5 Things I Learned From “My Mad Fat Diary”

Set in a small town in 1996 Great Britain, “My Mad Fat Diary” is a television show based on the book and real-life diary “My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary” by Rachel “Rae” Earl. Glaswegian actress, Sharon Rooney, stars as the fictionalized version of Mrs. Earl’s teenaged self, an overweight girl who has been newly released from a mental institution (where she lived for four months under the guise of visiting a relative in France). Rae suffers from severe anxiety with which she learned to cope by indulging in over-eating and eventually developing a disorder before attempting suicide. “My Mad Fat Diary” provides a very real insight into the life of someone dealing with and recovering from mental illness, something that has been heavily stigmatized for as long as history can tell, but actually affects the majority of the world’s population in ways both nearly-unnoticably small and unbearably large.

The show has aired two completed seasons, with a total of thirteen episodes, and there is talk of an American version coming in the future, a la “Skins” (MTV) or “Shameless” (Showtime). Countries all over the world have embraced this coming-of-age tale, seeing their own experiences reflected in those of Rae and her group of friends. When it comes to true-to-life struggles, “My Mad Fat Diary” runs the gamut from body image to sexuality, intelligence, and even age. Recently nominated for a BAFTA for Best Drama, it is clear that “My Mad Fat Diary” hits home for many with the greatest lesson being that we are all suffering from the human condition and thus we are never truly alone.

1. Everyone struggles.
The grass is rarely, if ever, greener on the other side. Though some people may seem to have it all together — a job, a car, a healthy relationship, an unfaltering smile — they too have something in their lives that fills them with doubt or guilt, or simply leaves them feeling unfulfilled at the end of the day.

2. It’s never too late to apologize.
Whether you realize your error immediately or two weeks later, it is never too late to say “I’m sorry”. The fact that you were able to swallow your pride and make the effort might just be all it takes to start rebuilding the bridge you thought was burned for good.

3. What other people think doesn’t matter.
You may not have what society deems to be the perfect body. You may listen to music that makes everyone around you cringe and wonder if you’ve joined a Pagan cult. That’s okay. The most important thing in life is to be genuine and true to yourself. Go against the grain, challenge social norms. What others think of you is inconsequential and caring about it will only hold you back.

4. Your past doesn’t make your future.
Fortunately, change is the only constant in this life. There will always be a new opportunity to go in a different direction. Dropping out of high school to get your GED doesn’t mean that you could never be a top-earning CEO. Forgive yourself for mistakes and disappointments and keep moving forward, toward the life you really want.

5. It’s okay to ask for help.
Though mental health issues carry a long-standing stigma, they are common and they do not define you. Your feelings are valid, but you can have power over them. If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you are not alone. Speak to someone about these feelings; be it a parent, a friend, teacher or therapist. You are loved and it can get better, so please ask for help.

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