I remember when I was growing up there was this specific quote I loved:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
I don’t know what it was but I lived by that quote. I would be lying if I said the bullies’ words didn’t hurt me but I used to deal with them so well. I used to be able to laugh them off and stand my own ground. It was when the demons began to emerge when I was older that I would look on the past and that’s when the words hurt me.
They called me fat when I was younger and I really did ignore it. But when I was older and being ‘fat’ prevented me from making the Games, that’s when I looked back on the past and realised just how much they had hurt me. The truth was they had hurt me but I simply put it all to one side, so when the darkness began to grow all these comments which I had stashed away, began to creep out of wherever I had managed to lock them away, I just crumbled under their weight.
20 years of cruel comments were unleashed at once and I felt like the girl who coped with the comments was a disgrace. I couldn’t understand how she could have been so happy over the years whilst being so ugly and fat.
But I just realised why.
Growing up, I never had loads of friends because I was the type of girl who couldn’t put up with the usual fake-ness that infests the all-girls school I attended. I’ve never been cruel to people but I don’t pretend to be best friends, or even friends, if I know we’re not. In fact, I have more respect for some of the people who mutually dislike me, so much more so than the ones I actually know enjoy stabbing me in the back.
I always preferred to have a small number of close friends. People I could rely on, and I truly met these people when I was at sixth form. Before then, my close friends were from swimming…all guys…I genuinely hated the bitchiness at my school and from the girls at swimming and so I genuinely found guys easier to get on with. My guy friends never made comments about my weight. They never cared what I looked like. They liked me as a friend for me, just the way I was. The girls, on the other hand, determined their best friends from who had the latest handbag or designer shoes and yes, not all girls from my school were like that, but the majority were. I had some great friends from my girls school, don’t get me wrong, but I was stabbed in the back a lot by some of those ‘friends’ all too often and lets face it, guys are far less complicated.
(Far less complicated when you’re simply friends with them at least!)
The words the bullies fired at me hurt me less back then because I was surrounded by the right people. I cared what my close friends thought about me, not what the self-proclaimed-popular girls thought. I cared about what me and my friends were chatting about, what music we were listening to (I was a metal head back then), and generally being a hyper nut-case. I didn’t care they thought I was weird or a nerd…I didn’t care that they thought I was fat.
Its funny, because I really was chubby back then and I didn’t think I was fat. It’s funny because even after my post-surgery weight gain I am nowhere near as big as I was back then. It’s funny because I’m so much smaller and yet I feel so much fatter.
As my eating disorder developed, all the cruel comments I’d been subjected to came to light and thundered down on top of me. Combined with people who were supposed to care for me making me feel worthless and disgusting, it was simply all too much. The British Team who was supposed to help me, didn’t. The coach who was supposed to encourage me, constantly criticised me. Friends who were supposed to support me didn’t. I looked back on my past and felt stupid. I felt as if every word those bullies had said was true and I was an idiot for refusing to listen to them.
But I wasn’t an idiot back then. I was happy and that was all that mattered back then.
Back then, I wasn’t worried about being slim enough for a guy to like me. I wasn’t worried about being small enough for people to take note of me. I was happy being me. I could win people over with my somewhat funny jokes and ‘banter’, for want of a better word.
The biggest thing that changed was the way I saw myself. As the eating disorder deepened I began to think worse and worse. Most of all I began to hate my smile. For some reason, I’ve always loved my smile and I began to hate it. I loved that my teeth were a little wonky, for some reason I thought it was nice. But that changed, I began to hate everything that wasn’t perfect. I think I was also scared that my teeth would give away the fact I had an eating disorder. They’ve not changed at all, in all honesty, but my eating disorder thinks they have. I used to love my smile. People actually told me a lot that they love my smile..I used to…sometimes I still do, but sometimes I’m not too sure.
There’s one thing I’m sure about now though.
I spent years with the wrong people as my eating disorder developed and that maybe accelerated its effect. But when I think about it now, everything couldn’t be more different. I’m surrounded by a few close people who try to understand what I’m going through and they do everything they can to help. I’m surrounded by people who care about me more than anyone ever has before, and it sounds crazy but I genuinely struggled to think that people could care about me so much. Even some close friends from sixth form recently turned out to be nothing of the sort. I’ve been hurt so much I’ve never wanted to open up recently, I don’t like to think people could like me…but that’s because I don’t like me. And that’s what needs to change.
I have two of the closest most amazing friends from uni and when I am with them I can’t even begin to explain that carefree feeling. The feeling of my jaw aching from laughing non stop. Listening to every detail about each other’s life that just makes me smile so much. We rant and we rave, but we laugh all the time. They make me so happy and seeing them every day makes me happier. They matter to me and I matter to them. I care what they think of me, and they like me for me. They like me just the way I am.
I convinced myself no guy would ever truly like me, but I think I was wrong. I’m ever so slowly, but nonetheless!, realising someone does like me and he likes me so much more than I thought possible. I struggle sometimes when he compliments me because I don’t believe it. Even though I know he means every word I can’t help but shrug off the compliments. I think I’m so imperfect right now that no one in their right mind could like me…but I’m wrong…because he does. He matters so much to me right now and the fact I know I matter to him makes me realise something.
I am surrounded by people who really do care. They’re a mixture of uni friends, school friends, family and new found people. But whats more important, is that I care about them. I care about the best friend who cycled with me when I was panicking about losing weight, who made sure I was eating lunch and dinner on days I was trying to refuse to do so. I care about the family member who asks me every day to list exactly what I’ve eaten…its annoying but she does it because it makes me accept when I’ve not eaten enough or slipped up. I care about the best friend who sent me information to help with my relapse. I care about the friends who check up on me daily. I care about the extended family who let me use their home as a refuge when the demons get too much. I care about my boyfriend and bit by bit every day, I’m realising just how much he cares about me.
These people matter, and therefore I only want to know what they think.
And these people care. And they don’t care about my weight. They love me just the way I am and so I should love me just the same. I wouldn’t change their weight so why should I think that mine is a major issue? Its absurd now I think about it like that. If they came to me with problems I could think of 101 things that I love about them…maybe I need to start thinking of things I love about myself.
Let’s start today then.
The first thing I love about myself…is my smile. I love my dimples, and I love the fact my teeth are a little bit wonky. I love the way all those people listed above make me smile. They make it shine more than anyone else, and I love them for doing that.
First day of happiness; the first day I finally told myself that there was something about me worth loving.