19 years old, but boy I have been through it. Some experiences better than others, but all have, as corny as it sounds, made me into the woman I am today. I know it won’t make good reading if I put this all in one looong text, so I’ll adapt a more readable format.
Did you ever do those ‘ice breakers’ at school when you were younger where the teacher told you to ‘tell the class 5 facts about yourself?’
Well I’m not going to do that, lol, but here’s the ‘top’ three.
- I survived an eating disorder – When I was 14, I, like many other girls my age struggled with body image and body confidence. I was convinced I was fat. That I was gross, ugly and not worth anyone’s time because I didn’t look like the tumblr girls I would scroll through endlessly at night. I admired the girls that I now know must have been severely ill, thought that they were strong for only drinking water for weeks on end. Before I knew it I caught on to the lingo and joined the other girls in this online black hole that convinced me that food was the enemy. I started restricting but realised this didn’t work for me as I didn’t know how to deal with the hunger pains, so I would eat as normal, then discreetly go to the bathroom and force myself to throw up. This carried on for almost two years; I was stuck in a cycle of hating food and hating myself, convincing myself I could feel the calories leave my body, tracking my weight every day and feeling elated when I started losing weight. I started self harming around this time too – to this day I still remember my first cut – it was tentative, experimental, but like any addiction it grew, and coupled with my deteriorating self esteem because of my bulimia, oh it
- I am a rape survivor – Without going into too much detail, during my first term of university I had a really, really bad break up with my ex boyfriend. In hindsight I should have seen the signs, but essentially the last straw was that someone had kissed me on a night out, I told him and he broke up with me over the phone. We had been together for 18 months so I really didn’t know how to handle it at all, while having to deal with starting a Law degree and adapting to a new environment. Both of us could have dealt with it better, but we didn’t, and my mental health completely derailed. My self esteem was shattered, and I pretended that I was fine when the reality was far from the truth. On this particular sports night, I had attracted the attention of a 21-year-old man who I recognized from my course; he was in my seminar group. It was evident that he was very drunk, and he had started getting lairy with other guys so to avoid a fight happening I called an Uber and took him back to his accommodation so he could sleep it off. It happened in his room. There are honestly not enough words that can describe how empty, ashamed and defeated I felt afterwards, and as I was leaving his block, he sneered after me “go cry yourself to sleep about it.” I remember walking back to my accommodation and a group of boys on their way home shouted at me ‘look at her she’s doing the walk of shame.’ It felt like I couldn’t win – I don’t even remember crying. I simply got home, showered, got into bed and pretended it was a bad dream. Then reality hit me when I saw him at my next seminar. I emailed my tutor about wanting to change groups but when she asked me why I couldn’t find the words to say I was raped. So I stuttered in her office for ten minutes as she kindly explained to me that there was nothing she could do unless I spoke up. I didn’t, and spent the rest of the year sat across my rapist both in my lectures and in my seminars. The worst bit? He was so drunk that night he doesn’t remember.
- I am a scoliosis survivor – When I was 13 my mum was convinced there was something not quite right with my back; it seemed as if one of my legs was longer than the other, and my waist curved on one side and on the other it was straight. So we went to the doctors and the first doctor I saw told me that I was fine! My mum didn’t take this as a good enough answer so she demanded a second opinion, which resulted in the second doctor sending me off to get an x-ray because it ‘looked like’ a curve in my back. I’ll never forget the day in that radiography room where the image loaded on the screen and my mum, who had asked to be present, exclaimed ‘Jesus’ as the picture appeared. I had a 70 degree curve in my spine. My options at the time were surgery or not seeing my twenties, and in no time little old me was being wheeled off to have not one but two spinal surgeries to correct it – a spinal fusion and titanium rods to set my spine. I hadn’t set foot in a hospital since I was a young child, so to now be told that I could be paralysed should my surgeon have a bad day at the office was… After the second operation all I wanted to do was go home – my body didn’t feel like mine, I had to learn how to walk again, how to sit in a chair, I remember sobbing with agony whenever I needed to be rolled over to change my bedpan or to be showered. I resented my body – I was a budding gymnast, I thought I was invincible, yet here I was in a back brace for 23 hours a day for 6 months, bed bound and gaining weight from being so inactive. I picked away at my scars in bed struggling to come to terms with the fact that I’d never be able to do certain things ever again, and it took me years to let it go.
Okay; I’m done – well done for getting this far – obviously this is a bitesize version of (rather depressing) events, but let me tell you what I have learned: and boy have I learned.
- Food is good: Even though my relationship with food is still a bit tender, I haven’t touched that Tumblr account since I deleted the app for the last time when I was 16. From wrestling with bulimia to having a food blog of all things, you could say I’ve come a long way.
- Boys are not worth crying over. This break up experience was…eye-opening. I have had to build my self confidence from scratch, which was painful, but has made me love myself in the fullest and deepest way. Would I rather have had this transformation sans crippling heartbreak? HELL YEAH. But what has happened has happened, and I’ll be damned if I let anyone in this big bad world make me doubt myself again. As for him, he has shown me, probably in the most brutal way, that Goes. On. And it just keeps on going on. And sometimes it f*cking sucks. Oh and boys suck. But c’est la vie, am I right? (Big up B*Witched)
On a serious note – rape is never your fault. It took me months to come to terms with this, but I have – and now ‘rape victim’ is a phrase I will never use to describe myself. Ever.
- Mind over matter. I mean, yeah okay I still get horrific back pain, but honestly? The only person that can stop you living your best life is you. I’m now a cheerleader, and I’m going to be coaching my own squad this year, and I’ve been introduced to the big bad world of powerlifting, which gives me such a rush knowing that I am Also, during these experiences I’ve found my faith and subsequently lost my faith, but that first term at uni especially was when I realised there was no way I could go on on my own. So I joined a church, and those Sunday evening sermons have given me nothing but knowledge and clarity and peace in the fact that there is Someone watching over me, and if anything, my life is a testimony to that.
There’s a bit of a theme running through this, in case you didn’t notice. The theme is I am a survivor. I have been dealt bad hands, but as a famous fish once said, you’ve got to ‘just keep swimming,’ and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
Thank you for listening.