I hate the extra five to 10 pounds I’m carrying around my waist and hips right now. They take so much work and time to push away, yet eventually come back as easily and quickly as a boulder rolling down the hill I climbed.

It’s not the number on the scale that holds value, but the feelings I have when I realize the nagging rebirth of tight pants or the clinging of shirts to my stomach from three children I did not carry. My mood, my self-worth, and my mental health, though – they all depend on the coming and going of those five to 10 pounds. They are always the cause and effect of my weight.

I don’t and won’t use the word ugly to describe my external appearance, but my internal existence will easily take these labels. I know I’m not ugly, and the extra weight on my body does not make me less desirable to my partner, but it makes me like myself less.

When I look into the mirror, I don’t just see the differences in the way my clothes fit. I see fear, depression, lack of control, and a reminder of my imperfections. I don’t see fat, I see a failure.

I know perfection is not achievable or something I should strive for, but I do. I want to be perfect all of the time. Not to show off, or to prove something to someone else, or to be the best at something. I am only in competition with myself. My attempts at perfection – and my failings at such foolishness – keep me distracted from the darkest parts of my brain that could pull me away from all that I love.

My struggles with mental health stem from both the inheritance of mental illness and cycles of abusive child rearing. My mind was already wired to struggle with a family history of OCD and depression. My body eventually became the property of family members who initiated me into the family by harming me in the same ways their trusted loved ones harmed them. I developed into a person who knew what to do and say to make everyone around me feel better, acting and reacting in ways that benefited everyone except me.

The way I feel, observe, and process emotions are skewed in ways that have equally protected and hurt me. My brain did what it needed to do to get my heart and soul into safe spaces, but being in safe places doesn’t always bring comfort.

The diagnoses psychologists and psychiatrists eventually defined for me have given me understanding. They have given me permission to appreciate their use in my survival. And they have forced me to realize they’re not as useful in my desire to live.

It’s hard to let go of the past. It’s harder to let go of what got you through it.

If I beat myself up, no one else can hurt me.

If I agonize over a few extra pounds, maybe that will keep me from becoming obese and broken like my mother.

If I can find the will power to always eat the right portions of healthy food and the motivation to exercise regularly, I will feel better. I will feel good. I will not be sad.

Yet, the sadness always comes back. I find solace in food and alcohol and reasons that are likely valid, but feel like excuses. The games my brain and emotions play on me are in direct contrast with what I have learned to be true.

The extra weight that I carry, which feels heavier than it really is, can be traced to joyful and selfless time spent with my three beautiful children instead of at the gym.

It is from time spent with good friends, sharing good stories and homemade food.

It is from allowing myself to indulge in a bowl of ice cream while I watch Netflix with my partner after a long day with the kids.

This extra weight is from letting go of the perfectionism and baggage I have carried for so long. These pounds are not just from depression; they’re from happiness, too. They’re from a place of love and comfort and the busy family life I have always wanted. I hate the extra weight, but I love the people in my life who don’t seem to notice as they hug me tight and fill me up with their kindness and joy, even when I don’t feel worthy of it.

My body is now mine. It is safe and strong and healthy, and it does what I want and need it to do, and I am so grateful. But knowing something can be very different from feeling it. While I’m able to intellectually talk my way into being okay about the extra inches on my thighs and the handful of fat surrounding my belly button, I still can’t find a way to hold onto those moments of self-acceptance.

I am nothing if not a perfectionist, though. So I will try. I will try. I will. Again and again, I will try.