During the late 90s as I was heading off to university, my mum and I were involved in doing charity work. We went out to an orphanage in Romania to take out aid, as well as throwing Christmas parties for the youngsters. It was an incredibly eye opening experience, coming from my life of relative luxury and spending a weekend in an orphanage in the middle of a bitter cold December.
It was here that I experienced some of the most moving moments of my young life. We flew out as a group of about 6 women with bags full of donations, presents and essentials. I remember going with my mum to buy a ton of condoms, tampons and other essentials we take for granted.
The girls at the orphanage were amazing, strong, smart and bold. They would walk us into town and one day they took us to the cemetery. It was a bleak and dreary day. The cemetery was pretty much a grey desolate field, the sky was thick with black heavy cloud, low flying crows and rickety old crosses. The poor girl we had gone to pay our respects to had died since we had seen her last year. She was only a teenager and it was simply tragic. I was stood in this freezing cold field, watching these girls light a candle for their friend. It was something no child should have to deal with and it was a cold harsh reality of living in Romania at that time. It was one of the eeriest scenes and will be lodged in my brain forever. I was so moved by the moment, I wrote about it in detail in my diary. I drew a piece inspired by the darkness we encountered that day, that was cut through with the warmth of the candle light.
During this time I was the skinniest I’d ever been, I had shed a ton of weight. Even the girls at the orphanage mentioned it. It feels so shallow to think of it now, especially in comparison to what those girls were dealing with, but I was delighted with myself. The girls in that place didn’t seemed concerned with fat or thin, they were concerned with love, ideas of getting out of that place and maybe…just maybe having a family of their own one day. They had magazine images pasted on their bedroom walls like every young girl, posters of hopes and dreams. During this time we visited some of the girls who’d managed to find their way out, get an apartment, get married and even have a baby. The pride in their faces at their accomplishments was so real. And I was patting myself on the back for making my body a little bit smaller, I’m embarrassed to say.
So how did I achieve this amazing feat… I hear you cry!!? I’d stopped stuffing my face with bread and ‘extras’ and had taken to eating less, less carbs, less chocolate, less fun. I punished myself if I let the evil white carbs near my pretty little face. I think it was basically a preamble into Atkins and thusly unmanageable. I denied myself the good stuff. In addition to this I’d started using my Mum’s deathtrap of a manual treadmill. Have you ever experienced one of these torture contraptions??? Rolling and panting away on these dreadful cylinders of doom that made the ENTIRE house shake. So no secret exercise for me! I’m surprised I didn’t do myself a serious injury and fly off, making myself into indoor road kill! I was chuffed with myself but I still wasn’t happy.
Inevitably I wouldn’t be able to sustain it and yo-yo’d my way through university. At the end of university I found myself on my way home to move in with my long term boyfriend. It was a terrible idea, we’d come to the end of a long, very bumpy road but neither of could see it. It spectacularly blew up in my face after only two months. I was not in the best of places after university, and being back “home” I was a little lost and bordering on agoraphobic. I blamed the end of my relationship on not being good enough and (in my mind) this was confirmed when my now ‘Ex’ boyfriend started dating my polar opposite. Petite, blonde and slim. It didn’t matter that we had run our course or outgrown each other this, to me, was unbearable because there was no comparison. So, with a vengeance, my relationship with ‘Slimming World’ was back on and I was using the fact that watermelon was ‘free’ to its full advantage. I was basically replacing food with rose wine and watermelon, which was not healthy, and clearly flouting the rules. However, it didn’t hit home until one day I pretty much pooed pure watermelon, seeds and all! That was enough to put me off watermelon for quite some time……and Slimming World for that matter.
So I dusted myself off and graduated. I do actually love my graduation photo, because I was so proud of myself, I felt like I had achieved something for me, I set out to get a degree and DAMMIT I got it, all by myself. But I remember the abject fear that set in just before this photo was taken. Not only did I know that it was a one chance shot but I’d also looked down only to realise I’d forgotten to repaint my tatty nails. Notice how I’ve hidden them! Body conscious even down to the tips of my badly painted fingers!
Following my graduation I probably did the stupidest / best thing to do following a break up. I started teacher training. WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING???!! Turned out I had found my vocation. I was a fresh faced, bright eyed, bushy tailed NQT about to take on the world. I had found an inner confidence I never knew I had and it exuded through me. I bounced to university and to school in the morning, despite my little world falling out from beneath my feet. It was a distraction, but suddenly I found I was good at something. I was a success and it didn’t rely on being skinny or having a boyfriend. I was happy and a whole exciting new adventure awaited me… A new me and a new life……
By the way did I tell you, you are stronger than you think?