From a young age, I have clear memories of being shamed for my body image and size. From the innocence of my reception classmates saying I “looked funny” . . . to the 15-year-olds shouting “freak” down the secondary school corridors. Be it right or not, I guess you can say “I’m used to it”, so more times than not I brush it off… cold shoulder, because truthfully there are not enough hours in the day to give attention to every person who stares at you as you walk down the street, I’ve mastered the brave face. But that doesn’t mean I always want to use it and sometimes the armour you wear on the outside, cannot always protect you from the hurt it causes within.
Before the age of 13, no one mentioned my size. As far as I was concerned it was no more than a physical characteristic – and even then, I wished every day that it wasn’t. I tried to dismiss that it was even part of who I was at all. I was stuck in a trance of longing to be someone else, when truthfully all I really wanted, was to be ok with being me as I was. I spent a long time waiting for the day ‘it was ok’.
But something I’ve had to learn as I’ve got older. Is there is no real point where it suddenly all becomes ok. And accepting this is a hard pill to swallow.
From a secondary school teen, my mental health has been my demon-fed and fueled by a struggle to find acceptance of the path I was put on. Bullying was also a feeder of that demon – The opinions pressed on me by the wider world- often reformed themselves into my own self-doubts.
Age 15, whilst walking home one evening, I had abuse hurled at me, with cans and footballs thrown in my direction. I’ve had my face photoshopped on memes. I’ve been followed and filmed in the streets. Had my social media leaked onto “just for fun pages”. I’ve been called every name under the sun . . . Fat. Ugly. Freak. Monster. Been told that I should’ve been given up as a child. Some even going as far as telling me my existence on this planet isn’t worthy. And for what? Because I happen to be 1 metre shorter than the average adult, my life doesn’t hold as much value as if I happened to be 100cm taller?
I’m not going to bore you with the jargon and statistics behind my physique, but the simplest way to explain how my condition became a thing, can be done in two words. Genetic fluke.
Neither of my parents have the condition, nor have traces of the gene in their families. Therefore, it was a fluke. A chance. A coincidence. An accident if you will…… whatever you wish to describe it as, no one held any responsibility for it. No one has any control over it. I certainly didn’t choose it.
Yet I’ve had to learn to be ok with its consequences.
So, you know what – I’m entitled to feel a bit pants someday.
But then other days. Most days…it is ok.
Like today. Writing this. I’m ok.
But that doesn’t mean today is any more of an achievement to last week when I screamed for my doctor to make it stop.
The truth is we don’t always have to be ok with the things that cause us hurt. We don’t have to be ok with feeling pained. We don’t have to put on a brave face every day and always be used to it – Someday its more than ok to hold our hands up and say you know what- this sucks! But something else I’ve learned over time, is in the moments of denial . . . the times where we least accept what is in front of us . . . all we really do is add to the fire that we are trying to put out.
What I mean is. On the days, I hear the shouts on the street. Or the days social media tells me I’m unworthy; where am I getting if I allow myself to repeat those same words and feelings to myself?
Well, I can tell you from experience – it’s nowhere nice.
We spend every waking minute with ourselves – and in time I’ve began to realise that for that reason- my own outlook on myself is probably more important than the satisfaction of an online troll, who probably couldn’t even tell you my name.
It would be easy to be bitter. As bitter as the world that surrounds us… And believe me, those feelings don’t go unseen. I’ve cried for days. Prayed for days. I’ve begged doctors to “take it away”, but all the time knowing nothing is going too. This is my card. And it’s mine to accept.
But you know what else I’ve learned?
Accepting your disability isn’t just a switch you can flick. There are days where you feel so confident and nothing can stop you, and days when someone who probably isn’t even looking at you can send you on a downward spiral.
I named this column “My journey of self-acceptance . . . in progress“
Because I’m still on it. I’m still learning everyday – and I’m equally making mistakes and digging myself out of those downward spirals everyday too, but in making those, mistakes I’m finding in myself the strength to accept the things that part of me might still not be ok with.
Somedays I write columns.
Some days I present seminars.
Other days I don’t want to look in the mirror, but each of those days are part of the journey.
I don’t think I’ll ever be ok with being called names on the street – but to be ok with the body I am in, so that I learn to not believe them.
That’s where I want my journey to lead me.
That’s the path I am on.
A journey of self-acceptance . . . that continues to be a work in progress.