Friday, 27 March 2015

Low self-esteem? NO self-esteem!

Why hello again, Timehop...

You seem to be causing a lot of drama and mixed feelings whenever you notify me each day that I have potential #tbt posts, awkwardly filtered Instagram pics or fascinating five year-old Facebook statuses awaiting me if I just swipe my thumb and open you up...

On the one hand, as I've said before, Timehop is mostly entertaining and can sometimes bring back good memories or give me 'oh my gosh, that was a year ago TODAY?! Freaky!' moments (I've once met up with my dad for a drink at Waterloo station only to check my Timehop while he orders at the bar and seen that exactly one year ago – almost to the minute – we were doing this exact same thing, in this exact same place. We had just switched seats...) HOWEVER, on the other hand (my right one, which is definitely the wild card of the two) it can bring back a little unwelcome pain with old photos of myself and ex-friends half-pissed with pizza or events I attended and hadn't enjoyed, but that comes with the territory. You must bear this in mind as you download the app; the past can hurt (but you can either run from it, or learn from it! Thanks, Rafiki). Lately, though, the thing that's been hurting me is... Me. Past me. Early 2014 me. When I had a heart-shaped face and perfect ombre hair... And I was almost two stone lighter. My collar bones jutted out perfectly, my stomach and waist were happily coexisting in a sleek slim state, my legs didn't have a gap between them by any means but they were more discreetly shaped... If that makes sense? I wasn't happy with my slightly chubby upper arms, but I made my peace with that. I hated my obnoxious big boobs and the attention they seemed to crave – hence they always peeked out of my shirt or burst buttons on a blouse – but most girls weirdly seemed to wish they had that problem themselves, so I never complained. The only body hang-ups I harboured seem so menial and petty and petite now. I see selfies or group shots on Timehop now and wonder what the hell I was so self-conscious and hateful about.
I didn't have a double chin – and nowadays I feel it creeping in when I move my head or angle my gaze a certain way. My face is a solid chunky slab that absorbs all the light from a camera flash and glares back at me when I check my camera roll later on. I didn't stress out when it came to removing a layer of clothing (i.e. a jacket or a cardigan) because my wide sides and upper arm chubs would be exposed. I never put my hands on my hips in a sassy pose and was amazed at how far apart my hips were.
I miss the 10 me. Size 10, under 10 stone, with (arguably, comparably) perfect 10 assets. She was gorgeous and didn't know it.



(Then)

I've aired out these worries numerous times with friends and family members, and for a long time nobody seemed to get it. For the most part, the response was to be grateful that I was in possession of a healthy body, full stop. 'You're still in recovery', 'everyone feels like this', 'the steroids are still wearing off', 'you see yourself this way'... Then sometimes it would be a matter of my living situation: 'everyone puts on weight when they come home from uni!', 'You're not cooking for yourself any more, and food at home is plentiful!'
I do feel like these are tired excuses now, though. The only one that actually carries some weight (ZING!) is the fact that I work in a cafe with access to pastries, luxury hot chocolate powder (perfect in a mocha) and cheesy paninis all day every day. 50-hour weeks do all kinds of damage to my poor tummy.
However, the other day I mentioned it again. A photo had cropped up on Timehop of 'early 2014 10 Me', and she was sat happily in a restaurant with a massive thin-crust pizza covered in veggies and leaves, every colour imaginable, resting obligingly on the table before her. Her heart-shaped face glowed with pre-pizza excitement and also general clear-skin pride; her collar bones were prominent as could be, her shoulders seemed somehow broader, and her arms were out for all to see under a daisy print vest top. I envied her instantly. I actually asked myself: why don't I look like that any more? Why on earth not?
This sent me into a rapid shame spiral, so I sat and stewed and cried over it for the millionth time.
Then a thought came to me – I'd thought it before, I'm sure, but it had been forgotten and buried under a pile of burned up self-esteem... Metaphors, man...
I was thinner, I was lighter, I was arguably prettier. But I was, most of the time anyway, stressed and stretched-out and miserable. And ill.
Back in early 2014, 10 Me was not happy. There had been a fair share of hideous fallout and general drama (most of it starting in actual Drama lectures, then following me home) in the run up to Christmas. In the early months of 2014 I was actively avoiding people (which is stressful as hell and actually probably contributed a fair bit to my major weight loss); I would spend as much time on campus or in town as possible, anything so I wouldn't have to go home and face all the unpleasantness that awaited me there – I would run errands for friends in town if they were busy and needed a hand (even if they didn't, I was eager to help!), I would run up and down the staircases in the library all day before coming across an empty desk and then sitting there until 2am writing an essay that wasn't due for maybe months, I would visit my friends' houses as much as possible, even if they were super impractical to get to and I was only popping in to borrow something...
I set up camp at my boyfriend's (and best friends') pad which was situated 2 miles and a 40 minute walk from the place where I reluctantly paid rent. I never even considered the fact that it was quite a way to walk just for a few hours (which would then become a full night and morning) of peace, happiness and genuine comfort among friends. I would even ask my friend who lived there/bribe her with sweets to whizz me back to my house from time to time in her car so I could dash inside, grab more of my essential belongings or change my clothes before jumping back into the car and heading back to the happy flat for a few more days.
Another factor, obviously, would be my feelings of anxiety and upset. Anxiety over failing friendships, health concerns, looming deadlines and future plans; upset over hurtful individuals and hateful groups ruining the final days of my uni experience.
The tumour probably didn't help, either. In fact, looking back at most photos from around this time last year, you can see in my face and my posture that I was seriously unwell even if I had no explanation for it yet. I think that was just a contributing factor, though. Not everything that's gone wrong in the last year has been down to that one stupid thing.

