HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.
My worst fear used to be that one day the whole world would wake up and see me the way I saw myself.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphia, and Disordered Eating consumed my mind and my life for far too long. I strongly believe that even 'post recovery' these things never truly leave you... but recovery isn't ridding your mind of the thoughts altogether, but having the strength not to act upon them.
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.
These anxieties and heightened awareness of my appearance continued to affect me; I vividly remember being sat on a swing with my friend Chloe, I must've been no older than nine at the time, when she told me her weight and I felt my self worth crumble at the thought that I weighed more than her. At twelve, I started to notice unwelcome changes in my body as I began to go through puberty; fat began to line my hips creating curves that I did not want and as I looked in the mirror my thighs were reflected as a map of cellulite and stretch marks. I always hoped that I'd grow out of this uncomfortable sense of not belonging in my body, assuming that soon it would stop changing around me and I would grow into a confident woman; these bodily changes just being a necessary part of the journey. Although now I know that to be true, that reality still didn't dawn on me until nearly ten years later.
I could blame the media, but the reality is I was blissfully unaware of photoshop as a nine year old girl sat on that swing, and instagram filters had not yet been invented as that twelve year old girl struggling with her changing body. I believe my insecurities stemmed from my obsession with control; I don't drink because I hate feeling like something else could be influencing my decisions, I write to do lists for my to do lists, I stress unbelievable amounts, and when all these stresses used to pile up I believed that while the rest of my life was a chaotic mess, the one thing in all of that that I could control was myself. And by myself I meant my body. But how wrong I was. It's so sad that appearance can make us feel the way it does... The fact that something so far out of our control can do just that: control us and control our opinions of our self worth. While I thought I was controlling my body, my body was actually controlling me. Enter: the vicious circle of negative self image.
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. Weight is a strange concept. Calories even stranger. In reality, neither really exist, yet I allowed both to take such a strong control over my life.
And then I realised that I had two options: 1. To spend every single day of the rest of my life existing in the way I was currently existing. 2. To live.
And I chose to live. I realised that life was hard and life was unfair, but being cruel and horrible to myself was not going to make it any easier. I was a bully. I spent ten years of my life treating myself in a way that I would never dream of treating another person, yet I never regarded myself as being worthy of the same treatment as anyone else. In my head I was worthless, I didn't deserve success or happiness because I was weak and guilty. I tried to redeem myself through working, becoming a straight A student, but it wasn't enough, I tried to make myself as small as possible, hoping that I would eventually fade away so maybe people would begin to see past me and ignore me, but it didn't work. So eventually I stopped doing anything at all, and would lie in a dark room for days with no other human contact. I deserved to be ill. The countless blood tests and doctors visits were punishment to myself. But deep down, I no longer wanted to be punished. So I tried really really hard to stop. The two years and five months since I made that decision have been the hardest of my life. It is physically exhausting battling with yourself from the moment you wake up at 6am to the moment you go to sleep at 10pm, but here I am, stronger and healthier than I ever dreamed I could be.
'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'...