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Surviving or Thriving? Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 

I couldn’t let mental health Awareness week pass without mention. In previous years I marked the week by beginning to speak openly about my battles with an eating disorder, which you can read about here, and about my recurrent depression which you can read about here.

Through the wonder that is the NHS I received amazing therapy from the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) team. This was by no means my first experience of therapy but was without doubt my most positive. My therapy with IAPT initially concluded in November 2015 but following a relapse I returned for a ‘top up’ in May 2016. I was blessed with a brilliant therapist, without whom many things in my life wouldn’t be present now – including my son. I have been in full recovery from my eating problems since November 2015 – this being the final time I purged. I have also been completely free from psychotropic medication for the same period of time. Whilst I’ve never had anything against taking medication and know that without it I’d never have recovered, it is positive for me that I have been able to come off of it, after 13 years of on and off treatment. I still have my wobbly days but as a whole my moods are much improved and I’m able to enjoy life.

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is Surviving or Thriving. Whilst in my life as a whole i am thriving, I definitely still have work to do on my self confidence. Over the past week I’ve been considering the relationship I have with my body and how it has changed over the past few years. Strangely, the years I suffered with an eating disorder were probably the years I felt most comfortable in my skin. I generally had no problem in wearing short skirts, cropped tops and showing my figure back then. I know this makes no sense; I only have to look at the photos to see how much happier and healthier I look now compared to then. Fast forward to 2017 and I feel very differently about my body. If you look through my photos you’ll see its almost unheard of for me to wear clothing that finishes above my knees, that bares my abdomen or hints at cleavage. I’ve almost become prude about my body, which for those who knew me years ago must think laughable. I feel like it’s something to be ashamed of. That my stomach is something I must keep hidden or that my legs are in some way offensive. I actively avoid wearing clothing that hugs my figure. This has been pointed out by my wife on more than one occasion. She misses the days of me feeling comfortable enough to wear a body con dress or short skirt and making the most of my figure.

In addition to this, I’ve become overly reliant on make up. Owing to a touch of mid life acne and a gap in my eyebrow it’s an absolute rarity that I’ll be seen without a full face of make up. I feel that my unmade face is something I shouldn’t inflict on others. I spend my free time trawling social media and wishing I looked more like someone other than me. That’s not healthy. That’s not okay.

I’m in an infinitely better position than I was 2 years ago and recovery from mental illness is possible, but the work never ends when it comes to mental wellbeing and body confidence. Consider this me making a commitment that 2017 is going to be the year I really push my boundaries, step out of my comfort zone and learn to love my body without punishing it in the process.

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