/Jose Juan Garcia)

“It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” ~ Warsan Shire

Like many other people I’ve put on quite a bit of weight since I started taking mirtazapine again. Unlike, seemingly, any other people I don’t particularly care.

There are mountains of terrifying reviews about mirtazapine, as there are about most mental health drugs, all over the internet where people go into horrifying detail about their awful experiences with some admittedly pretty awful side effects. With that in mind I think it’s perfectly understandable that a lot of people think twice, thrice, and even four times before deciding on whether or not to take to it, or any similar, medication.

There does seem to be a definite theme, however, when it comes to mirtazapine, of people warning that ‘this medication is bad because it will make you gain weight.’ I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve read written by clearly very sick people who have stopped taking it for just this reason.

My friend Ally’s been reading them as well. It’s why despite being almost actively suicidal she refuses to get the prescription her doctor gave her filled. She’s basically decided that she’d rather take the gamble on her life than on the possibility of getting fat.

The very avoidable possibility.

You see, the mirtazapine itself doesn’t actively make you gain weight; it just increases your appetite and makes you really, really hungry all the time.

And you can either respond to that the way I have and start eating enough food for three people, or, you can just not do that; carry on eating the same amount of food as you would normally and deal with the being hungry. Not a particularly unusual state of affairs for someone who’s perpetually dieting anyway.

I was discussing this with my social worker the other day and she spoke about Ally’s concerns like they were perfectly legitimate. As if the choice between taking medication for your life-threatening medical condition and staying thin was a genuine dilemma rather than an obvious no-brainer.  As though prioritising your appearance over your life were an understandable decision.

And, so now I’m wondering how as a society did we get here? How did we make conventional beauty vanity that much of a priority?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of what I chose to name this webspace. I own a shed load of make up, scores of designer shoes, and a wardrobe full of beautiful dresses. I spend a fortune on my hair. I like to feel pretty and attractive.

It’s just that before this past week of #nomakeupselfie (yes, I know it’s good that it’s raised lots of money for charity) I was blissfully unaware that it was obligatory. That trying my best to look nice was something I was required to do. And that to allow people to see me not ‘looking my best’ was something that should be worthy of note; and a charitable donation.

Sorting out my mental health is one of my main priorities.

Fashion and beauty products have helped to improve my mental health as hobbies.

While I’ve been sick I’ve lost all perspective to the point where I’ve thought that taking an overdose was a good idea. And enjoyed slicing up my own flesh with a razor blade. But never to the point where I believed that the value of my contribution to the world was in any way correlated to the amount of space I took up in it.

You’re supposed to improve the world, not just decorate it.

You’re supposed to be good, and kind, and diligent.

I try to be smart, and funny, and interesting. I aspire to be talented at something. I want to help people.

I like to think that, aside from the odd creepy stalker here and there, the people in my life are there because of my personality and character rather than my face. I hope that my career is based on the fact that I’m professional, hard-working, knowledgeable, and good at what I do. I’d hate to think that I have any of the things I’ve worked for only because of my honey-blonde hair and previously tiny waist.

Pretty, which is mostly about genetics, just doesn’t feel like much of an acheivement; because, well, for the most part – it isn’t.

Nor has it ever seemed like much of a compliment.

Pretty is like nice. It’s how you describe someone when you can’t think of anything more interesting to say about them.

Think about it.

When you’re talking to someone in a general way about a third person, unless that person is either really ridiculously attractive or someone you have a crush on, the way they look isn’t something you tend to mention. You talk about what they’re like, what they do, things they’ve said, the way they make you feel.

Unless they’re not very interesting. In which case you’d describe them as nice. And maybe pretty.

Now think about all the things about your best friend that make them your best friend. I bet ‘because they’re pretty’ doesn’t make the list, even if they are. I know I like my best friend because he’s smart, and funny, and interesting. I love that he’s kind, and thoughtful, and generous. I admire the fact that he’s talented, brave, ambitious, and hard-working. And I don’t know how to begin to thank him for saving my life; because he saved me from myself, from my depression.

He’s also very nice and incredibly pretty; but do you see how I mean about that seeming somewhat unimportant in comparison to all those other things that he became on purpose? They’re not things I’ve ever thought to say to anyone about him before today because they’re so relatively uninteresting.

Pretty is like a picture on a wall; nice to look at, nice to have, but neither essential to, nor the purpose of, the wall. (Unless it’s in an art gallery, which in this analogy would make a person a model; unless you’re a model you don’t need to be pretty.) 

So stop prioritising being slim or pretty.

First prioritise your health and well-being – because a beautiful corpse is no use to anybody.

Then focus on living an interesting life. On being successful; however you define it, on creating something, acheiving something, helping someone. Give people reasons to remember you and things say about you.

And then if you want to make yourself feel pretty – go ahead. But do it for yourself; because you want to, because you enjoy it; not because you think it’s something that you’re supposed to do, or are expected to be, or that it’s something that you actually need.

7 thoughts on “Because A Pretty Corpse Is No Use To Anyone”

  1. I made a comment to a friend the other day that the concept of beauty is nothing new — however what the world considers as beautiful is very much tied to culture as well as time. For example, in imperial Hawaii, the more obese a person was, the more beautiful they were considered to be. To members of the Hawaiian kingdom, obesity was a sign of wealth and power, therefore it was a desired body type. This is obviously in stark contrast to 1800s France where the laceup corset was all the rage.

    Like you said though, if there’s a debate between a little weight gain or not being alive, the choice is an obvious one.


    1. The only theme between times and societies as what consistutes the conventional standard of beauty seems to have been that it’s unattainable unless you’re very rich.

      That mental health staff, who are supposed to treat you for being crazy, don’t point out to people that worrying about their weight when their life is at stake is crazy, seems, well, crazy, to me.


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