It’s been a while since my last post, sorry about that. Life has been hecticccc and I’ve been a bit here, there and everywhere as well as saving up to re-vamp my blog- whaddaya think? So a few little updates for you all. Firstly, I got into uni! I’ve officially accepted my offer for English literature with journalism at the University of Buckingham! I went to have a little personal open day a few weeks back and had a chat with the head of English lit and also the head of journalism- both were absolutely lovely but the head of English lit really inspired me and cemented the fact that I really wanted to attend Buckingham. Buckingham is an independent university and so you won’t find it around much buttt it’s 9th (two below Cambridge!) for English which I’m pretty chuffed about. My registration date is the 25th September so there’s not long to go now and to be honest, I’m so bladdy excited! Excited to learn again, meet new people and have some structure and routine in my life again.
(disclaimer: if talking about weight and body changes is going to be triggering at all for you, please look after yourself and don’t read. I would so so much rather you didn’t know this bit about me, than to try and soldier on and it makes you struggle in any way. I wanted to write this post as my confidence has always been a little shakey and I wanted to tell people my story- how I felt at the time, what contributed to it and how this has affected my confidence in the long-run. A blog is a place to write all about whatever you want and I feel that changes in body shape isn’t spoken about enough, so I wanted to share my story in case it helps anyone going through a similar thing. But yeah, if you think this will negatively impact you in any way, please click away now. Look after yourself, loads of love x)
At the time of writing this (it’s been stuck in my draft folder for a while), my mental health had been a bit all over the place. The prospect of going to university was terrifying me slightly as I feel I’ve never had a good uni experience, and this was raising a lot of bad memories and made my anxiety a bit worse than usual. I had also been obsessing over my body. Am I too fat? Is my butt too big? Do I have a double chin when I laugh? Are my arms too big? etc. etc. These questions were going round and round my noggin’ to the point where I thought I might have a bit of body dysmorphia as I just couldn’t get this obsession out of my head. I kept thinking that because I am a size bigger (a size 10-12, rather than an 8-10) than I was at my skinniest, I was worth a heck of a lot less, even though I had gained this weight because I was getting healthier and recovering. Stupid, I know, but it’s what I felt and it’s unfortunately the whole premise behind diet culture and the woman’s ‘ideal body’ in society. Thankfully, these feelings have passed (thanks to my wonderful boyfriend and ever-so-lovely friends and family) and I’m back on the up again. However, this period in my life really showed me that how we see our body can have a HUGE impact on our confidence. I genuinely just wanted to shove on the baggiest clothes I have and to hide every part of my body. So I thought, hey, let’s take a moment to appreciate why my body has changed, and hopefully it will give people a little bit of hope if they felt lost like I did at my darkest point. So, this journey is what got me to the more confident version of Lizzie I am now.
(another disclaimer: NO SIZE IS RIGHT OR WRONG. For me, I now know what is healthy for me and that includes eating what I love, dancing in my pyjamas, and focusing on myself and recovery.)
Anyone who knew me before I went into sixth-form would know that I was a large gal growing up. My gorgeous mum used to tell me it was just ‘puppy fat’, but I knew I had some pretty unhealthy eating habits (like eating foods I wold usually have as snacks as a pre-breakfast before my parents used to get up) which ultimately led to weight gain. I was a pretty healthy kid (as you’ll see below) and I loved going on adventures and following in my sister’s footsteps with taking multiple classes at dance school. However, when we moved up to Stratford-upon-Avon I was way too nervous to re-join a dance school and so I ended up doing no exercise and it was also around this time I was allowed a little more freedom with my food. My weight increased and I started being bullied for being ‘fat’ and was even once called ‘Lizzie the Whale’- how nice are children huh?! This led to me finding comfort in food, which led to more weight gain and it became an unhealthy circle. I would avoid people seeing my body and I absolutely HATED P.E. classes at school- I just used to try and pretend I was ill or would mess around, trying to mask the crippling under-confidence I had whilst everyone around me seemed to have no worries at all. Mum getting cancer also meant that life was a bit more stressful at home which lead to me eating more sweet things to seek comfort. At my biggest I was around a size 18-20 although my weight fluctuated and reduced a little as I grew up. Ultimately I was just a chubby girl who wasn’t happy within herself, but I always had a smile on myself nonetheless! SPOILER- get ready for some corkers!
