I know what you’re thinking; what does that fitty from GoT have to do with accepting your body, but that exquisite example of prime time jailbait is the namesake for my pelvic floor tear which for years I avoided touching, let alone braving the mirror #thelaceswereintheywerein (honestly it looked like a blind man had used my nans old knitting needles to stitch it back together).
I suppose it’s a little odd to look at one of your physically worst features in the fondest light, but then I’ve never really approached my body with any tenderness until the last few years. My teenage years were spent hiding the scars on my arms and thighs – it helped that I was an uber geek and styled myself on Brian Harvey of East 17 fame (think lumberjack shirts and baggy jeans #treschic no?!).
I fell into the media trap of striving to attain the ridiculous standards set by the beauty industry and the #lollilpopsquad – I’d eat too little or binge (think multipacks of Monster Munch which I literally kept under the bed so I could reach down and feast upon as soon as I woke!) I was particularly partial to a packet of jammy dodgers – I still can’t walk past them in the food aisle without feeling drawn to them, those smoldering biscuit ripples encasing that oh so satisfyingly centre #foodporn! I swear one of them whispered to me the other day in Tesco “don’t bite your bottom lip, you know what that does to me”. Actually, in the name of honesty, I addressed them, it became particularly apparent I had spoken aloud when I tore my lustful eyes away from them only to be met by a slightly bemused middle aged woman with a somewhat dubious tan searching for the Rich Tea (slightly depressing choice but each to their own).
Meeting my husband definitely helped to turn the tide a little in respect of my usual scathing self-loathing, but even with his kind words and touch, the gremlins were always lurking.
I have two beautiful children, and suffered two miscarriages along the way to attaining them, so I know how incredibly lucky I am. But in stark contrast to how amazing the care was when I had my second child, I didn’t feel particularly lucky following the birth of my eldest daughter. I was unfortunate enough to suffer the NHS equivalent of Sweeney Todd literally rip my child from me, whilst my father battled for his life in intensive care.
I lost my father three days later and began a soul crushing 18 months of appointments and examinations as it quickly became apparent that the midwife’s words of “you might never be the same again after this” became eerily prophetic.
My mental health declined. All the plans for my maternity leave disappeared, wasted paper balls in the basket, as I became a virtual recluse. I overate, feeding not only myself but the gremlins in my mind. Little by little my self-worth faded away until I smashed a glass onto the side of my wrist.
Some people say words have no meaning but the ones that fell from my lips as I unburdened myself of 20 years worth of self harm, depression and crippling anxiety carried a weight that many times had turned my limbs to lead.
Counselling was a massive turning point in my life. For the first time I had a sounding board, someone totally objective who I could confess and unravel my soul too without fear of reprisal. It gave me the tools and confidence to face who I am and what flowed from that was a perspective that previously eluded me. It started with simple steps, a mantra really, to be kind to myself, even when the mania pushed at me, goading me to harm, I would whisper the words and in doing so began building the armour against the urge, my old friend.
Gradually as I got a handle on the urge, I delved deeper, I was tired of running from myself, even Forest Gump stopped eventually.
Recovery for me is an ongoing journey, there’s been no jazz hands, no razzle dazzle, no ticker tape parade; just a gradual revealing and acceptance; that was the final piece of the puzzle for me, acceptance, for what I can’t tell you, it’s as though I’ve been waiting to be absolved of a crime unknown.
Every day I work on being my best friend rather than my own worst enemy, and what followed from that was how I regarded my physical self. I didn’t want to be a lollipop head, I didn’t want to punish my body anymore. It was mine, it had housed two children, and two little souls that were hushed into eternal lullabies. I wanted to learn to love it for what it was and what it had given me.
The body is just a shell, an external decoration for the soul. Mine might not be the industry standard, but it’s the only one I have, and whilst it accompanies me on this one way journey, I’m going to take the time to love it and in doing so have felt a strange compassion growing to all the oddities which take residence upon it, that includes the constellation of freckles, old self harm scars, the fake squidgy mole on my stomach that grosses me out almost as much as when my nan used to lick the milky coffee skin off her top lip #minisick! But above all of these is greyworm; who represents my journey into motherhood and eventually recovery.
Take the time, be kind to yourself, little steps every day, but most of all, love every inch.