A Beautiful Paradox

seeingdouble

 

She was broken but never hopeless. Alone but never lonely. Her eyes reflected pain but projected courage. She was a beautiful paradox

I really like that quote and feel like I can massively relate to it. It always feels weird to have people say things to me like, ‘I love how confident you are, you don’t take crap from anyone!’ when deep down, I know I’m filled with self-doubt.

The look on people’s faces when they realise what I’ve gone through and what I’m currently going through can really say it all for me. They genuinely have no idea the happy, chatty girl with the infectious smile can be so broken inside. The problem is, I’m not pretending to be that happy person, I know that person is me. It’s just that beneath it all there is the girl struggling to glue herself back together.

All it takes is one nightmare from that night…one glance from a girl skinnier than me…one more family argument, to tear down that smile and the tears come running. I really am a confident person, definitely personality confident and definitely NOT body confident but I really am getting there with being comfortable with the way I look.

I met the other trainees this week and they were so skinny. They really were, no lumps and bumps, no chest like mine and I felt so huge. They were like sticks and there I am…most definitely not a stick. I felt so self-conscious…I’ve not felt like that since i was half-naked in a swimming costume. They were all talking about how great their lives were and are, their family background and their wonderful boyfriends. DOn’t get me wrong, every single girl would have been through similar shit like me and to be honest, they were lovely and I don’t think I met a single person I disliked. No one commented on my looks or weight, or made any hint or suggestion.

No one except me. I was so down that day and I relapsed when I got home.

The next day my latest gym delivery arrived, protein etc. and a new (complimentary) gym top. Its silly but new gym kit? That is most certainly the way to motivate you to go! I felt so good, I went and worked out for an hour, did my weights and finished with a run and I looked in the mirror and felt…proud. Staring back at me was the girl who (yes, I relapsed) but woke up today determined to continue on my journey of becoming the best possible version of myself.

And I was not skinny.

But I looked strong.

#StrongNotSkinny seems to be trending lately I suppose

And it felt good.

I want to be so skinny at times but I’m also happy to be strong.

I feel so inadequate as if I don’t deserve anything or anyone but I also believe I deserve special because I do believe I am special.

I want to be loved but I know I still don’t quite love myself so…as my favourite drag queen quotes… If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love someone else!

Haha here I am quoting Ru Paul (she is the best though).

I really am happier. I’m getting less focused on skinny and more focused on strong. My housemates seem to love me for me…I’m sure my new friends will love me for me and I’m sure that one day someone else will love me for me.

I really am a paradox. I feel simultaneously not good enough and too much. I suppose I need to keep journeying for the happy medium where the outside smiles and confidence truly reflects the inside smiles and confidence.

I’m not broken anymore, because I’ve already started to put myself back together. I am simply currently undergoing my re-construction.

The best of me is yet to come.

A Little Birdie Told Me…

On my first race day at the UCI para cycling road World Cup, I woke up to a little birdie tweeting. It told me I was disgusting. It said I was a cheat. It said I was going to fail. It told me I was a crap swimmer, a crap cyclist, and a joke to disability sport.

It tweeted at my club sponsors, my university, British cycling, and UCI.

It was only tweeting about me.

I knew who was behind the pseudonym but that didn’t make it any better. I knew they were jealous but that didn’t make the cuts any less deep. I knew to ignore the comments but that doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt.

I’ve been bullied a lot, especially when I was younger and at school. I remember being scared to go to school as a result and for the first time ever I was scared to go online. 12 hours of these tweets and I was frightened to post anything in case it provoked more abuse. It made me think how much more straightforward bullying was when I was younger; at least I could escape it when I got home, but with every notification my heart jumped, with every ‘ping’ the panic set in.

British Cycling took care of the situation and my friends took care of me.

The other team members started to send me the most supportive tweets and what one person from home sent me was just what I needed:

Whenever something knocks you down, that’s exactly when you find out exactly who cares about you.

It hurt because I had never done anything to her daughter. I had never made any comments about how good I could be as a cyclist and I never would. I had done nothing to provoke such nasty comments and yet she felt the need to send them, she felt the need to create a Twitter account and wait until race day to attack me.

