Kate remembers having strong waves of crippling anxiety as far back as when she was twelve years old, and it manifested itself in her relationship with food. Through cycles of binging and restricting, she could find comfort and control. This, combined with being told as a child, “If we’re gonna be crazy, we better be beautiful,” drove self-hatred and compulsive physical perfection straight into her core.
During Kate’s first year of college, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder -- mistakenly. Her grandmother had struggled with bipolar disorder, so the conclusion was very quickly drawn, and she began medical treatments immediately. What followed was a roller coaster of symptoms and side effects that resulted in severe trauma and stress on her mind and body.
“For ten years, I was repeatedly told I was destined to live in the ward, and --it’s a good tool-- it’s not a pretty place. It’s so isolating to be there. Everyday, when I wake up in my own house with my loving boyfriend and my own dog,
I cry tears of gratitude. Recovery doesn’t happen in two minutes, it happens over a lifetime.”
“We don’t live in a society that makes it very comfortable to open up and talk about this stuff,” says Kate. “This is how it is. It’s not something to pity. It’s just a fact. It doesn’t make it less hard. The added pressure and the added levels of discomfort we hold surrounding mental health are really challenging for me… It’s a burden to live with, and it’s a burden to talk about. We’re forced to have to educate those around us during our struggles.”
Now, with a more accurate diagnosis of her mental health, Kate lives every day in recovery and shares her struggles and success through her Instagram posts. She wants to destigmatize conversations around mental health, and she wants to reach out to those who feel alone in their journey. She reminds her followers constantly, “You are enough.”
“Beauty, for me, is not physical,” declares Kate. In the last few years, she’s worked hard to overturn and reject the old mantras that rooted themselves in her mind. She understands that her mental illness is part of herself, but not her whole self. “Beauty is courage, it’s resilience, it’s bravery. It’s vulnerability… I think the most beautiful people are those who accept themselves as they are, as well as that darkness that comes with it.”
Kate finds joy and strength in loving others -- whether it’s a note of encouragement or leaving flowers on a doorstep, it takes very little energy to show love and understanding to one person in a day. It takes a lot of effort to be someone’s beautiful, especially your own kind of beautiful. “Mainstream media marketing gone awry: we’re constantly told we need more of something or less of something or be better at something to be enough. One of the focal points of life is to grow with meaningful integrity, but it comes from full self acceptance.”
Kate’s best medicine is her dog, Wafflenugget, who also has an Instagram profile. “She is unapologetic -- she’s got a big ass and a big personality, and that’s enough.” Kate started the page in humor and discovered a voice of courage to be different. It was her own voice. “I’m really weird and silly and dorky, and that can be enough. I realized there was a place for humor within my darkness. She opened the way for unconditional love and unconditional acceptance of self.”
“We don’t have to be for everybody. We can just be for ourselves and those in the world who accept us. As long as we add light to one person’s day, we’ve done enough, we are enough. Weird is normal. Anyone who’s not weird is faking it. Be kind to yourself, be gentle. Be forgiving of yourself, be patient. Be fierce as hell, because your fight is worth it.”
To see more of Kate and her journey please follow her @positively.kate