I think this message is so important. I think we are all guilty of criticizing ourselves and focusing on minor irrelevant things. As we get older, as we mature we realize the idea of beauty is a social construct built by the judge. I think as a society we have seen a large surge in eating disorder and poor body image and wanted to write this post.
I recently watched a phenomenal documentary with Dylan about the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Amazed at the interaction with the film crew and the tribes of the delta. I watched in amazement as people saw a photo of themselves for the first time. The smiles looking at the photo 50 or 60 odd years old. These people had never seen what they looked like only through the reflection in the rivers.
No such thing as Instagram or selfies. I watched in absolute shock knowing that none of the women (half naked) dressed in their traditional clothing, none of these women believed they were unworthy or without beauty. They did not spend any time in the day thinking they looked a certain way because they did not grow up to believe that. They did not grow up in the era of snapchat filters and 1000 selfies. These women were human beings. They were sisters, mothers, wife. They were alive and that was enough. In that moment I vowed not to let society’s beauty standards stop me from living my life to the fullest.
Time travel back. 12 years prior.
An eating disorder can come in all shapes of forms. It’s something I battle with now but I did battle one when younger.
I remember how it all came about. The day it started. I was being bullied in sixth class and I was constantly called fat. One day I came home from school and I spent hours looking at my reflection in the mirror. I was an awful person. Why was I fat. I was not fat, but I believed I was. I remember feeling so worthless. That was the day I began holding in my stomach and breathing in as hard as I could trying to make myself look smaller. I still do it now at times.
And so it started.
I didn’t make the conscious decision to stop eating, I just began hating myself more with every day. Feeling so uncomfortable in my clothes from that day on. I didn’t like anything tight. I didn’t like anything that proved how fat I was. Not fat but my mind telling me I was. Every time I sat down to eat, I thought of the fat I believed covered my body. I told myself this was the reason I was getting bullied. Associating the pain and torment I felt as victim of bullying with myself. Believing it was my fault and I told myself if I were skinny maybe I would fit in. Again, I repeat I was skinny, but my eating disorder refused to let me believe that.
I’d sit at the dinner table and I’d look at the food; my stomach would turn, and my heart would race. A pain would shoot up through my head and I started to hyperventilate and panic.
My anxiety was tied up with food and the association with bullying. Every time I was offered food or called for dinner the same thing would happen. I would begin to panic and from there I would start to worry about going into school the next day and being called fat.
I wasn’t trying to refuse food but by the time it had escalated my body was used to starvation. It was the anxiety. I always felt nauseous. Every minute of every day.
I couldn’t stomach food. Not even the thought of it. I struggled each day to not throw up from pure anxiety alone. You know when have a big test coming up like your driving test and your panicking the few days beforehand. Forgetting to even eat because all you can think about is what if you fail the test. Butterflies in your stomach and an unsettled restlessness waiting for the day of the test to arrive. That was similar to what I felt every day. I did not eat in school as I was too afraid the bullies would laugh and call me names… I barely ate at home. Hiding my food in random secret cubby holes not caring what happened after as long as I got rid of it. The peak of my unacknowledged eating disorder that only the teacher noticed. Everyone else turned a blind eye.
It took some time.
When I started eating again, I tried to compensate by vomiting after. I battled with bulimia on and off for the next 4 years. Some days I didn’t eat other days I did. Some days I overdosed on pills just to empty my stomach of all the contents inside. I was still a child. Only twelve years of age and so controlled by a hidden eating disorder.
I have always had a poor body image. I hated myself for many years. I’ve never looked at myself and thought I was skinny or nice looking. I’ve bullied myself over and over again believing I would never be good enough.
Ten years later.
I used to believe being skinny would bring my happiness, friends, love. WRONG. In times where I have received the most validation and compliments from strangers for being beautiful, I have also been so lonely on the inside. The validation, the compliments as meaningless as a nod from a driver passing in a car.
After the suicide attempt with the train I lost all value in beauty and body image Lying in a hospital bed, footless, toothless, and scarred all over parting ways with what can only be caused exterior beauty. Beauty did not matter anymore. Believing I looked like the beast from the Disney film never to be beautiful again. I parted ways with self-love, compassion, intimacy. Hating on my guardian angels. I was alive and that was all there was too it. I survived the attempt and I did not know what came next nor did I care. Life as I knew it was over and I was going to have to accept that.
Create a brilliant brighter future.
Anyway, that’s my side of what an eating disorder looked like for me. For more information on eating disorders check out the link on bodywhys here https://www.bodywhys.ie/ and I hope if you read this and your struggling you can accept that you can get help. It just needs to be acknowledged first. You can create a bright brilliant future for yourself. Believe me when I say anything is possible. Life can be better.
Today I write this. It is the 5th of August 2020. I am on the way to Dublin for a hospital appointment. A morning spent picking my outfit and doing my hair and makeup. I have a lunch date with my little brother. My fiancée just rang me to see how I was doing with the train journey and tell me he loved me. I love him too. I love my close ones. And as crazy as it sounds, I love myself. I have gone through hell and back ten times over. Somehow still standing with one real leg and one fake leg.. Still smiling. Life is good.
You have so much yet to live for
Guys life is damn hard at times and sometimes the world is cruel and unfair. We all battle our demons we hide from the world, but we are also alive.
It is such a gift to be alive right now (well apart from covid) but look at all there is too experience in life? The world to see and explore. The wholeness in your heart when you are lucky in love. The banter with the lads on a night out while waiting for your spice bag in the chipper. The wedding’s you will celebrate. The births of godchildren, nieces, and nephews. Your own kids. The cars your going to drive. The mountains you will climb. The songs you have yet to hear and play while sobbing in the bath with a glass of wine and a face mask on your face. The storms that will curl your hair after you spent the morning straightening it, the laughter as you watch your partner struggle to change the tyre on the car. The graduations you are yet to be present for.
Life was never meant to be easy.
It’s a once in a lifetime experience you were granted. We only get the one life. Don’t live it torturing yourself or beating yourself up over little things. Don’t focus on how you look. Just focus on how you feel. Don’t feel good right now? That’s okay just journey it out because you will feel good again. You weather the storm in good and bad. You make the most of what you have. Your life is yours. You do not owe anything to anyone, but you owe it to yourself to live it the best you can and love every bit of it.
Believe in a brighter future.
Learn what it really means to be alive.
Lots of love Katie xx
You can also find my other post highlighting eating disorder