Classification had not gone the way we wanted, they were questioning my disability and the last thing I needed, especially when I’m trying to start my recovery, is someone implying to the whole world that I am a disability cheat. I was in disability sport years before her daughter was and at least I have a MRI scan to prove my CP, unlike her. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important was that she set out with a vindictive agenda to cause me pain. The mother of another athlete set up an account aimed at hurling abuse at me, to send storm clouds thundering in on the morning of my very first international race.

I don’t usually access my phone in competition because if you do well you can get carried away with all the media hype and I’ve definitely experienced that when I made my comeback at Europeans to medal and social media went crazy for the bronze medallist over that day’s silvers and golds.

Now I know what it’s like to have the opposite side of social media.

I’m really good at ignoring stuff before a race. I wake up and I’m already in the zone, I do what I have to do and I get my job done. It’s after the race that the small upsets affect me. It’s when I finish that I let reality sink in and consider how cruel somebody had been. And I dreaded going back. I dreaded the possible comments I was going to receive.

Crap swimmer.

Crap cyclist.

Waste of space.

Disgusting.

Don’t quit your day job.

You’re a fiddler.

Cheat.

Disgusting.

Disgusting.

I refused to eat for the whole day and when my mum finally sat me down to eat I was in so much panic. So much fear. So much dread of getting fat. And it was because of the stress. I was trying to focus on something that I think can make me happy; being in control of my weight loss, and I didn’t even notice I was doing this. I didn’t realise I hadn’t eaten. I didn’t relaise I had entered autopilot. I don’t even want to think how I would have reacted on my own. More than likely a cycle of starvation and purging would have started.

I’m in such a vulnerable state of mind at the moment and I didn’t need that. Even if I didn’t have an eating disorder, I wouldn’t have deserved that. That quote has never been more true:

“Everyone is facing a battle you know nothing about, so be kind, always.”

Victim of cyber bullying…another thing to add to the list of things I’ve had to cope with.

It only lasted a day but it was unbearable. British cycling ensured the account got shut down and all of a sudden I got nice messages from the entire family. I know exactly who sent them and it was confirmed to me but I know how to handle the situation better, I know how to keep the upper hand, and that’s to say nothing at all.

One day. And she broke me down. I can’t begin to imagine how people who suffer from this on a daily basis feel. Actions hurt but words are crueler. And I’ve experienced that throughout my life and the other day through social media. The account was created specifically to abuse me and I think that hurt the most. It wasn’t an athlete I didn’t know questioning my disability…it was someone I knew from home who decided in spite to ruin my first international race.

But I had such a strong network of support and the message posted above was sent to me through Twitter. He knew what was going on, so whilst I received the dread of a new Twitter notification when I opened it all I could do was smile.

I really do have some amazing people in my life and I promise you that for every hater you have, you have 100 people who love everything about you, it’s just trying not to forget that which can be difficult.

The Decision I Never Wanted to Make

I think its time to break away from the sport that’s been part of my life for almost 21 years. I was 2 when I was first introduced to the swimming pool and I simply never left. Swimming isn’t something I do, it’s actually a part of me, a part of my life, my life is swimming. I don’t know any different. Until January of this year I didn’t know what it was like to not have that routine which was simply autopilot. I was introduced to a whole new life that others consider ‘normal’ but it was nothing like what I consdered ‘normal’.

As crazy as it sounds I struggled to cope without swimming in my life, I found the concept of free time difficult and struggled as the smallest change threw me. Something many would consider trivial, such as my sleep cycle changing dramatically, seemed to mess up my entire day to day life. Waking up so much later left me with less time to train and then I was naturally going to bed later because the four hours of evening training that would naturally ensure I would sleep early, no longer existed.

I turned to my studies to fill up the free time. Over January and February I pretty much locked myself in the library and focused so much on uni that, in all honesty, I was more drained than I had been in full training. I was pushing myself in studies because I couldn’t push myself in training. Leaving the house and returning at similar times to my swimming schedule and I wasn’t eating properly either. I was almost scared of the extra hours I would have had at home otherwise. I felt that all the free time spent at home would result in mindless eating and purging so I decided to stay away from home instead.

