An open letter to my 16 year old self.

As I was scrolling through facebook earlier this week, a notification popped up for my ‘on this day’. There was a photo from a day that I’d rather not be reminded of. My prom day, or Record of Achievement as we called it. Looking at the photo I just felt so sorry for the younger me in it, and it took me back.

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It made me think about the weeks and months that lead to that day. I held so much hate for myself and my body that I was doing anything to change it and the worst thing was, I kept it all to myself. I always felt like I was the big one in our group of friends, like I needed to diet and watch what I ate. I became obsessive. Skipping meals, over exercising and feeling the need to make myself ill became part of day to day normality, but only for me. Its only now looking back that I realise how bad it was. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling so massive even though in reality there really wasnʻt much to me.

During my GCSE English exam, a few weeks prior to my prom, I felt so dizzy from exhaustion and had a black out. I had to leave the exam room and leave behind any hope of a good grade. My skin was covered in psoriasis due to stress and I was as far from being myself as I could be. I never actually told anyone how bad it was but I think they all knew. Instead of celebrating prom night partying, a group of my girls came over for a sleep over and we went to the local pub for a meal. I remember thinking I wouldn’t have a pudding and I would have a salad or something little. I had no energy and no desire to eat. All I could focus on was the number on the scale.

I was never focused on losing weight for a particular event it was just a state of mind, day in day out made up of silly little routines and self doubt. I wish I could give my 16 year old self a massive cuddle. Tell her she was perfect the way she was, to get rid of all the negative influences and people in her life and focus on being happy.

A few weeks ago I had a customer ask me what I wanted to achieve in life, I replied that I just wanted to be happy. He seemed so shocked that I expressed no hint to further my career in my answer. I explained that as long as I have a roof over my head, a nice job and positive people around me then I’m happy to be waitressing.

It took a while for me to realise that my self worth was more than just a number on the scale and that happiness isn’t measured in pounds or kilos. I wanted to write this post as I think there is more pressure than ever on not just girls, but on everyone to achieve a particular figure or shape. It’s scary to think how many people are being put under such pressure from social media and celebrity influences. Having an eating disorder never defined me but it certainly changed me. It happened so quickly, although I could never pinpoint an event that triggered it, it was just a downward spiral.

I wish that I had the body positive influences that I have now back when I was 16. It would have really helped that young girl who was a bit lost in herself. I know Iʻm not the only one who has struggled mentally with body image, and I think thats why Iʻve chosen to open up about my experience. Having the most supportive family and friends got me through my worst time, but I know that my old habits will always niggle at the back of my mind. I was so lucky to have been pulled through but I know that so many people arenʻt.

The power of the internet and as Iʻve seen, the body positive community can be an amazing thing. There is so much help out there and if youʻre struggling please reach out. Recovering and becoming body positive and holding so much happiness and gratitude for my self has been the best but longest journey Iʻve ever been on. As a mum all I want is for my son to be happy and not go through the struggles that I once did and I truly believe that positive influences early on in his life will help him.

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