"I have spent the last ten years of my life in and out of therapy, learning about myself, challenging myself and leaning into the uneasiness that is the complex make up of my emotions."

The oxford English dictionary defines 'able' as: "Having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something."

When a friend suggested I check out this project it immediately intrigued me. However, I thought to myself “I would never be able to do something like that”. I possessed all the necessary requirements; I had the power, the skill, the means and the opportunity. But that is not the checklist I went through when I decided I wouldn’t be able. In reality I decided that I shouldn’t. Why? Because I’ve spent my whole life telling myself that I don’t like my body, that I am not good enough, that others don’t like my body, that others don’t think I’m good enough. My head then very quickly and simply converted those thoughts and assumptions into "I wouldn’t be 'able' to", and I carried on my life as normal, well for a week or so. Then, quite gently and without a lot of thought, I decided that I was able and that I was going to do it. And strangely the shoot was a breeze; I stripped off without any hesitation and felt so comfortable.

My story is all about getting to the shoot day and not so much about the shoot. I have had mental health issues since I was 14. While I am high functioning and lead what I would consider to be a great life, I have struggled with anxiety, suicidal thoughts and deep depression. I have spent the last ten years of my life in and out of therapy, learning about myself, challenging myself and leaning into the uneasiness that is the complex make up of my emotions. While it hasn’t been easy, it has been a journey. I have come to know myself inside out and, in the last two years, I have begun to love myself.

I am an extremely emotional person; I feel every emotion with great intensity. I empathise with others on a deep level and I spend a lot of my time looking inwards. Some of what I have learnt over the past ten years is quite simple. Namely, analysing everything over and over again just makes you anxious; worrying and stressing achieves nothing. Furthermore, jealousy and envy are toxic and often your reasons for feeling them are merely a figment of your imagination; comparing yourself to others is a waste of your energy and time. Finally, live in the present and enjoy it because tomorrow is happening tomorrow not today, put time and effort into your friendships and tell others how you feel, keeping it pent up is not healthy. Most importantly, I realised that I am good enough. Now while these statements may seem simplistic and have an air of common sense to them, they resonate with me. It has taken me ten years to get to a place where I can say I am content.

As I mentioned, part of my mental health issues surround my relationship with my body. My body is something I keep hidden, something I cover over with clothes that suit me; I make calculated wardrobe choices so I can create illusions of a slim and toned physique. I avoid situations where others can see my body such as gym showers, festival showers, swimming pools, holidays with family and friends. It hasn’t stopped me from having sex but it has resulted in me having many casual partners. Having sex with someone once, someone you don’t really know, someone you never have to see again, having sex with someone like that, well it's easy.

However, when I become infatuated with someone, I will do anything I can to avoid them seeing my body. This is the biggest issue of all for me as it has prevented me from developing meaningful and intimate relationships. It is at this point that all my old demons come creeping back: I’m not good enough; my body is horrible; no one will like me once they see my body. I’ve struggled with this since I was about 15 and I only started to accept that I have a body image issue in the last 12 months.

About 10 months ago I looked at a picture of myself when I was 19 and I thought, "Wow you were so skinny”, and it was then that it clicked. When I was 19 I used to tell myself I was fat, I used to look in the mirror in disgust at how big I thought I was and beat myself up about it. It was in that moment that I began to change my opinion of my body. I see one thing and the reality is another. While this is my reality I am lucky that I can rationalize it, as this has helped me to move forward and work on how I view myself. This project was a real challenge but it taught me how to love my body. In the 2 months between applying to take part and the shoot date my whole opinion of my body changed. I went from hating it to loving it as it is and from that love I began to take care of it. Now I start everyday by hugging myself! 

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