The last time I wore a bathing suit in public, I was at a local water park on a class trip. I was minding my own business, eating an ice cream cone after swimming for hours, when a man came up to me out of the blue, and said:
"You don't need that ice cream, you're fat enough. Go throw it up."
I threw the cone away, and cried. I was already depressed and was being bullied by people who were supposedly my friends. Now perfect strangers were telling me I was worthless and disgusting. That's when I began loathing myself. For real and in earnest, I began to believe things that people would say about me, and found things to hate about myself. That's about the time I started to want to die.
Fast forward three years. It's my 16th birthday. I've come so far, and with a lot of help and love, I've made a conscious decision. I was at the same water park, this time with my family. I was so nervous I was shaking, but I took a deep breath, took off my cover-up and asked my mom to snap a photo.
I'm not society's idea of perfect in this photo. But I've come so far! I've moved from hating myself and wanting to die, to accepting and loving myself for who I am, and not what size I am. I talk a lot about being brave and standing up to bullies and for the bullied, but it's also so important to be brave for yourself. Believe in yourself, and the gifts that you have.
Some people might look at this photo and see a fat girl. I see a girl who fought many demons, dealt with many medical problems, wanted to give up on life but crawled her way back inch by inch to see that life is wonderful, and in fact, decided to #BeBrave and believe in herself. I want to share this message with everyone: No one can make you feel badly without your permission. I chose to believe what that man (and others) said, that I was a waste of life and not worthy of being in the same space as them. It was only when I decided to be courageous enough to believe that I was worthy and deserved to be happy did I take my life back.