Mental Health Awareness Week - Body Image

TW/CW - some mention around disordered eating, distorted body image, self-harm, plus images of my body close up and unclothed - if you're in recovery, currently struggling with the subjects mentioned above or may be triggered in any way then please take care of yourself if you continue to read, or please do not continue reading. I do not go in to detail on these things, but understand that just the mention of certain words can bring up wanted thoughts and feelings.

If you saw me face-to-face and I asked you to tell me what you saw, you'd probably say, "big brown eyes", "tattoos", "skin problems" - these are a few things people have pointed out when I've asked them in the past.

If you were to ask me what I noticed about my body, this would be my list,

- Fat cheeks

- Fat neck

- Fat Stomach

- Wobbly arms

- Stained, (& some chipped), wonky teeth (& one removed)

- A wonky nose

- Psoriasis on my head, ears (inside and out), face, arms, hands, under my breasts, my torso, around my genitals, bum, back, down my legs, feet, under my nails.

- Spots which affect my neck and chin the most - are large, painful and scar

- Bald patches in my eyebrows due to Psoriasis

- Wonky breasts

- Saggy breasts

- Moles - lots of moles

- Skin tags on my neck

- Slightly hunched back

- Self-harm scars - stomach, legs, arms

- Dark "snail trail" (which I try to remove)

- Dark hair on face - mainly under the chin and top lip (both of which I spend far too long trying to remove)

- Stretch marks - stomach, legs, breasts, arms

- Piercing scars

- Veiny feet

- Hairy toes

- Damaged toe nails from Psoriasis

- Nearly flat feet

- Sausage fingers - with twisted forefingers

- Hair which is dry and knotted in some places - mainly on the right side, which doesn't grow the same as the left

- Hair which is fine and limp and needs a large amount of hairspray to look volumised

- Blackheads

- Small lips

- Double chin

- Tattoos

If you asked what I liked about my body, this would be my list,

- My eyes

- My dimples

I have had an endless battle with my body and my image for years and in different ways for different reasons. Why? Because from a young age society told me I wasn't the "norm". I wasn't a stereotype of how women "should look" or what men would "want in a woman". I was an average sized child, then I became a pretty large child, then I THOUGHT I was a fat teenager and made myself unwell and a very small adolescent/young adult. I then yo-yo'd for years and have continued to do so.

I am now 31 years old and all I can say is, fuck it! Fuck society for making ANYONE believe they should be anything less than who they are.

Do I love myself? Yeah, some days I really do. Some days I hold my head high and prance around like I run the world. Sometimes I couldn't care less about what people might think or feel. A lot of the time though, I am still very self-conscious and I do care. I don't want or mean to, but I do.

What I have come to realise though is that this is my mental illness AND society telling me lies, making me feel a way I never need to feel. It's all very well telling someone that they look fine, that they're being stupid, that no one cares how they look, but years of bullying, anxiety, self-loathing, paranoia, and even abuse can make someone think otherwise.

Support is fantastic and great, but it's also important to remember that pushing someone in to being comfortable with how they look and feel isn't how it works. For those of us who have felt we need to be forced in to a "perfect norm" when it comes to our body image, having someone then forcing you to embrace who you are and how you look can be just as destructive.

I am ALL for body positivity and self-love, but it can only happen when you're ready to let it happen, and you know what? It won't always be every day. I still have days where I catch myself in the mirror and cry endlessly and scream at myself about how much of a monster I am. I still have days where I want to binge and purge, excessively exercise or restrict food all together.

The difference now is that I've chosen to stand up against the bullies, including those in my head, and society's need for me to look a certain way. I love food. I also hate food. I love exercise. I also hate exercise. But what I want most of all is to love my life and to enjoy it. I don't want to spend each and every day concerned about an outfit, about what I've eaten, about how many steps I've taken. Yes, I want to be healthy, but that's still an option when choosing to live life the best and most positive way you can.

I feel a huge part of body image is to with how you feel on the inside more than the outside. It's learnt behaviour or words from others which condition us to think and feel certain ways about ourselves, so becoming your own positive guru is important, as well as surrounding yourself with ridiculously amazing people. The people in my life make me feel amazing about myself no matter what. If I feel great inside and out, they notice it and if I feel awful inside and out they notice and accept it.

Everyone is self-conscious in their own way for their own reasons. An important part of promoting positive body image is through kindness and acceptance. If someone feels comfortable enough to share their insecurities with you that's amazing and that trust should never be abused. If someone doesn't feel comfortable enough to share, that's fine. Don't force it, just treat anyone and everyone in a way YOU want to be treated.

This Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on body image (#BeBodyKind), and I gotta say, I am SUPER anxious about sharing these personal, up close photos, but for me it's a journey and something I hope I will learn to be very proud of and something I hope readers will accept to be just as acceptable as any other body out there.

So, instead of Ru Paul's famous "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?" which upsets me as you can still give all the love in the world to others without loving yourself (but i get what they're trying to say before I get a load of shit from that), I will end with this instead - It's great to love yourself, but it's not always easy. Take the time to get to know who you are and what you want in life, and no matter where you are on your journey remember you will always be loved and will be able to love others in the process.


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**Just do you because you are enough**