This week is mental health awareness week and this year’s theme is body image. It is a very fitting theme for 2019, with apps like Instagram influencing us and how we feel about ourselves, even when we don’t always realise it.
This week is a very good week to open up the conversation about mental health. It is still something that is surrounded by so much stigma, but it looks like it is starting to change for the better.
Ever since I can remember I have struggled with my mental health on various levels. On the day to day, I am okay. Most of the time I am happy and content within myself, but like so many people, I struggle with anxiety & depressive episodes I guess you could call them. I don’t think my anxiety will ever go away, but I definitely am getting better at coping with it and finding ways to bring myself out of the other side.
I think body image ties in with all of this. My anxiety makes me feel like I am worthless, that I am not good enough. It makes me question all of my being, including the way I look. I get sucked into the pressures from society to look and act a certain way. That my dress size equals my self worth. I spent hours in front of my mirror picking out every single flaw. The way my hair sits, the stretch marks on my boobs, arms and stomach, the cellulite on my thighs, the spots on my face. I could go on and on, but that isn’t a healthy frame of mind to be in.
Throughout my whole life, my biggest body image struggle has been my weight. I have always felt that I am too fat. Even in points in my life where I look back now and realise how slim I was. I have never been really skinny and I don’t think I ever will be, my body is just not built that way. I am curvy, and I have been ever since I was a teenager. I have battled this for years and have never really felt comfortable with how I look.
While at university, after a year of binge drinking & eating rubbish, I decided to join the gym. I stopped drinking and focused all my money and effort on getting myself fit and healthy. I had a personal trainer, I created a diet plan and I worked hard. I lost almost four stone in about 6/7 months. I felt so happy and felt like I could do anything. Going to the gym gave me motivation for life again.
Uni was where I struggled the most. I had the space to learn about myself and found that I wasn’t coping well. I would go days without leaving my bed. I felt angry and frustrated. I felt trapped inside my head and there was no way out. I eventually had a breakdown and finally sought out the help I needed. I started seeing the university counsellor, which honestly changed my life. I had someone to talk to that had no other involvement in my life. I was given the safe space to talk about everything and figure out how to make myself better.
After about 6 months I felt strong enough to stop going to her. I was able to voice my feelings and found ways to cope better. I felt like now I was able to share my story with others. I could open up to my family and friends, and then I started writing about it all. Now, this little corner of the internet has become my therapy.
Last year I moved to Glasgow from Edinburgh. It totally changed my life and I started to fall back into depressive habits. I was struggling to find motivation, I was eating badly and shutting myself away from the world. I put on weight really fast and just kept falling further into the hole.
I knew my way out was going back to the gym again, so I joined one. I got myself new trainers and tried to push myself to go back. Some weeks I would go a few times a week, some weeks I wouldn’t go at all. I started to punish myself for letting myself put on weight, but couldn’t find the strength to do something to stop it.
In the past year I have stood in front of my mirror on an almost daily basis and picked myself apart. I have done nothing but talk myself down about my appearance.
Over December & January I was at my worst. I was in the middle of the worst period of anxiety I have had in a long time. I felt worthless and emotional, to the point I wanted to end it all. I really felt like there was no way out.
For the first time in my life, I stopped getting my period. I went 2 months without it and I think this was a shock to my system. I knew then that I had to do something to change. I had to find that inner strength to pull myself back up again. So, I booked myself a photoshoot for my blog & instagram. I thought this would be enough to drive me to get back to the gym and get myself photo ready.
It wasn’t easy and I fell more times than I could have imagined, and then it was time for my shoot. I was so unhappy with how I looked that I was so sick that morning. I actually nearly cancelled it. I still felt like I didn’t look good enough. Waiting for the photos to come back was the most terrifying experiences of my life.
A good chunk of the photos made me feel sick. I just couldn’t believe how awful I looked. But then I started to post some on instagram. They got the most beautiful feedback. People were seeing things in me that I couldn’t. I was only looking for the flaws. This is what has really shifted my views of myself.
My body is incredible. My body has carried my through 25 years of my life. Yes, it may be imperfect, but so what. It is what makes me, me. My body keeps me healthy so I can think and have opinions. It always me to make friendships, it allows me to love. My body houses my brain which does incredible things every single day. It carries me to work where I can help to make a difference in the world.
I think instead of trying to find flaws in ourselves, we need to learn to love ourselves. We are all beautiful creatures, no matter what you look like. Nobody on this earth is perfect. The world would be an extremely boring place if we all looked the same. It is amazing that we are all created uniquely. When you look in the mirror take pride in yourself. You are the only person on the whole planet that looks exactly like you. So, don’t be cruel to yourself. Yes, there are going to be hard days, but most days are great.
I want to be able to be open and honest here so that we can have conversations about what struggles face us. I want to show that there is light at the other side. My inboxes are always open, whether that be on email/instagram. I am always happy to talk to anyone.