Taxes and self-worth

It may see pretty odd that I would group these two things together, but it’s actually a big realization I had following this past weekend. Right now we’re in prime tax filing season in the US. I am no expert on taxes or anything, but the part I do understand is deductions. Whatever deductions you have will lower taxable income and increase taxes you get back. You can itemize deductions and get more back if you have enough over a certain threshold. Examples of deductions include donations to charity, having dependents or children, and medical/dental expenses. The goal then is to find as many areas to qualify for this since you can receive more money back.

My dad was working on our taxes Saturday when he called me into the bedroom. Originally, he wanted to try using medical expenses I paid to get taxes back based on my taxes, but I didn’t make enough income for that.

I knew that medical would be an example of deductions, and we have paid an insane amount of money this past year towards my treatment. I’m talking thousands of dollars (and we still have a dept, but anyways). When I found out that we could possibly get more money based on that amount, I went into overdrive. I spent at least 2 hours pouring through all of my payments towards IOP, the one for PHP, and residential. Once I had that number, I needed to subtract out what we did through insurance so it wasn’t counted twice. It was a super long process, but I had this intense need to do it. Ulltimately, my parents will receive double the refund of what they were supposed to before medical came into the picture.

There was a part of me that wanted to do this only to help them out. More money means more security, less stress, etc. What I’ve realized is that my drive to work so hard wasn’t entirely a healthy thing.

I feel like I need to do something in return for every way I’ve harmed my parents. They had to deal with all of the stress that comes along with loving someone who has mental illness. I tried my best to prevent it, but they did share the burden of medical expenses. Because I wasn’t able to work, I needed help with things like gas and insurance. These situations and many more are proof that I must be a burden. I try to fight those thoughts, but it’s difficult when there’s all of this “evidence right in front of me.

Helping them in this way reduced some of my guilt. I can’t be that bad if they get something back for dealing with me. I still feel terrible, and maybe I always will. Even if it’s not in a healthy way, my contribution here has increased my self-worth in the tiniest way. If I had instead failed to get a deduction after all they do for me, it would have multiplied the opposite.

I don’t want to be defined by how much I can “repay” others. That’s quite obviously not a healthy view of myself and makes my self-worth completely dependent on acts of service. While doing things for others can benefit me in the short-term, it will quickly become an issue. I need to build genuine compassion for myself so I can reduce this guilt and shame I constantly experience.

I loved how I felt after helping out with taxes; however, shortly after I went right back to self-loathing and negativity. My goal (which is far from easy) is to write and look at often reasons why I matter, am a good person, deserve love, etc. I am trying to believe that I deserve this grace, no matter how much I feel like I’ve failed.

Losing the skinny identity

“Skinny Minnie.” “You’re so lucky to eat and never gain weight.” “I wish I was your size.” “You’re so little!” “You have to weigh like 2 pounds.” “If you can keep this up when you get older I’ll be so jealous.” “You have the body of a gymnast.” “You’re SO thin and muscular.”

These comments and more I’ve heard all my life, minus around a year or two after my surgery. Now, other than the occasional “you look healthy/better,” no one says a word about my body and especially not that I’m thin.

Small is not just something I happened to be. It was my whole identity. I hated myself in so many other ways but this was the one thing I could at least somewhat believe. Skinny made me worthy and lovable. If other girls and women said my body was desirable, that must mean I’m not quite as terrible as my thoughts told me.

After my surgery and before eating disorder behaviors was a period of time with the worst body image I had yet experienced. I could hardly handle the ways my body was changing, let alone deal with the lack of any positive reinforcement about my thinness. What would I be if I wasn’t skinny?

Once I finally started losing weight again it was great. I suddenly was getting all of those longed-for compliments and I felt on top of the world. I stared at myself in every mirror or reflective surface I could find. When I received a good comment or restricted/exercised, my body would shrink and I could see bones, less fat, and a smaller me. I would feel more confident. That all went away when I was either forced to eat or unable to exercise. Suddenly I would balloon outward and grow to an impossibly large size. Depression, anxiety, self-hate, and eating disorder thoughts skyrocketed.  The only thing that kept me going was working towards my next “you’re so skinny.”

Fast forward to today. I haven’t received a “skinny comment” since before entering inpatient treatment last August. Honestly, even if I did I know that what I see in the mirror doesn’t match up. Still, most of the time I cry standing in front of the mirror. I half expect that what I see will be thin. Hard doesn’t begin to describe it, but I am working to change the way I view my body and self.

I’ve realized, to at least some extent, that skinny isn’t an identity at all. I hid behind it for a majority of my life. I yearned and still yearn for it to be true. Despite that, I am working each day to lose all honor and pride I put into thinness. Skinny is conditional. It doesn’t make you a good or bad person, determine your worth, make you beautiful, or define you. There are many multitudes of other qualities that make each of us unique.

I may never get called “Skinny Minnie” or thin or any other of the various compliments I received before. I can’t be bothered by that. My identity cannot be based around something I don’t truly want to attain again.  I am not skinny, and skinny isn’t all I ever was. That chapter of my life spent waiting for each new comment on my thinness is over. I’m moving on to better things.