Yesterday I spent my evening with one of the best friends I made travelling in San Diego. J lives in Melbourne around the corner from where I am living. Since the day I met him I have I adored him as my friend for life.
J and I walked along the beautiful river that is across my street and viewable from my house. We walked and chatted for around an hour about anything and everything. While walking we discovered some gym equipment that has been placed by the running lanes in a mini Muscle Beach attempt. After testing it out for a while we carried on walking and talking.
We had already been talking about fitness when we came across the impromptu gym. J has recently embarked on a new health and fitness routine since gaining weight in America during his travels. He talked about how he was in the best shape of his life before heading to Canada and America for his six months away from Australia, but had known and accepted that he would gain weight during his trip and would just deal with it when he got back.
I talked about how I was in the best physical shape of my life before I left for America also, J already knowing of my eating disorder we discussed my gym routine. After playing on the leg-press during our walk I expressed that the leg-press is my favourite piece of equipment at the gym; I always leave it for last as my grand finale. I told J how I had built up my strength from being able to push 40kg at the beginning of my training to pushing 100kg just before I flew to America. My routine being ten reps of 40kg, then ten of 50kg, then ten 60kg, ten 70kg, ten 80kg, ten 90kg, and finally ten 100kg in one sitting. Since dancing my legs have always been my strongest, with my upper body strength being embarrassing in comparison.
Before I travelled I was at the gym every day, and ran 5 miles in the countryside every few days – weather depending. Part of this was my eating disorder, I needed a visible physical reward for my lack of eating and something to stave off the effects of the occasional 6,000 calorie binge.
While talking to J about the gym, my old routine, and how I felt in my body – ignoring my eating disorder and simply thinking of the physical feeling after the gym – I realised how much I missed it. I became passionate about exercise as I was talking to him. We both did. Walking around the river, chain-smoking as we walked, I remembered our bike ride in San Diego where I was prompted to quit smoking for a month due to one particular monster of a hill that made me walk my bike to the top while believing my lungs we about to explode with every breath. I realised my smoking will have to be replaced with my E-Cigarette a friend got me in San Diego if I want my gym routine back.
Today I felt ill and spent the day happily on the couch drinking concoctions my roommates told me would cure me and found myself looking at old photos from last year. I was struck with how beautiful I looked. The photos I have focused on over the last five months have been during my eating disorder. Instead today I looked before my eating disorder. I looked at the months before my break-up.
As I saw photos with my ex who I had been with for three years I felt sadly and knowingly nothing.
As I continued looking at photos I came across the ‘out-takes’ from my camera practice shoot with A from two months before my break-up in 2012. At the time I was my normal weight, I had no eating issues in the slightest, and I looked beautiful. I hadn’t seen it at the time.
I remember the shoot so clearly. I was so unbelievably nervous that I was physically shaking. A kept telling me I was beautiful but nothing worked to calm me down. I had a camera in my face, inches away from me, and I was shaking. She positioned me leaning against a wall to calm my shakes but it wasn’t until I asked if I could climb her garden tree that I began to calm myself slightly. Taking photos of my climbing and laughing I went as high as she would let me then allowed her to take my photo.
Climbing trees has always calmed me since childhood, I hadn’t realised this until this day happened and I looked back on certain memories of me climbing trees. It was my known calmer.
In fact my first kiss with my ex was in a tree. It was the first time he had ever climbed a tree which should have been an indicator of his upbringing however I simply encouraged him to go higher and calmed him as he panicked about how we would get down; “Don’t worry about getting down until we have to get down!”
After I had climbed the tree I then danced in her yard. Taking photos of me dancing I relaxed until I realised she had taken photos of my face; I had thought she was taking them of my dancing. She captured my face as I danced, which I had never seen of myself even when I was a dancer. My body was always in focus back then, not my face.
When I was thirteen years old the boy I loved in High School (a boy that has owned a large slice of my heart since the first day I saw him) told me a few words I don’t think I will ever forget. When we were seventeen and in a relationship he apologised profusely for saying them to me and I believed him, however the damage had been done unfortunately, as much as I know he doesn’t believe these words now, he did then.
“You’re not ugly, you’re just not very pretty.”
As a thirteen year old this was the first time my looks had ever been presented to me. I was not aware of how I looked to others until this sentence was said to me. There we no others around, I couldn’t put it down to childhood bullying, it was simply a private intimate conversation with my High School love, and he told his truth about why he didn’t want to be with me.
Since that day I have questioned the way I look so much that I have no idea how I look now, to others especially, but to myself also.
When I told my sister about my eating disorder the month before I flew to America she sweetly said “I don’t know why you don’t know how beautiful you are. I don’t have any body issues but I’ve always preferred your body to mine.”
While talking to C last year about our previous relationship that we had been in five years beforehand he said to me “I don’t think you realised how beautiful you were, I still don’t think you do.” Trying not to cry as I heard this he simply kissed my head and held his arm tightly around me while I let that sentence sink into me.
As I looked through my old photos today I began to realise how beautiful I am.
I do not under any circumstance say this with arrogance, ego, or smugly. We are all beautiful. I had never seen my beauty.
I do not know how others view me, however I am starting to view myself differently.
Yesterday I enjoyed my first real meal since I left England; a homemade vegan curry completely full of green leafy vegetables and technically a portion for two people, with bread rolls instead of rice (as I never have rice with curry – rice for me is sushi or risotto). It was healthy. I was full but not in pain. I felt good.
Today I made my first real lunch since England; a huge salad with spinach, avocado, tofu, and others. I felt healthily full and satisfied.
Before my eating issues began I had other confidence issues; I did not in any way believe I was pretty or beautiful. One female friend at sixteen had told me I was “attractive, but not pretty” a notion that contributed to my believing guys only wanted to sleep with me rather than date me because I’m not pretty enough to date, but attractive enough to sleep with. I am always on-guard for this. In fact it was this exact reason why I did not meet My American the week before I flew to America. I was petrified he only saw me this way, and so I did not meet him. Knowing him the way I do now this has been added as one of my only three regrets in my life. A moment I can never get back.
Looking at my photos I am starting to silence the old voices that nagged me and accept how I look; and I am beginning to see this is not the negative acceptance it was before.
A few days ago I asked My American what his reaction or thoughts had been when I initially told him about my eating issues. It took me four minutes to stop crying enough to reply to his message.
“No it didn’t phase me. I was sad for you, it sounded hard. My heart went out to you. I’ve had my own demons. No judgement.”
Reading those words after I nail-bitingly asked my personal question, not knowing if he would even reply, I burst into audible sobs.
It was a weight lifting off my shoulders that I realised I had placed on my own shoulders in the first instance. I had spent the last two months believing he didn’t want to meet me because I wasn’t as perfect as I had first appeared.
He may not know how thankful I am that I met him, but that revelation has helped clear my mind more than he may have cared it to.
Step by step I will get there.
Full of eternal Hope