“Something has changed within me, something is not the same, I’m sick of playing by the rules of someone else’s game…”
If you’d said to me a few years ago that I would spend a hot, Summer evening sitting naked with two strangers in one of their living rooms, being recorded for a podcast talking about my body image, having been abused physically and emotionally and various other things for a podcast that anyone anywhere in the world could listen to, I probably would have said that that is bollocks. But a couple of weeks ago I did just that, I headed to Jenny’s flat to record for The Naked Podcast, having put myself forward to do it.
Just after recording my episode of ‘The Naked Podcast’ for the BBC with Jenny and Kat. And yes, all totally nude. Photo from The Naked Podcast.
For most of my life I’ve had a difficult relationship with my body image. For a long time I thought I was fat and how could anyone like or love that, but in the last 6 months I’ve actually found a peace within myself and a comfortableness with myself that I could not have imagined before. The beginning kernel of this change in attitude started in February when I sent out a request to some of the women I know from school. I messaged them saying that I’ve been thinking of writing something about body image, this is how I thought of myself back then, what are your memories of me and how did you feel about yourself when you were a teenager?
I last posted in September with big plans for streamlining the blog, actually writing something for a change but then I got confused and distracted. Writing just didn’t seem to be high on my list of priorities, but some things have happened and I’ve got a new love and enthusiasm for it.
So firstly, I got two part time jobs, one in Meadowhall and the other at Sheffield University Student’s Union. They couldn’t be more different, but I’m working with lovely people at both, I have a relatively steady, but meagre, income and I’m feeling happy again. I’ve also been making some of the felt pictures, more on that in a later post, and trying to build myself a social life again after becoming a relative hermit from habit and poverty. As part of my self care, building my social life and getting out doing fun things more…
…let me introduce you to The Sparkle Dress:
The Sparkle Dress was something I saw online one day in September but couldn’t think of obtaining. I got a job and The Sparkle dress became something I gazed at as I walked past Simply Be on my way to work. The Sparkle Dress called to me because it had all the colours of my hair. The Sparkle Dress was something I couldn’t afford because I had to pay for other, less frivolous things, like rent and food and travel to work and Netflix.
I bought it on sale, no refunds because it was a bit broken (something I could easily stitch up. It made me so happy to get it and wear it to Christmas. At Christmas I got a ticket for Greg Davies’ show ‘You Magnificent Beast’ as a present – thanks Liz and Richard. I decided that the Sparkle Dress should not just be worn once, but should be worn out and where better to dress as a giant glitter ball from G.A.Y. than a show called ‘You Magnificent Beast’?
About a year ago I was in a very bad place. I hated my job; I felt like a complete failure because I hated my job. I felt like I was imposing on my friends by staying with them. I felt like I had no good options ahead of me. I was sinking into one of the worst bouts of depression that I have ever experienced.
A year later I have part time work, I’m off medication, the doctor doesn’t want to see me regularly any more. I’ve made friends and I’ve settled into the city. I feel calm and almost contented, which is something I’ve not felt for a very, very long time. I don’t feel guilty about as many different things as I once did. I speak to myself more kindly in my own head. I can recognise my worth again.
There are little things that help me recognise my improving mental health. When I am at the worst of my depression, I cannot laugh, I cannot sing, I cannot dance around the kitchen like a loon.
I am stupidly busy, but going out and working, even odd shifts and hours, feels much better than sitting with a Netflix binge (although that’s still a big draw now and then). Spending time with people, talking about everything and nothing helps me as a person. I don’t have to feel guilty about having a bit of a social life, despite being poor.
And now I feel like I’m on the verge of something new and different. Something that could be quite special, but even if nothing really comes of it, it will still have been a positive boost. Usually, this is when I would feel nervous and awkward, but instead there is this calm radiating inside me, a hitherto unknown confidence and sense that actually, everything is probably going to work out alright. I’m actually quite excited by the unknown for once!
I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…
There are days,
There are days when your life clouds over
and the world gets so dark
that all at once you can’t tell night from day.
There are times
when your heart cries ‘this isn’t happening’
but the truth is cold and real
and I know this storm won’t go away
‘It’s her or me’ from Miss Saigon, by Boublil and Schonberg
I’ve been quiet on here for the last few months. I know some people have dropped by to see if anything has been written and I have tried to, but it’s been a difficult end to the year.
Not many people know, but I’ve been off sick from work for 2 and a bit months. Mental health issues are still quite taboo in our society and I don’t really understand why. It’s something that can affect anybody and yet still it’s not something we feel confident talking about. I have depression, which I think is something that I’ve been battling with for a decade and it’s dreadful. This bout has definitely been the worse of the lot. A stressful job, moving to a new area, not having much if a social life, various things that have happened in the past, lack of money all building together until I essentially cracked. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t go outside without having a panic attack and I couldn’t go to work. It’s such a difficult thing to describe. I get frustrated with myself because I can’t physically do things that I want or need to do. I can’t get out of bed. I can’t speak to people. I don’t have any outward physical manifestation of this, there is just this mental block, a cloud, a haze that won’t let me through. Then I spend time arguing with myself in my head – you know what you need to do, just get up, just get up, just move yourself, just stop wallowing in self pity and get up and do something. But it’s no good. There is some chemical imbalance at the moment. There is something just stopping me whether I want to or not. Ruby Wax says it better than me, so here she is:
I’ve had to leave the cafe I was in. I’d been there for about 45 minutes, nursing my cool drink and reading ‘The Shock of the Fall‘ by Nathan Filer on my kindle. I had to leave because as I got about 90% of the way through I was balling my eyes out and people were starting to look at me strangely.
Since coming back from Zanzibar I have been feeling, on the most part, so much better. I sank into a quite deep depressive episode since Dad’s death, Christmas and returning to work in January. So much so that when I looked over the planning for the last half term, although I vaguely remember teaching what was written in those sheets, I don’t fully remember reading them.
It’s so easy to fall into a cycle of getting up, going to work, going home, eating, watching a bit of TV and heading to bed again ready to do it all over again the next day. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months. I’ve been living in this amazing place and I’ve been neglecting to take it in. I’ve been teaching some lovely small humans who will, for better or worse, remember me for years to come. And I’m afraid that perhaps I’ve not been doing a very good job for them, but I am now determined to do better for them. My flatmate has moved out to a village near Mwanza, so now, for the first time in my adult life I will be living on my own – although not fully as I always leave my door open and anyone can wander up if they wish – and so this is a time when I could possibly slide back down again and become a total hermit.
There have been a few things that have begun to help me pull myself out of this slump. One was finding the blogs from my myspace and seeing how excited I was to be starting my masters. That was halted because I didn’t get the job I wanted and I’ve been holding onto that disappointment for far too long now, it’s almost been 7 years. It’s time to let it go.