I was in a relationship for years with a man who I believe may have narcissistic tendancies. A man who emotionally abused me. First, came the love bombing. The constant adoration, the you are so amazing and look, so am I taking you on expensive holidays and dates (which to be honest, are not really within our budget but later on I will blame you for us being in debt anyway). The butter wouldn’t melt, tell me your deepest, darkest worries so further down the line I can rip you apart using the things I know make you feel most tormented and insecure. I was never beautiful, never pretty, never even looked nice. If I wore make up it wasn’t because he knew how much I love and enjoy it, it was…well who have you been seeing while I’m at work dolled up like that? I dropped heaps of weight off an already skinny frame but he wasn’t worried, it’s your own fault, what have you eaten (Crohn’s flares by the way, are NOT triggered by anything you do to yourself but by an auto immune disease which ravages from your mouth right through your digestive tract to your anus).
Fast forward to now. It’s almost two years since I broke free of that relationship. Life has changed considerably, and the same man continues to hurt me, now using our children against me, but that’s a story for another time.
I’m with someone new. We have actually been dating for over a year now and he’s the most amazing and gorgeous human I have ever met. You could throw me David Beckham and Ian Somerhalder and I would say thanks but no thanks – I have met my soulmate.
Onto the body confidence thing, you can imagine, spending pretty much my entire twenties with a man who once told our children that ‘Mummy looks better than she did on our first date’ when I was going for a meal with his Mum and Sister (apparently this was supposed to be a compliment) it has been pretty low.
My body has taken a battering over the years from my various ailments. I have numerous scars, an ileostomy bag, my elbows don’t straighten, my face is swollen from Pred (steroids) and my bones are now disintegrating inside me (luckily pretty slowly for the amount of steroids I’ve been on and the amount of time I’ve had arthritis – small victories hey?!).
Reaching 30, many women have an epiphany don’t they, it’s supposed to be the years you come into your own and free yourself from the doubts that overshadow you in your twenties, be it your appearance, your career, your friendships. I spent my 30th birthday in a hospital bed, awaiting a central line being fitted, which then got cancelled as I was told I needed an ileostomy. Happy birthday to me! This was something that needed time to adjust to and gain confidence in in itself.
But I’m pleased to say I’m now there. I’ve accepted and am proud of my ileostomy, as well as my numerous scars. Yeah I’ve a bit of a mum tum which I would like to tone up a bit but I’ve had two babies, abdominal surgery three times and I love food too much, so there! A charity called Purple Wings (check out their Facebook page here) helped me no end in my road to accepting and gaining confidence following my ostomy surgery and I can’t thank Lauren enough for the tireless work she does.
I’ve also got a man who compliments me. I know it’s supposed to be all about how you see yourself, but when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes, that can really help shape the way you feel. And when that person is someone you love and respect, and they say these things, you may start to believe them. My man doesn’t use just generic compliments either. Some days I just look beautiful or pretty. Some days he tells me he likes the way I’ve done my hair. Some days he likes what I’m wearing, he notices when I wear something new (and not just to point out the money I’ve spent on myself), he tells me when he thinks it suits me. Some days I smell nice. It means it seems more real, more honest and I believe him. I value his opinions as I want to look pretty and be sexy in his eyes. I want to appear attractive to him. That’s all part of being in a relationship isn’t it, you fancy each other? I don’t want to lose that spark of lust with time like so many do. Yes we are more comfortable with one another, I might not shave my legs as often as I used to and I will burp my bag (although I still try and do it only when he is asleep but thanks to my confessions on here he now knows the smell isn’t the dog) but I want him to want me still, just like he did at the start.
So I’m now 31 and a half and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand what people mean about being in your thirties and the body confidence that comes with it. It’s not all about the man either, but that’s helped. My body has been through a battle, every scar depicts a different story, be it my hip replacement, my c-sections or the chicken pox scar I itched right in the middle of my forehead when I was four. My stuck-bent elbows and swollen knees show a fight I’ve been in pretty much since being born. But I’m still here, I’m happy and as healthy as can be, I’m looking forward to the next adventures and what life has in store for me and my family. What will I achieve sat pouring over and picking fault with every photo of myself, trying to starve myself and feeling miserable to lose that bit of a mummy tummy. These faults are only in my own head and aren’t even noticed by my loved ones. I think it says more about someone else if they are willing to judge me based on my hamster pred cheeks or because I need to use a walking stick sometimes.
I, instead, am choosing to enjoy life and all that comes with it, and will do it all with my head held high and with all the 30 something year old sass I can muster, even on a no makeup and comfies day like today!