Disclaimer: I’ve never written or really spoken about Mental Health on my blog before so I wanted to apologise in advance if I get some information wrong about the subject or include triggers without warning. Any advice for improvement for future posts would be kindly appreciated.
To begin, I’d like to just give Mental Health Awareness Week a little shoutout. It’s hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and takes place between the 13th – 19th of May this year – which is this week!
Every year they host a different theme that goes hand-in-hand with mental health and this year they’ve decided on Body Image, an issue that I, and so many others, are struggling with. This theme is all about how we think about our bodies and also the way we feel about them, which could be either good or bad.
For me, I’ve never really known what mental health was growing up. It’s only when I look back at my time in university that I realised that I had, and have, a relationship with it. For some reason, I’d never known what anxiety was, what it felt like or how to deal with it. At the time, it was just an overwhelming feeling that put rather negative thoughts into my head which eventually stopped me from doing things, and as a a first year student this was a major step back.
I really believe that my lack of knowledge was down to the fact that no-one had ever really spoken to me about what mental health was and how to look after your own. Never in school, not really at home or with friends was it spoken about which is why I’m contributing to this year’s Mental Health Week, in the hope that my experience might resonate with someone who isn’t exactly sure what it is that they’re going through either.
During my time at university, I genuinely put all of my mental health issues down to excuses like overthinking, stress, being tired and run down, instead of acknowledging the fact that I had a mental illness.
From anxiety, it rapidly turned into this feeling of not being good enough and, in my head, I automatically based this on the way I looked. I kind of knew that something wasn’t right but at the time I felt like dealing with it was a sign of weakness, so instead I just decided to “do something about it”, “loose weight” and to bury the rest of the bad thoughts deep down. I’m putting these words in brackets because the way I did all of it was very unhealthy and I would definitely not recommend this at all.
My day consisted of having a small bowl of muesli in the morning before heading into uni. I’d then go out with 1 x 1.5 litre bottle of water and fill it up about 3-4 more times throughout my day to stop me from feeling hungry and then have a snack or a small plate of food in the night when I got back to my flat. The only variation to this was if I bought some kind of breakfast or cereal bars to have during a break in my lectures.
It upsets me knowing that I found it really easy to stick to seeing as I was living on my own and had nobody around me to tell me that what I was doing was wrong, even though deep down I knew that it was anyway. I dropped a full dress size and thought that my life was amazing because of it, when actually I was literally starving myself to look what I thought was “prettier” and “healthier”.
The worst part about it was that I was never completely satisfied by the way my body looked. Of course I was temporarily happy by dropping a dress size but that only lasted until the next morning. I was constantly comparing myself to other girls in my lectures, in neighbouring flats and girls I was seeing when I was out and constantly put myself down for it. Posting online gave my less insecurity too. This is were I thought I was validated as a person. The number of likes = the better I look, and I vividly remember seeing the number of likes grow and thinking that that secured my reasoning for what I was doing to myself.
This all lasted through my first year of university and it was probably the lowest I’ve been with my mental health and self esteem. But, I was lucky enough to meet my boyfriend that summer and I genuinely think if I hadn’t then I would’ve carried on until I was “satisfied” with my body.
My boyfriend gave me a massive confidence boost in myself. We’re both food lovers (you’d never have guessed it from what I’ve just been saying) and we bonded over that from our foody dates. After almost a year together, I trusted him with all of what I was going through which made it a lot easier for me to turn to someone if I was ever feeling low.
Gaining him as support, opening up to family and also by starting up my blog and finding even more inspirational people though it, has really helped me with both how I’m starting to view my body and also dealing with my anxiety. I still have down days where I scroll through my Instagram comparing myself to others, but then the good days of feeling confident and good enough for this world definitely outshine them all.
I’m not going to finish this post with tips on how to conquer body image because I’m not sure there are any that I could give. All that I will say though is that loving yourself completely takes time, and a lot of patience and acceptance and what helped for me was the realisation that everyone has gone or goes through the exact same feelings at some point in their own lives.
Everybody has insecurities but it’s about emracing them and coming to terms with them, instead of constantly focusing on them. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but when it comes to your body, there is no escape pod taking you to someone else’s, there is no alternative. It’s just yours to live your life in and for you to love unconditionally.
I am still on my own journey to achieving that mindset but I have definitely grown a lot since 3 years ago and I’m sure in 3 years time I will be saying the same.
This post was extremely hard to write. I haven’t spoken to many people about what was truly going on during that time in my life, even those I was living with at that time so it’s quite scary publishing it so openly. But, if anything, writing about my experience has been therapeutic and has made me realise that that time in my life will always be a part of me and that it all happened for a reason. I will never regret it.
But for now, I will try my best to learn to love every atom that makes me who I am, and with time, I hope that I will be content with the way that I was created.
Until next time,