• Anna

Mental health awareness week 2019: Body image (For those whose bodies aren’t working quite as they s

Mental health awareness week 2019: Body image (For those whose bodies aren’t working quite as they should)

If you’ve had any contact with media this week, then you are probably aware that it’s

#mentalhealthawarenessweek2019 with a particular focus this year on body image. (How we think and feel about our bodies.)

My feeds have been full of people sharing statistics, personal experiences of battles that have been won or are still ongoing, reassurances to one another and inspiration on the subject.

Lots has been covered on body sizes, eating and exercise habits, conforming to society’s current beauty ideals (body hair, gender identity, body modification etc) and social media’s impact on it all. Its brilliant people have really embraced the topic and got so involved with it! The more it’s talked about, the better.

I wasn’t going to post anything about it myself. Evolution Wellness spends the whole year advocating for and helping people with their mental and spiritual health so I kind of felt like its business as usual here so I’ll let others carry the torch this week.

What could I add of value that isn’t already being said anyway?

That last question, that’s actually mental health issues in action RIGHT there! I know that voice! I know it’s tone. (I’m climbing a new meatal health mountain at the moment)

And perhaps that’s exactly why I SHOULD add my voice!

I’ve been there. A lot. I’ve been dealing with various mental health battles since childhood and that has given me a great deal of experience.

So I’m going to share a bit of it in keeping with the theme of body image but I’m going to talk about an area I personally haven’t seen much coverage on: When our bodies stop working as they should.

It doesn’t matter if you were born with a condition/disability, born with a condition/disability that deteriorates over time, or are totally healthy then struck down by said condition/disability suddenly, the result is the same: devastating. Watching your body incapable of carrying out functions everyone else is able to take for granted, is demoralising beyond words.

I am diagnosed with a condition called Fibromyalgia. I’ve also had it called M.E by some doctors…feels the same to me whatever label you give it! The two biggest symptoms of it are overwhelming fatigue and constant pain in every single part of your body. There are a whole load more of these wonderful symptoms that go with the condition and it’s incredibly debilitating but I won’t go into details on this occasion.

Watching my body fail over and over again left me with a lot of emotions. Fear, desperation, guilt, frustration, anger… all fairly predictable I guess but something I did not foresee was the anger I felt towards my own body! I began to see it as the enemy, as something useless, something that caused suffering and failure, and something that I had to fight against in order to have a good day. It’s hard to have a positive body image when you don’t like your body at all! Something else that bothered me, and again, this was surprising, was I felt shame because I looked ‘normal’. My body didn’t change colour or develop a rash or swell or do anything that would indicate in some way how unwell I was feeling, or how much my body was malfunctioning. Why couldn’t I have flashed neon or maybe glittered?! Glittering would have been good... Variations of “but you look fine” were (and are) a constant chorus in my life. Looking ‘normal’ became a source of shame because I felt I should be as capable as people expected me to be. Once again, my body had failed me. It failed to validate my suffering. It failed to show how hard I was fighting, and it failed to show how utterly broken I was so that the outside world would in some way recognise how unwell I truly was. (People with Fibromyalgia are often subjected to a lot of doubt and stigma over their condition)….and then I felt guilty for feeling that I didn’t want to look normal…vicious cycle right?

I actually already had several diagnosed mental health issues before the Fibromyalgia came along but getting hit by something else sure as shit didn’t help!

Anyone facing disability or even a period of illness can probably relate to some of these feelings I’m sure, or maybe all of it! I think it’s pretty human; we expect our minds and body to be on the same team and that they should just work until a grand old age! When that isn’t happening, is hard.

It’s frustrating beyond belief and it’s incredibly lonely!

Fast forward to present day, I can say that things have got much, much better! In fact, I actually love my body, I think it’s incredible, an absolute marvel! Don’t get me wrong, it took me 7 years to get to this point, almost my entire 20s, but during that time I did a HUGE amount of work on myself/mindset/life and it’s been a total game changer.

I open up because it can feel like a very lonely world when facing mental health issues.

If you are struggling with the relationship you have with your body, in any way for any reason, or having mental health struggles of any kind, you are NOT alone! This week of awareness shows that. Please reach out!

Websites to contact for support and resources:

Samaritans: www.samaritans.org Mind: www.mind.org.uk Sane: www.sane.org.uk Evolution Wellness: www.evolutionwellness.co.uk Action for happiness: www.actionforhappiness.org

Love and Light, Anna


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