It’s that time of year again. Mental Health Awareness Week. This years theme is body image.
When I think of body image the first thing I actually think about is teenage boys and girls and the pressure that they are under whilst surviving (let’s face it, it is survival) school and being the prettiest you that you can be.
I never really thought of or associated body image with any other particular group of people. Until I faced it myself.
I was never really paranoid about myself at school. I had enough friends, I was your typical tearaway teenage girl. I liked my make-up, I liked my friends, I’d even go so far as to say I enjoyed school. I also enjoyed my body. I didnt get many spots, I didnt get fat, my bumps were in the right places so to speak.
So what happened?
Nothing actually, not for a while anyway, I got to 20 years old and was still a lovely weight that matched my petite 5 foot body. I worked behind a cocktail bar in the City Centre and I enjoyed the attention I got from guys. I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed the girls saying they liked my hair or saying I was pretty.
I got with a guy and fell pregnant, still, even as my body changed I was ok, I enjoyed watching this life grow inside of me, feeling the kicks, feeling the love grow.
I did get quite big towards the end of my pregnancy, but nothing major, it was mostly bum and boobs so figured it would go as soon as baby came. And to a degree it did.
I actually didnt care for the first six months of having Korey in my life, I still ate what I wanted, I was still happy albeit that tummy was a bit wobbly, the thighs needed trimming up, where did those stretch marks come from? I started to look at myself in the mirror more and more. My flat tummy now resembled a bowl of jelly. Those thighs looked like snails had had a race across them and couldnt decide where the finish line was.
So I started to go to the gym. I went everyday.
By this point me and Koreys dad had already split up and although I wasnt looking for anything I felt like being mum had lost me my identity. I wasnt chatted up anymore in the bar, not that I’d have gone back with anyone, but just to get that quick “phew someone thinks I’m pretty” feeling. None of the girls said I looked well or they liked my hair. They didnt come by as often, in fact they didnt at all.
So I soon started to skip meals. Maybe that would sort the tummy out, make it flatter, make me prettier.
I would eat one meal every two days. It wasnt hard because I’d still wean Korey, it kept me busy at mealtimes so I didnt feel the need to eat.
Before I knew it a few months later I was at the park with a friend when she said out of the blue “I bet you could fit in that baby swing” I thought it would be a laugh, never even thought “what if I get stuck” I slipped right in. Like it was that easy, i could slide right back out, there was so much space.
THAT WAS MY REALITY CHECK!
What was I doing to myself? I was literally starving myself and i didnt even know where it had started, not really. It did creep up on me and I had to do something.
I went to the doctors but because I wasnt forcing myself to be sick they just waved me off. I had to literally sort myself out.
Around the same time I found out my sons dad was dating someone and it hurt. Mostly my pride, and probably my body image, he was just another person that didnt find me attractive anymore.
I couldn’t snap out of the mindset.
In the end it took another two years to get back to a healthy weight and I still struggle to this day to sit down and eat three square meals.
When I get stressed I stop eating but I have got a fantastic support network that recognise this as a pattern for me and will intervene when needed and I have stopped saying no to the help. People do love me, for me.
I am still attractive, but my body did change and will continue to change as I get older.
I met Phil a few years later and we had a little boy. I didnt feel the same niggle about my body as I did before. So I think the reassurance of knowing I was enough was enough for me and it didnt snap me like before.
Body image, I feel didnt affect me at school but it caught up with me later on after i had children. I suddenly didnt feel as attractive anymore, and as much as I was a mum and shouldn’t have cared that much, it did bother me, but it was something else I would overcome in time thanks to my friends and family who were there to support me. To make sure and remind me to eat. To tell me I was (and am) beautiful. Because even though I should tell myself, hearing it from other people is just reassuring and for me at the time it was important.
I get more compliments for other things now, how strong I am raising an ADHD kid and going through the processes of diagnosis. The fight in my belly for my boys. I get told I’m the most caring person they know and I always put other people first. These are the qualities that impress me now and these make me feel like a better person.
Not my looks or my body.
It’s still a nice thought though isnt it?