Let me preface this story by saying, yes, I know all about depression and all about anxiety, both sexual and social. I have been through quite the journey, and as much as I am thankful for the amazing support system I found in a great group of friends who helped me through my darkest days, along with meditation and a fantastic therapist, I am well aware that my condition may never entirely go away. I’m doing very well now, but I’m always aware, continually working on my well-being precisely because it took me so long to get to the ‘good place,’ and I’m dedicated to keeping it that way. Now, just when I thought I was out of the woods, I read something that shook me. Namely, there’s a survey that states that self-esteem issues can be a major contributor to depression as well as the word everyone dreads – suicide. When I read ‘70% said low self-esteem was the main reason for their depression and suicidal thoughts’ something deep inside my quivered.

I’ve been candid and open about my struggles with both depression and anxiety, so I decided to be completely frank about this too. Yes, aside from the self-loathing and fear that stem from growing up in a loving, but conservative family, the stigma that still surrounds ‘gayness,’ these were the main triggers of depression. However, not everything is external factors – some of it comes from within. For me, I am accepting myself as a gay man was perhaps more difficult than it was for other people to accept me. Still, once you’re out of the woods in the self-acceptance area, other issues arise, and for me, it was body image. Yes, I know we are living in times of body image revolution, self-love is promoted, body-shaming and fat-shaming are being increasingly condemned. Still, what most people don’t realize is that a)as Jack once said to Will – homo skinny isn’t the same as straight skinny, and b)even the most beautiful people in the world have body image and self-esteem issues. I, as someone less than perfect in this aspect, started feeling increasingly aware of every flaw. There are times when I would look into the mirror and dissect every little imperfection; I found flaws that weren’t even there. That’s the thing about it – he who looks shall find. My friends would tell me I’m delusional, but I knew they were just kind. Then I started avoiding both mirrors and guys. I would do my work, hang out with friends, go home and that was pretty much my life. Then I saw the survey. I talked to my therapist, and she suggested I start with positive affirmations. I thought the entire concept was New Age BS, but ok, I would give it a go, and you know what, the routine grew on me. Saying positive things to yourself about yourself constantly eventually sinks in – I guess words are more powerful than I thought. However, I should say one thing – this approach won’t make you see yourself through pink goggles, but what it can do is make you get the real picture – ok, you’re not perfect, but you aren’t nearly as bad as you thought. It gives you a fresh and more positive perspective, and for me, it made me realize one thing – if there are things I can change to feel better in my skin, I’m going to do that. Everyone strives towards improvement, and in my mind, this is was one of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made.

Now, you can judge all you want, but one of the measures I took made me happier and more appreciative of my body than I’ve ever been in my life. I went to a clinic, scheduled a consult with amazing professionals and underwent a treatment called body sculpting, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The first thing I changed was my diet. I looked up organic food online and adopted a diet rich with superfoods, started exercising every single day (except Sundays) and began to feel better than I imagined I could. Why? Well, frankly, and I know this will sound superficial, but I started working out purely for aesthetic reasons, but soon enough I realized I had more energy, my mood was immensely improved, and I simply felt healthier, both physically and mentally. To my surprise and delight, it also increased my libido. There was just one thing left – after I’d lost all the weight, there was a lot of sagging skin in the area where my belly and ‘love handles’ used to be, and I couldn’t get rid of it, not with diet, water, exercise – nothing worked. And that’s why I decided to undergo the treatment. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was lazy and wanted a quick fix, so I hope I’ve clarified now. Now that I write this it may sound like a movie montage, but believe me, it’s been 15 months (and counting) of excruciatingly hard work.

What this journey has taught me is that yes, self-acceptance and love are paramount to a happy mind and a happy life. I still meditate, I see my therapist – although to my delight she had cut down the number of sessions per month – I exercise, and I’m going out, shopping for new clothes, loving my look, feeling like myself again. Yes, it takes a lot – a village almost, but my advice is – acceptance is also accepting that things can’t go on the way they used to. If you can change something for the better, do it. Try anything and everything, use all the resources and don’t let your insecurities get the best of you and suck you into depression. I’ve been there, and it’s a dark place, so do your best to stay away from that place, do everything that’s in your power.