I’m sorry for the hiatus of posts these last few weeks, life has been kind of crazy and I needed to take a breather whilst I managed some things in my personal life. I did try desperately not to feel guilty or beat myself up for the large gap in posts, but I wasn’t particularly successful in that. I really felt like I was letting people down. I guess it just goes back to the same old issues, feelings of not being good enough, that perfection is the only acceptable way to be. But perfection is exhausting, un-realistic as well as being completely un-achievable in the long-term.
When I think back to the reason I started this blog, creating a community for women to share and talk about body and self-worth issues was one of the driving factors, however the first and primary reason was for myself and I need to honour that. This blog is for my own personal expression to share what I am feeling and my struggles, with the hope of helping others by making people realise they are not alone. So whilst I am thinking of you, I also need to think about myself and what is right for me.
sometimes it’s just hard…
Lots of things have been going on for me these last few weeks that have made me realise how much a journey this whole ‘learning to love myself’ truly is. As a result of the various binges and lapses I’ve been struggling with, it is not surprising that I’ve gained some weight. Nothing too horrendous, but enough for me to feel uncomfortable in my clothes, for my jeans to feel extremely tight, for me to suddenly want to wearing loose-fitting tops and to hide my tummy. This has really struck right to the heart of this whole issue for me. When I first started on this self-exploration journey of taking an honest and compassionate look at myself, my goal was to learn to love myself, irrespective of what size I happened to be and I was a fair bit larger than I am now. Having lost 6.5 stone (92lbs) in the last year has, without a shadow of a doubt, made me feel more confident about myself and more comfortable in my own skin but now I wonder if I have been kidding myself. Having regained 10lbs or so which is a smallish percentage compared to what I have lost, I feel as big as I ever did. Isn’t that just crazy? All those feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, not being ‘good enough’ are back with a vengeance. I am always telling people, those I know and love in my personal life, as well as those I meet online that we are all worthy and be*you*tiful. Just. As. We. Are. Now I feel like a big, fat, fraud. I feel like the moment that the road has become bumpy, my philosophy and values have crumbled beneath me. I really want to believe it. And I guess the thing is I do believe it about others, about you. I’m just having a hard time believing it for myself; that my weight isn’t intrinsically linked to my worth and value as a human being. The intelligent, logical part of my brain is gently chiding me for thinking something so daft and ridiculous, and yet my heart is wincing believing it to be true.
Without divulging my entire life story, it is somewhat understandable that my worth is so wrapped up in my body image. I have a condition called Lipoedema that in layman’s terms means I have fat legs from my waist to my ankles. It is painful, unsightly and to be honest a real bitch. When I was diagnosed in my early twenties I was told there was no cure, it would only get worse, exercise and diet wouldn’t help, and worst case scenario is that I could end up in a wheel chair. And apparently I only had stage one! To say a spiralling depression followed is somewhat of an understatement. I have also endured bullying and physical violence from strangers as a result of people taking offence to my legs. I am a lot better than I used to be and no longer hide myself in long floor length black skirts or wide leg trousers as I did for most of my twenties. The shame I felt was so palpable. Now I wear jeans and pretty knee-length skirts, but the reality is that whilst I have been able to manage the progression of the disease somewhat (and obviously an eating disorder is not exactly helpful for such a condition) I struggle to accept the fact that I will never have the body I want. Unless a cure is found (or a huge improvement in treatment) then I have to accept my legs will always be large and unsightly, my tummy will be loose and sagging.
Add to this melting pot the fact that my husband and I are taking a once-in-a-lifetime six week sabbatical to South East Asia in December and my body image issues are just bubbling to the surface. I love Asia, I spent my honeymoon there and was lucky enough to spend three months in Sri Lanka a few years ago, but the Asian people are tiny and one thing they are not afraid to say is ‘Lady, you is faaaaat’ and the way I am feeling right now, I am too sensitive and raw to handle it with the maturity I need to. I am as excited about going away as a 5 year old is waiting for Santa in November, I literally can’t wait, but holy crap I am going to have to be on a beach in a bikini! And I’ve regained 10lbs!! And I still wanted to lose another 30lbs as it was, which is now 40lbs hanging over my head like the perfection whip!!! You see how it all starts to pile up? How I can so easily find myself with my head shoved in a tub of ice-cream (even if it is gluten, dairy and sugar-free) how that soothing pleasure calms the wave of panic rising through my chest, threatening to drown me. Or the crunchy texture of the delicious (gluten-free) cookie. Okay cookies. Okay all six cookies. They stop me in my tracks from the worry. For all of maybe an hour, tops.
So I decided to treat myself last week and get my hair cut and coloured. It’s not something I do very often as it’s so bloody expensive, but felt like I needed some self-care and pampering. Let’s just say it was an unmitigated disaster. I am a natural blonde but have gotten darker as I’ve gotten older (why???) and so I lighten my hair tone, but decided I wanted to try something closer to my own shade (think Jennifer Anniston back in her hey-day of Friends). What I ended up with was browny-mousey-dull-blonde. I wanted to cry, scream and shout and have a huge tantrum, but I didn’t. I waited a week as they suggested but ended up going back and having it changed to the colour I wanted. It was an honest mistake that they corrected for free, and I am now very happy with it, but wow what a week of emotions. How could my hair upset me so much?? I’ve spent a lot of time mulling it over, working out what is going on and I think I’ve figured it out. My hair has been long and blonde for most of my life. People used to ask me if I was the girl from the Timotei advert when I was a teenager and I loved it! My hair has always been my pride and joy. No matter how fat, hideous or ugly I felt, my hair was my ‘saving grace’ and made me feel pretty even if I didn’t believe it. In fact if my hair was in a bad way, I was generally a mess.
Despite many people being complimentary about my accidental brunette experience, I felt, dull and boring. No ‘Timotei’ hair to hide behind. Shit, what if people notice that I’m still overweight, or even worse what if they notice I’ve put weight back on. Shit, what if people realise I’m not that pretty. What if they realise I’m a worthless failure and find out I’m not good enough??? Seriously??? What is wrong with my mind??? It doesn’t help that I’ve got PMT, which always means I should come with a hazard warning, but come on, enough with the crazy self-talk!
I’m sorry if this is long, moaning, and not as polished as it could be, but it is true and honest and straight from my heart. I really don’t mean it to be waffly but I suppose I need to clear my head of what is milling around, it helps me to connect the dots and see things clearly and I hope that by sharing this, as raw and ugly as it may be, that is may help others in a similar pattern of struggle.
The upside is that I can recognise these feelings, I can see what is going on, which is a long way from what I would have done in the past. Yes I slipped up and soothed myself with food. Yes those old shame gremlins have been shouting and lying to me, screaming that I am worthless and not enough. But I know that’s not true. I am more than my long blonde hair. I am more than my wobbly thighs or droopy breasts. I am sensitive, perhaps too much, but my sensitivity allows me to connect with others in a deeply personal way. I am empathetic and compassionate. I really try to see things from other people’s points of view, be understanding and non-judgemental. I might not always succeed, but if the price for wearing my heart on my sleeve is that I’m fundamentally a kind, caring person, then I’ll accept that.
I feel like dancing naked on top of the world with my mousey blonde hair, wobbly fat thighs and droopy breasts and taking my stance. I AM enough. I am be*you*tiful. Just. As. I. Am.
We all are.
And hell if I need to say this to myself a hundred times a day until it starts to seep into my soul, then so be it.