Today’s entry from Gone Bananas has got me thinking. About feelings of self-worth, recovering from anxiety and my journey towards confidence over the last eighteen months or so.
This year my self-esteem took the largest knock it has ever taken. Once an able-bodied, talented swimmer and athelete, I had to accept that I was both epileptic… and fat for the first time in my life because of the anti-seizure medication (Lyrica) that I was taking. I felt like a bad caricature of my former self and became horribly depressed. I became obsessed with weight and exercise and viewed my walking stick and my bloated body with complete and utter loathing.
Did I actually hate myself? Yes; I think I probably did. And nothing Tribble could say or do made me stop.
There was also the matter of my four front teeth; due to genetics my enamel is weak and crumbly. Every molar has a filling because everything simply wears away – I’ve never actually had any decay in my mouth in my life! The enamel had completely worn away from my front teeth, leaving me with painful stubs of brownness that were too sensitive to clean. I spent all of this year waiting to have them removed in hospital (that’s a whole new story in itself, and one for another time) and was all too aware of what was revealed every time I smiled.
Displayed on my plant stand there used to be a photograph of a beautiful girl with long, soft blonde hair, a sexy, self-assured and pretty smile and a gorgeous slim but curvy figure. In the girl’s blue eyes there is a naughty, come-hither glint. The young woman in the photograph exudes confidence in herself, her appearance, her sexuality and her social circle. She’s gorgeous, popular and clever – and she knows it.
The girl in the photograph is me; she’s who I was on my thirtieth birthday. That photograph has been hidden upstairs in one of our unused guest bedrooms since the summer, because I used to spend my evenings drinking too much, gazing at it and weeping. I was mourning for the “then” rather than living in the “now”, when I should have been moving on. After all, eight years is a long time and we all get older. I should have been concentrating on enjoying the present with Tribble rather than pining for my younger good looks, but I was too depressed and frustrated with my failing, rebellious body to see it.
A kind of epiphany struck one day, when I was going through old journal entries and found myself wishing that I had photographs of various events. Sadly I’ve spent most of my life avoiding the camera and so there is no physical evidence of my teenage years and very little of my twenties.
This was when it hit me that it’s memories that matter; they matter far more than a perfectly arranged photograph, a pretty face or a perfect figure. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother, friend, future wife and lover – and people want to remember me. My weight and my teeth didn’t matter; neither of those things are what makes a person or creates well-loved memories.
Therefore, I present My Favourite Photograph Of 2011 in all its glory:
This is me with my handsome son, at a beautiful country pub in my hometown. It was a sunny day in late August/early September. My son, of course, looks utterly devastating – because he can’t not!
As for me? This is me, with my chubby cheeks, extra chin and bad teeth all hanging out for the world to see. I still think I look great, because I was truly, deeply happy that day, sitting there in the sunshine with my son, my mother and my Tribble. It was the perfect afternoon; one of those rare ones that absolutely shine in your memory but don’t happen as often as you’d like. The memory is like a valued diamond that I keep in storage but bring out to polish and gaze at from time to time.
I’m getting older and I’d not win a beauty pageant any more (not that this tomboy ever wanted to), but I can still be happy with my appearance. After all, happiness and love can transform the plainest face into something truly beautiful.