CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and eating disorders which could be distressing to some readers.
Talking about body image, I would like to share my own story of how this perception has been shifting over the time.
In my early teenage years whenever I looked at the mirror, I wanted to see one – slim, tall, pretty girl. Just be like a model. To have what I believed is an ultimate goal, pushed me aside from important things, likewise, preparing for upcoming final exams, involving in school activities, socialising more, generally being down to earth and living the day. I had been playing sports a lot to burn calories which I hysterically counted daily. Yet, worse was still to follow.
My ultimate beauty perception was left nothing but slim, or size 8 for my height of 5’9. I started not eating for days, the longest came to be three days without food. I took decision to act this way with my body, as it seemed I had all time in the world and any consciously made mistakes could be rectified later.
Eating disorder, constant fear of gaining weight, not feeling comfortable in own body led to what later turned out to be bulimia. Shockingly, although the side effects started to be tangible, like hair loss, I still did not want to give-up on keep losing weight at all cost. Simultaneously, my mum was so worried about me and tried everything to stop me.
Until one day I showed up to doctor with stomach pain. I was then warned of getting a stomach ulcer as the signs were starting to emerge. Only these diagnoses opened up my mind and led to re-think actions of body harm and how far I got with the obsession of being slim.
Years passed, and in my early and mid-twenties eating disorder and all associated issues with losing or gaining weight were gone. However, the psychological aftereffects were somehow still subconsciously alive.
It seemed, that teenage girl who overcame her issue, finished school and subsequently migrated to the UK was fine. Was living life like everybody else, with ups and downs, and trying to have a better tomorrow. Indeed, I was striving for better tomorrow, working long hours and hard to achieve my goals.
However, this time when looked at the mirror, I saw stuck in time, dependant on others’ grace, not confident enough, fighting with own demons young face. Desperately wanting a role model in life to see otherwise, have a hope. No matter how hard I tried to prove my perfectness to others either at work or in family and friends circle, I knew, I was failing.
My image of myself was never good but most importantly I did not have rigidity to take control into my hands and be responsible for the decisions taking. With the stress coming from all fronts and unhappiness my face skin started to have break outs and later on severe acne. Although, some said I was beautiful, I, on the other hand, felt disgusting in own skin and being.
In 2020 when pandemic started, I lost job, by then I was 28 years old. Opposed to the uncertainty that turned lives of many upside down, to me it was the time to pause. With the time I had for myself then, I slowly started to feel that the void of nothing in me started to fill up with personality, colours, empathy, love, having my own me. Once I gained the love for myself and my body, everything else around me started to change too. I met amazing new people, also my husband, started university, started different job. Looking back at the pictures now and then, I see different Roberta now- happier, more confident, grown, knowing what wanting from life.
After all, sometimes in quiet, I think back and ask myself a question, what factor determined my choice to forgo the health for weight loss which later in time determined lethargy? I believe, the answer should start somewhere in the childhood, in the society I lived, wherein the appearance was decisive, like commodity which either be bought or left.
Moving the countries helped temporarily. Different setting required, different approach which I was lacking. It was impossible to be an adult and live healthy adulthood life, when there were unresolved childhood issues. On the good note, I got to understand that life is never still and if you are open to changes, it will move to positive direction.