SIXTH-FORM LIZZIE AND HER FIRST YEAR OF UNIVERSITY
The end of Year 11 and onwards was when my mental health started to get bad. Mum passed away in the summer between finishing Year 11 and starting Year 12 and to be honest my head was a bit everywhere. Once I started at my new sixth-form (which was SO much better for me than my old high school) I felt a little bit more comfortable as there was hardly anyone there who used to bully me, and even if they were anyway near me, I had my new (and rather lovely) friends to turn to. Even though I was more comfortable at school, the grief started to creep through and presented itself in anxiety and an extreme fear of sickness (emetophobia) which resulted in me, at times, barely able to eat and having to leave lessons because of frequent panic attacks. Thankfully the teachers were amazing but because of my phobia and anxiety, I ate very little and I became much thinner, but not in a healthy way. I remember feeling a lot more confident in myself and for probably the first time in my life, I liked my body when I looked in the mirror. However, I still felt like the ‘fat girl’ at school and even though I wasn’t, I constantly compared myself to my friends. For example, in class, if my wrist was next to someone else’s, I would compare them and see if mine was a similar size to theirs. If it was a lot bigger I would feel awful about myself and if it was smaller, I would feel a bit better about myself. Unhealthy right? But that’s how I lived through my worst anxiety period and at the time I had so many other issues going on, I didn’t second guess this thinking and was just grateful I didn’t have to worry about people fat-shaming me anymore. I became a little happier within myself towards the end of Year 13 because I had amazing friends, a wonderful family and the beginnings of a relationship (my first one!) and I thought that I couldn’t be too bad if I had these wonderful people around me, right? I still compared myself to everyyyyone but the summer of 2016 was generally a pretty good body-positive time.
Next came uni, and of course with uni comes a lot of different people of all kinds of shapes and sizes. My emetophobia had become a little better after a wonderful summer and I could eat mostly what I wanted now, but I was very wary of how much I ate (in case it made me ill) and I was still in this super damaging spiral of comparison. This way of thinking carried on throughout my first year at uni and meant I constantly felt stressed when I thought about food. I was away from family, home friends and my boyfriend and the only mirrors I had were the ghastly-lighted bathroom one and the cheap wardrobe one and I think these constantly made me feel like I was bigger than I was. I got thinner and thinner as my anxiety became worse and worse and I just felt really confused about what I actually looked like and, to me, how much I was worth because of this.
THE LIZZIE WITH THE REALLY BAD MENTAL HEALTH
As my first-year of uni didn’t go as planned, I was so grateful to my wonderful dad for booking us THE BEST HOLIDAY IDEA- Disney! What I didn’t think about, however, was how my anxiety would be affected. I had already had an awful experience on a theme park ride which was the situation which triggered my emetophobia but I just assumed that you know, it’s DISNEY, how can anybody be sad at Disneyworld? Turns out I could be and this was the breaking point for my mental health. Anyhoooo, I was my thinnest in Disney. Yeah I felt good in my body but I never ever loved it. I still felt larger than I ‘should’ be by this point my comparison habit was cemented in my brain. I looked the ‘healthiest’ on the outside, but I couldn’t feel less put-together inside. To be honest, the rest of that year is a bit of blur but I think for the most part I was still in the negative cycle of not eating because I didn’t want to be ill, having panic attacks because I might be ill and in turn losing, or staying, at (what I call) my bad mental health weight. At this point I was a size 8-10 and the smallest I’ve ever been. I felt a sense of achievement because I had never been this thin, but also I became a shell of myself. I re-tried year one of university that September, but had to officially drop out the following January due to my mental health being so bad. I remember feeling so lost at this point and that things couldn’t get worse and to be honest the only reason I wanted to get dressed was to feel some sort of validation at my new thinness.
THE RECOVERING LIZZIE
Since dropping out of January last year, I’ve been on a little bit of a chronic illness rollercoaster. As soon as I started to deal with the grief that was causing the awful anxiety, my emotional pain presented itself in the form of physical pain, more specially, fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). As I began grief counselling, my chronic illnesses got worse and I ended up being housebound from around March- October last year. As you can probably tell, this wasnt fun at all and it meant I couldn’t do most of my daily activities- dog walking, going into town by myself and basically anything that requires energy was out of the question. I gained a bit of weight, however as I dealt with the grief, I was able to do more and more of my usual activities as the chronic illnesses became better. And now? Well, I’ve been recovering still most of this year, doing what I can to make myself comfortable every day and making sure I get a huge dose of the things that make me happy too. I am a new person, the Lizzie I was before mum got cancer, the Lizzie who smiles a whole lot more than she used to. I don’t think my body is perfect in any way, I still have ‘fat days’ and I do sometimes regret letting myself put on a little weight, but I know I am so much healthier and happier now and to me that’s pretty much all that matters. I’m learning to love my imperfect body just how it is and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in the future.
So, there’s my little story on my body, where it’s taken me so far and how sometimes I might struggle a little more with confidence then perhaps I should do. Loving your body is a working progress, and I’m so grateful to have the body I have, chronic illnesses, anxiety and all.
And for you reading this who may be wondering if it’s okay if your body looks different to how it did a month, a year, five years ago- OF COURSE IT IS! Your body is taking you through such wonderful things in life and I hope that this post reminds you that all you need to do is to focus on what makes you the happiest. You are so so beautiful just as you are.
I hope this didn’t strike a nerve with anyone and I hope that women and men’s changing bodies can be more of a thing seen as the ‘norm’ and is spoken about more in the future.
Be you, do what makes you happy and do your best to love yourself throughout it all.
all my love and hugs,