So, it's taken me a whi-iiii-le to get here, but here I am. I'm uttering some truly cheesy but totally necessary words after fighting with myself and my self esteem demons.
I'd rather be chubby and very aware of it; chubby and trying to do something about it; chubby and alive; chubby and happy. I'd rather be chubby and happy than skinny and hateful; skinny and stressed; skinny and scared of the future or lack thereof; skinny and miserable.
Reaching this moment of realisation, uttering these words aloud, looking down at my heaving tummy and knowing I could be much worse off... That calls for some cake. 

(Now)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Me again.

This always happens. I go a long time without writing a blog post and before I know it, I'm too panicked by the length of stupid self-inflicted sabbatical and too insecure in my own writing and my own ideas to actually sit back down with my laptop and attempt to conquer the hideous mental blocks I've put firmly in place for myself.

I forget writing is therapeutic. I forget it's my blog; I can write whatever I want and I'm in control. I even forget sometimes that writing is what I do, what I want to do and what I should do. I'll try and find solace in my smartphone; in social media, in other people's lives and their pretty pictures of this tree and that outfit, in gaming apps where I humiliate myself trying to use a triple word score and a double letter space with my pitiful line-up of tiles, even in spending money when I really shouldn't be on things I don't and won't need. I grow immensely frustrated and just downright sad because I can't find anything to inspire me, I can't find any outlet for my feelings, and I can't figure out where I fit in anywhere.
Then I remember that I've always had and will always have my blog. Having my own URL, my own space on the world wide web, has worked wonders for me for around five years. I've blogged when I've been heartbroken, hopeful, happy; dizzy, disinterested, disheartened; confused, complaining and carefree. It's always helped, and not just because a guy I fancied would happen upon a post written at 3am in a drunken haze of longing about my love for his perfect ratio of face to beard and then proceed to contact me - or because a girl I particularly disliked realised my spiteful totally-unsubtle poetry was aimed almost exclusively at her - no, it helped because it was somewhere to go and somewhere to let it all out, to find some supportive creative voices all around, and to be myself. 

I had no problem writing post after post about my 'boy troubles' back when that meant a guy in my Drama class was deliciously unattainable, a gay friend had no idea he was gay yet (he got there eventually), or a guy I'd locked eyes with in the canteen hadn't held my gaze as long as I'd have liked him to. I'm always tempted to delete these posts; erase all evidence of the scribbles I am now so ashamed of it sometimes keeps me up at night, scrolling through them. Even now, writing this, I worry people will get curious and go back to 2010 when I didn't know what love was and thought a helix piercing, a Hollister shirt and a shabby market stall scarf made me look alternative - or revisit 2012 me who could not handle her drink and desperately needed validation from anyone and everyone no matter what the cost...please don't. 2014 me was alright, pretty badass actually, check her out. Or even 2013, she's making me giggle when she appears on Timehop these days. 
And yet...I'm facing more serious problems and personal struggles lately, and I feel I mustn't, simply cannot, write about them. I'm sadder than I've ever been, but also happier. I'm stuck in an open-ended temporary situation that I fear will never change, and I'm fighting with a mindset that doesn't seem to want to let me push forward and change my story. My little job, my means to an end, is becoming my life and I never wanted that to happen. My friends are mostly my colleagues - which is actually fairly rad, as my colleagues are perfectly hilarious and fun, but also means to some extent I'm counting on them and the team we make up, so when one of them leaves I really truly feel...left. My single bed isn't so bad, but I sometimes feel so embarrassed about my living situation, which then makes me feel guilty because I'm lucky enough to have a family who take me in and feed me up (related: I am now much heavier than I was when I lived alone) and don't charge me for their loving services, because they know I am a temporary resident finding her feet and then hopefully a path to walk them down. 

I'm not asking for sympathy; I'm not asking for attention of any kind. Any support is welcome and all that, but really I'm just looking for a place to get these feelings and pains out and free. Writing is my therapy. It distracts me from my dreaded Sads; it lifts me up and reminds me that I do, in fact, have a purpose and at least one skill besides making a delicious extra-dry mocha. I really need that, these days. 
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