Yesterday I turned 27 and apart from when I was a child who didn’t have a care in the world – I can honestly say I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin as I do right now. This is strange given that I have just given birth to my second child and have all those nice physical reminders of that fact, my exercise regime is practically non-existent and just because of the way the meals have panned out, I don’t think I have consumed vegetables since Friday, nonetheless I am totally a-ok with where I’m at and that’s been the case for quite a long time now. While this may seem like a completely pointless and big headed comment to make the choice to do so was made with great care and consideration because at the end of the day this blog was never meant to be about my own recognition, it was made because I know this is what I wanted when I was struggling, I wanted to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that everything was going to be alright. It’s easy for those who surround you to reassure you but unless you have faith that someone truly understands and knows what you’re going through – you’ll never believe them.
I do constantly loose sight of this purpose, perhaps why I have struggled to put in a consistent effort on the writing side of my blog because it is an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but when I come across old photos such as these I am quickly reminded of my drive to spread awareness in hope that along with many other people out there we can start breaking down the stigma around mental health and provide the support sufferers and their loved ones need.
I won’t say that the journey between these photos was quick or pain free but I will say that I don’t actually remember a particular pivotal point when it stopped being hard – all of a sudden it just wasn’t. Kind of like the onset of the disease itself where I don’t have any recollection of how I got into the mess to begin with. I did struggle for a while in the “recovery phase”, continuing to hide my body under clothes, constantly fearing the critiquing eyes of people who scanned to see if I had put on weight or not (out of love for me of course), declining invites to outings, parties, etc in pure fear of how I looked and anxiety about what to wear, desperately writing up routine after routine of what I could do each day exercise wise to try and “get back on track”, or would have me frantically scrolling through the internet to find incredibly healthy recipes that would slow down the weight gain but the pain and pressure of all of those things slowly began to ease. There were some days I simply didn’t want to exercise – I survived, most of the time the food tasted awful – so I didn’t eat it and ate something I enjoyed instead. It was these little wins that became more and more consistent and in combination with a three steps forward, two steps back kind of shuffle it all slowly but eventually add up to the final prize.
Many of you will read that above paragraph and think WHAT THE?!?! This girl is crazy if she thinks those things are a big deal and I totally agree with you – now. Then, was a completely different story. I know full well that before I had experienced a mental illness for myself, I couldn’t see how someone could go to such lengths, become so unhappy or so lost that they could find themselves in that state of mind. How can you explain the logic behind why someone obsessively exercises and under eats to the point of extreme, sometimes life-threatening circumstances as a coping mechanism? You can’t because there is no logic, there is no conscious thought process that leads to landing someone in the thick of it, but it happens and the evidence lies in how common it is.
Once you do realise that you have a problem that needs addressing, it is scary. You are all of a sudden hit with how far removed your thought processes, daily activities and personality are from who you once were but by then the disease is so far ingrained that the thought of loosing that unrealistic and damaging control seems basically impossible. Thankfully, it’s not, you absolutely can have your life back to normal, trust me. Nowadays I’m just like everyone else, sometimes you try on clothes that really don’t suit you, sometimes photos don’t capture your best angle, sometimes you go on a health kick and loose a few kilos, sometimes you will feel very self-conscious, the difference being now that these things are not combined with a crippling anxiety or unhealthy desire to obsessively control an aspect of my life that they once were.
But its not all just about superficial looks, which is perhaps why eating disorders get a lot of that stigma associated with it. I now have confidence, I now have strength, I now have opinions, I now have a pulse that can easily be felt, I now have colour in my face, I have energy, I don’t always have those constant concerned faces looking at me wherever I go, I can hold a genuine conversation, I can concentrate (ok – that one is debatable with the broken sleep patterns of a young children) and I am at peace with what makes me, me.
I’m not going to sit here all high and mighty and preach like I know everything and my life is always now sunshine and roses because I don’t and its definitely not. But eating disorder wise – that is a distant memory and I hope it stays that way. Although I would have loved to not have it happen, it did and rather than be embarrassed I have chosen to see the lessons and opportunities it has provided me. It was a time which has made me stronger, more self-aware and allows me to hopefully help others by sharing my experience.
Now excuse me while I go and enjoy some more birthday cake with my gorgeous little fam bam.
Have a lovely day x