It didn’t really work, less purging but more starving and yes my weight dropped but once I started to swim again I needed to eat. 600 calories was fine with no exercise but not with even an hour of training. But then I judged myself for eating because of training. I hadn’t swam much I shouldn’t feel so hungry. I thought I was weak for feeling hungry. And the comments came too, the comments of how much weight I had gained, of how it was fine for now but I would need to shift it for any chance of Rio.

I couldn’t train for Rio….so the only thing I could possibly do at this very moment in this time in the hope of going to Rio was to was control my weight. But I couldnt. It kept increasing and I wasn’t used to not having stuff to do. I tried to exercise to shift it but my shoulder was so sore and I could barely even run without it hurting. I refused to go home as much as possible trying to starve the fat away and naturally the purging followed days of starvation. I felt so weak for being hungry and then even weaker for giving into hunger and letting myself have some food. Then I panicked and purged and felt more disgusting for having doing that.

All I could think of was how much weight I had lost over the years and how it had all been ruined since my surgery. I ignored the fact I lost weight unhealthily, focusing on pictures and memories of how slim I had been. As I lost weight I’d gotten so much praise and even the attention I was starting to receive from boys helped me want to keep losing more. Sport emphasised I had to keep loosing to get faster and get to Rio and the compliments I got from friends, family, and boys made me want to stay that weight.

And all I can think of now is how much I want to be that weight again, but I’m battling with the voices telling me to go for the unhealthy options. I hate being the weight I am but I can’t get rid of the association of a lower weight means more happiness. I’m trying to get rid of that but there’s too many mental scars…especially in swimming.

I think I need to leave. I think I’m ready to leave the swimming world behind and its a scary thought. I’ve always thought that without swimming I am nothing. I have no success or anything like that. But it’s been part of my life for 21 years and I never considered how difficult this would be. How much it would hurt and break me inside to leave the sport of swimming. I suppose it’s not how I imagined it. I was going to go to Rio and then transition into cycling but the swimming has not been good for me.

Even before I became international comments were always made about my weight, that I was the wrong shape for the sport. I need to become healthy again and I don’t feel like being in the sport of swimming is conducive to that. I think the memories cut deeper than I realsie and there are so many dark demons with swimming that I need to escape from. I need to put myself first but I feel like I’m a failure for giving up on something that I loved. I read so many articles about athletes with eating disorders who had to give up their sports and I didn’t want to be like that. I didn’t want my eating disorder to beat me but I feel like it has. I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like a let down.

All I wanted was to go to a games, and in 2012, they said I was too fat so couldn’t go…now they’ve changed my categories and refused to consider the medical evidence that they asked me to find…and I’ve had surgery…surgery I needed because my coach pushed me too hard, didn’t listen when I said I was injured so I got too scared to tell him, and then he would yell, saying I should have told him, that it was all my fault.

Everything’s always my fault. It’s my fault I was too fat for London, it was my fault I got injured and won’t make Rio, it’s my fault I’m so fat right now.

Maybe a break will be good. Instead of staying in the comfort zone of swimming, the life I’ve always known, I need to adventure into something different. As soon as I’m back from Italy I’m going to tell my coach and swimmers that I’m having an official break…although i doubt I’ll return. But I’m so scared to do it, I’m scared of admitting how weak I am, of how much help I’m in desperate need of. But I need the help and staying in swimming is holding me back. Too many upsetting memories, too much pressure to prove a point to every bastard who put me down…need to stop focusing on those things and focus on myself because without my health I have nothing. I’ve passed out one too many times and cutting my wrists should have sent alarm bells ringing about how bad things were getting for me.

I need everyone more than ever right now. I need them to hold me together and tell me everything is going to be alright. I need them more than ever before.

I’m scared of being a failure. I’m scared of never being good enough. About being the athlete who almost was, rather than the one who got there in the end.

I didn’t want my eating disorder to beat me and force me out of the sport I love…but if I had never been subject to such cruel comments and pressure maybe it would never had ended up like this. Maybe I’m not the only person to blame in my decision to quit swimming.