Time

Around this time last year I made the hard, necessary decision to give up my job.

After four years of working in mental health- four years that were rewarding, and turbulent, and creative, and frustrating- I needed to step away. My own mental health during that period fluctuated dramatically. I finally realised that I had to choose myself. So I chose self-preservation. It was liberating and painful in almost equal measure.

Following the painfully recent election in the UK, a lot of people have been posting about the importance of living ethically. Of using our sadness/ anger as a motivator to do good. A lot of this has focused on how we can donate money, or food, or clothes. This is really important, and if you are in the fortunate position to be able to do those things, you should. But throughout my life, I’ve learned that our most valuable commodity is time.

One thing I am struggling to adjust to after six months in my new role is the knowledge that I can no longer say that my job, in and of itself, helps to serve the community. I don’t get to feel that the majority of my time is time spent as a force for the greater good.

It’s a cliché by now that you should put on your own life-mask before helping anyone else. But to follow that metaphor, I have my life-mask on now. Since it’s on, it is time to start helping others. I don’t know exactly what I am going to do, but I will be giving up that valuable resource, that gold-dust commodity: time.

It’s the best tool I have with which to make a difference.

Sleeveless: my new adventure

As some of you know, and some of you don’t, I have pretty extensive scarring on my arms and legs from a history of self-harm. For years, in various situations, I have felt the need to hide my scars. I have been ashamed, or worried of what other people would think of me, or simply […]

via Sleeveless: a journey with scars — Sleeveless

Weight

I haven’t written about this before because, for various reasons, it causes me a lot of shame.

In the last few years, I have put on a lot of weight.  I’m still average for my height, and although I often hate the way I look, I recognise that I’m not especially large.  But I have gone from being tiny to being medium, and this is something I am struggling to deal with.  I look at old photos and think wow, what happened? and I berate myself for all kinds of things.  The truth is, I don’t really know what has caused the weight gain, not definitively.

Then I think, wait a moment.  Why is it that getting a bit bigger should make me feel so terrible?  For all that we use buzz words like “body positivity”, despite chanting “it’s about being healthy”, despite a movement towards diversifying women in the public eye, I have still been taught to believe that smaller = better.  I am still constantly comparing myself to women who better meet what I have grown up seeing as the ideal.  “Allowing” a few larger women to be themselves doesn’t change the fact that the image of beauty we are presented with is still slim.  They are still seen as exceptions.

I’ve written before about how unacceptable it is to comment on another person’s weight (there are thousands of reasons to gain or lose weight, none of which is necessarily your business) and I will reiterate it.  Stop commenting on the way other people look.  I used to eat in quite a severely disordered way, and I really don’t need other people to tell me how I’ve changed.

I run a lot.  I go to the gym.  I eat well.  I want to believe that these things are overwhelmingly more important than the numbers on the scales, because they are.  But every time I hear a comment, or look at myself and give myself that negative once-over, it sets me back.

We need a new way of looking at ourselves.  For the most part, we immediately pick out flaws when we are asked to evaluate our looks- whether because we believe we are flawed, or because we don’t want to seem big-headed.  Why does it matter if we seem big-headed?  What is wrong with acknowledging what is beautiful about ourselves?  The problem is that we are taught to be self-effacing, to see what we perceive as “bad” about our appearance before looking at what is good.  Most of the time, the things we perceive as bad aren’t even bad.

There’s a poem I love by nayyirah waheed.

You see your face.
You see a flaw.
How.  When you are the only one.
Who has this face.

Well, indeed.  Given that I am the only person who looks exactly like me, how can I see a flaw, to what blueprint am I comparing myself to find fault?

Something needs to change, and I don’t know whether we are moving towards or away from change, but it has to happen.  We have to stop feeling bad about ourselves for the million reasons dictated to us, we have to stop buying the millions of products directed at us, we have to learn to love ourselves as we are, because that is a radical act.