It’s easy to underestimate the importance of your support network. In sport my support network consists of my swim coach, gym coach, physio, lifestyle advisor, psychologist, nutritionist, and without a doubt my friends and family. I know that I have a team in sport, but I never really felt I had a team in my life outside of it.
Admitting you need help is always hard. It makes you feel weak but in fact it shows just how strong you are. There is no shame in asking for a helping hand when you’re struggling to stand alone and when you need that little bit of support its easy to forget just how far that helping hand goes.
I have never been more grateful to have met two of the most amazing girls. Even typing that sentence makes me smile because I have never had a dull moment with them. They’re the sunshine gleaming through the stormy clouds inside my head.
I told them about my eating disorder in October but I never told them when I needed help battling it. As usual I tried to tackle the thunder storm alone and without an umbrella, but I slowly realised I was never going to make it to the end of my journey dry without them.
As I told them more about it, about the feelings inside, they began to understand more and were in a better position to help me cope. Admittedly, it was hard for them to understand because they could not see what I saw in the mirror just as I could not see what they saw when they looked at me. But the fact they tried to understand helped. The fact they accepted the way I saw myself and knew they couldn’t necessarily change it with their words helped.
All I needed was for them to be there. To just hold my hand and give me a hug when I needed it the most. To help me make nutritious choices, to be on the end of a phone at midnight, to never judge my mistakes when I fell backwards. To hold me together when I was breaking. They didn’t need to say anything. They just needed to be there.
And they were. And the best thing was that they never treated me differently. I remember reading an analogy about Eeyore which basically said that although his friends know he’s depressed they never stop inviting him places, or stop hanging out with him. They never expect him to pretend to be happy when he’s not because they accept him just the way he is. And they are there with him every step of the way.
That’s how I feel with those two beautiful ladies. There are days I struggle and they are there. The other day I walked out of a shop because I felt so fat and ugly. Trying on clothes had stressed me out and I couldn’t bear to see my reflection anywhere. I told them to carry on and that I’d wait outside. But you know what they did? They walked out that shop and they found me and they held me so tight. And I cried. I let out the pain of feeling fat and ugly and they held me together. They made me feel strong because I was not alone.
I was We.
We were together and we were going to get through this. We were going to make this journey together. The other day was the first time I truly felt that we were on this journey together. I wasn’t alone. I was we.
There was never just me in all honesty. I just never knew it. There were always jokes about ‘we’ have a date, or ‘we’ met someone last night. But when they walked out that shop because they knew I was hurting, I felt so complete when they hugged me. And I let out that pain through my tears. And they held me. They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t even speak. They just held me. Holding all my broken pieces together as tightly as they could.
And that was all I needed in that very moment.
They were all I needed.
Not a day goes by in Manchester where there isn’t the slightest chance of rain. But at least I’ve got my umbrella.