'One day it just clicks... You realise what's important and what isn't. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realise how far you've come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that they'd never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you've fought to become'...
A year ago tomorrow marks the anniversary of an event that changed my life. An event that happened two years after events that I would describe as the closest I have come to hitting my 'rock bottom'. That statement will not be easy for some people to understand as I have a happy home life, a loving family, I was studying at university, I got perfect grades in school... on the outside I was living a pretty perfect text book life, but on the inside I was battling with crippling anxiety, - (and it is thanks to my amazing support system that I am now in a place, three years on, where I can talk about my experiences with honesty in the hope of helping someone else do the same.) J K Rowling once said 'rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life'. And sitting here now I feel the exact same.
On the second of January 2015 I had my first ever personal training session.
On the 9th January 2015 I wrote the following passage in a blog post: 'I can't remember a time in my life where I haven't felt inferior to somebody else around me, be it in academic achievements, personality, talent, body shape. I am guilty of constantly comparing myself to other people, over analysing myself and my achievements in comparison to those of the people who surround me and time and time again the conclusion of this analysis was that I was not good enough. I went to an extremely academic school, and although I loved my time there, I constantly struggled with the fact that every subject I considered myself to excel in, there was someone else who was just that little bit better. It was not that I had a desire to be the best or to be better than anyone else, I just longed to not feel inferior.'
The feeling of worry and fear of acceptance hung on to me for a very long time. It is a feeling I can date back to being as young as five years old: I was young and innocent and believed magic was the most wonderful thing in the world. I believed with every fibre of my body that Fairy God Mothers and Happily Ever Afters (and singing mice) really did exist. I believed it so strongly that when Santa dropped off a Snow White dress at Christmas, I cried from the irrational fear that if I wore it the wicked witch would come and kill me. I was five years old, and I was already letting worries ruin me.
When I was eighteen I first asked for help. But it wasn't until I was nearly twenty one that I was 100% dedicated to wanting to become truly content and happy with myself and my body.
In the early afternoon of the Second of January 2015, I spent just over an hour getting ready before leaving my house, I tried on every single piece of gym clothing I owned at least twice and didn't feel comfortable in anything. I hated how the tight fabric grabbed my skin, I thought the elastane stuck and stretched over my fat and as I looked in the mirror I very nearly cancelled my session. But there was no fat for those clothes to grab, I was underweight, fragile, sad and fed up, but as this terrified girl stared in the mirror an imaginary image of what I thought my body looked like stared back at me. I was terrified that people would look at me and laugh, what was I expecting? Years of dodging P.E. lessons at school told me that my fitness levels were awful and I was so weak that I struggled to even open bottles of water or walk up the stairs without feeling out of breath.
The reality? I thrived off feeling small and empty, it allowed me to place a physical symptom on the emotional opinion I had of myself. It is less scary to feel mentally empty and worthless if you physically make your body feel the same too. 'I'm not mad, I'm ill' became a justification for a string of increasingly dangerous habits and for a very long time I pushed away nearly every person who had my best intentions at heart.
But I knew the situation I had got myself in could not go any further. I had to get myself better, and so I left my house and arrived at the gym early. I sat in my car and counted down the minutes until it was time to leave my safety zone. I spent my first ever personal training session doing body weight based pilates exercises because it was all my weak frame could handle. Slowly, after hours and hours and hours of hard work I began to see a change. It took three months from that first session to my first ever 'strength session', and that was when I learnt the biggest lesson of my life: 'life begins at the end of your comfort zone'. Twelve months down the line I couldn't imagine my life in any other way. People will always have an opinion on how you choose to live your life, but having been so close to destroying my own I am proud of the way I have chosen to live mine. This time last year I made the best decision and the biggest jump of my life, and time and time again people have tried to tell me that my lifestyle is too obsessive or extreme... But to me obsession is a word lazy people use to describe determination.
I wrote a blog post a few months back which began with the line 'My worst fear used to be that one day the whole world would wake up and see me the way I saw myself'. I am proud to say this is no longer my worst fear. I have evolved and changed a lot over 2015, but the most important lesson I learnt is that everyone deserves to be happy, and everyone deserves the right to show that happiness as publicly or as privately as they wish, regardless of what someone else's opinion may be.
In reality, I am incredibly sad to see the back of 2015... it has without a doubt been the most life altering year of my life. Important people have both entered and left my life and I feel like I am finally ready to say goodbye to the old me as the new year begins. I have grown as a person, my priorities have shifted and although I feel positive to enter 2016 in a much more emotionally stable place, I feel a sense of loss in saying goodbye to the struggle and fight that 2015 was. I am confident that I will forever look back on this year as being one of the pinnacles of my existence, and I will never forget how hard the journey was for me.
Bring on 2016, let's hope you're even kinder to me.